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Adventure Awaits: Introducing a New Summer Series of Family-Friendly Activities

We like our summers to have balance. Downtime and go-time. Work and play. Some days happen at a fast pace while exploring the beaches, trails, festivals and towns in northern Michigan. Others unwind slowly and deliberately at home, with the kids running through the sprinkler in the yard and enjoying popsicles on the porch.

But one thing that most days have in common is intentionality. Summer days in northern Michigan are precious, and whether we’re at home or out and about we hate to waste a second of warm sun and blue skies.

Every week we try to set a loose agenda of activity for our family. This includes any events we want to attend, activities we want to engage in, places we want to explore, and adventures we want to undertake. We’re typically over-ambitious, and miss out on a number of things that we would have liked to do during the week, but that’s life. Our twins just turned four, so like most families with young kids we have to balance ambition for activity and adventure with the capabilities of our kids (although we often find that they’re capable of more than we – or they – thought).

We’ve created quite a bucket list for this summer. From camping on the Manitou Islands to paddling the Platte River, common threads run through our summer activity agenda items.

Fun and adventure are at the forefront. There is so much to do and see, and endless natural beauty to take in and explore, that we plan to cram in as much time in the great outdoors as possible. If the activities we engage in also involve lessons and learning, that’s an added bonus.

But here’s the thing: We are novices when it comes to most of this stuff. Neither Heather nor I grew up spending lots of adventurous time outside. We were Suburban kids, who settled in urban – then back to suburban – environments as adults. It was only two years ago, after we moved to Traverse City, that we committed ourselves to raising an outdoor, active family.

So we’re learning as we go. Most of the items on our summer bucket list will mean covering new ground – literally and figuratively. Camping in the Manitou Islands with kids? From ferry schedules, to campsites, to pitching a tent and getting a decent night sleep with our three girls – it’s all new stuff, and a bit anxiety inducing. But we’re going to do it, because we want our girls to be exposed to as much as possible while growing up, and for them to learn to love nature’s simple pleasures, so they can pass along that legacy to their own families.

One thing we know – it’s going to be a bit messy along the way. But that’s what makes summer so fun. It’s the imperfect moments, not the carefully curated ones, that are most memorable.

We know that many of our readers share our passion for spending active, adventurous time outside with their families. So we’re changing up the focus of our content a bit this summer. Every week we’ll be sharing a fun and family-friendly summer activity so that, should you find yourself trying to plan your own family’s agenda on Saturday morning, you’ll have a place to turn for inspiration. We’ll be “test-dummying” ideas so you don’t have to.

Most of our activities will be set in northern Michigan, but you don’t need to live (or even visit) Up North to live adventurously. Regardless of where you happen to be, you just need to live with an Up North state of mind.

Stay tuned. Adventure awaits.

A Recap of Our First Summer Excursion

We’ve established a new summer tradition of taking our girls on a long weekend excursion to celebrate the end of the school year and start of summer. Last year we rented an Airstream trailer and went camping in the Upper Peninsula. We wrote about that adventure here.

This year we decided to do something a bit less rugged, but equally as fun. We headed to Mackinac Island for three nights, and then drove up to the town Munising in the Upper Peninsula in order to spend a day exploring Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and a night camping on the shores of Lake Superior.

While our new summer series will be starting next week, we wanted to share a bit about our recent trip in case you’re looking for ideas for a fun family getaway this summer.

Mackinac Island

While visiting Mackinac Island as kids, we experienced its quaint and picturesque side – Victorian homes and cobblestone streets. In more recent visits we’ve come to appreciate the entirety of the island, including lots of rugged trail systems and wildlife away from the bustle of the downtown commercial district.

By bike, by foot and, by horse and carriage, we covered every inch of the island. Some of our favorite activities included hiking the trails, exploring the rocky beaches, touring the fort and other historic buildings in town (the blacksmith shop in particular), swimming, flying kites and playing putt-putt on the greens at Mission Point Resort (where we stayed). Oh, and stuffing ourselves with ice cream and fudge, of course!


Munising is a small town set on the shore of Lake Superior at the western edge of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We only had 24 hours to spend in the UP, so we had to pack in a lot of activity within a small window of time.

Upon arriving we headed straight for Pictured Rocks. You could spend an entire week exploring Pictured Rocks, but since we had limited time and small kids in tow, we decided that the best way to experience Pictured Rocks during an afternoon with the family was to head to Miner’s Beach. It’s a beautiful, expansive beach buttressed by Pictured Rocks signature sandstone cliffs on either side.

The Munising area is also home to some of the UP’s most amazing waterfalls. We visited Munising Falls, which is easily accessible via a paved path from the Munising Falls visitor center. We wanted to explore and discover in a bit more of a rugged terrain, so we also hiked into the Tannery Falls area where you can take in waterfalls in a bit more seclusion.

We spent the evening at our campsite at Uncle Ducky’s in the tiny town of Christmas. Uncle Ducky’s is a campground right on the shores of Lake Superior. It’s a bit more of a “glamping” experience than a camping experience, in that you rent one of the pre-constructed tents or yurts onsite, rather than bring your own camping gear. We opted for a yurt (a large, circular tent structure) that comfortably slept the five of us. We made a nice campfire, and the kids had a blast discovering all of the smooth and shiny obsidian rocks on the shoreline.

It’s always great to get back up to the UP. It’s a stunning place and there’s always more to explore.