The Petoskey Area is a cluster of small towns lining the banks of Lake Michigan. With their quaint Victorian Charm and hospitality, they make an ideal summertime family destination. The weather is divine, there is plenty of activities to keep the kids busy, and the views are hard to beat. The boys and I made a stop here recently on our #90DayRoadTrip, and walked away with a handful of Petoskey stones and memories of the fun spent throughout this vibrant area.
Search for Petoskey Stones
One of the first things we recommend doing when you get to the Petoskey Area, is to stop by one of their pristine lake beaches and search for the official stone of the state of Michigan, the Petoskey Stone. We found quite a few during our visit, and they aren’t too hard to spot if you know what you’re looking for.
The Petoskey stone is actually both a rock and a fossil. It is composed of fossilized rugose coral that creates circle like starburst shapes on all or part of the stones. It is much easier to spot these stone’s designs when they are wet or polished, so be sure to look nearly the water’s edge or in the shallow water itself if it isn’t too chilly. Also, do not put Petoskey stones in a rock tumbler, they will disintegrate. Instead, polish them with sand paper by hand. Petoskey stones can be found throughout the area on many of the local public beaches.
Tour Petoskey’s Gas Light District
This may not seem like a very family friendly activity, but people of any age can appreciate the beauty and history behind Petoskey’s Gas Light District downtown. Admire the architecture of the buildings, many dating back to the 1800’s, and do some window shopping.
Depending on the time of year you visit, you might be lucky enough to attend one of the downtown area’s open houses. We were there on just such an occasion, which featured side walk sales, booths set up by local establishments, the handing out of free ice cream, pizza and lemonade, as well as a movie on the lawn.
Go See the Mushroom Houses
No, the homes are not technically made of mushrooms. Although, I think if Earl Young had been able to figure out how to build a family residence out of mushrooms, he probably would have done it. Deemed the “mushroom houses” because of their shape and natural appearance, the Earl Young homes are a site to behold.
Children will love them because they look like something straight out of the Lord of the Ring or Hobbit movies. It is said that Earl Young designed the roof first and shoved the house up under it, and this unique approach to architecture can still be seen in the whimsical designs of his homes in the nearby Charlevoix area. Here’s an insider tip. There are some free bikes for rent at the marina area in Charlevoix. Stop by there, and enjoy a leisurely ride to view the nearby homes.
Visit Avalanche Bay Waterpark
The Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark is 88,000 square feet of pure Summer fun! It is also the largest indoor waterpark hotel in Michigan, where it is always a balmy 84 degrees and perfect for splashing around. The Avalanche Bay Waterpark features an adorable ski village theme, with quaint storefronts, ice loving animals and even a chime that rings out before Splasherhorn topples 800 gallons of water down onto your head.
There are rides and slides for all areas at the Avalanche Bay Waterpark. For thrill seekers, try out the newest addition, the Big Couloir, which starts you in a capsule angled at 10 degrees and accelerates you at 38 mph around a 360 degree loop. Or, have some fun on the Super G-Slide and Vertigo Cannonbowl for slightly smaller thrills.
Not a water slide person? No problem. Float down the lazy river, splash around in Blizzard Bay and take little ones over to the Kitz Pool. Get your competition on with the Downhill Mat Racer, as you race to see who makes it to the finish line first, or take a ride on the Rip Zone, the park’s surf simulator.
Take a Petoskey Yesterday Ghost Walk
Family-friendly and informative, a Petoskey Yesterday Ghost Walk takes you through the streets of the town’s Gas Light District as you explore the stories behind some of the city’s oldest buildings. Go behind the scenes and tour the alleyways that have been seemingly untouched overtime, and even venture into a basement that conceals some of the city’s entryways to hidden underground tunnels.
Hear stories of events that happened throughout the town’s history, and learn about the residents that have stuck around long after they seemed to depart. Tours last 90 minutes and cover about a 2-mile walking distance. Tickets are $15 per person.
Visit One of the Area’s Parks
The Petoskey area is home to make free public parks. Here, kids can run and play, while adults enjoy taking in the beautiful of the area. Sunset Park was one of our favorites during our visit. Here, we took in a gorgeous sunset, found a surprise waterfall, and enjoyed an evening together on the banks of Litter Traverse Bay.
Go to Raven Hill Discovery Center
Raven Hill Discovery Center was our surprise of the trip. We went to this unique discovery center for children that seamlessly mashes together art, science and history thinking that we would only be there for an hour. Three hours later, we only left because we were in dire need of lunch. Note to the wise, pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it on one of the tables at the discovery center.
The Raven Hill Discovery Center has both and indoor and outdoor portion. Inside, you can enjoy a room filled with all sorts of hands on activities for children, including two unique challenges that can earn the children prizes for completing them. The boys easily spent a full hour trying to build a ramp out of wooden blocks that would allow a golf ball to take a full 15 seconds to go down to the bottom of the display.
Other rooms indoors include the periodic table room with a laser run radio, and the animal room where children can enjoy holding a snake, lizard or even a spider if they are brave enough.
Outdoors, explore the sound garden with its oversized instruments, walk through prehistoric times in the Beyond Jurassic Park area, play in the Schoolhouse and explore the treehouse. Want more to explore. A short walk away is the Ancient World. The Raven Hill Discovery Center is open Monday – Friday 10am-4pm, Saturday Noon-4pm and Sunday 2pm-4pm. Admission is $10 for both adults and children.
Planning a visit to the area with you family? Visit PetoskeyArea.com for more information on local attractions, accommodations and dining options for families.