With all of my responsibilities in Detroit, traveling beyond Southeast Michigan in the fall can be tough. However, since I am a “Northern Michigan Girl” at heart, it was a priority to me to do some exploring this fall. When the opportunity to go to Ludington on a #MittenTrip came up, I jumped at the chance to explore an area that I didn’t know much about. I was excited for this location in particular, as my best friend in Detroit is originally from Ludington. Admittedly, this means I got to cheat a little and know what “the locals” like about the adorable beach town and where to find some fun when the weather gets too chilly for a day in the sand.
Both of us work pretty flexible jobs in the city, so we were able to pack and get on the road by the afternoon. We thought we would avoid any major traffic, but sadly we were mistaken, and it wasn’t the smoothest sailing out of town. Regardless, we escaped the final ring of the suburbs and decided that we needed to fuel our bodies before venturing across the state. We made a pit stop in Lansing at the Soup Spoon Cafe and were not disappointed by our decision. They have an excellent selection of soups, entrees, salads, and sandwiches. The dinner crowd was in full-force, but we didn’t have to wait too long for a table.
With full bellies and a renewed excitement for our #MittenTrip, we ventured on toward Ludington. We rolled into town a little late, so we decided to check-in at Nader’s Lakeshore Motor Lodge before making any choices about mischief for the evening. The folks at Nader’s were very accommodating and the rooms were great. There was plenty of room for just the two of us – it would be the perfect place for groups of up to six people.
After settling in, we discussed the options for a nightcap. The last time we visited my best friend’s home we ate dinner at the Blu Moon Bistro, and I was a huge fan of their lobster nachos. Sadly, their seasonal hours meant that we were walking in just as they were closing up (around 10:30 PM). Fortunately Barley & Rye is just around the block with an elaborate craft drink menu. If craft cocktails aren’t your thing, they also have an incredible whiskey menu and a few beers to choose from. The bar is a continuation of The Mitten Bar, which is a beer bar with frequent live music performances and exciting craft beer selections.
Pro Tip: We were a little hungry before heading back to the hotel, so we stopped at the Wesco station that’s near the downtown area. It is open 24 hours and has a good selection of snacks as well as a deli case with sandwiches and take-and-bake pizzas.
When we woke up on Saturday, we were ready for some excitement during our one full day in Ludington. The weather was dreary, but that didn’t deter us. We went to Chef John’s European Bakery for breakfast. The menu was full of European-style breakfast options, including three different quiche options and loads of other delicious treats. The ambiance was friendly and a little strange. Each of the tables featured unique tablecloths, random salt and pepper shakers, and fun wall decor to bring it all together.
Following a nourishing breakfast, we went to pick up our bicycles that were secured at Trailhead Bike Shop by Ayyo Weekends. The weather wasn’t perfect, but we were determined to get some use out of these bikes. We wandered over to the Book Mark to look at some books and have a coffee to prepare for the adventures ahead. It was obvious that this place was a long-established entity in Ludington with a huge variety of books and children’s toys. As typical bibliophiles, we didn’t escape this visit without some purchases. They were happy to hold onto our books as we continued on our bicycle ride through the city.
After winding through some of the picturesque streets near downtown, we headed over to look at the nine bronze sculptures adorning Waterfront Park. Here, we had excellent views of the North Breakwater Light and the SS Badger. The wind became a little too much to bear, though, so we headed back to Trailhead to retire from the biking adventure.
Since we were still pretty full from our hearty breakfast, we decided to hop in the car for a trip just outside of town. My best friend wanted to visit Kistlercrest Farms to pick up some maple syrup, which he swears is the best around. The drive was beautiful and totally worth it. We wandered around the apple orchards a bit before making the drive to Historic White Pine Village.
On the way to the village, we decided to stop at The Jam Farm and try some delicious jams made from farm-grown ingredients. I recommend chatting with them about their special recipes. After picking up some tasty treats, we drove along winding roads through beautifully changing trees until we reached the historic village.
Historic White Pine Village is a lovely afternoon activity that includes walking through a replica of a historical village. Each building is an exciting history lesson with lots to interact with and learn from. We went early in the afternoon, just missing a kids’ party and costume parade to celebrate Halloween. The village and its volunteers host several events throughout the year to engage the community.
Once the history lesson was over, we continued along Lakeshore Drive to Buttersville Park to enjoy the sunshine that decided to come out in the afternoon. The beach has parking close to the water and is surrounded by beautiful sloping dunes. For those of you with dogs, this is the place to go around Ludington because it’s a dog-friendly park. There are also a few spots farther up Lakeshore Drive to view Ludington from across Pere Marquette Lake.
Now that we had plenty of exploring under our belts, we headed back to the downtown area for a late lunch and beers at Jamesport Brewing Company. There were ample options for lunch, dinner, and snacks, so we didn’t have a problem filling up. I tried several of their beers in a flight, and I wasn’t disappointed.
To help our meals settle, we decided to grab a couple caffeinated beverages from Redolencia before wandering around the shops on the main street. The coffee shop was quaint and full of delicious options. My friend was feeling very particular, so he and the owner spent some time figuring out just what would quench his thirst. It was one of the warmest, most accommodating experiences I’ve ever had at a cafe.
Ludington has a variety of outdoors shops, t-shirt stores, and art galleries. My personal favorite place is the annex of Maude’s Garage. I am a huge fan of vintage luggage, and they had so many pieces that I would have loved to take home with me – I settled for just one.
Even with the caffeinated beverages, we were quite tired so stopped at the hotel to relax before the evening’s activities.
The Mitten Bar has a reputation that precedes itself and for good reason. With tons of beers to choose from and a friendly staff, it’s a great place to hang out. Oftentimes, the bar has a band play on their stage, and this evening was no different. Delilah DeWylde and the Lost Boys performed for several hours with a packed house and lots of folks dancing to their rockabilly tunes. With a full day behind us, we weren’t able to keep up with the party, but it was definitely worth witnessing.
It was a perfectly crisp Sunday morning, and we had one very important stop to make before leaving Ludington: House of Flavors. This stop was important for several reasons, one of those being that House of Flavors is known around their world, but the other, more important reason was that this was the last place my friend had worked before moving to Detroit. The staff is like family there, and they make sure to treat their guests the same way. My breakfast was delicious and the decor is sure to make anyone smile.
After breakfast, we made the drive back to Detroit and back to the realities of our lives. It was a great #MittenTrip and we tried to make the most of the autumn weather. What sorts of adventures do you like to have in West Michigan during the fall?