For years, we’ve driven through Mt. Pleasant on our way to visit family, often stopping by one of the convenient city parks to stretch our legs. This summer, our family of four had the joy of staying the weekend in Mt. Pleasant and really exploring the area deeper.
And goodness, we found a ton of new favorite places here!
An epic park system, small but mighty museums, and tasty dining options… to name a few. Plus, there were a couple of places that weren’t open on a holiday weekend that will make a great excuse to visit next time — including the Ziibiwing Center and Art Reach of Mid-Michigan.
A big thank you to Mt. Pleasant Area Convention & Visitors Bureau for partnering with Awesome Mitten to bring you this weekend itinerary as part of the 2023 #MIAwesomeList Michigan Summer Bucket List!
Our Mt. Pleasant Summer Itinerary
What We Did
- Explored Deerfield Nature Park
- Visited Nelson Park
- Kayaked the Chippewa River
- Played in the splash park at Island Park
- Strolled downtown finding Art Flair designs
- Hiked to the top of Bundy Hill
- Enjoyed the Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum
Where We Ate
- Max & Emily’s
- Hunter’s Ale House
- Ponder Coffee
- Pixie Restaurant
- Doozie’s Ice Cream
Where We Stayed
- Hampton Inn
Explore the Bridges at Deerfield Nature Park
My husband and I love exploring new parks and hiking trails. By extension, our kiddos have grown to enjoy nature trails too, sometimes more enthusiastically than others.
Naturally, our trip to Mt. Pleasant involved seeing as many parks as possible, starting with Deerfield Nature Park. As a county park, we paid a $6 entrance fee. You can also purchase a yearly pass — definitely worth it if you live locally.
With 11 different trails, the park map we picked up when we paid really came in handy. Deerfield has a disc golf course, fishing platform, beach area, and rustic campsites. There are also four unique bridges throughout the park, so we set out to hike to the different bridges.
We started on the Wildwood Pathway to see the suspension bridge first. Walking along the wobbly bridge felt like we were in a jungle adventure movie. A highlight for our kids with wild imaginations, for sure!
A Toe Dip in the Chippewa River
Along the trail, we found the best place to dip our toes in the refreshing Chippewa River. A nearby sign explained this was an erosion control demonstration site. The slopes, vegetation, fencing, and designated log steps for foot traffic help preserve the area.
Next, we came to the Lewis Pontiac Bridge, which is a pretty standard-looking bridge but made another fun marker on our bridge hike.
The Deerfield Covered Bridge
We continued our hike to the massive covered bridge, which looked so picturesque towering over the river. By this point we had hiked about 1 mile in the heat, so we turned around and enjoyed taking the same trail back.
Deerfield has one more suspension bridge deeper into the park that we didn’t make it to this time. An adventure for another day!
Transport Back in Time at Pixie Restaurant
Classic 50s Diner
The Pixie is a classic ’50s diner with both drive-thru and dine-in options. Inside is full of retro decor, like a jukebox, hula hoops on the ceiling, and vintage photos and neon signs on the walls. We cozied up in a booth next to a cut-out of Elvis and savored our pizza, burgers, and fries.
Walk the GKB Riverwalk Trail & Nelson Park
Energized by dinner, we wanted to get back outside a bit before indulging in dessert. The nearby Nelson Park was the perfect spot.
In the middle of Mt. Pleasant runs the 1.8-mile GKB Riverwalk Trail, which connects five different city parks along the Chippewa River, including Nelson Park.
We took a short stroll on the trail and found several electric scooters available to rent. When our kids are a little bit older, it would be so fun to bike or scooter the whole length of the GKB Riverwalk Trail.
Indulge in Doozie’s Ice Cream
On to dessert! What summer trip is complete without at least one ice cream stop?
Doozie’s welcomed us with an intriguing sign: “Without Doozie’s Ice Cream, there is only darkness and chaos.”
And Doozie’s delivered — huge portions of cold treats at a very reasonable price. A small hand-dipped ice cream (made of two generous scoops) in a waffle cone was only $2.75.
I tried the hard-serve Lavender Lemon (delightful!), and my husband got a hot fudge sundae. My kids ordered the signature ice cream flavors Superman and Moose Tracks.
If you visit Doozies, it’s helpful to note that it only accepts cash and check.
Swim & Sleep at the Hampton Inn
While in Mt. Pleasant, we stayed at the Hampton Inn. Our room was clean and comfortable, breakfast was included, and it had the most important amenity when traveling with kids — a pool.
And the heated pool area was so nice and warm! No shivering after getting out of the water here.
The Hampton Inn is very accommodating for guests. A few special perks that it offers, which I haven’t seen with many other hotels, include:
- Late checkout at noon
- Generous pool hours from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- Dogs and cats allowed (We didn’t travel with pets, but good to know!)
Kayak the Chippewa River
After a good night’s sleep and breakfast at the Hampton Inn, we were on to our next adventure — kayaking the Chippewa River.
Being a holiday weekend, everyone and their grandma made plans to paddle the Chippewa River that day. Luckily, Buckley’s Mountainside Canoes offers several different kayaking trips (both upriver and downriver), and the groups were well spread out with different drop-off points.
Buckley’s Mountainside Canoe
Our kids have kayaked on inland lakes before, but this was their first river kayaking experience. We decided the shortest 1 to 2-hour River Trip would be the best option — in two tandem kayaks.
After a short wait, we loaded up into the shuttle van to be dropped off a few miles upriver. As the only group doing the River Trip, our family got to enjoy a quiet stretch of the river to ourselves.
With temps in the 70s and high humidity, the cloud cover made for perfect kayaking weather. Not too hot, not too cold, just right for active paddling.
A Quiet Stretch of the Chippewa River
Kayaking the Chippewa River was so peaceful, and we found the river was teeming with wildlife. We saw several turtles, a crane, and a hawk.
All in all, our kayaking adventure took about 2 hours from start to finish, with 1.5 hours of active kayaking on the river (at a leisurely speed). The time estimate proved very accurate for us.
Dine at Max and Emily’s
Kayaking definitely works up an appetite, so a filling lunch was in order. With scrumptious homemade sandwiches, Max and Emily’s in Downtown Mt. Pleasant made an ideal spot to refuel.
With so many delicious-sounding options (including breakfast all day) on the hand-written menus on the wall, it was tough to choose just one.
My grilled turkey panini was divine, and I definitely need to go back and slowly eat my way through each unique sandwich.
Stroll Through Downtown Mt. Pleasant
After lunch, we walked through downtown Mt. Pleasant, which has lots of great restaurants and stores. Just down the street from Max and Emily’s is Art Reach of Mid-Michigan, an amazing organization that promotes the arts in Mt. Pleasant.
Unfortunately, Art Reach was closed that Saturday because of the holiday weekend, so we couldn’t explore inside during this visit. However, we were still able to enjoy some of the fruits of Art Reach’s labors, like the brightly colored intersections downtown.
Art Flair Displays
While we walked, we searched for the public art on display for Art Flair. As a fundraiser for children’s art programming, various artists paint wooden furniture, like benches or chairs. Each item is bid on and auctioned off through Art Reach’s Facebook page. Fun pieces for a great cause!
Splash & Climb at Island Park
By mid-afternoon, the sun was shining in full force. We were ready to cool down, and I knew just the spot to go — the Island Park Spray Park.
Our kids were in heaven running through the cold water. We parents were comfortable under the huge shade umbrella with a nice breeze blowing by.
Indigenous Culture in Mt. Pleasant
Island Park also has an epic Timber Town play structure that my boys thoroughly explored.
One of the coolest parts of Timber Town is the inscription by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe inside the central gazebo area. It explains the Seven Grandfather Teachings of treating the earth and other people with respect.
A beautiful example of the important Indigenous culture of Mt. Pleasant.
Enjoy Live Music at Hunter’s Ale House
For dinner that night, we ventured to Hunter’s Ale House where we were treated to patio dining and live music. Fresh salads for the adults and chicken tenders and fries (with a side of broccoli) for the kids made the perfect dinner.
Of course, at any new brewery, trying a flight of hand-crafted beer is a must. My favorite was the Blue My Socks Off — a blueberry fruit beer — while my husband preferred the Off the Bench — a drinking cream ale.
It was the perfect summer evening — enjoying food and drink on a greenery-covered patio while jamming to live, classic ’90s music. The soundtrack of my youth!
Eat at Ponder Coffee
The next morning, after checking out of the Hampton Inn, we headed to Ponder Coffee for brunch, which quickly became another new Mt. Pleasant favorite.
When the weather is nice, I am never one to pass up patio dining. Outside, we enjoyed avocado toast and strawberry waffles with a handmade strawberry lemonade and a blended salted caramel latte.
Everything at Ponder Coffee tasted just as good as it looked!
Hike Up Bundy Hill
Now if you’re like me, you may have wondered… Does Mt. Pleasant actually have a mountain?
As it turns out… not really. But, Bundy Hill is the highest point in Isabella County and is the nearest “mount” in Mt. Pleasant. At 1,270 feet above sea level, Bundy Hill has a beautiful hiking path where you can climb to the top of the summit.
While we were in Mt. Pleasant, our family just had to make our way to the top of the actual Mt. Pleasant, er, Bundy Hill.
An Awesome Hiking Trail
When visiting Bundy Hill Preserve, it’s helpful to note that there is a small area for parking and no restroom facilities.
The Bundy Hill hiking trail is about 1.5 miles roundtrip and is well marked throughout. Moderately difficult, the path is narrow and winds up the hill in a slow and steady incline. Our 6 and 9-year-olds handled it like champs.
The first part of the trail, named the History Trail, has interesting displays explaining the history of the park and the surrounding area.
A Gorgeous View
At the Bundy Hill summit, you’ll find a small geological marker that designates the highest point. In summer, the view at the summit is all thick trees. If you take the Ridge Trail back down the hill, there is a great spot with a bench where you can peek between the trees for a nice view.
Learn & Play at Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum
After getting nice and sweaty from our hike, we set our eyes on an indoor adventure — next at the Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum. As a small but mighty museum, this place is efficiently packed with engaging, educational activities.
My kids were immediately drawn to the Beemazium, a climbing area where kids can learn about bees. The space mission and paper rocket-launching areas were also a huge hit.
And, of course, what child can resist an interactive water table?
Inspired by Mt. Pleasant’s sister city in Okaya, Japan, the area about Japanese culture and writing is wonderful. Inside the Japanese play house, the adorable kitchen features sushi and floor seating.
Also, it was nice to see some of the museum’s sustainability efforts — like the spots to recycle extra paper rocket pieces and the monthly eco kids club meetings.
Plan Your Next Mt. Pleasant Adventure
Our family had a blast exploring the parks, restaurants, and museums in Mt. Pleasant this summer, and we can’t wait to visit again soon. I hope you are inspired to find your next great adventure in Mt. Pleasant too!