The trip to the Upper Peninsula still ranks as the overall best family trip. The U.P. is underrated as far as a tourist destination. They have water up there. They have trees. They have amazing pasties. And they have a group called Da Yoopers. And they have waterfalls, many, many more than the Lower Peninsula (where all the under-the-bridge trolls live).
We had raced up and over the Mackinac Bridge from our home base near Lansing. We braved crossing - and walking under and over - the Cut River Bridge. And we reached our first night's stay, Manistique. The Northshore Motel, right on US-2 and among the first motels you'll see heading west into town, is a great, no-frills kind of place with nautical themes and fantastic toast. Really, try the cinnamon swirl toast in the morning - I don't lie about these sort of things. The owner gave my daughter a tiny little pillow for her doll earned the motel a special place in my heart. And surprisingly quiet for being right next to the highway.
Across US-2 from the motel (look both way before crossing, kids) is the Manistique Boardwalk that runs along the northern shore of Lake Michigan. Don't be perturbed that the boardwalk isn't made with boards - it has great views of my favorite Great Lake, a smooth ride for bikers, joggers and weirdos that like to crab walk, and one you can take all the way to the East Breakwater Lighthouse - and beyond! (As Buzz Lightyear would say.)
(I apologize if I have offended anyone with my comment about Lake Michigan being my favorite lake. I only said that because it's better than the other ones, despite the fact that it does touch Gary, IN.)
Man does not live on tourist sights alone. The Three Seasons Café has an excellent fish basket, which I recommend, and if you mention my name, they may give you a discount. Or they may throw you out because they don't know who I am. In any case, let me know. At the Cedar Street Café the next morning, we made it a family-style breakfast, stuffing ourselves on a cinnamon roll (a fairly common dish on the U.P. breakfast menu), pancakes, and a Swedish omelet. I don't know what made the Swedish omelet Swedish - talking like the Swedish Chef, perhaps? Anyways, having an icing-covered cinnamon roll is a great way to make for a happy, energy-filled child. At least for an hour. Breakfast got six thumbs up.
Do you remember where you bought your first Batman soundtrack on cassette? I do - it was Manistique. The store is gone but the memory is forever. And I also fondly recall a trip as a teenager and watching the Pauly Shore movie "Son in Law", probably seen on a rainy day while camping at Indian Lake State Park. Pauly Shore, where have you gone?
Sometimes, you can't go home again. The ice cream place next to the campground was closed.
I can't let you escape this post without a little history lesson. The Siphon Bridge (1918) crosses the Manistique River and, at one time, the roadway was below the level of the river, and the bridge itself was partially supported by the pressure of water rushing under the bridge. This is not the case anymore, but how cool is science, to be able to do that in the first place? Oh, that twentieth century had some marvels.
(NOT the bridge, the equally historic water tower.)
Manistique is a nice base of operations for south-central U.P (not to be confused with south central L.A.), including the don't-miss attractions of Kitch-iti-kipi, Fayette Historic Village State Park, and Seney National Wildlife Refuge. Wonderful views of the lake and a friendly town, and it's all right there next to US-2. Live the dream and go to Manistique!