Just a short drive northwest from Traverse City, the quaint Leelanau County town of Leland is a hotbed of eateries, historic fishing shanties and shops stocked with Northern Michigan arts and crafts. And come Memorial Day Weekend, this lakeside town will be abuzz with sun-soaking, Fishtown fun. Here are 10 travel ideas to make your Memorial Day weekend in Leland legendary.
1) Get Your Shine On At The “Here Comes The Sun” Bash
A Leland Memorial Weekend tradition, the annual “Here Comes the Sun” bash is guaranteed to be a good time. Held on the riverside deck of Leland’s The Cove Restaurant on Monday, May 26th, the party is an all-day-long event, replete with food, drink and live music provided by the Hidden Agenda Band. Relax in the sunshine and try a bowl of seafood chowder and a “Chubby Mary”—The Cove’s signature Bloody Mary, finished off with a smoked chub, and be prepared to make new friends with other summer-celebrators.
2) Eat And Stay At The Riverside Inn And Restaurant
Enjoy the elegance of yesteryear at the historical Riverside Inn and Restaurant in Leland, Memorial Weekend. Situated directly on the banks of the Leland River, the Riverside offers amazing views from their outdoor deck, and a creative menu that showcases local produce. We love the Michigan Asparagus salad, Crispy Gnocci and local whitefish. Also, take the family to Sunday brunch from 10 am to 11 to celebrate that you still have Memorial Day off! Should you want to spend the night in Leland, the Riverside offers charmingly vintage accommodations, all renovated to modern comfort.
3) Check Out The Main Street Gallery
Established in 1988, the Main Street Gallery is hard to miss. No one could overlook the famous metal giraffes, lions and fish in the gallery’s front yard—all a beautifully crafted promise of the gorgeous pieces inside. Stroll through the gallery to check out painting, glassworks, woodworks, metal, pastels and ceramics.
4) Benjamin Maier Ceramics
Benjamin Maier is a truly inspired artist, who says this: “I understand pottery as being able to unite people together at the table.” This conviction shows through in his work, unique and striking pieces that are either soda (a process in which soda is introduced to the kiln at peak temperatures!) or wood fired.
5) Visit Carlson’s of Fishtown
For over a hundred years the Carlson family has been working the Fishtown docks, specializing in smoked and fresh local Michigan fish. Little has changed in the small white store, so stop in for a glimpse into Leland’s bygone fishing days, as well as some delicious treats. Grab some whitefish pate and smoked Lake Trout and head out to the pier for an impromptu picnic!
6) Shop For Some “Tug Stuff”
Not every town is lucky enough to have its own signature brand, but Leland, MI, is not just any town. Chrissy Chesterfield has made the iconic tug boats of Leland into the inspiration for the Tug Stuff brand of clothing. Stop in at the Fishtown store to get fashionable clothes and a good conversation starter—we guarantee that people will recognize the tug in all sorts of places outside of Leland.
7) Pick Up Some Greens At The Annual Plant Sale
On Friday, May 23rd and Saturday, May 24th from 9 am to 4 pm the annual plant sale at The Village Green will be taking place. Now is your time to purchase native ferns, trillium and more along with a selection of shrubs and trees. All proceeds help maintain the Village Green and assist with other conservancy projects.
8) Walk On The Beach
Leland is famous for its long stretches of uninterrupted beaches. While Lake Michigan may still be a little chilly for swimming over Memorial Day Weekend, there is no better way to spend a few hours than to walk along it’s shore. Visit Van’s Beach (which has convenient parking located right at the entrance) and take off towards the Whaleback Sand Dune.
9) Grab A Sandwich At The Cheese Shop
Ask any Leland native where to get a good sandwich and they will unhesitatingly say “The Cheese Shop.” For over 25 years The Village Cheese Shanty, located in the middle of historic Fishtown, has been selling gourmet sandwiches, speciatly food products, and award winning Leelanau County wines and beer. Open everyday May through October, The Cheese Shanty is the perfect place to get lunch to go for either a casual picnic on the beach, a hike up the dunes, or a trip to the Manitou Islands.
10) Manitou Island Transit Company Island Tours
The Manitou Island Transit Company offers a variety of ways for visitors to get out on Lake Michigan and experience the wild beauty of the Manitou Islands firsthand. Launching off the docks of historic Fishtown in downtown Leland, the Transit Company runs day trips to South Manitou, as well as overnight camping trips to both North and South Manitou, and evening shoreline tour that takes you along the Manitou Passage to landmarks like Good Harbor Bay and Pyramid Point. Of course, the Transit Crew make sure that everyone is back on dry land in time to enjoy dinner at one of Leland’s restaurants.