Smitten with the Mitten
A true hidden Gem, I am sharing my hideaway of natural bliss with you. Drive North up the Mitten (and West at a point) as far as you can and you’ve hit Northern Michigan, a whole other world within the state. My family grew up spending one week every August in Northern Michigan….particularly in Leland, Lelanau (fish town) and Northport. My parents loved the retreat this spot provided, and we now have a place up there. I looked forward to this trip when I was younger….swimming at the beaches with my cousins, playing at various parks, taking day trips to nearby towns. However, I grew up going here every year and I did not learn to appreciate it as I should have. Then, I went through the high school phase and wanted nothing to do with this place….I mean, why would anyone want to go somewhere with bad cell phone reception? ….Something you will now never hear me say!
Needless to say, I developed my true appreciation for Northern Michigan in the summer of 2013 when Michael and I made the 6 hour drive from Chicago and spent 5 days up there. We had a blast and seeing someone’s reaction to it’s beauty for the first time made me realize that I needed to stop and really soak in how amazing Northern Michigan really is.
Such a great destination for the young, the old and families!
Towns I would reccomend to stay in : Leland/Leelanau, Glen Arbor, Charlevoix, Suttons Bay, Northport & Traverse City *** There are plenty of lodges, B&B’s, small hotels/cabins, and even campgrounds – but I would suggest booking early!
On Your Way North:
- Stop at Holland to see the windmill island garden
- Stop at Petosky – head to an off the beaten path beach and collect some Petosky stones
Things to do:
Hike the Sleeping Bear Dunes (in order to make it to the end (the beach) I would recommend being relatively physically fit.) There are many different hikes catered to how long you want to spend and difficulty, so pick the one that is right for your group. You can still climb to the top of the first hill to get the beautiful view (picture is on the hill before we started our hike) without being in shape. Bring plenty of water!!! Once you are up on the sand dunes, you will be without water for potentially 1-4 hours depending on your climb. People offered to buy our water off of us for $5 a bottle….point of the message- 1 bottle isn’t going to cut it!
– Spend the day at the beach: there are beaches all over; pull up a map and you will find plenty. I typically head to the beach next to Falling Waters Lodge (Van’s Beach) across from the Leland Fish Town marina.
Head to Glen Arbor and spend the day hiking the dunes, shopping in the adorable town, or on Glen Lake. Take a drive on Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive and plan on stopping at Glen Haven Beach or Peterson Beach for some beautiful views and maybe a dip in the water.
– Check out Macinaw Island: Make the couple hour drive to the port (~130 miles from Northport) and you will take a ferry across to this secluded island, using only carriages and bikes as means of transportation. The island is filled with delicious fudge and ice cream. Bike rentals are available (or bring your own for an added ferry fee) and bike around the island (takes about an hour at a leisure pace without stopping). There are plenty of restaurants, shops, mini golf, historical sites (there is a Fort you can go through that sits up on the hill) and more. If you are biking, make sure to check out the Arch Rock Formation! It is also fun just to ride your bike up and down side streets to see the cute homes & vacation cottages. If biking is not your thing, you can take a carriage ride around the island at a higher cost. If you are into hotels, the Grand Hotel is the famous white hotel you will see as you are on the boat approaching the island. You can stop by the hotel (if wearing appropriate clothing- think Sunday country club) for tea. Macinaw Island is a great 1 day trip, but I would recommend staying a night or two if time permits. Warning: Watch out for horse poop!
– Fishing/Boating: the fishing is excellent in Northern Michigan- one of my Dad’s favorite spots for salmon, trout and small mouth bass. There are harbors to rent dock slips, public dock ramps and plenty of charters if you will not be traveling with your own boat.
– Check out the wineries! Northern Michigan has SO many great wineries. I actually stock up whenever I head up there, and am so happy to notice that some Chicago restaurants are starting to sell their wines (and some Whole Foods carries their wines!). A lot of the wineries are free or charge $5 and then you are able to keep your wine glass. The wineries here are more spread out, so it would be a smart idea to consider having a DD- Im not sure how feasible biking would be and this is not the easiest place to find taxis or catch an Uber. (Google Image : Map of Northern Michigan Wineries to map out your Wine Tasting trip)
Black Star Farms, Good Harbor Vineyards, Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery, Chateau Grand Traverse, 45 North Vineyard, Boathouse Vineyards & Tandem Ciders are a great selection to start with.
– Head to the Suttons Bay Farmers Market This is a great market to pick up fresh veggies and fruits, lotions, and much more. I LOVE 2 particular products here- the maple syrup by Maple Sugar Bush (10361 E. Melkild Rd.) And the raspberry preserves by Windy Ridge North (6863 Bay Shore, Northport). Both are typically at the market on Saturdays during the summer, or you can pick them up at the address listed (this is what I do in the winter when the market is closed).
Also, do some research- there are many other great markets in surrounding areas. The Suttons Bay Movie Theater is very charming- while only showing 1-2 movies, it replicates the old fashioned theater.There is also a lot of boutique style shops in Suttons Bay (Think women’s clothing, craft stores, toy shops, antiques, etc., Upscale Sporting Goods Clothing shops, etc.)
– Hiking Besides the Dunes, there are other great hiking spots around northern Michigan that are on flatter land and more conducive to those not looking for an intense half day workout. Check out the Leelanau State Park Trail, specifically Cathead Bay Trail in Northport for an enjoyable, scenic few miles. Day and overnight camping trips to Manitou Island are also popular among those who want to get closer with nature.
– Light Houses There are light houses all over Northern Michigan — Pull up a map, and check some of them out! There is one at the Leelanau State Park, so enjoy the lighthouse and check out the hiking/walking trails while you are there.
– Water Activities Being out on the lake is probably the best place to be up in Northern Michigan. Stand Up Paddle Boards, kayaks, paddle boats, pontoons, and motor boats are available for rent through different companies in the area. North Shore Outfitters has SUP, bike and Kayak rentals for very decent prices, however I would recommend making reservations if you will be there in the middle of prime summer season (231) 386-1222.
– Traverse City is also home to many great festivals, including the Cherry Festival, a Film Festival and more. Downtown traverse city is a really cute area to walk around, shop & eat; there is a mall and familiar convenience stores further south from the downtown area.
Check out the World’s largest pie tin, holding 28,350 pounds pie!! The pie tin can be viewed at 3424 Cass Road, Traverse City. I can only hope it was cherry….
– Restaurants to try: the Amicle (229 e front street, Traverse City; 231-941-8888, make reservations for dinner, or hop in for lunch (I actually prefer their lunch menu) ; Riverside Inn (Leland, 231-256-9971); Martha’s Vineyard Cafe in Suttons Bay; And make sure to have a taste of the wonderful homemade ice cream, which you will find every couple of blocks; the Garage Bar & Grill (231-386-5511, Downtown Northport) and don’t forget to stop by Barb’s Bakery in Northport- go early while everything is warm, and order with your eyes.
Wherever you decide to head in Northern Michigan, I would definitely recommend taking a day trip to a nearby town- I Love the fun shops in Glen Arbor and it’s right next to the Dunes, a great day trip!
Make sure to stop at a stand on the side of the road for some cherries & cherry pie, grab some M22 gear, and drive past the 45th Parallel (Halfway between the Equator & the North Pole) near Northport/Omena 🙂
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Day 1: Drive up to Tahquamenon Falls State Park
- On Your Way: Stop at St. Ignace (5 miles west of St. Ignice and the Mac. bridge on the Us-2) – Apparently this spot has some mysterious gravitational forces!
Day 2: Tahquamenon Falls & Oswalds Bear Ranch
Day 3: Tahquamenon Falls & Oswalds Bear Ranch
— Afternoon: Drive to Sable Falls
Day 4 & 5: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Day 6 & 7: Miners Falls & Munising Falls
Day 8,9,10 : Hiawatha National Forest
We will be heading to the UP August 2016 – more info will be posted on lodging, trails, etc. with photos 🙂
Detroit / Ann Arbor
I moved to Ann Arbor in October, 2015 a few months after my boyfriend moved here for the MBA program at the University of Michigan. Moving from a city I loved to a town seemed dreadful, but I have adapted and am finding the many hidden gems this part of Michigan has to offer.
At first I thought, visit Detroit? Isn’t it falling apart? Yes. It is, but there is still so so so much history there, and so many amazing local artists and organizations are working to restore Detroit and bring it back to life.
A Weekend in Detroit
- Pure Detroit offers FREE walking tours of the Guardian Building & Fisher Building. Both buildings hold so much history to the city and are absolutely stunning inside.
- The Heidelberg Project is located at 3600 Heidelberg St, Detroit, MI 48207 and basically is a few blocks of outdoor art. What you will find is tons of garbage that local artists have turned into pieces of artwork – a really cool way to revamp the area and give use to old garbage. It’s a really unique project and I believe they offer kids classes in the summer as well.
- Check out the Detroit Eastern market – with tons of Veggies, fruits, meats, honey, pestos, syrup, homemade knitted items, homemade decor, local MI products, artwork, homemade purses and clothing and so so much more.
- Visit the old Detroit Train Station…ideally at night. And when I say visit, I mean drive by in your car- who knows what this haunted looking place is filled with I’m guessing Not Safety….
- Drive by the Detroit Masonic Temple, the world’s largest Masonic Temple
- Visit the Art Museum
- Head slightly out of Detroit and visit the Henry Ford Museum – a wonderful museum for car lovers and children. I am neither (okay, I will always be a child at heart), but I really enjoyed it. They even showcase the car that JFK was assassinated in – pretty interesting artifact right there.
- The Ford Drive In movie theater is really cool- taking anyone 30 and younger back to relive our parents days of drive ins and dating. Romantic and fun….It makes for a very nostalgic evening for first timers.
- Grab a quick pastry at the Shatila Bakery….although it might not be “quick” as this place is packed with people dying to get their fix of middle eastern tasty delicacies! The address is 14300 W Warren Ave, Dearborn, MI 48126
- Drive past the Giant Uniroyal Tire on the Detroit Industrial Expressway (This is not something I would go out of the way for, but chances are you will pass it if leaving or entering the city).
A Weekend in Ann Arbor /A2
For being a college town, Ann Arbor has a lot going on – from the arts to nature to history. A great town to explore for a weekend for all ages!
- Ann Arbor has 5 main Museums : The Archeology Museum, the Art Museum (UMMA), the Natural History Museum, the Planetarium (open on weekends) & A Children’s Museum (The Hand’s On Museum).
- Smaller, yet not to missed museums include:
- The African American Cultural & Historical Museum, which offers bus tours of how Ann Arbor and surrounding towns played a part in the Underground Railroad.
- The Museum on Main Street
- Cobblestone Farm & Museum (Check out their Farmer’s Market every Tuesday night during summer from 4-7 pm)
- The Kempf House Museum
- Smaller, yet not to missed museums include:
- Grab an espresso at the Crazy Wisdom Bookstore
- Walk around downtown and visit Kerrytown Shops
- Visit the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning – and bring plenty of cloth bags for local fruits, veggies, coffee and more!
- Visit the Burton Memorial Tower at noon – climb to the top and watch someone play the Carillon bells. They play them everyday at noon, Monday-Friday when class is in session. It is beautiful!
- Visit the University of Michigan Law Quad & stop in the Union.
- Have a Pastrami sandwich at Zingermans Deli in downtown Ann Arbor
- Roll out your yoga mat at one of the many studios in A2.
- Visit the Michigan or State Theater, and check out the University of Michigan’s theater schedule – they put on some wonderful plays!
- My favorite bar is the Last Word in downtown – the drinks remind me of the Violet Hour in Chicago …. Delicious, crafted cocktails with that speakeasy ambiance.
- Visit a local brewery, such as the Arbor Brewing Company & buy a growler to bring the local flavor home with you
- Go Kayaking on the Huron River Water Trail
- Grab Doughnuts or ice cream (Or Both!) at the Washtenaw Dairy
- Take a hike in the Nichols Arboretum
- Take a drive along the Huron River Drive in Dexter during fall
- A few other lakes, ponds and outdoor areas in the area include:
- Frong Island Park, Belleville Lake, Kensington Metropark & Wild Wing Lake, Huron Meadows Metro Park, Lake Chenango, Brighton Mill Pond, Island Lake State Recreation Area, Whitmore Lake
Happy Travels my Friends!