Hi friends! I am so excited for today’s post because it has been highly requested since last summer (oy, so sorry). A few weeks ago we took a trip to Northern Michigan and received so many questions about where to stay, what to see, where to eat, etc. that I wanted to share our favorites here! To quickly note, this is not a “Guide to Northern Michigan!” mainly because we aren’t super knowledgeable of the area. In fact, I had never even been to Michigan before meeting Dave. When you’re from Illinois, I feel like your family either goes to Wisconsin or to Michigan and mine always chose Wisconsin (even though my mom is from Michigan originally). Dave’s mom was born and raised in Traverse City so all his life he spent summers in Northern Michigan, his dad also owned a farm in Leland so Dave has such a strong love for the area. We try to get up there at least once a year but because it is a 5-6 hour drive from Chicago, a weekend doesn’t really cut it (especially when you’re driving with kiddos). Last summer Dave’s mom rented a house in Suttons Bay (a great town!) for a week and this summer we rented a house in Frankfort – both are beautiful locations with so much to see and do with family and friends.
Ok but let me break down the location for you…using this handy little map (haha!).
M-22 is the highway that goes around Leelanau County. Traverse City is a great place to start and is definitely a bigger city feel. Last summer we stayed in Sutton’s Bay which is the first “lake town” around the peninsula and north of TC. We didn’t venture up to Omena and Northport, instead we would jet over to Leland, down to Glen Arbor and then just south of Empire (not in Leelanau County) is Frankfort where we stayed this year (it is in Benzie County on Crystal Lake + Lake Michigan) and from there you can drive back over to Traverse City which is about an hour drive. A few additional locations that are NOT a part of Leelanau County but also great places to visit are Bay Harbor, Petoskey, Walloon Lake and Charlevoix (all about 1 hour/1.5 hours from here!). Ok I digress, but these are the towns that we love the most and that I’ll be talking about!
Sutton’s Bay – we rented a house here last summer with Dave’s mom! It was a short little dirt path walk down to Lake Michigan and had a big wrap around front porch. I personally feel like getting an Airbnb or VRBO house with kids is way more cost effective and enjoyable for families. If my kids can have their own rooms or if there is a place we can hang out after they go to sleep, that is way more enjoyable to me than any hotel room. I am not going to provide links to where we stayed but trust me there are plenty of options, especially if you plan in advance!
*Note, when I mention specific spots, it doesn’t mean that I don’t love other spots in town! It’s just that these are the places I/we loved and I wouldn’t miss and every other place is just great, up-north options! Like I said, this isn’t a “guide to…” but more like our family’s favorites. I know if you visit any of these spots you’ll find so many places and things to love.
Must See Spots in Sutton’s Bay
Hop Lot Brewing Co. – amazing beers + food plus a HUGE outdoor area for kids to play and parents to enjoy! Fire pits, games, and so much more! Charlie even cooked his own hot dog on the fire. We went here 3 times in one week!
At Home – the cutest home decor store! The prettiest furniture, table settings, decor, planters, textiles and so much more.
Must See Spots in Leland
Fishtown – Leland itself is such a cute town but Fishtown is a commercial fishing area with many of the original shanties filled with cute boutiques, food shops, galleries and more. It’s such a fun area to explore! Make sure to get a sandwich at the Cheese Shanty! Leland Gal is also a super cute boutique in Fishtown!
The Bluebird – our favorite restaurant in town! Such a pretty setting and the Early Bird next door is perfect for breakfast + lunch!
Blue Boat Coffee – pretty lattes and delicious pastries!
Must See Spots in Glen Arbor
Art’s Tavern – this was the first place Dave took me, the first time we went up north. It has been a local watering hole since 1934 and is a favorite! Great for a burger and a beer.
Cherry Republic – you can’t go to Northern Michigan and not go to Cherry Republic. Get a jar of the cherry salsa – yum!
Sleeping Bear Dunes – Glen Arbor is 10 minutes from Sleeping Bear Dunes which is a great place to visit with kids! Our boys may be a little too young still but such a beautiful place to visit and a fun spot to explore!
Must See Spots in Frankfort
Stormcloud Brewing Co. – a great restaurant and outdoor area for families! They have delicious beers, yummy food and just a great vibe! I love their pizzas.
Birch & Maple – a great spot for breakfast/brunch/lunch! All farm to table food and so so yummy. Such a cute little spot!
L’Chayim Delicatessen – a classic Jewish deli with the yummiest sandwiches and bagels! Pick up a sandwich to have a picnic on the beach!
Crescent Bakery – oh my goshhhhh the donuts, get all of the donuts.
Betsy Bay Furniture – beautiful decor! I bought a few cute things for the boys like camper hooks + a watercolor fish print!
Point Betsie Lighthouse – make sure you take a trip to see this beautiful spot! I think you may be able to ride bikes here?
Ok, obviously we spent majority of our time in Frankfort this year so quite a few more recommendations there! Honestly, even if I didn’t mention a cute shop – there is so much to explore in all of these adorable towns! And so many other towns to explore too! Great restaurants, all of those quintessential lakeside boutiques with sweatshirts and hats and other vacation stuff. Each little town is nestled and sweet and just picture perfect. We love this area so much! Again, I personally recommend renting a house vs. a hotel (I can’t give recommendations there because we’ve never stayed at a resort Up North!). But I hope this little list is helpful for any upcoming trips! Northern Michigan is such a fun place to explore with family and friends!
Have you been?? What is your favorite town? What are your favorite spots that I’m missing?!
PS: You can find all of these outfits in the LTK APP! Linked here (: just scroll through to find the item you’re looking for!