Adventurer’s Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars! Excellent!
In the heart of Downtown Petoskey, you will find a stretch of road with all sorts of unique shops and restaurants. We were taking in the sights and doing a little shopping when we stumbled upon Papa Lou’s Pizza Pub & Grill. Their menu was posted outside and had a wide selection available to order but featured what-else but pizza. So we went inside and got a table.
The decor was warm and inviting. The brick and highly lacquered and irregular wood went very well together. They had a balcony but we chose to dine inside, I think they may have been a mistake because I bet the view outside was amazing. There seemed to be several little quirks that added to its charm such as: the mens room door was hung upside down. The bar had swings instead of stools… yes actual swings hanging from the ceiling! But enough about the decor we came in for the food so after browsing our options we chose a specialty pizza called “The Heap of Meat Pizza” which ran about $20 for a large.
When the pizza arrived it was exactly that… a Heap of Meat! We devoured it but couldn’t even finish the whole thing between the 4 of us. It. Was. Awesome! You cant really do pizza wrong but not everyone can do it right either… Papa Lou’s does it right! My only gripe was that our waiter was a bit flaky and spaced out. Our cups ran dry without a refill to be found… not a deal breaker I mean everyone has an off day and the food more than made up for it. We boxed up the leftovers and headed on our way… full and happy! I may or may not have had pizza related dreams that night and lunch the next day was spectacular! This is a must visit for us next time we’re in town!
On our way home from our weekend trip up north we managed to squeeze in one last stop for a bit of sight seeing and some lunch in Petoskey!
Petoskey is a very scenic town with several points of interest. The first of which is Bay View. Bay View is a community on the east side of Petoskey that is filled with Victorian homes. It is fun just to drive through to look at all of them as they are quite beautiful. An interesting tidbit about Bay View is that it was founded in 1875 by a group of Methodists who initially used the area as a retreat. The retreat grew into the community it is today and you must actually belong to a Christian based faith in order to have a house there. The community does close up in the Fall and Winter so during that time the houses are boarded up and not in use.
After we drove through Bay View we made our way to Petoskey’s Bay Front Park. It is a must stop when you are in Petoskey as it offers great views of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay. In addition to great views, the park has playgrounds, walking paths, baseball fields, volleyball courts, a marina and so much more! From the Bay Front Park you can take the Pedestrian Tunnel to Petoskey’s downtown area called the Gas Light District.
The Gas Light District is home to many stores and restaurants unlike any that you will find anywhere else as a majority of them are independent and not affiliated with any chain. It is so refreshing to go somewhere and experience something outside of the typical chain stores and restaurants. Not to mention the Gas Light district is very scenic and pedestrian friendly. It really is a great place to spend an afternoon!
Betsy: Petoskey was pretty much a second home to me growing up because we would go there to do some shopping and to eat out at restaurants. As I got older I attended a community college in Petoskey and my jobs that I had while in college were in Petoskey as well. I had always been a fan of the Bay Front park and would sometimes stop in if I had extra time between classes or before work. Back then I took those views for granted but now I know just how lucky I was to see all of that beauty on a daily basis.
Chris: While I don’t feel the same connection that Betsy does to Petoskey, it still holds a special place in my heart. We visited here 2 years ago on our first trip together and we spent the day walking hand-in-hand by the water and searching for the ever elusive Petoskey stone. We took this photo and I’m still as very much in love with her now as I was back then. Every time I see this photo I can still transport back to that very moment in my head and it makes me feel warm inside.
The Headlands is a park located just a straight shot down Central Ave west of Mackinaw City. The park itself has a number of trails for hiking and such but it also boasts one unique feature: the International Dark Sky Park. So what is a dark sky park exactly? It is a park that has been designed specifically for star-gazing that has met very specific standards of light pollution or “dark sky” if you will. It is open 24 hours a day and visitors are encouraged to stay till all hours of the night. They hold programs and events regularly so check their website for details.
We had heard of the Dark Sky Park prior to our trip up north so we figured we would go check it out. If you go after dark it is easy to drive right past it as the entrance is a bit hidden and the sign for it is set back off the road. When we returned in the daylight to grab a few pictures it was much easier to spot. To get to the Sky Park you must drive down an extremely narrow winding road. It is the only way in or out so I would suggest not trying to drive anything over-sized into the park. On several occasions we had to pull over and hug the side of the road to let traffic get by as it is not wide enough for 2 lanes. There is a small parking lot at the end of the road and a small dim-lit path to a great field overlooking the water. The grass seemed soft and well maintained and the view can not be beat!
Unfortunately, we happened to visit the park during a “super moon” which was an extremely bright full moon that overpowered everything and drowned out the stars. There was a man there with a telescope talking to the crowd about various things that would have been visible in the sky (had the moon not been so bright) and encouraged everyone to make use of his telescope to see the moon closer. He seemed to be a worker or a volunteer of some sort and seemed to be very enthusiastic. He was great to listen to!
We didn’t stay long, the moon was interesting but we wanted to see stars. Next time we are up that way we hope that the conditions will be more conducive to star-gazing so we can go back for another visit.
Betsy: It was a little creepy driving down the narrow road to the Dark Sky Park when we first went at night because 1) there were wood cut outs of people which made you think that they were real people and 2) the road was very very narrow and difficult to traverse when a car was coming in the opposite direction. We were all a bit disappointed that we were not able to see any stars but it was still a neat experience overall.
Chris: I like the concept of the Dark Sky Park, however, while trying to find it we wound up in an equally nice scenic spot that we could have had all to ourselves. I will definitely go back again when the conditions are right but to an amateur city-boy like me I’m sure just about any place out in the sticks would suffice lol.
Adventurers Rating – 4 out of 5 Stars
The Bear Trap Inn is just a small restaurant on the side of the road in Shingleton, Michigan. Unless you’re from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula you have probably never heard of the restaurant or the town. However, while driving in the U.P. you may run across a billboard or two for some place claiming to have “the best pastie in the U.P.” While many restaurants will make this boast… The Bear Trap Inn is, in fact, THE restaurant with the best pastie in all of the U.P. So what’s a pastie exactly? Well without getting into it too much we’ll just call it a “meat and potatoes calzone” that you will find in the northern-most regions of the United States. But there is more to the Bear Trap then just pasties, they offer a wide menu that should fit just about anyone’s palette.
Did you know The Adventurers has their very own resident foodie? It’s true! The oldest of the children, “Thing 1”, is our #1 food critic and he insisted that we stop for a pastie at least once on our trip through Northern Michigan. We started the search at lunch while at the less than mediocre Antlers in Sault Ste Marie. Since we knew what part of Michigan we would wind up in around dinner time we took to our smart phones to begin researching our options. Betsy came across the “best pastie in the U.P.” and from all of the rave reviews we decided that was the place. Hours later, after several attractions, pit stops, and cities… it was time to seek out our dinner choice. Only, we forgot what it was called …so we scoured the internet trying to find the place… we wound up at another pastie spot and said “hi” to Bigfoot before realizing this was not the place.
After out little detour with Bigfoot we did eventually find THE place! We had assumed it was located in Munising when in fact it is not and thus the reason why it didn’t show up in any of our later searches.
When we first walked into the restaurant we were greeted with a sight that made us question whether this was really the right place for us to have our family dinner.
It may be hard for you to see because we had to take a sneaky photo but on that table surrounded by those guys are empty beer cans stacked in pyramid form. Not exactly what you would expect to see at a family restaurant. Not to mention, Thing #2 also goes by the nickname of Mr. McSpilly, so one false move on his part and you would have the city folk battling it out with the country folk.
Luckily, we had nothing to worry about as the rest of our experience at the restaurant was fantastic! The service was good and the food received two thumbs up from all four of us. Naturally Thing #1 ordered his long-awaited pastie that was purportedly made by Grandma herself.
Chris also tried to order a pastie but it turned out there was only one more left to sell for the day! So what did Thing 1 think of the pastie? He said it was the best pastie he has ever had! I think we earned some brownie points with this restaurant visit!
Betsy: I wasn’t really sure what to expect of this restaurant but it turned out to be a great find! I am sure if we had made it there at “regular” dinner time we wouldn’t have run into the drinking crowd. If we are ever back in the Pictured Rocks area again I would definitely want to stop in for a meal!
Chris: I did get to sample the pastie but since I had never had one before I have no basis for comparison, however, it was very good! I wound up getting the brat burger instead which was excellent as well. The waitstaff was very nice and even though the drinking crowd looked intimidating I’m sure they were harmless… the “danger factor” just makes for a better story lol.
While we were up north I couldn’t resist taking Chris and his kids on a tour of my hometown. A town that I am sure most of you reading this have never heard of… Levering, Michigan!
Levering is located just south of Mackinaw City (which is a great point of reference since most people have heard of Mackinaw City) and just north of Petoskey. Levering is a very small town and for 20 years of my life, it was pretty much all I knew.
I am a small town girl and proud of it!
Chris and his kids are all city boys, so it was time for this country girl to show them what it was like where I grew up!
The first stop on our drive thru tour was Levering Antiques!
Across from Levering Antiques is the hardware shop we used to go to, Cook’s Hardware. It was run by one of my classmate’s family and it was very much like the TV show Cheers because everyone truly did know our name there and everywhere else in town too. That is one of the perk’s of small town living.
Next up we have our Post Office!
Since we lived in town our mail was not delivered to our house. Instead, we had to come down to the Post Office to pick it up. There were old style mail boxes inside the vestibule that you opened with your code. If we happened to get a package, we would just go inside to the counter where our friendly Post Master would give it to us without even asking for our name.
Next on the tour was the library.
At least it was the library when I lived there. Now it is called the Levering Community Center and I am not sure what all of that entails. Obviously it doesn’t look like the libraries that many of you are accustomed to seeing but it served its purpose and I got a lot of use out of it since I was an avid reader.
Next on the tour was the house I grew up in.
When I grew up there the house was brown but my Mom made a lot of updates to it after I left. A very recent change to the house is the owners of it. My Mom sold the house after hanging on to it for several years despite moving into her new husband’s house. I will admit that I am a little sad that it is no longer in my family. My parents bought the house for $5,000 dollars (that is not a typo) when I was in Kindergarten. It needed A LOT of work but it was someplace that we could call home and as time passed they did put a lot of work and money into it. As some of you may know, my Dad passed away when I was 13 and the last place that I saw him was in that house. I always felt a deep connection to him in that house because it was something that he had worked so hard on and it was where a lot of my family memories took place. I hope the new owners take good care of it and maybe someday they will let me come in and take a look around for old time’s sake.
The last stop on the Levering tour was this iconic site.
The Levering Cafe! If Levering is known for anything, it definitely has to be for the resturant with the big chicken on the roof!
I did take Chris and his kids into Pellston as well which is where I went to elementary, middle and high school although, we did not take any pictures. Pellston is another small town and it is known as the icebox of the nation! What a claim to fame, right? To illustrate just how small the school was, I believe that my graduating class had 67 people in it and at the time, it was one of the largest classes to graduate from the school! How things are at the school now I am not sure, although I can’t imagine that there are a ton more people there compared to when I was there.
If you grew up in a small town I am sure that I don’t have to tell you that there was some good parts and bad parts about it. And as much as I like visiting up there, home for me is right where I am now in the suburbs of the D or “down state” as we used to call it when I lived up north. But ” up north” will always hold a special place in my heart.
We would love to hear about where you grew up!
Feel free to tell us all about it in the comments below.
About a 2 hour drive northwest of the Mackinaw Bridge will bring you to Munising, Michigan: Home of the Pictured Rocks. Actually, Munising is much more than just a beautiful shoreline. In fact, they also have 17 waterfalls, 8 lighthouses (not all open to the public), boat tours, and a nice little downtown area full of restaurants and shopping. On this leg of our trip we were supposed to end the day with a sunset cruise to view the Pictured Rocks from the water. We didn’t, however, think to purchase our tickets in advance and got there only to find out that they had sold out. At a loss on what to do now… we quickly devised a land tour and set off to see what Munising had to offer.
Our first stop was to Munising Falls, just a short drive from the downtown area. It is free to the public and has a nice little walking trail and 3 different viewing areas. The waterfall itself was somewhat small as far as water goes but the scenery and quiet setting can’t be beat! It was definitely worth the stop.
Our second stop was to Miners Falls. To get there we traveled down a VERY dusty dirt road that kicked up a cloud. All of the surrounding trees and plant life were just coated in dust. After we parked the car we saw that it was a 0.6 mile hike to the falls. No big deal we can trek that easily. Along the way there were, what we thought were mile markers… but once we got to 6 the trail kept going… and going, and going. After a long day this was a bit too much walking and it was on the same dusty gravel that we had driven in on. The waterfall was pretty impressive but there wasn’t as many viewing options at the Munising falls. I’m not sure if it’s allowed but it seems the local teens come here to climb down to the bottom of the falls and hang out. There was a large group down there already and we passed more coming in on our way out.
Our third and last stop on the improvised land tour of Munising and Pictured Rocks was Miners Castle. This area is the standard postcard scene that most people think of when you mention Pictured Rocks. And while it may be that standard postcard scene, seeing it in person can’t be beat. The view is simply breathtakingly beautiful. There are several viewing areas at Miner’s Castle and luckily there isn’t much walking necessary to get you to that great view.
While we were at Miners Castle we saw the Pictured Rocks Boat Cruise that we had hoped to be on and it was completely packed with people. It looked like they were packed in there like sardines with no rooms to move about. Turns out that things happen for a reason sometimes as that certainly wasn’t the kind of relaxing sunset cruise that we had in mind.
Things to Note
- If you decide that you would rather see Pictured Rocks from the boat cruise, we recommend that you call ahead and reserve tickets so that you don’t run into the same situation that we did. Perhaps you could even ask which cruise is the less crowded of the day so you can get more elbow room.
- If you decide to explore Munising and Picture Rocks on foot like we did, you may want to decide which stops are most important to you and take note of the distance you would actually have to walk so you are not caught off guard by the amount of miles you will be undertaking.
Betsy: I was most excited about this stop of our trip because surprisingly I had never been to the Pictured Rocks. I had really had my heart set on the boat cruise but in the end I was just happy to see the areas that we were able to see (although a bit tired after a full day of sight-seeing). I would say that they are definitely worth the drive and I would go there again and give ourselves more time to explore all the other areas that we didn’t get to see.
Chris: I had been here once before when my kids were very young. The circumstances surrounding that trip were less than ideal and so I didn’t have any fond memories of Munising. When planning this leg of the trip I believe my exact words were “that’s a lot of extra driving to go see a rock”. I had forgotten about the falls and everything else the town had to offer so when we got there, needless to say it was a whole new experience for me! I have to say my second visit has changed my mind and we will definitely be coming back to further explore this beautiful area.
The beautiful Tahquamenon Falls are most definitely a place in Paradise! Paradise, Michigan to be exact. Roughly an hour and a half drive from the bridge will bring you to this must-see Michigan attraction. The Tahquamenon Falls State Park is split up into 2 separate areas: the Upper and Lower Falls. A Michigan Recreation Passport is all that is required for entry. If you do not have one they are available for purchase at the Upper Falls for the low price of $11 which grants you entry to all of Michigan’s state parks for the year.
The Upper Falls:
The upper falls are the most grand of all the waterfalls in the area. The second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi so they say. There are several viewing platforms both at the top, and bottom of the falls. Also, there are even hiking trails which travel from the Upper to the Lower falls which are really quite scenic. There is also a really nice gift shop as well as a food stand, and even a pub. The Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub offers fine dining and micro brewed beers. It is located right next to the gift shop and is open year round. We did not, however, eat there as it wasn’t in the schedule for this visit.
The Lower Falls:
The Lower Falls area has several smaller waterfalls to view. The park is much more understated than the Upper since it is not as big of a draw. There is, however, one feature unique to the Lower Falls and it’s that you can take a row-boat across the water to the small island where you can actually go play in the falls themselves! The row boats are available for rental for a small fee (around $7) and it is an incredible experience which we highly recommend!
Things to Note:
- Some viewing areas are not wheel chair accessible and require climbing up and down a great deal of steps, but there are plenty of viewing spots that do not require stairs.
- The best time to go is late fall. The park is almost deserted and you practically have the place to yourself.
- If you’re into Letterboxing, there are several in the park, however, we could only find one.
- The pub is open year round but the website suggests calling ahead during the off season to be sure they’re open.
- There are several hiking trails to choose from ranging from 1 mile to 7.5 miles and are also open to cross-country skiing.
Betsy: I have been to the Falls many times in my lifetime but they still never cease to amaze me. Thanks to the beautiful scenery and calming atmosphere it is actually one of my favorite places to go. I really love taking the row boats across and exploring that area of the lower Falls. There is just something about actually being able to get into the Falls that makes that aspect extra special. This is a must stop for me while in the UP.
Chris: I visited the falls as a child and it’s one of my fondest memories growing up. We never traveled much when I was younger except for a tour of Northern Michigan so it had a major imprint into my memory. The Falls will always be on top of my list of must see Michigan attractions and we will continue to go back year after year.
The Adventurers Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Anyone who has ever visited the Soo Locks has probably heard of The Antlers Restaurant in downtown Sault Ste. Marie. A unique little place just outside of the city center, The Antlers boasts more stuffed animals per square inch than any other restaurant around. And when I say “stuffed animals” I don’t mean teddy bears. It’s like a taxidermy shop, only with food. The menu is pretty standard: Burgers, sandwiches, fish, steak… you shouldn’t have any trouble finding something you like.
Overall the place was nice. Betsy had fond memories of going here as a child and so we decided it would be fun to go back. It looks, however, like it has seen it’s day and is a bit past it’s prime. The gimmicky lights and whistles would have been a big draw years ago but now seems sort of sad and forced. The wait staff was somewhat friendly but we felt like tourists walking into the “locals” place. The food portions were generous and none of us finished all of our food. Also, the animal heads kept the kids entertained while we waited (what seemed to be abnormally long for how slow it was) for our food.
Betsy: As Chris mentioned, I do have fond memories of dining here when I was a kid. My Grandparents took us here whenever we were in the Sault Ste Marie area and I remember being very excited by it. Unfortunately going back to the restaurant as an adult wasn’t as magical of an experience. The service seemed pretty slow despite the restaurant not being busy and the food was nothing to write home about. It was just an ok experience and if we are ever in the area again, I would look elsewhere for dining options.
Chris: Normally I’m a big fan of touristy places like this but not this time. My burger tasted strange and it just seemed like we were a bother to be waited on. Not only did it take a long time to get our food… but also refills on our drinks. We sat around staring at each other for a while before we got our bill, I was going to use my charge but then scraped together enough cash to just pay and get out because who knows how long it would have taken otherwise. We gave ourselves plenty of time to go eat before the next scheduled freighter at the Soo Locks but missed it because of the slow as molasses service.
Just an hour drive straight up I 75 from the Mackinaw Bridge will bring you to Sault Ste Marie, home of the famous Soo Locks. There you will find a quaint little town with a small strip of touristy shops that have sprung up around this iconic site.
They have several restaurants and gift shops all within walking distance of the Locks. A bit further down the road you will find a retired freighter turned museum ship, the “Valley Camp”, an incredible looking hydro-electric plant, and several other museums and attractions to visit. Our visit, however, was strictly to come see the Soo Locks before heading off on the rest of our trip.
The Locks themselves are surrounded by a nice park area which is free to enter and has a viewing area platform as well as a visitor’s center. When there are no boats traveling through the Locks there isn’t much activity going on but you can take in the view and marvel at the engineering splendor of such a giant waterway. When planning a visit it is best to call their ship schedule hotline (906-253-9290) to better gauge an arrival time. You can also check out the visitor center which has a listing of all ships and times for the day as well as some history behind the locks.
We didn’t do much planning on this leg of the trip other than “show up and look at the Locks”. Originally we were going to take the boat tour but due to time constraints for the day we decided to skip it. When we arrived there were no ships in sight and no activity in the area what-so-ever so we wandered around the grounds for a bit and took in the view. From the visitor’s center we found out that there was a freighter due in roughly an hour so we thought we could squeeze in some lunch to pass the time. We had no idea how long it took a ship to pass through the Locks but assumed it was quite an ordeal and lasted a while. Unfortunately, when we got back to the viewing area only a few minutes late, the crowds were already on their way out and we got to see the ship sailing away in the distance. It’s ok, no one was heart broken. It would have been a cool sight to see but did not detract from our experience. We returned to the car and headed off to our next destination… but that is the topic of another post…
Betsy: This is the first time that I have viewed the Locks from the viewing deck. In the past, I have taken the boat tour which is a very fun experience to actually go through the Locks. Since this was a free activity this was certainly worth the stop despite not getting to see the freighter pass through.
Chris: I had never been to the Locks before and figured it was a Michigan attraction that I’d like to see at least once. The whole reason for this leg of our up north adventure was to knock that one off my bucket list. Because I’ve lived near Lake St Clair my entire life I’ve seen my fair share of freighters so not being able to see one rise up in the water a few feet was not a big deal. I’m not going to lie though, it would have been really cool to see it all happen and to photograph the crap out of it lol. If we ever pass this way again I will be sure to take the boat tour.