By Sofia Lynch
And Colin MacDougall
Michigan is a state of copious natural beauty – much of which goes unvisited or unknown by its citizens, due to matters of time or funds. Exploring can be done cost-and-time efficiently, with some perseverance of course. The Voice took the time to explore Michigan’s West coast. And while our two-day trip might be too tight of a squeeze for the average traveler, the route could be stretched throughout several days – creating an optimal route for hitting all of the West coast’s major landmarks and natural areas The Voice highlights some of the many attractions and oddities to be found along the way. From beaches to llama farms, there is much to be seen.
Start: Ann Arbor, Michigan
First stop: Grand Rapids Art Museum
The Grand Rapids Art Museum is a good midway point on the way to the first major stop, Grand Haven. The art museum provides an opportunity for travelers to get out and stretch their legs, while also getting their mind off the road by indulging in some art. Currently featured at the GRAM are pieces featured in the Grand Rapids Art Prize, as well as, an exhibition on Maurice Sendak, author and illustrator of “Where the Wild Things Are.” The exhibition commemorates the 50th anniversary of the publication of the book. The exhibition contains original drawings, prints and posters of Sendak and is open until May 22.
Next: Grand Haven
Many come to Grand Haven often for its beautiful beaches and closer to the Ann Arbor area. Aside from an expansive beach front, the city also has an infamous lighthouse, plenty of interesting food options, and one of the world’s largest synchronized musical water fountains. Grand Haven has several festivals that go on during the summer months like the Grand Haven Art Festival, June 25 and 26, and the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival from July 31 to Aug. 7.
Ludington is loved for its sunsets and its beaches, but also for the downtown area and other attractions, like the Big Sable Point Lighthouse. Ludington is home to one of the two House of Flavors restaurants, located in the quaint downtown, that travelers and Ludington citizens alike adore. Ludington has Sunset Bonfires on Stearns Park Beach on June 11 and 23, July 28, and Aug. 25, 2016. The Ludington Sunset Bonfires are free and open to the public. The bonfires start at 8 p.m. and are accompanied by live music. Also nearby to Ludington is the historic White Pine Village that can be visited for an interactive and educational experience about the area’s past.
Next stop: Pajama Llama Ranch in Free Soil Michigan
Created out of an unforeseen purchase by the owner’s father-in-law at an auction, the Pajama Llama Ranch is home to many llamas, dogs, horses, and the owners of the ranch as well. Ron and Tonya Wilson have owned this ranch for six years, and are very welcoming to guests. For kids and adults alike, the PLR makes for a great place to get out of the car and once again, have an experience that will take your mind off the road.
Next stop: Manistee national forest
Not far from the Pajama Llama Ranch is an entrance to the Manistee National Forest. This 540,187-acre national forest is just one of the many natural beauties that can be taken in while on this road trip.
Next: Take a picture with the yellow dinosaur of Kampville Mobile Home Park in Bear
Just off of the route of Highway 31, there is a large yellow dinosaur that jumps out at you from the side of the road – not literally of course. This makes for a good place for family photos and memories along the road.
Next: Stop for a bite at the infamous Cherry Hut, or even just a piece of pie for the road
The Cherry Hut of Beulah is a nationally-known restaurant, loved for its delicious pies, jams, and array of cherry-themed options. Starting as a pie stand in 1922, the Cherry Hut has since grown to become a hot-spot for foodies and Beulah natives alike.
Next: Take scenic M-22 to the beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes
Whether this is just a stop on a longer road trip or the main destination, the Sleeping Bear Dunes is the optimal area for taking in the natural wonders of Michigan. If one is really ready to hike, some brave travelers can take a path over sloping dunes to a highly-sought-after view. Others come just to traverse the hulking dune that greets travelers and then enjoy the run back down. Also, many Michiganders revere M-22 – the road taken to the Sleeping Bear Dunes – as one of the most scenic routes in the state.
Next: Head to traverse city to stay in a cozy waterside-hotel or bed and breakfast
Traverse City is one of Michigan’s most visited up-north destinations. Much like Ludington, Traverse City is loved for it’s beautiful beaches and happening downtown area. Located on the Old Mission Peninsula, which juts out from Traverse city, is the sought-after Mission Point Lighthouse. Traverse City also has many interesting food options, like the Little Fleet food truck gathering area – with varying food options available – or Don’s Drive-in, for some classic burgers and malts. There are also copious amounts of vineyards and wineries in the area, available for tours and tastings.