Day Trip Dreams In St. Joseph

Day Trip Dreams In St. Joseph

After a few false starts, it looks like summer is here to stay, which means that I’m craving sunshine, water (either to drink or to swim in), and ice cream. Temps are in the mid to upper 70s daily and have even gotten up above 90, and the sun is high in the sky. I could stay at home and do the same old same old. But that’s not what summer is for. I need adventure and so do you! Are the words “day trip” running through your mind yet?

While Awesome Mitten’s staff is gallivanting about on #MittenTrips, I headed to the picturesque St. Joseph, a historic little town on a bluff overlooking the Big Lake (that’s Lake Michigan), which offers options for all of these summertime engagements.

With a rich history going back to the 17th century, a sprawling, sandy beach for the sun-worshippers and numerous restaurants, boutique shops, ice cream parlors, paddleboard rentals, and walking paths for the shoppers, foodies, and exercise enthusiasts, the Riviera of the Midwest is a must-visit Michigan destination.

Maybe unlike many other Michigan destinations, however, one of the great things about this town is that, once you park your car, you don’t have to drive it until you’re ready to head home. Everything is within walking distance, from the beachfront to the downtown!

View of the lakefront park with water cannons!
View of the lakefront park with water cannons!

Ideally located just four miles north of I-94 and a popular tourist destination from Grand Rapids and Chicago alike, St. Joseph is a “short drive” destination depending on your starting point. Across the river from Benton Harbor, home to the world headquarters of Whirlpool Corporation, kids of all ages splash around in a giant splash pad equipped with ground sprays and mega water cannons situated just steps away from the beachfront.

Want to get your move on?

Rent a single, tandem, or group bike from Scooter Joe’s Wheel and Water Rentals and traverse the many trails along the shore and throughout the old beach neighborhoods where you’ll take in the historic homes dating back to the early 1800’s dotted amid newer homes and expansive landscapes. If you are looking for more water time, spend $60 for a full day paddle board rental from Outpost Sports and target your core as you balance and paddle in the Lake Michigan waves.


For breakfast stop at Thornton’s. With its country, blue-and-white interior, stuffed scrambles, and dinner plate-size pancakes, locals and tourists alike enjoy the atmosphere and downhome cooking before walking Main Street.

Is it lunchtime yet? Grab a slice of pizza pie at Silver Beach Pizza or a burger at The Buck while enjoying the water views along the horizon. The dinner options are endless – from upscale to relaxed, try RyeBelles with a rooftop deck or Bistro on the Boulevard.

Cakes and pies by the slice, oh my!

Craving something sweet?

Cool down with a treat from Yo Bubbs, a frozen yogurt joint with all the fixin’s, or Mimi’s Gourmet Cupcakes with flavors like chocolate salted caramel pretzel, cookies & cream, and strawberry lemonade. The creamy flavors of Kilwins ice cream in a waffle cone will cool your palate. Better yet, hit up the Chocolate Café, a chocolate and coffee bar with chocolates, ice cream, coffee, and by the slice goodness for sale. My favorite is the 7-layer chocolate cake served dripping with chocolate fudge and a glass of milk. Plus, stop in at night for live music and entertainment throughout the summer months.

Are you an art fan? Visit Krasl Art Center or let your kids explore at the Curious Kids’ Museum. Little ones also enjoy the mini-arcade and Silver Beach Carousel.

Pick up locally grown fruit from the farmers market on Saturday mornings from June through September or search for that special something at Antiques on the Bluff on alternate Sundays from May to October.

Throwback to last winter, when 7-layered me conquered the 7-layer cake.
Throwback to last winter, when 7-layered me conquered the 7-layer cake.

There’s plenty to do, see, eat, and enjoy in St. Joseph. Convinced yet? Trust me– you won’t be disappointed. Did you try the 7-layer chocolate cake? What’s your favorite spot in the city?