Up, up, up – and then down the roller coaster car zooms, amid the many twists, turns and loops, while riders scream in fear and excitement. For many families, amusement parks are a common travel destination, and summertime brings plenty of adventurers, both locals and tourists, to Michigan’s largest amusement and water park, Michigan’s Adventure.
Located in Muskegon, near the shore of Lake Michigan, Michigan's Adventure gives two fun experiences since for just one ticket price, you get admission into both the Michigan’s Adventure amusement park and the WildWater Adventure water park. There are no restrictions on going back and forth between the two parks, so families can plan their day around what works best for them.
Amusement Park for those who love thrills – or not so much
My family recently spent a day at Michigan’s Adventure, courtesy of their owner, Cedar Fair Parks. This was our second trip to the park, so my kids felt like old pros as they eagerly led my husband and I to the area that houses their favorite rides – the Tilt-A-Whirl, Trabant, and Thunderbolt. They love running back and forth between these three carnival-type rides, and my husband I love that all of these are located closely enough to each other that we can keep an eye on all three of our girls without having to make them all stay together the entire time. This year they also added some new rides to their list of favorites – the Scrambler and (for the older two) the swings of the Flying Trapeze.
My kids aren’t so much thrill seekers, so we only rode on one roller coaster on this trip – the Corkscrew, which is by far my teen and tween’s favorite coaster. Michigan’s Adventure is known among coaster enthusiasts for Shivering Timbers, the longest, fastest wooden roller coaster in Michigan. Almost everyone in my family (minus my 8-year-old) has ridden it in the past, but my husband and older girls prefer to hang onto their stomachs nowadays, so I wasn’t able to talk anyone into riding it with me this time. Maybe someday…
Along with Shivering Timbers and the Corkscrew, there are five additional roller coasters at Michigan’s Adventure, offering a little something for everyone. The amusement park side also provides plenty of sideshow
games, children’s rides for those under 54” tall, and family favorites like a carousel, ferris wheel, swan-shaped paddle boats, railroad, bumper cars and bumper boats. The bumper boats are another one of our family favorites since it’s not very often that you’re able to drive your own little boat AND purposely crash it into everyone. The boats are easy to drive and my older girls took off immediately. My 8-year-old had to ride with an adult so she and her dad squished into the same boat.
Although the park tickets cover both the amusement and water parks, there are a few attractions that have extra costs. The go-karts are one of these and the miniature golf is another. My husband and teen tried out the mini golf this time and weren’t very impressed with the course, so I’d suggest sticking with the attractions that don’t cost extra and hitting a mini golf course another time.
Splash and Slide in WildWater Adventure to cool off
When your family is ready to cool off, you can head over to the WildWater Adventure side of the park, which boasts three wave pools of varying sizes and depths, along with a lazy river, wading pool, and a variety of water slides. Little ones can splash around in the Half-Pint Paradise (48” maximum height), and the family can slide and splash together in the Beach Party splash area. For older kids, teens and adults who want more thrills, there are ten water sides rated either ‘high’ or ‘aggressive’ thrill.
WildWater Adventure offers locker and cabana rental, although I found the locker prices to be much higher than I was expecting – $13 for a ‘large’ locker that held shoes, bags and clothes for three people, since my husband and older daughter chose not to do the water park on this trip. The locker system had changed since our previous visit when you could get back a portion of your locker deposit when you returned the key. It is all electronic now, and works entirely through kiosks. The benefit is that you can pay with a credit card, and you don’t have to keep track of a physical key (you choose a 4-digit pin code to remember instead).
If you prefer not to rent a cabana, there are plenty of lounge chairs spread throughout the park, although most of them are in direct sunlight. If you forget sunglasses, sunscreen (or beach towels, as we did on our first trip there), you can buy whatever you need at the souvenir shop at the entrance between the amusement and water parks.
My husband and teen decided not to do the water park on this trip, so I had my tween and 8-year-old in there by myself. We stayed together, although I did let my tween go on a couple of slides by herself since her little sister didn’t want to ride them. There are lifeguards stationed throughout the water park as well as at every slide top and bottom, so I felt comfortable letting her go, as long as I knew what slide she was going to be riding. Part of the water park was closed that day, so we mainly stuck to the largest wave pool and the lazy river, although the girls did both ride a couple of the tube slides as well.
Where to Eat
Dining options throughout both sides of the park include pizza, a sit-down burger joint, and an outdoor family grill where you can dine picnic-style. For those with a sweet tooth, you can enjoy ice cream, Dippin’ Dots, cotton candy, funnel cakes, fudge and more – and you can choose from many snack options for a quick bite of options such as hot pretzels, hot dogs, fries, and kettle corn. One thing to note is that none of this is gourmet food, and vegetarian options are difficult to come by – but you can get smoothies in a couple of locations and the Jacks Snack Shack does offer fruit bowls and salads. If you plan to stay all day, they do offer a dining plan that may be a good option.
On this trip, we’d been given vouchers to the Family Grill, which offers all-you-can-eat picnic fare in an outdoor venue. Options included hamburgers and hot dogs, chicken
bites, macaroni and potato salads and vanilla ice cream cups. My oldest and youngest easily found food they liked but my picky tween was a much greater challenge since she doesn’t like any of those particular foods. Both my husband and I weren’t very impressed with the hot dogs, but we thought the chicken and hamburgers were great. I loved the potato salad as well. It was nice to get out of the sun for a bit in the covered picnic area, but I think we’ll try the pizza next time to avoid the drama since everyone in our family likes pizza. The food is relatively well-priced for an amusement park, but still expensive enough that if you’re planning to spend an entire day in the park, you may want to consider purchasing their dining plan.
Michigan’s Adventure Tips
On our two visits to Michigan’s Adventure, we’ve spent most of our time in the amusement park side, and only a few hours at the water park. I can easily see where a family might want to buy a two-day pass to be able to spend an entire day in each side, but it’s nice to be able to customize that to whatever works best for your family and what they enjoy the most. We’ve only gone during the spring when the park hasn’t been open long for the season yet and therefore hasn’t been very crowded. We love this because there are virtually no lines for any of the rides or slides and our girls have been known to ride their favorites over and over again.
The weather and water temperature can be iffy during the spring though, so if you prefer the water park side, you may want to visit during mid or late summer. Or if you’re local, you can take advantage of their season passes and go as often as you like! Just make sure to check their website since the operating hours change throughout the season and often differ on weekends or weekdays. The water park side usually closes before the amusement park side.
If you’re a techie like me, you’ll want to download the Michigan’s Adventure app to your smartphone before you arrive. The app gives you an interactive map that uses your phone’s GPS capability to show you exactly where you are in the park. This makes it easy to find the nearest restroom, see how far you are from your favorite coaster or just navigate your way around the park. The app also gives you the height requirements and restrictions for each ride, so you can see at a glance if your kids are able to ride before walking all the way over there. You can also purchase your park tickets through the app as well. If you’re hanging out in the water park, remember to be careful with your electronics so they don’t get wet – there are park maps displayed in this area, so unless you have a waterproof case, it’s probably smarter to leave the phone in a locker if you’re planning to get wet.