Northern Michigan is one of those places where it's all about the outdoors, from the majestic sand dunes along Lake Michigan to a traditional drive-in movie theater.
The biggest attraction is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a wonder of Mother Nature that has some of the steepest sand dunes anywhere in the country and some of the clearest water anywhere in Lake Michigan. Heed the warning signs at the steep dunes off of Stocking Scenic Drive. The downhill run takes less than a minute, but the climb back up can take 90 minutes or more and is a challenge for even the fittest climber.
You also can get to the water the easy way-by driving there. We chose the beach at Glen Haven, mostly because it was just up the road from our real destination: Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor. This restaurant, gift shop and cherry mecca celebrates the region's No. 1 crop with original creations, ranging from the cherry chicken salad to the most amazing hamburger I have ever eaten. Adding cherries to the meat results in a yummy melt-in-your-mouth burger, although the cherry ketchup was a bit much.
In Traverse City, rent bikes to explore the miles of bike trails or simply take a walk along the harbor, then jump on the mini train for a short ride around the lakefront park. Don't leave town without taking in a Beach Bums game. This Frontier League team makes a family outing to a baseball game fun again.
If your kids have never been to a drive-in movie, head to the Cherry Bowl Drive-In in Honor. It's the real deal. The snack stand has the look of a 1950s original, as do the trailers, ads and shorts that run before the marquee movie. Is this a great way to see a movie? No. But it's a great experience. Go on your birthday and the booming voice of owner Harry Clark will let everyone know-and everyone will honk their horns to wish you a happy birthday.
Cindy Richards is the mom of two who gets her muse from traveling the world, usually with kids in tow. She also writes for TravelingMom.com, where she also serves as editor.
See more of Cindy's stories here.