Things to do in Northport, Michigan: 10 Family Friendly Ideas
With all of this warm weather we're having in May, my mind has traveled to the land of summer vacation. And where is my mind dashing away to? The tiny little town of Northport, of course! 😍
Northport, Michigan is a small village just a couple miles north of Traverse City. The town is basically empty in the winter months, but it comes to life in the summer. My family and I actually used to vacation in Northport for years before we moved to the Traverse City area, and it has easily become one of my favorite places on this planet. It is my absolute FAVORITE place to go swimming too. 😘 Did you know that nearly all of my mermaid swimming videos were filmed in Northport? Yep! It's a great place!
What's so great about Northport?
Not very many people know this, but Northport is actually one of the most family-friendly towns in Northern Michigan (at least in my opinion!). Although there are loads of adult-targeted activities (wineries, museums, art galleries, ect.) the town is a wonderland for children as well. There are tons of ice cream shops, swimming areas, trees to climb, piers to explore, fairytale creatures to see, bowling pins to knock over... all sorts of things. 😉
So, if you're looking to plan your family vacation for this summer, I highly recommend that you visit the area. Still not sure what exactly there is to do in Northport? I'm about to give you 10 good reasons to visit this hidden gem!
10 Family-Friendly Summer Activities in Northport
1. Fourth of July Fireworks by the Bay
It may be a small town, but Northport sure does know how to let out a mighty roar on Independence Day! There is not a single place in Leelanau County OR Traverse City that can outshine this tiny town on the 4th of July. Northport's 4th of July celebration takes place at Haserot Park, where locals and visitors alike flock to watch the fireworks explode over the water. Haserot Park consists of two beaches that are divided by a beautiful boat marina. Not only do you get to watch the fireworks from the beach, but you can also walk around on the piers of the marina to take a look at the decorations that the sailors and boaters put on their ships in celebration of the Independence Day Holiday.
TIME: 4th of July, Fireworks start at dark.
COST: Free! (Although there are usually some street-vendors selling glow-sticks, pizzas, ect. So you may want to take some cash with you!)
WHAT YOU NEED:
- Chairs or a Blanket to sit on
- Warm clothing
- Spare change (for snacks, glow sticks, an Ice Cream Cone from "The Tribune," ect. 😉)
- There's not much parking in Northport, so you should be prepared to walk a short distance
- Make sure to pick out your lounging area well before the fireworks show starts. People often come in the morning to claim their spot... it fills up fast!
- The Fireworks usually are shot off near the beach location to the right of the marina.
- Even though July is technically part of the summer, Northern Michigan doesn't always play by the rules of the world. Dress in layers, and consider bringing some blankets to cuddle up in.
- This firework show is much longer than most! If you think you've seen the "Grand Finale," don't pack up and leave just yet. There's a good chance that the show's just getting started. 😁
- If you are going to make your dog suffer through the "bangs" and the "booms," then PLEASE make sure to keep him/her on a leash. Also... please make use of the park's doggy-bags!
2. Northport's Music in the Park
Northport is a very artistic town. Local art can be seen all around the town, and you can't swing a cat without hitting an art gallery of some sort. The same goes for music. Many of the restaurants have live music throughout the week, and there is ALWAYS music on Fridays. Always.
If you go to Haserot Park (keep going straight past Tom's Grocery Store until you hit to the water/marina) on a Friday night, you can listen to live bands playing their music underneath the old wooden pavilion in the center of the park. The music is different from Friday to Friday, but the atmosphere is always great! Locals and visitors alike come to listen to the music, relax with their family and friends, and some even do a bit of dancing. It's a nice social event that almost everyone in the town seems to go to!
TIME: Late June- Early September, 7:00 p.m.- 9:00 p.m. (official dates have yet to be announced)
COST: Free! Although there are street vendors selling snacks and goodies down by the park, and possibly some performers who would appreciate tips for donating their time (wink, wink 😘).
WHAT YOU NEED:
- A Blanket or some chairs to sit on
- Layered Clothing
- Spare Change
- Dancing shoes---or bare feet
- Arrive early if you want to get a good parking spot.
- Be prepared to walk a short distance to the park.
- There is a playground at the beach to the right of the marina, in case your kiddos want to take a break from dancing!
- If you want to know what music is playing on which night, there are usually signs all around town that provide a list of bands/ genres.
- If you see a mermaid being wheeled around on a cart, or a fairy trying to cross the street... PLEASE DON'T RUN HER OVER!!!!! 😭😭😭
3. Northport's Dog Parade
Do you or your kids like dogs? How about a whole street filled with adorable floofs?! Attending the Northport Dog Parade was always something my family and I looked forward to when we would visit Leelanau County. The Dog Parade takes place every year on the second Saturday of August. If you have a dog, you can dress it up (there is usually a theme to the event, but you don't have to dress up your dog to take part!) and walk through the parade with your pooch. Or, you and your kids can camp out on the side of the streets and wave on the pups as they march by. There's usually candy being thrown at parade by-standers, along with other goodies.
After the parade, there is also an "Agility Competition" that you can enter your dog in. However, you do have to pre-register for the competition and there is a fee to pay for registration. It is free to watch though!
TIME: The Second Saturday in August (the parade usually starts at 11:00 a.m.)
COST: The parade is free, but it does cost money if you'd like to register your dog for the agility competition.
WHAT YOU NEED:
- Comfortable Shoes
- Layered Clothing
- A leash, water & doggy-bags for your pooch, if you're taking Fido with you
- Something to put candy in
- Some of the streets in town are blocked off for the parade. I suggest you check the route of the parade for the year you plan to attend so that you know what streets will be blocked.
- Please remember to pick up after your dog, make sure it has its vaccinations, and keep it on a leash.
- Please be careful what approaching dogs that aren't familiar with you. Always ask pet owners if it is okay for you or your child to pet their dog before you reach out to touch it.
- If you are bringing your dog to the parade, please be respectful of store owners and their pet policies.
- While many stores in Northport do have dog dishes set out for dogs to drink from, it is a good idea to bring your own dog-watering supplies just in case. 😉
4. The Northport Farmer's Market
Fridays are very eventful days in the village of Northport. Not only is there the Friday "Music in the Park" to look forward to in the evenings, but there is also the morning Farmer's Markets to attend as well. Every Friday morning, local vendors and farmers set up shop in the streets near Haserot Park to sell their goods. This is something fun for the whole family to go to, since vegetables aren't the only yummy thing to be found there. Fresh baked breads, pastries and cookies can often be found at the farmer's market, in addition to all of the fresh produce. Michigan cherries are the best, and you definitely NEED to buy a some before you leave. It is an absolute must. (When kids ask me what mermaid eat, I always tell them that I snack on the cherries that fall from the trees. Locally grown Michigan cherries are that good.😋)
TIME: Every Friday- Rain or Shine from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Estimated to start in June)
COST: It is free to visit the Farmer's Market, but the products do cost, of course!
WHAT TO BRING:
- Something to haul your goodies away in (a tote bag, wagon, mini van, ect.)
- Possibly an Umbrella
- If you want a good cup of coffee before you shop, "The Tribune" is the place to go! It's right down the road from Tom's Grocery Store.
- If you are bringing your kids with you and they are complaining... you can offer to walk them around the marina to see the fish (and possibly a mermaid) swimming around. There is also a playground (two, actually) for them to monkey around on afterwords too. Oh... and some days there may be a fairy frolicking around near the park. She may be blowing bubbles. 😉
5. Bowling at Tucker's in Northport
One of the most unique things about Northport it that it is a itty bitty town, and yet... it has one heck of an awesome bowling alley! Tucker's is a restaurant/bar and a bowling alley. I've only ever walked in to take a look at the place, but I've heard the food is awesome and the bowling is (obviously) a lot of fun. My dad's friend actually takes his family to Tucker's every time they visit Northport. It is tradition and one of the highlights of their vacation that the whole family looks forward to.
TIME: Tucker's is open daily.
COST: As of the day this post was written, the prices for Bowling at Tuckers are as follows:
- Daytime Bowling (before 6:00 p.m.) is $20 dollars per hour for 1 lane
- Nighttime Bowling (after 6:00 p.m.) costs $25 dollars per hour for 1 lane
- Shoes cost $3 dollars for adults
- Shoes cost $2 dollars for toddlers
WHAT TO BRING:
- Friends and Family
- Be sure to call Tucker's in advance to double-check their hours for the week that you're visiting. Sometimes business in Northport change their hours depending on the time of the year.
- It may be a good idea to call ahead of time to see how busy the bowling alley is, if you are planning on bowling.
6. Rent a Kayak from North Shore Outfitters
Confession... I've never been kayaking. It's a little tricky when you have fins...and I just love the water too much to only sit on top of it! 🤣😘 HOWEVER!!! If you prefer to float on top of the water rather than dive into it (it is quite cold for most), then you should consider renting a kayak! My family actually rented one a few years back, and while I didn't try it out, the rest of my family did, and they found it very entertaining. It's a unique way to enjoy the nearby lakes too.
TIME: North Shore Outfitters Opens in May. I suggest calling or checking online for more accurate time information, as stores have different hours through the year.
COST: The cost depends on what you're renting and how long you'll be renting it for. I honestly have no clue what the price is to rent a kayak, but all of the reviews say the price is fair!
WHAT YOU NEED:
- If you're renting a kayak, you'll need something to transport it with. I'd check with the store for suggestions and further details.
- Swimming gear, since you will most likely still get wet... or at least will risk getting wet. Hehehe!
- North Shore Outfitters rents more than just Kayaks, and also has lots of neat outdoors focused goods. Call or stop by for more details and more awesomeness.
- If you are going out in the lake, make sure to bring some water with you to stay hydrated. This may seem like a silly tip, but sometimes we get so caught up having fun that we forget to take care of ourselves!
7. Explore the Local Parks, Trails and Beaches
I'm pretty sure no further explanation is needed here! Northport is crawling with beaches, parks, trails and the like. The most popular beaches include Haserot Park, Christmas Cove and Peterson Park. The Leelanau State Forest is a beautiful place to hike, by the way, and even has a trail that leads to the water. Northport has plenty of other hiking trails scattered throughout too, so make sure to look them up when you're in town. Some do have playsets, which are an added bonus for the little ones!
TIME: Most parks have closing times, even if they are not officially enforced. 11:00 PM is typically the time you should clear the area. But, of course... be sure to do your own research, since I don't have all of the answers here!
COST: Free! Although I think the State Park does require you to pay a certain amount if you are planning on hiking there. :)
WHAT YOU NEED:
- Weather appropriate clothing
- Possibly bug protection, if you believe in that (and are in the woods)
- Snacks and hydration!
- ALWAYS clean up after yourself please! Nobody likes litterbugs, and trash makes the natural beauty of any area look a bit... trashy? Ick!
- If you are planning to go rock collecting, please be sure to follow the local laws regarding how much you can collect. Remember... each rock you take is one less rock in this magical area. Please be respectful. Please don't snatch away all of the mermaid treasures on the beach.
- Speaking of which... if you happen to see a mermaid at the beach or in the water, please be mindful of her tail and ask before you touch or photograph. And tag Mermaid Phantom at @The_Magic_Crafter if you do photograph her! 😘
8. Check out Northport's Leelanau UnCaged
Northport's "Leelanau UnCaged" is typically celebrated on the last Saturday in September. For this event, the streets of downtown Northport are blocked off from road traffic and the town is overtaken by musicians, artists, performers and the like. Nearly all of the stores and local businesses get involved in the festival too... which is pretty neat! One thing you should know if you are planning to attend the event with your children is that the bars are open for business and usually pretty crowded towards the evening. Even though Leelanau UnCaged is kid-friendly, and there is plenty for you and the kids to do during the festival, there are certainly adult-focused activities as well. 😊
You can watch the fire-dancers work their magic, see belly-dancers twirl to the festive music of the event, and walk the streets like you own them! There're plenty of things to wow your kids and you at Leelanau UnCaged.
TIME: The last Saturday in September. Usually starting at 10:00 A.M. and ending well... late! Hahaha!
COST: Free! You will want cash on hand to buy food and/or one-of-a-kind artwork and goods.
WHAT YOU NEED:
- Spending money
- Your walking shoes!
- You may also want to take a camera (or phone, I guess) to preserve the memories you'll make at this neat small-town-gone-wild celebration.
- Since downtown Northport will be blocked off, you will have to park along the roads in the outskirts of town. Be prepared to walk a short distance.
- Check Leelanau UnCaged's website before planning your visit, since it will give you the most accurate and up-to-date list of what is happening where and when.
- If you want ice cream or food, expect the lines to be long. And remember... your servers are doing the best they can to handle the never-ending flow of people. Please be kind to them, be patient and tip them well!
9. Shopping in Northport, Michigan
This idea is not just for you, mom. This one is for dad and the kids too. 😘
As of the time I'm writing this, Northport has a pretty impressive amount of unique shops all around town. The "Pennington Collection" will appeal to mom and the kids, since it has beautiful home goods, fashionable clothing, greeting cards, tons of toys and more! Dad (and mom) will likely enjoy the newly-opened "Porcupine" home goods store, along with the many different local art galleries! There's "Enjoy Michigan" too, which sells items that are all about our great Mitten State. Additionally, Northport has a hardware store, grocery store, crafts & sewing store and more! And let's not forget the restaurants, farm stands, Friday Farmer's Market and the well-known "Barb's Bakery."
TIME: Each store opens at a different time. You'll have to look up the information online for an accurate answer to this question!
COST: Obviously, if you're shopping, you're going to need to spend money! Unless you're window-shopping, that is. Hahaha! (I do it all the time. No judgment here! ♥)
WHAT YOU NEED:
- Store hours
- Possibly self-control. Possibly. 🙂
- Always look up the store hours before planning your shopping trip
- If you want the best selection of donuts from Barb's Bakery, then you need to get up early. 7-8-ish should suffice. Also, they close once they run out of donuts, I do believe!
- If the kids get bored with shopping, tell them you'll buy them an ice cream cone from The Tribune if they're really good!
10. Watch out for Mermaids, Fairies and Firedancers!
Northport is a very unique town. And by unique, I mean that it is unique to the extremes! At "The Mitten Brewing Co.," there are often fire-dancers and other street-performers working their magic during the nighttime. I've never gotten to catch any of their shows at this point, but I hear they are spectacular! Something else that I DO know quite a bit about is the the whole mermaids and fairies thing. On certain days, if you come down to the Northport Marina, you may catch sight of a REAL mermaid swimming along the longest dock (to the far right). She likes to perform for the locals and will sometimes come to shore to visit with the humans. She doesn't get paid to do this though, so she REALLY appreciates tips. I'll be straightforward... PLEASE TIP THE MERMAID!!! 🤣
Mermaids Swimming in Northport, Michigan (VIDEO BELOW)
If you see a fairy wandering around the streets and forests, she would also be overjoyed to be paid for her work. She and the mermaid (both mer) worked very hard to make this blog post for you, by the way! The fairy you see dancing about may have a beautiful-sounding wood flute too, if she ever learns how to play it properly.
Fairies in Northport, Michigan (VIDEO BELOW)
Anyways, self-promotion aside for a bit (no shame!)... I know for a fact that you and the rest of your family (or friends) will be in awe of the crazy things happening in the town of Northport. It's a favorite performance spot of mine and other street-performers. Fire-Dancing, Belly Dancing, mermaid swimming, fairy frolicking... Northport has it all. Literally.
TIME: It seems like the Fire Dancers often do their thing after Friday night's "Music in the Park." However, you'll have to do your research for the most accurate information! As for the mermaid and the fairy... you may want keep your eyes open on warm days from Friday-Sunday. I don't swim or frolic every weekend, dues to weather/ water conditions, so the BEST way to find out when/where I'll be is to follow me on Instagram (@the_magic_crafter). There is a good chance you'll see me at many of Northport's big events too, since I am a vacationer just as much as you are!
COST: I do believe all of the above-mentioned performances are free to see. HOWEVER... since working as a performer is very hard work (and oftentimes painful, costly and time-consuming) your donations are always welcomed! A chef's art is his/her delicious food, right? Well, our performances are our "art" too. If you pay chefs for their meals, please consider paying performers for their work as well. ♥
WHAT YOU NEED:
- Money, if you're willing to donate a few bucks
- Sunglasses, if you're watching the mermaid swim in the glistening waters of Grand Traverse Bay
- A camera/phone for pictures
- A cheerful spirit
- Please remember that performers are people too. If you want to take a picture with them, please ask. If you want to touch their hair, tail, or wings... PLEASE ASK!!! 😅 (I know you wouldn't do such things without asking first, but you won't believe how some people treat us like objects!)
- Again, performers always appreciate tips!
- Please keep an eye on your children. This especially applies to mermaid & fairy entertainers, since kids seem to be drawn to them. When I am in costume, I am NOT to be taken into consideration for the adult-child ratio. Although I work with children every day, I am not able to babysit your child. (Again, I know you won't do this, but I have had an issue with people leaving their kids with me and walking away to do who knows what! Hahaha. Not good!!)
- Performers often get VERY into what they're doing. In my case as a mermaid, my life depends on my focus while in the water! Please know that we can't always hear you over the sounds of the waves, the hissing of fire, or the thumping of music. We likely aren't ignoring you if you call to us... we're just 100% immersed in what we're doing! ♥
- Mermaids that are in the water CANNOT pose for pictures! I had a lady last year get angry with me for not holding still for a picture on a wavy day. I was exhausted from swimming, struggling to not eat the waves, and freezing cold. I literally could not hold still for her! I'm sure the situation is very similar for the other entertainers as well. If you want pictures, you can always ask politely for some after the performance. 😊
- I am legally blind while in the water, since I can't wear my contacts. I can see 3 inches in front of my face, so please don't be offended if you or your child wave to me and I do not wave back! Hahaha! I honestly cannot see worth a darn!
What will you do in Northport?
From bowling to hiking and mermaid-sightings to puppy parading... there is so much to do in the quaint town of Northport, Michigan. It has been one of my favorite summertime vacation areas for years now. And even though Traverse City will always be my favorite city, Northport will always be my heart's home. What will you do in Northport?
Leave me a comment below listing your Top 3 Summertime Northport Activities. See one I missed? Go ahead and add that to the comments as well! ♥ Thanks for reading. I hope you found this helpful!
XOXO~ Mermaid Phantom, Traverse City's Mermaid ♥♥♥
Want to Meet a Mermaid but can't make it to Michigan? I'll come to you!
Although my business is based in Traverse City, I am willing to offer my services all around the world! I am on a mission to spread magic all over the planet and create lasting memories for each and every person that I encounter. Therefore... I can't limit myself to just Michigan. The mission is too important!!
Send me an email at Phantom@TheMagicCrafter.com to book me for your party or festival or project. But don't hesitate... slots are filling up quickly!