Northwest Lower Michigan
It’s the top vacation destination for Detroiters, and possibly all Midwesterners, so Northwest Lower Michigan seemed the natural choice for the first post in our “On Vacation” pages. Town after lakeside tourist town, each with its own unique flavor and charm, populate this meandering stretch of Lake Michigan shore, from Frankfort in the South to Cross Village in the North. I Love Detroit Michigan can only hope to scratch the surface of this expansive area with a single blog entry, as each municipality along the way is undoubtedly worthy of a post all its own, but we managed to pare it down to a handful of highlights.
Located at the base of Grand Traverse Bay and the Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City represents the urban epicenter of the region. The surrounding area generates the lion’s share of the United States’ tart cherry crop, and in the first full week of July, the city hosts its National Cherry Festival, estimated to attract nearly half a million people every year. In addition to a butt-load of humanity, the festival also attracts the United States Navy’s incredible “Blue Angels” stunt flying team on a nearly annual basis.
Traverse City proper is also home to a decent variety of photo-worthy historical structures, including a few classic Gordon W. Lloyd designed buildings on the city’s partially redeveloped State Hospital grounds, formerly and awesomely known as “The Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane”. Closer to downtown, on 6th Street, between Union and Wadsworth, there’s a 1904 Carnegie funded public library building and a pretty sweet stretch of historic homes that includes the stunning Victorian mansion of one of the town fathers, Perry Hannah, now known as Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home.
In recent years, much of the surrounding area’s cherry growing land has been re-purposed for grape vines, thus establishing the region as a center of wine production, as well. Highly regarded vintners of the region include Leelanau Cellars, Chateau Chantal, and the makers of one of the country’s best late-harvest Rieslings, Chateau Grand Traverse.
Further north along US-31 is the town of Charlevoix, home to a handful of eclectic architectural gems created by the hands of local legend, Earl Young. Young’s designs often defy description and I Love Detroit Michigan happily defers to this great online article about Young’s life and work. Be sure to take a spin down the main stretch of their quaint and scenic downtown that includes a great drawbridge kids love and drivers hate. You won’t find it pictured in our album, but keep in mind while parked, waiting for the bridge to close, that the Weathervane Terrace overlooking the channel is also an Earl Young design.
Head west out of Traverse City on M-72 for about 25 miles and then turn either left or right on M-22 to find the crown jewels of Northwest Lower Michigan: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Check out the National Park Service’s online guide to the park here, and keep in mind that I Love Detroit Michigan recommends the foot path to Pyramid Point for hikers, and the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive for motorists. We know you’ll think we’re overstating the case when we tell you, dear readers, that both locations will present visitors with endless panoramic vistas of absolutely unequaled natural beauty. We’re not. We’ve been there, and we’re talking astrally projected vortexes of spiritual communion with nature, if you’re into patchouli-drenched crap like that. Hit the Dune Climb gift shop if you’re not. Ferry service from the town of Leland takes the daring to the wildest extremes of the park, North and South Manitou Islands, where backcountry campers can get both a close-up shot of the remote South Manitou Island Lighthouse and possibly eaten. -I♥DM