Looking for a Lake Michigan family vacation destination?
St. Joseph, Michigan, has it all when it comes to famous Michigan tourist attractions.
St. Joseph, often known as St. Joe, got its beginnings in the 1780s as a post for fur trade.
In 1834, its landowners auctioned the property plots, and the settlement transformed into a city, which it remained until 1891.
Until the construction of the railroad, it was the sole route towards Chicago.
In the past, boatbuilding and other industrial businesses, such as the now-famous Whirlpool, were the region’s economic backbone.
St. Joseph, Michigan's "Riviera of the Midwest," should be at the top of your Michigan vacation bucket list.
Whether a day trip or just to spend time with loved ones, St. Joseph is an excellent choice.
The reason behind this is obvious.
St. Joe is more than just its well-known beaches.
Secret gem locations, hiking, cycling, and walking paths, beautiful views of the surrounding area, art, coffee, and shopping abound in this hidden treasure trove.
Read on to find out the best things to do in St. Joseph, Michigan.
Visit St. Joseph's North Pier Lighthouses
These two lighthouses were constructed in the early twentieth century and were deactivated in 2008.
The city acquired ownership and funded $2 million to repair the landmark pier range lights.
The lighthouse at the front is conical in shape, measuring 8 feet in diameter and 30 feet in height.
It emits a constant red glow.
The back tower is 24 feet square at its base and features an octagon tower above the pointed roof, capped by a round lantern chamber.
A walkway links the two lighthouses and the shore.
The lake and the front lighthouse and promenade freeze over in the winter, providing great photo opportunities.
There are also guided tours available if you want to learn deeply about their history from an expert.
Bring Your Fur Babies to Kiwanis Park
Kiwanis Park is an off-leash dog park, biking, skateboarding facility, playground, and sports fields on Pearl Street.
Kiwanis Park houses the John and Dede Howard Skateboard Park, which is a facility for in-line skating, skateboarding, and BMX biking.
It is open for 24 hours and has a picnic shelter available for you to use on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Park also has a basketball court and a softball field.
Bring Your Little Ones to Curious Kids' Museum and Discovery Zone
Curious Kids Museum and Discovery Zone are designed for children ages 14 and below and are in proximity.
These two St. Joseph attractions are open seven days a week throughout the year, except on public holidays.
Their fun, interactive exhibits stimulate interest and creativity.
Your kids will enjoy navigating the Great Lakes and visiting the market as well as the Vet's Clinic, to name a few activities.
These attractions also cater to special occasions and kids’ camps.
Families, school groups, scouts, and guides are welcome.
They also hold outreach programs such as traveling exhibitions and bringing science displays to schools.
Enjoy Silver Beach County Park’s Fun Family Activities
Silver Beach is located right below The Boulevard Inn's bluff and is one of the area's most popular beaches.
It is a clean, broad beach on Lake Michigan that provides public access to the South Pier and offers views of the historical North Pier Lighthouses.
There's a sizeable silver-sand beach here, as well as everything you could possibly want for a great day at the beach, like splash pads, and stand-up paddleboard rentals.
There are concessions and bathrooms and picnic shelters and seats, all along a broad, paved walkway that is easily accessible to those with disabilities.
There are beach wheelchairs available for use at this Berrien County beach.
All season, lifeguards and volleyball courts watch over the area's more than 1600-foot stretch of the swimming beach.
The swirling compass fountain, with water pouring from the jets, is a must-see.
Appreciate the Exhibits at Box Factory for the Arts
The Box Factory for arts may have been established in the 1990s; however, its history can be traced to the 1960s.
The Berrien Artist Guild, the group behind the facility, was formed in 1962.
In 1995, they purchased the historic building that once housed the Paper Box Factory by the William Brothers.
The guild transformed this two-story, 55,000-square foot space into a hub for local artists.
Soon, it was completed and houses different areas, including an artists' studio, concert space, a theatre, galleries, classrooms, reception halls, meeting spaces, and a shop.
It holds various events throughout the year.
Aside from artwork exhibits, the Box Factory for the Arts also holds a variety of stage and musical productions, tutorials, and space rentals in the facility.
Ride the Silver Beach Carousel
Thrilling children and adults alike, the Silver Beach Carousel is a must-see local attraction. Just a scenic four-minute walk away from your suite at The Boulevard Inn.
Just yards from the beach at the Silver Beach Center is the Carousel, a classic merry-go-round featuring 44 hand-carved horses and music from a vintage band organ.
History has it that this carousel is already a replica of the original 1910 carousel bought by Louis Wallace and Logan Drake at Silver Beach Amusement Park.
Master Carver Charles Carmel created these lifelike horse figures.
Even if you won’t take a ride, it’s worth your time seeing this stunning piece of St. Joe’s past that has been delighting both locals and visitors for over 100 years.
Test Your Strength at Lumberjax: Urban Axe Throwing
Lumberjax Urban Axe Throwing will fulfill your wildest fantasy of competing in a non-sensical sport and hitting bullseye using a semi-sharpened axe.
If you haven’t tried axe throwing, one of its specialized and dependable coaches will be with you on-site.
You will undergo brief training that will prepare you in no time to make sure your first axe-throwing experience goes exceptionally great.
Make sure to wear close-toed shoes and comfortable clothing, and refrain from bringing any alcoholic beverages.
Explore the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center
The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center aims to engage the public in a vibrant organization that promotes the preservation of history, education, and exploration of everything related to St. Joseph, and its nearby region.
It seeks to inspire locals and visitors alike to create a deep connection to history by providing historical displays, artifacts, archival collections, research libraries, and related programs.
The museum can be found along Main Street and is lovingly maintained.
It also has a spacious banquet hall that caters to special occasions like weddings, birthday parties, and conferences.
Picnic at Lake Bluff Park
Lake Bluff Park treats you to a scenic view of Lake Michigan’s shoreline.
It is located at Lake Boulevard’s western end.
This Park is easily accessible and in proximity to downtown’s free parking areas.
Lake Bluff Park caters to different kinds of events like concerts with its bandshell.
It also has a War Memorial and a chalk block that kids and adults alike will both enjoy.
Take note that the Park does not allow unleashed pets and alcohol.
It is open all year round from 8 am till nightfall.
Go Winetasting at White Pine Winery
After finishing a Master's in Horticulture, Dave Miller took a Ph.D. focusing on grape photosynthesis, and in the following years, he gained experience as a vintner.
Along with Sandy, his wife, Miller has realized his dream of starting his own business.
In 1999, the couple started Sophie's Vineyard, named after their only daughter.
The grapes produced by his vineyard and other neighboring vineyards are used to produce quality wines that speak of St. Joseph’s flavors.
White Pine produces a variety of wines from Chambourcin grapes, including Ladyslipper Blush and Mirage, a sweet, fortified dessert wine.
It also produces Merlot and Cabernet franc, as well as barrel-fermented Chardonnay, Muscat Ottonel, and Pinot grigio.
Its tasting room at 317 State Street is open to satisfy your wine afficionado heart.
Enjoy a Sunny Day at Whirlpool Compass Fountain
Whirlpool Centennial Park and Compass Fountain is located at 200 Broad Street, just below the bluff and adjacent to Silver Beach Center.
Since the fall of 2009, it has been a source of fun for many locals and visitors in the area, especially on a hot, sunny day.
It is Michigan’s largest splash pad that features water cannons running three times every hour and sprays clean, recycled water 35 ft in the open.
This fascinating interactive fountain is free to enjoy by kids and adults alike.
Take note, however, that this fountain does not operate during the winter.
Take a Swing at Harbor Shores Golf Course
Harbor Shores Golf Course is a premier destination for golf enthusiasts.
It is Jack Nicklaus-Signature course and once hosted the Senior PGA Championship.
The course’s amazingly diverse terrains challenge golfers while offering a dramatic view of Lake Michigan.
It also has a wooded portion, which runs through rolling hills, valleys, and hardwood forests.
Meanwhile, its river terrain borders the Ox Creek, Paw Paw River, as well as its wetlands.
Imaging playing in different courses all in one course!
Enjoy a Peaceful Beach Day at Lions Park Beach
Lions Park Beach lies at Lions Park Drive’s southern end.
It’s a quieter, less saturated beach with three rent shelters with grills, picnic tables, and electricity.
It also has public restrooms and a playground for your kids.
Families love going to this park because of its shaded trees.
It can also be a launching point for John and Dede Howard Family Recreational Trail, making it a favorite among hikers and cyclists.
This Park also caters to special events like weddings.
Rent A Surrey to Explore Downtown St. Joseph
Have you ever ridden a surrey?
Scooter Joe’s surrey rental located at 800 Whitwam Drive is quite popular among the locals and a must-try for visitors of St. Joseph.
These surreys offer fun rides for families or groups of up to 11 members.
Scooter Joe’s offers single, double, and triple bench bikes.
Each seat allows for three average-sized adults.
All its surreys also have a jump seat that can accommodate two small kids.
It also offers surrey models that can cater to five, eight, or 11 people.
Some of Scooter Joe’s single and double bench surreys have a hitch to add a single bench Surrey Tram.
Surreys are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Meanwhile, you can also book online in advance.
Enjoy More Art at Krasl Art Center
Another facility in St. Joseph dedicated to art is the Krasl Art Center.
Experience high-quality art exhibitions, installations, camps, events, art classes, guest artist workshops, as well as outreach opportunities.
A 17,500-square-foot building houses the center’s public galleries, a black-and-white wet darkroom, studios, a static collection of over 40 sculptures, and a gift shop.
Krasl Art Center is free and open to all but also accepts donations from visitors.
Have a Toast and Celebrate Life at Silver Harbor Brewing Company
Silver Harbor Brewing Company offers a variety of beers and alternatives to make the most out of your beer experience.
Choose from their sizable beer selection or grab the first live smoked beer.
Four distinct alcohol mixes custom-blended in-house are featured in their assortment of artisan drinks.
Silver Harbor Brewing is happy to provide two event venues on-site: The Garden and Union + Social.
The Garden provides an outside, sunny, and green experience year-round for groups of 50 people or less.
Union + Social is a magnificent venue with restored brick walls, a handcrafted curved wood roof, and original cement flooring that can accommodate up to 275 guests.
Partake in a Leisure Cruise with Big Bird Charters
Big Bird Charters, a family-owned and operated business, has been providing Michigan fishing trips in and out of Saint Joseph, Michigan, for the last 38 years.
Captain Jim Conder, AKA "Big Bird," has spent years fishing the Great Lakes, looking for the best locations to offer grand fishing expeditions.
Big Bird Charters provides a wide selection of unique excursion packages at competitive rates.
They pride themselves on arranging top-notch tours and considerable success in obtaining the highest degree of client satisfaction.
Are you thinking about taking a leisure cruise?
Lean back and unwind as they travel down the Saint Joseph River through the 1904-built rotating railroad bridge and Coast Guard Station.
Fill your Grocery Bags at the Olive Cart
The Olive Cart is well-tailored to support consumers in learning and appreciating excellent culinary techniques, delicious flavor combinations, and healthy meal choices.
It is a privately held company where items are handcrafted and not mass-produced.
All oil and balsamic in-store are meticulously chosen, and they create all of the gourmet products, utilizing fruits and herbs that are locally sourced in Michigan.
They developed and experimented with their pantry line products in their kitchen.
Stop by the tasting area at Olive Cart for tapenades, marinades, loaded olives, freshly made bread, pasta, sauces, and specialty gourmet gifts crafted with Michigan-made ceramics.
Experience Cosmic Bowling at Striker's Bowl
Bill Froberg, the current owner, acquired the bowling alley formerly known as "Kelley's Bowl" in January 2007.
His mission is to give the bowling alley a more contemporary design while still providing consumers with pleasure and excitement.
Striker's Bowl is a family-run business with 30 USBC-certified lanes of bowling, a cutting-edge scoring system, and pool tables.
Both Friday and Saturday nights include Cosmic Lights.
Enjoy a jam-packed fun experience by playing at the Redemption Play Room, Claw Machines, and various other games.
If you're hungry, drop in the Full Sports Bar and Full Snack Bar for beverages and snacks.
Engage in Indoor and Outdoor Pursuits at the Inn at Harbor Shores Resort
The Inn at Harbor Shores Resort was constructed and furnished in a way best characterized by simple elegance while keeping the standards of a luxury resort.
The architectural idea blends 21st-century comforts and services while drawing inspiration from the traditional coastal design of Lake Michigan hotels from the late 19th-20th century.
It features 92 luxurious guest rooms, a variety of dining options, a comprehensive spa, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a fitness facility, and cutting-edge conference spaces.
The Harbor Shores Resort is great for special occasions and a handy weekend vacation destination.
It has indoor and outdoor locations for weddings, business meetings, family reunions, and more, for as many as 300 guests.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Trail Down the Dowagiac River Water Trail
As a bonus trip to your St. Joseph getaway, try trekking this water trail, just 30 minutes away from downtown St. Joseph.
The Dowagiac River Water Trail runs through southwest Michigan’s rural area.
The Dowagiac River, which is southern Michigan’s largest cold water river system, flows moderately to fast-paced.
Trees and marshlands line the river, which offers a fantastic perspective of wildlife.
It also offers fun fishing opportunities where you can catch salmon and brown trout.
You may also join a two to six-hour canoe or kayak tour offered by tour agencies located at the northern part of Dowagiac.
The trail starts at the northern part of Dowagiac and then connects to the trail in St. Joseph River.
Please remember that the river conditions are unstable, and logs may be carried by the current, causing new obstacles.
What makes St. Joseph is a fulfilling getaway destination is its interesting attractions that you can enjoy any time of the year.
With its amazing landscapes, enjoyable activities, historical sites, wineries, and more, topped off with the stunning views of Lake Michigan, you’ll surely have a great time in this quaint city.