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We’re getting close to spring break here. While most people flock to my current home state of Florida, the kids and I are trekking on a rare spring trip to my original home of Muskegon, Michigan. We often visit in the summer, when the cold is tolerable to us thin-blooded southerners. Yet this trip will still get us out and about on some hikes and nature trails.
I never quite looked at my hometown as a tourist destination until I started doing touristy things there myself. It is truly one of those hidden natural wonder gems in Michigan. In all honesty, many people I encounter wouldn’t even consider Western Michigan a vacation destination and that in itself makes it a hidden gem!
Muskegon, Mi is located on the shores of Lake Michigan, one of the five great lakes. It truly is a year-round home to outdoor activities and adventure. One of the best things about the area is that you can enjoy outdoor recreation during all four seasons.
1. The Beach
For me, the beaches of Lake Michigan are my number one attraction. The West Michigan side of the Great Lake’s Lake Michigan offers smooth, golden sugar sand and miles upon miles of space along the shore. Behind the beaches are immense sand dunes that are fun to climb when you want to tire out the kiddos!
Probably the most popular beach spot in Muskegon is Pere Marquette Park. It’s located minutes from downtown Muskegon and connects Lake Michigan to Muskegon Lake through the Muskegon channel. Stroll along the channel to find the USS Silversides Submarine museum, and watch the boats move from the small lake to the “big lake”. Pere Marquette has showers and bathhouses, volleyball nets, gaga ball, and miles of shoreline and soft sandy beach.
The Deck restaurant is also located at Pere Marquette beach. The open-air deck is home to BBQ, local brews, and nightly live music. It’s a great time hanging out there to catch the sunset.
Visiting any of the beaches in town, from small lakes to Lake Michigan is probably one of the the most popular things to do in Muskegon, MI in summer.
2. Water sports
Of course, the Great Lake state is going to excel at water sports. In addition to being next to the 5th largest freshwater lake in the world, the Muskegon area has several inland lakes and rivers. Any day in the summer you can find folks enjoying water adventures such as boating, water skiing, kayaking, and paddle boarding out on the waters.
Happy Mohawk, nearby Muskegon, is one of my favorite places to rent kayaks, canoes, and even rafts to float down the White River in Muskegon County. They are a full-service livery with a drop-off service.
You can also check out Visit Muskegon’s list of boat launches and marinas for boat rentals, or a place to park your own boat.
3. Winter Sports
The Winter months have no shortage of outdoor activities either. I’m not much of a winter sports person, however, I have taken advantage of Muskegon’s Winter Sports Complex. Or as it may also be known, the Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park. Home to an 850-foot luge track, (and an Olympic Luge medalist!) the Muskegon Sports Complex also houses a large outdoor skating rink for both recreational and hockey use, hills for tubing (also think sand dunes for snow tubing), and a cross-country skiing and ice skating trail.
If winter sports aren’t your thing, the sports complex is still a great place to visit. During the summer, you can use the luge with roller sleds. They also offer archery, hiking, and a zip line.
I’ve done both luges during summer and winter and they are worth it!
Once upon a time, it was said you can find a beer tent every weekend in MusKEGon. The city goes beyond that now with a variety of festivals and special events throughout the year. There’s Bike Time, the Irish Music Festival, Parties in the Park, Unity Music Festival, Burning Foot, Polish Festival and so much more.
Not to mention, you will find live music at a variety of places, such as The Deck mentioned above.
While nearby Grand Rapids is known for its craft beer scene, Muskegon has something to offer as well with Pigeon Hill Brewing Company, Unruly, Fetch, Sawyers, Salty Pecker, Rake, North Grove Breweries and Bardic Wells meadery. Be sure to check the CVB for a list of events.
While most people think of the East Coast when it comes to lighthouses, Michigan actually offers the most of any state. There are 3 within Muskegon county and 2 you can go inside and visit. At Pere Marquette Beach you’ll find 2 lighthouses and a popular activity is to walk the pier to one of them. First up is the Muskegon South Breakwater Lighthouse that jets out of Pere Marquette beach. For this lighthouse, it’s a popular activity to walk the pier out and back. It’s open occasionally for special events.
(Side note: Muskegon pronounces Pere as you would Pier. I think once upon a time we confused the two and just pronounce them interchangeably!)
The other, smaller lighthouse is the Muskegon South Pierhead Lighthouse which only recently opened to visitors within the last few years and offers a little historical insight into the area. this one is located at the end of the channel. The two together form an opening in the water called the arms. Here a lot of boats like to park and have access to the beach.
Just north of these is White River Light in Whitehall, part of Muskegon County.
6. Hikes & Walks
Hiking in Muskegon is both fun and challenging. Especially if you visit Muskegon State Park.
Muskegon State Park is located on the other side of the channel. Here you’ll find more beautiful sandy beaches, a campground, and plenty of trails. I state that the hikes, while not your typical mountain rock scramble hikes, can be challenging. That soft beautiful sand I mentioned? Well, imagine hiking that up and down the sand dunes. it often feels like one foot forward and two feet back. However, it can be a beautiful trek along the shore of Lake Michigan.
P.J. Hoffmaster State Park is another popular destination to enjoy hiking and walking trails. Camping is available here as well.
All this outdoor activity lends itself to biking trails as well. The Fred Meijer Berry Junction trail is a biking trail that connects Muskegon to Hart. You can start off at Pere Marquette Park and access Heritage Landing, the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, and more, as you coast along Muskegon Lake. This lakeshore bike trail also connects to statewide trails that connect Muskegon to other amazing cities in Michigan.
8. Downtown Muskegon
The Muskegon downtown area is a perfect place to get some outdoor walking. From a farmer’s market filled with fresh food to local restaurants and breweries, you can also enjoy a stroll near the historic homes, like the Hakely and Hume Historic sites. All of these are easy walking distance from each other. Even the nearby heritage Landing is home to many outdoor concerts and festivals during the year.
Be on the lookout for the Monet garden too, one of the best places to snap some beautiful floral photos.
PS. If you want to learn more about the Muskegon Museum of Art or the Frauenthal Center, visit my Muskegon museums post here.
9. Michigan’s Adventure
If all that wasn’t enough to bring you to Muskegon, check out the largest amusement park in the state at Michigan’s Adventure. Truly one of the best family things to do in Muskegon, MI, the amusement park is home to dozens of rides and roller coasters. Plus, for no additional cost, you can enjoy the water park at the WildWater Adventure.
My favorite part of Michigan’s Adventure is the permanent carnival-style rides. yes, you have high-flying thrills, but I enjoy rides like the scrambler and bumper boats here. Therea are a variety of different rides here making it a great place for the whole family to enjoy.
Where to Stay
If you’re looking at outdoor adventures in Muskegon, it only makes sense to camp. We’ve already mentioned camping at Muskegon State Park and P.J. Hoffmaster State Park. Pioneer County Park is another popular location. Finally, if you’re looking for a modern campground experience, a Muskegon KOA is minutes from Michigan’s Adventure Park.
What about you? Have you visited the Great Lake State? What are your favorite outdoor things to do there?