Spring Break in Your Own Backyard
Under-the-radar indoor and outdoor adventures Up North
By Ross Boissoneau | March 16, 2019
You’ve sprung ahead, and now you’re looking to spring somewhere nearby.Not to worry. The region offers plenty of fun. Sure, you can do the usual: Traverse City Children’s Museum, Kilwin’s chocolate factory tour in Charlevoix, bowling and laser tag at Traverse City’s Incredible Mo’s, or hitting the slopes where there’s still snow — but if you’re looking for less crowded, under-the-radar options for family fun Up North, try these:
Call of the Wild Museum in Grayling boasts some 60 displays of animals from this area and beyond, in natural settings with hand-painted backgrounds. There’s a hands-on Discovery Room, a wildlife theater, and did we mention the displays of artifacts and animals, some with sound effects? Thought so. Located at 850 S. Wisconsin Ave., in Gaylord. Call (989) 732-4336. Admission is $5 for kids 5–12, $7.50 for adults, $7.50 for seniors. Hungry? Try Crave Pizza & Pub at 148 W Main St., with one of its signature pies or pasta.
Up in Cross Village, art- and craft-loving teens will find exceptional and engaging art at Three Pines Studio. Textiles, ceramics, glass, wood and metal work, paintings and more are on display, with works ranging from whimsical to sophisticated. While the studio really cranks it up in the summer, with a full slate of exhibits, classes and workshops, the slower pace of the offseason lends itself to greater reflection and engagement. Located at 5959 W. Levering Road, Cross Village; call (231) 526-9447.
For eats, try Vernales on M-119, between Harbor Springs and Petoskey, for a variety of salads, sandwiches, appetizers, and exploratory eats like Himalayan salt dry-aged beef.
If you’ve got a foodie in the family, do a day of devouring: Start at the Boyne City Indoor Farm Market (on Saturdays, 9 to noon), where nearly two dozen vendors offer everything from scones and chocolates to clothing and carrots. You’ll find goodies from Bear Creek Organic Farm, Beijo De Chocolate, Big Medicine Ranch, Bluestem Farm, Blackbird Gardens — and that’s just the B’s! Located at Boyne City City Hall, 319 N. Lake Street; call Boyne City Main Street at 582-9009.
Still hungry after the market? Can’t go wrong at Café Santé, with its Euro vibe and unique offerings, including eggs, sandwiches, pizza, and scrumptious sides. Located at 1 Water St., conveniently close to Bruce's Gourmet Caramel Corn, where you must try the chocolate peanut butter caramel corn.
Like the outdoors? Sleeping Bear Dunes offers outstanding cross country skiing and snowshoeing on a variety of trails and terrain. The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is groomed for both classic track and skate skiing. And snowshoe hikes with a national park ranger are offered every Saturday at 1pm at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center on M-72 just east of Empire. Call the Visitor Center at (231) 326-4700, ext. 5010 to make a reservation.
Fuel up at the Village Inn in downtown Empire at 11601 S. Lacore (M-22), where you can get a burger (Village, Salmon, or Veggie), portobell fries or other upscale pub fare.
If hiking is your thing, hike south to Elberta Dunes South Natural Area. EDNA, as it’s also known, is the most recent addition to the Village Parks. Rising to 225′ above Lake Michigan, EDNA rewards hikers with beautiful panoramic views of the Betsie River Wildlife Refuge and the Lake Michigan Shoreline. EDNA is at the southernmost part of the village and is accessed by a parking area off M-22.
All that activity will make you hungry and thirsty, so stop in at Stormcloud Brewing, 303 Main Street in Frankfort. While the kids nosh on nibbles like baked brie or Stormcloud beer brat bites, flatbreads, or sandwiches, you can sip a Rainmaker or Fun Guv’nr.
Hiking in Traverse City? You bet. The three-mile Boardman Lake Trail wraps along the eastern and northern boundaries of Boardman Lake. Access and parking at the north end is off Hannah Road, just south of the Traverse Area District Library, and at the south end from Medalie Park, in the Logan’s Landing area off South Airport Road. You can also access the trail from Oryana Natural Food Store at 260 E. Tenth St.
That’s handy if you want to get a bite before or after: Oryana’s hot bar offers daily specials, you can order hot sandwiches, or choose from a variety of cold sandwiches or salads in the cooler. Cookies and scones round out the foodstuffs.
If you’re more into zooming than hiking or schussing, then maybe a trip down Cadillac way is for you. As the unofficialsnowmobile headquartersof the region, the Cadillac area boasts a vast trail system that spreads through the Huron Manistee National Forest — over 200 miles of groomed trails. They offer snowmobilers everything from an exciting sledding experience to for a more leisurely day riding with the family.
After sledding, the Clam Lake Beer Company at 106 S Mitchell St downtown has 40 craft beers on tap, brick-fired artisan pizzas and quesadillas, grilled Angus burgers, and some fantastic salads.
If you want to enjoy the outdoors without quite so much work, you’re in luck. Black Horse Farm offers sleigh rides (weather permitting)drawn by registered Percheron horses. The ride through the farm’s wooded and hilly terrain takes about an hour, with a stop midway at a warming house for hot chocolate. Owners Tom and Kathy Cyr suggest you dress warm, sit back, and enjoy the scenic lookouts over Glen Lake and Lake Michigan.
11177 S Plowman Rd., Empire. Call (231) 334-4705. Adults $17, Children 4–12 $12, 3 and under free. Hit Pegtown Station at 8654 S. Maple City Rd. in (where else) Maple City, for sandwiches and pizza.
If you’re more the indoor type, the Dennos Museum Center offers free admission for kids 17 and under March 22–31. On Wednesday, March 27, from 1-4, join Dennos staff and volunteers for “Colorful Characters,” a drawing activity inspired by art in the galleries. Create a simple, colorful portrait of your favorite person or imaginary friend, using a variety of materials. Both are sponsored by DRAW NoMI, a collaborative arts event focused on bringing people together to make art. On Thursday, March 28 at 7pm, see a free screening of Won’t You Be My Neighbor?Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville looks back on the legacy of Fred Rogers, focusing on his radically kind ideas.
Of course, Traverse City is home to a boatload of great eateries. That’sa Pizza at 110 Munson Ave., directly across from the entrance to NMC and the Dennos, makes it fun and easy, with a variety of pizza, wraps and sandwiches.