If you are from Michigan, you know exactly what “Up North” means. In this state, the towns that are Up North signify Michigan summer; gorgeous lakes, sandy beaches, hiking and biking trails through the woods, mom and pop shops, camping, boating, vineyards and wineries, breweries, campfires, and fireflies… The laid back feel of these Up North towns makes one feel lightyears away from day-to-day life, even if only a few hours’ drive away.
My husband, Travis, and I decided to spend the weekend Up North by heading West (actual driving direction doesn’t actually matter here) to the town of Grand Haven, located on the West Coast of the state, right on Lake Michigan. After barely three hours driving, we arrived.
Our first stop was to have a picnic on the beach. I had extensively themed this picnic to be a Red, White and Blue Fourth of July theme, because obviously we couldn’t have a non-themed picnic! This weekend was right in the middle of a heatwave, with temperatures feeling over 100 degrees after factoring in 100% humidity. Thankfully, we found a shady spot on the beach under a tree. We ate our lunch and drank our smuggled-in sangria in this heavenly spot. Ice cream lunch dessert helped cool us off. We barely talked, just enjoying the feel of the breeze, the sound of the waves (yes, our lakes are so great that they have waves) and the sights of beach volleyball. I can be entertained for hours by people watching, and the beach was so lively that day! It was fun to see families, couples, and friends of all ages enjoying a summer day in the same spot.
Bed and Breakfast
After our picnic, it was time to check-in. We booked a stay at the Bella Mia Bed and Breakfast through Airbnb. Despite all our travels, it was the first time we had stayed at a true Bed and Breakfast! I was always leery of bed and breakfasts because a) I thought it was an old person thing, b) I was nervous about lack of privacy, and c) making small talk with strangers is really not my favorite. However, since even the lowest-end of hotels and motels during summer weekends Up North are outrageously expensive, this bed and breakfast was our best option.
I was also on guard about checking in at that point because the day before our host told me she had been double booked! Thankfully, she still had the room we booked available, and she had given us the code to enter the home as soon as we arrived. The bed and breakfast is located in a renovated old Victorian house. It is adorable on the outside, with yellow siding, flowers in the front yard, and a large front porch. The inside of the house is even more impressive. The owner of this bed and breakfast is an artist, and her diverse yet all-beautiful art is framed throughout the home.
We walked up the stairs to our room, the Black and White room. I was so charmed by this point I already knew this had been a good choice. The room is decorated in a black and white theme with noticeable attention to detail. A pitcher of water with glasses and a dish of chocolates awaited us on the antique dresser, we had a TV with wi-fi and Netflix passwords available, bathrobes hung in the closet, and a window air-conditioner (thank goodness! I had forgotten to check that there was air conditioning when I booked!). Next to the bedroom was our own full bathroom. Again, extremely beautifully renovated, this woman has taste! The bathroom was very spacious (surprising for an old home), with another antique dresser re-purposed into the vanity, a stand-alone white tub, double-headed marble tile shower, and the softest bathmat I have ever laid my feet on. Again, the attention to detail was impressive. There was bubble bath, candles, and matches next to the tub, make-up removing wipes on the counter, and body wash, shampoo, and conditioner in the shower.
Shopping, boats, and a musical fountain
When we were not at the bed and breakfast, we spent the rest of our time in downtown Grand Haven. We spent one afternoon walking up and down the main street, and popping into all the shops. There are clothing boutiques, bookstores, restaurants and bars, gift shops, and tchotchkes of all kinds. One of our favorite pastimes is to find the corniest tchotchke/Tshirt/wall art we can find in that location. This trip, we found a Tshirt that said “Grand Haven: A little drinking town with a fishing problem”, and a sign that read “We don’t skinny dip, we chunky dunk!” (insert trombone noise here). We did a little clothing shopping, but mostly just stopped into each storefront for relief from the sweltering heat. Ice cream cones helped to cool me off as well.
In the evenings, when it was cooler, we walked up and down the boardwalk, watched the boats, and traveled down the pier. The pier stretches from the rocky part of the beach into the lake, ending with a red lighthouse. It looks as perfect as a postcard. Walking along the water with these views and ice cream cone in hand really is summer perfection. For dinner, we ate at the Grand Seafood and Oyster Bar. The building used to be an old movie theater, that has been renovated into a restaurant. They even have the restaurant sign on the old marquis. If you are staying in one of these Up North towns on one of the great lakes, I definitely recommend finding a restaurant that serves fresh caught fish. If you like to fish yourself, some restaurants will even prepare your catch for your dinner if you call ahead!
Following dinner, we had ice cream dessert (OK, not really. But I definitely had ice cream multiple times in a day). At dusk, people gather on the boardwalk to watch the musical fountain. The people native to Grand Haven will boast about this all day. It is the nation’s largest musical fountain second only to the one at the Bellagio in Vegas! It was fun, but honestly nothing too spectacular. I was expecting the fountain to be right in front of the area for seating, however it is located on the opposite side of the channel, making it difficult to appreciate the scale. Nonetheless, it was some unique entertainment.
Putting the “breakfast” in bed and breakfast
In the morning, we descended the stairs into the bed and breakfast dining room. The dining room has a large, rustic wooden dining table and a hand painted (or was it charcoal?) mural along one wall. The buffet table has on it complimentary wine and coffee. For our meal, our host served us quiche, cranberry walnut toast with jam, and bacon for the meat-eaters. We were also served coffee and orange juice to drink. Breakfasts are one of my favorite parts of vacationing, so I knew I would enjoy this part of the bed and breakfast experience! Luckily, the small talk wasn’t too awkward with the other guests. The host has a sweet dog that accompanied us for breakfast, so that’s always a help to an introvert like me.
A weekend away is all you need
I am so glad that we decided to take a weekend trip away. We focus more on week long vacations abroad more often, so at times we can overlook the treasures that are closer to home. Grand Haven is incredible charming, and I will absolutely be back to a bed and breakfast in the future.
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Leah Little has a full time job as a social worker, and has managed to travel the world while wearing beautiful clothes by knowing how to score deals in travel and fashion. Learn more about her journey here. Join the Leah Little Travel and Fashion tribe by entering your email to subscribe to be the first to learn new ways to enjoy the best in travel and fashion for less. Say hi and send her a message! Contact