Michigan Getaway Offers History with Victorian Flair
Byline: Mike Michaelson
When you follow the Lake Michigan shoreline north from Traverse City and see the turreted Inn at Bay Harbor shimmering alongside Little Traverse Bay, you might find it hard to believe that until the mid-1990s this was the grim site of an abandoned cement plant and limestone quarry.
Today, as a modern version of a Victorian resort, the inn makes the perfect spot to get pampered in style and to take a winter getaway - before, after, or during the Christmas holidays.
Opened in December 1999, the Inn at Bay Harbor contains 100 suites with such amenities as down bedding, Egyptian cotton sheets, designer fabrics, fireplaces, Victorian-inspired furniture and balconies. It provides comfortable, cozy quarters for holiday- season getaways.
Dining options at the inn include a deli/coffee shop and fine dining at Sagamore's. This restaurant features a bank of French doors overlooking Little Traverse Bay, cushy crimson booths and historic photos of cruise ships that sailed the Great Lakes in Victorian times. During December, Sagamore's will offer Saturday luncheon buffets with holiday music by local musicians.
The inn's state-of-the-art health and beauty spa offers a wide menu of massage therapies, facials and body treatments. Relax with a tough Swedish massage, sports massage, or massage therapy that incorporates smooth, heated stones. Enjoy a facial with gentle mist, soothing cool masks and a background of music and chirping birds. Pamper your feet with a pedicure and mud bath, or learn makeup techniques - how to highlight cheekbones and mix different shades to achieve the "natural" look that currently is in vogue.
Adjacent to the inn you'll find Marina District Village, a stylish cluster of shops and eateries. The latter includes Latitude, the acclaimed restaurant lauded by Wine Spectator and a prime example of how some of America's best new restaurants flourish outside an urban area.
Accomplished chef Richard Travis produces veal meatloaf, grilled quail and Moroccan swordfish with such accompaniments as watercress mashed potatoes and five-herb spring vegetable risotto. Starters may include white corn tortilla soup, smoked whitefish cakes and Szechwan calamari.
This edgy, casual restaurant, a showcase of contemporary design and bright colors and with a great stone fireplace and copper chimney, hosts a New Year's celebration with strolling musicians, a magician, caricature artist and fortune tellers. It also is the venue for a continuing series of cooking classes.
Adjacent to the restaurant is another lodging option, Bay Harbor Place, which offers deluxe condominiums to rent. These can accommodate up to 10 guests and include a fully equipped kitchen, dining area and living room with fireplace.
The Inn at Bay Harbor is part of the Boyne USA group, which also operates two of Michigan's premier downhill ski resorts, Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands. This means that shuttles and ski packages are readily available to add skiing to your holiday getaway mix.
Boyne Highlands, with a 550-foot vertical drop, features 44 runs, including the mile-plus North Peak Pass, plus snowboarding. It is served by a high-speed quad chairlift, three additional quad chairlifts, four triple chairlifts and a rope tow. It offers 25 km of groomed cross-country ski trails, a tubing park with a tube tow, and an ice-skating rink.
Boyne Mountain, with a 500-foot vertical drop, features 50 runs, plus snowboarding. It is served by what is billed as America's first high-speed six-place chairlift, plus four quad chairlifts, three triple chairlifts, three double chairlifts and a rope tow. It, too, provides tubing facilities and ice skating and offers 35 km of tracked and groomed cross-country ski trails with 5 km of lighted routes.
This region of northern Michigan is strongly associated with Ernest Hemingway. The famous writer spent all of his summers except one here until he reached age 21. (In 1918 he went off to Italy to serve with the Red Cross during World War I.) Hemingway's parents had a summer cottage (which remains in the family), called Windemere, on Walloon Lake. Although much of the area has altered radically since Hemingway's days, the tiny community of Horton Bay remains virtually unchanged.
Located just a few miles south of the Inn at Bay Harbor, Horton Bay is where Hemingway married his first wife, Hadley. He often visited the village and wrote about it, especially in his Nick Adams stories.
Horton Bay General Store, with a white-painted false front, serves as a Hemingway shrine that attracts a steady traffic of aficionados. Inside, you'll find Hemingway pictures and memorabilia along with a melange of merchandise typical of a country general store. It ranges from groceries and paperback novels to pints of whiskey (plus Skyy vodka, a nod, perhaps, to the more affluent visitors who come in search of the artist as a young man).
A six-stool lunch counter offers cheeseburgers and pickled bologna sandwiches. An outside porch provides tables covered with red-and-white oilcloth set with red-painted chairs. Hand-painted signs declare the store to be "Hemingway's Haunt," while announcing that it serves pizza and stays open year-round.
Nearby Petoskey, the hub of Little Traverse Bay, is a bustling town full of holiday shopping and holiday cheer. Its Gaslight Shopping District, with quaint gaslights and storefronts trimmed for the holidays, offers distinctive shopping, including many nationally known shops and boutiques. Don't miss a stop at American Spoon Foods (the original location of this nationally known company) for a jar of pure-fruit preserves or other edibles from the North Woods. If you're visiting during Dec. 10 and 11 or 17 and 18, stop by the Stafford's Perry Hotel, an old Hemingway hangout. The Petoskey Madrigal Singers perform in a popular and festive annual event.
Visit the region in early December and you'll catch Holiday Open Houses at Petoskey (Dec. 1) and Harbor Springs (Dec. 6). Holiday celebrations in these charming Victorian towns feature carolers, tree-lighting ceremonies, roasted chestnuts, appearances by Santa and extended shopping hours.
The museum of the Little Traverse Historical Society is well worth a stop in Petoskey. It occupies a restored railway station built in 1892 by the Chicago and West Michigan Railroad that Hemingway wrote into some of his short stories. A Hemingway exhibit contains photographs and other memorabilia related to the author and first editions signed by him.
The museum also commemorates another famous local author, Bruce Catton, who was born the same year as Hemingway (1899), but takes a back seat to the more glamorous novelist. The museum also chronicles the life of Chief Petoskey (who spoke fluent English, French, German and two American Indian languages) and displays photographs of the passenger boats of the Victorian era that brought the rich and famous to the area.
It also documents the demise of the passenger pigeon, now extinct, that once blackened the skies over northern Michigan and other parts of the Midwest.
Around the Midwest appears Sundays in Going Places. Mike Michaelson is a travel writer based in Chicago and the author of the guidebook, "Chicago's Best-Kept Secrets."
If you go:
Information: Petoskey-Harbor Springs Boyne Country Visitors Bureau, (800) 845-2828 or (231) 348-2755, www.boynecountry.com; the Inn at Bay Harbor, (800) 462-6963 or (231) 439-4046, www.boyne.com.
Mileage: Petoskey is about 360 miles northeast of Chicago. It is about a one-hour drive north of Traverse City's Cherry Capital Airport.
Upcoming events: Bay Harbor Marina District: Open House, holiday music, Santa visits, refreshments, Dec. 9; Holiday Spectacular variety show at Car Museum, Dec. 28.
- Mike Michaelson…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Michigan Getaway Offers History with Victorian Flair. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL). Publication date: November 19, 2000. Page number: 5. © 2009 Paddock Publications. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.
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