A Man And A Woman Posed Together Smiling.
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This Time of Year is Perfect for a Quiet Weekend in the Petoskey Area

Adventure is never far from home – especially if you live in Michigan. Even in the doldrums of winter, there are always places to go and things to experience.

Recently, my husband and I took a quick weekend trip to the Charlevoix and Petoskey area, only an hour from where we live. It was amazing how just getting out of our normal rhythms gave us new energy and helped to keep us going through the after-holiday slump.

For Christmas this year, we decided to forgo new pots and pans or some other household necessity for the gift of connection. We rarely get a weekend alone together- it takes thought and intention when having two elementary-aged kids.

We’ve wanted to stay at Hotel Earl for quite some time now, so we decided this was the year. Lucky for us, Hotel Earl runs fabulous discounts in the winter.

A Fireplace By Blue Chairs In A Hotel Lobby.
The lobby at Hotel Earl set the perfect backdrop for our weekend.

Moody Vibes at Hotel Earl

We’ve been to both Charlevoix and Petoskey before, but always in the summer. It’s a completely different scene in the winter- more relaxed, with no rush to get to anything. We let the roles of “mom and dad” slip away with every mile we put between home and our hotel. 

Upon arrival, Hotel Earl was cozy, quaint, and yet sleek and modern, too. The moody vibes matched the gray skies outside; the massive fireplace in the lobby provided a warm welcome against the brisk wind.

The staff was extremely friendly, pointing us in the direction of our room and informing us of the perks of our stay. Included with our reservation was breakfast, served in the lobby, complete with an espresso machine.

Complimentary coffee, tea, and water were located in our room, along with a mini fridge to store the wine and beer we brought. There was a bar in the lobby, where drinks would be available for purchase, and an indoor pool/outdoor hot tub found on the second floor.

In addition, our room was stunning- thick curtains, plush robes, inviting lighting, and a gorgeous bathroom to top it all off. I exhaled deeply, sinking into the cozy king bed.

View Of A Rocky Beach.
The beautiful shoreline at Mt. McSauba.

Relaxation Away from the Crowds

The lovely thing about coming this time of the year is that we didn’t have to plan so far in advance. Because the crowds were low, we could get into any restaurant without a reservation.

For the first night, we made our way to NOMAD, found in the Bay Harbor Village. The food was creative, delicious, and coursed to enjoy with a partner so we could try numerous dishes. I can’t say enough good things about this establishment- the wine was fantastic, and the food hit the spot.

The décor was elevated, yet warm, and it was the type of place you would want to stay and linger. Before we left the area, we took a walk through the village under the twinkling lights adorning the trees. 

Sandy Dunes And Pine Trees By Lake Michigan
We loved running up and down the dunes to Lake Michigan.

A Peaceful Hike at Mt. McSauba

In the morning, we woke up to softly falling snow outside our window. After some coffee in bed and breakfast by the fireplace, we headed out to wander.

Our first stop was at Mt. McSauba for a short hike. We followed the trail up and around bends and curves, eventually finding ourselves at the top of the ski resort.

The views of Lake Michigan on one side were stunning, with the sights of Charlevoix flanking the other.  We took a side trail, (because why not?), and ended up traversing dunes to the shoreline below.

A Man And A Woman Posed Together Smiling.
Ryan and I celebrating the simple moments of our day.

Sacred Spaces to Savor the Slow Moments

And there we were, on a different stretch of sand than at home, just finding joy in this quiet moment. We discovered new variations of rocks, things fossilized in the ice, and we took the time just to watch the waves crash on the shore.

With no place to be, and no children to attend to, we sat simply together. There are sacred spaces where no words are even needed- just the presence of someone you love is enough.

These moments can sneak up on me- often during ordinary moments- and when they do, I do my best to imprint them in my mind. This feeling of being tethered to my partner, still after all these years, is an emotion that can’t be matched.

The chill started to set into our bones, so we made our way back to the car. Meandering further up the road, we pulled off at a Goodwill for some thrifting- finding a little something for everyone.

It astounds me what you can find if you are ready for the hunt. Merrell hiking shirts for my son, a Harry Potter game for my daughter, and a travel Aero-press coffee maker for us. 

A Paper With Petoskey Chocolate Crawl Stops.
The Petoskey Chocolate Crawl was a delight!

Petoskey Chocolate Crawl and Dinner at Tap 30

We traveled into Petoskey, stumbling upon a city-wide chocolate tasting- free to all! We walked through town, eating chocolate nibbles and admiring the variety of shops Petoskey offered.

As our stomachs rumbled, we stopped at Tap 30, tackling one of the best hot pretzels we’ve ever had (and we’ve had many), along with a smash burger and several hard-to-find beers.

The taps are always changing, but their menu is solid staples featuring improved versions of tasty offerings found at gastropubs. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

A Man Making A Toast With A Beer.
The beers and burgers at Tap 30 were impressive!

Fresh Insight at Bear River Valley Recreation Area

We finished the chocolate tasting and decided to do one more hike. I forgot what it’s like to be alone with my husband with no agenda or rush. This is one of the things that will stick with me the most about this trip- that we still actually like each other- that we are still the same at our core.

This time, we chose a walk in the Bear River Valley Recreation area. We hiked up next to the rushing river, marveling at the beauty that was hidden just steps from town.

If I lived in Petoskey, you would find me here time after time. Watching a river flow is one of those things that is always inspiring; no matter how many times I do it, I always gain fresh insight.

The sound of water gurgling over rocks has to be one of the most peaceful sounds on earth. Eventually, the trail connected to a paved path, so we turned around and headed back to the Hotel Earl.

View Of A Bridge Over A River.
The view of Bear River Valley Recreation Area.

Snowy Hot Tubs at Hotel Earl

Upon our return to the hotel, we soaked in the outdoor hot tub under the falling mini-flakes of snow. I love being outdoors; the owners of Hotel Earl must too.

We noticed that the doors surrounding the indoor pool were garage-style- I’m sure in nicer weather they keep them open to the patio. In the summer, the hotel also offers a rooftop bar area. We ventured up there just to check it out and the views are astounding. 

A Wine Glass Sitting On A Countertop.
The Blu Dot Winery was a huge winner in our book.

Wine Tasting at Blu Dot

Before dinner, we stopped at a winery I’d read about. The Blu Dot is fairly new on the scene, opening just last summer.  Typically, their tasting room is in a renovated Airstream, with outdoor firepits and extra seating, but at this time of the year, they have a cozy indoor area for wine flights and snacks.

We opted for a flight, and every wine was delicious. They boast “small batch wines with BIG personality”, and I’d say that’s spot on. We chatted with delightful Sam who was working the bar, hearing more of the story behind the winery and the people who run it.

The sparkling rose (dry, not sweet!) was my personal favorite, and we picked up a bottle to take back home.

Top-Notch Sushi and Dessert at Pour Kitchen

We landed back in Petoskey for dinner, this time trying out the restaurant Pour Kitchen, for some sushi. The service was impeccable, and we devoured the sushi in record time. Both rolls we tried were top-notch.

We noticed a dessert being served at the adjacent table, and without even knowing what it was, we ordered it. Turns out, it was a giant s’more plate- but served in a new way. Dark chocolate was in the middle of the plate, with charbroiled marshmallows on the edges and crumbles of homemade graham cookies as the finishing touch.

I still dream of this dessert weeks later.

A Sign Called Malted Vinyl By A Record Player.
A must-stop in Petoskey!

Vibrant Late-Night Energy at Malted Vinyl

Since we were kid-free, we made one final stop for the night, at Malted Vinyl. In an otherwise sleepy town, this proved to be the opposite. We walked through the doors into a vibrant late-night scene.

The concept was incredible- grab a drink, peruse the records along the walls, and pick one out to be played. They had music ranging from the iconic Flaming Lips, to metal rock band Petra, to soft-spoken Norah Jones.

We settled on a classic Radiohead album, adding the record to the pile. Malted Vinyl’s energy provided the perfect change of pace we were longing for.

A Man Balancing On A Log On A Beach.
Finding moments of play together since 2009.

A Spontaneous Stop at Fisherman’s Island State Park

The next morning, we started the drive home, spontaneously deciding to pull over at Fisherman’s Island State Park to take in the view and a quick walk. I’ve never camped here, but after our quick hike, I desperately want to.

The water was clear, the beach abundant, and the forest seemed to whisper of old stories. Each off-shoot along the trail was beautiful; the dark green pines adding color to the mud and gray skies.

We ran up and down the dunes on the beach, finding delight like we were kids. We picked up countless Petoskey and Charlevoix stones to remember the weekend by, and we wound ourselves along a quiet stream back to the parking lot. 

As I reflected on our weekend, I couldn’t believe the amount of new adventures we found just by venturing outside our normal routine. I love traveling in the winter because of the slower pace, and the ability to let the day lead where it may.

The truth I’m always surprised by is this- most times simplicity is the cure we all need. A good meal, moving my body, and finding connection through unhurried conversation provided me the reset I so deeply needed.

None of these things are complicated- it just takes hitting “pause” on the normal routine and being intentional with the time you have. It doesn’t have to be a weekend away; sometimes all you need is a few hours. 

A Trail Of Sand Leading Into Pine Trees.
The wilderness at Fisherman’s Island was alluring in every way.

Find Inspiration with a Weekend Away

Over the years, I’ve built up a list of a few items I take with me at all times, in case I have a sliver of free time. These tools are essential to me; they allow my mind to find clarity. They lead to deeper connections both to myself and to the people I love the most.

We all have different things that speak to us, but here is what’s in my “bag” of tricks: Nature Meditation Cards, Outside/In Journal, Spark Adventure ideas, and a playlist of my favorite music. All of these things came with us on our trip away; each of them added value to the connection we so desperately needed. 

As we pulled into the driveway, I looked down at our entwined hands, knowing these two days together added fuel to our fire. The secret is to always keep the fire lit, even if sometimes it grows dim.

Seasons in our lives are constantly changing, but the more we reach for connection and adventure, the brighter our bond will grow.

One Comment

  1. Thank you for this summary of your two days in a place you made very special. I enjoyed reading it and love the idea of traveling in the non-season. I wish you and your husband many years of joy.

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