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If you're looking for things to do in Gaylord, Michigan with kids, you'll find no shortage of activities and attractions. From golfing and hiking to shopping and dining, there's something for everyone in this charming small town.
This post is focused on warm weather activities although there is plenty to do in the winter as well! If you're looking for family fun in Michigan, Gaylord is a hidden gem. So pack your bags and get ready for some fun!
Where is Gaylord, Michigan?
Gaylord, Michigan is located in the northern part of the state, about midway between Detroit and Mackinac Island. It's a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike, thanks to its many recreational opportunities and scenic beauty.
Gaylord Michigan Weather
Gaylord Michigan weather is perfect for outdoor activities like golfing, hiking, and biking. The summers are warm and sunny, while the winters are cold and snowy – ideal for hitting the slopes or snowmobile trails!
The temperatures in Gaylord Michigan range from an average high of 86 degrees in July to an average low of 22 degrees in January. You get all the seasons in this town!
We visited Gaylord in June and the temperatures can range from the 60s to the 80s. Every day is a surprise! The water temperature can also be a bit cool from the winter, but the kids don't seem to mind!
The Best Time to visit Gaylord Michigan
The best time to visit Gaylord, Michigan depends on what things you're looking to do. Summer is a great time to visit for boating and hiking. However, if you're looking to enjoy the town's winter activities, like skiing and snowboarding, then the best time to visit is during the winter months.
We have enjoyed Gaylord in June. It is a great month to visit as it is not overly crowded and you can still find some Airbnbs available closer to your visit. Some Gaylord vacation rentals, (especially on Otsego Lake,) can book out a year in advance, so plan early!
Is Gaylord, MI safe?
Yes, Gaylord is a safe place to visit. It is a small town with a population of just over 3,000 people. The crime rate in Gaylord is very low, and with 4 kids in tow, I did not feel unsafe at all in the downtown area.
Fun Things To Do in Gaylord, MI with Kids
1. Alpine Village Downtown
For a more relaxed experience, you can stroll through the quaint downtown area, which is full of shops and restaurants. With its Alpine Village theme, and many quirky shops, you can spend at least a half day wondering around.
The kids will love to check out the unique buildings and point out all the photo spots.
Our favorite stops for shopping in Gaylord include:
- Livin Fresh for Gaylord area t-shirts for the family
- White Birch Outfitters for stickers and surf shop apparel
- K&M Mercantile and Gifts for unique and handmade items from local crafters. You'll be sure to find your souveniers and gifts here!
Alpine Chocolate Haus
The Apline Chocolate Haus is a must-stop for anyone looking to indulge in chocolate covered everything.
I recommend picking up the peanut butter cup, (it took me 4 days to eat,) and the chocolate covered potato chips with sea salt.
They also have your basics including ice cream and edible gifts for everyone on your list.
Gaylord Farmer's Market
If you're in downtown Gaylord on a Saturday, be sure to stop by the farmer's market for some unique local goods from food and wine to handcrafted jewelry.
The Farmer's Market runs from June through October in the heart of Gaylord under the pavillion.
2. City of Gaylord's Elk Park
If you love nature, then you'll want to check out Elk Park. This park is home to a herd of elk nestled on 108 acres. This park is maintained by the city of Gaylord. There is a 99% chance of viewing Elk in their natural habitat when visiting the park.
I was honestly blown away at how many Elk were in the viewing area. You can walk right up to the fence and be just feet away from these huge creatures.
It's a unique experience the kids will enjoy – because the Elk look like reindeer! Elk park is located just south of downtown Gaylord off of Grandview Boulevard. There are other viewing spots, but this is the most convenient.
3. Hiking and Biking around Gaylord, MI
There are many trails throughout the area that offer breathtaking views of the northern Michigan. The North Central State Trail is one of the newest and runs just north of downtown Gaylord continuing 62 miles to Mackinaw City. The trail is flat for an easy hike or ride with lovely scenery.
Our vacation rental was located on northern Lake Otsego, south of downtown Gaylord, so we took our kids on a bike ride along the lake down to Otesgo Lake State Park. It was a nice paved trail that is part of the North Central State Trail. Although it wasn't totally flat, the kids, (including two 5 year olds,) enjoyed the 7 mile round trip!
Be sure to request your trail guide from the Gaylord Tourism Bureau before your trip so you can plan a fun adventure for your family.
4. Otsego Lake
Gaylord is home to the beautiful Otsego Lake, located just south of downtown. Otsego Lake is about 3 square miles with an average depth of 8 feet. It offers plenty of opportunities for swimming, fishing, and boating.
There is a public beach at Otsego Lake State Park, (along with a campground,) located on the east side of the lake, which also offers a pavilion, picnic tables, a fishing pier and boat launch. Michigan Recreation Passport required.
Fishing on Otsego Lake
If your kids love fishing, you can can find walleye, perch, small and largemouth bass, pike, crappie and lake sturgeon in Lake Otsego. We were told by an expert fisherman, (our rental neighbor,) that the fish were more difficult to catch mid-June because the seaweed had not grown tall in the lake yet.
Otsego Lake Boating
There is a boat launch at Otsego Lake State Park if you're bringing your own boat or renting from one of the local marinas.
I highly recommend taking or renting a boat to check out this beautiful, flat lake. We enjoyed tubing and water skiing on our boat in addition to kayaking and paddle boarding from the beach.
Otsego is not a super busy lake, especially during the week days, so it's perfect for beginners.
Otsego Lake Boat Rentals
If you're looking for a pontoon boat to rent for the day, Action Outdoor Rentals has online booking and free delivery to Otsego Lake. If you're looking for a fishing boat, jet ski or non-motorized rentals, Boathouse Marine and Powersports is your one stop shop.
Gaylord, MI Restaurants
There are many places to eat in Gaylord, Michigan, offering something for everyone's taste. From American and Italian to Mexican and Japanese, you'll find all of your favorite cuisines represented in the town's eateries.
The best restaurant for kids in Gaylord is Alpine Tavern. If you're looking for a cozy place to grab a bite and a drink, then Alpine Tavern is the perfect spot. This tavern offers a variety of traditional pub fare, as well as an impressive selection of beer and wine.
With a great menu, excellent service and plenty of fun activities outside for kids to enjoy, it’s no wonder that there are so many families who go out of their way to visit this restaurant.
In the large outdoor courtyard area, The kids can enjoy cornhole, giant connect four or running back and forth to get energy out. I'm not saying adults can't join in on this fun too, but having a relaxing meal outside is the perfect way to end your day exploring downtown Gaylord.
Iron Pig Smokehouse
If you're looking for some truly delicious barbecue, then you'll want to check out Iron Pig Smokehouse. This restaurant is known for its smoked meats, which are cooked to perfection.
In addition to the great food, Iron Pig Smokehouse also has a fun and festive atmosphere, making it a great place to eat in the downtown Gaylord area.
For a quick and tasty meal, stop by Jet's Pizza. This local chain offers delicious pizzas, wings, and salads – perfect for a quick lunch or dinner.
If you have a night away from the kids, head to Bennethum's. This upscale dining experience features locally sourced ingredients and seasonal menus, making it a great choice for a special night out. Enjoy their daily happy hour with drink and small plate specials.
Day Trips from Gaylord, Michigan
Torch Lake (Alden, Michigan)
Distance: 46 minutes; 37 miles
Torch Lake is a must-see when visiting northern Michigan. This stunning blue lake is one of the most beautiful in the state, and it's perfect for swimming, boating, and fishing.
We trailer our boat to Torch Lake for a day trip and enjoy the amazingly clear water at the Torch Lake sandbar. The kids love to play in the knee deep water and find treasures in the sand.
There are several public beaches along the shoreline as well as a few restaurants and bars. I'd recommend stopping at Torch Lake Township Day Park which has a great playground for the little ones. If you're looking for an adventurous day trip from Gaylord, Michigan, then Torch Lake is the perfect destination.
Mackinac Island (Mackinaw City, Michigan)
Distance: 50 minutes; 58 miles plus an 18 minute ferry
Mackinac Island is a popular tourist destination in northern Michigan. Known for its Victorian architecture, fudge shops, and horse-drawn carriages, there are several great restaurants on the island, as well as a variety of shops and boutiques.
Mackinac Island is only accessible by ferry and there are no cars on the island. You will first drive to Mackinaw city and take an 18 minute ferry to the island. For a transportation option, bring your bikes!
Although this one is a little further from Gaylord, you can enjoy Mackinac Island for the day. Just be sure not to miss the last ferry home!
Traverse City, Michigan
Distance: 1 hour 15 minutes; 60 miles
Traverse City is a popular tourist destination, known for its cherries, wine, and beaches. The downtown area features a variety of shops and restaurants, as well as the world-famous Traverse City Cherry Festival.
There are several beaches to choose from in Traverse City, and the kids will love playing in the sand and swimming in the shallow water. If you're looking for a more adventurous day trip, consider hiking or biking one of the many trails in the area.
No matter what you're looking for, you'll find it in Traverse City. This vibrant city is perfect for a day trip from Gaylord, Michigan.
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Start Planning your Trip to Gaylord
If you’re looking for a memorable getaway, consider planning your trip to Gaylord, Michigan. There are plenty of things to do in this charming northern Michigan town, from hiking and biking the trails around Otsego Lake to indulging in some delicious local cuisine. There are many things to explore and we know the kids will have a blast! So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today!