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Day Trippin' in St. Joe's, MI

Updated: Dec 21, 2018

Two hours away from the tri-cities, sitting peacefully on the shores of Lake Michigan is the quaint town of St. Joe’s! Fully loaded with rooftop bars with a view, good grub, a shop-lined downtown, a beachside carousel, children’s museums, and great public beaches, this town is one you won’t want to leave.


Oh… and did I mention the WINERIES?! SO. MANY. WINERIES! Holy Michigan Wine Trail, I could have winery-hopped ALL DAY if this were a kid-free trip! That being said, all of the wineries and tasting rooms we visited were kid-friendly. Some even gave our girls their own wine glasses to try their own juice and water tastings while we did our wine tastings.


Other than a tank of gas, a trip to St. Joe’s is VERY affordable if you plan ahead (e.g. pack a lunch). If it weren’t for eating out, which is sometimes part of the fun of exploring new cities, each day would have been under $60.


FULL DISCLOSURE: Although this trip can be done in one day (and we definitely have done it in one day), we decided we needed a bit of a vacation with this visit and we stayed here for a few days. BUT… I have organized each of our adventures to be done in a day’s time.


TOTAL COST OF DAY ONE: $42.00


The sand was as hot as the devil's armpits, so be sure to bring water shoes... you know, for the sand.

DAY ONE

STOP 1: Silver Beach

  • COST: $12 for parking (there is also a $2/hour lot two blocks east of the lake, but we didn’t want to deal with that extra hike with all the beach gear for ourselves and three babes)

  • HOURS: 5:00am - Dusk (cars need to be out of lot by 11:00pm)

  • ADDRESS: 101 Broad Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085

The earlier you get to the beach, the better. Because there are over 2,450 feet of Lake Michigan beach here, you are certain to get a “good spot”, but a “good spot” to us meant being close enough to both the bathrooms and the parking lot. The bathrooms are open from mid-May through October, though the beach itself is open year-round.


Within 30 feet of the bathrooms is a concession stand and little convenient store that sells sunscreen and any beach accessories you may have forgotten/didn’t want to lug to the beach. They even rent kayaks and stand up paddle boards if chasing your kids isn’t enough of a workout for you!


HELPFUL TIPS:

  1. Pack water shoes! The sand is soft with no rocks or shells, but it’s as hot as the devil in summer! Walking from our beach chairs to the convenient store WITHOUT water shoes was a mistake.

  2. Bring an umbrella, pop-up beach tent, or pop-up canopy as the beach gets BLASTED by the sun ALL. DAY. LONG.

  3. Check WeatherNetwork.com to determine if the water conditions are prime for swimming (green, yellow, or red flags indicate this). It was a “Green Flag Day” when we went, but it sure can change quickly! The very next day was a “Red Flag Day” with very strong rip currents and swimming was prohibited.


If swimming isn’t keeping your kids entertained, there’s even a really large playground right on the beach! Beaching at Silver Beach kept our family busy for HOURS until our bellies reminded us we had skipped lunch and needed to eat!



STOP 2: Silver Beach Pizza

  • COST: $20 for a large pepperoni (includes tip)

  • HOURS: Sunday - Thursday 11:00am - 10:00pm, Friday - Saturday 11:00am - 11:00pm

  • ADDRESS: 410 Vine Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085


Straight down Broad Street just before the Bluff, you will find “the best pizza in St. Joe’s”, praise from both native-born residents and frequent STJ visitor’s alike! If you like cheesy pizza, this is right up your alley. It’s affordable, yummy, and SUPER convenient because of how close it is the beach! We rinsed off at the showers by the beach, packed our beach gear back in the car, and walked down to Silver Beach Pizza (leave your car parked; it’s just a block east).

Depending on how busy they are, which they are typically always steadily busy, the pizza can take anywhere from 15 - 25 minutes. You pick it up right there at the window you ordered from. Don’t worry about keeping your kids entertained while the pizza is being made, that’s what the Whirlpool Compass Fountain is for!


STOP 3: Whirlpool Compass Fountain

  • COST: FREE

  • HOURS: Daily 9:00am - 10:00pm

  • ADDRESS: 200 Broad Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085

While our pizza was cooking, we had the girls play in the fountain for two reasons: 1. To REALLY wear them out before our ride home, and 2. To get the extra sand off of them. Between Silver Beach and Silver Beach Pizza is this sweet GIANT gem of a spray ground! Once we thought they were clean(ish) and tired, we changed them out of their suits, picked up our pizza, grabbed a picnic table, and CHOWED!


STOP 4: Silver Beach Carousel

  • COST: $10 for five tokens (one token per rider)

  • HOURS: Monday - Saturday 10:00am - 10:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm - 10:00pm

  • ADDRESS: 333 Broad Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085

Before heading back to our rental home, we rode the carousel because… well, the girls saw it and quite frankly, I didn’t want to listen to them whine about it any longer (they were tired, what can I say). It’s literally across the street from the Whirlpool Compass Fountain, so it’s a tough job to convince them that it’s ”broken”. That’s the #BadMommy in me, I guess. After one ride, we [sleepily] walked back to the car and headed home!


The carousel is in the roundtop building on the right, and you can see the Compass Whirlpool Fountain there on the left. All right next to beautiful Lake Michigan!

TOTAL COST OF DAY TWO: $97.00


Several STEAM activities seamlessly integrated into the collections here!

DAY TWO

STOP 1: Curious Kid’s Museum

  • COST: $40 ($10 per person over 1 year old for the combo ticket for Curious Kid’s Museum and Curious Kid’s Discovery Zone)

  • HOURS: Monday - Saturday 10:00am - 5:00pm, Sunday 10:00am - 4:00pm

  • ADDRESS: 415 Lake Boulevard, St. Joseph, MI 49085

Although there are tons of free parking spots and lots in Downtown St. Joe, there are only three or so SMALL lots designated for “Free ALL DAY” parking. Beware: you are fighting Downtown STJ employees for these spots, too. If you can’t get in the free lot, find a three-hour lot because you would really be pushing it in the two-hour lots/spots.


This room was PERFECT for littles under 5!

HELPFUL TIPS:

  1. Don’t bring in outside food or beverages. I was told I had to throw my coffee out. I protested by chugging the very full grande White Mocha before tossing the freshly emptied cup in the trash with a satisfied grin. I regretted that choice later.

  2. Buy the Museum and Discovery Zone combo tickets. It’s only $4 more per person but gets you access to another hands-on museum just below the Bluff. 

  3. If you are nursing, go to the Toddle Farm.  Behind the barn (seen in the picture here) is a private nursing and diaper changing station.  YAY!!!


Like most children’s museums, there are so many fun hands-on imaginative play exhibits including a market, a farm, a veterinarian clinic, a first responder’s section (ambulance, firefighters, U.S. Coast Guard), and a construction zone, equipped with demonstrations of how vital an understanding of physics is to architects, engineers, and construction workers. My favorite part, though, was the “What if I couldn’t walk?” section, demonstrating the challenges one faces in a wheelchair. It even gave my five year-old pause.


STOP 2: Curious Kid’s Discovery Zone

  • COST: [Purchased the combo tickets]

  • HOURS: Monday - Saturday 10:00am - 5:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm - 5:00pm

  • ADDRESS: 333 Broad Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085

Because we were on the brink of getting a ticket in the three-hour lot, we moved our car to $2/hour lot below the Bluff, just behind the Carousel.


The Discovery Zone is made up of two large rooms for scientific discovery. The first room is focused on the physics Leonardo DaVinci used in his era to create his various paintings, sculptures, and inventions. The next room was a water discovery room with two very large water play tables, a 25-foot climbable lighthouse, a rock climbing wall, and access to an outdoor patio equipped with the body of a sailboat for exploration by visitors.

The Discovery Zone bought us another two hours of entertainment before we all realized we were hungry.


STOP 3: Silver Beach Carousel

  • COST: [Tokens leftover from day before]

  • HOURS: Monday - Saturday 10:00am - 10:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm - 10:00pm

  • ADDRESS: 333 Broad Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085

It’s in the same building, so we kind of had to. Plus, we had three more tokens from the day before.


STOP 4: Buck Burgers & Brew

  • COST: $57 (this was OVER HALF of our expense)

  • HOURS: Sunday - Thursday 11:30am - 9:00pm, Friday - Saturday 11:30am - 12:00am

  • ADDRESS: 412 State Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085

Yes, we could have packed our lunch or picked a cheaper place to eat… but when in Rome, drink Bloody Marys the way natives do: FULLY LOADED. Buck Burgers was MORE THAN HALF OF OUR TOTAL EXPENSE THIS DAY, but man oh man was that Mary worth it. There are also over 70 beers on tap to satisfy even the pickiest of beer connoisseurs! I’d say we were ALL happy campers once the drinks were brought to the table. We even let the girls splurge and get chocolate milk.


The food was good and although it pained me to see the bill, it was a nice way to end the day of adventuring. I can’t even begin to tell you how quiet the car ride home was. I may or may not have been passed out as well, mouth agape, in the passenger seat. #PrettySleeper


TOTAL COST OF DAY THREE: $88.50


Two of my favorite wines from Baroda Founders!

DAY THREE

STOP 1: Baroda Founders Tasting Room (Downtown St. Joe’s)

  • COST: $16 ($8/tasting)

  • HOURS: Monday - Wednesday CLOSED, Sunday 10:00am - 4:00pm

  • ADDRESS: 415 State Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085

Okay, so the last two days were all about making the kids happy. Now it was our turn. We said, “Girls, we took you to the beach, spray ground, and playground. We went to two children’s museums yesterday and you rode the carousel a couple times. Now, it’s a Mommy + Daddy Museum Day!” ‘Mommy + Daddy Museum’ = Wineries + Tasting Rooms. Don’t judge.


Baroda Founders has a winery in Baroda (20 minutes away), but we decided to try to be “fast” with our first one to test our how the girls would do. THEY DID GREAT! The attendant gave the girls water in a wine tasting glass and pretzels to munch on to keep them busy. He was very knowledgable and even gave us several free pours since we were the first (and only) tasters that morning. The Gewurtztraminer was my favorite!


We parked in a ‘two-hour’ spot on the street in Downtown St. Joe. Use this stop to shop I the cute stores downtown before heading to the next winery!


Quite literally a ROUND BARN... can't miss it!

STOP 2: Round Barn Winery, Distillery, and Brewery

  • COST: $38 (one tasting and a growler of sangria)

  • HOURS: Sunday - Thursday 11:00am - 6:00pm, Friday - Saturday 11:00am - 7:00pm

  • ADDRESS: 10983 Hills Road, Baroda, MI 49101

Mommy + Daddy Museum #2 was MY FAVORITE. Beautiful patios, live entertainment space, grassy hills, vineyards, and a brewery + distillery on the property! We hung out here for nearly two hours because the girls had so much fun singing and dancing “on stage” and playing with the other kids whose parents took them to a Mommy + Daddy Museum. This place is UBER kid-friendly AND PET-FRIENDLY! Both kids and pets are allowed in the tasting room!


Monday through Thursday, you can bring a picnic lunch and eat on any of the patios, but outside food is not permitted Friday through Sunday because the Round Barn Food Truck is open for business! Lots of delish options for kiddos and adults!


The House Sangria is actually made in the brewery portion of Round Barn and is on tap in many local restaurants. It was one of the wines I tasted and let’s just say, I fell in love. HARD. It’s fruity but not too sweet. It has some carbonation in it, which is how I drink my sangria (I always add some Prosecco… try it if you haven’t). Long story short, I left with a growler of it. My husband had to talk me out of getting a second growler. A day later, I regretted listening to him.


STOP 3: Lemon Creek Winery + Fruit Farm

  • COST: $34.50 ($8/tasting, $8 for 1lb of freshly picked sweet cherries, $2.50 for 1.25 lbs of freshly picked peaches… and a bottle of wine)

  • HOURS: Monday - Saturday 10:00am - 6:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm - 6:00pm

  • ADDRESS: 533 E. Lemon Creek Road, Berrien Springs, MI 49103

Our last Mommy + Daddy Museum of the day! This time, the girls could have a little more hands-on fun because Lemon Creek is also a functioning fruit farm with ripened fruits changing seasonally. We patted ourselves on the back for ending with this one because the kiddos could burn some energy picking cherries, apricots, and peaches before I had my last tasting. This was a #ParentingWin.


Depending on when you go to Lemon Creek, other fruits you may find available for picking include raspberries, pears, plums, nectarines, blueberries, grapes, and apples.


I learned that Lemon Creek is one of many “estate” wineries on the Michigan Wine Trail, meaning everything is grown, made, and bottled right there on the property. We didn’t have time to take a tour, but that will be for the next time we visit. And if you are wanting something unique and special to Lemon Creek, try the award-winning 2016 Kerner Wine.


Yet again, we tired our beautiful babes out and a peaceful car ride was had by all.




Was this article helpful for planning your trip? Is there something I missed that you think other readers need to know? I’d love to hear about it! If you go to St. Joe's, shoot a message to chrissy@familiesonthefox.com.

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