Build Badger Memories with Your Grandkids

Following are a few reasons to plan a cross-lake S.S. Badger tour with the kiddos on this vintage form of travel. Your grandkids will get bragging rights all year, and you’ll have memories that last a lifetime.

Built-In Entertainment

With two floors of fun, the four-hour Lake Michigan crossing will fly by fast. Up on top, kids of all ages can grab a deck chair on the open-air bow and watch the Badger ply the waters out of port and across Lake Michigan. Throw 50¢ into the telescope for some horizon-scoping. Or indulge the kids in a cool treat like a refreshing smoothie or frozen lemonade that can be enjoyed in the many open spaces, lounges or Cabana Room. Plenty of other treats can be purchased, from hot dogs and soft pretzels, to ice cream and homemade cookies, to a dinner buffet.

Down below, younger kids will enjoy the Kid’s Play Room where they can draw on the wall-sized dry-erase board and play in the miniature boat playhouse. They can also join the Captain Conrad scavenger hunt and look for his signs throughout the Badger while learning interesting facts about the ship. Kids receive a prize when they return their completed forms to the Cruise Director’s office. Older kids will have fun with a variety of activities – from the famous Badger Bingo with great prizes, to the movie lounge showing free feature-length films. If the kids can’t live without their screens, the ship features both TV lounges and a Gaming Lounge with five high-definition gaming stations stocked with popular titles. And if anyone is tuckered out and needs a nap, we’ve got you covered as well, with quiet rooms and reclining chairs.

Teachable Moments

It’s pretty special to take a trip on America’s last coal-fired steamship, especially with your grandkids who have never seen this nostalgic form of transportation. Celebrating its 65th anniversary this summer, the S.S. Badger is like a floating museum (the ship was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009 and became a National Historic Landmark in 2016). Commissioned by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O) to transport rail cars across Lake Michigan, the Badger was built in 1952 for $5 million. At 410 feet long, she and her sister ship, the S.S. Spartan, were once the largest car ferries in the world. Today, the Badger’s design and navigation systems remain largely unchanged, giving guests a glimpse into the past with its elegant, mid-century design and vintage brass telegraph navigation system. (See more about the Badger’s propulsion system and Engine Room here.) Kids also can learn about the role of Lake Michigan car ferries in the on-ship museum, featuring everything from a scale model of the Pere Marquette 41 (another Lake Michigan car ferry) to tools used on car ferries back when they were owned by the railroad companies.

The Price is Right

The S.S. Badger offers discounts to both seniors and children, with senior one-way crossings starting at $59 (and at $111 for a round-trip crossing). Kids five to 15 years old can cross one-way starting at $24 (and $39 for round trip), and children under five are free. And while you certainly can cross with a vehicle, you can forego the car (and related fees) with a round-trip tour in one day. A suggested itinerary is to take the morning crossing out of Ludington at 9 a.m., arrive in Manitowoc at noon CT, and spend two hours in Manitowoc seeing the nearby sights. Board the 2 p.m. CT Manitowoc departure, and you’ll be pulling back into the Ludington dock by 7 p.m. with enough time for an ice cream cone at House of Flavors before tucking the kids into bed!

Memories to Last Forever

The best part of this journey is you get hours of quality time with your grandkids! We have heard many wonderful stories over the years from our guests who remember traveling on the Badger as a child, and they are returning to take a new generation on the ship. Let us be part of your family memories. And any of our crew would be more than happy to take photos of you and your crew to commemorate the experience!