Monday, August 19, 2019

Mini Trip to Michigan

Lighthouse on South Haven, Michigan, Pier
Source: Wikimedia Commons
We took a quick trip to Michigan last week as a last ditch effort to forget school was starting. It was so beautiful and relaxing. Temps were in the 70s and no humidity, which was a lovely break from the August heat and humidity in Kansas City. 

For the past few years, we've flown to our vacation destination. This time, though, we decided to drive. I love a good road trip, and this one didn't disappoint. From Kansas City, Grand Rapids is about 10 hours, with a few stops included. Here's the run down. 

We stayed in Grandville, MI, which is west of Grand Rapids. By the time we decided where and when we wanted to go, all the lake front rentals were either taken or crazy expensive. So, we stayed at the Marriott's SpringHill Suites Grand Rapids West. It was pretty conveniently located for what we wanted to do. Nice and new, too. 

Lake Michigan Shore Towns
banana split served in a wooden trough
Source: Sherman's Ice Cream
What was left of our trough of ice cream. OINK!
On our first full day, we toured several shore towns. Our first stop was South Haven. I loved this little town. Definitely on my top 10 list of places I'd like to live when I retire (17 years and counting! Ha!). 

The National Blueberry Festival was gearing up the weekend we visited. We were there on Friday, when things were just starting to get rolling. From the looks of things, it's a fun party as the weekend progresses! We browsed a few shops in the downtown area, walked the pier down to the red lighthouse, then headed to Sherman's Ice Cream for lunch. 

Sherman's has been cranking out homemade ice cream since 1916. We had The Pig's Trough: includes eights ginormous scoops of ice cream (we had four flavors), four toppings, bananas, nuts, cherries and whipped cream  served in wooden trough. It looks like this, and we ate every bite with no regrets. We wanted to check out the Michigan Maritime Museum and maybe book a cruise, but we ran out of time. 

Next, we went to Holland. We visited Windmill Island Gardens, which I recommend. Really interesting tour of a fully operational windmill that produces stone ground flour. We also went to Nelis' Dutch Village, which was fine, but it's for the younger kiddos. I would have loved to Holland State Park, but we wanted to keep moving through our itinerary. 

Our last stop of the day was in Grand Haven. We browsed the downtown shops and strolled to the marina to gawk at the yachts. We ate dinner and tried a couple of beers at Grand Armory Brewing Company After that, we hit Grand Haven State Park. After walking the pier, I relaxed on the beach while Audrey played in the water, and Mark and Ruth explored the area. I really wanted to see the Grand Haven Musical Fountain, but it didn't come alive until dusk, and after a full day, we were all ready to head back to our hotel. 

Sleeping Bear Dunes
lake michigan from the top of a sand dune
View from Piece Stocking Scenic Drive, Stop No. 9
150ft tall sand dune looking from the bottom up
View of Sleep Bear Dune Climb from the parking lot.
The highlight of the trip for me was going to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Empire, MI. It's about a three-hour drive from Grand Rapids and totally worth it. We drove the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, which the park ranger said would take an hour, but only took us about 30 minutes. If you go and stop anywhere, stop at No. 9. Then, we tackled the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb. In my ideal reality, it was going to be an easy climb up 150 feet of sand. In real reality, it was a tough mother! About halfway up, I started thinking it wasn't such a great idea after all. All four us made it to the tippy top, and the views made it well worth it. That said, I wouldn't do it again. I put it in the "once and done" category, along with skiing. 

After climbing the dune, we piled back into the car and went searching for something to eat. We drove up M-22 and through some adorable small towns filled with boutiques, breweries and ice cream shops. We stopped in Leland, MI, and grabbed lunch at The Cove in the historic Fishtown District. We had a three hour drive ahead of us, so we didn't stop to browse. But, to switch things up, we cut across through Suttons Bay and Traverse City, both of which had beautiful views of the water. 

Grand Rapids
On our final day, we explored Grand Rapids. We took a walking tour of the Heritage Hill Historic District, which is filled with beautiful old homes. Then, we headed over to the Grand Rapids Public Museum. To be honest, we were only going there to kill some time. As it turns out, this museum was probably one of the highlights of the trip. It had something for everyone, a little bit everything, but not too much of anything. It was amazing! I highly recommend it. 

We had to cut our museum tour short because we wanted to tour the Meyer May House, a Frank Lloyd Wright house that was painstakingly restored back to its original design and condition. The tour was free, so we expected it to last 30 minutes tops. The introductory film, which showed in great detail the restoration process (down to an original mural rescued from five layers of paint), was 30 minutes. The house tour was about another hour. It was fascinating! 

After the tour, we headed to Founder's Brewing for beer, beer cheese dip and some really good food. We topped off our last night with a dip in the hotel pool and laundry. 

Now, we're back to regularly scheduled programming, with school, work and life. Hope you all had a great summer! Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real.