If you are looking for a fun (at least) week-long getaway this fall, think about going to northern Michigan! There are many fun towns to visit and summer tourists will be gone. You will appreciate the lack of crowds and ease of getting into restaurants and other attractions. Be sure to visit before Halloween, as many places consider that (or the weekend before) the end of tourist season.
Petoskey is a beautiful coastal town with much to offer. The Petoskey State Park is breathtaking, with small sand dunes and big waves on most days. Since swimming won’t be an option in the fall, plan to explore the sand dunes, play some sand volleyball, look for Petoskey stones, or bring a picnic dinner to the beach. The sunsets here are stunning. Hit up the bike trail on the Little Traverse Wheelway (a paved 26-mile biking path) here and get some exercise in by biking to Harbor Springs, another small town.
Both Harbor Springs and Petoskey offer downtown shopping with boutiques, restaurants and t-shirt shops along the route. Can’t-miss in downtown Harbor Springs: Tom’s Mom’s Cookies. This one of a kind, tiny cookie store (you’ll have to eat your cookies outside) bakes big, delicious cookies every day. You can’t go wrong with an original chocolate chip, but try a chocolate and dried cherries or a chocolate almond coconut cookie for something different. For lunch or dinner, hit up Turkey’s, another local business that serves salads, sandwiches, burgers, and pizza.
Visit Boyne Mountain on a day when you can get some outdoor and indoor activities in. At this resort, you can zip line or take the ski lift up for some stunning views. Don’t miss Avalanche Bay, an indoor waterpark, complete with slides, a lazy river, and an area set aside for smaller kids. For parents who don’t want to swim, pay a small fee to watch your kids have fun and get all their energy out! Check out Boyne’s website, including many more activities to do at the resort!
On a sunny day, drive the Tunnel of Trees, a scenic route on Michigan-119. Depending on when you go, the changing of the trees may be taking place so be sure to have your camera handy!
On your drive through the Tunnel of Trees, stop at Pond Hill Farm. Here, you’ll find a play area for the kids, a squash rocket where you can launch squash and other veggies into the fields for the farm animals to eat, as well as a brewery/winery and café. Order the parmesan crusted grilled cheese with peanut noodles with a glass of Pond Hill White wine. Fall time brings a pumpkin patch and hayrides, as well as other activities. Be sure to check the website for times and activities.
If you want to take a step back in time, drive to Mackinaw City and take the Shepler’s Ferry over to Mackinac Island. This island has no cars on it so it is truly a step back in time. Spend the $10 to take a self-guided tour through the Grand Hotel. The kids will love taking a horse ride around the island. You can also rent bikes and take a bike ride around the island (it’s an 8-mile trek around the very flat perimeter). There are many things to see along the way. Don’t forget to try some fudge before you leave at one of the many fudge shops.
Visit the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. Years ago, this was named the Most Beautiful Place in America by ABC’s Good Morning America, and it doesn’t take long to see why. Hike up the sand dunes by parking at the bottom (plan to make this an all day round-trip!) or you can drive through and make stops along the way at the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.
The Headlands Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City provides relaxation and quiet, and if you’re lucky, some really cool stargazing opportunities. This park contains 550 acres of woodlands, two miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline, and is one of the first 10 International Dark Sky Parks in the world. According to the International Dark Sky Association website, “An IDA International Dark Sky Park (IDSP) is a land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.” If you’re really lucky, you’ll get to experience the Northern Lights!
For adults vacationing with you, check out the Northwest Michigan Bay View Wine Trail. My favorite is Crooked Vine. The sweet owners are from Cincinnati, and they really take the time to explain each wine when you come in for a tasting. Their labels each hold a story and the back labels give you a sweet to dry scale, with food pairings as well.
Do you and your family travel to Michigan? Where are your favorite places to go?