St. Joseph + Lake Michigan Family Adventure
Looking for that quintessential Lake Michigan summer vacation for your family?
St. Joseph Michigan is a popular destination and it is easy to see why. Our family enjoyed a St. Joe KOA camping trip and it was a perfect blend of family camping fun while exploring all of the delights of St. Joseph.
What to Do with Kids in St. Joseph, Michigan
St. Joseph is a great beach spot that’s just an hour away from Kalamazoo.
Why do families from all around Southwest Michigan (and beyond) flock to this great resort town? The beautiful beaches, great shopping options, a huge interactive splash fountain, fun kids museums, and more, of course!
Really – there is so much to do for families. And, in the heart of it all, is the Silver Beach Center.
While you’re in the area also check out the great seasonal events that make this an extra special place to visit. Highlights include horse-drawn trolley rides, the farmers market on the bluff, outdoor concerts and summer movies, and Antiques on the Bluff.
Start in Downtown St. Joe
The streets of downtown St. Joseph are situated on a bluff overlooking the beach with its many attractions.
Head downtown for fun local shops as well delicious food and drinks.
We ate at Silver Harbor Brewing Company, which was very kid-friendly. The restaurant had a full kids menu, goldfish crackers to snack on before dinner, crayons and Wikki Stix to keep them occupied.
We like starting downtown because – if you read on – the day just gets better – and wetter!
What You’ll Find at Silver Beach Center in St. Joseph Michigan
Downtown is just a hop away from Silver Beach action and its Silver Beach Center attractions. After you’re done downtown, park your car at the bottom of the bluff for easy access to beachside fun.
Here’s a look at where things are in St. Joseph. Plan to spend a day here, at least!
Curious Kids’ Museum & Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone – Two museums full of kid fun!
The Discovery Zone is steps away from Silver Beach, and a short walk from the Kids’ Museum.
You can buy a combo ticket if you’d like to play at both venues.
We enjoyed exploring the museum exhibits, including the water power tower exhibit and the climbing lighthouse.
After exploring, we cooled off at the free splash pad and then walked to Silver Beach for fun in the sand.
Silver Beach Carousel – It’s hard to pass up a spin on one of the 40+ hand-carved horses from the early 1900’s.
Whirlpool Compass Fountain Splash Pad – This is one giant spray play area!
When the cannons are going full blast, you’ll get drenched and have a blast.
Silver Beach and Silver Beach Center are where your kiddos can play all day.
The beach itself has beautiful views of Lake Michigan and plenty of sand for building castles. There are also a few playgrounds right on site for both the wee ones (age 2-5) and the older ones.
Hungry after all of that? Nearby, you’ll find the famous Silver Beach Pizza (located in an old Amtrak depot at the beach, this is a super spot for great pizza.) It’s easy to grab a pizza from their to-go ordering booth. They even give the kiddos a small piece of pizza dough to keep them occupied while you’re waiting for your order.
At the top of the bluff is Schu’s is a family-friendly restaurant with lake views and a good kids’ menu. Just want to grab a treat? Yo – Bubbs Frozen Yogurt or the Chocolate Cafe in downtown St. Joseph are good bets.
Other popular tourist locations include beautiful Jean Klock Park, St. Joseph Pier Lighthouse, local orchards, and wineries.
We Had a Blast Camping in St. Joseph
We had so much fun playing in St. Joseph and continued that fun at our KOA campground! (We stayed at the Coloma / St. Joseph KOA Campground.)
My husband and I both grew up camping and we’re excited to share that same experience with our children. With the St. Joseph area being the closest KOA location to Lake Michigan in the entire state, it was a definite draw for our family.
Camping (or Glamping) in Style at the KOA
We aren’t ready to invest in an RV or camper yet, and we weren’t brave enough to camp in a tent with a five and six-year-old, so staying in one of the deluxe cabins was a great fit.
The cabin had a full-size bed, as well as a bunk bed in the bedroom. There was also a futon in the living room – it can sleep six, ideal for families needing extra space. The cabin was clean and had everything needed for a comfortable stay, including our own bathroom with shower, AC, utensils and kitchen table.
Helpful appliances included a mini-fridge, coffee maker (with coffee), stovetop, mini television and hairdryer.
Loaded with Camping Amenities and Activities
We discovered that KOA camping is a great choice for families with kids.
Enjoying the outdoors with Adirondack chairs, our own fire pit, a gas grill, and a swing on the front porch set the stage for a great getaway. We enjoyed making s’mores by the fire and grilling hot dogs for lunch.
State Parks are Nice, But…
Having always camped at state parks, I couldn’t believe how many fun amenities were included at the KOA.
To start, there was the giant jumping pillow, a beautiful pool and hot tub, and bucket train for kids.
- A playground and mini-golf on their newly refurbished course
- An indoor clubhouse for less than perfect weather days, general store, basketball court, volleyball court, free Wi-Fi, laundry facilities, & a dog park
- Banana bikes available for rent, a pond, horseshoes, gaga ball and nature trails
- Special events are held on certain weekends throughout the summer and fall, including ice cream socials on the weekends
If You Want to Unplug in St. Joseph
Take your pick from the two deluxe cabins, ten traditional cabins, rustic tent sites, and over 100 campsites at this KOA, ranging from deluxe patio spots to hook-ups with water, electric and cable available.
Don’t feel like cooking? There were several food options available at the general store, including ordering pizza and wings that can be delivered right to your camping spot. We had the breakfast pizza as we were packing up, and it was delicious.
The campground was quiet, friendly and the owners, Mark and Karla, have been working hard updating the campground since they took ownership three years ago. This KOA location also offers luxury camping tents!
Tips from a Parent
- Order firewood at the general store at the KOA. They will even deliver it right to your campsite.
- Light sleepers? Consider bringing a fan for the cabin to block out the highway noise at night.
- Many of the local beaches and lighthouse have a fee for parking, don’t forget cash or credit.
- Make use of the Silver Beach changing facilities in the restrooms. A perfect spot to change after a day at the beach before heading to dinner.
- Summer means crowds – be prepared for potential long wait times at restaurants.
While camping, we enjoyed a few days of swimming, exploring, relaxing and one of my personal favorite activities, talking by the campfire.
Accommodations were provided by Kampgrounds of America, Inc. (KOA).
All opinions are my own.
For camping tricks, tips and hacks, be sure to check out our KZOO Camper Pinterest page.