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A Vacation Location to Remember

PETOSKEY / HARBOR SPRINGS, MICHIGAN

In 1873, George Gage, a Grand Rapids reporter, described Petoskey as “the land of the million-dollar sunsets”. Not much has changed since then.

The beautiful Little Traverse Bay outlines the town and its nearby neighbors – trendy Harbor Springs and exclusive Bay Harbor – with ocean-like views and sunsets hard to match anywhere along the Great Lakes.

It doesn’t take long to criss-cross the downtown streets, packed with plenty of great shops and inviting restaurants to explore. In fact, the area has flourished as a summer resort town since the late 1800s. It expanded its popularity in the late 1940s by becoming a winter skiing destination.

Ernest Hemingway, who lived in Petoskey and surrounding towns in his younger years, was said to have been a regular at the City Park Grill, which is just a block from Pennsylvania Park. The Grill features a turn-of-the-century atmosphere, with a hand-carved black walnut, cherry and hickory bar, tin ceilings, and good food at reasonable prices.

When out-of-towners stop at the local visitors bureau office, they can pick up the helpful walking tour and shopping-and-dining guides to plot their adventures and to learn about other area hangouts, such as the Bistro, a popular breakfast spot for the locals.

It’s easy to get around this welcoming community of 6,100 residents. The easy-to-follow walking tour brochure highlights the historic structures and briefly explains their importance.

Culture buffs will want to swing by the Crooked Tree Arts Center on Mitchell Street, which recently wrapped up a $4 million restoration. The center features works of art, music studios, a pottery lab, and performances throughout the year. A Sculpture Invitational runs through September 24 and every fall (October 4 through November 4), the 114-year old Victorian structure presents an intriguing Native American Anishnaabe Exhibit.

“Most of the buildings you see during the walking tour were constructed during the 1870s through 1930s, when the Victorian style of architecture was popular”, says the executive director of the Petoskey, Harbor Springs, and Boyne Country Visitors Bureau.

In addition to the historic stops, there are dozens of galleries, antique shops, specialty stores and boutiques. Time is well spent browsing at Symons General Store and Grandpa Shorter’s Gifts. If the weather is good, there are concerts in Pennsylvania Park on Tuesdays and Fridays. Visitors can stroll the picturesque waterfront, wander through the History Museum in the old railroad depot and take the pedestrian tunnel (under the main highway that skirts the town) to Bayfront Park.

“Petoskey means concerts in the park and walks on the waterfront with the kids to watch the sunset, followed with a round of ice cream cones” says a member of the local chamber of commerce. “Petoskey is the hub of Little Traverse Bay, yet offers the peaceful serenity of just being in one of the most beautiful spots on the Great Lakes.”

Come late January, more than 250 tons of thick block-ice transform Bay Harbor into a glistening wonderland of ice sculptures during the Bay Harbor Ice Festival. Complemented by a hot and spicy Chili Cook-off.

You can’t say Petoskey without mentioning morel mushrooms and the fascinatingly patterned Petoskey stones. Both are elusive but plentiful for the dedicated hunter. Hundreds make a pilgrimage to local forests to find mushrooms, especially during the 44-year-old National Morel Mushroom Festival in May. The area’s many public beaches dot the beautiful Little Traverse Bay coastline, from the sands of tony Harbor Springs to the waters west of Bay Harbor. Or head north on M-119 through the famous Tunnel of Trees route for a few miles to quieter sunning spots in tiny Good Hart.

Be sure to pack the golf clubs or skis, too, as there are almost as many golf holes and ski runs as there are boat slips. And the area fall color tours are exceptional. Boyne Highlands in Harbor Springs serves up excellent fall golf and winter skiing.

A quick drive to the east along U.S. Highway 31, the main road through town, is Bay View, a Chataqua community of 500 Victorian structures founded in 1875. The area is a national historic landmark. Guests are encouraged to tour, dine at the inns, and enjoy the cultural events.

Victorian charm is abundant in this corner of northwest Michigan.

Once you’ve seen the sites, explore the hiking and biking trails or tee off at any one of the 20 nearby public golf courses. It is difficult to poke into every nook and cranny in one day, but visitors can experience a pleasant acquaintance with what was once the Bear River area when the missionaries first arrived in 1852. The village was later named Petoskey in honor of an American Indian named Pet-o-se-ga and, in 1895, the town was officially incorporated.

While there are a variety of options for an evening meal at the Perry Stafford’s restaurant or others in town, a new popular hot spot a few miles away is Latitude at nearby Bay Harbor. Two other recommended restaurants are the Rowe Inn and Tapawingo, both about 45 minutes away in Ellsworth.

The area’s newest community, this year marking its 10 th anniversary, is Bay Harbor, just west of Petoskey along U.S. 31. The development meanders more than five miles along the Little Traverse Bay shoreline and has become a destination for those seeking the good life.

In the Village of Bay Harbor, there are upscale shops ranging from fine clothing and jewelry to impressive art and yachts.

Bay Harbor is also home to the spectacular 27-hole Bay Harbor Golf Club. Golf magazine ranked the three nine-hole courses among the top eight public courses in the United States in the club’s first season.

Petoskey certainly is upscale and can be expensive (just check the real estate), but there is plenty to see and do. Shopkeepers are polite and friendly even when you don’t buy, and the general surroundings will make you glad you came, say local community leaders.

“It is what hasn’t changed here that is our lure. This is small town America at its best,” says a local restaurateur.

The owner of a major specialty food store chain, adds: “I’m like a lot of people. We all come here as children and fall in love with Petoskey. It becomes part of our psyche. Then, after living somewhere else for a while, you say to yourself, ‘I’m not happy here – where was I happy?’ and pretty soon you’re back.”

 

JRD Management's exclusive properties are within hour to days drive of 38 scenic lighthouses.  JRD is Your Michigan Gold Coast Connection for Exclusive Vacation Rentals.  Lighthouse visiting and photography is becoming one of the premier trips in the Midwest.  There are 106 total lighthouses in Michigan alone, one of the most prolific locations of lighthouses anywhere in the world.

Whitefish Point is Michigan's most famous light station.  It's a 2-hour drive from JRD Management's exclusive Harbor Springs/Petoskey rentals.  First established in 1849, the current Whitefish Point Lighthouse dates back to restoration in 1861.  The significant restoration in 1920 upgraded the keepers quarters during the tenure of the Endress family, the most notable keepers of the light station.

In recognition of a significant number of visitors to the JRD properties being lighthouse hobbyists, we can advise you on potential lighthouse visits, trip mapping, and a complimentary $14.95 lighthouse souvenir are available to you

For specific information on the lighthouses in proximity to the day or less proximity to the JRD properties, you can go to www.members.tripod.com/finman_2/michmap.html.

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