So what can you tell me about Ann Arbor?

bestyearsJuly 31, 2014

.... and the greater area around it?

We have plans to purchase a second home, a lake house, sometime in the next few years. We intend to live in this home from June to about Labor Day each year. We'll keep a home in Texas for the winter months.

We live in Texas now, but want a lake that is more similar to what I grew up with in NH, than the lakes here. Quaint, dotted with old cottages, a bit of privacy around each cottage. A 900 acre lake seems like about the right size. So I've been looking at various lakes in the Adirondacks -which are very appealing. But in thinking ahead many years down the road, I got to thinking about how nice it would be when friends and family visit to have things besides outdoorsy things to do. A cute nearby town, restaurants, etc. And eventually, that search led to the Ann Arbor area. I've only talked to one real life friend who used to live there and loves it. The rest of my info is all internet stuff.

If you know something about the area, would you mind sharing? Also, would love to have recommendations for lakes up to an hour from Ann Arbor would probably be fine.

Thanks so much!

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I have a good friend who used to live there (though originally from NYC metro) and loved it. Her daughter is going to school there this fall, in part because they love the area.

I also recall a nearby town being in a top ten place to retire list .. was it Hollandia? I may have that all wrong.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 9:02PM
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I've only been there once and thought it was a really nice college town. As such, you will miss most of the college crowd if you're there summers only which will make going into town more manageable. For me a big plus would be having U of Michigan hospital there, especially as you age. Not sure I'd want to be in the middle of the Adirondacks and have a serious or life-threatening medical incident happen. Of course you will want to visit several times before buying.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 9:07PM
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I live about 20 minutes north of Ann Arbor and love it here! I wish I could give you a specific lake to go after, but I can't. We're also looking for a lake home (just casually looking). There are a lot of lakes up here though.

Ann Arbor has a lot of great restaurants and community events. Michigan football is always fun too!

Here is a huge generalization....The further east of Ann Arbor you go, it gets more like Detroit. West of Ann Arbor gets a bit rural.

Have you contacted a realtor? We're currently on an email distribution that sends us links to new listings based on our criteria. Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 11:04AM
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I just remembered Hidden Lake in Brighton. It's a neighborhood with a private lake. I know a few families who live there and LOVE it!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 11:37AM
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Oh btw, the place was Holland, MI, which does get great ratings in surveys but is 2hr from AA.

Have you thought about Asheville NC?

Also, I would favor places with direct flights.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 12:50PM
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A2 is very different from Adirondacks, of course.

We looked at a house on Huron River Drive in A2 proper (you wouldn't like Ypsi -- they call it Ipsitucky) that was lovely - but of course a river is not a lake. Lots of college town stuff: great brewery, great medical, lots of restaurants, hard to park, nice for cycling or any kind of special-interest indoor or outdoor thing you can think of. Treasure Mart and Zingerman's Deli in the brick-street section of town. There has been a considerable amount of development in the outskirts. I wouldn't call anything within a half hour's drive "quaint" - the college and the local industry attract world class minds and they all have bodies that have to live someplace.

You can skip Whitmore Lake, in my opinion. It's a farming area, not vacation cottages.

Dixboro maybe, but it's very close in and A2 is spreading. And no 900 acre lake. It's on Ann Ann-Plymouth Road, which is a nice road on which to approach A2 from the east.

I recommend you check out Milford. It is definitely more quaint. Really cute, in fact.. It doesn't have all that great stuff you get in a big 10 college area but it has developed sweetly over the years so although isn't the town where time stood still it's still very pleasant.

If I can answer any specific questions, please let me know. We live in Indiana now.

We lived in Birmingham - a core of quaint, I suppose, but crowded and expensive, and Northville - also once quaint, but when everything is overdeveloped with huge expensive homes it feels a bit fake to go to the farm n' feed, don't you think?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 4:14PM
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Thanks everyone -just the kind of feedback I was looking for. And yes, we will most definitely be testing the area out before we buy anywhere. One of the reasons I'm working rather diligently on this now is because we're thinking of renting a place on a target lake (or two) next summer to see what we think. Don't want to have a hard time booking, so figure the earlier the better.

We haven't contacted a realtor yet because I want to wait till we've really nailed the area down a bit more first.

Regarding Asheville area -actually one of our early thoughts was to buy a lake house in NC -because it has some great cities, also has a coastline, etc. But honestly, besides Lake Lure, I haven't found what I consider a cottage-filled, charming lake -as opposed to a new-build neighborhood which happens to be on a lake...

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 5:40PM
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Ann Arbor is known for its medical facilities and is very nice. Not sure I would want to vacation there but we are all different. There are lots of nice restaurants and shops. Near there is Crooked Lake , Brighton MI (north of Ann Arbor), Very popular lake close to nice restaurants, very pricy if you want waterfront. Also, closer to the side effects of no more industry or jobs once you get outside the bigger towns. You would not need a connecter flight from Detroit but Detroit is very horrible to drive in.

Here is a sample real-estate on Crooked lake.

There are endless lakes to look into in Michigan. Not all areas have nice dining though. In fact some areas are a bit depressed once you leave the lakefront haven. Saying that though, upper west Michigan is so pretty in the summer and fall and there is something for everyone to do (my fav area).

***My very favorite area is Harbor Springs MI. It is a beautiful little town. There are also many other nice towns near to explore as well with good restaurants and art galleries. And of course it’s not to horribly far from some of the fabulous state parks in the U.P. There is also a pretty marina loaded with big sail boats. You would need a connecter flight from Detroit.
This area is also pricey but there are a few cottages that are reasonable.

Sample real-estate.

Edited to add, there are endless day trips to take from the Harbor Springs Area. Mackinaw Island isn’t too far, head further north to Tahquamenon Falls State Park or the Sault ste Marie Locks. Or, you can drive the coast south of Harbor Springs all the way to Traverse City. That drive is nice because there are several quaint towns along the way. Each of the towns usually have some sort of festival every summer. Traverse City has a big nationally known Cherry festival.

Calendar (every year) nearby area festivals and more...

National Cherry Festival in Traverse City is a week of celebrations surrounding the sweet and tart cherries. Nationally recognized as a summer treat! July 5-12.

Harbor Springs July 4th Art Fair is held in Zorn Park and attracts artists from around the country.

Ellebration! takes place July 4-5 in Ellsworth.

Women's Club Art Fest hosted the Northern Michigan Women's Club is held at Nub's Nob on July 9.

Blissfest Music Festival is a celebration of music, culture, art and community at the Festival Farm in picturesque rural northern Michigan July 11-13.

The Arts & Crafts Show in Charlevoix is unique because of the quality crafts exhibited. Visit the show July 12-13.

Indian River Summerfest, July 14-20, includes a duck race, lobster roast, sport events, and more. Don't miss the Indian River SummerFest.

Venetian Festival in Charlevoix began 80+ years ago as a simple candle-lit boat parade and has grown into a week-long flurry of color and pageantry that highlights the summer season and attracts tens of thousands of visitors. July 19-26. For more information, visit Venetian Festival.

Art in the Park in Petoskey's Pennsylvania Park has terrific art and includes a children's tent on July 19.

The Antique Flywheelers Show, July 24-27 has demonstrations, a petting zoo, music, dancing, and more.

Bay Harbor Art Festival is held in the waterside community of Bay Harbor on July 26-27.

Click here for the July Calendar of Events.

The Polish Festival in Boyne Falls is a northern Michigan tradition you don't want to miss. Polish food, Polish music, carnival, rodeo and lots of fun! Bring your polka shoes and plan on having a blast, August 1-4.

Rendezvous in Mackinaw & 18th Century Trade Fair takes place August 2-4 in Mackinaw City.

The Portside Art Fair is in East Jordan August 3-4.

East Jordan's Portside Art Fair takes place August 3-4.

Charlevoix's Waterfront Art Fair is held August 9.

Alanson Riverfest in Alanson is a weekend that includes an art/craft show, flea market, raffles, music and some new events this year, too! August 8-10.

The Ironworkers Festival in Mackinaw City attracts ironworkers from across the US and Canada to compete in friendly competition. August 9-11.

The Odawa Homecoming, August 9-11, features drumming, dancing, and music.
Festival on the Bay on Petoskey's waterfront is filled with food, fun, entertainment and activities galore, August 16-17. The 11th annual event includes great live music, lots of fun kid's activities, great food, competitive sporting events, Chalk & Chocolate Festival, Youth Fishing Derby, SAFE Teen Dance & more! An arts and crafts show will be held on Saturday in Pennsylvania Park in downtown Petoskey.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cottage on water Harbor Springs area

This post was edited by jterrilynn on Fri, Aug 1, 14 at 19:16

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 6:18PM
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Thank you so much jterrilynn for the pics and all the info. I don't doubt for a second that the upper peninsula area of MI would be my most favorite. But one of the considerations is being within a few hours of family in the Cleveland hour. It's not a deal breaker, but a strong consideration. Harbor Springs looks absolutely perfect -just perhaps too far away....

edited: Gosh jtl, why'd you have to go post those gorgeous UP pics and mention Makinaw Island??!?!??!

This post was edited by bestyears on Fri, Aug 1, 14 at 19:22

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 7:09PM
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Yes I understand that! It’s not easy getting there but oh the joy once you land (see my update on festivals every summer). I wonder if one can get a small craft flight straight up there from Cleveland ? That’s the “real” Michigan up there.

Edited to add...
Yip I mentioned Mackinaw Island, great place to visit but I wouldn’t want more than two days. Very touristy with horrible food and endless fudge, toffee and brittle shops. There are very few shops not filled with tourist crap to buy. Biking around the island is fun but you must wear or take a full body rain cover. As you know there are no cars allowed, when it rains the horse poop gets slushy and flies off the rear bike tire all over your back. I’m making it sound horrible, it’s not but there is not much diversity on things to do after two days or so. However, it could just be me.

This post was edited by jterrilynn on Fri, Aug 1, 14 at 19:58

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 7:24PM
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I don't think harbor springs is quaint or New Hampshire-like. I think it's touristy and yup market. That said, I love the Lake Michigan Dunes from bottom to top, and I love cycling through the tunnel of trees near there at Good Hart, which is very small and old money.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 7:58PM
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I missed "cottage" from the original post. If that's what you want near Ann Arbor then I also think Milford is nice. It has a very quaint downtown too. Lake Michigan is gorgeous and there are many nice towns along the coast.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 8:16PM
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My niece just finished medical school there and is staying on for her residency. She loves it. Met her fiancé and they will probably be there for life.

I think the Great Lakes area would be a wonderful area to have a summer home. We are in central illinois and the heat and humidity here can be just awful. I can imagine how hot Texas must be.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 11:08PM
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Milford def. looks nice -and quaint. I'm doing some online digging to find some of the nearby lakes and figure out if they fit.

red -that's nice to hear, and consistent with what I keep hearing. I don't think we want to be right on one of the Great Lakes. Just too big I think. I get lost fairly easily, and I don't want a lake that I have to think too hard about when I'm boating around.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 11:28PM
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best, I'm from metro Detroit (Farmington Hills), know the Ann Arbor and surrounding areas very well and now live on Lake Michigan. I'm happy to help you sort through the region. Ask away! SE Michigan has dozens of beautiful lakes and communities ... as most of Michigan does.

Ann Arbor is a fantastic, diverse, trendy mid-sized city with a vibrant arts, music, culture, food scene. It has that great college-area buzz and energy you wish you could bottle up. We visit often since my hubby has had ongoing projects downtown and at UM for years. Be mindful that A2 can be a very busy city with traffic and large crowds (obviously nowhere near the headaches of a large city, but still worth noting) since it boasts a major university, a worldclass hospital complex, several large companies, etc. There are a number of charming and quiet small towns nearby.

Since you want to be close to A2, I'd first focus in on the area north of 94 and west of 23 in and around Pinckney State Recreational Area. Check out all these small lakes. Do you have the app? You can easily view waterfront properties currently for sale on the map to get a feel for what's available. It's quite handy.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 9:35AM
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All of that said, I have to agree that the towns along Michigan's west coast are simply the best! I'm partial because I now live in gorgeous Ludington, pictured here.

Saugatuck, Holland, Grand Haven, Ludington, Frankfort, Traverse City, Glen Arbor, Charlevoix, Petoskey, Harbor Springs are must visits. Awesome towns, awesome natural beauty.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 9:47AM
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Thank you so much jujubean! I will definitely be back with questions for you. We don't want to be IN Ann Arbor, just close to it, so the areas you have mentioned will probably work well. I'm planning to spend some looking into this quite a bit this weekend and over the next week or so.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 9:53AM
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Another idea… There is also Pickerel Lake and Crooked Lake, sort of between Harbor Springs and Cheboygan. My relatives go boating often on the northern Crooked Lake but I know little of Pickerel. Crooked lake has a good variety of homes, some log, some little cottages and some are grand. The prices have a big range too. Again, I like the area for its proximity for diversity on things to do for day trips. Northwest flies to Cheboygan and the drive from there is short.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 10:15AM
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Yes someone else mentioned Crooked Lake, and it's good to know about the variety of homes. That's appealing to me, and somewhat mimics what I grew up with (in NH). I just looked at Pickerel, but its a 'no wake lake' -which leaves it out, because we definitely want to enjoy water skiing and tubing. I am using, but its a little frustrating because although I qualify my searches with 'waterfront' they include 'water access' in the results, and thats the biggest thing DH and I are in agreement on -we won't compromise on that. I also like -but not everything is listed there. I'm so excited to make a trip to MI to check all of this out!

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 1:00PM
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Yes someone else mentioned Crooked Lake, and it's good to know about the variety of homes. That's appealing to me, and somewhat mimics what I grew up with (in NH). I just looked at Pickerel, but its a 'no wake lake' -which leaves it out, because we definitely want to enjoy water skiing and tubing. I am using, but its a little frustrating because although I qualify my searches with 'waterfront' they include 'water access' in the results, and thats the biggest thing DH and I are in agreement on -we won't compromise on that. I also like -but not everything is listed there. I'm so excited to make a trip to MI to check all of this out!

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 1:34PM
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The linked website seems like a good way to browse -- better than To get an idea of its usefulness, choose Washtenaw county. (That's A2's county.) Milford is in Oakland County. Both counties are places of year-round homes where people commute to desk jobs every day, although there are open spaces mixed in. All of Oakland county is still basically "greater Detroit". The auto industry generated a lot of development.

The Irish Hills area, below A2, is less hustle-bustle. But then you don't have a quaint town as easy to reach. Toward the Ohio border (think Coldwater or Sturgis) is definitely country, but it feels like a hunting and fishing area, not where families go, iykwim. Although I go to a restuarant that is practically inside an aquarium --Lunkers-- whenever I'm near.

Here is a link that might be useful: visual lakefront search

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 8:43AM
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Thank you jamies -I'm off to take a look at that site.

Wow, thanks Jamies, that's exactly what I needed -very helpful.

Question for all of you familiar with the area.... I keep seeing lawns, lawns, lawns on all these waterfront homes. In NH, every now and then somebody would put in a lawn at the lake, but it always seemed very foolish. Why would you want to take on that maintenance during your R&R time in a location where you didn't have to have a lawn. So would it be weird not to have a lawn at a lake in MI? To just let it be natural?

This post was edited by bestyears on Sun, Aug 3, 14 at 13:00

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 12:34PM
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It depends on what lake you are on. Just like most neighborhoods your neighbors will expect certain exterior upkeep. Not so much in remote areas though. You will have a trade-off on nicer things to do near or better dining near if you go remote usually. There are plenty of remote waterfronts owned by hunters and fishermen. You could hire a maintenance company that will manage the yard and check your home during power outages to switch things back on so your pipes don’t burst. Depending on where you buy you could always rent the house out a few weeks in the winter to offset maintenance costs. If you are close to some of the popular snowmobile trails or skiing that would be a plus.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 2:45PM
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Bestyears, Just much time have you spent in Michigan?

I have spent much of my vacation time at homes on lakes in Michigan. You will typically find one row of houses against the water. Unless the home is right up to the water, which is rare, you have lawn that leads into beach. If you move 1,2,3 blocks inland, there is lawn, lawn, lawn. many communities have full time residents who use lake homes as their primary residence. Primary residences have lawns.

In Michigan, lawns are considered natural....unless you are totally in the woods where lawns don't grow.

This post was edited by jmc01 on Sun, Aug 3, 14 at 18:35

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 6:28PM
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Give a shout out to Lynninnewmexico a native Michigander...

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 6:52PM
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I hope I didn't come across as negative about the lawn thing -I truly was just puzzled... thanks for the clarification.

jmc, I haven't spent a single minute in Michigan! But I've
been a bit besotted with the state for many, many years, primarily because of the beautiful lakes there. I grew up on and still deeply love the lakes in NH, and in many ways that has become the standard against which I measure everything. I have more recently fallen in love with the Adirondack area, and have been kind of thinking that we would end up with a summer place there. We've ruled NH out simply because we'd like to explore a new area, and we no longer have any close family there. It was while I was exploring the lakes of the Adirondacks online that I realized by shifting geography slightly I could get within a few hours of my mom and sister near Cleveland, OH. My mom moved in with my sister a year and a half ago. If I were to be within a few hours of them, I could relieve my sister a bit by taking my mom for many weekends and even overnights during the week (Mom works part time). So you can see this is all very early in the process, but that's typical of me. I like to sort through lots of information before making a decision. One real conundrum is that if my mom retires in the next year or so, then being close isn't really an issue, because she could simply come to us for a few months. She's very healthy, and work provides much of her social life -but she's also 74. And if proximity wasn't an issue, I'd certainly strongly consider the Upper Peninsula area as well.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 7:40PM
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Hopefully my fellow native Michigander Lynn will chime in. She is from an area south of the area I grew up and may bring a different perspective.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 7:40PM
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This property is the closest thing I've found to what I have in my mind's eye. It's on a river, rather than a lake, but the privacy and natural state of the lot are right in keeping with what we have in mind. The inside of the house is lovely too, includes some charming rooms, though we don't need 3 bathrooms particularly. In fact, it doesn't even need to be as complete as this place is. We wouldn't have any problem tearing up carpets and painting, etc. Clearly we're not even close to making an offer on a place, and this wouldn't do anyway, because I love the beautiful expanse of a lake, rather than a river -just trying to give you a picture of what I've been trying to describe

Here is a link that might be useful: Charming cottage in a natural, private setting

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 8:49PM
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Very nice!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 9:22PM
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From the top of Sleeping Bear Dune you can see Glen Lake and Lake Michigan both. The view is my favorite in the state. It's just minutes from that cottage.

Glen Arbor is more touristy, Empire more rustic.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 10:07PM
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Hello from a fellow Michigander:) I grew up in northern Michigan then moved out of state but just bought a home on the west side, outside of Grand Rapids. We own property over by the Pickney State Recreational area though and it is beautiful too with lots of charming little lakes. Dexter is my favorite little town over there maybe you could look there.

You could always fly into Gerald Ford International in Grand Rapids-super easy to get in and out of with Southwest being one on the main airlines. That way you could look into some beautiful lakes over this way.

Juju-I didn't know that your fabulous house is in Ludington:) we were just there for the fourth. We always run the Lakestride. It's a very small world. My Bil family is from there matter of fact. We will be there this week to go to the state park. Gorgeous place to check out too.

Here's a pic from the Empire trail hike in Sleeping Bear. One of the many reasons why it's voted one of the most beautiful places to visit.

Very proud of my home state. It gets a lot of flak sometimes because everyone thinks it's all like Detroit. Tim Allen and Pure Michigan ads are part of the reason I'm back "home"

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 10:48PM
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jamies, I can see why this it your favorite view in all the state. Just an amazing area.

Thanks for weighing in Blue- I will definitely look at Dexter as well as the towns near Grand Rapids, and thanks for the tip on the airport as well.

So much beauty everywhere I look....

Another question: I see the real-estate market often allows you to search on 'inland lakes' or 'great lakes' -which is great for me, because I believe we'd rather be on an inland lake, because quiet honestly, I can't quite figure out how people navigate a place like one of the great lakes -how do you head out for an afternoon of water skiing and not get hopelessly lost?

This post was edited by bestyears on Sun, Aug 3, 14 at 23:36

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 11:00PM
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You usually watch for landmarks along the shore;) The big lakes are usually too cold to really enjoy like that in my opinion. But we also have a home in Florida and I like to keep my pool at 88. The big lakes are just so beautiful to look at and splash around in, there is nothing quite like Lake Michigan. If you focus on the inland lakes you are bound to find one that steals your heart. Feel free to email me when you find more that you like and I can share anything that I know, we have family all over the state.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 11:28PM
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I grew up in Michigan. My best friends family had a place on Sugar Loaf lake near Chelsea, Mi. (15 miles from AA) It has probably been (gulp) 40 years since I was there so I don't know what it is like today. But summers in my teen years were filled with skiing, boating and swimming. This whole thread has brought back so many fond memories! DH and I often camped in Ludington, it is so beautiful! In college we used to race sail boats in lake Charlevoix and sail to Drummond Island for adventures. We are going back to Michigan this summer, it's been about 15 years since we've been back. Can't wait!

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 3:17AM
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blue -that makes sense, thanks.

nan53 -so happy for you. I don't remember Sugar Loaf showing up in any of my searches, so I'm going to go look at that. Hope you have a great time in MI!

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 9:15AM
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As a longtime owner of a cottage in the Sleeping Bear Dunes area near Traverse City, I can attest that the five hour trip from our home in a Chicago suburb has always been well worth the time spent traveling there--often there and back every weekend for short stays over the years. I don't think you'd regret spending a few more hours on the road if you chose a place in that area. It's really just incomparable in the beauty and activities it offers. I'm not sure if you know it's not in the Upper Peninsula--it's in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula.

Check out inland lakes in Benzie County, Leelanau County and Grand Traverse County. A helpful real estate site for that area is

Blue--The view from the Empire Bluffs trail is my screensaver photo, which then morphs into a scene on Platte Lake in Honor--two of my favorite places. :-)

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 10:54AM
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Thanks jboling -also thanks for the clarification on Upper Peninsula. I think I'm starting to get it, but my gosh MI has a LOT of lakes!!!! The Taar site is excellent, and I've bookmarked it.

Here is a link that might be useful: This place has a lot of natural charm....

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 4:33PM
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blue, how cool that you're in Ludington this week. If you got cones at House of Flavors (a Ludington must), my son may have scooped your ice cream. I love where I live and feel blessed each day as I wake up at this beautiful beach on Lake Michigan. By the way, best, we jet ski, boat, kayak or paddle board almost daily -- no troubles at all, although the water is much colder this summer than usual. I'm heading to a meeting soon where we're discussing adding new amenities and events to the city. We already pack so much cool stuff into this small town, but there's more coming. Adding a splash park downtown is high on my agenda.

best, if you care to check out Mason County, you'll see there are a number of inland lakes including Hamlin. Prices are very good compared to many other inland lakes in Northern Michigan, and they're all so nice. There's really no comparison between the Ann Arbor area and NW Michigan. It's a different feel altogether.

Who doesn't fall in love with the Grand Traverse region? We have a place up there, too.

best, listen to this interview with Chef Mario Bataki about that area. You really should travel along Michigan's west coast before selecting a place elsewhere.

Here is a link that might be useful: Interview

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 9:48AM
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There's a great TV program called Under The Radar Michigan that explores all the state's regions. Definitely check it out.

I'm linking the episode about Leelanau Peninsula, but just click around the website for episodes featuring other areas. Also available on YouTube. Good stuff.

Here is a link that might be useful: UTR MI

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 10:02AM
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jujubean, your love for the area just bounds right through my monitor -and I LOVE that! You've given me so much good information, and I can't wait to go check out the links to the tv show. It gives me a good way to share all of this with DH as well.

edited to add:

I started with the segment you linked, which I loved, and have now watched half a dozen. (I'm supposed to be painting today, thanks!). So I've just torn myself away, but will be watching many more. Had no idea the area was such a foodie haven. That's music to my ears....

This post was edited by bestyears on Thu, Aug 7, 14 at 13:38

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 10:23AM
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When I close my eyes and imagine Heaven, I think it looks something like the area around the "little finger". I spent almost every summer of my formative years up there and am still hoping to be able to persuade DH that that is where we need to have our summer home when we retire. Try doing a search of Glen Lake. It's across the street from Sleeping Bear Dunes and is a gorgeous fun lake. Not too far from Traverse City, and also in the summer there are always concerts at Interlachen (it's a summer camp place where top music students from all over the country go.)
Best of luck in your search!!
Now a Buckeye but in heart always a Michigander

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 1:51PM
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Loved your post Edie. I'm still having to convince DH a bit too. He's a little concerned that the summers won't be as warm as he'd like them, which is no doubt true. But we've lived outside of Houston for the last 18 years, and the summers are just killing me. The hotter it gets, the more DH loves it, but I'm just dying a little bit with each summer. I so miss the Northern air, water and people... We're going!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 7:09PM
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Bestyears--If you are able to take some time to rent various lake places for a week here and there before making your decision, I'd highly recommend that. That would provide you with a chance to learn the "flavor" of the area and the lake. We've always had luck with VRBO for Michigan rentals. In fact, we've rented a place on beautiful Glen Lake, which Edie mentioned, for a week in September. Glen Lake, as well as Crystal Lake in Beulah, are an amazing shade of blue that rivals the Caribbean or Hawaiian waters!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 7:47PM
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jboling, that's exactly what we intend to do. And I might even be able to sneak a long weekend trip in within the next month or so...

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 8:46AM
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I think we may head to the Sleeping Bear Dunes area around the end of September. We can only go for a Thursday through Monday, due to my work schedule (and that's only if my director will teach my Thursday classes for me, which I'm working on now). It looks like the Traverse City airport is closest, so I'll look at flights from Houston to that airport. I think we may try to get a cottage through VRBO/Homeaway etc. We're looking at Crystal Lake, Glen Lake, Platte Lake...

This post was edited by bestyears on Sat, Aug 9, 14 at 10:23

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 9:39AM
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Okay, so I'm working on planning this trip. Looks we will fly into TC on Friday 9/26, arriving late afternoon. Wish we could arrive earlier, but I can't find a flight. We'll fly home from Traverse City Monday 9/30 in the early evening. I think we'll probably just stay in a condo or hotel for this visit, since we intend to be gallivanting around a bit, and won't have time to enjoy a lake cottage.

We're thinking of leaving the airport straight for the Sleeping Bear Dunes area with the intention of spending Fri. night and the weekend in that area. We'd like to see most of the area between Crystal Lake and Glen Lake, including the SB National Park, Crystal Lake, Glen Lake, the towns of Glen Haven and Empire, and ??? On Monday morning we will head back to Traverse City and spend the day just getting a feel for the town, before we head to the airport.

So I have a few questions:

1. Does the plan make sense?

2. Are we too ambitious -can we fit all this in on the weekend?

3. Have I forgotten anything we should really see?

4. Can you recommend a specific area I should be looking at for hotel/condo?

5. Any restaurant recommendations? We get the most enjoyment for simple food deliciously prepared. So for lunch, we love fabulous salads, very fresh sandwiches on homemade bread, homemade soups, etc. For dinner, we aren't interested in fancy or white tablecloth, just really delicious.

6. What area(s) of TC should we visit on Monday?

I am in your debt.....

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 1:31AM
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Hi bestyears. How fun that you're already making plans to visit the area. I recommend staying at The Homestead in Glen Arbor. It's a cute little village right on Lake Michigan with privately-owned condos available to rent. Late September should be beautiful as a few trees will already be changing colors ... and perhaps many trees since we've had much cooler weather overall this year that's expected to continue into the fall and winter.

Since you'll want to see a lot of area in a short amount of time, you could check out Glen Arbor, Little and Big Glen Lakes and SBD (Pierce Stocking Drive) the day you arrive; check out Leland, Lake Leelanau, Suttons Bay and West Traverse Bay on Saturday; drive through Empire and visit Platte River/Lake, Crystal Lake and Frankfort on Sunday; visit downtown TC and Old Mission Penninsula on Monday before you head to the airport.

You're missing out on the Torch Lake / Charlevoix / Petoskey / Harbor Springs area, which is another beautiful area full of lakes, small towns, shopping and dining, but you'll have a good idea of what the region offers and whether it's a good fit for you. You can visit the Charlevoix area if you decide to return.

I have a lot of restaurant recommendations. I'll be back to list them!

Here is a link that might be useful: The Homestead

This post was edited by jujubean71 on Mon, Aug 11, 14 at 8:40

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 8:31AM
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1. Absolutely it makes sense!

2. Yes,I think you can. All of the spots that you mention are within an hour or so of each other.

3. If I were you I would start out in TC and then head up "22" through Suttons Bay-charming-cut over on "204" you will pass "Lake Leelenau"-beautiful lake. You will also pass "45 North" one of our favorite wineries if you're into that. You will be there during harvest season :) when "204" dead-ends into "22" I would go north for about 5-10 miles to the town of "Leland" it's one of the oldest fishing villages in the US-super cute.

Come back south on "22" then you can hit all of the "Glens". Carry on to Empire and Frankfort-Crystal lake from there. If I were you I would stay on "22" and take a drive south to Ludington-Hamlin lake area probably an hour or so. Absolutely beautiful. Stay the night, then work your way back up the coast.

Actually, if I am being completely honest I would fly into Grand Rapids and fly out go Traverse City that way you're not backtracking :). Then you could see Grand Haven, Pentwater, Ludington, Manistee all on the way to TC. The whole west coast is gorgeous. You will not be disappointed no matter where you decide.

Lots of great eateries along the way. I will have to brainstorm to remember all of the names.

Tons of great hotels-look for one on the water-Grand Traverse Bay. It will be gorgeous in the fall.

I will be there the weekend after you for our annual "wine weekend" so it is a beautiful place to be during fall the prettiest colors. You should see Michigan in all her firery glory. I am very excited for you.

Oh and if you would like to know about a secret spot in Sleeping Bear to pick up "Petoskey stones" the Michigan State stone, I can give you an insider tip;)

Oh and one more thing, make sure you save some time to actually experience Sleeping Bear sand dunes they are unreal, if you need more info about the park let me know-so excited for you!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 8:50AM
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Make sure to inquire about *updated* condo availability at The Homestead. I've heard some of the accommodations aren't up to par.

Alternatively, you might like Black Star Farms, which is an inn at a winery with a fabulous restaurant. This is a big wine and beer making area with vineyards and hops farms galore and really great food. Black Star Farms offers all of that on site.

There are also a number of cute B&Bs in the area you can check out on tripadvisor.

Here is a link that might be useful: Black Star Farms

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 9:00AM
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Here is a list I keep of some of our favorite restaurants in the Grand Traverse region along with a couple we still need to try. A few are finer dining, so just look at menus online and pick what you like.

Traverse City - Cooks' House, Tratorria Stella, Amical, Georgina's, Patisserie Amie, Pepenero, Harrington's, Apache Trout Grill, Om Cafe, Green House Cafe

Old Mission Peninsula - Jolly Pumpkin, Boathouse

Sutton's Bay - 9 Bean Rows, Martha's Leelanau Table, Hearth and Vine

Glen Arbor - Cherry Republic Cafe, Blu, La Becasse, Trattoria Funistrada

Leland - Riverside Inn, Cove, Village Cheese Shanty

Empire - Grocer's Daughter Chocolate

Frankfort - Fusion, Stormcloud Brewing

Elk Rapids - Siren Hall

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 10:24AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i grew up in livonia.. about 25 east of AA .. and now live in Tecumseh MI ... about 15 miles SW of AA ...

many great suggestions here ... but i would like to have you look at a map of the area ...

anything on or near one of the major suburban feeder expressways ... is highly congested on the lake.. and extremely high priced ....those roads would I94,I96, M59 ... 696 .. etc ... these may not be the type of bucolic lake settings you are looking for ... this would rule out.. milford.. brighton... these are are all commuter burbs for the Detroit auto industry ...

i suggest you look to the irish hills area ... which is south and west of AA ... out M12 ... thru saline... clinton.. etc ... even as far as hillsdale .... see link

the beauty of this area.. is that it is 3 hours from cleveland ...

the west coat of MI.. would be 5 hours min ... traverse city going on 7 or 8 hours.. and the UP 8 to 10 hours ... this is a matter of how much you might really want relatives to visit.. lol ...

see this link also:

and note on the map ... how you are near AA ... but away from all the big expressways ...

if i were you.. i would find a cottage to rent and explore ANY AREA ... instead of relying on strangers and real estate agents ....

many of the lakes i grew up on ... are crazy noisy with weekend warriors ... because as the motor city expanded with commuters.. the old cottage experience.. became home ...

perhaps you should consider renting a cottage in fall .. though you might not get the full summer experience.. it would give you an opportunity to better explore.. the greater area ...

good luck ...


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 10:26AM
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Thank you so much Jujubean and Blue for all the tips! Since the time I posted, I found a neat little place called Sleeping Bear B&B -looks nice and is well rated. Any opinions on that? I'll be spending most of my non-painting time today checking out all the tips you each passed on -yay!

Ken - I'll be visiting my mom and sister in Cleveland later this month, and am going to take a day trip to the Ann Arbor area at that time. So by the end of Sept. I will have seen both the AA area and the Sleeping Bear area, and I'm hopeful that we will feel very strongly about one area over the other. AA has the benefit of my mom being able to visit, but since she won't be working more than another year or two, if we strongly prefer the SB area, once she is no longer working, proximity doesn't really matter, and she can simply stay with us for a month or more. Thank you for all the details and cautions. Assuming my DH agrees that MI is our lakehouse destination, we will most definitely be renting for a few weeks next summer before we purchase anything. There is nothing like direct experience...

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 10:42AM
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Very exciting. Once you do purchase in MI, I want to be on the list of "preferred renters" during the season when you are back home in the southwest!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 11:09AM
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Another suggestion:
When my husband and I didn't have a cottage and wanted to spend a long weekend in the area without booking a vacation rental-type place (we knew we wouldn't spend a lot of time in a room), we'd stay in the Best Western hotel in Beulah, which is an excellent "jumping off" spot to see the other sights in the area.

The hotel is located right in the Crystal Lake, Platte Lake, Platte River, Frankfort area, and within a comfortable driving distance from the entire Sleeping Bear Dunes area, Traverse City, the Glen Lakes, Empire, Glen Haven, Glen Arbor, Old Mission Peninsula, and all the other wonderful spots a bit further north.

A great casual spot to eat is the Mackinaw Brewery in Traverse City, and a delicious dinner spot is The Manitou on M-22 outside of Beulah.

Have a great trip and please report back!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 3:52PM
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Thank you jboling for both suggestions -and jamies, of COURSE you're on the preferred renters list!!!!

Oh one last thought which I meant to ask some time ago. In NH, one of the perks of owning lake property is that some of it is close to ski resorts, so it gives you lots of renting options. When we were thinking of NH, this seemed like a great plan, since we wouldn't use it much in the winter, so could add some rental income there, and leave it free for our use all summer. Is there such an area in Michigan?

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 5:30PM
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Sure is!

Crystal mountain is right there-great opportunities. You also have to remember we also have snowmobilers, ice fisherman, cross country skiers, etc. up here to possibly rent to :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Crystal Mountain ski resort

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 5:59PM
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Oh, perfect! You guys cannot imagine how excited I am to make this trip!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 6:44PM
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best, Crystal Mountain is one of the places where we have a rental property. It's a darling village with lots of fun family activities and amenities. Be sure to click on this week's activity calendar on the link blue posted to read a sampling. We're able to use our place more in the winter than in the summer. It's nowhere near true mountain size (our Swiss exchange student laughed when she saw the elevation even after I warned her not to :), but there are plenty of downhill runs and x-country trails. It's a beautiful little spot with pools, golf courses, a couple good restaurants, a great spa, a sculpture trail, concerts and great year-round events. The resort's owner has done an impeccable job of growing the resort with green initiatives in mind, and he lives on Crystal Lake.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 7:41PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i was mulling this all day ... [it was raining.. i had nothing better to do.. lol]

i guess what it comes down to.. for me... is defining what you are looking for ...

there are lakes with mini Mc mansions on them [of which.. i would NEVER CALL A COTTAGE] ... of which is what i was trying to explain with those that are available to commuters ... and that is what you will find within 25 miles of AA ....

and there are lakes that have.. what i would call cottages ...

and that is the thing.. that i think you need to define ... for yourself ....

do you want a second HOME ... or do you want an 'up north' COTTAGE ... the two things.. can be near bipolar in what they are ...

its all wrapped up in budget.. of which i wont ask ... and the level of maintenance/taxes/ground crew/etc.. that you want to assume ...

this is obviously.. something you need to focus on ... so as to define what your goals are...

good luck ... ken

Here is a link that might be useful: i just wonder if i am making sense... scroll through these pix.. and spot the difference between what i would call a cottage... and the McMansion version of lake living .... i guess.. i would want a carefree type place to go kick my feet up for the northern experience... rather than a second home.. where i would work harder on vacation.. than i did at home ... by now.. if i havent gotten my point across.. i may as well give up ... lol

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 9:44AM
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Thanks for all your mulling on my behalf Ken -that's what rainy days are for, right?

I spent many of my growing up years on a lake in NH, where my grandparents had a "camp". It was actually quite a nice place, but there in NH, at the time, everyone called their place 'camp', as in, "Let's head up to camp on Saturday." At the time, there were very, very few showy places at any of the lakes we frequented. That has changed, and nowadays, there are multi-million dollar waterfront palaces. Of course, there are still lots of older places, with all the charm and character I remember from my early years, and that is what we're looking for. The cottage in "On Golden Pond", (filmed in NH), epitomizes what we're looking for.

Setting is most important to us. We'd like a natural lot without a lawn, lots of trees, but still a good amount of sunlight, a bit of privacy and crystal clear water on an all-sport lake.

We don't want to take on a maintenance headache though. So if we could find a charming place that had been upgraded to eliminate some of the typical maintenance problems (new roof, plumbing, etc.), with windows that opened and shut easily, easy to maintain surfaces, etc. we'd be thrilled with that.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 11:05AM
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I live about 12 miles from Ann Arbor, and I would totally go for a vacation home on the west side of the state as others have suggested, why buy in a community that is mostly people who are commuting back and forth to work when you can vacation in the most beautiful areas on the west coast. I know you didn't ask, and I don't even know if it is feasible, but there may be homes you could rent for that period of time and you could book in different areas instead of just one spot. No ownership headaches or expenses. Just another thought for you, then you could explore the UP as well.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 3:33PM
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Hi Katrina,
That's actually kind of the attitude we took with owning a boat. We love to boat/ski/tube etc., but with all the kids plans and other commitments, we opted to just rent a boat whenever we had the time and urge to go. Saved us all that storing, towing, insurance, maintenance, etc. and it was always a much nicer boat than we'd have purchased ourselves.

Next summer, we'll probably rent a few different places. But once we've settled on a location, I'd really like a place where we can build memories in one spot.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 4:14PM
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On your way from Cleveland to Michigan, take a little time to look around the Sandusky Bay area. We spent a lot of summer weeks at a place called Lakeside on the peninsula -- that's not quite what you are looking for, I think, but a nice region all the same.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 4:30PM
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Thanks raee -just added that to my list!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 7:56PM
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So guess what? I've now been to Ann Arbor for the first time in my life!

Loved the town! Had some fabulous food there, and just found the entire Main. St. area to be very authentic, very lively on a summer Wed. afternoon, fabulous farmers market going on till 2, just perfect. After traipsing around Main St. for a bit, we drove to the Chain of Lakes area which was just about the perfect distance away, 30 minutes or so from the Main St., and an easy drive. As we drove on, I fell more and more in love with the landscape, which got more and more rural and beautiful as we approached the lake area. We first went to Portage Lake, and then to Baseline Lake. My first glimpse of Portage was perfect. Really liked the size, the setting, everything. It's a little difficult to GPS your way around a lake because I didn't have a specific address, just wanted to explore. The main part we saw had houses much too close together for my liking, though I loved many of the styles of homes. Similar feeling about Baseline. The overall problem was that my mom and sister are not good explorers. They are real homebodies, and don't get out to explore much on their own, so they were completely panicked about finding our way back, driving willy-nilly down roads that suddenly popped up etc. Once I realized I just wasn't going to be able to explore the way DH and I would, I just gave up on truly exploring the area. I did sneak down to the water's edge by trespassing at a house that looked somewhat vacated. The water seemed fairly clear, but there was definitely some algae at the shore. Not sure if that is a once every ten years kind of issue, or ongoing. At least I got to see the area, and assuming we could find a somewhat private waterfront home, it would definitely be in the running. On the other hand, 2 1/2 hours drive time from my sister's home to a lakehouse might prove to be too much adventure for mom and sis.... We're still hoping to get to Sleeping Bear at the end of Sept. so we'll have something to compare to.

Thank you all so much for your help getting me there!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 10:28PM
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