I didn’t grow up here.  So, when people talk about going “up north” to a cabin, I have no idea what they’re talking about.  I just know that everyone does it.   And, I didn’t really see the appeal.

Our Hometown: Northville, Michigan

I have always loved Michigan.  I’ve traveled over half the country and I have always said that this is my favorite spot.  Specifically, THIS SPOT in Michigan.  We are close to an airport, major sports teams, great small towns, and have an incredible state park within minutes of our house.  A few miles to the east is farmland.  A few miles to the west is Detroit.  It is a beautiful little slice of earth that seems to have everything I’m looking for.  And, if I’ve always loved Michigan, it is hard to love it more, but I think that it really stole my heart.

I need that on a shirt.

I lost my heart in Glen Arbor

Glen Arbor is a small, vibrant coastal (on a lake, not a beach) town in Leelanau County, one of the furthest north counties in the Mitten – which is what we call the lower area of Michigan.  Abutting Lake Michigan, this tiny community of only a few blocks, has shops, restaurants, and adventures just waiting for you.  Seconds from the shore you will find delicious meals of fresh fish, trendy boutiques with everything from cute beach bags to custom jewelry, and unique stops like the lavender shop with amazing handmade soaps and fish flops.  You read that right. 🙂 You won’t find hotels here, but a number of rental properties will meet your needs for a week long family adventure.  Just minutes from similar small towns, rivers, lakes, beaches, and a national park (technically it’s a national lakeshore, but whatever), this location is ideal for a family adventure.

Glen Haven Empire Road Sign

Food & Dining in Glen Arbor

My husband was surprised at the variety and quality of food.  While this could easily have been a junky beach town, it is actually a high-quality, classy coastal town.  You can get everything from hot dogs to fresh caught fish.  Kid fare is fabulous and plentiful too.  We love the mac n cheese bites at Boonedocks, asked for some plain pasta at Western Ave Grill, and enjoyed tater tots with our burgers at Art’s tavern.  Of course my husband went crazy for “Dune Dogs,” an authentic Chicago style hot dog.  It was no lie and absolutely delicious.

Shopping & Entertainment in Glen Arbor

There are some great things in town.  My girls, 6 and 8, enjoyed peeking in all the boutiques and even bought a few things, like this fab bag:

Smocks (paper, scissors), is an open-play craft/activity house for kids.  For $10 you can make as many things as you want.  A special project is new each week, as well as the “everything” table, easel painting, rock painting, and a variety of building materials like magnet tiles, legos, and kinetic sand.  Bonnie, the fabulous owner of this place, operates her shop a few days a week.  Check the store for days and times.  This non-profit craft location was a great way to spend a few hours one morning and my girls made crazy stuff.  It definitely satisfied the crafty need of my six-year-old!

Visit Lavender Bay Company and ask to see the lavender garden.  My girls loved looking at the soap, bought natural sponges, and picked up a pair of fish flops too.

A quick trip to the Boonedocks Candy Shop to get a bag of candy will end your day of shopping, but the beach is still calling!

Visiting Lake Michigan

At the end of Lake or Manitou Street, you can find small beaches to hang out, look for rocks, or splash in the waves.  We loved reflecting on how different the beach felt before or after a storm and how still it could be on a hot, humid day.  Also, a great spot to take some photos.

Glen Arbor is the perfect blend of outdoor/nature and amenities for a non-outdoorsy family.  But, that didn’t stop me from getting my kids in a kayak for the first time!

GirlsKayakTripFB from Sharon Hoeg on Vimeo.

I can’t describe what it feels like to be alone, looking for rocks, and just enjoying your family together.  You’ll just have to experience for yourself and let the power of “Up North” Michigan take over.

Just outside of Glen Arbor are a wealth of activities, including museums, beaches, and delicious ice cream, all within just a few minutes.  We enjoyed exploring, visiting the National Park, and just hanging out in town.  I feel like this was the trip of a lifetime as it ushers in a new era of traveling with our girls and experience vacations beyond Disney.  We’ve already booked our trip for next Summer!

PS: Some of these photos and the video were shot with an inexpensive waterproof camera I purchased from Amazon.  It’s great for kids, great for kayaks, and lightweight enough to carry up the dunes.  It’s a lot better than worrying about losing your phone in the river!

Sharon Hoeg is a Michigan family photographer from Northville, MI.  She loves traveling the state and experiencing everything that Michigan has to offer.  For your hometown adventures, contact her for booking your own family photography session!