Road Trip to Mt. Pleasant for a Day of Adventure with Kids

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Townie I may not be, but I did grow up in Mt. Pleasant. My parents also live close by, so I spend a lot of time back at my old stomping grounds. This summer, we decided to move our quarantine to my mom and dad’s, so I have been able to rediscover a lot of my favorite places.

While not attached to a Great Lake, Mt. Pleasant is an incredible Chippewa River community with parks, riverwalks, canoeing, tubing, and more. Just over an hour from Lansing proper, you’ll find plenty of fun activities that are also social-distancing-friendly. If you’re looking for an adventure and some new scenery to explore with the kids, Mt. Pleasant is sure to deliver.

MT. PLEASANT OUTDOOR ADVENTURE

GKB Riverwalk Trail is a beautiful trail for walking or biking. You will find plenty of areas along the trail where the river is more of a meandering stream and it is safe to allow kids to walk into the very shallow water looking for rocks or wildlife. Parking areas are at Pickens Field, Island Park, Nelson Park, Mill Pond Park, and Chipp-a-Waters Park. My favorite spots are along the paths between Island Park and Mill Pond Park, but all of these parks are also great spots to hang out, have a picnic, and more.

Deerfield Nature Park is a little bit outside of Mt. Pleasant, but worth a drive. They have beautiful trails which include the always exciting swinging bridge pictured above. The small public beach is a fabulous area to cool off after your hike. If you’re into winter sports like snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, bookmark this one for the future, as this is a wonderful year-round park. I grew up cross country skiing here– yes, even across that bridge!

Coldwater Lake is just up the road from my childhood home, so we spent a whole lot of time at this lake. There is a fairly large public beach with picnic shelters and plenty of shade to set up your beach blankets. I haven’t been there in years, but remember this being a popular lake for locals to bring their boats and enjoy the sandbar.

Bundy Hill Preserve boasts Isabella County’s highest point, which locals jokingly point to as the reason the town was named “Mount” Pleasant. With fabulous, shaded trails, you can spend a few hours exploring nature at this beautiful preserve.

Buckley’s Mountainside Canoes has hosted many a family canoe trip. If you’re up for a day of adventure, the Chippewa River is a nice, easy-going paddle without a lot of rapids. Bring your bug spray, sunscreen, and a cooler to enjoy a picnic along the route.

OTHER EXPLORATION IN MT. PLEASANT

Ziibiwing Center is a wonderful stop to learn about the history and culture of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe who inhabits the reservation in and around Mt. Pleasant. The outdoor gardens showcase and teach about many traditional plants used by local Native Americans. The indoor museum is open at restricted capacity during COVID-19, so call ahead to double check before stopping off.

The Golf Center offers a putt putt course and an ice cream shop in one. This is a fun treat after a trail walk that the whole family is sure to enjoy. I understand that they stock their ice cream freezers with lots of high quality, Michigan-made ice creams.

Soaring Eagle Waterpark is open with COVID-19 restrictions on capacity and social distancing in place. I am a little too old to have enjoyed this one as a kid, but have many friends in Mt. Pleasant who take their kids here. Call ahead for reservations.

Mt. Pleasant Speedway is a 3/8-mile clay track offering races on Friday nights. Gates open at 5 p.m. and races start at 7:45. Reasonably priced fun for the auto racing lovers!

The Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum is temporarily closed but absolutely worth a bookmark for the future. My kids love this museum! It’s great for ages 0-5 but there are several areas for the older kids, as well.

PLACES TO EAT IN MT. PLEASANT

The Cabin Bar offers what I think is the best pizza in Mt. Pleasant (and for miles around), and I am a bit of a pizza snob. Call in for a pizza and an order of cabin sticks– you won’t regret it! The Hunter family owns this local gem and do so much for the community of Mt. Pleasant, including recently donating almost $17,000 in pizza and more for front-line workers and those in need in the community during COVID-19.

Hunter’s Ale House and O’Kelly’s are also owned by the Hunter family and both offer fabulous food as well as outdoor seating. My family of craft beer lovers are frequent growler-fillers at the Ale House. We love that the brewers here work in conjunction with Central Michigan University’s brewing program, and they brew some great beers!

Max & Emily’s downtown offers fabulous sandwiches, but they became a local favorite when they were just serving up cheesecake years ago. They offer outdoor seating in Mt. Pleasant’s quaint downtown area. Be sure to leave room for dessert!

The Pixie Restaurant makes some of the best coney dogs around! Yes, I’ve eaten my share of Detroit coney dogs, and I stand by my statement– the Pixie’s dogs definitely measure up. You can either drive through or eat outside at this locally-famous spot. A Mt. Pleasant favorite, this place has a 50’s diner feel, full of music memorabilia and local history. No, you won’t find my name on the coney dog/bitty burger-eating Wall of Fame, but I do still have a lot of life left to live.

The Barn Door Restaurant is outside of Mt. Pleasant, but not too far out of your way if you decide to check out Deerfield Park, Coldwater Lake, or Bundy Hill. I can personally attest to the deliciousness of their made-from-scratch food…my best friend lives right up the road and we eat here a lot. Try the RPM Burger or the wings. I also appreciate their selection of ice cold craft beer on draft. You’ll probably be served by the owner, Cathy, who always offers up friendly conversation. COVID-19 capacity restrictions are in place, but you can also dine outside or order takeout.

I hope you’ll enjoy spending some time in my hometown of Mt. Pleasant! With Soaring Eagle Casino and CMU in town, it has grown rapidly since I was a kid, but many of the original local favorites are still there and thriving!

Looking for more ways to get outside and enjoy summer while still social distancing? Check out What You Need to Know About Michigan Zoos Reopening.

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