While I would say that I am fairly well-traveled, given I have been to over 50 countries to date, there is something about the joy of discovering an unknown place or finding something new in a familiar place. My addiction to travel is two-fold:
1) I like to avoid my feelings and what better place to do so than among strangers?
2) The freedom, the people you meet, the food you taste and the fabulous wardrobe I bring home. I love to share my findings with friends, clients or any unsuspecting individual who will listen.
Somehow I still get tongue tied when someone asks me my favorite place. The truth is, you could send me to Paris 18 times a year; I would probably still get excited. But I find my answer is always Michigan. Nothing quite says summer to me like family vacation and we’ve been heading there every year since I can remember.
You may recall the infamous Chevy Chase movies– “Christmas Vacation” with the Griswolds. If so, you have a good idea what going on vacay with the Guzy’s (affectionately referred to as the Guzwalds) is like. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but somehow my family always found a way to bring us out into the wilderness for the summer, all crammed in a cabin no less. It was like camp, only with your family instead of all children your age. And my family decided to even make t-shirts to commemorate our insanity: C.A.M.P. G.A.M.P.
Growing up, after sunset when it was pitch black, My Grandpa “Buzz” Gamp and mom had a fun tradition of bringing us kids down to the secluded lighthouse with only one flash light. Inevitably Buzz disappeared (and usually my mom) and we were left to make our way back to the cabin in the dark. To set the stage for you, this is a good ¾ mile walk, with no streetlights in the middle of the woods—yes there were bear sightings and other wild animals. Now Buzz, my mom and sometimes Uncle Tony would be waiting along the way to scare the living bee-jeezus out of us. It wasn’t the jump out and scream, no…Buzz might be waiting in some tree with a flashlight under his chin and a shirt over his face. Mom was famous for warthog impersonations and Uncle Tony for his gentle hand that he would silently walk up behind you and rest on your shoulder. All of these tactics were terrifying and would send me, my sisters and cousins screaming in to darkness—our only safety was that we were faster than them. The sheer irony that I was more terrified of running into my mother, grandpa or uncle over a bear should tell you something.
I guess a dose of insanity once a year, in our little cabin in the woods, with the screen door that doesn’t quite match the doorframe is just what I need to feel reconnected to my family, nature and myself. Even though I left less than a month ago, I can’t wait to get back to C.A.M.P. G.A.M.P. for the loud Yahtzee matches, BBQ’s and bonfires. Next year promises to be extra special– it was just 30 short years ago that my adorable grandparents, Buzz and Rita Gamp bought their cabin off of the scenic M22 on Point Betsie overlooking Lake Michigan. If there is one thing my family does well, it’s throwing a party in our favorite place to celebrate being together; our last group effort up there turned into a toga party. Cheers to the end of summer 2012 and already looking forward 2013!
Betsie Bay Inn, on Main Street in downtown Frankfort, Michigan. A prime spot for the Fourth of July parade.
Harbor Lights Resort, downtown Frankfort, Michigan on the water’s edge and public beach.
Chimney Corners for a more rustic cabin experience on Crystal Lake.
Cherry Hut is legendary. I would classify the food as “upscale diner”. Tip: you need to be able to eat in an almost all red restaurant. This said, my family goes multiple times per trip. I personally love the Thanksgiving turkey platter with my cherry-aid (yes, it’s lemonade with cherry juice). The Market Basket next door has great fresh produce and the bombdigity pumpkin bread and chocolate chip cookies.
Coho Cafe is a good place to grab dinner in downtown Frankfort on Main Street. Good selection of fish, wine and hearty mid-western fare. Sit out back if you can get a table. Reservations recommended during high season.
Cabbage Shed is in Elberta and is actually a really a large sports bar, but set on the beautiful inlet of Lake Michigan looking out over Frankfort. The food and beer are decent, but the live bands are worth the visit. And they have crazy delicious hot fudge sundaes.
Arcadia Bluffs looks like it was lifted from Scotland and nestled on the sandy bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan. It’s stunning. While I am not much of a golfer, I would highly suggest reserving a tee time on this public-fee course (open mid-April through mid-November). I typically turn up for cocktails and dinner at sunset. They’ve also recently opened 15 guest rooms in the Nantucket coastal estate-style clubhouse.
The Cool Spot is the best, as voted by the Guzwald clan, ice cream shop in Frankfort. There may in fact be other ice cream shops in town, but my family will disown you if you frequent them. I personally love the peanut butter shakes, but it wouldn’t be a trip to Michigan without the Mackinaw Island Fudge cone. Also known for their saltwater taffy and homemade fudge.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (pictured above) dune climbing above. Hikes and camping also available.
Cycle the Betsie Valley Trail for 22 miles from Frankfort, through Elberta onto Beulah all in Benzie County. Beautiful views of Lake Michigan, the marshes, wildflowers, woods and Crystal Lake.
Main Street in Frankfort for shopping (Baywear for your Frankfort branded goodies), eating and ending your stroll at the Frankfort Lighthouse downtown. The only places for wifi in the city are at the coffee shop and bakery (it isn’t a large street– I will let you explore).
Cherry Bowl Drive-In is still a favorite blast from the past among my family, because where do these exist anymore? During the summer months you usually get a double feature and they have awesome t-shirts.
Gwen Frostic’s Stationary Shop was started by Gwen a nature artist who was known not only for her artistic observations demonstrated through her art, but her philanthropy and donation of $13 million to Western Michigan University for continuing student’s education.
Crystal Gardens just about does it all. Even though my sisters and I are in our 20’s and 30’s, my mother, feeling deprived of grandchildren, still likes to take us to see the peacocks roaming the beautiful grounds of Crystal Gardens. Mom also happens to be an avid shopper of “stuff” and “trinkets”, so this place is heaven– gardening supplies, plants, flowers and antiques which are all in themed sections around the store. Admittedly, I did buy an antique broach when I was sick of waiting in the car.
Canoeing or kayaking down the Bestie River or Platte River are great activities for the family. Bring your own or rental is an option too.
The Cherry Capital Airport, Traverse City, Michigan. It’s about a 45 minute drive South to downtown Frankfort.
Manistee County Airport, Manistee, Michigan. Though on one lane roads, you can usually make it to downtown Frankfort in about 45 minutes (North).
Great article. I grew up a Michigander . . . and also spent time as a New Yorker. Now I live in PA. Every summer I go absolutely stir crazy here in the mountains–and the only remedy is Lake Michigan. I am taking some friends from Chicago to spend a week on the big lake next summer. I am down to 2 choices: Frankfort (in town, 1 block from beach) OR Point Betsie (down near the lighthouse). Any advice?