“If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.” The Michigan state motto speaks well of a place that is definitely not your tourist mecca, by any means. It is not Las Vegas, with its glitz and glamour. It is not Hawaii or Florida, with their sun-kissed beaches and excellent climates. It is not even Branson or Gatlinburg, where show opportunities abound in scenic mountain settings. Michigan, for the most part, is a beleaguered state, home to hard-working people—many who have left for other places over the last many years due to economic woes and problems in the auto industry.
So why is it a pleasant peninsula? And isn’t it cold up there? And what is there to do? Look no further, because these and many other questions will be answered right here. Not only should you consider Michigan as a vacation nirvana, but you will be amazed by the unique choices it has to offer and the great time you will have!
When we travel, we frequently talk to other people about the wonderful places that we have visited. When we share that Michigan is our home state, we are often astounded by their reactions! They say things like, “Oh, we LOVE Michigan—what a great place, and so beautiful!” It usually takes us a while to realize that yes, they are talking about the place where we live, which we don’t see as anything special, BECAUSE WE LIVE THERE! However, to be perfectly honest, they are usually talking about “up north,” not Kalamazoo and Southwest Michigan, although our area is pretty neat, too, and that will be the subject of a future post.
Since Michigan is always referred to as the “Mitten State,” we use the term “up north” to refer to the northern part of the mitten. We use the terms “U.P.,” (not “up,” but “you-pee”) or Upper Peninsula to refer to the mass of land above the lower peninsula of Michigan. The upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan are not connected by land, but by the famous Mackinac (pronounced “mack-in-aw”) Bridge.
The U.P. is terrific for those who love the great outdoors—camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, etc. There are no timeshares located here, and not a lot of people, either. However, there are some beautiful sights, such as Taquamenon Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Copper Harbor, Laughing Whitefish Falls and lighthouses, of course. There are some casinos scattered about, as well as some universities—Northern Michigan in Marquette, and Michigan Tech in Houghton come to mind. The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie are fascinating to some. The “Yoopers,” as they are called, are friendly and will most likely treat you to a pasty at lunch time. See the end of this post to find out what that is, if you don’t already know!
Michigan has been blessed with proximity to lakes—4 out of the 5 Great Lakes, and many, many smaller ones. The term, “water wonderland,” would not be amiss, and water sports, swimming and fishing are available in abundance, both in the U.P. and in the lower peninsula.
But getting back to “up north”– this is the treasured jewel of Michigan as far as we’re concerned. The heart of this jewel encompasses Traverse City, the Cherry Capital of the World. Here you will find those beautiful sugar sand beaches, but also a thriving city which is home to Northern Michigan University. This is also wine country, and wineries like Chateau Chantal, Leelanau Cellars, Two Lads, Grand Traverse and many more open their doors to happy wine-tasters. Most are free, or the charge is minimal.
Traverse City has also developed a reputation as a “foodie” town. At last count, there were close to 500 restaurants, and the town frequently hosts the Epicurean Festival. A particularly great place to sample every cherry product imaginable is The Cherry Republic, located downtown and in nearby Glen Arbor. And, of course, there’s the Cherry Festival every July, and the Traverse City Film Festival, founded by Michael Moore, every August—and numerous other festivals just about every weekend of the year! Speaking of famous people, Madonna’s father owns a vineyard in nearby Suttons’ Bay.
No stranger to culture, Traverse City houses The Music House Museum, where you can view a 97-key Mortier Dance Organ, nickolodeons, pipe organs, a Wurlitzer Theater Organ and much more. It also has a baseball team, the TC Beach Bums, and a NAHL Hockey team, the North Stars. Golf courses abound in and around Traverse City, one of the most famous being “The Bear,” designed by Jack Nicklaus. It sports the 18 toughest holes in Michigan! On its own, Traverse City is amazing, but it is also centrally located to many of the smaller towns that you will want to see—thus, it is a good starting point for your Michigan adventures.
About an hour from Traverse City lies the town of Petoskey. (Yes, its name comes from the state stone, the Petoskey). It is much smaller than Traverse City, but equally charming. Two excellent shopping areas come to mind—the Gaslight Village downtown, and the many small boutiques in nearby Harbor Springs. Petoskey is home to “the Chautauqua of Lake Michigan”—a national historic landmark community founded by the Methodist Church. They offer worship concerts, seminars and lectures free to the public. Not far from Petoskey is the upscale resort and residential community of Bay Harbor, with its numerous yachts, golf courses, and the Bay Harbor Inn.
Not too far away is Charlevoix, a picturesque waterfront town with an amazing lighthouse. John and Patsy Ramsey owned a summer house here where their daughter, Jon-Benet must have played when she was alive. This beautiful lakefront town also features the “Smurf Houses.” Designed by Earl Young, who died in 1975, these are more commonly known as “Mushroom Houses,” and you will think you have entered a fantasy world when you view the mostly rock houses with their cap-like roofs.
Should you visit Michigan, do not, absolutely DO NOT miss the place voted by Good Morning America viewers as the most beautiful place in the United States: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Located about 20 minutes from Traverse City, the windswept sand dunes will totally enthrall you! There is also a designated dune for climbing, but the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, a 7.4 mile loop, can be accomplished by car. The Visitors’ Center is a good starting point for some terrific hikes.
Another popular drive is “The Tunnel of Trees,” M-119, which runs between Harbor Springs and Good Hart. The road winds among birch, cedar, maple and oak trees, with occasional glimpses of Lake Michigan and sand dunes. This is truly one of the most picturesque drives in the United States, and “is not a road for those in a hurry,” according to the Michigan Dept. of Transportation.
Skiing, anyone? If that is your passion, Northern Michigan is the place for you! The Gaylord and Boyne City areas offer cozy winter accommodations and excellent skiing conditions if winter is your thing. Snowmobiling, ice fishing, hockey and other winter sports are also big here.
Probably the most popular place to visit in Northern Michigan is Mackinac Island. Part of the island’s allure has to be the fudge (Mackinac Island fudge is world famous!) and the horse and buggy rides. No cars are permitted on the island, and you have to travel there by boat or airplane—most of the “fudgies” (tourists) come across by ferry. Without question, the grandest attraction on the island is The Grand Hotel, built in the late 19th century as a summer resort for the wealthy. It supposedly has the world’s longest porch. Bicycles are the most popular form of transportation, and there is souvenir shopping galore, both here and in Mackinaw City, which is the town where you catch the ferry to go over to the island.
This quick trip through Northern Michigan is just the tip of the iceberg—there are so many unique and pleasant small towns that it would take forever to highlight them all. But if the mention of any of these whet your traveling appetite, there are some great timeshares “Up North.” Here are some links to help you plan:
We think the best website for travel to Michigan is the “Pure Michigan”site.
Here is a list of some Michigan timeshares. We list the RCI or II codes as well as the city that each is located in:
- Pinestead Reef-VIP (0263) Traverse City
- The Homestead (2614) Glen Arbor
- Tamarack Lodge (TKL) Traverse City
- Vacation Club (2074) Bellaire
- Mountain Run At Boyne (6941) Boyne Falls
- Boyne Highlands Resort (BOH) Harbor Springs
- Shanty Creek Lodges (5021) Bellaire
- Sudendorf at Schuss Mountain (0226) Mancelona
- Harbor Cove (0107) Harbor Springs
- Cedar River at Shanty Creek (6177) Bellaire
- Sunset Shores Resort (STS) Cadillac
- Boyne Mountain (0182) Boyne Falls
- Vacation Club II at Shanty Creek (5424) Bellaire
- Sugar Loaf Resort (4301) Cedar
- Boyne Vacation at Hemlock (7607 HEM) Boyne Falls
- Wintergreen Quarters (2348) Stanwood
If you want to stay in a timeshare in Michigan during the summer, plan well ahead (at least a year, maybe more). Michiganders are well aware of how beautiful their state is in good weather, so accommodations can be hard to find at the last minute. Also, Michigan Fall color is about the best there is, so early-mid October could be hard-to-get as well. But don’t let that stop you—plan ahead, and treat yourself to a vacation in Pure Michigan—and have a pasty while you’re at it! (The pasty is of Cornish origin and is a complete meal consisting of pastry that is wrapped around meat and vegetables—often rutabaga—and then baked. They made a hearty meal for the miners to take down underground to work. Rumor has it that today many Yoopers carry the recipe in their wallets in case of emergencies!)