...because home doesn't happen overnight.

We usually head south whenever we get the chance to travel, but this year we’ve planned a few trips that will take us north of Ohio just to mix things up. We made one trip over the kids’ spring break and rented a crazy cool cabin in Lake Leelanau, Michigan, near Traverse City. It was a last-minute getaway. We hadn’t planned on going anywhere, but, after we paid off the mortgage, we thought it would be fun to mark the milestone with a spontaneous road trip. We knew nothing about the area and that was kinda the point. The drive was mostly uneventful (about as uneventful as a road trip with three kids can be) until we were a few miles from our destination and got a taste of the whole lake effect thing. We arrived in the middle of a snowstorm and that pretty much set the stage for the next five days. It didn’t feel much like spring, but it was beautiful.

The snow and below freezing temps didn’t dampen the kids’ spirits. They had fun exploring the land behind the cabin and discovered an orchard just beyond the steep hill in the back. Everett couldn’t get over the expansive, open space and took off running saying, “I’m freeeeeeeee!”

Let’s be honest. They were just happy they weren’t in school.

We spent the majority of our time lounging around and hanging out in the cabin. It wasn’t awful. We hit up our local library before we left and I packed the kids’ Legos, so books and builds were in full force. Layne got sucked in to the Wildwood series.

In the evenings, we would unfold the sleeper sofa, pile onto the bed in our pajamas and turn on the TV. We got caught up in Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. Oh my gosh! Have you guys seen that show?! My mouth was salivating the entire time. We decided as a family to start planning vacations based entirely around places we want to eat.

We watched a few movies, too. Song of the Sea was a family favorite (along with Dumb & Dumber which I almost didn’t mention because, holy cow!, Steve and I somehow forgot it contained so many sexual innuendos and probably isn’t the most kid-appropriate movie but, of course, the boys thought it was hilarious). #parentfail

One afternoon while Steve was on a conference call, the kids and I drove into Traverse City, parked the car, stood on the lakeshore, gazed out at the water and tried imagining what it must be like in the summer…until we could no longer feel our faces. While chilly, it was invigorating. It was our first time seeing snow on sand. I thought about how the locals probably didn’t bat an eye at snow on sand, but, to us, it was so surprising and ironic, laughable even.

The lake is gorgeous. I was amazed at how its mood changed depending on the sky and weather. (In southern Ohio, we aren’t graced with vast bodies of water. The muddy Ohio River doesn’t count.) One day it was calm and clear blue, and the next day it was choppy and deep turquoise. It was almost like a living mood ring.

One day after lunch, we meandered through Mercato at The Village. It felt nice to stretch our legs – indoors with heat! The historic property was once the Northern Michigan Asylum and has been preserved and renovated as a unique alternative to urban development. It’s massive! We sampled chocolate and browsed an epic bookstore where Everett honed in on a vintage typewriter. (The kid has a thing for typewriters.) There was a less precious model set up for kids to tap away on which was the highlight of the trip for Everett. In one store, I spotted a t-shirt that read “It’s not spring in Michigan without an April blizzard” and it made me laugh.

Alongside local art, old black and white photographs with accompanying text line the brick walls and tell the story of the former institution. At its prime, the asylum was the poster child for humane treatment of the mentally ill. The superintendent believed patients deserved kindness, comfort, beauty and a sense of purpose. Straightjackets were forbidden. It was fascinating to read.

We ate most meals at the cabin but hit up a few local spots. Our favorites in Traverse City were Slabtown Burgers (try any burger and the sweet potato fries), Spanglish (the salsa verde and pork tostadas are amazing) and The Filling Station Microbrewery (order the rocket with prosciutto and a brewsky).

We stopped off at The Redheads Café for breakfast on our way out of town and were kicking ourselves for not discovering it sooner! (Da’ bomb earns its name.)

When we left, it was still snowing ;)

Thanks for the memories, Michigan. We’d love to visit again sometime when you’re less white and more green. Where should we go next time? We were bummed Mission Point Lighthouse was closed.

P.S. – The cabin was way too cool not to snap a few pics with my real camera. Look for them soon!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

42 Comments

14.April.2016

The cherry fest in traverse city is awesome and a fun time to go! You guys should also check out “harbor country” in southwest Michigan – beautiful sand dunes, quaint little towns, lots of wineries and orchards.

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14.April.2016

We vacation every other summer in northern Michigan just south of Mackinaw. It is beautiful in the summer. We highly recommend trying Michigan in the summer. We stay at my husband’s uncle’s cottage on Burt Lake. A tip, go later in the summer if you can so the water has time to warm up. We went in early June once and the lake had only fully melted from the winter in May so the water was still cold. We love taking day trips to Petosky, Harbor Springs or Mackinac Island.

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replied on April 14th, 2016

This warms my heart! My family vacationed in Indian River for years and years every summer! I learned to swim in Burt Lake and went tubing for the first time on the Sturgeon! :) We always went at the end of July because you’re right, the water needs time to warm up!

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14.April.2016

What site did you use to find/rent this? Also – do you bring necessities such as toilet paper, towel, linens, trash bags etc in addition to groceries? I’m going to a cabin with my family and in laws in WV soon so I have some prep to do I think.

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replied on April 14th, 2016

I found the cabin via Airbnb. This particular rental was equipped with linens, trash bags, paper towels, toilet paper, toiletries, etc. I did pack a large cooler with food and also picked up a few things at the local grocery. I also scheduled a Blue Apron delivery and we had that for dinner one night. Hope that helps!

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14.April.2016

That cabin looks amazing! In July Traverse City has a cherry festival that I used to love. I grew up in MI, now living in NC. We went to Sleeping Bear Dunes for vacation every summer. It’s a magical place that everyone needs to see at least once!

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14.April.2016

What a beautiful family get-away! I am so drawn to your attention to all the details. The snow on the sand. Nothing I’ve ever considered, but so interesting.

My favorite road trip destination over the years has always been Bayfield WI. The town looks like it’s been ripped from a story book. To this day, there is not a single “chain store” in the town. Only home-grown businesses, a real treasure. Bayfield is the gateway to the Apostle islands. The largest of the islands, Madeline, is accessible by ferry boat. This island boast the most incredible fresh water beach I have ever seen. I swear, if someone was blindfolded and dropped on this beach you would think you’re on a tropical island. Sea caves, apple orchards and more art than you know what to do with. The Big Top Chautauqua is fun for the whole family too :)

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14.April.2016

As far as beautiful Michigan in summer spots-Marquette area and Eagle River area. Both amazing with tons of hiking, boating, swimming and fishing. In Marquette check out the grand canyons of the UP ( I can’t remember the actual name !) it’s a small hike in from a parking area and then gorges and waterfalls for miles. Places to vacation for food? Savannah! I went last year with the express purpose of finding the best places to eat and did we ever!

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14.April.2016

You should definitely head up to Montreal. So much to do in the summer! Plus with the terrible Canadian dollar you’re pretty much a bazillionaire

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14.April.2016

Growing up in Ohio, I only went to Lake Erie. After moving to Chicago though I couldn’t believe how pretty Lake Michigan was, especially the sand! My family has rented a house on Lake Michigan a few times now. It’s typically August and we’ve stayed in South Haven (lovely laid back beach that you can walk to, huge Kids Corner Park, and just enough of a town to walk around) and Saugatuck (where the town is much bigger but also busier and the beach is only accessible via car). This summer we are trying out an area north of St. Joseph. Hope this helps.

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14.April.2016

We love Drive-in, Diners, and Dives and usually refer to it when planning our vacation meals. There is a great website that will show you a map of all the places that have made it on a show along your road trip route – http://www.tvfoodmaps.com/Road-Trip

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replied on April 14th, 2016

No way! This is great!!

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14.April.2016

My husband and I stayed in Traverse City on our road trip Honeymoon! The cherry festival had lots to do that summer and we also stopped at the Big Bear Dunes-your kids would probably love climbing up them! We then stayed a few nights at Mackinaw Island-no cars allowed, take the ferry over and rent a bike or a tandem, travel by horse drawn buggy and play a round or two of mini golf on REAL grass. :)

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replied on April 23rd, 2016

Small correction- it’s the Sleeping Bear Dunes. But I agree that her kids would love them!

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14.April.2016

Hey Dana! My husband actually knew Guy Fieri before he was famous! We used to live in Santa Rosa, California where he opened his first two restaurants – one of them (Johnny Garlic’s) was right next door to the radio station where my husband worked!
Glad you guys had a nice getaway…: )

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replied on April 14th, 2016

P.S – My kids are fascinated with vintage typewriters too!!

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replied on April 15th, 2016

No way!! Small world!

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14.April.2016

My daughter just discovered Song of the Sea on Amazon Prime. It is our new favorite movie!

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14.April.2016

You picked a great destination but that whole section of Michigan would blow your mind in the Summer! There are so many great towns in Northern Michigan and all along Lake Michigan. Glen Arbor, Petoskey, Grand Haven, Holland, Saugatuck. Hope you get to visit again soon!

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14.April.2016

What fun! I am a proud Michigan girl and I LOVE LOVE LOVE hearing how other people experience the beauty and fun of our wonderful state. We vacation and camp up in the TC and northwestern upper peninsula every chance we get (at least a few times a year) and it never fails to impress us. You should definitely head back up in the summer – the water is so amazing and almost looks as if you are in a tropical paradise.
Other towns is recommend near there are Frankfort/crystal Lake area (Pte. Betsie Lighthouse is neat), Empire (great public beach), Leland/Fishtown (the cheese shanty has possible the best sandwiches and smoked whitefish in the world), Northport (great beach and a nice drive), Glen Arbor (sleeping bear dunes scenic drive), and definitely driving through mission peninsula and up to the lighthouse. I could go on, but really, there’s not a whole lot that’s better than upper Michigan :) <3
Glad you had a great time!

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14.April.2016

I laughed out loud over your dumb and dumber movie comment! I’ve shown my kids a couple of movies myself that I remember watching when I was younger. Once they were on, I realized I should NOT have shown my kids those movies, ha ha. I’m sure it happens to everyone.

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replied on April 15th, 2016

Good to hear we aren’t the only ones!

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14.April.2016

I grew up in St. Joseph, Michigan, and highly recommend anything up and down the “west” coast, St. Joe, South Haven, Holland, Saugatuck. If you stay in St. Joe, you must try the Mason Jar Cafe over the river in Benton Harbor. Silver Beach Pizza has GF crusts. And if in St. Joe, drive down to New Buffalo for dinner one night, highly influenced by the Chicago tourists so more upscale and modern eats. Offline if ever needed, I can give you a great running path from my parents’ street, down to the beach, and back up through downtown. Great workout and scenery. :-)

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14.April.2016

Wow… The exterior of the house is amazing! Are all the cool lake house in Michigan?! Put this on the list for vacation spots. Thanks! Loved Song of the Sea too! The illustration was incredible.

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14.April.2016

I live in Michigan and, really, you can’t beat the lakes! There are so many awesome places to explore. I second what Chris said about Saugatuck. It is so artsy and lots of fun. Any of those towns up and down the west coast are pretty awesome. The thumb area has some nice towns too. Port Austin is quaint and has some pretty beaches, plus they have a great farm to table restaurant nearby. Tim Allen has all of those “Pure Michigan” commercials for a reason-lol!

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14.April.2016

Loved your MI pics on Instagram during spring break as a Michigander you picked a beautiful spot to visit. You and Steve should come to Detroit for a foodie weekend sometime! We have some new amazing restaurants. As someone who used to head down your way, my MIL grew up in Fairborn, OH isn’t not a bad weekend getaway drive!

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14.April.2016

This looks like my kind of vacay! Nothing like uninterrupted family time. KJ loves the wildwood books too. Hope you can stay in vacation mode a little longer ;)

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14.April.2016

Traverse City in the summer is awesome! You can bike everywhere and it’s so beautiful. Old Mission peninsula is my favorite with all of the wineries and orchards- it’s such a scenic drive.

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14.April.2016

This was so fun to read! I grew up in Traverse City, my parents still live there so we visit several times a year. We currently live in the metro Detroit area, but we lived in Cincinnati for 1 1/2yrs so I’m familiar with the area where you live. I grew up on 11th St, just a few blocks away from The State Hospital (the asylum). When I was in 7th grade we had to make a leaf collection binder for science class and the grounds of the hospital are full of marked trees. You could go into the administration building and get a map that plotted out all of the different species of tress. Parts of the hospital were still in operation when I was a kid and I thought it was such a scary place. It sat empty for years and it was so exciting when the renovations began and the shops, restaurants and the condos were developed. Grand Traverse Bay (we call it The Bay) is wonderful in the summer. Did you pick up/find any beach glass? There are beautiful pieces to be found-we’ve had the best luck in the winter. You must visit in the summer. Cherry Festival is a huge week-long event the first week in July. At the end of July is the Traverse Ciry Film Festival. Old Mission peninsula is gorgeous. Sleeping Bear Dunes is a “must do” the next time you visit. It is truly one of the most beautiful areas in Michigan. The views of Lake Michigan are stunning and the scenic drive is breathtaking. Empire, Northport, Suttons Bay and Leland are all charming small towns. There are many more delicious restaurants to try as well. It was really enjoyable to read about your experiences my hometown!!! I hope you’ll go back for a visit in the summer!!!

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14.April.2016

I live in (and love) Traverse City and – so sorry to say – you happened to arrive at one of our crappiest weather weeks of the year. Not enough snow for winter activities and not warm enough for fun outdoor adventures. Come back in the summer — there isn’t a better place to be, I swear! Don’t miss Sleeping Bear Dunes… but you can skip the Cherry Festival.

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15.April.2016

I am a Michigander and we are currently looking to buy a beach house on Lake Michigan. We rent a vacation house every summer but we can’t get enough of the water! It is so peaceful and serene. My kids could spend the whole day swimming and playing in the sand. Much love for west/north mich :)
Sleeping Bear Dunes and Glen Arbor are a must for the bucket list! Mackinac Island is also a great adventure! You can bike around the entire island and it’s beautiful!! Glad you came “up north” lol

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15.April.2016

Song of the Sea if my kids favourite movie. It is such a beautiful animation and so emotional. After my kids watched it, they were hunting through our closets for their “Selkie” coats.

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15.April.2016

Will you do another post on what you’re wearing? I was going to ask about your tennis shoes, but decided that I would love to hear all your fav outfit recommendations lately. I think you did one last year?

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replied on April 18th, 2016

I’ve been tossing around the idea of doing monthly momiform posts. Is that something you would be interested in? FYI – Shoes are Saucony bullet sneakers ;)

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replied on April 18th, 2016

I would love that!

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18.April.2016

South Haven and St Joe are great family summer time places in Michigan.

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20.April.2016

I LOVE that area! My husband and I are from Cleveland, OH, so while we are familiar with large bodies of water, they certainly look more like the muddy Ohio River than the crystal clear Lake Michigan ;) Traverse City is a must visit during the summer / fall. We visited in early September and it was warm enough that we were able to rent a little boat, lay out and get some sun. Another must do in Traverse City is hiking the Sleeping Bear Dunes. It is strenuous, for sure (pack a lot of water bottles and snacks!), but the views are unlike anything I’ve seen in the US. It truly looks like the Caribbean once you hit the beach. The breweries and food are incredible (I’m sure many have been on DD&D, featured by Guy!) – I can’t say enough as a fellow Ohioan!

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21.April.2016

I had to laugh at you #parentfail comment about showing your kids the movie, Dumb & Dumber! When my two boys were about the same age as your two, their dad and I told them about how funny Roxanne, with Steve Martin, was. Talk about sexual innuendos!! They just thought it was gross. I see from other comments, we’re not the only ones!! Live and learn. They made into their 20’s relatively unscathed from their parents upbringing – haha!

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23.April.2016

My husband grew up in TC, and his parents are still there (in the Slabtown neighborhood!). It is absolutely my favorite place to go in the summer. The weather is amazing, and there is so much to do. You should definitely plan a return trip, explore the wineries along M22.

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24.April.2016

oh, man! wish i could have suggested this before you headed to traverse city, but next time, you should check out the warehouse mrkt (http://www.warehousemrkt.com/). my friend meridith and her husband recently opened this concept, and after following your blog for several years, i think it would be right up your alley!

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replied on April 25th, 2016

Ah, so sad to have missed it this time around!

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31.May.2016

I live in the lower part of Michigan near the Ohio line and we travel to upper Michigan a few times a Summer! One of our favorite places to visit is Grand Haven. They have a Coast Gaurd Festival end of July beginning of August that is amazing! There are so many things to do and see, but the one thing that we highly recommend is their fireworks show the second weekend of the festival. For anyone who is there for the festival and has missed it, it is a crying shame! It is so beautiful, they shoot them off over the bay! Check it out :)

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