Michigan’s Finest

From Saugatuck Dunes and windmills in Holland to sandboarding to Sleeping Bear to homemade cherry pie to Traverse City and drop-off cliffs and teal waters to the best fudge I’ve ever tasted on Mackinac Island to weird birds and crystal clear springs to drinking blueberries to sunsets and rainstorms and Pictured Rocks cruises to my first pasty to Ann Arbor and tiny surprises to all the waterfalls chased and miles driven home- here’s some of Michigan’s finest with my family.

Day One:

Drove to the Saugatuck Sand Dunes & took a buggy ride, watched the most gorgeous sunset over the water, visited Mt. Baldhead Park

Day Two:

Visited the cute town of Holland & Windmill Island Gardens (next best thing if you can’t visit the Netherlands!), Ottawa Beach, spotted Big Red Lighthouse against some dark blue skies, hit up Tunnel Park, went sandboarding at Silver Lake Sand Dunes, Inspiration Point, Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park

Day Three:

Stopped through Traverse City and had some cherry pie, drove to Old Mission Peninsula to see the Old Mission Point Park & Lighthouse, admired the blue hues of Torch Lake, and cruised through the scenic Tunnel of Trees

Day Four:

Stayed the night in Mackinaw City, caught an early morning ferry to Mackinac Island to awe over Arch Rock, indulge in the best fudge, and Sanders hot fudge cream puff. This is a car-free island, so no motorized vehicles, and a lot of horse drawn carriages. Simply beautiful.


Day Four/Five:

Left the city for Kitch-iti-Kipi, Manistique. The most beautiful teal water, and watching the fish swim below your feet!

Day Five:

One of our bucketlist items: Pictured Rocks National Landshore. Still stunned this place is real. We finished our outing just as the rain started falling. Obviously one of the highlights of our trip!

Day Six:

Tahquamenon Falls State Park (nicknamed “Root Beer Falls” for a good reason!), and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

Day Seven:

We started our venture back home. Stopped at the Cross in the Woods, Stepping Stone Falls, Ann Arbor & Graffiti Alley, enjoyed some blueberry beer to toast to a wonderful trip!

If you live in the beautiful state of Michigan, how lucky you are! It was so good to get out and explore this beautiful state and make memories with my family after months of being cooped up. I feel very grateful to experience such natural beauty & calm my restless soul for a bit.

xoxo,

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Less Than 72 Hours in Chicago

Bold architecture? Delectable food? Astonishing art? Chicago, one of the largest cities in the states, has it all.

I’ve been looking for a chance to explore this city, and when I saw flights* for less than $100 round-trip (on a holiday weekend!) I took it.

I left Thursday, September 1st and returned Sunday, September 4th. During my stay, my friends Shawna & Shelly were kind enough to let me stay at their apartment that they just recently moved into.

Here’s what I experienced in my short time there:

First experience on the ‘L’

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**The transit system- easy to use, only $20 for a 3-day pass (purchased from O’Hare station) and quite convenient.

A run on Lakefront trail

I convinced Shawna to squeeze in a 2.5 mile run early in the morning. Loved this view!

Wrigley Field

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While I didn’t catch a game here, I could feel the atmosphere from outside the stadium. Cubs fans and gear everywhere!

Views from the Skydeck (Willis Tower)

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The lines were absolutely terrible, but the view beneath my feet made it all worth the experience.

Chicago style hot dogs at Portillo’s

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We got the tip that this local chain was the place for Chicago style dogs, and not only that, but they had delicious chocolate cake- plus it was all very affordable and had a very retro vibe! 

A theft

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Obviously, this was an event we didn’t plan. Shortly after we left Portillo’s, Shawna received an e-mail about a fraudulent charge on her card. Somehow, someone had gotten her wallet. The next couple hours were spent cancelling her credit and debit cards and accounting for everything that would need replaced. It was stressful, but it could have been much worse. Besides, what’s the full city experience without a little chaos?

Riverwalk

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Did I mention I love these colors? I could take my lunch break along the river any day.

Deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati’s

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***Honestly think I am going to crave this delicious, heavenly pizza for the rest of my life. 

Revolution Brewing, Co. beer

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Another must after a long day of walking. Shawna had this in her fridge, and I was a big fan. Spiced with coriander & orange peel.

Navy Pier

For a holiday weekend + Lobster fest going on, this place = absolute madness. However, the crowds were no match for the views of this landmark. 

Jazz Festival

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I picked a great weekend to visit- the jazz festival was going on downtown and we caught a captivating performance in Millennium Park. 

Lincoln Park/Lincoln Park Zoo

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Lincoln Park Zoo is an incredible place to visit if you have kids, as it’s FREE! We walked through Lincoln Park to the beach. 

Lake Michigan

The contrast of the sand & water with the city skyscrapers in the background was incredible to me. And as you can see, I was really enjoying the weather!

Molly’s Cupcakes

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Because sometimes you have to treat yourself! This place was adorable, complete with swings for seats. May I present to you: The Ron Bennington, Blueberry Cheesecake, and Peach Cobbler cupcakes. 

Millennium Park

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Tons of sculptures, cool architecture, and mesmerizing art. This is where a lot of concerts & large events are held.

Cloud Gate (The Bean)

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Jumping for joy because I love this city!

Buckingham Fountain

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Caught this right as the sun was reflecting off the buildings. An incredible ending! This is one of the largest fountains in the world.

Knickerbocker Hotel

I tried really hard to convince the manager to give me the hook up, since the hotel and I share a last name, but he wasn’t having it. He did, however, show us the crystal ballroom where there was a wedding going on. Beautiful, historic hotel.

Stan’s Donuts

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Okay, people. I really loved this place. A wide variety of flavors, old fashioned charm, etc. The donuts were scrumptious, but don’t inhale them and chug your coffee like I did. Also, maybe avoid diabetes and get one donut like a normal person?

 

Some tips:

*Fly Frontier or Spirit–  If you are flying into Chicago, look for cheaper flights on these airlines. If you can do it, only bring a backpack. I flew Frontier and they charge for carry on and checked bags, but a backpack that fits certain restrictions is free. If you’re only there for a short time, it’s all you need!

**Get the Ventra 3-day pass at the O’Hare airport. I only paid $20, and was told that anywhere else, they charge you for the $5 card fee. This lets you take both the L and the buses an unlimited number of times in that 72 hour period.

***Don’t be afraid to talk to locals. I would have gotten so lost if I didn’t ask someone for help, and we would’ve missed out on a lot of great spots if we didn’t take our new friends up on their recommendations. (Obviously, use common sense and your gut instinct when it comes to your safety to avoid any dangerous situations.)

 

So there you have it. There is PLENTY more ground to cover whenever I visit again, but this little getaway was all kinds of perfect.

 

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Have you been to Chicago? What did you love/do/see/eat? Let’s hear all about it!