Search Results for: bucket list

June 11, 2018

My Little Traverse Bay Bucket List

There’s a big Michigan road trip in the works and one of our stops will be in the Little Traverse Bay Region. There are so many things to do and places to see, I’ve started a Little Traverse Bay bucket list. Given the itinerary of the road trip this summer, I get about 24 hours in the bay area – so this is a big wish list that will have to be checked off over additional trips. Here’s my Little Traverse Bucket List, featuring things to do in Petoskey, Charlevoix and other nearby cities.

Find a Petoskey stone – I’ll fess up, these stones were the reason I looked into visiting Little Traverse in the first place. They’re so intriguing! The stones are actually fossilized coral that have a pretty distinct pattern on them. We can head to the beach of Petoskey State Park to hunt for them.

Petoskey stones are actually fossils. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Taste local brews – I can’t resist a good microbrewery, and in Petoskey, there’s Petoskey Brewing Co. You know what sounds good on the menu (besides beer)? The Ultimate Fries: beer-batter fries topped with a melted three-cheese blend, chopped bacon and served with ranch dressing. The building has an interesting history. The building was opened in 1898 and was once known as the Old Brewery, serving Petoskey Sparkle beer until 1915.

Petoskey Brewing Co. is home to the Ultimate Fries, beer-battered fires topped with three cheeses, bacon and served with ranch dressing. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Do as Hemingway did – Petoskey has some legit Ernest Hemingway haunts. The historic City Park Grill dates back to the 1800s. Sit at the bar (second seat from the front) and you can have a drink where Papa Bear once sat. You can order the Hemingway Martini to complete the experience. Here’s a full tour of Hemingway’s Michigan.

Pond Hill Farm – This sounds like a place that caters to everyone in my family: There’s a farm to feed animals, a hayrack ride to a trout pond, and a winery and brewery.

Pond Hill Farm is guaranteed animal encounters. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Shop the Gaslight District – Petoskey’s six-block Historic Gaslight District looks like a charming area to spend an afternoon shopping. American Spoon is located in the Gaslight District, where they sell artisan jams. A visit to Mclean and Eakin will be great too. It’s one of the top independently-owned bookstores in the U.S.

The historic Gaslight District in Petoskey, Mich., features quaint shops and trendy restaurants, as well as one of the top independently-owned bookstores in the U.S. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Look for the Mushroom Homes – In Charlevoix, there are 26 homes that look like they’re straight out of a fairytale. Designed by Earl Young, these Mushroom Homes are privately-owned, but you can get a self-guided driving tour brochure from the chamber of commerce.

There’s a self-guided tour of the “Mushroom Houses” of Charlevoix. Photo courtesy Visit Charlevoix

See a show – If my road trip started a little later in the summer, I could catch a performance at Great Lakes Center for the Arts. The first show of the summer season is July 7, 2018. Since it’s a bucket list, I can wish for the impossible (my rules), so I’d have tickets to the already sold-out performance of Pink Martini. Love that band!

Drive the Tunnel of Trees – M-119 got the nickname for obvious reasons, this well-known 20-mile route ends at a state park said to have beautifully-colored stones to discover.

One of the most scenic drives in Michigan is along M-119, also known as the Tunnel of Trees. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Stargaze – Skies don’t get all-too-dark in a city, so rare is the chance to find something like stargazing like I could at Headlands International Dark Sky Park (the ninth in the world!). Located in nearby Mackinaw City, it’s free to visit, day or night.

Northern Michigan nights are meant for stargazing. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Maple syrup tour – The Little Traverse Conservancy offers a variety of events year-round, including a chance to visit Parsons Farm and taste the Hardwood Gold Maple Syrup. The Parson family opens the taps during the event, and just maybe, those on the tour get to taste the maple.

Tapping a maple tree at Maple Moon Sugarbush & Winery in Petoskey. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

* * * * *

Need more ideas? Start with Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau and then check out head over to Pinterest and see all the great stuff I’ve pinned:

Get Travel Inspiration Directly In Your Inbox

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

June 8, 2018

My Colorado Springs Bucket List

I’ve been daydreaming about taking the family to Colorado Springs lately. I’m thinking of an unforgettable summer vacation with a little adventure mixed in with breath-taking scenery. Lucky for me, Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau has asked me to share my Colorado Springs bucket list with you all. Think your family would like hiking, zip lines, waterfalls, and animal encounters in Colorado? Keep reading!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own. 

My Colorado Springs Bucket List

Gorgeous hikes – There are a ton of trails to choose from when visiting Colorado Springs. I’m eyeing ones that take me to a waterfall. Seven Falls looks astounding (entrance fee required). 

How could I go to Colorado Springs and not trekking around Garden of the Gods? I heard the visitor and nature center is fun to stop in first before going into the park. There are interactive exhibits and Geo-Trekker movie.

And of course, seeing Pikes Peak is a must, too.

The Garden of the Gods has to be on every Colorado Springs bucket list. Photo courtesy VisitCOS.com

Eat Good Eats – Every bucket list of mine includes restaurants I’d love to visit. I checked tons of posts about must-visit restaurants (I’m drooling over every suggestion in this Denver Zagat post) and, of course, scouted out the best ice cream (I’m thinking Josh & John’s Ice Cream). I’m also pretty sure I need to take the kids to The Airplane Restaurant – it’s in a real 1953 Boeing KC-97 tanker.

Royal Gorge Ride – I thought Royal Gorge was only a bridge you walked across, but now I see you can practically fly across the gorge. I think my family will stick to the calm aerial gondola ride instead of trying America’s highest zipline. Either way, we’re in for spectacular views. (There’s also a skycoaster ride if you really want to feel like you’re flying)

Colorado Springs bridge

Crossing the bridge at Royal Gorge offers families quite a view. Photo courtesy VisitCOS.com

Animals up-close – Zoos have become so much more than passive viewing attractions. I’d love to feed an elephant at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (see all the animal feeding times here). And since this is a bucket list, I think it would be the ultimate experience signing up for one of their Animal Encounters, which is a private enrichment opportunity for a small group with an animal of their choosing.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has up-close animal encounters. Photo courtesy VisitCOS.com

Thrill ride on the river – There are quite a few white water rafting outfitters in the Colorado Springs area. My goal is to find one that operates on a river that’s pretty kid-friendly while still offering a bit of a thrill ride. You know, something scenic with a low difficulty level.

Explore cliff dwellings – My son is big on history and architecture, so visiting Manitou Cliff Dwellings is a must for us. Summer is a great time to visit since there are American Indian dances and wolf encounters.

Colorado Springs cliff dwellings

Time a visit to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings to be in the summer where families can watch American Indian dances and view wolf encounters. Photo courtesy VisitCOS.com

Find the springs – To find the springs of Colorado Springs, we actually need to head to Manitou Springs. There are eight mineral springs to find there, and they’re free to explore. Bring a cup to sample the water.

Play old-school games I’ve introduced my kids to “Frogger,” this winter, so why not go to a place like the family-owned Penny Arcade in Manitou Springs, where they have games like “PacMan.”

Manitou Springs. Photo courtesy VisitCOS.com

Dream of sports greatness – Colorado Springs is home to one of the country’s Olympic training centers. I’d love to take a tour and see some of my heroes have trained.

Do everything at Cave of the Winds Mountain Park – When I say “Do everything at Cave of the Winds,” I mean I want take a cave tour (Cave 101 sounds incredible … and muddy) AND do the adventurous rides there. Check out what they have going on outdoors: The Bat-A-Pult, The Terror-Dactyl, and the Wind Walker Challenge Course. These are definitely rides for older kids.

The ropes course at Cave of the Winds has quite the view. Photo courtesy VisitCOS.com

* * * * *

Want more ideas? I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to family adventures in Colorado Springs. Follow along for travel inspiration:

 

Get travel inspiration directly in your inbox

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

June 5, 2018

My Detroit Bucket List

The more I read about Detroit, the more I realize a weekend isn’t long enough to see everything I’d like to see. Metro Detroit is huge! It spans 1,967.1 square miles. I’ve got a big Detroit bucket list of things to do, places to see, and a lot of food to eat. Why? My family will be there for three days this summer at the end of a long Michigan road trip (I’ve got a BIG bucket list for Michigan, too).

Got tips? Please share your recommendations of what to do and see in Detroit in a comment!

List of things to do in Detroit

Eat all the food – There are so many restaurants I want to go to in Detroit! I’m guessing we ought to try the city’s famous square pizza. Samantha Brown shared two of the original places to find it, so I guess I should go with the oldest, Buddy’s. And then there’s the Coney Dogs, which turns out to be a Detroit thing. There’s simply unique Traffic Jam & Snug, where everything is made in-house, and it happens to be Michigan’s first brew pub. For burgers, I feel like I should go to Motz’s Hamburgers, one of the country’s oldest continuously-operated family-owned burger joints. It’s been around since 1929, so they must be doing something right. I am wondering where we should eat in Greektown – should we get the saganaki at Pegasus Taverna or Santorini Estiatorio. And while in Greektown, I want to get a treat from Astoria Pastry Shop.

There are a few Greektown restaurants in Detroit to add to any list: Pegasus Taverna, Santorini Estiatorio and Astroria Pastry Shop are on this bucket list. Photo courtesy Vito Palmisano

Eastern Market – Keeping with the food theme, there’s Eastern Market. It’s a year-round market for food and Michigan-made products. I’ve read recommendations for Germack Coffee Roasting Coffee, and it is in Eastern Market. I also want to try a Lemon Buttah Pie sold by Lush Yummies Pie Co., also sold at Eastern Market.

The Eastern Market in Detroit is a foodie’s paradise. Photo courtesy Bill Bowen

See a game – My family is a soccer family, so I wish I could say our visit times out to see Detroit FC play. However, the timing doesn’t work. There are plenty of other pro teams, though, to add to the list: Detroit Lions, Tigers and Red Wings come to mind.

Walk under polar bears – The Detroit Zoo has a 70-foot-long Polar Passage, where you can walk through a clear tunnel that gives you a wide view of the zoo’s polar bear exhibit. The zoo has a special exhibit with 4 acres of animatronic prehistoric creatures called “Dinosauria,” which will be open from May 25 through Sept. 3.

The view of the polar bear at the Detroit Zoo is one of a kind. Photo courtesy Bill Bowen

Go to a festival – There are a ton of festivals in Detroit that I’d love to go to none more than Detroit Jazz Festival, the world’s largest free jazz festival. It’s held Labor Day weekend. Another one that sounds like fun is the Stars and Stripes Festival from June 28-July 1. It has music and monster truck rides.

Enjoy the music – I’ve been playing Jackson 5 and Smokey Robinson for my kids in anticipation of this summer. Detroit is home to the Motown Museum, AKA Hitsville USA. It will have a major renovation in 2019, so check to see if any part is closed before visiting. Being a family that loves music, Third Man Records is a store for us, complete with a stage, record booth and a viewing window of its vinyl pressing plant. Plus it’s got a Jack White connection. When it’s just me and Mr. Wonderful traveling, concerts are usually a must for a trip. One venue in Detroit, Cliff Bell’s, sounds great. It’s a restored art-deco jazz club.

You can see where Motown began at the Motown Museum in Detroit. Photo courtesy Visit Detroit

Dive into automobile history – Initially, my plan was to “visit The Henry Ford” because I’d heard a lot about it from other Midwest travel bloggers. Guess what? There’s more than one place. So, if I had unlimited time, I’d visit all three attractions: Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation™, Greenfield Village and the Ford Rouge Factory Tour™. But, top on my list would be to visit Greenfield Village. This 1929 historic landmark is an open-air museum that immerses visitors in 300 years of America life (think living history), and includes extras like riding in a Model T, and on Saturdays and Sundays in the summer, there’s an old-fashioned baseball game.  We could time our visit to Greenfield Village to be during Salute to America, which runs June 30, July 1 and 3-4. It’s music, fireworks and good food.

Step back in time at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich. There’s the chance to ride in a Model T while there. Photo courtesy Gary Malerba

Tea time – On the topic of Greenfield Village, Wading in Big Shoes tipped me off to some great experiences at Greenfield Village and I want to do them all. Of course, I can’t. But, the one that caught my attention out of all of them is Tea at Cotswold Cottage.  I think my daughter and I would love it! . From the sound of things, it’s an American take on the English tradition, which I’m fine with. Second only to tea (and pastries), is the chance to make my own brass candlestick or glass flower at Liberty Craftworks Historic District. My kids are old enough to make a candlestick (must be 6+), but not old enough to do the glass workshop (14+). Both are extras on top of admission.

Tea time is served at Cotswold in Greenfield Village. Photo courtesy The Henry Ford

Fowling – Not a typo, my friends. Somewhere in Detroit, there is a warehouse with fowling courts (pronounced foe-ling). It’s like bowling but with a football. I’d be terrible at it.

Go indoors for the outdoors – I’m planning a big road trip around Michigan to explore the great outdoors extensively, but, in case we don’t get our fill of outdoor adventures, I’ve got the Outdoor Adventure Center on my radar. Kids can walk behind a waterfall, pretend to ride a snowmobile, and try out archery.

Guardian Building – Of all the gorgeous buildings in Detroit, the Guardian Building seems to have more than its fair share of mentions and pictures, and it’s on architectural tours like this one. I need to see this thing in real life. While we’re in the area, we can snap a picture with the Spirit of Detroit.

Guardian Building in Detroit

The Guardian Building’s interesting architectural elements lands it as a stop on many walking tours. Photo courtesy Bill Bowen

Ride the People Mover – It’s not just a way to get from Point A to Point B. My kids live for rides, and riding an elevated train would probably entertain them to no end. The People Mover has been moving people around downtown Detroit for decades.

See the isle – There’s something lovely and inviting about Belle Isle State Park. I’d love to explore it with my family, visiting the nation’s oldest aquarium, stroll the grounds, and just enjoy a little escape in the big city. There’s also the 114-year-old Anna Scripps Whicomb Conservatory and a little zoo (FREE admission) to explore.

The Anna Scripps Conservatory is on Belle Isle in Detroit. Photo courtesy Bill Bowen

Fireworks shows – There are lots of fireworks displays held from June 22 through July 6, including one of the state’s largest fireworks displays, held during Rochester Festival of the Hills. This year, those fireworks are on June 27. Plus, select Detroit Tigers games on Friday nights end with fireworks.

The Ford Fireworks display are well known, occurring around the Fourth of July each year. Photo courtesy Bill Bowen

See a different side of Detroit – There are kayak tours taking beginner and experienced paddlers through canals and to islands. For a more leisurely water experience, there are also sightseeing boat tours.

Kayakers can paddle by Belle Isle in Detroit. Photo courtesy Vito Palmisano

Build a sand castle – Part of Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit becomes a giant urban sandbox in the summer. About 400,000 pounds of sand is dumped there each summer.

Campus Martius Park has a sand beach built in the middle of Detroit every summer. Photo courtesy Lynn Powell

Visit Detroit Museums – I’m a sucker for science centers, so the Michigan Science Center is on my radar (especially since we get in free with our Omaha Children’s Museum membership). Our timing couldn’t be better for our visit to Detroit, though. Detroit Institute of Art has the exhibit “Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume” from May 20 through Sept. 30, 2018. I’m pretty sure my son won’t forgive me if we skip this. While we’re at DIA, I’d love to catch a glimpse of the famous Diego Rivera Detroit Industry Murals. Other unique-to-Detroit museums include Dabl’s African Bead Museum and Arab American National Museum, which has an interesting performance series on select Fridays called Global Fridays. The series features a variety of traditional performing arts from Latin pop to DJs from Beirut.

The Detroit Institute of Art is home to the Diego Rivera Detroit Industry Murals. Photo courtesy Bill Bowen

Ride the carousel – While I’m a sucker for science centers, the my youngest cannot resist the allure of a carousel. There’s one at Rivard Plaza with a river theme; not surprising, since it’s on the riverfront. Also along the riverfront, you’ll find a splash garden and butterfly gardens at Gabriel Richard Park.

* * * * *

Need more ideas? Start at the Visit Detroit. Get more Michigan road trip ideas that are great for families on my Pinterest board:

Get Travel Inspiration Directly In Your Inbox

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

May 30, 2018

My Traverse City Bucket List

This summer, my family is visiting Michigan for the first time for an amazing road trip. I’ve already started my epic Michigan bucket list. We’ll stay a few nights in the beautiful coastal community, Traverse City, exploring the area, and of course, getting some beach time in. Some people know Traverse City for its proximity to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Shore, but it turns out, this little city is a cultural destination. USA Today named Traverse City one of the top 10 great places to combine “big-city art and small town feel,” and it was the only Michigan city to rank in a study by the National Center for Arts Research about the U.S.’s “most art-loving cities.”

Wish list of things to do in Traverse City

I’ve started dreaming up what all we could do in Traverse City (and nearby) if time and money were unlimited. So, here’s my Traverse City Bucket List:

Hit the dunes – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is technically not in Traverse City, but it’s close enough you’d better visit while you’re in the area. These incredible dunes and gorgeous blue water defy the visions of what others must think the Midwest looks like. If we ever return to the area in the winter, there’s the option of snowshoeing the park’s trails.

beach near Traverse City

The view from Empire Bluff at Sleeping Bear National Seashore. Photo courtesy Traverse City Tourism

Hit the beach – There are six city beaches to choose from in Traverse City, as well as a ton of others nearby. I wish we could try them all. If we’re staying downtown, there’s even a beach there (Clinch Park).

Cruise on two wheels – I’m working getting the kids steadier on their bikes, so we could rent some bikes in Traverse City. There are several trails to check out, especially some easy, paved trails for families. The Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) Trail is in-town, while the Little Traverse Wheelway links Charlevoix, Petoskey and Harbor Springs, with pretty views of the gorgeous Lake Michigan.

bike ride in Traverse City

The trails around Traverse City wind through cherry blossom orchards, which bloom in May and are harvested in July. Photo courtesy Traverse City Tourism

Try something with cherries in it/on it – If there’s one fruit I’ve come to associate with Michigan, it’s the cherry. Traverse City seems to their cherries. Most likely, I’ll just have a cherry pie or some sort of dessert. If I feel crazy, there’s the TC Cherry Burger at Slabtown Burgers, some sort of magical burger with cherries and blue cheese on top. Traverse City is also home to the National Cherry Festival, held each year in at the end of June and early July.

The National Cherry Festival is held in Traverse City, Mich, every June and July. Photo courtesy Pure Michigan

Eat all the foods – Beyond cherries, though, there’s a ton of food to try there. Traverse City is one of those places that I sorta, kinda, really wish I was visiting without the kids. There are so many wonderful farm-to-table, European-inspired eateries in Traverse City and nearby. And I know my kids will not enjoy them. I’ve heard marvelous things about Martha’s Leelanau Table, Alliance, Boathouse, The Cooks’ House and Trattoria Stella. And the views some of the have! These will probably wait until my kids are older and tolerate longer meals. We may have to try The Little Fleet, where there are food trucks to suit most any taste. I’ve heard there are good kids menus at Sleder’s Family Tavern, one of Michigan’s oldest, continuously-operated taverns since 1882, and Jolly Pumpkin, a restaurant and brewery. There’s even a burger stand that has carhops: Don’s Drive-In, which dates back to 1938.

The Little Fleet is a collection of food trucks in Traverse City. Photo courtesy Traverse City Tourism

Have a maritime adventure – My son has a vast knowledge of ships. Like startlingly vast. No doubt a sailing experience would be epic for him. We could try sailing (and even hoisting the sails) on the 114-foot replica double-masted schooner, Manitou. The cruise is offered by Traverse Tall Ship Co., who has a float bed and breakfast as well that sounds perfect for a couple’s getaway.

Traverse Tall Ship Co. offers sailing excursions on the double-masted schooner, Manitou. Photo courtesy Traverse City Tourism

Try the Riesling – There are more than 50 wineries in the area, and is considered by many to be the “signature grape” of the Traverse Wine Coast. The winery that’s been around for decades, Chateau Grand Traverse, sells a lot of it. Side note for future trips sans kids: Chateau Grand Traverse was named one of the best coastal wine vacations!

See the Traverse City Film Festival – If it were just Mr. Wonderful and I, and we were in Traverse City at the end of the summer, we’d definitely attend a screening during the Traverse City Film Festival. The State Theatre, connected to the festival, has been named one of the top 10 movie theaters in the world by Motion Picture Association of America. The restored 1918 building looks beautiful inside. And, bonus, it has 25-cent weekly kids and classic matinee shows.

State Theatre is a restored, state-of-the-art cinema in Traverse City and ranked one of the best in the world. Photo courtesy Traverse City Tourism

Night ski – Skiing in the moonlight has a charming ring to it, doesn’t it? Of course, first, I need to learn to cross-country ski, but then, once I do that, I can try it out at one of the ski resorts near Traverse City.

Try one of the world’s best vodkas – How could you resist a vodka that’s ranked among the Top 6 in the world. True North Vodka can be found at Grand Traverse Distillery. My husband’s partial to whiskey, he can try one of the whiskey varieties.

Grand Traverse Distillery has a variety of whiskeys as well as one of the top ranked vodkas in the world. Photo courtesy Traverse City Tourism

More Traverse City bucket list inspiration

Need more ideas? Start at the Traverse City Visitors Bureau. Plus, return to the blog in July to read all about the trip and what we did there!

Get more Michigan road trip ideas that are great for families on my Pinterest board:

Get Travel Inspiration Directly In Your Inbox

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

May 19, 2018

My Grand Rapids Bucket List

Grand Rapids, Mich., has been on my radar for some time because of it’s thriving craft beer scene (it’s not called Beer City USA for nothin’). But as a mom planning a family vacation to the city this summer, my dream itinerary for the Grand Rapids has changed (though I will be ordering local beer when I’m there). This is the first stop in an epic Michigan road trip – and you bet there is a Michigan Bucket List for it.

So I’ve been thinking of all the things we’d do in Grand Rapids if time and money were endless: We’d eat like kings, visit some world-class museums, and definitely have some outdoor adventures (zip lines, dune buggies, and canoeing are all possibilities). There’s a good reason why New York Times named Grand Rapids one of the 52 Places To Go To In 2016. Read on for more of my Grand Rapids bucket list:

bucket list of things to do in Grand Rapids

Eat all the food – If you’ve read any of my bucket lists, you know food plays a big part. And Grand Rapids has an amazing food scene. I wish I could eat at all the places that caught my eye: The Electric Cheetah (which I found on this great Grand Rapids foodie list); Licari’s Sicilian Pizza Kitchen (which apparently was recognized as the state’s best pizza at one point and they rubbed elbows with my man, Bobby Flay). And here’s a burger for all to try: The peanut butter and jelly burger at Grand Rapids Brewing Co. (at least one person says it’s one of the state’s best).

Go old-school with lunchYesterdog is a Grand Rapids institution since 1976 serving up tasty hot dogs in what sounds to me like a very eclectic, quirky setting. The classic Yesterdog is topped with chili, onion, mustard, pickles and ketchup.

Yesterdog is a classic restaurant in Grand Rapids, Mich. You might recognize it from “American Pie.” Photo courtesy Experience Grand Rapids

See why it’s called Beer City – I love sampling local brews while on vacation, but going to a brewery can be dicey with kids. There are more than 40 local brewers in Grand Rapids (hence the name Beer City, USA), and luckily, I stumbled across this list of family-friendly breweries in Grand Rapids! Both Founders Brewing Co. and Harmony Brewing Co. sound like places spacious enough, and friendly enough (Harmony haves books and games), for us to visit while on vacation. Founders has been ranked among the best IN THE WORLD. By the way, there are a TON of brewery tours in Grand Rapids. Look over this list of tours at Experience Grand Rapids. Brewery tours aren’t something I’d do with my kids, but I’m putting it on your radar in case you’re traveling without kids.

Grand Rapids, Mich., is known as Beer City USA. One of the breweries in Grand Rapids, Founders Brewing Co., is known to be welcoming to families. Photo courtesy Experience Grand Rapids

Eat Somewhere Special – I’d love to try the The Cellar Private Chef’s Table Experience at Noto’s Old World Italian Dining, with farm-to-table Italian food paired with Italian wines. Yum. I fully admit this will never happen if we’re vacationing with young kids. However, a mom can dream. Another restaurant that stands out simply because the building is unforgettable is Chez Olga. I’ve never seen anything like it. And since its Caribbean fare was recommended on Chowhound, I kinda really want to dine there.

Lena Meijer Children’s Garden (located in Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park) – No doubt my kids will never want to leave this space. I think the Great Lakes Garden alone will keep my kids entertained for an hour, but then there’s also the Rock Quarry and Treehouse Village and so many other things to see there. Obviously, beyond the children’s garden, there would be a ton more to see. 

The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is home to Lena Meijer Children’s Garden. Photo courtesy Experience Grand Rapids

Happy Cat Yoga – Yoga with cats is a thing, and I’ve found it in Grand Rapids at the Happy Cat Cafe (the city’s first cat cafe). I don’t think I can get my husband on board with taking the whole family to it (and it probably isn’t even going on while we’re there), but a cat lover can dream.

Grand Rapids Public Museum – The 1928 Spillman Carousel is reason enough to bring my kids here, but the entire museum looks pretty interesting. There are three stories of exhibits to see there. 

The 1928 Spillman Carousel inside Grand Rapids Public Museum. Photo courtesy Experience Grand Rapids

John Ball Park Zoo – This looks like a fun zoo with experiences taking you beyond expectations. My whole family would love doing the zip line or ropes course, or have a ride on the funicular. There are animal encounters, too, that would be a hit, especially for my bird-loving youngest, like feeding budgies and the Realm of Flight Bird Show. 

You can walk in the tree canopy at John Ball Zoo. Photo courtesy Experience Grand Rapids

 

Go on a safari ride at Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park – Located in nearby Alto, this hands-on wildlife park isn’t quite a zoo, but you can expect to see exotic animals and reptiles. The safari ride is included with admission and the only way to see larger herds of animals. 

See a show – I love checking theater listings before visiting a new city. The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre has a fantastic lineup, but unfortunately, no shows are on stage while we’re there. We will just miss catching “Shrek The Musical” there! 

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum – Given my day job, you bet I love visiting children’s museums wherever we go on vacation. My kids do, too! Here’s the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum website.

Standing inside a bubble at Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. Photo courtesy Experience Grand Rapids

Stay somewhere historic WITH a pool – I love hotels with unique architecture and history, but they often don’t have the amenities that traveling with kids requires (AKA, a pool). But check out the gorgeous Amway Grand Plaza, which has a pool, folks. I also like its location and proximity to a lot of things on this list. My kids are going to love the place.

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum – I feel like since his birth place is in Omaha, maybe we ought to visit his museum, right? The fascinating Grand Rapids Fish Ladder is within walking distance from Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, so maybe I can kill two birds with one stone in that visit.

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is in Grand Rapids, Mich. Fun fact: Gerald Ford’s birthplace is in Omaha. Photo courtesy Experience Grand Rapids

Catch THE festival – Alas, this will have to stay on my bucket list for another visit. You can’t read about Grand Rapids without reading about ArtPrize. This is a huge festival in Grand Rapids starting in September and running for a few weeks – and it’s FREE.

Beach! – Grand Rapids is near some gorgeous beaches, including Oval Beach in Saugatuck, which is ranked one of the top 25 beaches in the world by Condé Nast Traveler and one of the top two freshwater beaches in the USA by National Geographic Traveler. A little closer is Millennium Park, which has a beach and a splash pad…say no more.

Grand Rapids is near beautiful beaches, including this one along Lake Michigan. Photo courtesy Experience Grand Rapids

Get out in nature – Looks like there are a variety of places to hike with kids even within the city. The Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve has trails and a butterfly home that would be pretty to see. Another option is the Blandford Nature Center near the zoo. Look for more kid-friendly trails here.

* * * * *

Need more ideas? There’s so much more to see in Grand Rapids! Start at Experience Grand Rapids. If Grand Rapids isn’t your only stop in Michigan, check out this Pinterest board with Michigan Road Trip ideas for families:

Get Travel Inspiration Directly In Your Inbox

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

May 17, 2018

My Mackinac Island Bucket List

Mackinac Island has been on my wish list to visit for about a decade now, ever since I read “Best of the Midwest: Rediscovering America’s Heartland.” There’s something about an island that doesn’t allow motorized vehicles that draws me to it. It sounds like a throwback to yesteryear. This summer, I’m finally going to Mackinac Island! The visit inspired an entire Michigan road trip, actually (here’s my bucket list for ALL of Michigan). Side note: I learned it’s pronounced mack-in-naw.

Mackinac Island sits in Lake Huron, between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas. Most motorized vehicles are not allowed except for emergency vehicles. Photo courtesy Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Oh My! Omaha is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Mackinac Island is the vacation destination of 2018, by the way. According to TripAdvisor, it’s the No. 1 vacation destination in 2018, beating out Martha’s Vineyard and Jackson Hole. 

I’ve been dreaming up all the things to do on Mackinac Island, if time and money were not an issue. So go ahead and make your own Mackinac Island bucket list!

My Mackinac Island Bucket List

Why Mackinac Island? Imagine arriving by ferry, then taking a horse-drawn carriage to your hotel. Your main mode of transportation during your stay will involve a horse or two wheels, or if you’re motivated, your own two feet. To me, it’s unlike any place I’ve ever been to. Here’s everything I wish I could do during our very brief, 24-hour stay there this summer:

Take a hike – There are trails throughout Mackinaw State Historic Park, which covers 80% of the island. Arch Rock looks like a particularly beautiful sight to see, and is accessible by foot, bike or horse-drawn carriage.

Arch Rock is one of the most iconic natural wonders on Mackinac Island. Photo courtesy Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau

Have a “Grand” lifeThe Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island looks majestic – and no two guest rooms are alike. You probably recognize it if you’ve seen the movie “Somewhere in Time.” It’s also remarkably family-friendly. It’s one of the Top 10 kid-friendliest resorts in the U.S. and Canada according to Travel + Leisure Family magazine. I’ve got plans to stay night; those without accommodations can visit for a day fee.

Grand Hotel has been open since 1887. The Mackinac Island hotel is a National Historic Landmark. Photo courtesy Don Johnston

Eat all the food – It wouldn’t be an Oh My! Omaha bucket list without a lengthy list of food I want to eat. For a small island, I’ve found a good list of restaurants to visit. I started with this list of 10 Foods To Try On Mackinac Island, from which I’ve decided I’ve got to try the famous smoked whitefish dip from Round Island Bar and Grill; breakfast at The Chuckwagon; High Tea at The Grand Hotel; For drinks, I hear a rumrunner hits the spot The Thrillist’s designated as the Most Iconic Bar in Michigan: The Pink Pony.

Sweet Treats – Mackinac Island is known for its fudge shops, as I’m discovering while planning for this trip. Which is the best? Who knows? It might be my job to find out. Side note: I found out the islanders call tourists “fudgies.” I will be one of them. Beyond fudge, I’ve read on a couple blogs that the dessert of choice (after fudge) on the island is the famous pecan balls at the Grand Hotel. But then, reading Deb’s Mackinac Island tips on her blog Just Short of Crazy, I learned there was one more to add to my snack list: Popcorn balls at Stonecliff Hotel. Duly noted.

An up-close photo of fudge made on Mackinac Island. Photo courtesy Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau

Kayak – If the kids were a little older, I think it would be fun to take them kayaking through the Straits of Mackinac. You can get a pretty unique view of Arch Rock from the water. Maybe on a future visit, we could hit the water with the kids. 

Kayaking near Arch Rock on Mackinac Island. Photo courtesy Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau

Explore history – My son is a big history buff, so we like indulging him on vacation. The National Historic Landmark Fort Mackinac would be great for him. There are people in period costumes and the kids (and, let’s be honest, I) could dress up as soldiers and learn marching drills. You can also sign up early to fire a cannon, which I am definitely going to do when we’re there.

Mackinac State Historic Parks includes the historic Fort Mackinac, where people are dressed in period costumes and there are a variety of interactions. One visitor each day can sign up to shoot the cannon at the fort, too. Photo courtesy Mackinac State Historic Parks

Carriage ride – Since cars aren’t allowed on the island, there only a few ways to get around. My kids aren’t the steadiest on bikes yet, so carriage rides will suit us nicely. You can do a tour by carriage, or use it to go from Point A to Point B.

Transportation on Mackinac Island is limited to horse (or horse-drawn carriage), bike or foot. Photo courtesy Pure Michigan

It’s interesting that since no motorized vehicles are allowed on the island, even the UPS guy has to deliver by horse-drawn carriage. Check out this photo Tim from he Walking Tourists shared with me from their visit to Mackinac Island. Yep, that’s the delivery guy.

Since most motorized vehicles are allowed on the island, even deliveries are made by carriage. Photo courtesy Tim Trudell

Dinner at Woods Restaurant – Speaking of carriage rides, my ideal ride would be in the evening to Woods Restaurant, which is styled to look like a Bavarian mansion in the woods (and happens to have a duck pin bowling alley). Read about it here.

The Woods Restaurant on Mackinac Island is designed to look like a Bavarian lodge, and has a duckpin bowling alley. Photo courtesy Grand Hotel

Bike ride – I’d love to see this whole island by bike – which is super manageable since there are no cars to contend with (though I guess there are carriages to watch out for). We might attempt a ride with the kids since they are now fairly steady on bikes. Wish us luck. Here are some of the things we might encounter on a ride around the island.

Biking is a very popular way to get around Mackinac Island. Photo courtesy Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau

Butterfly House – This beauty keeps popping up on bloggers’ reviews of Mackinac Island, so I’m beginning to think I ought to have it on this list. I have nothing against butterflies, it’s just that we have an exceptional one at Omaha’s zoo. Anyone have any strong opinions in favor of The Butterfly House?

What Should Be Add To This Mackinac Island Bucket List?

What’s missing from this list? Where should we dine when we’re there? What should we skip, what should we not skip? Leave me a comment with your tips!

wish list of things to do in Mackinac Island

 

Start pinning Michigan travel ideas with me! I’ve started gathering all the family-friendly, foodie and adventurous travel posts about Michigan onto my Michigan Road Trip With Kids board. Happy pinning!

* * * * *

Get travel inspiration in your inbox

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in the Omaha metro, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.