The following is a guest post from one of my favorite bloggers: Cubert. Check out more of his writings on the awesome Abandoned Cubicle!
This is the time of year we start to plan ahead for the summer months. I find this planning process something of a survival tactic for getting through tougher winters with sub-zero, polar vortex action. The kind of deep freeze that won’t even allow for short runs, skiing, or winter biking…
We’ve got our Airbnb condo in northern Michigan; specifically, Charlevoix, Michigan. Year one is in the books and from a money standpoint, we met our goals. This year should be that much richer, now that we’ve gotten past the upfront setup costs of year 1. A post wrapping-up the Airbnb experiment is coming later this month. For now, the focus is all about the fun activities we enjoy in Northern Michigan during our week-long visits, typically in August.
Charlevoix, Michigan: A Beautiful Little Town With Water All Around
What makes this little gem of a place special is its position, tucked between the majestic sandy shores of Lake Michigan to the west, and the impressively large recreational Lake Charlevoix to the east. No wonder that summer temps stay nice and moderate. While much of the Upper Midwest swelters in hot humid summer weather, Charlevoix enjoys the cooling effects of the freshwater bodies that surround it.
No surprise then that folks from Chicago, Detroit, and parts much farther have been calling Charlevoix their summer retreat for well over a century. In the early days they arrived by train. Massive and ornate summer “cottages” were built in exclusive neighborhoods. Each of these grand Victorian cottages, even today, have to be shut down each fall as they weren’t built for year-round living. So yeah, some old money went into making this town the destination that it is today.
Top 10 Things to Do and See in Charlevoix
Number 1: We love the many public beaches.
In summertime, those sandy shores and cleanish, bright blue waters beckon like nothing else. We prefer the public beach on the Lake Michigan side of town, but all the public beaches are excellent for swimming and laying out to soak up harmful rays. The public stretch on the west side of the city offers a breakwater to keep the waters calm for the kiddies, and easy access to potties.
The beaches are wide and the sand is just about perfect. As for the water? Temps are generally on the chilly side, but come late July and August, even wussies can enjoy a splash.
Numbers 2 and 3: The bike paths and routes in this part of the state are excellent.
We bring our bikes every year without fail. A ride to downtown or the beach from our condo takes all of 10 minutes. But the real draw is the Little Traverse Wheelway. It’s a 23 mile (one-way) route from Charlevoix up to Harbor Springs. It’s close to perfect: a smooth-paved dedicated bike path through tall forest pines winding along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Another highlight is the mid-way point of Petoskey, Michigan. A bigger town than Charlevoix, with hip local coffee shops and brewery tap rooms (Beard’s and Petoskey Brewing).
Numbers 4 and 5: Take a boat ride on Lake Charlevoix and then motor down to the Landing.
Or, if you aren’t lucky enough to have a friend with a boat, the Landing is just a ten minute drive south of town in Ironton, Michigan. This place is always rocking in the summer months. A bar and grill that’s all about the Tiki, you can come and admire the expensive water craft and be thankful you don’t own one. The open-air bar and dockside patio action reminds me of travels to the Caribbean. If only they’d keep the reggae and calypso music playing over the speakers like they used to!
Numbers 6 and 7: Enjoy breakfast at That French Place, followed by a stroll through the downtown farmer’s market.
This is the speed I roll at these days. Early mornings, good coffee, and serene outdoors settings. Being in Charlevoix during the summertime (or early fall) offers all of these midlife desires with high quality. That French Place is a cute downtown sliver of a joint that specializes in decent coffee, fancy ice creams, and above all else, outstanding crepes! Having spent a few weeks in Paris before the kids were born, I can attest to the quality. It doesn’t hurt that the owners spend a few months in France every winter to explore and refine their repertoire.
Then, after you’ve put back a crispy, sweet banana and nutella crepe, you can mosey down a block to check out the farmer’s market. This region is known for being the cherry capital of the U.S. and the products here reflect that. Cherry jams, cherry mustards, cherry pies, cherry scented soaps, cherry dog treats… You name it!
Number 8 and 9: Catch live music at the downtown bandshell, after cooling off at the adjacent splash pad.
Okay, to be fair the splash pad is really for the kids, but no one stops me from getting in on the action. I just claim to be out there to keep my own kids from getting into trouble. As for the music? There’s some really decent acts that show up for these free concerts, held weekly in the heart of downtown. Granted, sometimes the local gentry expects Celine Dion, but sometimes they get a Russell Brand 80s cover band that goes over like a wet blanket. I personally find that more entertaining…
Numbers 10 and 11: Check out Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and catch a performance at Interlochen Center for the Arts on the way home.
Sometimes a little road trip is worth the effort. A ninety-minute drive from Charlevoix lies one of my favorite childhood memories: charging up the first sandy hill at Sleeping Bear Dunes. It took a while, but at five or six, I got to the top. My son got up to the top in record time, at age four. Must be his mom’s genes!
The more adventurous will trek a ways further to get to the huge dune that slopes dramatically down to the Lake Michigan shore.
After getting wiped out by trudging through all that beautiful sand, take a quick half hour drive to Interlochen to catch a show in their outdoor amphitheater, nestled in the pines. Many popular artists have spent summers here while honing their craft at youths. Who knows, maybe Josh Groban will have a reunion concert while you’re in town?
If You Happen to be Up North?
Charlevoix is a wonderful place to relax and take in some summertime fun! It’s not too pricey to enjoy the activities noted above. In fact, over half of those mentioned are FREE. If you’ve ever been to this part of the state, feel free to mention the things you enjoy in the comments. I could easily drum another 11 for Charlevoix, including the mid-October Apple Fest and a visit to Castle Farms. Maybe next January, when I’m daydreaming once again about warmer days and NO SNOW.