Michigan Getaway Offers History with Victorian Flair

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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. …