7 Fun Michigan Day Trips for this Summer

It’s almost Memorial Day weekend, which means summer is upon us! We’re entering the glorious season of sunshine, warm weather, and long days starting NOW. Get excited! If you’re coming to Michigan on vacation or you live here and want to try something new on the weekend, here’s a list of 7 places worth checking out.

1. Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes

Named Most Beautiful Place in America in 2011, Sleeping Bear is one of our favorite spots to visit! For just $10, a car full of people gains entrance to the entire park for a whole week. For $20, you get an annual pass, good for a year from purchase–so if you’re going to come back even once in the next 12 months, buy the annual pass.IMG_1843

We love exploring Glen Haven–the blacksmith shop offers free demonstrations, and the general store is fun to poke around. The Maritime Museum is really interesting, and offers a fun re-enactment at 3 pm every day all summer long. Most importantly: the pristine beaches and the gorgeous views along the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.  It’s a beautiful place to be in the summertime!

Insider tip: if you want to camp at DH Day Campground, get there early. They don’t take reservations and are almost always full, but if you get in line in the morning, you have a chance of snagging a site right as someone else is leaving.

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2. Cherry Bowl Drive-In Theatre

Open Memorial Day through Labor Day, Cherry Bowl offers a double feature which is always family friendly. Just pull your car up and enjoy! They also have mini-golf, a playground, and an onsite diner for dinner and snacks. We’re looking forward to a catching a movie this summer!

3. Traverse City, MI

If you want a more urban experience, Traverse City is your city! Wander Front St, take in a movie at the (air-conditioned) State Theatre, grab a cup of coffee at Brew, check out shops at The Commons (on the grounds of the old State Mental Asylum), and hit up any one of the many delicious restaurants for dinner. After dinner, take in a Beach Bums game just South of town, or stroll a couple of miles of Grand Traverse Bay coastline.

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4. Torch Lake and Shorts Brewery

Torch Lake is regularly on lists for being inland, gorgeous, shallow, and clear. Much of the property around the lake is privately owned, but follow signs for any of the boat launches, and you can use it as your home base. Bring something to float on, a picnic, and drinks, and you’re set for a day of summer fun. When you’re ready for a break, head over to Bellaire (on the East side of the lake) for food and drinks at Short’s Brewing Company. You won’t be sorry! Most nights of the week they have free music by local bands.

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5. Winery Tour and Tasting

From Traverse City, head north on either side of the bay, and you’ll find winery after winery after winery. These fruit-based, local wines are sweet and delicious, and many wineries offer low-cost tastings. We loved our visit to 45 North and Tandem Ciders, and I hear great things about Blackstar Farms, but any of them are sure to offer a unique experience.

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6. Interlochen Center for the Arts

Each summer, Interlochen brings world-class entertainment to Northern Michigan. Tickets can be a bit pricey for big name performers, but check out their summer camp performance schedule–many of these student musicians are at the top of their game, and will offer really great performances at lower ticket prices.

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7. Float a River

There is no better way to spend a hot, summer afternoon than floating a river in a tube. No better.  Each year, we float the Manistee River with out-of-town friends. We rent tubes from Wilderness Canoe Trips, and do their 3 hour float trip, which includes a shuttle pick up at the other end. If we can track down our own tubes, we float the Platte River by Sleeping Bear Dunes. You can choose how far up river you want to park, and float your way to Lake Michigan. For more information on parking and routes on the Platte, click here. tubing

The Bottom Line

There is so much to see and experience in the summertime–this list is just scratching the surface and only covers one corner of The Great Lakes State. With affordable camping and vacation rentals available and so many fun things to do, you could easily combine a couple of day trips into a fun weekend trip!

What would you add to the list? Where do you like to visit in Michigan?

If you’re interested…..3 islands you need to see and taking better vacation photos.

Torch Lake photo from flickr.com. Traverse City street photo from the Toledo Blade. Tubing photo from Huron Manistee National Forest Service.

Cheesey, Saucy Stuffed Pasta Shells

These shells are the perfect balance of pasta, meat, sauce, and cheese. Anyone you share these with, if you choose to be generous, will be hard pressed to say no to seconds (or thirds, or…). An added bonus: you can make them in advance and freeze them for a quick weeknight meal. Serve with garlic bread, and you’re a quintessential Italian.

Stuffed Pasta Shells

Serves: 4 (or 6 as a side)

Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

You’ll need:

  • 1 box of giant pasta shells
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. oregano
  • 2 tsp. basil
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese (divided)
  • 1 jar marinara sauce (16 oz)

1. Prepare pasta according to packaging directions. My box gave me two cooking times: 1 to eat the shells right out of the pot, and one to prepare them for baking. Choose the “bake them” figure, or subtract two minutes from the “eat them” time.

2. Reserve 1/3 cup of your cooking water once they are done, and drain the shells. Set them aside to cool.

3. Cook your ground beef. Drain off any fat. Add to the pan your reserved pasta water, garlic powder, oregano, basil, parmesan, and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Mix to combine.

4. Cover the bottom of a 9×13 inch glass pan with a thin layer of marinara sauce.

5. Fill each shell with a scoop of beef mixture, and lay it in the 9×13. Continue until all of the beef is used. Cover with remaining marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese.

6. If you’re going to freeze the shells for later, this is the point at which you would do so. If you’re not, cover with foil, bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil, bake for 3 more minutes, or until cheese gets a little brown.

7. Serve with garlic bread and a little more parmesan cheese–if that’s your thing.

To cook from frozen: allow it to thaw in the fridge all day, and then pick up at step #6. Enjoy!

What other make-ahead/freezer meals do you like?

If you’re interested…..lasagna and from scratch pasta.

Saturday Small Talk

It’s Saturday! What are you up to? We had a campfire with friends last night to plan a summer backpacking trip. Yay summer! Yay backpacking! And tonight, we’re celebrating our adorable niece’s first birthday. What a great weekend.

IMG_20140509_192834In case you missed it, this week on Balance and Blueberries we chatted about the most delicious and easy to make summer salsa, as well as 3 islands worth the boat trip.

Other interesting things I found on the internet:

Gorgeous “sheds” for your work-from-home business. Yes, please.

How to make a great cup of coffee at home.

Home decorating ideas to steal from the Scandinavians.

Does your “flexible schedule” at work mean you need to be available 24/7?

10 things successful people don’t do.

You could buy a 94 acre, private island in Ireland for less than the average home price in the UK. Shall we crowd source this, friends?

Take a mental health day.

11 interesting things about Type A people.

If it’s chilly where you are, this Creamy Tomato and Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons looks delicious.

Bloggers and writers, this fun tool from CoSchedule will analyze your headline for you and tell you if it’s any good.

Enjoy your weekend!