8 professional travelers offer road trip ideas
A little luxury around the Great Lakes
Driver: Pauline Frommer, 57, editorial director of Frommer travel guides and editor of Frommers.com
Or : The Chic Pockets of Northern Michigan
Tales from the road: Wealthy people have been vacationing in northern Michigan since the 1880s, after the arrival of railroad transportation. Later, automobile titans built their summer residences here. But for most Americans, the area is still a secret. I remember going to a music camp in the area when I was a kid. People I didn’t know smiled at me and said hello. Being a New Yorker, I was immediately suspicious, but learned that openness and friendliness was just part of Michigan culture. It was like being on another planet, but in a good way. For the past few years, I’ve been to the National Cherry Festival and recklessly tried to compete by spitting out cherry pits. The woman in front of me kicked seven feet, but I could barely keep the pits from hitting my feet. Apparently people practice. It was hilarious fun.
Itinerary: Fly to Traverse City, grab a car and head north into the Leelanau Peninsula. This region, known for its cherries, hosts the National Cherry Festival in July. But I go for the grapes – and the vineyards. This is the decadent wine country of the Midwest. Black Star Farms looks like a Southern mansion. They have an exceptional restaurant and a luxurious hostel where you should spend the night. With the winds from the lake, the evenings get cooler here, which some white grapes need but no longer get in other wine regions due to climate change. You can also visit cider houses like Two K Farms, which makes hard ciders from over 30 different apple varieties. Leelanau Cheese wins awards for its silky shepherd’s cheese. Mawby is a sparkling wine house that brings unexpected bubbles to this part of the country.
I attended what used to be called the National Music Camp. Now it’s known as Interlochen, and they have amazing performances from major artists that you normally only see in big cities, like Yo-Yo Ma. If you’re in that area, you really should travel to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and see some of the steepest dunes on the planet, with the blue Caribbean lake as your backdrop.
There’s an annual film festival in Traverse City and a destination-worthy farm-to-table restaurant called The Cooks’ House, where food is grown or picked locally. If you head north on Route 31 overlooking Grand Traverse Bay, you’ll come to Petoskey, a resort town on the northern end of the Lower Peninsula. The Inn at Bay Harbor is a beautiful place for a luxury stay, right on the water with all the services of a large resort. Along the way, stop at the Music House Museum in Williamsburg, which has an amazing collection of music boxes and antique automated instruments.
Also plan a short stay at Treetops Resort, especially if you are a golfer. The latest course designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. is one of many places worth playing. It’s called Masterpiece, and it really is. Golf one day and fly fish the next. The Au Sable River is legendary for trout. You can get a guide to show you the best casting spots.
It takes about an hour to reach Mackinaw City and the ferry to Mackinac Island, where cars are not allowed. Everyone travels by horse-drawn carriage or bicycle. You should stay at the Grand Hotel, which claims to have the largest porch in the world. Where is it somewhere in time was filmed, and once a year people come from all over the world dressed as characters. Or you can just sit back sipping a cocktail as the sun sets over the water. It really is quite magical.
The stories above were told to David Hochman, longtime editor for AARP: the magazine and AARP Newsletter. His signatures appear in The New York Times, Forbes, GQ, Food + Wine and many other publications.