Father’s Day in Northern Michigan falls at the perfect time in mid-June when the weather is perfect for hiking, biking and golf and restaurants have openings. It definitely has begun to feel like summer by June 16th, but the crowds are nowhere near what they are come July. So celebrate Father’s Day weekend. Plan a day trip right in Traverse City or only a short drive away.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes Heritage Trail

sleeping bear heritage trail

A great way to spend a few hours with the family is to load up the bikes and drive out to the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. The section between Glen Arbor and the Dune Climb was just completed last summer, and the smooth asphalt and lack of car traffic are definite luxuries for a family biking outing. Park the car and unload at the Dune Climb (pass for the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore required) and head north towards Glen Arbor, just four miles away. Take a pit-stop in Glen Haven, about two miles in, to savor the cool breeze coming off Lake Michigan or pop in and out of the historic sites, like the vintage general store or old-time blacksmith shop.

Continue pedaling, winding through trees and past windswept sand dunes, until you reach the hustle and bustle of downtown Glen Arbor. Spend some time grabbing testers at Cherry Republic, exploring the shops, and pausing for lunch or late afternoon snacks at Art’s Tavern (231-334-3574). An extensive appetizer menu and busy outdoor patio (perfect for people watching) make it a classic neighborhood hang-out. Once you return to the Dune Climb, try racing up and down the soft sand before piling, barefoot, back in the car.

Take me out to the ball game!

What Dad doesn’t like baseball?  Include watching the great American game in your plans this Father’s Day. Although Northern Michigan is not home to a Major League Baseball Team, there is still plenty of excitement to be found at a Traverse City Beach Bums game. The stadium at Wuerfel Park may be on the small side, but the laidback summer feel, easy access to the concession stands, and ability to see the ball, won’t make you wish you were anywhere else. Sundays are Family Fundays, with the first pitch at 5:05pm. Kids 12 and under even get a chairback ticket for half price with each adult ticket purchased. Visit tcbeachbums.com for more schedule and ticketing details.

Head three miles south of Grand Traverse Mall and you will arrive at Wuerfel Park. (If you get to the US 31 and M-37 intersection you have gone too far!)

Learn more about the TC Beach Bums here.

Explore South Manitou

Hop on Manitou Island Transit’s ferry out of Leland harbor for a gorgeous hour and a half ride to historic South Manitou Island. You’ll get four and a half hours to either explore the island on your own or choose from one of two tours. If you decide on the tour, you have two options. Either check out the rural schoolhouse and farm from the days when South Manitou was a thriving lakeside community or be awed by the 500 year old cedars and the eerie shoreline shipwreck. Keep in mind that there is nowhere to purchase food on the island, so pack a lunch from home or order a hearty Northshore from the harborside Village Cheese Shanty to eat once you land- if you can wait that long. For day trippers, the boat docks back in Leland by 5:30pm, but if you want to spend longer on the island, many visitors do camp overnight on both South and North Manitou.

Get more ideas for a special day on South Manitou here.

Call Maintou Transit at 231-256-9061 and look on their website for more details on rates, tours, and ferry schedules.

Paddle the Platte

If Dad is a lover of the outdoors, plan for a day out on the Platte River. Rent kayaks or canoes (it might still be a bit chilly for inner tubes) from Riverside Canoe and opt for the Lower Platte. Compared to the Upper Platte, it is much less intense, only two to three feet deep, and a shorter trip, so better suited for the family. What makes the Lower Platte even more fun is that it spills out into Lake Michigan and basically forces you to spend some time lingering on the beach. Stroll along the water’s edge, where you’ll see the Empire Bluffs in the distance or simply lounge on the wide sandy beach. Depending on the rain this season, swimming against the Platte’s current right before it flows into Lake Michigan is sure to tire out the kids.

Pack a change of clothes, and drive south along scenic M-22 to The Manitou Restaurant (231-882-4761), just north of Empire. Treat Dad to a truly ‘northwoods’ style dinner of local seafood, like Whitefish on the plank, or a succulent rack of lamb. The atmosphere is cozy without being stuffy, and the children’s menu will satisfy picky eaters. We suggest calling ahead for reservations for Father’s Day.

Father’s Day Weekend Road Race

There’s still time to sign up for the breathtaking (pun intended) Glen Arbor Solstice Half Marathon or 5k on June 15th, the Saturday before Father’s Day. Expect summertime celebration, despite the early morning hour, in downtown Glen Arbor as you finish the picturesque 13.1 mile loop around Big Glen Lake or the quick 5k that doesn’t stray too far from town.

At the conclusion of the race festivities, head over to the Leelanau Coffee Roasting Company to pass the time before the Glen Arbor BBQ and Brew Festival (2pm start time and $15 adult /$10 child admission ticket). Order up drinks from the knowledgeable baristas for the entire family, including French press and lattes or hot chocolates and smoothies for the kids. Wrap your fingers around a warm mug and share a number of freshly baked treats (we recommend an old-fashioned cake doughnut for starters) on the shaded patio.

Once you’ve had enough rest, and enough coffee, make your way to the corner of Lake Street and M22 for the Glen Arbor BBQ and Brew Festival. Hard to miss with numerous local food vendors, over 20 microbreweries, and live music from Erratixz. No worries if you are concerned about the festival being family friendly, there are plenty of options for kids, like root-beer, ice cream, and BBQ fare, while you sample local brews.

Catch a movie at the State Theatre!

The State Theatre in downtown Traverse City is the antithesis to mega suburban complexes, with its old-fashioned light-lined marquee, a single screen, and a high-tech visual and sound system. Eclectic itself, the State Theatre highlights an interesting blend of independent films, old classics, and Hollywood hits. It has the capacity to show only one movie at a time, so be sure to check the schedule for Father’s Day to ensure that everyone in the family will be entertained.

For the current schedule, call 231-947-4800 or visit statetheatretc.org.

If the State Theatre is not in your neck of the woods, check out these other great Northern Michigan movie venues.

Give Dad the gift of a day on the water

Reserve a spot for Dad on one of Leland’s Lake Michigan fishing charters, and he’ll be talking about his outing for months to come. From the quaint fishing village, Dad can set off on an all-equipped fishing boat with a friendly crew that will give solid fishing and cleaning tips, as well as plenty of laughs. Most of the captains have had decades of experience boating along the crystal-clear waters between the Leelanau Peninsula and Manitous. Let him toss out a line in the early morning sun and feel the cool freshwater breeze whip his face as the boat speeds between trout or salmon hotspots. Leland boasts three main fishing charters, because of the harbor’s ideal location, that offer a pretty packed schedule during the summer, so choosing a day that fits with dad’s calendar should be as easy as eating the fresh catches that he’s sure to bring home.

Leland Fishing: lelandfishing.com, call 231-947-7642 or 231-256-9581

Far Fetched Charter Fishing: far-fetched.com, call 231-941-4376

Fishtown Charter Service: fishtowncharters.com, call 231-256-9639

Hike at Leelanau State Park

Pack a picnic and take a late afternoon hike through the woods at Leelanau State Park north of Northport on Father’s Day. Explore the 8.5 miles of quiet, shadowed trails that crisscross through acres of trees. In addition to the larger network of trails, there are plenty of shorter loops, including a path to the Lake Michigan shoreline, to try out if the family would rather just hike for an hour or two.

Wait to unpack the food at Peterson Park, only about a 15-minute drive on backcountry roads from the trailhead. Make sure you have saved enough energy to climb down to the rocky beach for a peaceful look at the sinking sun and sift the shore for Petoskey stones while it’s still light. Picnic tables and fire pits will assure that your meal is ready in time for the stunning red, orange, and pink skies reflecting off the water. Nothing like eating al fresco by Big Blue in the summertime.  (Click here to read about Rachel North’s summer experience at Peterson Park.)

Grand Traverse Resort Golf

Instead of just getting Dad a new box of golf balls, let the fairways at Grand Traverse Resort be the answer to a perfect Father’s Day. Although the course is only a short drive from Traverse City, it feels as though you are miles and miles away. Tee off overlooking Lake Michigan and walk down pristinely green fairways molded to the rolling landscape. Don’t limit the resort ambience to the golf course, instead visit one of the three on-site gourmet restaurants. Putt the last one in on the Bear’s 18th and amble off to The Grille, a more casual spot with innovative sandwiches and appetizers, like the potato chips covered in melted blue cheese and chives.

Specifically for Father’s Day, take part in the Parent and Child Big Hole Event (June 16th) or give the gift of golf with the resort’s “Golf Your Daylights Out” promotion (runs June 14-21). A great deal at only $125 per person, the latter campaign is week-long and offers unlimited golf from dawn to dusk on all three renowned courses.

For the event calendar at Grand Traverse Resort visit their website and for reservations call 231-534-6000.

Sunday Brunch & Drive

Sleep in and treat Dad to Sunday brunch at downtown Traverse City’s Amical (231-941-8888). Sit back and relax at a table on the covered patio as you choose dishes from the extensive European-influenced menu. Try the “Spinach & Feta Croissant”, scrambled eggs enveloped in a warm, flaky croissant, or the “amical French Toast”, highlighted by griddled Challah bread and fresh berries. Take enough time to truly relax, people watching the crowds on Front Street and perhaps ordering another mug of fresh-brewed coffee.

Continue feeling as though you have stepped into the French countryside by taking a lazy ride up 22-mile long Old Mission Peninsula. Even though Dad might be doing the driving, you won’t hear him complain as you curve along M-37 (Center Road), passing hillside wineries on your right and Traverse Bay on your left. (Check out more tips for your driving route and ways to make the most out of a day trip on Old Mission Peninsula here). Stretch out the legs when you make it to the peninsula’s tip at Peninsula Township Park. Here you can explore the 19th century Old Mission Lighthouse and wander through the shade of abandoned orchards and forest on the park’s family-friendly network of trails. Let Dad talk about the good old days when candy was just a penny at the Old Mission General Store, with barrels full of old-fashioned treats for the ride home. End the day curving down through the peninsula, taking a purposefully indirect route to avoid having to leave so soon.