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Midwesterners know that summer means Michigan. With over 3,000 miles of coastline, there is plenty to do by land and by sea, er…lake. While there is so much to love about the proximity of Southwest Michigan, I also like the quieter, slower, harder to get to places of the state. Last year, my mom and I visited the Keweenaw Peninsula of the UP. This year, we are visiting Michigan again, but we’re sticking to the “mitten”. For this trip, we had the opportunity to experience things to do in Petoskey and the Petoskey area of Northern Michigan, and it did not disappoint.
I love to explore the historic towns of Michigan. A beautiful lakeside town along Little Traverse Bay, Petoskey is the ideal locale to experience all four seasons. For winter, there is plenty of snow and world-class downhill ski resorts. In the summer, nearly 16 hours of daylight allow for fun both on the water, and on the shore of Lake Michigan. There is no shortage of things to do in Petoskey Michigan.
Enjoy Little Traverse Bay
Little Traverse Bay is beautiful from the shores of the Petoskey area, but ever wondered what it may look like from the water? Hop on the Pointer Boat in Harbor Springs to enjoy the eye candy of local architecture. Here’s a sneak peak of what you can expect on the Pointer boat.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, wealthy families from the Midwest built incredible homes along the shores of Little Traverse Bay. The Wrigley Family and the Fords were some of the tycoons to build luxurious getaways in the Petoskey area. Whether it’s Petoskey, Bay Harbor, Bay View, Boyne Falls, or Harbor Springs, there is beauty aplenty. Afterall, this is the land of million dollar sunsets.
More interested in sailing, jet skiing, kayaking, or even fishing? There are plenty of outfitters in Northern Michigan to meet your needs. Plan ahead, especially if you will be visiting Petoskey for the Festival on the Bay. Held every year on the third weekend of August, tours and hotels book up weeks in advance of this festival. It’s a great time to come for a quick Michigan getaway.
Learn Where to Find Petoskey Stones
The city of Petoskey and the Petoskey area are named after a Native American chief of the Ottawa tribe, known as Chief Pe-to-se-ga. The English translation of his name means “rising sun”. Interestingly, stones of the area appear to have a pattern similar to that of the rising sun. These rocks are called Petoskey Stones. The official stone of the state of Michigan, the Petoskey Stone is actually a fossil of coral that lived over 350 million years ago! At that time, the state of Michigan was covered by warm, shallow, saltwater sea. As time passed, the land area of Michigan was pushed north by tectonic plate activity, and the sea that once was, dried up. The remains of the hexagonal coral that used to flourish in that sea are found in the form of the fossilized Petoskey Stone.
When looking where to find Petoskey Stones, your best bet is sticking to the shores of Lake Michigan. Petoskey, Charlevoix, and the other towns surrounding Little Traverse Bay are hot spots for people on the hunt for these hexagonal patterned rocks. Petoskey Stone hunting is hard to do on dry land as these stones look very similar to regular limestone. Smooth and gray in color, the best way to see the patterns of the rocks is when the rock is wet. That’s why the shores of Lake Michigan are where to find Petoskey stones. Just a few steps into ankle deep water, and the fossilized patterns reveal themselves to anyone who knows what to look for.
Explore an Adult Summer Camp à la The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Have you watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? It is a delightful comedy by Amazon that is super binge-worthy. If you’ve seen it, you know that one of the storylines involves entire families of adults escaping to camp for the entire summer. Such a place exists in Petoskey. It’s called Bay View, and you can pick up a program for its activities, and a self guided walking tour directory, all at the Petoskey Chamber of Commerce office.
The entire community of Bay View is protected under the National Register of Historic Places. Founded in 1875 by members of the United Methodist Church, it was initially the site of a retreat for denominational meetings and spiritual study. Toward the turn of the 20th century, an intellectual and educational movement known as Chautauqua swept the area, opening Bay View to thousands of visitors looking to enrich their education.
Today, lively activities and educational programming continues in Bay View, but only in the summer. This is the place to go when looking for things to do in Petoskey. Guest lecturers, theatre troupes, singers, performers, and musical acts are frequent. Yoga classes, painting, lawn bowling, potluck dinners and more are weekly affairs.
For individuals who own homes in Bay View, visiting and living is limited to the months of May through October. The land is that of the United Methodist Church. Homeowners merely lease the land, and are therefore subject to the rules of the association. Come winter, the homes of Bay View go dark and remain as such until the following spring.
Explore Ernest Hemingway’s Michigan Roots
The father of 20th century American literature spent his first 22 summers in the Petoskey area. For Ernest Hemingway, Michigan is where his formative days were spent. Summers were for studying all the activities required for manly enrichment: hunting, fishing, swimming, climbing, etc. Up in Michigan, Hemingway and his family made camp at Walloon Lake. When Ernest Hemingway stayed in Michigan, he also spent much of his time in Petoskey proper. At Stafford’s Perry Hotel he rested, a weary traveler after a three-week journey on foot from his home of Oak Park, Illinois.
One of the most unique and inimitable things to do in Petoskey is to follow in the footsteps of dear old Papa. Here you can learn about Ernest Hemingway, Michigan edition! Tour operator Petoskey Yesterday provides 90-120 minute tours of locations significant to Hemingway’s life, as well as more generalized tours of the area. The standard Turn of the Century Petoskey, Haunted Petoskey and Downtown Petoskey tours run $15/person while the Nick Adams Tours are $20 and a bit more involved(transportation required.) It is in Petoskey and its environs where The Nick Adams Stories transpire. Published nearly a decade after his death, Hemingway’s Nick Adams Stories are short stories that provide more insight into life in Northern Michigan.
Northern Michigan Golf
Long days full of sunlight make Northern Michigan golfing ideal. As a matter of fact, there are 18 full-length Northern Michigan golf courses within an hour drive of Petoskey. Arthur Hill designed Bay Harbor Golf Club is ranked in the top ten best golf courses in the United States by Golf Magazine. While some of the courses are semi-private, many are public and offer world-class courses just hours away from Chicago.
Michigan Mushroom Hunting and Mushroom Shacks
Michigan mushrooms are a big deal. In fact, Michigan mushrooms are so important, they even have their own annual festival. In particular, Northern Michigan is known for its Morel mushrooms. Mushroom houses, mushroom hunting, and a weekly Friday farmers market make enjoying mushrooms a family affair.
Eat Local in Petoskey Michigan
After all these things to do in Petoskey, you’re bound to work up an appetite. When traveling, you can really get a feel for a place when you bypass familiar chains for local flavors. Consider stopping in at one of the Petoskey restaurants mentioned below:
- Breakfast in the H.O. Rose Dining Room at Stafford’s Perry Hotel comes with a plate of homemade cinnamon buns at every table, and an incredible view of Little Traverse Bay.
- Roast & Toast serves up great coffee drinks and nosh for all three meals.
- Mim’s has Mediterranean food as authentic as what you’d expect in a city ten times the size of Petoskey.
- Vernales not only is the best rated steakhouse in the Petoskey area, it also is diverse: there is a sports bar with TVs as well as a more intimate dining room, depending on what suits you.
- For an upscale and romantic setting, Vintage Chophouse|Wine Bar in Bay Harbor can’t be beat, and did I mention their to-die-for wine list?
Ziplines and Mountain Adventures
While the Midwest may be well known for being flat, up in Northern Michigan, it’s a different story. Up here, it is mountainous! In the winter, this lends to world-class skiing. In the summer, it’s all about the enjoyment of summer mountain sports. Ziplining, mountain biking, horseback riding, and chairlift rides are just some of the activities available at Boyne Mountain.
Maybe you prefer to hike? While you’re in the Petoskey area, don’t forget to visit the North Country Trail. Stretching 4,600 continuous miles from Vermont to North Dakota, the part through Petoskey is some of the best maintained trails of the entire stretch.
Tour Petoskey Wineries and Petoskey Breweries
It may not have the national notoriety of Napa Valley, but touring wineries is one of the more popular things to do in Petoskey. With 12 wineries to choose from, you can enjoy the area without the crush of too many other people. Many of these places are family friendly, with lovely indoor and outdoor areas of their tasting rooms.
Formerly called the Bay View Wine Trail, this Northern Michigan region is part of the Tip of the Mitt AVA. You may not be familiar with the grapes or accompanying wines of the Petoskey Wine Region, but you’ll certainly enjoy them. Visit them one by one, call a taxi to drive you on a self-made tour, or hire a tour operator and make a day of it.
Think Petoskey breweries are more your style? Well there is no shortage of those in Northern Michigan either. Maybe you’re like my family, where some of us like wine and some of us like beer. Luckily, Rudbeckia and Mackinaw Trail have both wineries and breweries on site, so everyone’s needs are met.
Explore Petoskey Area Arts and Culture
Sometimes, the best way to enjoy a hot summer day is in the cool, air-conditioned confines of a local museum. The Little Traverse History Museum opens from May through October each year, and provides history of the Native Americans and early settlers to the area. Prefer art? The Crooked Tree Arts Center is housed in a former church in the historical downtown of Petoskey. Permanent and rotating exhibits are on display, and it’s entirely free to visit!
If performing arts are more your style, the Great Lakes Center for the Arts is the place to go. With a state-of-the-art new building as of 2018, this architectural landmark offers a 500-seat theatre and technicalities one would expect in a major city. Major musicians and acting troupes tour through regularly, and single event tickets average around $25/person. There’s also the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra, the Blissfest Music Organization and various other local entertainment options.
Even for a winter loving person like me, it’s hard to admit that the things to do in Petoskey in the summer are just as enticing as the things to do there in the winter. Have you been to the Petoskey area of Michigan? If so, let me know what your favorite place was, in the comments below.
Many thanks to the Western Michigan Tourism Association, the Petoskey Area CVB, and Stafford’s Perry Hotel for their hospitality during my stay. As always, all opinions are my own.
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