Summer Fun

Todd Zawistowski

Hard to choose just 75 summer fun ideas for Northern Michigan? You bet! But choose we did. Beaches, restaurants, festivals, food, paddling—the list goes on and on. Close your eyes, point and go. Any one you land is sure to be fun! And don’t forget to check out the Gnome the Gnorth contest. Take your picture with Gnorth, post it in the Community and you may win!

  1. Start a gazpacho garden—sweet Spanish onions, red beauty and Valencia orange bell peppers, burpless cukes, and giant tomatoes—from baby plants at Plant Masters in Suttons Bay. Find an authentic recipe for the hot-day soup you can sip at
  2. When the mercury soars, take to The River, a tree-shaded mini-golf oasis on the lazy Crystal River in Glen Arbor. Drizzle instead? Find old-school Ping Pong, pinball, and Donkey Kong games inside. Break a top score and your next golf game is on the house.
  3. Yes, the 18th-century water-powered sawmill blade ripping through a log is stirring. But tiptoeing in the treetops on the Forest Canopy Bridge then winging it down the Eagle’s Flight Zip Line makes a tour at Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park even livelier. Tickets are $7.
  4. If there’s room to buckle in a fine art souvenir in your back seat, focus your already beautiful Leelanau Peninsula joyride on inspiring stops at a dozen art galleries. Details at
  5. If you’re going to prove your mettle, you may as well enjoy the scenery. Swim .3 miles in Lake Charlevoix, bike 19.9 miles along the waterfront and through the rolling lush valley, run 3 miles to the finish line of the 24th Jordan Valley Triathlon, June 27, 2009.
  6. Secure a sunny seat (first base side) on the brand new, budget-savvy Traverse City Beach Bums half-season plan—24 games with a firework show after five of them, for $216.
  7. Ride the Ranger III out of Houghton six hours across Lake Superior to Rock Harbor, Isle Royale and explore a rare, roadless and rugged island abundant with wild orchids in the bogs and moose in the boreal forest.
  8. Take a Michigan microbrew tour from Ludington to Lake Superior. Self-guided stops at Jamesport Brewing Co., Right Brain Brewery, Jolly Pumpkin Brewery, Short’s Brewing Company and Lake Superior Brewing Co. with plenty of snacks—and naps—along the way. For tips visit
  9. Trace the tip of the mitt on foot, following the sidewalk that stretches from the entrance of Colonial Michilimackinac to downtown Mackinaw City with nonstop views of the big bridge. Afterward find the key to the city at Key Hole Bar on Central Avenue.
  10. Slip into your own luge-style sled and maneuver Crystal Mountain Coaster’s tracks as they curve and dip 1,600 feet down the ski mountain. Control your own speed—it’s no kiddie ride if you go full tilt. The lift ride to the mountaintop is a blast, too. $8 for a single ride, $20 for a day pass.
  11. Get your cheeseburger in Paradise. Find freshly ground chuck, a variety of Wisconsin cheeses and premium beers in Paradise Township’s old-fashioned, hometown meat market, Paradise Meats.
  12. The Spa at the Homestead’s massage therapists use 5,000-year-old Ayurvedic techniques to release toxins, nurture your muscles and calm the nervous system in a spa perched high above Lake Michigan, with blue as far as your eyes can see—if you can keep them open.
  13. Toe tap to live music on the banks of Torch Lake and refresh yourself with Michigan strawberries on homemade shortcake with real whipped cream at Alden’s good ole summertime strawberry festival. Alden Depot Park, June 16, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., or last berry standing. 231-533-5421.
  14. Snack on smoked whitefish pâté and sip Bahama mamas around the tiki bar at Scott’s Harbor Grill, the best seat in town for the spinnaker-flying Grand Traverse Yacht Club Wednesday evening races.
  15. Step right into the diorama at the ghost town of Fayette, where the coastal beauty of the Garden Peninsula is the backdrop to the eerie abandoned remains of what was once the Upper Peninsula’s most productive iron-smelting town.
  16. There is something about uncorking a bottle of bubbly that cues relaxation. Imagine that, times six. At L. Mawby’s sparkling wine dinner in the vineyard, Chef Jim Milliman caters five-course dinners paired with six sparkling wines. July 18 and August 1, $70 per person.
  17. Many attempt the Dune Climb at the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Only the bravest complete the entire thigh-burning rite of passage. Climb and descend a series of steep sand mountains until, at last, you hit the reviving blue oasis of Lake Michigan. Round trip is about 3.5 miles and may take 3 hours, but you can eat two waffle cones at The Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor afterward, no regrets.
  18. Build a sandcastle, nay, a sand palace.
  19. Fish Walleye Alley on Burt Lake, between the mouth of the Sturgeon River and the headwaters of the Indian River. Put in at Burt Lake State Park. Indian River Marina rents fishing boats.
  20. Paddle the easy-peasy Cedar River. Bring your own watercraft and put in at the Cedar ball fields. A lazy current means you can paddle out to Lake Leelanau and back—no car spotting needed!

Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowski