Our family visits this beautiful town every summer, we have lived on both the East and West coast over the past 5 years and always make the trip to this wonderful destination. Currently our children are 7, 5, and 1 and they had the most fun yet! As non-residents we paid $8 to park, but is well worth it and they have a lot of parking. The beach is VERY clean, has lifeguards on duty, and a wonderful large playground. The kids could spend hours between the swimming in the lake, playing in the sand and playing at the playground. There are clean large bathrooms and outside showers to rinse off the sand. There is also a snack bar (although most days we brought our own snacks.) If your family gets needs a change of scenery there is so much more to do a very short walk away. There is a fountain/splash pad the kids really enjoy running around as well as a magical carousel ride (cost $2 for a token to ride but it is worth it-there are so many fun choices of animals to ride.) Further fun is just another short walk away, the historic downtown has a variety of painted statues to check out, the theme changes every year. My kids had a great time checking each one out, this is a great activity for the early morning as there is less traffic (and you can grab some really tasty treats from the local bakery). Also, don't forget to get some great beach pictures while you are there, there is a charming lighthouse that makes a great backdrop!
If you live in Chicago or the midwest and looking for a quick getaway, Silver Beach about 90 min drive from the city and a great place for kids. The Michigan side of the lake is so beautiful and you get to see the sun set on the west side. The beach has full facilities for changing kids, if you're going for a day trip. There's an outdoor play area in the sand where kids can climb when they get bored of the water. There's also a big carousel and indoor arcade to beat the heat when you need a break, and they have a huge outdoor water fountain that sprays water from about 20 different areas. Before heading home, hit the pizza parlor that's nestled in an old train depot. Parking is approx $10 and there didn't look like any area to rent umbrella's or chairs so make sure you bring your own. A great fun day for the kids, not too expensive and quick ride back into the city.
We were staying in New Buffalo but came up to St. Joseph area three days out of our 6. EXCELLENT public beach... great sand, excellent concession, excellent rest area, beyond FAB on beach playground and just a short few feet away and air-conditioned indoor carousel as well as HUGE (and I mean huge) splash pad. Not to mention a children's "goo" museum in the carousel area as well as a full children's museum just steps away. Plenty of parking / cheap as well as plenty to do in the immediate area (shops/restaurants).