The Midwest's finest are as good as it getsNorthern Michigan
Mackinac Island. There’s much more to this quaint island than just the world’s best fudge. Since no cars are allowed on the island, you must arrive by ferry or via the 8,614-foot Mackinac Bridge—North America’s longest suspension bridge physically connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. You can get around the island only by foot, horse carriage or bicycle. Then there’s the charming, 385-room Grand Hotel with the world's longest front porch. The 120-year-old, elegant hotel was the site of the 1979 movie, Somewhere in Time. Be sure to catch the island’s state park, honored by National Geographic as one of America’s 10 finest. For more info, visit www.mackinac.com.
Sleeping Bear Dunes Natural Lakeshore. Located in northwestern Lower Michigan, along the shores of Lake Michigan, it’s roughly 25 miles from bustling Traverse City. Disney’s FamilyFun magazine calls it the “Number One Midwest nature escape for families,” and rightly so, as this 70,000-acre getaway features 35 miles of wide, sandy beaches directly on Lake Michigan, massive sand dunes perched atop towering headlands and pristine inland lakes and streams. There are plenty of water sports, hiking and outdoor activities for people of all ages to participate in.
Frankenmuth. Roughly an hour northwest of metro Detroit on I-75, this Bavarian-themed town has a zoo, top-rated golf course and a main street packed with hotels, gift shops and large restaurants specializing in the world’s best fried chicken. The most-famous stop on South Main St. is the all-encompassing Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth, home to Splash Village Hotel & Waterpark, the 6,813-yard Fortress Golf Course and the town’s most-renowned eatery. For more info, visit www.frankenmuth.org.
Brainerd Golf Trail. Roughly two-and-a-half hours north of Minneapolis there are 20-plus courses on 17 sites, amounting to more than 300 holes of golf, in the scenic Brainerd area. There’s also plenty of lodging in town, ranging from upscale lake resorts to modern hotels, which is why it’s ranked as the state’s top stay-and-play golf destination. Courses here share a blend of lakes and woods—without the high green fees you might find in comparable golf destinations in other parts of the world. For more info, visit www.brainerdgolftrail.com.
Paul Bunyan Tributes. Seen that truck commercial on TV, where it drives up to a diner bearing a large (perhaps life-size) statue of Paul Bunyan? That’s in Brainerd Lakes, which claims ownership of the mythical lumberjack. Thus, tributes to him can be found all over town. The most famous Bunyan statue is located at Paul Bunyan Land at This Old Farm Pioneer Village, just east of Brainerd on Highway 18. It’s surrounded by the entire collection of rides from the former Paul Bunyan Amusement Center, which closed in 2003. The newest Paul sits at the Brainerd Lakes Area Welcome Center, where visitors often climb on his lap for photos. Many other Bunyan statues are around, including a talking version, as are his flashlight (at Brainerd’s water tower) and wooden axe (outside Crosslake’s Ace Hardware).
Walleye Pike. No trip to Minnesota is complete without tasting the official state fish, walleye pike. Many restaurants serve it, in one preparation form or another. TJ’s Supper Club in Deerwood serves it deep-fried, with au gratin potatoes on the side. Right on a lake, the restaurant also dishes up a fantastic Sunday brunch that includes pike.
U.S. Hockey Hall Of Fame. Three hours north of Minneapolis, in Eveleth, Minn., this hockey museum celebrates American hockey by honoring and recognizing outstanding hockey contributors and capturing the true spirit and excitement of hockey. Inductees include many famous U.S.-born stars and members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.