Category Archives: Michigan Beauty and Fun

Where to Eat and Where to Stay on Mackinac Island

Over the fifty years of our visiting Mackinac Island,  Alan and I have tried most of the restaurants and many different hotels. When the kids were little, we often camped in St. Ignace or Mackinaw City
and just took the boat over for the day, packing picnic lunches and mega snacks.  In fact, for years I would make my own fudge,
and sometimes Alan would haul over all our bikes too.  There’s no way of making a trip to the island “cheap,”  but these options definitely keep the costs down a little.  In the last ten years, since the kids have grown up, Alan and I have been exploring more, and I want to share a few of our favorite finds,  although to be honest, we keep trying new places, because the variety is fun,  and there seem to be so many great options.  Concerning food, our all-time favorite lunch spot is the Village Inn.  The food is always delicious.  It’s not quite as casual as a hotdog out on the boardwalk (also very fun),  or as gourmet as a dinner at the Grand Hotel (which is superb),  but every meal is consistently excellent,  and we almost always end up eating there at least once while we’re on the island.

When we still had several kids at home, we stayed at “La Chance” Cottage  (lovely; pictured above) and ate at “Brian’s BBQ” (great food and good prices). They’re under new ownership now, so I’m not sure how that’s affected prices.Since those “good, old days,” we’ve been “found” via social media, and I tend to look for special package deals and online offers.

Among our favorite “package deals” so far are the Island House,  which is one of the (many) beautiful, old historic hotels built back in the 1800’s, and Mission Point Resort,  which is another great place to stay.  They have excellent dining and a vast lawn for relaxing! Of course, the Grand Hotel is the quintessential lodging experience. My parents used to stay every year either early or late in the season, when they typically run special deals, although Alan and I have only stayed there once… during a medical meeting, with reduced, corporate rates. One of the perks for staying there is getting a carriage ride up to the hotel, but everything is top flight. It would make a great honeymoon spot!  For “every day special,” the main street is full of hotels. Here is my list of “Let’s try these someday.”
(If you’ve tried any of them, please let me know what you think, will you?) Cloghaun Bed and Breakfast Metivier Inn Lake View Hotel (on Main Street) Lilac Tree Hotel  The Inn on Mackinac If you’ve stayed somewhere and loved it, will you let the rest of us know? Thanks!

Every time we visit Mackinac Island, Alan says it feels like a little piece of heaven on earth, because it’s so remote, peaceful, and beautiful.      Like heaven, you can’t really get there on your own! (Some probably try.)Jesus is like the boat that ferries us to this place of beauty and joy: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6). Like Mackinac Island, there will be wonderful food in heaven, but unlike Mackinac Island, you won’t have to be rich to afford it!  “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1)Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness” (Isaiah 55:2).Like Mackinac Island (and even better!), there will be many beautiful places to stay: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). However, like Mackinac Island, heaven is a “private residence,” and we can’t stay there without permission! Thankfully, Jesus has invited us all to come: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). To go to Mackinac Island, you have to have time and money, but to get to heaven, all you have to do is have desire and faith: “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you” (Isaiah 55:3). What is the covenant? Salvation by believing in Jesus and and surrendering your life to him. As Jesus taught, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29).You may never get to Mackinac Island, but you can always get to heaven if you want, because Jesus promised: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).* (*This last beautiful photo is another gift used by permission of Robert Hardee.)

 

Sixteen Wonderful Ways to Enjoy Mackinac Island

Most of the time when Alan and I travel, we go places we’ve never been before, because we love how much we learn from new experiences.  However, there are a few treasured places that we return to again and again, and Mackinac Island is one of them.  Our first trip together was back in 1966, and this spring marked our 50th anniversary of enjoying the island together, so I’m no longer a novice and feel some confidence in sharing our list of all-time favorite things to do:  #1. Take a boat to the island. This is mandatory, since you can’t swim there, but the ride is super fun, so be sure to savor it…which will happen if you’re prepared.It’s usually chilly and windy, so you might want a fleece or hoodie, which you can store in locker on the island if carrying it in your backpack is a problem.         (Of course, if it’s really too cold or rainy, you can ride inside the cabin.) Also, the weather is unpredictable, so you might want an emergency raincoat. Last summer we took Michael’s family on a day when the weather prediction was “sunny and warm,” but our bike ride turned out to be “rainy and cold!”  If  you time it right, the Star Line will take you under the Mackinac Bridge in transit. This is definitely worth considering, although being on the island as long as possible is worth more than checking under the bridge for trolls.

 #2. Bike around the island.  It’s just eight miles and can be done in an hour  (plus stops, but do stop!).               The views are stunning  and the adventure totally memorable!    Besides all that, it’s the only highway in America  where no cars are allowed!          #3. If you don’t want to bike, walk around the island. (We usually do both.)              It might take you more like 2-3 hours, but it’s worth every minute.         #4. Climb up to the top of Arch Rock for the best views on the island!     (If you don’t have a heart attack, you’ll never regret it nor forget the view.) #5. Chase some seagulls… (and watch your food!)  #6. Skip some stones. (It’s usually too cold to swim, but wading works,
and a few people have been known to swim in July or August if it’s really hot.)  #6. Build a cairn; it’s trendy the world around. If you’re in the mood, you could even associate it with some special prayer that you’ve been asking God about. However, lots of people just build them strictly for the fun of it!  🙂  #7. Buy some fudge. It’s overpriced but wonderful,  and the shop keepers don’t call the tourists “Fudgies” for nothing!  #8. Explore the town, taking time to enjoy all the beautiful buildings,  people, sights, sounds, and scents! #9. Tour the Grand Hotel, which has the world’s longest wooden porch. They do charge you to walk on it, however! If you can’t spare the cash,
you can still walk around and enjoy the beautiful views and gardens.  #10. Tour historic Fort Mackinac. They have costumed soldiers and shoot off cannons (with tin foil balls) into the harbor. It’s educational and fun.  #11. Enjoy lunch at one of their great restaurants, or pack a picnic and eat on the governor’s lawn. (Did I say that?? I think we actually did that 50 years ago because the governor wasn’t there, but today we wouldn’t be so cavalier.)  #12. Take a horse-drawn carriage tour of the island. You’ll learn a lot of interesting facts about the island and its history. (Next week I’ll share more.) #13. If it’s a sunny day and you’ve got the time, stop at the Butterfly House.  #14. If you’re a shopper (or even if you’re not, like me…)
there are dozens of lovely shops worth exploring. #15. If you’re spending the night on the island,
walk down the boardwalk and watch the sun set. #16. Otherwise, get in line early so you don’t miss the last boat off the island! I’ve thought a lot about the fact that even when we’ve been somewhere
a zillion times, we can never perfectly predict what will happen.  There are times when we’re expecting sunshine but get caught in the rain! We’re praying for a friend who’s developed an infection at the port site
for his chemo, causing a delay in treatment, and for another friend
who badly injured her leg while visiting Japan a few weeks ago.  Life is full of storms and challenges. I am thankful that through both the sunshine and shadows of life,
we can know that God is ahead. He will lead us and guide us
safely through all the storms as we trust in Him.   (As I watched the sunset, I saw this cloud formation, which looked like an angel with a lamp in his hand, flying down to earth to light the way. Can you see it?)

“In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed:
deliver me in thy righteousness”
(Psalm 31:1).

 

Mackinac Island’s 2017 Lilac Festival: When is the Best Time to Visit?

The 2017 Lilac Festival on Mackinac Island is in full swing, and if you have any time (and money) between now and June 18 (and live anywhere within striking distance), I think you’d find great pleasure in visiting.      Alan and I couldn’t go this week, so we went over Memorial Day Weekend. This year has been so warm that I thought perhaps the lilacs would have started blooming, but they were still just tight buds at the end of May.                      Now I’m sure they’re probably as gorgeous as ever,                lining the streets and filling the air with their sweet perfume.                     Still, I think Mackinac Island is beautiful any time of  year,              and although the lilac festival is my all-time favorite time to visit,  my second favorite time is when the tulips and early spring flowers are abloom.  Over Memorial Day, the weather was an almost cloudless 68°…just perfect for strolling and biking!  It also just happened to be the same weekend our two youngest and their good buddy, Steve C., went north too,  so we had several happy opportunities to run into them and enjoy the ambience! Looking back over our years of visiting the island, I don’t recall ever having a “bad” trip! I think it’s a little like coming to Christ…it’s always a good time! Even though life is heartbreaking at times, it’s always better when we’re walking hand in hand with Jesus. A great mate is a wonderful blessing, but the greatest blessing of all is living in season and out of season with God. Have you accepted His love proposal yet? Now is the time! “For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2, ESV). “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? 10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. 12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. 13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.”
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-13) (All photos from my trips to Mackinac Island but the last two, which are used by permission of Robert Hardee. Thank you, Bob!)

Is Anything Better than The House of Flavors?

Do you—like me—just love ice cream?  Did you know there’s a Guinness-world-record-breaking creamery
right here in Southwest Michigan? There’s nothing quite so luxurious on a hot summer day
as a scrumpdelicious ice cream treat, is there?

Homemade ice cream is probably the very best (or at least the most fun to make), but for everyday yumminess, I keep some of our local dairy’s “homemade” vanilla in the freezer for my hubby, who has been known to have an ice cream attack any time of day or night and any time of year.
However, our all-time favorite creamery is in Ludington at the House of Flavors, and we always stop in if we’re nearby!
The House of Flavors has been in the business for over 66 years, and they produce an astonishing 25 million gallons of ice cream annually!
They call themselves the Ice Cream Capital of Michigan, and with good cause! Last year I wrote about being there when they attempted to set a new record for the world’s longest ice cream dessert (which I shared about here):   https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/i-think-we-just-ate-part-of-the-worlds-longest-sundae-and-it-was-yummy/ .  

 

 

Their attempt

was a great success, 

and now the House of Flavors 

is really on the map,  so to speak!
However, they’re not just good at making amazing flavors of ice cream!
They have a full menu of inexpensive and delicious breakfasts,
 and they always have a turkey roasting on a spit (which you can almost see in the center of this photo) for their fantastic turkey dinners, 
which they serve throughout the year! 
We’ve been coming since our kids were little, and our all-time favorite treat is a round of turkey dinners but a shared “Original Pig’s Dinner.”   This one was made from four scoops of ice cream with names like Michigan Potholes, Bear Claws, Eskimo Kisses, and Tennessee Toffee, but you get to choose whatever you want…plus four toppings of your choice and whipped cream with cherries on top.Needless to say, nobody leaves the House of Flavors feeling hungry!

I know of a place even more satisfying and fulfilling than the House of Flavors.  It’s the place of quiet rest when we place our trust in the Lord and abide safely under His wings, secure in the knowledge that no matter what is going on in the world around us, God’s “got ‘ya covered!” Literally. Spiritually and physically. We can rest in the knowledge that He loves us, and like a loving father, He’s looking out for us.                      In a world of choices, I pray you will choose “the best!”   Our God exceeds anything in the Guinness Book of World Records. What other God is perfect in love, kindness, mercy, grace, wisdom, justice, and goodness? Who else is all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful, and all-present? What other religion teaches that God loves us even when we fail and has made a way to be reconciled to Him through the blood of a sacrificial lamb (Jesus)?  If you’ve never learned to love and trust this great God, I pray that you will put the past behind you and reach out to him in faith. As Jesus taught, “how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not” (Matthew 23:37).   May today be the day you join in the fellowship of those who are trusting God! How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.  They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” (Psalm 36:7-9)

(I took all the photos in and around the House of Flavors recently, except for the ones taken a year ago on June 11, 2016… the day they broke the world’s record for longest ice cream dessert!)


Big Sable Lighthouse…and Michigan’s 128 other Lighthouses!

Did you know that there are 129 lighthouses in Michigan?  There are 42 on Lake Superior, 43 on Lake Huron, and 44 on Lake Michigan. We’ve seen dozens of them.  (I would have said “most” until I realized just how many there really are).  No two are alike; each is unique, and all of them are picturesque.  Our local favorite is the Grand Haven Lighthouse, which is being totally refurbished and will include a museum when it’s completed.  Did you know that the Big Bay Point Lighthouse on Lake Superior
just north of Marquette also runs a bed and breakfast?* Wouldn’t it be fun to stay at a lighthouse?  Actually, quite a few of the lighthouses have conservancies to help care for them where you can volunteer for a two-week stint in the summer
serving as a host and giving tours.  While we were at Ludington State Park recently,   we visited the Big Sable Lighthouse.  We climbed the stairs to the top   for spectacular views of the Lake Michigan Coastline,  visited their museum and gift shop, watched a video,
and heard tales about rescues and shipwrecks.   Seeing a list of all the ships that have sunk in Lake Michigan
made me appreciate lighthouses even more!  Thousands have shipwrecked and lost their lives because they had no light
to guide them safely through the storms.  Spiritually, God calls us to be like lighthouses to draw others toward Him. 

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7).   Are you walking in the light? Can others see the light of God’s presence in you?

“Rescue the Perishing”
Refrain: “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.” (~from Fanny Crosby’s hymn, “Rescue the Perishing,” 1869…in the era when hundreds of lighthouses were being built!)

  1. Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
    Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
    Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
    Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
  2. Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting,
    Waiting the penitent child to receive;
    Plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently;
    He will forgive if they only believe.
  3. Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
    Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
    Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
    Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.
  4. Rescue the perishing, duty demands it;
    Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide;
    Back to the narrow way patiently win them;
    Tell the poor wand’rer a Savior has died.

(* Photo of Big Bay Point Lighthouse from their website; I took the rest.)

Lovely Ludington: My Favorite Lower Michigan State Park

If you live in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, and you’re looking for something really special to do on a weekend, consider visiting Ludington State Park.  We went camping there last weekend, but frankly, if you want to camp at one of their 350+ sites (plus 10 more for backpackers),  you need to get your reservations about 6 months in advance, because the campgrounds fill up soooo fast! Still, it’s a great place to visit, if only for the day.                                                   What makes it so special?                             Well, its beauty, its size, and its variety for starters.  Ludington State Park encompasses 5,300 acres of forest, sand dunes, and water,       including a two-mile stretch of Lake Michigan’s pristine, sandy shoreline.  There are over 21 miles of marked hiking trails (also cross-country skiing, canoeing, and bike trails, including some lovely paved pathways that are handicap accessible). In summer, Lake Michigan waves and fresh water make for refreshing swimming, and if it’s too bracing for your taste, Lake Hamlin is usually warmer and appeals to swimmers and boaters. (This photo was taken last summer.) Although it was too cold this past weekend, hot days are also perfect for tubing down the Big Sable River to Lake Michigan.               There is always a lot of wildlife, including good fishing! We saw deer (can you see the doe peeking out?), wild turkeys, a big, fat racoon (who scared some neighboring campers), and many colorful birds.  The campsites are heavy with the scent of pines and the comforting sounds of water and birds. When I closed my eyes, I had to think twice. Was this real, or was it just a new recording of music for relaxation?  Thankfully, at Ludington State Park, the soothing sounds of nature are real! Do you have any recordings of music meant to help you relax? We do, and we love them! Distant thunder, dripping rain, waves lapping and rolling, the haunting melody of the evening thrush…spring peepers. Of everything that is music to my ears, I think the sound that lulls me to sleep most peacefully is that still, small voice within me—God’s Holy Spirit—singing to me I am loved by God. He loves you too! I hope you know that and find peace and rest in His love!

The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

Tulip Time Festival: It’s All in the Timing…or Is It?

One of the many joys of living in this area is our almost annual trek to Holland’s Tulip Time Festival, which is usually the week before Mother’s Day.  This year it’s May 6-14, 2017.During the festival, Holland, Michigan, which is 30 miles south of Grand Rapids, is glowing with 6 million tulips, as well as a potpourri of other beautiful spring flowers. However, this year the weather has been unusually warm, and the tulips are almost all blooming right now, so we decided to visit last Sunday afternoon (which was April 23—two weeks before the festivities are to begin). The weather was perfect, and so were the gardens. The only down side is that there are vast fences around the flower beds at Windmill Island Gardens  to keep out the deer, who consider tasty tulips fine dining. It will be sad enough that the flowers will be past their prime for the festival, but if the caretakers were to take down the fences now (which they won’t), there would be nothing but leaves for the masters!  😦(Oh, but there would still be daffodils, because they’re poisonous.)Of course, there are all sorts of fun things to do at the festival!There’s a wonderful parade, a marathon, Dutch dancing, a carnival,
an arts and crafts fair, music and great food… So, the festival will still be worth visiting. However, if your first love (among such earthly loves) is spring flowers, I’d recommend going ASAP! The weather forecast is pretty bad, so you might have to consult your favorite weather station for some prognostication, but sooner will be better than later!

Festivals are fun, but they’re pretty insignificant compared to some of the weightier matters of life, like school and career choices, whom you’ll marry
(if you marry) and where to live. Are you facing a challenging decision? Timing is critical! However, it’s not always easy to figure out the correct timing. When it comes to festivals, you can consult the weather man and your friends, but when it comes to the big decisions of life, may I encourage you to consult the only One who knows you perfectly and who knows the future as well as He knows the past and present? God knows “all about it.” He knows all about everything, in fact, and He can give you the wisdom you need to make the right decision, if you’ll only ask.  Thus saith the Lord the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, to establish it; the Lord is his name; Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:2-3).