Pretty much every year around this time, my wife and I scramble to find exciting, enriching things to do with our kids during spring break. Although she’s fully vaccinated and I’m currently half vacc’d, we are still a bit reluctant to head to the typical spring break destinations with crowds, overnight stays and sit down dining. Thankfully there are plenty of places to enjoy in the smaller, quaint communities of Newaygo County and the seemingly endless forests and countless waterways.
With three kids, from toddler to tweenager, it’s a bit difficult to find things for the whole family to enjoy and a bit expensive. We’ve all spent too much time indoors, in front of screens, doing work and school from home throughout the last year. But it’s spring in West Michigan!
This year, we’ve put together a few inexpensive day trips around Newaygo County to give the whole family a literal change of scenery.
An absolute must for us is Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary just a few miles north of White Cloud. Oddly enough, having grown up just 15 miles away, I’d never heard of Loda Lake until a few years ago. With its self-guided walking tour trail, we are sure to see a few different habitats; from a hardwood forest and an old pine plantation to a wetland bog and of
course, the lake. Early April is the perfect time to see wildflowers of all type beginning to bloom again. As the trail is only 1.5 miles long, the most difficult part of the trip will be deciding whether to go north to Woody’s Bar and Grill for wood-fired pizza or south to Trail Town Diner for burgers and fries. Either way, we’ll picnic at White Cloud’s Rotary Park long the White River. The Sanctuary is part of the Huron-Manistee National Forest, and there is a $5 day pass fee; a small price to pay for sure.
Our second day trip will take us back to the White River, but in Hesperia this time. With its small downtown, you can hit most locales within a few blocks. Parking on main street (Division Ave), we will
stop by a couple of the local shops before making our way down the road to the playground at Webster Park near the corner of M-20 and M-120. With plenty of space to run, swing and slide it’s the perfect place to stretch our legs and for the kids to burn off some excess energy.
When we’re tired and ready for some food, we’ll head back up to Taylor Bridge Hot Spot. Don’t be confused by the name though. The relatively new off-shoot of the family owned Taylor Bridge Store on the other side of town, the Hot Spot is in the heart of downtown and quickly becoming a local favorite. I’ve heard the cabbage rolls and pierogi are legit Polish cuisine. Of course, we’ll get it to-go and head to White River
for another quiet family picnic. Along the riverbank just below the dam, a small pavilion with picnic tables provide a great place to see trout jumping and anglers reeling them in.
Our final day trip will take us to downtown Fremont. The main shopping district is filled with boutiques, antique and thrift stores, sandwich shops and an art gallery. We’ll spend the morning popping in and out of the shops like River’s End clothing store, SBH Gifts & Décor and Antique Attic. For lunch, we’ll probably head to The Lunch Pail, the best deli around, and head for a place to sit. Now, Fremont boasts five city parks but there is none better than
Branstrom. With a disc golf course, pavilion and a two mile loop trail nestled on 100 acres north of town, it’s a great place to play or relax.
If we have some time, we might just get started on the ultimate spring break adventure; the Go Exploring Challenge!
Photo Credit: Loda Lake (Wendy Sinicki); Webster Park (Hesperia Area Chamber of Commerce); Branstrom Park (Chris Kuebler).