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Old 03-18-2007, 06:09 PM   #1
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HELP US! Michigan Vacation...

We are 2 families traveling with 5 children all under the age of 7. YES! Michigan is our destination. Travel dates could be any time June-July (the earlier the better....can't wait!) 10 days total.

As to be expected, two families have conflicting ideas of how a vacation should be. Somehow we always manage to pull it together and have a great time. For now, they say Mackinac, I say Bologna festival.....

My question for my forum friends, is Mackinac a MUST SEE? I think, from brochures and word of mouth, that it certainly sounds like a great place. Our families include 5 children all under the age of 7 - the trip would be 9-10 hours of driving strapped into carseats to get there (factor in bathroom brakes).....then it's time to head home. We could split it up over the course of the vacation. But I'm wondering if it's worth it? Our children our pretty easy to please. At the completion of our last trip to Kentucky, Mammoth cave being our top destination, I asked my 6 year old what the highlight of the trip was. He told me it was the KOA campground with the pirate ship swingset and hiking at Fern Clyffe. Point is, are we wasting valuable time getting to a far away destination when they could be having just as much fun doing something simpler and that requires less driving? Is Mackinac something my 3 and 7 year old could appreciate?

Any suggestions of unique destinations in Michigan would be greatly appreciated: State parks, festivals, whatever ya got! You guys have helped me plan the last 2 vacations and they were amazing. I know you won't steer us wrong!

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Old 03-18-2007, 06:55 PM   #2
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Thanks for saying yes to Michigan, I am sure you will have a good time.

Since I see you are comming from Ill. I would come up our west coast. There is a KOA near Benton Harbour it is used on the WBCCI Lighthouse caravan. This is a good place to start hit the beaches and dunes in the area. Benton Harbour is also a very senic town with a nice pier and light house. Proceed nort up the cost I would use HWY31 , I highly recommend the Travers City area, Sleeping Bear dunes and the Leleelanau Pinsula. you should allow a few days for the area lots to see and do there.

As for Macinaw Island it is worth seeing but can be a bit of a tourist trap. Makaniaw City has lots of shopping and can be a bit pricy. Drive over the bridge and take the feery from St Ignace that way you can at least say you have been to the Upper Pinsula.

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Old 03-18-2007, 07:02 PM   #3
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Mackinac Island with kids

This is way more info than you asked for but I can't give a simple, fast answer.

We have an almost 5 year old and an almost 9 year old. Though we have not had our kids up to Mackinac we have visited the island a couple of times BC (before children). It is beautiful. If you are all into bicycles there is a path (about 9 miles) that goes all the way around the island and there is a vendor (or more?) that rents bikes and kiddie trailers and such if you do not bring your own. There are fun shops though I don't know if that is something you enjoy doing with small children. The ferry ride to the island would be fun for kids. There is a swimming beach but I can't remember if it is for the general public or for hotel visitors only. Hopefully someone else will remember.

That said, I don't think kids will have the same kind of good time that they have getting dirty in a nice campground sandpit or on a playground or in the water.

The other side of that is to take into account your family philsophy on vacations. Are they primarily for the kids or do you also want to entertain the parents? Mackinac has more for adults. It is fun for kids but not non-stop.

My kids prefer parking the camper for the week at a campground in a spot right next to the play area, jumping out, making a new friend or two, grab their bikes and ride to the sandbox, playground, with maybe a water spigot to get soaking wet in. If we are at a State Park with nature programs geared toward kids then all the better. When it gets dark they want to burn hot dogs and marshmallows then go to bed so they can wake up the next morning, reunite with their newly made friends, then start it all over again. Sometimes we do that.

Other times we do things that mom and dad like...a little touring, ride on bike paths, see things, battlefields, museums and such. We each give a little on our desires for the trips. We plan on visiting Mackinac in the next year or two.

Mrs. RedShed
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Old 03-18-2007, 07:03 PM   #4
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The UP is by far the best destination...

Places like Pictured Rock National Lakeshore
Porcupine Mountains

To name a few. A lot of the State Parks in the forest areas are boondocking only. A word of caution about Pictured Rocks though. This year they are paving a good portion of H-58 and I've heard that the National Lakshore area run by the feds is also thinking about adding it's own sections of road. This summer might not be a great idea for Pictured Rock.

Macinaw is a tourist trap. Most private campgrounds are a total rip off, but they do have full hookups, but you pay through the nose and they pack you in. It's worth going through there, visiting just to say you've been there, because as touristy as it is, it's a real trip being to a place where UPS (what can Brown do for you?) delivers using a team of horses and a flat cart with the days deliveries on it!

From there I'd head north and around, coming home through Wisconsin.

If you'd like some suggestions and pictures of Pictured Rock if you choose to brave the construction, PM me. I will caution you that the roads as they are around Picture Rock, in the forest are fair to moderately bad gravel/sand roads with plenty of washboards, but the campgrounds in there are boondocking and simply STUNNING!
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Old 03-18-2007, 07:30 PM   #5
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Until last year, Mackinac Island was always a day trip for us. Itís a bit busy and difficult to get a sense of the place in a day trip. For a day trip you will need to catch an early ferry and plan on dealing with a bit of congestion. There are plenty of hotels in the area and a number of campgrounds too. Wilderness State Park is a good place to stay as it is reasonably close and a very large park with lots of water surrounding it.

Last year we stayed two nights on the island and it was a very different experience. The crowds leave by early evening and everything becomes nice and quiet. We had a wonderful time riding bikes around the islands, eating at many of the wonderful restaurants and enjoying the ambiance.

Many Michigan State Parks are now mostly 100% reserved by site, so youíll need to make your plans soon. Iíve stayed at most of them, so PM me if I can help. The Lake Michigan side of the state has nice sandy beaches at most locations. Ludington State Park has the busiest campground in the state and for good reason with Hamlin Lake to the East and Lake Michigan to the West and plenty of rolling dunes in between.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore has very nice camping at the Platte River (weíll be there in early June), the D.H. Day campground does not have modem restrooms.

There is a very nice State Forest campground between Ludington and Manistee called the Lake Michigan Recreation Area.

The big lakes tend to be cold for swimming north of Ludington most of the time and donít warm up anywhere until late June.

Are you going to the U.P. too? The U.P. is predominantly rural, more rugged than down state. The Lake Superior shore is spectacular and campgrounds are not as busy as below the bridge. I recommend the Sault Locks, Tahquamenon Falls, Munising with the
Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore, the Keweenaw Peninsula, the Porcupine Mountains and Fayette State Park as UP highlights. Watch out for black flies, which can be bad in the U.P. until mid summer. With a ten day trip youíll need to be selective and Michigan is a big state. You might start planning your second trip to include the U.P.!
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Old 03-18-2007, 07:48 PM   #6
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My two cents. All of the posts have great suggestions. I do agree that since you are coming from Illlinois that the West coast of Michigan would be a great way to start in Michigan. I would suggest that you head to Traverse City and the Leelenau (some great parks there Lake Leelenau or Wild Cherry) or you can go to the Petosky KOA. This is a top rated park. We like to base camp out of this park- Mackinaw is only 45 minutes away or you can go up the Tunnel of Trees and eat at Leg's Inn. You'll have a great time anywhere in Michigan. Amsterdamer is correct that the state parks can be hard to get into and are often booked months in advance. If you are looking to find RV parks without reservations, you may be disappointed.

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Old 03-18-2007, 08:05 PM   #7
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I traveled with my 4 kids around Lake Michigan in 10 days. NOT enough time...Too much packing up & driving! Our favorite place was Traverse City. The park is on a really nice beach. We didn't go to Mackinac Island, as I have been there a couple of times (worked for a hotel on the Island that booked tours in Chicago) and didn't think it was worth the day it would take of our trip. I didn't think the kids would like it much either. We did go to Fort Mackinaw in Mackinaw City. It was really a good thing for the kids. They had Indian teepees and parts of the original Fort there. The people interacted with the kids and showed them how to make fire (good thing, I'm not sure, but they liked it!) and had a fake little battle too. We stay every year at Van Buren State Park in South Haven, Michigan. Nice beach and a nice town nearby. Don't miss Sherman's Ice Cream if you go! Kids love to run & I think that Mackinac Island is a place to hang on to them!

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Old 03-18-2007, 08:52 PM   #8
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Mackinac Island is wonderful, I think it is a little more for adults than children but I'm an old lady and a large fan of "SOMEWHERE IN TIME"..
A great place for children is in Dearborn, The Henry Ford Mus. and the "Greenfield Village".. I grew up going there on school field trips and was just fasinated.. It's educational as well as a lot of fun. My Grand Children are coming this summer and that's where we're headed..
Have a GREAT time in a GREAT state.. Zola
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Old 03-18-2007, 09:40 PM   #9
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Lower pennisula visiting

Watch the park grounds in Traverse City. Ours was close to the airport, and it sounded like the planes were going to fly into our camp area. Isn't there a Airstream mostly park on the outskirts of Traverse City? Money magazine rated Traverse City a few years back as a great place to have a second home.
It is a picturesque drive driving from the uppper pennisula to the lower pennisula.
Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes was a bit disappointing. The largest and steepest dune is closed in order to preserve the dune.

Enjoy the trup.
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Old 03-19-2007, 04:05 AM   #10
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I live most of my life in Michigan moving around so am familiar with state but I did not camp during that time. I did stay at the state park 'on the beach' in Grand Haven. It is a must have reservation place in the summer. THey have just down the street nightly water dancing with music, we used to go regular. such a lovely sight and free. just throw a blanket on the lawn. and a quaint little town.
Here is a link to Michigan parks.
Michigan RV Parks & Campgrounds - Camping in Michigan - RV Clubs
And for the state parks
DNR - Recreation & Camping
There is a state park on East Bay, well across the street that is very nice. not too far from down town with a zoo for kids and tons of shopping for adults.
IT is the 'Traverse City State Park', another must for reservations in summer. The cherry festival is in July around the 10th if I remember right. You could not find more for the kids to do, but be prepared for a lot of people, and the park may be already reserved for that time period.
I think Mackinaw Island is worth going to but I agree it is a bit of a tourist trap now. I remember the days - when I was a kid- that the stores all had home made items of great value for low prices. IT is just so very unique. The governor still has meetings at the Grand Hotel.
Have fun, Michigan is a great state with lots to do.
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Old 03-19-2007, 07:05 AM   #11
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Hi everyone and thanks for all of your input. It has been tremendously helpful. I was thinking Mackinac might be a bit touristy and downright boring for little kids, but wanted to be sure before I expressed an opinion to our friends. We're a very simple family. We like a change of scenery and a new campsite each night, we like to hike, ride bikes, find geocaches, swim, fish, enjoy the sun, find new and exciting ways to cook meals with sticks, foil, pie irons, & our beloved dutch oven. We'll try just about anything, but I aknowledge the fact that unhappy kids = unhappy everyone. And shopping isn't really an activity any of us enjoy - aside from the occasional early morning swap meet. A perfect night for all of us would be to hang a big white sheet, point a flashlight at it, and admire the unusual local insects it attracts. We'd all pick that over a day spent shopping in stores that carry tomahawks and boast the best homemade fudge on the planet.

So new, more specific quest: I'm Eliminating Mackinac Island & focusing on southern Michigan and Michigan beach towns. I'm hoping to find local festivals and free outdoor activities, State park recommendations in that area, even a few touristy fun spots or wacky themed private campgrounds. Once we get a few State Parks picked out and a few destinations I can call local Chamber of commerces for more info. Then, utilizing my powers of persuasion, I can make my case......and reservations!

Everyone talking about Upper Michigan destinations has me reminiscing. Hubby and I spent 2 weeks exploring the UP in January 1998. We had no plans - we drove, stopped at anything that looked interesting, skiied, and enjoyed the snowy outdoors (happy nostalgic gleem in eye). We were on our honeymoon.
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Old 03-19-2007, 07:16 AM   #12
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Well, maybe I will chime in here with my own .02 cents worth....and it will be worth exactly what you paid for it!! haha!!

Being a "Michigander" all my life, I do think it is quite the vacation paradise in the summer. I would try to do a "circle tour" if this is possible, and experience all it has to offer, without getting stagnant in one place for too long.... Starting from the Detroit area, as it was previously mentioned, do not miss the Henry Ford Museum/Greenfield Village in Dearborn. Everyone in the family will like that place. If you are interested in touring some of the restored mansions of the Auto Barons of the day, be sure to tour the Henry Ford Estate, right near the Village, and Edsel Ford's home in Grosse Pointe. Also Meadowbrook is worth touring also. The "thumb" area around Port Austin and Grindstone City is very pretty, looking out over Lake Huron, and the Saginaw Bay.... Make your way north on 75 and get off at 23, near Standish, and make your way over to the shores of Lake Huron again, and you will really enjoy that most scenic drive along the shoreline around Tawas. That is quite the tourist town!! Mackinaw City is a must see too.... there is a couple campground/trailer parks right there on #23 south of town, that overlook the lake, and the "Big Mac" Bridge. With small kids, you may want to think twice about the trip over to the Island....there really is not too much for the kids to do, but they would enjoy the boat ride over, I'll bet. It's very quaint, and unique, with no motorized vehicles anywhere, but I don't know how much your little guys would appreciate it.

From there, make your way up across the bridge, to the "Yoop".... Head up 75 to the Soo Locks.... This is a "must see"....especially if you are lucky enuff to see a big ol' "1000 footer" locking through. The Soo is a beautiful place to spend a day or two. From there wind your way up through Paradise to Whitefish Point, and take in the Shipwreck Museum. They have lots of memorabilia from several lost ships, and the most extensive collection of remnants from the wreck of the "Edmund Fitzgerald". If time allows, don't miss Copper Harbor, and the Fort Wilkins State Park has camping and trailer facilities.

On your way back down, as you come back across the bridge, don't miss the Petoskey/Traverse City area.....beautiful in June. If you have time, and want to mingle with the "beautiful people" for an afternoon....don't miss Bay Harbor in Petoskey!! I believe there is a "Great Wolf Lodge" and a big water park around Traverse City somewhere....the kids would really LOVE that!!
The drive down the Western shore of Michigan is something not to miss. Ludington, Pentwater, Grand Haven, South Haven....these are all beautiful and scenic travel destinations you and the kids will enjoy.

And as a last destination, before you leave our fair state, it wouldn't be a complete circle tour unless you "went to Hell"..... Hell, Michigan is a must see, if just to mail a letter from their post office, or visit a curio shop or two....

Hope this little travelogue helps a bit.... enjoy your vacation this summer!!!

Scott Anderson
Grosse Ile, Mich.
1969 23' Safari Twin
WBCCI # 22426
(formerly #22425 1968-76)

When it is my time, I want to go peacefully,
And in my sleep.....Just like my Grandfather....
Not screaming, kicking and in a state of panic,
like the other passengers in his car were......
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Old 03-19-2007, 07:36 AM   #13
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Thumbs up Lucky 7 kids

The UP Lake Superior shore. Rich in history - Great economical water front camping provided by small fishing villages - Wild beauty right at your front Airstream door
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Old 03-19-2007, 08:24 AM   #14
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Last year we vacationed in Michigan, started in Dearborn, went to Mackinaw Island, Soo and back. I concur with Commander. Henry Ford and Greenfield, particularly with childern are great! You can buy a package ticket that also includes a tour of the Ford truck factory. Allow 2 days minimum. Mackinaw City is a good visit, old fort and sawmill are cool. Mackinaw Island is nice for adults if you can stay a night or two. We enjoyed Soo. The locks are cool, a boat tour is a lot of fun. Also on the Canadian side there is a tourist train that might be fun. We enjoyed it. As Commander said there is a lot to see and do in the Soo area. Highly recommend it.

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