MICHIGAN ROAD TRIP: Reality vs. Expectations

This was my first Michigan road trip. Being from the Midwest I feel like I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. There were still some surprises though!

Getting There

EXPECTATIONS: Assuming this will be easy since I’m living in the state already. We will just be road tripping in our car to a handful of cities in the main mitten and in the Upper Peninsula.

REALITY: It was very easy to get around by car. The only thing that made it tricky was the rainy weather. If the Mackinac bridge ever closed, I’m not sure how you’d get to the Upper Peninsula without going around all of Lake Michigan counter clockwise. A ferry?

Mackinac Bridge in Michigan
Mackinac Bridge in Michigan

Sites

EXPECTATIONS: We have a list of places picked out to see. Some are museums, but a lot are outdoor sites. Some include hiking in Tahquamenon Falls, walking around Mackinaw City, and watching the Soo Locks.

REALITY: The sites were fun. We saw a lot in just 5 days. The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park I had mixed feelings about, but that’s because of my megalophobia. Why do sculptors have to make their artwork so big?? Soo Locks was not what I expected at all. Honestly, it was a little lame, I’ll have a future post on this. Tahquamenon was great, but very humid! Mackinaw City and Traverse City were fine. They were your average touristy cities that lacked any real charm. Petosky was one of my favorite places on the trip and the walk along the beach at Ludington State Park was relaxing.

The American Horse sculpted by Nina Akamu at the Meijer Garden and Sculpture Park
The American Horse sculpted by Nina Akamu at the Meijer Garden and Sculpture Park

Weather

EXPECTATIONS: My assumption is for your typical Midwest Summer weather – hot, humid, and buggy.

REALITY: It was hot and humid because it rained so much. I was hoping for warmer, drier weather for driving and hiking. It rained so much the trails were too muddy to hike at Tahquamenon Falls. Luckily the trails to see the waterfalls were nice wooden paths.

Tahquamenon Falls - upper falls
Tahquamenon – Upper Falls

Transportation

EXPECTATIONS: Taking our car! Since I’m not sure how remote some of the trip will be we just need to remember to fill up the gas tank often.

REALITY: Easy-peasy. Just grabbed the keys, loaded our car, and took off on an adventure. I’m glad we didn’t just assume that gas stations would be all over. Once we crossed to the Upper Peninsula there weren’t nearly as many places to fill up. This was especially true around Tahquamenon Falls.

Driving my car through the rugged roads around Tahquamenon Falls State Park.
Driving my car through the rugged roads around Tahquamenon Falls State Park.

Food

EXPECTATIONS: Good old Midwestern ma and pa diners and some fast food.

REALITY: Food was fine, we didn’t splurge on anything fancy. The pubs we went to were average. I kinda thought places like Mackinaw City would have had better food and more options. The best food we had was a bagel and cream cheese from Bubbie’s Bagels in Traverse City. I’d definitely go there again.

Onion bagel with veggie cream cheese and cucumber slices from Bubbies Bagels in Traverse City, MI
Onion bagel with veggie cream cheese and cucumber slices from Bubbies Bagels in Traverse City, MI

Atmosphere

EXPECTATIONS: I don’t imagine anything will be out of the ordinary. I’m born and raised in the Midwest so I don’t think there is going to be a culture shock.

REALITY: For the most part this was true. The main mitten of Michigan was Midwestern through and through. The Upper Peninsula was more rugged than I expected. It was a lot of wilderness, lack of cell reception, and limited places to fill up your fuel tank.

Desolate roads in the Upper Peninsula
Desolate roads in the Upper Peninsula

Have you done a road trip around Michigan? If so, I’d love to hear about your trip in the comments.

Happy Travels,

Laura

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Pinterest for reality vs expectations post. Horse sculpture from Meijer Garden and Sculpture Park. Photo from trail at Tahquamenon Falls.

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