Summers wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Traverse City. I have said this before, but I believe it is THE most beautiful area in all of Michigan and a top 10 in the United States. Perhaps it’s the cherry orchards, the sleepy mainstreet, the breathtaking bay views or the locally owned restaurants and wineries that keep us coming back. It may be the combination of these things or just a certain kind of magic that helps us to forget our normal lives and slip into a moment where we can feel a sense of wonder and freedom. I think it is that element of wonder that makes us crave vacations and as I have added more responsibility to my life, I find it harder to attain. Yet, this place has the ability to make me put my hand out of the window, feel the breeze in my hair, savor some bubbly and enjoy the moment.
Here are a few of our favorite places to explore:
Morsel Bakery – Exquisite bite-sized pastries and hand-crafted coffee. 321 East Front Street . Traverse City, MI
Located in one of our favorite areas in Traverse, The village at Grand Traverse Commons or the former Northern Michigan Asylum, Higher Grounds joins many of our top bakery, restaurant and shops. The coffee shop roasts their own beans, provides pour overs that rival the best cups I have had in SF and are green friendly. So, don’t expect a traditional to-go cup, if you need it to-go you will be walking out with a thrift store coffee mug with no lid. So take some time, enjoy the patio and savor the hand-crafted taste of outstanding coffee. 806 Red Dr #150, Traverse City, MI
Family park without the crowds (our secret find from the locals) South West Bay Shore (22) just outside of Traverse City on your way to Suttons Bay. https://www.shortsbrewing.com/
It is a little bit of a drive from Traverse, but the beer makes it well worth the pilgrimage. Most nights they have live music and the food is locally sourced, gourmet-inspired and absolutely fantastic. 121 N Bridge St, Bellaire, MI http://www.lmawby.com/index.php?route=/
LMawby – You can’t go wrong with bubbles. BY FAR, my favorite vineyard in Michigan. The wine is fantastic, the people are fun and the design is the best! 4519 Elm Valley Rd, Suttons Bay, MI
A new addition to our Suttons Bay loop, Tandem Ciders feels like Michigan. They have a worn wooden bar with pickled eggs and ciders from orchards all over the peninsula. Located in a restored barn, the tasting room is nestled in the country side and feels like a get away. 2055 N Setterbo Rd, Suttons Bay, MI
The wine is decent, but the tasting room and the attitude of this vineyard always seems to make it the last stop on our tasting tours. 8580 E Horn Rd, Lake Leelanau, MI
For a number of years I have always looked forward to our May weekend getaway to Old Mission, just north of Traverse City. Although it is often a little chilly, I still feel like this experience signals the start of summer for us. Blossom Days offers wine lovers the chance to taste barrel room selections and the best of the vineyard.
The eight wineries of Old Mission:
2 Lads Winery // 16985 Smokey Hollow Road
2 Lads does a great job with Michigan reds and offers one of the best views on the peninsula. The modern architecture offers an incredible tasting room experience.
Black Star Farms // 360 McKinley Rd. East
Black Star Farms original location is on the Leelanau peninsula and they added this location a few years ago. The tasting room is in a quaint farmhouse style and they offer one of the largest selection of wines featuring both dry and sweet. We purchased a Pinto Grigio – perfectly crisp with citrus notes.
Bowers Harbor Vineyards // 2896 Bowers Harbor Road
Bowers tasting room is nestled within the vines and they have a beautiful arbor to welcoming you to the experience. They had an incredible presentation on their process and approach to Chardonnay and their focus on aging in the traditional French method is admirable. They also have a fantastic vineyard dog and let’s face it, dogs make every brand better!
Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery // 3309 Blue Water Road
Brys offers estate grown wines and focuses on a European style approach to wine making. They have a beautiful tasting room and offered the best food and wine pairing (an incredible asparagus risotto salad). They have an outdoor space with adirondack chairs facing the vineyard and some of our favorite memories are spent sipping wine and watching Maggie.
Chateau Chantal // 15900 Rue de Vin
We have stayed at this bed and breakfast and their wine making has improved over the years. Perhaps one of the best views, seeing both bays, they offer a tranquil patio and we got their Chardonnay – a beautiful blend of buttery oak flavor.
Chateau Grand Traverse // 12239 Center Road
They are celebrating 40 years on Old Mission and have gamay noir that is not to be missed.
Hawthorne Vineyards // 1000 Camino Maria Dr.
The newest addition to the Old Mission Family, the tasting room sits high upon a hill and looks across to Leelanau.
Peninsula Cellars // 11480 Center Rd.
Located in an old school house, Peninsula is often our first stop on the Old Mission Trail. They have a great tasting experience.
We love the Old Mission and can’t wait to get back next May!
Sitting in the Detroit river between Canada and the skyscrapers of downtown Detroit, Belle Isle provides a respite from an urban landscape. Initially designed by famed urban park planner Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1880s, the island features a beachfront, boathouse, acres of open land, beautiful fountains, botanical garden and aquarium. Although only portion of Olmsted’s plans were implemented, Belle Isle is a truly remarkable. A few weeks ago a friend of mine and Maggie decided to visit the aquarium and botanical garden to take some photos and explore. The aquarium has recently been restored along with other portions of the park. For years this island was abused, neglected and even housed the lawn furniture of the former mayor. And although Detroit has a long way to go, the bankruptcy has brought some positive change and has transferred ownership of the park from the city to the state park system. For now, it will be protected as a place for people to enjoy and will be invested in as a gem of Detroit. On a sunny Sunday morning, I got to see how Detroit is being brought back to a new life, one fish and flower at a time.
We saw everything from cacti, cupcakes to cowboys in Scottsdale, AZ. The desert landscape has a storied beauty in it’s dichotomy of hostile needles and gentle flowers. Outside of the city, hills are covered with the rare and surprisingly tall saguaro cactus. Native to the Sonoran desert and the state symbol of Arizona, the saguaro can grow to 40 feet tall, has flowers, fruit and often lives to over a 150 years old. They are magnificent and their presence makes an Arizona sunset something to be remembered.
Scottsdale offers a beautiful desert experience partnered with the very best shopping, art, dining and even architecture. We were surprised to see a Sprinkles Cupcake, but made sure to stop and get a red velvet. Maybe not native to Arizona, but perfectly decadent for a vacation.
Throughout old Scottsdale there are numerous Remington sculptures. One of my favorite professors from Spring Arbor University has a couple works by Remington and he always talked about how he was able to capture the spirit of the American West. Although he was from New England, as a young man he took many trips west and observed the land before it was tamed. He understood the untouched wilderness and captured the men and women who settled the land. His drawings, sculptures and paintings are a perfect representation of the American west.
Life size bronzed horses, cowboys and cacti are on almost every street. On Thursday nights, the galleries stay open late, musicians play on the streets and you can grab a beer in a saloon or a meal from a James Beard award winning chef. It was heaven. I know we will be back. Arizona offers warmth, hospitality, culture and a nature experience second to none.