Featuring nearly 100 inland lakes, a downtown shopping scene and great spots to unwind with a local brew or craft cocktail, Gaylord is full of hidden gems. From delicious restaurants to outdoor fun, here are the musts for your Northern Michigan vacation or visit to the Gaylord area.

The quaint Alpine village of Gaylord is located on the first knuckle of your middle finger for us Michiganders (or about an hour south of Mackinaw City on I-75, if you want to get technical about it). Known for its abundance of recreational sports and activities, Gaylord is a hub of activity all year round; home to more than 90 inland lakes for water fun in the summer and a winter wonderland situated in the middle of the Lower Peninsula’s ‘Snowbelt’ during the colder months. Whether you’re new to the area or just looking to try something different, here are the stops you’ve got to make while spending a day or two in Gaylord.

Grab a Coffee at Greystone Coffee Co. 

Open year-round 

This cozy little coffee shop is relatively new to Gaylord’s downtown, so stop in to give the staff a warm welcome! Greystone Coffee Co. is proud to partner with Thrive Farmers’ sustainable coffee and tea to serve up whatever your caffeine craving has got you in the mood for. The shop also has freshly made sandwiches and pastries from local spots around town if you’re looking to grab a quick and yummy lunch. 

Feel free to plop into one of their large leather loungers or enjoy the sun out front on the patio area. After you’ve got a nice caffeine buzz, pop in next door to Saturn Booksellers to pick up a new read for the rest of your stay.

Shop the Gaylord Farmers Market 

Seasonal 

If you happen to be in town on a Wednesday or a Saturday, you’re in luck. Head downtown to the large public pavilion where the Gaylord Farmers Market is held. The market is open on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays and has everything from local farm produce to baked goods, snacks, and many other goodies (depending on the season). If you’re here during the winter months, a smaller market is occasionally held inside Family Fare. For weekly updates and more information, check the Market’s Facebook page. 

Paddle One of Gaylords 90 Inland Lakes 

Summer, Fall 

Whether you’re interested in kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, tubing or any other recreational water activity, Gaylord has the hookup. If you’re in need of rentals, the city of Gaylord’s website gives an alphabetical list of all 14 rental companies available in town. 

Once you’ve got your watercraft of choice, there are more than a few choices on where to drop in. A local favorite for calm paddling is Chub Lake; a quiet, spring-fed lake that feeds into the Au Sable River. This lake is fairly undeveloped, making it a great place to spot wildlife, and a fun channel connects the lower and upper Chub Lakes. Another great option is Opal Lake, one of Otsego County’s most stunning lakes. Opal has clear, turquoise waters and sandy bottom, perfect for paddlers and swimmers alike. Drop-in at the boat launch or from the sandy beach, where a restroom is also available. For more paddle-friendly lakes and detailed instructions on how to access them, check out the paddle guide on Gaylord’s website.

Explore the Drafts On Tap at Snowbelt Brewing Co.

Open year-round 

If you’re looking to put some brews in your afternoon, head to Gaylord’s local craft microbrewery. True to its name, Snowbelt Brewing Co. is open all year round, serving beers, ales and ciders all brewed in-house and on draft. Their menu consists of delectable pub-fare and comfort foods including pizza, sandwiches, soups, salads and specialty items, like the ‘Mac Waffle’ (tater tots and mac n’ cheese pressed in a waffle iron and served with a house-made jalapeño ranch). Arrive via car, snowmobile or cross-country skis—Snowbelt Brewing is happy to have you! 

Look for Elk at Gaylord’s Elk Viewing Park 

Open year-round 

If wildlife is your thing, you can’t leave Gaylord without first making a quick stop at Gaylord’s Elk Viewing Park. There is no need to plan more than 15-20 minutes for this stop and it is completely free, but everyone will love getting an up-close look at Gaylord’s herd of elk. Feeding stations attract elk to come close to visitors for awesome photo ops and the large animals can be viewed lounging, butting antlers and wandering around in this natural park where they love to hang out.

Peruse the Old Spud Warehouse

Open year-round  

A shop just as cute and unusual as the antique building it’s housed in—an old farmer’s potato co-op warehouse. Explore the sprawling upper and lower floors of this boutique, stocked with a wide array of quirky ‘Up North’ items, women’s clothing, accessories, furniture (including many ‘Old Spud’ original pieces), shoes, home decor, board games, refrigerator magnets and just about anything else you can think of. If you’re looking for something one-of-a-kind, head to the Spud!

Attend Cocktail Hour at the Bearded Dogg Lounge

Open year-round 

Just a stone’s throw away from the Old Spud Warehouse is the Bearded Dogg Lounge, an eclectic little eatery serving dinner, craft cocktails and brunch on Sundays. The Bearded Dogg relaunched in 2019 with a new local chef at its helm, and they’ve been cooking up delicious, European-inspired meals with locally sourced ingredients from scratch ever since. Sit inside the quirky little restaurant, painted purple and filled with old car doors and various old furniture pieces, or relax on their back patio deck (during peak busy months, reservations are recommended). 

Order from the Bearded Dogg’s extensive specialty cocktail menu, house-made pasta and other entrees, and don’t forget dessert! Since The Bearded Dogg Lounge sources as much of its produce, meat and even liquor from local farms (including from the chef’s own family farm in Gaylord), many menu items are seasonal and are subject to change.

Hit the Downtown Gaylord Shops

Some shops may be seasonal  

Looking to shop small? Downtown Gaylord has some adorable businesses that make a stroll through the quaint Alpine Village well worth your time. Swing by White Birch Outfitters for cute, outdoorsy Up North gear or check out Aub Marley’s for any and all cute antique furniture needs. For some Gaylord-specific goodies, check out the 45th Parallel; a lifestyle brand based in Gaylord, aka the town located right on top of the 45th parallel latitude line. And if you happen to catch a waft of chocolatey, caramel deliciousness, follow your nose just down the block to the Alpine Chocolate Haus, which sells a wide array of gourmet goodies, including ice creams, fudge, popcorn and more!

Searching for vacation ideas, outdoor exploration tips and more in Gaylord? Visit our Gaylord town page to start planning your trip.

Relax with a Beach Day at Otsego Lake State Park

Seasonal  

Home to 62 acres of lakeside recreation space, Otsego Lake State Park has something for everyone to enjoy. Spend some much-needed relaxation time on the white sandy beach, fish off of the pier or have a family picnic in the heavily shaded picnic area, equipped with picnic tables and grills. Kayak, paddleboard and canoe rentals are available inside the seasonal park store for those looking for some lake fun. The state park is also a great place to catch the sunset, so grab an ice cream cone from the park store and hang around for a while!

Book a Tee Time at Treetops Resort 

Seasonal – try skiing in the winter!

Nationally acclaimed and home to 81 exciting holes of championship golf, Treetops Resort is a premier golf destination. If you’re looking for some fun physical activity for the day, there is nothing better than teeing off on one of Treetops’ five award-winning courses, where many of the golf greats have teed off as well. With breathtaking views once golfers hit the horizon (and you see where the resort gets its name), contoured fairways and spectacular terrain, no matter how you play, you’ll be talking about Treetops for days to come. 

U-Pick Blueberries at the Up North Blueberry Farm 

Seasonal

That’s right—fresh blueberries and a group-friendly activity that actually benefits you the more people you bring! Up North Blueberry Farm is a family-owned and operated blueberry farm that has eight different varieties of blueberries to pick from—each unique, all delicious. The bushes are clearly color-coded by marked stakes and a majority weed-free to give pickers the easiest and most fun picking experience possible. 

If you’re going to pick your own berries, the farm asks that you bring your own containers for the berries you pick. Don’t worry—if U-picking isn’t your thing, the farm has some already picked available for purchase, as well as a collection of jams, honey, dehydrated blueberries and blueberry gifts! Be sure to check the farm’s Facebook page for updates on hours of operation, as they may be subject to closure due to weather or ripening berries.

Take a Stroll Through Aspen Park

 Open year-round 

Aspen Park is a hidden Gaylord gem! If you’re looking for fresh air, quiet and an easy hike, head on over. Featuring over 100 acres of woods just a few blocks from town with marked nature trails for hiking, mountain biking, and in the winter, cross country skiing. The trail system itself is made up of five paved trails that form an easy 1.65-mile loop with some crossover for walking, and a 5-mile biking loop that winds around and in and out of the paved trails. Aspen Park also runs adjacent to the Elk Pen, where you will be able to see Gaylord’s wild herd of elk grazing, feeding, and sometimes even clashing in a natural setting while in the park!

Photo(s) by Lauren McCain

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