Pure Michigan adventuring: St. Joseph in 12 hours

Located just 90 minutes east of Chicago, St. Joseph, Mich. is an ideal family vacation for those who need a quick getaway.

Get settled

With not much time to waste, you’ll want to find a place to stay close by. We found The Inn at Harbor Shores to be an ideal location just five minutes away from all the action. Not only does the Whirlpool-factory-turned-hotel boast harbor front access, an indoor and outdoor pool, access to a golf course and comfy rooms with balconies, but it also pays tribute to all things Michigan by showcasing local artwork and using Michigan-made materials in its building.

Grab some grub

You’ll need your energy for a full day of exploring so grab a big breakfast. Try The Mason Jar Café in The Arts District of Benton Harbor; you can easily take a shuttle from the inn.

Beach it up

Time for some fun and sun. This is probably the main reason you came to St. Joe. We were wowed by the super soft sand, and the kids loved the water and the fun playground a few steps away. While you’re in the area, walk the pier to the newly restored lighthouse.

Take a spin

The Silver Beach Carousel is unlike any other carousel you’ve ridden. Not only is the entire carousel housed indoors (one less thing for you to worry about), it also has animals you’ve never seen before such as a clown fish, a sea otter and even a velociraptor. The Whirlpool Compass Fountain, a huge splash pad/fountain, is also a worthwhile diversion and located just across the street.

Midday refuel

Getting hungry? Silver Beach Pizza is calling your name. The popular pizza joint is well loved for good reason– the pizza rocks! We absolutely loved the four cheese pizza and the pepperoni pizza with a garlic spin. Plus, the kids were kept busy playing with their own mini pizza dough. Tip: Take the pizza to go and have a picnic on the beach.

Walk around downtown

Burn off those calories and take a stroll down the charming brick-lined streets of downtown. Browse the unique boutique clothing and antique shops, and check out the very cool toy store, The Toy Company. Show off your silly side by snapping photos with the statues that line the street. You also won’t want to pass up froyo at Yo-Bubbs or delicious ice cream at Kilwin’s.

Learn while playing

Let the kids be kids at the Curious Kids’ Museum and the Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone. The museum offers more than 100 hands-on exhibits for kids 1-10, while the Discovery Zone offers educational fun for kids up to age 12.

Fresh eats

Exhausted and hungry much? Try The Grille at Harbor Shores (rated one of the best new restaurants in the area) or nosh on farm-to-table food at Plank’s Tavern on the Water, which are the inn’s two onsite restaurants. We appreciated the convenience of having easy access to our room. We needed all the rest we could get after a fun day exploring St. Joe.

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