Help Us Dig Michigan!
June 28, 2011 7:21 AM   Subscribe

We'd like to plan some trips to the Michigan side of Lake Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. We'd love your tips on destinations, places to stay, and other details to make things great!

I've seen a couple of related threads on the UP and Lake Michigan, but were hoping to further plumb the depths of the hive mind. We just moved to the state and know very little to nothing about geography and attractions, so advice from the general to the particular is very helpful!

We're coming from Ann Arbor.
posted by foxy_hedgehog to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Are you looking to camp? Stay in a cabin/cottage? Do activities?
posted by k8t at 7:38 AM on June 28, 2011

Here's a couple UP attractions close to Lake Michigan.

The Ghost town in the Garden Peninsula is pretty cool. Also, depending on when you go, there will be lots of fruit stands open with cherries, peaches, etc.. they don't call it the garden Peninsula for nothing.

Across the peninsula from the Ghost Town is a state forest (rustic) campground with pretty good swimming (the last time I was there) at the Portage Bay State Forest Campground.

On your way across the U.P., the Kitchitikipi "Big" Spring is pretty amazing. It's big.

There are many places along Highway 2, across the bottom of the U.P. where you can pull over to swim in Lake Michigan.

I've been all over the UP & the Northern Lower. PM me if you want more specific suggestions near the areas you're planning on traveling to & through.
posted by bricksNmortar at 7:44 AM on June 28, 2011

I take it this means you've moved? Welcome to the area!

If you're looking for stuff to do outside, I can fix you right up. If you're looking for bustling restaurant culture and night life... not so much. Michigan is pretty sparsely populated in most of its area outside the Detroit/Grand Rapids metro areas. There are a few larger towns, but they're scattered and don't really go much north of Grand Rapids/Flint.

But if it's outdoor recreation you want, well, it's quite a distance from the UP, but the Warren Dunes State Park is a pretty popular destination. Really though, there are half a dozen or so state parks running up the lake shore from there up to Ludington. One could easily do a long weekend road-tripping from park to park. Getting from Warren Dunes up to Ludington is really only a couple of hours, though it'll take you about that long to get from Ann Arbor out to the Dunes in the first place.

A little inland of Ludington is Manistee National Forest, which is freaking huge, and has all sorts of recreational opportunities. Head further east and you'll hit Huron National Forest.

Further north, there's the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Never been there, but it's pretty big and looks to have a lot to do. Now we're talking a solid four to five hour drive.

Heading north from there and there's more state parks and forest areas than you can shake a stick at. And that's just the mitten. I got nuthin' on the UP, so hopefully others will chime in, but really, unless you're specifically wanting to get up there, there's plenty of stuff to do closer to home.
posted by valkyryn at 7:46 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you head towards Sleeping Bear Dunes, you might want to stop by the Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor. They do have a store in Ann Arbor, but the mother ship is in Glen Arbor. I'll be heading out that way next week for my 3rd visit and will definitely be figuring out how to get cherry cola in my suitcase. If you have walking around time in Glen Arbor, look for the Hello Kitty graffiti on the bridge south east of town.
posted by dr. fresh at 7:58 AM on June 28, 2011

If you are going to the UP and upper Michigan there are so many cool places.
I love Traverse City, if you are into camping Interlocken is only 20 minutes or less of a drive to TC downtown.
In Cross Village is an amazing restaurant called Leggs Inn, go at late afternoon and enjoy a beautiful sunset.

If you are a booze hound like myself, there are awesome wineries all over the TC area. My favorite being Grand Traverse, but on the peninsula there are probably 6 or so wineries and a nice drive to Mission Point. Also some good breweries up in the area nearby including Shorts.

In the UP don't forget to get some pasties, and take a drive over to Tahquanaum Falls. They are amazingly beautiful and peaceful.

Sleeping Bear dunes is an awesome hike to the lake, probably a few miles, but well worth it. Bring lots of water and sunscreen.

I am a big fan of town hoping and driving up the western side of the state to TC or to the UP you can find really cool places along the way.

Mefi mail me if you want any more suggestions or ideas.
posted by handbanana at 8:27 AM on June 28, 2011

Any reason why you have picked the UP? There are so many nice places on the Lake Michigan Shore line in the Lower Pennisula from north to south. South Haven, Saugatuk, Grand Haven, Ludington, Petosky, Traverse City, Charlevoix. If you are coming from Ann Arbor you don't need to go that far north.
posted by jasondigitized at 8:31 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

And yes, the UP is awesome. Just saying it is quite a hike from Ann Arbor. You gotta hit Mackinaw Island at some point.
posted by jasondigitized at 8:39 AM on June 28, 2011

I love the Traverse City and Petoskey areas. Just beautiful, lots to do, and I miss the summers there. Go to the Grand Traverse Resort and look at the views!
posted by getawaysticks at 8:51 AM on June 28, 2011

As a resident of the Western lower peninsula, here are a few suggestions:

July 21-30 Ionia Free Fair A quintessential Midwestern fair, complete with all the trappings (Midway, Animal judging, Tractor pulls, country music) one would expect. Ionia is about an hour away from AA.

Grand Haven has the Coast Guard Festival the first week in August. Very nice, but very crowded, especially on the last saturday when the fireworks and Musical Fountain shows occur.

Next weekend is the Muskegon Summer Celebration, which has become a pretty big deal, apparently.

If you simply want to walk along miles of pristine Lake Michigan Beaches and explore the sand dunes, the best State park for that (in my opinion) is Hoffmaster State Park, just south of Muskegon. And since you will either already have a Summer Passport (or can buy one for 10 bucks), you can explore Grand Haven State park, Holland State Park, and South Haven State park as well, for free, all summer long.
posted by Chrischris at 9:54 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

the mrs. has more suggestions:

Empire, visit Gwen Frostic (sp?) art gallery. Torch Lake near Traverse City is really nice little community. Take the ferry from Leland to Manitou Island. Public beach in Leland and Glen Arbor. Pierce Stocking scenic drive through Sleeping Bear Dunes Nat'l Lakeshore. See if there is a concert on the dunes while they are there (Glen Arbor musical society or something organizes them). Climb the big dune in the park that overlooks Glen Lake. Spend a day at North Bar Lake, it connects to Lake Michigan (just south of Sleeping Bear Dunes). Go fishing out of Leland with Captain Duffy. Buy smoked fish at Carlson's in Leland. Nice accommodations for larger groups at the Homestead. Probably a lot of VRBO cabins up there. Rent bikes and ride around. Fireworks in Petosky are best because you can see them and Harbor Springs. Visit the Perry Hotel in Petosky. Spend a day at the beach anywhere north of Ludington and look for Petosky stones. Hike to Pyramid Point (off M22 in north part of Sleeping Bear Park).
posted by dr. fresh at 10:10 AM on June 28, 2011

Seconding Sleeping Bear Dunes. So many great memories, beautiful place.

The Interlochen Center for the Arts is just outside Traverse City, it's beautiful, and features regular concerts by some of the finest musicians in the world.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:16 AM on June 28, 2011

Gwen Frostic was awesome, but I think the gallery closed after her death. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong as it would be excellent to learn it's still open.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:29 PM on June 28, 2011

The wife and I loved Saugatuck. Great little town, with some good restaurants and right on the lake.
posted by po822000 at 12:45 PM on June 28, 2011

It's on the Superior side of the UP, but Pictured Rocks is not to be missed. Great, accessible hiking, gorgeous coastline with sandstone arches hanging out into the water... you get the idea. I especially liked Chapel Rock, a free-standing formation in the water with a tree on top whose roots stretch through space back to the shore!
posted by lllama at 12:55 PM on June 28, 2011

Ah, there's so much I could recommend! Just a few for now:

Drive the Tunnel of Trees (one end is in the previously mentioned Cross Village, and I second the recommendation of the Leggs Inn there).

Fayette Historic State Park (a.k.a. the ghost town mentioned by bricksNmortar [eponysterical!], although "ghost town" to my mind conjures the image of unmaintained, decaying buildings which this is not.)

Warren Woods State Park (not to be confused with Warren Dunes State Park, which is also good). It's a bit inland from Lake Michigan. Not a lot there except some beautiful woodland trails through virgin forest.

And of course there's many many lighthouses along the coast, if that's your thing. Some of my favorites are:
  • Ludington North Breakwater
  • Big Sable Point (in Ludington State Park — requires a one-mile hike or bike ride out to the lighthouse, but the trail is an easy one.)
  • Grand Traverse
  • Mission Point
  • Seul Choix Pointe
  • Peninsula Point — in this case not so much for the lighthouse itself (only the tower remains, and it offers a nice view but not much else) as for the drive out there. The last mile or so is an unpaved one-lane road, very closely bound by trees on either side, with occasional wider spots in case two cars going in opposite directions need to pass.
The best wineries in Michigan are those on the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas, and there's quite a few in those regions. (As handbanana says, in the general vicinity of Traverse City.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:59 PM on June 28, 2011

Nthing Sleeping Bear Dunes, Hoffmaster Park, and the Old Mission Peninsula. Also, the Village at Grand Traverse Commons in Traverse City, despite the name, is a great and fascinating place - an old mental hospital that is itself an architectural wonder now renovated into eateries and shops. The Crystal Coaster is an alpine slide that's fun to stop at on the way up or back.

I'm also going to be doing this glass-bottom shipwreck tour later this summer in the UP. Can't speak for it, but it looks cool!
posted by Ms. Toad at 1:31 PM on June 28, 2011

If you're headed up to the UP, you should stop off at the last exit off I-75 before the Mackinac Bridge and take a ferry over to Mackinac Island. Reserve a room at a B&B on the island (or, if nothing's open, in Mackinaw City) and spend a day there; its delights, including fudge, horses, bicycling, pasties, a state park, a butterfly house, and the Grand Hotel, are numerous. Also, on the way, you should stop off at Sea Shell City in Cheboygan, just for the hell of it.

Oh, and tips: Pasties are pronounced "pass-tees," the best fudge is Ryba's (pronounced "ree-bas"), and there are some nice little shops off the main drag, too.
posted by limeonaire at 6:34 PM on June 28, 2011

I also would recommend some time around Sleeping Bear Dunes, Traverse City, and on up to Charlevoix. You can do kayaking on the Platte River from Honor out to the lake.
posted by Metro Gnome at 11:11 PM on June 28, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I may be getting in touch with some of you for more juicy details...
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 10:55 AM on June 29, 2011

My family has always gotten beach front cottages in Cherry Cove. It's such a nostalgic place for me, I'm not sure if I can give a unbiased recommendation, but I love it there.
If you're there while the cherry harvest is going on, you can pick up pints of just picked, sun warmed black cherries from farm stands. Oh, and get some cherry wine from any of the local stores or Cherry Republic. Yum.
posted by anotherkate at 1:40 AM on June 30, 2011

Oh, oh, and I forgot the other thing: Mackinac is pronounced the same as Mackinaw.
posted by limeonaire at 5:59 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

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