Experiencing Northern Michigan: The Best of Summer 2018

It’s beginning to feel like fall in Northern Michigan! As we slide into this last-few-days stretch of summer, I wanted to reflect on some of the best moments and most fun experiences this season. With ample outdoor adventures, favorite summer hot spots for foodies, inspiring arts and cultural events, plus highlights from my June trip to Mackinac Island, this summer offered an eclectic balance of memorable Northern Michigan experiences I’m so grateful for as we shift into autumn.

Outdoor Adventures

SUP’n Cadillac: From stand up paddle board rentals to SUP yoga classes out on the tranquil water, SUP’n Cadillac offers breathtaking outdoor adventures for all skill levels with an encouraging atmosphere in a gorgeous setting. They’ll be SUP’n through the end of September in Cadillac, Lake City, and Traverse City as long as the weather’s nice, so take the plunge and sign up for a class if you haven’t yet! 

Kayaking: Peace is easy to find when you’re far out on a lake in a kayak! A couple of friends and I went on an awesome, spur-of-the-moment kayaking trip on Lake Cadillac one Saturday afternoon this summer. The water was so calm it was healing, and our time outside felt divine on such a perfect sunny day.

Adventure Island: Adventure awaits at Adventure Island in Cadillac West! Fans of go-kart races, outdoor water slides, arcade games, batting cages, and/or a game of miniature golf, Adventure Island offers all the summer fun every year, Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Ebels Tailgates: As a scriptwriter and coordinator of commercial shoots at Mane Content, I go on some pretty fun video shoots, and one of my favorites all summer was the Ebels Tailgates ad that we made with the wonderful Ebels family in beautiful Downtown Falmouth! The commercial featured their custom 1953 Chevy Pickup built on the show Counting Cars. It was so fun being outside, grilling brats, and working with such a great group of people!

Fireworks on the Lake: One of the highlights of this summer was the Independence Day weekend fireworks display in the small town of LeRoy over beautiful Hogback Lake. What a spectacular show! Truly, nothing in Northern Michigan (or anywhere for that matter) compares to the fantastic fireworks on that little lake in LeRoy.

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Food, Drink, Dessert

Moomers Homemade Ice Cream: For a taste of Traverse City, Moomers offers one of their most popular premium ice cream flavors, Cherry Moobilee. How about that Wholey Cow? My personal favorite Moomers dessert is the Dirt Sundae, complete with Oreos, gummy worms, whipped cream, and a cherry on top. “Just a little taste of countryside” is what you’re guaranteed at Moomers Homemade Ice Cream!

The Delft Bistro & Donckers in Marquette: The iconic, historic candy shop Donckers sits adjacent to The Delft Bistro, one of the hippest renovated movie theaters ever, which also happens to be one of the best restaurants in Downtown Marquette. Eating a meal inside The Delft Bistro (directly connected to Donckers), you feel the vintage cinema vibe from every table. The building’s old silver screen is still intact and functional, playing free family-friendly classics and modern films as guests enjoy wining and dining.

Slabtown Burgers in Traverse City: Recently announced by TripAdvisor to be the fifth best burger joint in America, Traverse City’s own Slabtown Burgers dishes up delicious, homemade, hand-pattied burgers (they also have veggie burgers and gluten-free buns), fresh-cut fries, soups, salads, wraps, and hot dogs as well as chicken and deli-style sandwiches. Their signature double burger, the Slabtown Special, carries the namesake of TC’s Slabtown District. “Just a hop, skip, and a jump from the main drag,” Slabtown Burgers calls a quaint old house on the west side of Downtown TC home, where it maintains a cozy, casual, and family-friendly atmosphere. Whether you’re dining inside at a booth or table or if you’re eating outside on the covered porch or on a picnic table in the yard, Slabtown earned a brilliant 4.5 out of 5 rating bubbles on TripAdvisor’s list with 464 customer reviews.

Grand Hotel Tea Room at Fort Mackinac: The quaintest little tea room in the grandest of settings overlooking the most phenomenal view of Marquette Park on Mackinac Island is the Grand Hotel Tea Room Restaurant. It’s the perfect spot to stop along your tour of historic Fort Mackinac for lunch or just a cup of coffee!

The Cherry Hut in Beulah: A hometown favorite and “a Northern Michigan tradition since 1922,” The Cherry Hut in Beulah is famous for their scrumptious cherry pie (a la mode, with rich French vanilla ice cream!) and incredible variety of cherry treats, from jams, jellies, and preserves to salsas and Cherry Jerry’s Chewy Sour Cherries! They also carry adorable cherry-themed gift packages and eclectic souvenirs.

Downtown Marquette Farmers Market: Up in the U.P., there’s a strong culture around agriculture! The local farmers market at the Marquette Commons brings together some of the best farmers, artisans, and makers of good food and goods. It’s always a good time Saturday mornings at the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market!

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Arts & Culture

50th Anniversary of the Cadillac Festival of the Arts: The Cadillac Festival of the Arts celebrated half a century of supporting artists this summer with the 50th annual event in the City Park at Cadillac Commons! Displaying unique creations from more than a hundred local and visiting makers and artists throughout the Midwest, the Cadillac Festival of the Arts is a culturally enriching event for the whole community to enjoy.

Doug Benson’s Comedy Panel at the Traverse City Film Festival: At this year’s Traverse City Film Festival, comedian Doug Benson hosted his annual comedy panel at the Old Town Playhouse alongside other comedy folks who visited Northern Michigan for the festival, including Samm Levine (from Freaks and Geeks) and Steve Young (from the TCFF hit Bathtubs on Broadway). It was a hilarious time, and especially funny when Doug referred to Traverse City as being exceptionally quaint and a perfectly American town

Harry Potter Escape Room at the Cadillac Wexford Public Library: The Cadillac Wexford Public Library hosted a fantastic Harry Potter Escape Room this summer! The 30-minute group activity was totally free and open to the public for signing up teams of four or five children or adults with or without skills in witchcraft and wizardry. A couple of my colleagues and I escaped the room—following a winding trail of magical clues and Hogwarts-worthy hints and hidden messages—with eight minutes to spare. The best part: we all got free Mischief Managed buttons for playing and escaping the room!

60th Annual Art on the Rocks in Marquette: Art on the Rocks is an annual celebration at the Ellwood A Mattson Lower Harbor Park gathering makers and artists of all styles and various genres, from painting and sculpture to woodworking and photography. Set against the backdrop of the Ore Dock and Lake Superior, Art on the Rocks is an inspiring event that signals Marquette is a prime tourist destination with so much to offer every summer for residents and visitors alike.

Creating Culture at the Crosshatch Skill Swap at Earthwork Farm in Lake City: Hosted in collaboration with Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology and Earthwork Farm, the Skill Swap is such an inspiring day of learning, teaching, sharing, expanding consciousness, and creating culture beginning from within our immediate communities. This year’s event was incredible, and if you’re looking for more where that came from, be sure to get your tickets to this weekend’s Earthwork Harvest Gathering in Lake City!

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Destination Mackinac Island

70th Annual Mackinac Island Lilac Festival: Lilacs are in full bloom on Mackinac Island in June, when residents and tourists alike both love spending time in the presence of the gloriously aromatic lilacs and taking part in all the activities and festivities offered throughout the expansive 10-day celebration. It’s the most beautiful time to be on the Island, and the Lilac Festival Grand Parade is tons of fun for all ages!

Touring Historic Fort Mackinac: Mackinac Island is full of fascinating stories and restored landmarks from centuries past, and the history behind Fort Mackinac is wondrous to explore in person. Talented actors dress up in historic clothing and demonstrate various aspects of what life on Fort Mackinac used to be like. They even have a cannon firing demonstration! The Fort is set high above Marquette Park with an absolutely stunning view overlooking Haldimand Bay and Lake Huron. It’s also the last stop on the Mackinac Island Carriage Tour!

Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory: For nature lovers and those who appreciate the delicate moments of life, the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory on Mackinac Island is home to a unique assortment of hundreds of butterflies from around the world. Walking into the greenhouse is like stepping into a fantasy land!

Mackinac Island Carriage Tours: Experiencing Mackinac Island is always a blast while riding in a horse-drawn carriage—especially if it’s your first time there. One of the best ways to learn about the history of the Island while also touring some of the most scenic and interesting places first-hand is through a long ride through Downtown and the countryside with Mackinac Island Carriage Tours.

Bike Life & Kite-Flying on Mackinac Island: When was the last time you flew a kite? It’s thrilling! What better way to experience summertime in Northern Michigan than to fly a kite high above the shores of Lake Huron and ride a bike through the downtown streets of Mackinac Island, exploring the most scenic overlooks with the Mackinac Bridge appearing miniature in the distance.

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How did you spend the long, mostly sunny days? Did you travel elsewhere or staycation in the area? There’s nothing like summertime in Northern Michigan! As we look forward to fall, what were your favorite moments of the summer season? I hope you had a fun one! The first official day of fall is coming up Saturday, September 22, so enjoy this last week of summer, and happy autumn, Northern Michigan!

Categories: Experiencing Northern Michigan, the four