Mini City Guide: Northern Michigan (Traverse City, Rogers City, and Mackinac Island)

November 6, 2015

A few months after the little man entered our lives I was getting ready for bed one night when my phone lit up with a message from a friend asking if I wanted to head  up to Northern Michigan for a girls’ trip.  I could almost physically feel my heart sinking while I thought “If only!”  Then I saw these magical words flash across the screen – bring the babe! – and before I had thought past anything more than “oh my goodness I want a break from the monotony of the daily routine with an infant” I was responding.  YES!!! I mean yes as long as the hubby is okay with it of course.  And wait what weekend did you say it was? And how much is it going to cost?  Sometimes my brain still thinks I’m single and 20 and can go gallivanting around the globe without having to check anyone else’s schedule or worry about a bank account.  Have I mentioned my husband is waaaay more patient than me??

A few weeks later I boarded a plane in Tulsa with a four and a half month old.  All by my lonesome.  I couldn’t have been more excited or more terrified.  I’d racked my brain a thousand times trying to figure out what all I needed for Noah and at some point came to the realization that if I had the Ergo and diapers and bottles and low expectations for the quality of my flights it couldn’t be that bad right?!  He was a total champ.  Turns out the only thing I managed to forget was the appropriate contact solution for myself. Epic fail.  My reoccurring nightmare of not being able to fit my contacts back in my eyes because they expanded over night was a reality, well minus the part where the contact is the size of a car (have a mentioned I have really vivid dreams? Probably TMI . . .).  I’m not totally blind without contacts but just imagine me not quite able to tell if you’re a girl or just a guy with an awesome mullet . . . from 10 feet away.  Turns out eye doctors can fax your prescription across the country even to the middle of nowhere Michigan on a Saturday morning.  I could have hugged the guy who handed me the new box of contacts and gave me back my ability to enjoy the beautiful Lake Huron vistas – that plus the added benefit of being able to walk across the street without dying ☺.

For most of the trip we stayed in a lovely cabin right outside of Rogers City, Michigan on the shores of Lake Huron (thanks Haley!) and just enjoyed the slower pace of life and the luxury of having time for long conversations among friends.  We did manage to squeeze in a day at Mackinac Island, and it was totally worth every penny we paid for the ferry ride over!
The Village at Grand Traverse Commons (Traverse City, Michigan)

This historic site, once an asylum for the mentally ill, has been cleverly converted into a series of shops, restaurants, and art galleries that spread throughout the myriad of hallways and wards that once served a less leisurely purpose.  It’s a perfect spot to spend an afternoon window-shopping while sipping a latte or munching on some local fudge.  We may have subjected the little man to a fashion show complete with miniature badger skin hats . . . what can I say, they were too ridiculous to pass up!  That and a four month old can old complain so much about his lot in life.  The grounds are also expansive and beautiful, filled with perfect spots for picnics or naps in the sun if you happen to be there on a spectacular fall day like the one we happened to have while visiting.

Mackinac Island Ferry | SchoonerKids City Guide
Ferry Ride to Mackinac Island (Leaves out of Mackinaw City, Michigan)

Okay this isn’t the cheapest outing, but it is so worth it if you can scrounge together the cash to take the whole family to the island for the day.  Kids under 5 ride the ferry free, so if you are brave enough to travel with toddlers at least you’ve got that going for you!  The views of Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, the Mackinaw Bridge, and the distant shoreline of Canada are impressive during the short 20 minute jaunt to the island.  Make sure and bring a jackets – it is nippy out on the deck!  What can I say, I am one of those odd ones who can’t stand to sit inside the nice warm cabin when there is the option of having the wind in my hair and the sea spray on my face.  I know, I know it’s a lake.  But lake spray just didn’t have the same ring to it.

Stroll Down Historic 185 (Mackinac Island, Michigan)

This quaint row of shops, restaurants and galleries is entirely free from motorized vehicles and is perfect for meandering down with kids on foot or on rented bikes!  Its cute little shops are full of fudge and ridiculously adorable outfits for the little ones.  We even managed to find the little man a beanie shaped like a pumpkin – need I really say more?  His new hat combined with his chubby cheeks and flirty smile made him an instant celebrity on the island!

Mackinac Island Ferry | SchoonerKids City Guide
Sunrise or Sunset on Lake Huron (Outside Rogers City, Michigan)

The rugged, undeveloped shoreline is breathtaking any time of the day, but it’s especially beautiful with the sun hovering on the horizon.  Since I was soaking up every last minute of sleep I could with a four month old I never did make it down to the beach for a sunrise, but we did enjoy a picturesque walk down the beach at sunset one evening with the little man happily hanging out in the Ergo.  Again bring a jacket!  It can be pretty chilly with the wind coming off the water.
playMichigan | SchoonerKids City Guide
Rent Bikes (Mackinac Island, Michigan)

This was the highlight of the trip for me – other than the late night conversations with good friends around the fire with s’mores and cans of limeritas and of course, the baby monitor ☺.  There are multiple outfits in town that rent bikes, kid carriers, kid bikes and even tandem bikes if you’re up for it!  My friends thought we were doing a brief, leisurely ride down 185 through the shops and maybe out to view some of the island shoreline.  But my competitive, must finish what I started nature, kicked in and I decided we needed to do the full 8 mile loop around the island as fast as we could.  With the wind whipping through my hair and the little man whining in the carrier behind me (apparently the windblown look wasn’t for him), I may have finished the race – I mean ride – and turned around to realize I couldn’t see anyone I knew.  Apparently I had been trapped inside my house with a newborn for a few too many weeks!!

Michigan | SchoonerKids City Guide
Mission Point (Mackinac Island, Michigan)

This place.  It’s almost too good to be true.  Just imagine stumbling across a pristine green lawn filled with white Adirondack chairs overlooking Lake Michigan and realizing it is free for the taking.  The little man and I spent a decent part of the afternoon here – him napping in the grass in his newly acquired pumpkin hat, me drinking a latte and reading Insurgent with the sun shining peacefully down on us.  If the hubby wasn’t hundreds of miles away working to pay for the girl’s trip I might never have left. It would be an absolutely perfect place for a picnic with the whole family. Or a game of catch.  Or story time on blankets.  Or champagne and chocolate while the kids are napping.  Just go already! You’ll thank me ☺.
Cuppa Joe (Traverse City, Michigan)

This cute little coffee shop inside the Village at Grand Traverse Commons was the perfect spot to grab a recovery latte after the stressful morning of scrambling to find an eye doctor while on vacation.  They also have a selection of treats perfect for keeping the kids (and adults) happy while wandering through the Commons.

Fudge!! (Any of the multiple shops on Mackinac Island, Michigan)

I feel like this really needs no explanation.  If you aren’t a coffee drinker (bless you) taking a bag of your favorite flavor – or two, or three – to Mission Point would be a lovely idea.

Michigan | SchoonerKids City Guide
Cawthorne’s Village Inn (Mackinac Island, Michigan)

We cooked most of our meals at the cabin during this trip just for the added flexibility with the little man but also because some of us really enjoy cooking, especially on nights without any looming deadlines (read toddlers and the bewitching hour or bosses without personal boundaries who think company cell phones mean your every hour belongs to them).  We did try out this cute little spot during our day trip to Mackinac Island and its outdoor patio was the perfect spot for a leisurely lunch in the sun, complete with “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” cocktails!
World’s Largest Limestone Quarry (Roger’s City, Michigan)

In my day job I work for an oil and gas company as an engineer so my excitement surrounding rocks and large machinery may be a little more than the typical mom’s, but this operation is really pretty fascinating.  My friend happened to have a contact inside the quarry, so we actually got to take a tour and ride inside the giant dump trucks (and I mean GIANT) while hearing first hand from an operator what it was like to work in the quarry.  If your toddler happens to be fascinated with trucks and dirt and all things crashing like our little man happens to be right now, this place would be heaven for them.  There are multiple viewing areas around the quarry where you can sit and watch the giant CAT’s race across the quarry floor if you can’t find a way inside for a tour.  For the record, I wasn’t able to find a hard hat that fit a four and half month old, so the little man had to stay safely outside, I know how discriminatory right?!Rock Quarry Michigan | SchoonerKids City Guide
The Island Bookstore (Mackinac Island, Michigan)

I seem to always be meandering into bookstores while telling myself I’m only browsing and then leaving an hour later with a stack of new books on topics as varied as parenting, women in business, traveling Europe, and modern homesteading.  Okay wait – confession time. What I bought on this trip was actually the second book in the Divergent series by Veronica Roth.  Yes I know so cultured of me ☺.  This little bookstore is perfect for picking up a little something to read before heading over to Mission Point for some R&R.  It houses a large selection of books on the surrounding area if you’d like to learn more about the island or the surrounding shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Michigan | SchoonerKids City Guide

40 Mile Point Lighthouse and Shipwreck (Just Outside Rogers City, Michigan)

One afternoon my girlfriends gave me the afternoon off from the little man, and I headed off for a long solitary walk along the beach.  I stumbled across this beautiful patch of shoreline complete with a shipwreck, a lighthouse and a pilothouse from an old steamboat.  They offer tours of the lighthouse Tuesday through Sunday that I’m sure are amazing.  I arrived just in time to see them locking up the lighthouse, so I missed that part of the learning experience, but I did get to see the remains of the 100 year old shipwreck partly buried on the beach which was pretty fascinating in and of itself.  It’s also just a pretty spot to sit and listen to the wind and watch the waves lapping up on the sand. Something about sitting on the shoreline is restorative to my soul.  It makes me stop the constant rushing in my mind to be present in the moment and just appreciate something bigger than myself and my over crowded to do list.  Please tell me I’m not the only one?!

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