Going Up North: Terrific Times in Traverse City (and Mackinac)

Confession: I am not done writing about Germany even though I have already returned home- I just couldn’t do it justice while travelling, so there will be many more posts to come about that wonderful country.  In the meantime, I am still living life and trying to stay current, so below is my most recent journey:

No summer travel feels complete without taking an adventure through your home state- and for Michiganders- that means going up north!

So this past weekend we decided to head up north for a long weekend, largely because we hadn’t gotten away all summer together (and I had been away at a life-changing experience in Germany and Lauren hadn’t).  But we also love visiting Traverse City particularly so we looked into options.  Since we were so close to the time we wanted to leave- available and affordable hotels were a lost cause, but I quickly remembered another option.

Recently my friend Trish had recommended the website Airbnb that she used to help her book places to stay in Europe as opposed to paying exhorbitant hotel rates.

Here’s how it works:

  1. People post available space they have in their home for travelers who may be visiting their area
  2. Individuals then login to the website and search for accommodations that fit their interests, price range, and needs
  3. Both parties agree to the transaction and voila! Airbnb deals with the credit card details, fees, etc and pays the owner once the tenant has spent the night and leaves
  4. Rates are often much more affordable than comparable services from hotel chains!

This website was perfect for us- Within ten minutes we found two different locations that would cover our entire stay- both for under 100/night!  The first night was similar to a room at a bed and breakfast, and the next two nights were to rent an entire 3-bedroom house!  Now don’t get me wrong, not every lodging option on the website is ideal: my favorite find was a girl who offered her couch for 40 dollars a night and listed weed under ‘services provided’.  But regardless, after our trip, it was clear that Airbnb will be my first choice for future adventures.

Day 1: The Road to Mackinac

When we woke up on Saturday, Lauren and I knew we had a four-hour drive ahead of us, so we decided to stop along the way to break up the tedious process.

Winners/Losers of our drive:

Winner – City of Grayling – Fun little town with a 50’s vibe and lots of local shops and things to do.

Loser – City of Saginaw – Drove around here for 15 minutes on a Saturday and couldn’t find a cool-looking place (or person) in sight.

Winner: Paddle Hard Brew Co

A lot of options for food and drinks.  They’ve only been around since 2014 but they were very popular when we visited and will likely be around for years to come.

Outside at Paddle Hard

  • Best beer: Tequila Me Softly
    • does not taste how it sounds, sweet and light

Winner: Dead Bear Brew Co

Crazy name for a cool place!

Most original and morbid brewery name I’ve ever heard of- very friendly staff and the food looked good but we didn’t try any.  *Side note- we caught a replay of one of Rhonda Rousey’s longer matches on Fox Sports there- it lasted 4 minutes…she’s incredible.

  • Best beer: S.A.A.C.C. Session IPA
    • very light and fruity- it pops when it hits your tongue not unlike sparkling wine- tastes similar to a Magic Hat IPA but a stronger, fruitier flavor.

Loser: Us

We ate at taco bell when we couldn’t find anything cool in Saginaw…if we’d only waited until Grayling!

Double Loser: Taco Bell

This location did not carry the bacon club chalupa- not cool, Taco Bell, not cool…

After our Grayling visit, we decided to stop at our first Airbnb rental, the 1 bedroom B&B, to drop off our things and get a feel for our surroundings, photos are below to prove to you how beautiful the accommodations were!

Mackinac Island

That evening we decided to venture to Mackinac Island, as we wanted to make the most of our time away.  One warning to any future travelers, the ferry was expensive (25$ a ticket) so normally I’d recommend going for the entire day at least if you plan on visiting the island.  Below are a few of our experiences on the island:

Wine Tasting at Goodfellows:

Goodfellows is one of those corporations that are clearly doing well, as they take up 5 different locations along the main drag of the island.  We stopped by and had a rather pleasant, albeit expensive wine-tasting experience when we first got there.  The server was very affable, but what I liked was that they chose tastings for you based on your wine preferences.


If you go to Mackinac Island- you’ll primarily find three things: restaurants, t-shirt makers, and fudge shops.  Naturally we stopped at all three:

Murdick’s Fudge:

Self-advertised as the oldest fudge shop in Mackinac, we decided to stop by for free samples, and to repay our dog-watcher, since Emily is a peanut butter fudge fan.  I sampled the German Chocolate which naturally won my heart;-)


Some good deals since we went late in the season, but check out every place because each will argue they are the cheapest, and blatantly lie about it.

Dinner at Millie’s on Main:

Cool restaurant- apparently based on the owners’ love for their dog (Millie, of course).  Expensive but the food was very good and their specialty drink was the Moscow Mule which I’m a big fan of since Berlin.

On the way back from Mackinac Island, Lauren insisted on sitting on top of the ferry, which we soon regretted.  Apparently with the wind conditions that night, the waves were going to crash on top more often, and there were specific seats to sit in to avoid the water.  …We couldn’t find any such seat up top, but it made for a fun experience!  Luckily we purchased hoodies that we were able to wear to help replace our soaked clothes.

Later we returned back to our rented room in Gaylord and relaxed before the day to come.

Traverse City

The second part of our trip was spent in Traverse City with Lauren’s family. Lauren’s parents go to Traverse City often because their best friends live there and own a winery in the area- Boskydel.  Again because we could not find a reasonable hotel room in town, we rented an entire house about 45 minutes away in the town of Mancelona, so together we split the cost and everyone was able to have plenty of space for themselves as well as a main gathering area for fun.  For the next few days we were able to find fun things to do together as well as some time on our own.

Fun Times in Traverse City:


Lauren and I went here for Sunday brunch and decided to split the French toast and sausage frittata.  It was fantastic- the restaurant is a little pricey but our meal was the best I had in town.  Service was prompt and they even split everything in two before it came to the table.

Break’n Waves Inc

One of the best moments of the trip, Lauren’s parents rented a boat in Traverse City and we spent time with her family and friends enjoying the sunshine and beautiful weather together.  If you have never been to Grand Traverse Bay, it offers an incredible view and crystal clear water.  Since it was a Sunday, the water was incredibly calm also and there were very few boats around.  We enjoyed lunch on the boat and spent time swimming in the lake as well.  Our major fail?  Forgetting to reapply sunscreen!  Everyone looked like a cherry by the time we were finished.

Jim and Karen’s cabin

After the boat ride, Jim and Karen, Lauren’s parents’ close friends, invited us over to their cabin and we spent the evening sharing pizza, s’mores, and laughs a their bonfire right off of the lake.  As always, these kinds of moments are something you can’t purchase in a store or see in a theater.  It was a fitting end to a great day filled with family and fun.

Winery tour- Leelanau Peninsula

The next day Lauren and I decided to break off from the group and head into the Leelenau Peninsula for some wine tasting.  As a self-admitted amateur wine enthusiast, I needed to rely on expert opinions for our winery tour through Leelenau. It is with honor then that I lend this portion of my blog to my esteemed girlfriend Lauren Fuller, our guest blogger for this portion of the experience:

Longview winery
A small, homey facility, Longview winery’s tasting room had a quiet atmosphere to it. They carry a delicious cherry wine that happened to be the 2009 winner of best in class fruit wine at some fancy competition (I forgot to look). I had to stop myself from buying more than one bottle!

Bel Lago Vineyards and Winery
An intelligent, mellow boxer named Moses (the dog, not a person) wanders the tasting room, greeting guests and sharing his frisbee. So cute! Bel Lago features a large variety of beautifully crafted wines accompanied by a complimentary tasting. We walked away with a delicious red called “Bouquetti”- 20% cherry wine, 80% red blend.

Chateau Fontaine
Fruit Forward wine! Our sommelier was very informative. Each (complimentary) sample came with an anecdote and a joke. The tasting room is also packed with lots of other fun merchandise. Clearly a very popular winery. Unfortunately because of the fruit focus of the establishment, a lot of the wines had similar flavors. Overall a lovely experience.

Good Harbor Vineyards
Generally a nice place. A little plain. Friendly workers and yummy wine. Very dry selection. The art on the wine bottles is very interesting, as many of the wines are named after dog breeds and have graphics to match. Our tasting came with complimentary glasses.

Boathouse Vineyards
A quaint tasting room with a friendly and knowledgeable staff. They make a delicious raspberry cider that I really enjoyed. They offer wine by the glass, but not much seating to sit and enjoy your purchase. Regardless, Boathouse is located on a beautiful piece of land and they offer a lovely atmosphere.

Aurora Cellars
Aside from sharing a name with one of my favorite Disney princesses, Aurora Cellars has a beautiful facility. The view from the parking area is breathtaking and the tasting room has an old-time wine cellar feel to it. While the wine selection is somewhat limited, but the samples we tried were some of the best of the day. Aside from the samples, they offer wine by the bottle and by the glass, with the option of food parings as well. One complaint though is that the staff profiled us a bit as they didn’t share as much about the wines as they did with the older couple next to us due to our age and appearance, which was rather unappreciated. Regardless, we walked away with a bottle of their “Radiance” which is a light-bodied red, perfect for any occasion.

Verterra Winery
Definitely one of my favorite experiences. The Verterra Winery tasting room is located in downtown Leland, which is a cute little beach town. We sampled some delicious wines, including the “Chaos Red”, a blend of multiple different red wine grapes. We were helped by assistant manager Jenna, who was not only knowledgeable of all the Verterra wines, but other wineries in the area. She also helped us find some lunch. Verterra is clearly an establishment that supports local business and makes a good quality product.

Thanks for the help, Lauren- Far better opinions than I could have offered!

Cheese shanty – http://www.villagecheeseshanty.com/

Don’t let the name fool you- If you ever get to Leland Michigan – visit this shanty!  The Cheese Shanty has been around for over 25 years and they specialize in making delicious sandwiches out of locally grown products with an array of over 60 cheeses as well.  Don’t blink or you might miss where its located- even with Google Maps Lauren and I circled around twice before we noticed the small shanty simply labeled ‘Cheese’ on the storefront…  Lauren had the “Bear” and I had the “Lake Effect” which were incredible, though we could probably have split one due to their size.  By far the best sandwich I’ve had in a long time.

Van’s Beach

Our last major stop of the trip was at a local beach in Leland.  Hidden behind Van’s garage, an auto repair shop, is Van’s Beach.  A favorite of the locals, Van’s Beach offered crystal clear waters and was tucked away enough that it wasn’t flooded with too many visitors.  Careful to apply extra sunscreen, Lauren and I were able to relax and enjoy the water one more time before heading home the next morning.

Afterwards we rejoined Lauren’s family in Traverse City to try a new BBQ restaurant, the Blue Tractor Cook Shop.

I ordered the Chicken and Waffles- always a solid choice at a BBQ restaurant, but I was still “porked out” from Germany. The chicken was seasoned well and though the waffles were burnt to ash, it was a good meal overall.

Later we went back to the house in Mancelona, played Euchre, a Fuller family tradition, and shared some laughs before we crashed for the evening.

On the final day of our trip we packed up and headed home.  Looking back, the trip was a perfect cap on my summer adventures.  I was able to get away with Lauren and enjoy some of the amazing scenery and experiences my home state has to offer.  It was also nice to spend more time with Lauren’s family and to get to know their friends better as well.  Though I will miss my time up north, something tells me the wine will make up for it just fine…I can’t believe school will start again so soon…


One thought on “Going Up North: Terrific Times in Traverse City (and Mackinac)

  1. I LOVE Michigan. We live in the best state for sure. I’m going to have to try that air b n b thing … Looks pretty cool! Glad you had an awesome trip. 🙂


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