A travel guide to Northern Michigan including dining, shopping and water recreation in Traverse City and Suttons Bay.
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If you follow me on social media or have been reading my blog for some time, you know that my passion for the state of Michigan runs deep. As much as I love traveling and exploring new cities, there is no place in the world I’d rather live than right here in #PureMichigan.
Earlier this month I traveled 3 hours north to Suttons Bay for an intimate blogger retreat put together by two of my closest friends, Rachel and Erin. Rachel and I became friends several years ago when we hosted Taste of Michigan together and I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Erin on several other blogging trips.
Similar to other retreats I’ve hosted and attended in the past, the premise of these types of get-togethers is to create a casual setting that is conducive to exchanging ideas, brainstorming, solving problems and learning from one another.
Food Styling by the beautiful and talented Kristen
As I touched on in my Eat Sea Retreat recap, most of us bloggers are self-employed and work alone out of our homes. We have built our businesses from the ground up, learning as we go, and making a lot of mistakes along the way.
By pooling together our knowledge and brainstorming with one another, we not only grow our own blogs but we help build up the blogging community as a whole. I am a firm believer that a rising tide lifts all boats which is why I believe in these types of retreats.
Of course, it’s also a special treat to finally meet the people you’ve long admired from a distance such as the incredibly talented and beautiful Deb pictured above.
The fact that this retreat took place in my own back yard was an added bonus. Before blogging full time, I was working in destination marketing promoting the state of Michigan to out of state travelers.
Needless to say, I was giddy with joy as I watched my friends from Florida, Utah, Texas and beyond dip their toes in our white sandy beaches and fresh, unsalted water for the first time. My girl Aggie who lives in Orlando immediately fell in love with the Grand Traverse Bay.
To make sure we had plenty of time with one another, we rented a house right in downtown Suttons Bay. Having a full kitchen to cook together and share meals was a nice change from the typical conference or blogger trip when we so rarely get to break bread in this manner.
It was even more special because one of my longest and dearest clients, Milk Means More, was the primary sponsor of our retreat. If you’re not familiar, the United Dairy Industry of Michigan represents the hundreds of dairy farmers throughout the state of Michigan that produce dairy products including milk, yogurt, cheese and more. As a Michigan resident, I am very passionate about the work these farmers do and it’s an honor to work for them.
A very special shout out to several of our other delicious sponsors including Door to Door Organics, Sabra, Bob’s Red Mill, Bonne Maman Jam, KitchenAid and many more. There is something so special about the rare opportunity to get in the kitchen and cook with your colleagues. None of that would have been possible without these generous sponsors whom I am lucky enough to also call clients.
If you’ve never traveled to Michigan before, you might be surprised to learn that the western half of the state (also known as the “fertile valley”) is lined with vineyards, wineries, distilleries and breweries. The growing climate in much of the area is similar to that found in France in Germany. In fact, Michigan is the 4th largest grape-growing state in the country.
If you love sparkling wine like champagne or prosecco, you must add Mawby winery and tasting room to your list of must-see sites in Northern Michigan. One of my favorite ways to spend a day is to follow the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail which is home to over 25 wineries all within a stones throw of one another.
Of course, you can’t visit Suttons Bay without making a stop in Traverse City. Located just 25 minutes south, it is also the home to the Cherry Capital Airport offering direct flights from several major US hubs including Chicago, Minneapolis and Detroit.
Downtown Traverse City is lined with unique shops, eateries, theaters, book stores and more. For edible souvenirs or a quick lunch, be sure to visit Cherry Republic’s newly renovated and expanded location on Front Street. Not only is it home to my favorite dark chocolate covered cherries but their cafe offers a full menu of tasty treats.
For a unique dining experience, I highly recommend dinner and drinks at Aerie Restaurant & Lounge located on the 16th floor of the Tower at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. They were so gracious to host us on the final evening of our retreat and it was the perfect atmosphere for our last night together.
Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly destination, a romantic escape for two or a fun girls’ getaway, you won’t regret adding Northern Michigan to your travel bucket list.
Don’t forget fall and winter – the foliage tours in October are breathtaking and the skiing in January is pristine. No matter what time of year, there is no place more magical than Pure Michigan.