11 Top-Rated Things to Do in St. Joseph, MI

Written by Meagan Drillinger
Dec 29, 2022

Author Meagan Drillinger visited St. Joseph and many other small towns in Michigan in the fall of 2022.

With a prime beachfront location on the shore of Lake Michigan, St. Joseph is one of the prettiest small towns in Michigan. Brimming with things to do, St. Joseph, Michigan is a fantastic place to visit when exploring "The Mitten."

Downtown St. Joseph | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Affectionately known as "St. Joe," the city is a gorgeous example of a Victorian-era Midwestern town, with much to see and do. St. Joseph also puts on a slew of annual events that bring the entire community together, from art festivals and music performances to holiday events and summer beach experiences.

From its parks and green spaces to the beautiful beaches along Lake Michigan, the many art and culture institutions, architecture, restaurants, and galleries, St. Joseph is one of the best places to visit in Michigan. Find out how to spend your time here with our list of the top things to do in St. Joseph.

1. Explore Silver Beach County Park

Silver Beach County Park | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Where the St. Joseph River empties out into Lake Michigan is where you will find Silver Beach County Park.

One of the best beaches in Michigan, and one of the best parks, as well – the park features a sweeping stretch of sand that is as beautiful to look at as it is to play on. No matter the time of year – but mostly in the summer months – this is one of the most popular places to visit in St. Joseph.

The park is open daily year-round from dawn to dusk. During the summer, you'll find the water is packed with swimmers, while the sand is a hive of activity, from beach volleyball to sunbathing to strolling along the shoreline. The beach area has a playground, a walking path, and is close to other tourist attractions in St. Joseph, like its historic carousel and discovery museum for kids.

Consistently considered to be one of the best lakefront beaches in America, the outdoor space here is known for its clean water, powdery soft sand, and epic lake views.

Address: 101 Broad Street, St. Joseph, Michigan

2. View the St. Joseph Lighthouses

Outer North Pier Lighthouses at Sunset

Michigan is a treasure trove for lighthouse hunters, and St. Joseph is no exception. The North Pier Inner and Outer Lights are two of the most famous and beautiful lighthouses in the state.

The station was built in 1832, but the current lights date back to 1906 and 1907. The first lighthouse in St. Joseph was actually a contender with the original lighthouse in Chicago for the oldest lighthouse on Lake Michigan. Today, while they have been decommissioned, they are among the prettiest lighthouses in the state. The Outer Lighthouse is a 35-foot-tall tower topped with a watch room and a 10-sided lantern room.

North Pier Inner and Outer Lights | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

It is connected to the North Pier Inner Lighthouse by an elevated catwalk. These are gorgeous examples of lake lighthouses, and are among the most photographed in the state, especially as the seasons change. Winter shots can be particularly dramatic when the lighthouses are crusted in ice.

You can see the lighthouses from either side of the St. Joseph River, meaning they are visible from both Silver Beach County Park on the south side, as well as Tiscornia Park on the north side.

3. Ride the Silver Beach Carousel

Silver Beach Carousel | Susan B Sheldon / Shutterstock.com

For more than 100 years, the Silver Beach Carousel has been entertaining the people of St. Joseph with its colorful, hand-carved horses; brass rings; lights; and music.

The Coney Island-style carousel came to St. Joseph in 1910, and began attracting visitors thanks to its highly realistic carved horses. Sadly, that carousel is no longer in St. Joseph, but the one that exists was designed with the original in mind.

The current carousel of St. Joseph was designed with six replica horse figures, as well as 20 unique horses, 22 manger figurines, the rocking peacock, the sea serpent chariots, and the expressive coloring. Even the rounding boards at the top of the carousel are unique, as each panel reveals a historical theme of southwestern Michigan.

Today the carousel is an icon of St. Joseph and takes visitors back to the heyday of the Silver Beach Amusement Park, which was in operation from 1892 to 1971. During the warm months, visitors can ride the carousel, snack on cotton candy, and take a magical horse ride back through time.

Address: 333 Broad Street, St. Joseph, Michigan

4. Visit Tiscornia Park

Tiscornia Park | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Across the St. Joseph River from Silver Beach County Park is another Lake Michigan beachfront outdoor space – Tiscornia Park. Tiscornia Park has lovely views of the North Pier Lighthouse, as well as a beach area, picnic spots, and a walkway for strolling and fishing.

Where you'll find most of the crowds over on Silver Beach, Tiscornia Park is a mellow, quieter alternative.

Take a stroll up and over the undulating dunes before feasting your eyes on a raw and exposed stretch of shoreline. Of course, the beach is most popular in the summer months, but come the chilly months, it's still a wonderful place to visit for some fresh air and moody winter views out over the lake.

If you want to take a tour of the North Pier Lighthouse, you can do so from Tiscornia Park. Tours are offered between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day Weekend.

Address: 80 Ridgeway Street, St. Joseph, Michigan

5. Get Lost at the Curious Kids' Museum

Curious Kids' Museum | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

With two locations in St. Joseph, the Curious Kids' Museum is one of the most popular places to visit for families in town. The hands-on discovery center has several different areas for kids to come and learn, play, and have fun.

The Curious Kids' Museum itself is spread over two floors. The first floor has a farmers market, a face-painting station, and even a kids' veterinarian clinic that includes mini-operating tables, real X-rays to read, and other kinds of animal educational activities.

The second floor has hands-on exhibits on the physics of sound, simple machines, the science of wind, and an imagination playground.

Down the hill at the Silver Beach Center, next to the Silver Beach Carousel, the Curious Kids' Discovery Zone is a play space with a climbing tower, wave table, water power tower, and many more hands-on activities for kids to play and learn.

Address: 415 Lake Blvd, St. Joseph, Michigan

6. Bask at Lions Park Beach

Lions Park Beach | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

St. Joseph, Michigan, is certainly not short on beaches. In fact, it has a long stretch of coastline with quite a few beaches to choose from.

Silver Beach is undoubtedly the most famous, and Tiscornia Park is right next door. But Lions Park Beach is a locals "in the know" spot located at the southern end of Lions Park Drive. The beach is small but beautifully maintained, with three shelters, public restrooms, grills, and picnic tables.

The park started as the Pumping Station Beach, but was renamed in the 1960s to honor the St. Joseph Lion's club, which has been maintaining the park since the 1920s.

Lions Park Beach is also close to the John and Dede Howard Family Recreational Trail, so it's often a top spot for walkers, joggers, or cyclists. A playground means you will find a lot of young families at the beach, as well.

7. Immerse Yourself at the Krasl Art Center

Krasl Art Center | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Art lovers can get their fix with a visit to the Krasl Art Center right in downtown St. Joseph. Overlooking Lake Bluff Park and Lake Michigan, the Krasl Art Center has been bringing the cultural community of St. Joseph together for free exhibits and programming.

The nonprofit art museum is open seven days a week at no cost to the public. The rotating exhibits and installations are changed throughout the year, but Krasl Art Center has a collection of permanent sculptures, as well.

In addition to the galleries and exhibits, Krasl Art Center puts on a year-round calendar of educational programming, from photography classes to painting and ceramics.

A shop sells handcrafted jewelry and art. During the summer months, the Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff is held in Lake Bluff Park, bringing together more than 200 artists from around the country to showcase their creations.

Address: 707 Lake Blvd, St. Joseph, Michigan

8. Get Creative at the Box Factory for the Arts

Box Factory for the Arts | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

For a funkier art experience, head to Box Factory for the Arts on Broad Street. The multi-use arts facility is a haven for the forward-thinking, bohemian, and offbeat artists of Southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana.

The 55,000-square-foot brick industrial building is a hive of creativity, from visual arts and performance to music and film.

Brimming with history, the building was once an actual box factory that transformed into an art space in 1995. It has three galleries with rotating exhibits, a working artists studio, performance space, printmaking studio, classrooms, and other community areas. Admission is free to a majority of the exhibits.

Within the Box Factory is the art market, which has works from more than 40 artists across 13 different categories, from ceramics and glass to jewelry, painting, photography, prints, and more.

Address: 1101 Broad Street, St. Joseph, Michigan

9. Play in Kiwanis Park

Kiwanis Park | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

St. Joseph, Michigan has a lot of outdoor space that doesn't necessarily involve beachfront access. Kiwanis Park, for example, is a city center park that is most famous for its dog-friendly facilities. If you're traveling with your four-legged family members, you'll want to plan for some time at the off-leash dog park in Kiwanis Park.

Even if you are coming without a furry friend, the park is still a lovely and family-friendly place to spend the day. It features a skate park, playground, softball diamond, basketball court, pickle ball court, and restrooms. It's a great, centrally located park to pop into for a little nature break during your city sightseeing.

Address: 1200 Pearl Street, St. Joseph, Michigan

10. Wander around Downtown St. Joseph

Downtown St. Joseph | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

St. Joseph is one of Michigan's most historic cities. It was incorporated as a village as early as 1834 and became a city in 1891. As such, its downtown is a treasure trove of historic Victorian architecture, leafy streets, and beautiful parks.

Wandering the tree-lined streets of downtown St. Joseph will open up a world of beautiful stores, galleries, artisan products, and restaurants. Come the holiday season, downtown St. Joseph transforms into a veritable frost-covered winter wonderland, as well.

It's easy to access many of the top tourist attractions of St. Joseph from downtown, as well, such as Silver Beach, the lighthouse, and Tiscornia Park.

Downtown also has plenty of places to rent bicycles or stand up paddleboards to enjoy the outdoor recreational opportunities of St. Joseph.

11. Stroll through Lake Bluff Park

Lake Bluff Park | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Perched high above the shores of Lake Michigan, not far from downtown St. Joseph, is the lovely Lake Bluff Park. Located on the west side of Lake Boulevard, the park is a hub of activity year-round.

In addition to beautiful views and a long, meandering walking path that runs along the length of the bluff, the park has a bandshell for concerts, a monument dedicated to war veterans, historical markers, and a Maids of the Mist Fountain. It's one of the best places for people watching, as the park is usually filled with people wandering along the bluffs drinking in the views or taking advantage of the paved walking path.

As you stroll through the park, be on the lookout for views of the piers and the lighthouse. The park is the host venue for a variety of events throughout the year, as well, like the farmers market, an artisan fair, the Antiques on the Bluff, Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff, and the holiday Light Up the Bluff.

Address: 520-598 Lake Blvd, St. Joseph, Michigan

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