3 “Up North” Places Worth Visiting

A much younger -- and less fashionable -- version of me walking across the Mighty Mac.

A much younger — and less fashionable — version of me walking across the Mighty Mac.

As a native Michigander, it’s a rite of passage to become acquainted with “Up North.” This definition varies by person; in fact, the Detroit Free Press ran a story last year debating what latitudinal line served as the unofficial marker for this designation. The consensus was Pentwater on the western edge of the state, although, I usually put it a smidgen higher, around Ludington.

The line in the Freep story then runs at a slight slant to the northeast and Pinconning, so that means Grayling, Mackinac Island, Traverse City, Frankfort, Cadillac, Charlevoix and the whole U.P. pretty much qualify as “Up North.”

If that’s the case, then I’ve spent plenty of time Up North over the years. Here are three of my favorite places:

Frankfort: We wouldn’t have bought a house if we didn’t love the town! Located on Lake Michigan, about 45 minutes west of Traverse City, Frankfort has the small town charm, obligatory Kilwin’s fudge shop and easy access to outdoor sports, u-pick farms and more. Plus, it’s a short drive to the dunes, has a nicely restored art deco movie theater and is active with festivals and farmers markets/craft shows all year long.

Mackinaw City/Mackinac Island: OK, it’s a bit kitschy, but this is one of those places that’s still fun to go once every 5-10 years. Most my friends probably remember arriving to Mackinaw City, bumming around at shops selling “Mackinaw”-branded hats and sweaters that our parents and grandparents would buy and then boarding the ferry to the island. Mackinac Island prohibits motorized vehicles (excluding emergency vehicles) and is a slice of life in s simpler time. Oh yeah, Mackinac Island has at least seven places where you can buy fudge and it even hosts a fudge festival each year. Hop on a bike and trek to the scenic Arch Rock or come up for Labor Day to participate in the annual walk from St. Ignace to Mackinaw City across the Mackinac Bridge.

Tahquamenon Falls: It’s a bit of a trek, but it’s worth the trip to the U.P. to see the 200-foot wide, 50-foot drop of Tahquamenon Falls or, as some of the signs sign say near the site due to space restrictions, “THAQ Falls.” For someone who’s never seen Niagra Falls, this had to do it for me, but it is truly a sight to behold. You might get lucky and see a moose or two roaming around the state park. Do yourself a favor while there and head over to Paradise to take in Lake Superior’s beauty, power and chilliness.

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