Been to Traverse City, Michigan?

A couple of years ago, we took a long vacation to Bar Harbor, Maine. What I remember most vividly is visiting Acadia National Park, hiking, looking for shells, eating lobster and the world’s best blueberry pie.

Looking for shells

Looking for shells

Dipping their toes in the ocean

Dipping their toes in the ocean

I recall staying atΒ a cute cottage situated on an inlet, where the kids played in the yard and on the tiny rocky beach.

Rocky little beach at the cottage

Rocky little beach at the cottage

Sunset, taken from the cottage's backyard

Sunset, taken from the cottage’s backyard

In my mind, it was definitely one of the best trips we ever took. Ever.

It shouldn’t have been. There were some unforeseen hitches in our master plan. We punctured a tire with a huge, rusty nail somewhere in New York. A stomach virus latched onto us, so we coped with diarrhea and nausea throughout our stay. We had to curtail some of the activities we really wanted to do because there were days no one could be terribly far from the facilities.

But we rolled with the punches. Instead of feeling like we were missing out on our vacation, we decided to take it easy. Sleep late. Teach the kids how to play poker. Listen to episodes of “Prairie Home Companion” on NPR. When everyone was feeling better, we ventured out, shortening our hikes and planning for extra rest.

What we learned from that trip was that vacation is what you make of it. And spending time with our family was the priority — not hiking a certain mountain or jumping on a whale-watching tour. If someone wasn’t feeling up to a long day out, we didn’t do it. We shifted our plans to a different day or time and didn’t worry about it. That attitude alone made all the difference; it changed what could have been a washed-up, stressed-out vacation into the best week ever.

We’ve recently began mulling over places to go in the next few months. The realization that we have limited summers left for vacationing with our kids hit us hard (only 4 more with our oldest son — if we’re lucky enough to find time in his schedule and ours to go somewhere), and we want to conjure up that sense of zen we found in Maine. Just closer to home.

We’ve been looking at the western shores of Michigan, specifically the area up around Traverse City and the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Since you guys had some of the best recommendations about things to do, places to see, and restaurants to eat in Milwaukee (fantastic ideas, really, and you can see them in the comments in this post), I thought I’d come back and ask:

Have you ever been to Traverse City, Michigan? Seen anything amazing on the western shores of Lake Michigan? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Any recommendations would be most welcome!

If you haven’t been to Traverse City, tell me: where is your favorite place to vacation with your kids in the good ol’ summertime?

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About thethingaboutjoan

Mom of three who knits a little, bakes a lot, crafts a bit and blogs about it all.
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22 Responses to Been to Traverse City, Michigan?

  1. I’m inspired. My boyf and I’s recent trip wasn’t quite as we planned either, we were also a bit poorly and occasionally fettered with extra tasks, but it all works out in the end, eh! Great to hear that you can do that as a family too. That takes some style πŸ™‚

    • Oh, I love that! Love that you think we’ve got “style!” Most of the time I feel like we’re a bit of a gigantic traveling mess…but we do find ways to have a good time! πŸ™‚

  2. I think your insight was spot on- vacation IS what you make it. Taking mishaps in stride and shifting plans to accomodate each other makes a huge difference. The ability to find new/other things to enjoy means the trip is not a “failure” because a to-do list isn’t checked. There’d be a lot less family stress (at least on the long car ride home) if more people saw it this way. It sounds like you have a few more, “best trips ever” ahead of you.

    • I know what you mean. It’s easier to control your attitude than a stomach virus! Besides, I really think the kids are just happy to be away with us, seeing/doing something new; they don’t know that the “Master Plan” was thwarted by weather, illness, timing, whatever unless you act horribly disappointed. And it’s not just vacation; it pretty much goes for anything (soccer games, weekend plans, get-togethers, holidays, etc), don’t you think?

      • I certainly do think it goes for everything!! Like your kids, my daughter is just happy to be away with me discovering something new. If a vacation mishap occurs, she gets to see how to handle it. And maybe, even how to get a good story out of it πŸ™‚

      • That’s totally true! My kids still talk about stories from the Maine vacation. Mostly they only remember the fun parts, but sometimes the worst mishaps turn into the best stories.

  3. go Mama O says:

    Yes, like parenting, while you’re on vacation, you have to just go with it! Great attitude to have and appropriate time to post before Memorial Day weekend. I have never been to Traverse City, though I heard it’s nice. Some Michigan friends joke that I miss out on many beautiful sunsets over Lake Michigan while living in Wisconsin. Enjoy!

    • We’ll have to look for the sunsets! We’re still debating our journey to and from Traverse City. From Chicago, we could go through Wisconsin, up and around Lake Michigan to TC, or through Indiana up along the western Michigan coast. We’ll probably just do the loop because anytime we can get to WI, we do!

  4. mtetar says:

    Glad you all made the best of it, and the pics are great. Everyone like is different. North Carolina is great. Hope you get more suggestions. Be Blessed Joan! Mtetar

    • I’ve always wanted to go to North Carolina for a vacation with the kids. When we were first married, my husband and I went to Asheville and stayed in a cabin with some friends. It was a blast. I’ve never stayed along the coastline though; Playing on the beaches and in the ocean sounds like a winner with kids (after a liberal dose of sunscreen on my redheads!). Thanks for the suggestion, Mtetar!

      • mtetar says:

        You’re welcome I spent two weeks there with my grandchildren and couldn’t get enough of the good times. Thanks for replying. Be Blessed, Mtetar

  5. Miriam says:

    We’re from Maine (now living in Colorado), and while I haven’t yet been to Traverse City I’d love to go! When we were thinking about relocating I was drawn to the Great Lakes area, thinking it would be similar to living near the ocean. In fact I think it’s probably better in some ways. Acadia is gorgeous, but I think that northern Michigan sounds very nice too. I’d love to hear what you think if you decide to go πŸ™‚

    • Hi Miriam, thanks for stopping by! I loved Maine. Loved it so much that I told my husband I wished we could stay until it got cold. (I’m in Chicago so I’m used to cold weather, but honestly, I think Maine has us beat when it comes to winters. By a long shot!). The light in the summer there was amazing — everything looked Technicolor-bright all the time. Gorgeous.

      I like living near the Great Lakes, because you do get the sense of “vast water.” But you also know there’s another side looking back towards you only a couple hours away.

      We’d like to head out to Colorado one summer before the kids get too busy and we can’t find time to go together. Do you enjoy it out there? Was it a big change from Maine? (Time change and higher altitude alone would be a big difference!)

      • Miriam says:

        Colorado is completely different from Maine, but lovely in it’s own way. I’m still adjusting to the west, after a lifetime on the east coast πŸ™‚ The Rockies are magnificent, definitely worth a trip. I had no idea what real mountains were until we moved here! I do miss nice water, but the weather is great and it’s very easy to be outside here. Where we live (about an hour north of Denver) it’s an interesting mix of suburbia and farmland, with prairie on one side and huge mountains on the other.
        I’m also hoping to get to the Great Lakes for a summer vacation in the next couple of years. We’ve only visited briefly and I would like to spend more time there. I actually prefer lakes to ocean πŸ™‚

  6. Your vacation to Maine sounds wonderful! Unfortunately I have no tips for you as I have never been to Traverse City before! The place in Michigan that I loved was the Porcupine Mountains but that is in upper Michigan!

    • I really like the U.P. We traveled there a lot when I was a kid (up around Sault Ste. Marie), and I always liked how peaceful it felt. I’ve never been to the Porcupine Mountains — sounds like a place to investigate!

      It’s a long road-trip to Maine, but oh! So worth it. I’d go again in a heartbeat.

      How about you, Melissa? Any travel plans on the horizon? Chicago again but in the summer? πŸ™‚

  7. I haven’t been to Traverse City… BUT growing up in Wisconsin, I spent a great deal of time on Lake Michigan. And as far as the fun to be had on the shores of Lake Michigan, you can’t go wrong!! πŸ™‚ Wish I could give you any suggestions… but looking forward to reading what others have to say, as well as what you end up doing on your trip.
    Kenley

    • We’ve driven through a bit of the western side of Lake Michigan (not all the way north up to Traverse City, but a fair bit). I loved that whole organic food, “u-pick” fruit and veggie places they have. I’m hoping we hit strawberry time!

      The more I read about Sleeping Bear Dunes, the more intrigued I am. I’ll definitely blog about it if we head that way! πŸ™‚

  8. Love the pictures Joan! what a trip; full of memories! πŸ™‚ sorry no suggestions from me, haven’t and won’t be travelling for a while! πŸ™‚ Hope you have a wonderful Memorial weekend with yours! πŸ™‚

  9. Time With Thea says:

    I have been to Bar Harbour and it was breathtaking. I live near the mountains and cherish any opportunity to visit the water. I love your attitude that a holiday/vacation/trip is what you make of it. there are things you can control and a lot things you can’t. I have been to Michigan but only in the south and towards the north on my way to re-entering Canada. Traverse City looks beautiful. Michigan is certainly made up of a lot of lakes. Hi from Thea!

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