Off the Beaten Path


Traverse City, MI holds a special place in my heart. My daughter and my grandsons lived there for several years and I would head up North to visit them as often as possible. They lived in a subdivision in Blair Township, right off M-37, near Wuerful Park, home of the Traverse City Beach Bums. We took many weekend excursions to see all of the usual tourist attractions, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Old Mission Point, Suttons Bay, Leelanau, downtown shopping and of course, sweet, delicious ice cream cones at Moomers. I golfed on some of the most beautiful (and challenging) courses I’ve ever seen, in and around Traverse City.

But what we liked best was visiting some places that are a little off the beaten path. One weekend, we wanted to take the kids to the movie theater but the movie we wanted to see was sold out in TC. So, we went exploring the surrounding towns to find another theater. Our journey took us to Elk Rapids, about 15 miles north. We fell in love with the tiny harbor town with its cute downtown shops and eateries. We found an old-fashioned theater that took us a step back in time. The single-screen cinema dates back to 1940 with original lights, sconces and a water fountain, but what we enjoyed even more was the drive there. Between Acme and Elk Rapids is a place called Maple Bay Farms which has rolling fields filled with thousands of spectacular sunflowers on both sides of the road in August. We had to stop the car and take a few moments to drink in the breathtaking view.

Another entertaining place we found was the Cherry Bowl Drive-in Theatre and diner, an historic drive-in dating back to 1953 that shows only family-friendly features. We took the grandkids in their PJs, popped open the hatchback and watched “Despicable Me,” sipping old-fashioned sodas and munching popcorn smothered in real butter. Another one of my favorite TC memories is a visit to the lighthouse on Old Mission Point. It stands a few hundred yards south of the 45th parallel, halfway between the North Pole and the Equator, at the tip of the peninsula of Grand Traverse Bay. The lighthouse wasn’t open to visitors as it was too early in the season. It was one of those rare March days when the temperature soared into the 70s, so the kids enjoyed playing on the rocks jutting out of the sand. As I stood there watching them, I realized that I was standing with one foot in some snow that had not yet melted, and the other foot on warm sand. Yes, only in Michigan.

Sometimes, the journey can be more enjoyable than the destination. I drove to Traverse City on roads less traveled and discoverd some beautiful scenery. Flocks of wild turkeys crossed the road, forcing me to stop and wait. I saw incredible sunsets on the drive home and rainbows after a downpour. The rich colors of the autumn leaves dancing in the sunlight during an afternoon drive were so stunning, it almost brought tears to my eyes. Yes, these are just a few of my memories of trips to Traverse City. Oh, I did forget to mention one – the best one – a lazy day on a warm, sandy beach, reading a good book by azure waters and listening to my grandkids laugh and splash in the surf.


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