Sunday, June 19, 2011

Michigan Vacation: Grand Rapids to Marquette Part 1

Part 1:  Grand Rapids to Mackinaw City

My family and I travel to Marquette once every year to visit with other family.  My dad is from Marquette so a bunch of us get together in June to remember him and explore Pictured Rocks National Park where he worked for many years.  We like to make all of our stops on the way up so we break our travel time there into at least 2 days.  It also helps when you have little ones who don't like to sit in the car for a long time!

There isn't a lot that we stop to see in lower Michigan but we do have a "regular plan" to get to the bridge.  Usually it consists of stopping in Gaylord (exit 282 - the 2nd Gaylord exit when heading North on 75) for gas and food.  Normally I arrive in Gaylord with about a 1/2 tank of gas but it's nice to fill up there since the prices are higher in Mackinaw and there aren't many places to get gas in Upper Michigan (the UP - for Upper Peninsula).

In the Cheboygan area there is a rest area with a scenic view.  It's would be nice in the fall to see all the beautiful colors but we don't generally stop there in June because it just looks out at a bunch of trees...

Of course a stop has to be made at Sea Shell City (exit 326 if traveling via 75)!  Many have seen the signs for the "Giant Man Eating Clam" but not all have stopped.  My dad took me there as a kid to buy me a shell necklace.  So, every year we stop to explore the store.  It's also a great break from the car since they have a big pirate ship play set.

Picture Opportunities inside (wooden pirate statue)!

Spoiler Alert - this is the "Giant Man Eating Clam"
After leaving Sea Shell City, the next fun adventure for the kids is to keep an eye out for the Mackinac Bridge.  I always loved looking over the trees after every hill to see if I could catch a glimpse of it yet!

We end our travels for day one in Mackinaw City.  I choose to stay on this side of the bridge because I haven't found a good spot for beach access on the other side.  We exit at James St (Exit 339 and the last one before the bridge).  This will take you to the entrance for the famous fort.  

We take a right to get to our hotel.  The one of choice so far is this Super 8.  It is directly across from the beach/park area and walking distance to most everything else we do during this short visit.  

The kids are now big enough to carry their own luggage so that helps :)

The park/beach area

The beach is rocky and not that clean....   But it's still fun for kids and a great picture opportunity!  And don't be afraid to ask someone to take a family picture for you.  I take plenty for other tourists to help them capture that moment.

Before the night is over we always make a stop at our favorite shop for fudge, taffy, ice cream and anything else the kids talk us into.  This shop is located across the street from the fort.  

Stay tuned for the rest of our travels in part 2!

We plan to take the kids to Mackinaw Island next year but they have not visited there yet.  We have also not taken them to the fort yet.

Do you have any favorites for this trip?  I'd love to hear what I am missing!

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