More than 10,000 voters from across the state weighed in on 101 things they love about Northern Michigan. Their votes determined over 300 Red Hot Best winners. To help plan a Northern Michigan summer vacation, here are seven Red Hot Best winners you absolutely must visit.
Find the entire list of categories, winners and much more in the Red Hot Best June 2016 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.
1. National Cherry Festival: Food and Drink Festival. With free family activities, outdoor concerts, foodie events and running races, this annual Traverse City tradition packs serious summer fun. Stay on the city’s east side—camp at Traverse City State Park or book a waterfront spot like Sugar Beach Resort Hotel—and bike to the festival using the nearby TART Trail. Stock up on picnic fare and local brew and wine at Bayside Market. July 2–9, 2016. CherryFestival.org.
2. Tunnel of Trees: Stretch of Scenic Road. This twisty, curvy, roll-y, leaf-shrouded stretch of two-lane traces the coast from Harbor Springs to Cross Village and beyond to Sturgeon Bay. Officially m119, the road is legend in Michigan’s vacation creed. Whether driving or pedaling (during a slow time!), stop at Good Hart General Store for snacks and adjacent Three Pines Studio gallery. Commemorate the journey (and re-fuel) with a stop at the legendary Legs Inn, on North Lake Shore Drive in Cross Village. (Try the smoked whitefish Waugoshance salad).
3. Beaver Island: Favorite Island. Known for reasonable lodging rates (even for summer spots on the water) and for fine dark-sky star-gazing, Beaver Island’s embracing quietude lures families back year after year. Take the ferry from Charlevoix (air travel also available) and explore the 13-mile-long, 6-mile- wide island by bike or auto (rentals available). BeaverIsland.org.
4. Torch Lake: Inland Lake. You’re sure to meet up with plenty of other lake lovers at this turquoise-water oasis, but there’s plenty of space in this 19-mile-long body of water for gentle paddling and swimming throughout summer. Rent kayaks at the Dockside in Bellaire; grab a bite and catch the sunset from the restaurant’s deck après-paddle (winner: restaurant you can boat to).
5. Shopping district: Petoskey. Independent shops, boutiques and galleries await in this 100+-year-old shopping district on streets lined with historic gas lights. Views of Little Traverse Bay enhance the experience. Visit Grandpa Shorter’s for its winning Petoskey stones. Treat your tired feet to Palette Bistro’s upscale casual dining; a Mediterranean-inspired menu evolves seasonally and features rustic brick-oven creations.
6. Teensy town: Elk Rapids. Hop off US31, 20 minutes north of TC, and you’ll find yourself happily embedded in this sweet harbor village with a luscious beach. Walk to everything here: beaches, restaurants, shops and modern marina for boaters navigating Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay. Catch the sunset (and let the little ones play) at the large waterfront park, or wander over to the local movie house, the Elk Rapids Cinema, for a flick. ElkRapids.org.
7. Fishing pier: Frankfort. Start your day in Beulah, riding along Crystal Lake on the Betsie Valley Trail to Frankfort. This nine-mile stretch offers glimpses of summer cottages, tree-lined trails, the Betsie River and Betsie Lake. Fuel up at Stormcloud Brewing Company (flatbread pizza to die for— try the Roasted Root—and Belgian-style brews to savor). Walk it off at the fishing pier a few blocks away; a towering lighthouse greets you at the end.
Heather Johnson Durocher writes from Traverse City. She is the founder of Michigan Runner Girl, michiganrunnergirl.com.
Red Hot Best winners were originally published in the June 2016 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.
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