Looking for a family getaway destination that combines natural beauty, outdoor adventure and small-town charm? Cadillac is that place! Located in the heart of Northern Michigan, Cadillac offers lots of activities and attractions for families looking to experience the bounty of Michigan’s outdoor landscape.
Just five hours from Indianapolis, Cadillac is a cozy town with lots of outdoor activities, boutique shopping, thoughtfully prepared food, and friendly people. It’s an all-in-one destination to experience the best of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula!
Where to Stay in Cadillac, Michigan
There are many great places to stay in and around Cadillac. But if you’re looking for a cozy retreat with unique vintage charm, you will want to check out a cabin at Mackinaw Timbers Cabins, a cabin vacation rental community in Cadillac. Each cabin on the 10-cabin property is decorated with its own unique, vintage Northern Michigan style. Guests can enjoy a community fire pit and lawn games, and the cabins are located less than four miles away from downtown Cadillac.
Our cabin at Mackinaw Timbers was “The Cadillac,” which is the largest cabin with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The fully furnished kitchen includes a gas range, farmhouse sink, new “vintage” refrigerator and a pour-over coffee maker with local coffee.
Families will find a large dining table, vintage leather couch and recliner to curl up in while watching a movie on the smart TV — or choose from one of the VHS classics provided in the cabin (yes, there is a VCR player!). Children will be delighted by the special kids nook that has been created just for them, which includes classic books and games, and a vintage record player with kids records.
All of the cabins, including The Cadillac, are decorated with vintage furniture and knickknacks, creating a warm and nostalgic feeling throughout your stay. Everywhere we looked, there was something new to see and be delighted by in our cabin.
Family-friendly Activities in Cadillac, Michigan
There’s lots for families to enjoy when visiting Cadillac! Here are just some of the things that we discovered during our visit.
Keith McKellop Walkway
Enjoy Lake Cadillac by walking along the Keith McKellop Walkway, a 1.5 mile walking, jogging and skating path that runs along the east shoreline of Lake Cadillac. The Walkway connects to many notable areas of the town, including Rotary Performing Arts Pavilion and City Park (part of the extensive Cadillac Commons), the city boat launch, Blackburn Skate Park, Clam River Greenway, Sound Garden and Veterans Memorial — and it has public restrooms, too.
The Keith McKellop Walkway also connects to Cadillac Lakeside Playscape, (known as the “blue playground” by locals), which has an amazing playground for kids. The equipment on the playground is accessible for kids of all abilities, and even includes a wheelchair-accessible swing.
Biking Around Cadillac
Cadillac has lots of biking trails in the area, so if your family loves exploring by bike, this is the place to do it! We rented bicycles from Einstein Cycles downtown, and they made it easy: they found us the right sized bikes, provided us with helmets, and gave us suggestions about where to ride. We rode down the White Pine Rail Trail, one of Michigan’s longest rail-to-trail linear state parks, spanning 92 miles connecting Grand Rapids to Cadillac. We didn’t ride for 92 miles (of course!), but the portion of the trail we did ride was beautiful and gave us a glimpse of Cadillac that we wouldn’t have seen by car.
On the northern shoreline of Lake Cadillac is where you’ll find Kenwood Park & Beach, a popular spot that stretches about a quarter of a mile. Here, you can relax in the soft, golden sand, play on the playground, or have a picnic at one of the covered shelters that overlook the water.
ORVing with Big Foot Epic Adventures
There are thousands of miles of trails that wind through the state of Michigan. One way to explore those trails is by hopping into an ORV (Outdoor Recreational Vehicle) with Big Foot Epic Adventures, located just north of Cadillac in Manton. A great activity for families who are seeking outdoorsy adventure, Big Foot makes it easy (and incredibly fun) to get out into the woods of Northern Michigan. The ORVs are pre-programmed with GPS directions, so all you have to do is follow the map and you’re on your way. Rentals are up to four hours, during which you can ride over bridges and even make your way into town for an ice-cream pit stop, if you wish.
Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center
Located in Mitchell State Park in Cadillac, the Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center offers programming for all ages. Free to visit, the center displays Michigan’s hunting, fishing and trapping heritage. Be sure to check out the 500-gallon aquarium, which showcases the fish of Lake Mitchell and Lake Cadillac. The center also offers educational classes periodically. When we were there, we caught a live raptor show put on by North Sky Raptor Sanctuary, where we learned about (and witnessed) hawks who had been taken in by the organization and rehabilitated.
Miniature golf, batting cages, go karts, arcade games: Adventure Island Family Fun Park is an all-in-one family entertainment center in Cadillac. The putt-putt course is top-notch and takes you past waterfalls and through caves. Check their website before you go to see what daily deal they’ll be offering. (For example, Friday evenings mean unlimited miniature golf and go kart rides!)
Shopping in Downtown Cadillac
Stroll through downtown Cadillac, and you’ll be charmed by all of the cute specialty shops that line the streets, including Mitchell Street (the town’s main street). There are antique stores, gift shops, book stores and lots more awaiting you!
Toy Town of Cadillac
When my children entered Toy Town of Cadillac, they both exclaimed, “Whoa!” Toy Town is bursting with every toy you can think of: games, dolls, blocks, gadgets and gizmos — and kids are encouraged to touch and play with almost everything. There’s a big, welcoming sign when you walk in that states: Come In and Play! And that’s just what we did. It’s hard not to walk out of Toy Town without getting something — there’s a fun toy for everyone, kids and kids at heart alike.
Horizon Books has been operating in downtown Cadillac for more than 30 years, and is the perfect place to spend an hour or two getting lost in the latest new book. There’s a comfy kids’ corner at the front of the store with beanbag chairs for kids to sit in while they read, and there’s a coffee shop on site.
The Book Nook
Northern Michigan’s largest used bookstore is right here in Cadillac! The Book Nook houses more than 100,000 books, including some hard-to-find gems. They have a huge children’s book section, with lots of classics and new books, too. Bonus: If you bring in a paperback, you can exchange it for store credit.
Where to Eat in Cadillac, Michigan
For a cozy lake town, Cadillac has a surprising number of culinary offerings for all tastes. Whether you’re looking for a breakfast or brunch spot, or a brewpub with a great kids menu, you’ll find something tasty to eat in Cadillac!
Blue Heron Cafe
If you ask locals where to eat in Cadillac, they will most likely say, “Blue Heron Cafe.” It’s for a good reason: the food is delicious and comforting. Blue Heron Cafe serves breakfast and lunch (they’re known for their vegetable lasagna), as well as a variety of baked goods, including loaves of sourdough bread that they make in-house daily.
Clam Lake Beer Co.
Did you know: The city of Cadillac was originally known as “Clam Lake”? Clam Lake Beer Co., a brewpub located in downtown Cadillac, embraces the town’s history and industrial beginnings with its name and with the visual call-outs located all around the restaurant. If you only get two things at Clam Lake Beer Co., make sure it’s a bowl of clam chowder (easily the best anywhere), and a pint of one of their 40 craft brews on tap. But you should really get more than two things because the food is great.
Located directly on Lake Cadillac, Burke’s Waterfront is a great place to watch the sun rise on the patio while enjoying a delicious breakfast. They serve the classics, like several versions of eggs Benedict, pancakes and eggs cooked your way.
Mr. Foisie’s Pasties
Mr. Foisie’s Pasties is a Cadillac staple. What’s a pasty, you ask? A pasty is a British baked pastry, typically filled with savory ingredients like meat, potatoes, onion and rutabaga. (Think of a handheld pot pie.) Pasties are a part of Michigan’s (and the Upper Peninsula’s) rich mining history, and were brought to the area as the “original fast food of lumberjacks and miners.” Founded in 1987, Mr Foisie’s serves up three main pasties — beef, chicken and veggie — and various baked goods, including hot apple dumplings. Pasties are made fresh throughout the day, but they tend to sell out before the day ends, so be sure to get there early if you want to snag your own pasty!
Let’s Roll With It
One of the newest ice cream places in Cadillac is also one of its coolest. Let’s Roll With It serves rolled ice cream: stir-fried ice cream that’s created by pouring ice cream on a cold base, scraped into rolls, and topped with your choice of goodies. While you’re enjoying your rolled ice cream, play one of the games available in the store, or go next door and enjoy a round of axe throwing at Skeggox Axe Throwing.
Chunky Bear Coffee Roasters
In the mood for some great coffee and comfy place to relax? Chunky Bear Coffee Roasters is that place in Cadillac. This small-batch coffee roaster serves hot and cold coffee creations, ranging from a cup of drip coffee to a simple shot of espresso (served with sparkling water to cleanse the palate), and white chocolate mochas to affogatos — a coffee dessert served over vanilla ice cream and sprinkled with almond cookies.
Lake City Tap House (aka LC Taphouse)
While we were in the Lake City area riding ORVs at Big Foot Epic Adventures, we grabbed lunch at Lake City Tap House, a laid-back favorite with locals. We visited at a good time, because one of the specials they were offering that day was a Louisiana boil, which included shrimp, crab legs, sausage, corn and potatoes. Several people at other tables were enjoying steaming plates of seafood, so we joined in, too. They also have a full kids menu, and a plate of nachos so large that they serve it on a tray!
After our great lunch at Lake City Tap House, we stumbled upon Tasty Treat, an ice cream shop that has been a part of the community since 1948. Tasty Treat’s motto is that they serve the tallest cones in Northern Michigan, but they also offer other frozen treats like flurries, frozen lemonade, slushies and more. From the line that wrapped around the outside of the building, it appeared that this place is a popular spot!
For more information about Cadillac, Michigan, and to plan your trip, visit cadillacmichigan.com.