Last weekend we were invited, along with Kelly, Shaheen and our crews, to Saugatuck, Michigan for a fall family getaway! (Talk about dream collaboration!) This little pocket of Michigan (often referred to as the Art Coast) is one of our favorite spots and we were so excited to have a chance to visit with some of our best friends in the most beautiful part of fall!
Today, I’m sharing my recap of what not to miss (and I’m sure by the end, if you don’t have a trip planned yet, you’ll want to plan one ASAP!) While you may have seen me mention some of these spots before, this was our first FAMILY trip to the area, so that’s what I’ll be focusing on in this post!
If you haven’t heard of Saugatuck, it’s only 2.5 hours from Chicago but feels a world away. I think Kelly described it well when she said “Saugatuck is part Stars Hollow, part Nantucket, right in the middle of the midwest.”
Surrounded by beautiful countryside, farms and wine country, a big art and culinary scene, the most stunning foliage, and of course, the beach and lake Michigan! The town itself has tons of adorable shops, great restaurants, amazing beaches and hiking trails. Weather permitting, it’s the perfect destination for sailing, boating, paddle boarding, and more!
It’s also a very welcoming LGBTQ-friendly community, which, let’s be honest, you don’t always find once you get outside the city 😬. (The plethora of pride flags waving everywhere made us so happy. ♥️)
So far I’ve been able to visit in Summer, Fall and Winter and each time of the year has something different and unique to offer. (So even if you can’t get away for a few months, it’s absolutely worth still planning a visit.) Whenever someone asks where they should go for a weekend getaway from Chicago, this is one of my top answers for a reason!
Between our three families, we had two 6 year olds, a 4 year old, 3 year old, and June rounded out the crew as the youngest member at 2. I can confidently say it’s just as great of a destination with kids as it has been on my previous couple and girls trips. Keep reading for everything we did and what I’d recommend if you’re planning a family trip!
Saugatuck, MI Fall family trip
Getting to Saugatuck:
It’s only a 2.5 hour drive from Chicago, 3 hour drive from Detroit, and a little under 4 hours from Indianapolis! If you’re flying, you can fly into Grand Rapids, MI (which is also an adorable town and worth spending some time in, if you have it!) From there it’s under an hour to get to Saugatuck!
First, a note on planning your trip: Saugatuck/Douglas has the most comprehensive, helpful website of any town I’ve ever seen. It has tons of guides to help you figure out what to do/where to stay/ how to plan your trip based on what kind of experience you’re looking for! So of course, while I have my own pointers below, definitely refer to their site as you’re planning for a more in-depth guide!
Best place to stay in Saugatuck for big groups and families?
Saugatuck, Douglas, or Fennville areas are all really great areas to stay. This was my second time staying in Fennville and it’s a great spot if you want a bit more space and quiet and you don’t mind a short drive to town. The great thing about the area is that it’s only about 5 square miles, so everywhere you’ll want to go is within a short drive!
Our rental house was INCREDIBLE and would highly recommend for any groups of friends or families! It was right across the road from the water and had its own private staircase, beach, and a small deck platform with chairs right on the beach–which was such a treat. We kept saying we really want to come back and rent the same house in the summer! (The pool setup is incredible and totally fenced off in a separate area, too, so parents can rest easy with little ones!) They even had stand up paddle boards to use, as well as chairs and a fire pit to admire the sunset!
I always recommend opting for a house when traveling with kids (it’s just way easier!) and you can explore lots of other vacation home rentals right here. (Many of the good ones aren’t on VRBO/AirBnB so definitely check these sites for the best selection!)
How many nights should you spend?
We all agreed we wish we’d had at least one more night! I think 3 nights minimum is the sweet spot so you can relax and not feel like you have to cram a lot in per day.
Head over here for a helpful place to start sourcing a house or hotel for your trip!
Can’t miss kind-friendly things to do in Saugatuck:
Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant & Bakery:
I think this might have been my favorite highlight of the weekend. It was cold and rainy on Saturday morning so we pulled an audible and decided to head here instead to wait out the rain, and it was so much fun! It’s a super charming country restaurant with a bar (where you can do tastings and flights of their delicious hard cider and wine), a bakery (get pie and you can’t miss the donuts!) The outdoor patio had live music and a little window where you could order the hits like chicken tenders and hot dogs–so we hung out here for a couple hours, had lunch, enjoyed live music, and the kids had a blast dancing and splashing around in the puddles in their rain boots.
Cider tasting flight at Crane’s Pie Pantry
Above: Crane’s Pie Pantry had such a fun outdoor patio with heaters, a walk-up window to order food and drinks, and live music (it had just rained so there were also fun puddles the girls loved to splash in!)
Crane’s Apple Orchard and Pumpkin Patch:
When the rain let up, we drove back across the road to the apple orchard for apple picking and pumpkins! June has been talking about pumpkins all month and was over the moon when she saw their giant display of beautiful pumpkins!
Adults will enjoy a pint of cider (or a cider flight!) and kids will love all the room to run and play.
Modales & other wineries!
Right next door, there’s also lots of room to run and play outside at Modales. We love this spot (we joined their wine club!) run by the friendliest people and some great Michigan wines. (Yes, such a thing exists!) There are some other great wineries in the area, too! You can find a full list right here!
I highly recommend a trip to Saugatuck State Park. It has some beautiful trails with a good mix of forest and beach.
There’s also Mt. Bald Head right in town if you want to challenge yourself with a lot of stairs! The views at the top are worth it, and you can hike the short trail to the beach. (The walk back up is a great workout, too!)
Also on my list: take a GOAT HIKE which you can do at nearby Evergreen Lane Farm!
Of course there lots of beautiful beaches to choose from (we had our own amazing private beach as part of our rental house!) but Oval beach is a very popular public beach and actually ranked as one of the top beaches in the world by Condé Nast! (Gray Malin even has a print of Oval Beach!!)
If you’ll be planning your trip in the warmer seasons and will be with kids ages 3+ (We wanted to do this, but June was too little!) a Dune ride is fun to look into! (Note they close for the season October 15th and open back up in Spring.)
Go boating or sailing:
If you’re planning your trip when it’s warm enough, you can charter a sailboat or motor boat to hang out on the water for a while! You can even ride on on the Star of Saugatuck paddlewheel boat–a big hit with kids!
The Root Beer Barrel:
An iconic little hut shaped like a root beer barrel is a must. (It was also a hit with my friend Kate’s bachelorette party back in 2021 🤣) The Root Beer Barrel is a great pitstop for a hotdog and floats. You’ll pass this on your way to Oval Beach!
Above: Saugatuck Antique Pavillon
OK not the most kid-friendly suggestion, but I couldn’t not list it here in case you have some kid-free time and love antiques! There are some great spots to shop in this area. (See a list of them here!) I couldn’t not list Saugatuck Antique Pavilion here because it was a GEM. Sadly we walked in as they were closing, so we only had time to do a quick lap but this place was GOLD. I definitely want to come back here when I have time to spend at least an hour! It was packed with great booths and amazing stuff. Right next to Saugatuck brewing, so even if it’s busy, you could put your name in and come here to browse!
Explore downtown Saugatuck:
Saugatuck has the most charming downtown that you definitely want at least an afternoon to explore. Here are some can’t miss spots:
Neal and I didn’t get too much time to spend in town this trip because June was well over due for a nap by the time we wrapped with the apple orchard, but the rest of the crew went to town and spent a long time in this cute bookstore!
The tiniest, most charming toy store you ever did see. What they lack in space they make up for in their adorable selection of merchandise.
My favorite place for cute Saugatuck gear!
Endora Bohemian: (Downtown Douglas!)
Downtown Douglas is actually a whole separate area I haven’t made it to yet! (Sadly we didn’t have time this trip!) But I but my friend Erin (who has incredible taste) says this is one of her favorite stores on earth, so put Endora on the list if you have time to stop in Douglas!
Saugatuck/Douglas food options:
Isabel’s market was so lovely we stopped there twice! They’re part market, part bar, part coffee shop, part deli–it’s so charming, their food is delicious, and run by the nicest people. Stop on your way in to pick up some gourmet snacks, wine, goodies, dips, and more to enjoy during your trip.
You can grab sandwiches for a beach or hiking picnic and on your way out of town, grab a pot pie, some soup, and delicious fresh bread for dinner when you get home.
Back Alley Pizza: (Great for takeout)
Since we all arrived Friday night and everyone was too spent to go out, we picked up a few pizzas from Back Alley Pizza which was just a quick drive from our house, and it was some of the most delicious pizza I’ve had. (Cheese with jalapeño and onion is where it’s at 🙌🏼) Nobody could stop eating it. 😂
Flagging this one for when you’re with a big group, it’s 6pm and you can’t find anywhere else to fit you in. It’s hard to find anywhere to sit 11 people on a moment’s notice. (But, when traveling with 5 kids, it’s tricky to plan reservations in advance.) Luckily, Saugatuck brewing was able to get us a big ole booth, no problem, and they even had live music! They also have a room with arcade games (it was rented for a private event, so we couldn’t use it, but know it would be a crowd pleaser for older kids!) It was also just down the street from our house in Fennville, so an easy location if you’re staying just outside of town!
A fun spot to grab a Bloody Mary and admire the water views! This was my second time here (my first was in the summer for a bachelorette party, and it was such a fun atmosphere to eat on their deck right on the water!) We went this time for lunch (of course, we hadn’t planned ahead but they were able to accommodate our big group with no notice!) Our server, Pocket was SO AMAZING. Again, if you’re in a big group, this is a good option!
Considered one of the top restaurants in Saugatuck! Southern dishes by Chef Matt Millar (a James Beard Finalist).
This cozy, charming spot has been on my list forever and come highly recommended by friends and readers. They focus on sourcing local Michigan ingredients for scratch-made breakfast, lunch and dinner!
OK, we didn’t make it this trip, but this has been a recurring favorite of ours for several years anytime we’re in the area. Truly, one of our favorite restaurants, period. You absolutely cannot miss going here if you can help it! (This time, however, we had a ton of tired cranky children and we were not about to attempt a civilized dinner at a charming bistro LOL.) I would absolutely say it’s suitable for kids if you have a smaller (or less tired 😂) group. They have live music on Saturday, too!
In collaboration with Saugatuck/Douglas. Thank you so much for hosting us for the most wonderful fall weekend! ♥️