We usually head south whenever we get the chance to travel, but this year we’ve planned a few trips that will take us north of Ohio just to mix things up. We made one trip over the kids’ spring break and rented a crazy cool cabin in Lake Leelanau, Michigan, near Traverse City. It was a last-minute getaway. We hadn’t planned on going anywhere, but, after we paid off the mortgage, we thought it would be fun to mark the milestone with a spontaneous road trip. We knew nothing about the area and that was kinda the point. The drive was mostly uneventful (about as uneventful as a road trip with three kids can be) until we were a few miles from our destination and got a taste of the whole lake effect thing. We arrived in the middle of a snowstorm and that pretty much set the stage for the next five days. It didn’t feel much like spring, but it was beautiful.
The snow and below freezing temps didn’t dampen the kids’ spirits. They had fun exploring the land behind the cabin and discovered an orchard just beyond the steep hill in the back. Everett couldn’t get over the expansive, open space and took off running saying, “I’m freeeeeeeee!”
Let’s be honest. They were just happy they weren’t in school.
We spent the majority of our time lounging around and hanging out in the cabin. It wasn’t awful. We hit up our local library before we left and I packed the kids’ Legos, so books and builds were in full force. Layne got sucked in to the Wildwood series.
In the evenings, we would unfold the sleeper sofa, pile onto the bed in our pajamas and turn on the TV. We got caught up in Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. Oh my gosh! Have you guys seen that show?! My mouth was salivating the entire time. We decided as a family to start planning vacations based entirely around places we want to eat.
We watched a few movies, too. Song of the Sea was a family favorite (along with Dumb & Dumber which I almost didn’t mention because, holy cow!, Steve and I somehow forgot it contained so many sexual innuendos and probably isn’t the most kid-appropriate movie but, of course, the boys thought it was hilarious). #parentfail
One afternoon while Steve was on a conference call, the kids and I drove into Traverse City, parked the car, stood on the lakeshore, gazed out at the water and tried imagining what it must be like in the summer…until we could no longer feel our faces. While chilly, it was invigorating. It was our first time seeing snow on sand. I thought about how the locals probably didn’t bat an eye at snow on sand, but, to us, it was so surprising and ironic, laughable even.
The lake is gorgeous. I was amazed at how its mood changed depending on the sky and weather. (In southern Ohio, we aren’t graced with vast bodies of water. The muddy Ohio River doesn’t count.) One day it was calm and clear blue, and the next day it was choppy and deep turquoise. It was almost like a living mood ring.
One day after lunch, we meandered through Mercato at The Village. It felt nice to stretch our legs – indoors with heat! The historic property was once the Northern Michigan Asylum and has been preserved and renovated as a unique alternative to urban development. It’s massive! We sampled chocolate and browsed an epic bookstore where Everett honed in on a vintage typewriter. (The kid has a thing for typewriters.) There was a less precious model set up for kids to tap away on which was the highlight of the trip for Everett. In one store, I spotted a t-shirt that read “It’s not spring in Michigan without an April blizzard” and it made me laugh.
Alongside local art, old black and white photographs with accompanying text line the brick walls and tell the story of the former institution. At its prime, the asylum was the poster child for humane treatment of the mentally ill. The superintendent believed patients deserved kindness, comfort, beauty and a sense of purpose. Straightjackets were forbidden. It was fascinating to read.
We ate most meals at the cabin but hit up a few local spots. Our favorites in Traverse City were Slabtown Burgers (try any burger and the sweet potato fries), Spanglish (the salsa verde and pork tostadas are amazing) and The Filling Station Microbrewery (order the rocket with prosciutto and a brewsky).
We stopped off at The Redheads Café for breakfast on our way out of town and were kicking ourselves for not discovering it sooner! (Da’ bomb earns its name.)
When we left, it was still snowing ;)
Thanks for the memories, Michigan. We’d love to visit again sometime when you’re less white and more green. Where should we go next time? We were bummed Mission Point Lighthouse was closed.
P.S. – The cabin was way too cool not to snap a few pics with my real camera. Look for them soon!
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking
Article Source: Our Michigan Vacation (According to My Phone)