All right, I have a confession to make, guys.
Even though I have lived in northern Ohio pretty much all my life, I had never been to Michigan.
Well, sure, I'd flown through the Detroit airport a few times. But I'd never actually spent any amount of time IN the state of Michigan.
I decided to change that this year.
A few months ago, my boyfriend and I were discussing a joint birthday trip since our birthdays are only a couple weeks apart in the fall. We tossed around beach vacations, California road trips, and even a trip to Iceland. But, in the end, a wedding invitation made the decision for us.
Elliot's best childhood friend was going to be getting married in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Elliot insisted that we couldn't miss it. So our vacation plans shifted from the warm and exotic to something a little closer to home: a weeklong getaway to northern lower Michigan.
It may not SOUND like the dream vacation. But 4 days in Traverse City followed by 4 days in Grand Rapids actually turned out to be a GREAT idea.
I finally got the experience “Pure Michigan” — and in the fall, no less, when all the trees were bursting into all sorts of vibrant colors and a massive art competition was going on.
Here's a look at some of the highlights, in photos:
Trees just starting to hit peak color in the tiny village of Cedar.
Sand dunes and shades of blue — Lake Michigan at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore.
Looking out over wineries on the Old Mission Peninsula, not far from Traverse City.
Grand Haven Lighthouse — an easy afternoon trip to the lakeshore from Grand Rapids.
The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. This used to be the Traverse City State Hospital, a mental institution. Now it's being revitalized and turned into shops, restaurants, offices, and even condos.
Fall colors along the roadside.
A pretty scene on the shores of Lake Michigan.
An artist working on a mural during ArtPrize in Grand Rapids.
A traditional, 250-year-old Dutch windmill at Windmill Island Gardens in Holland, Michigan.
Charming downtown Traverse City, in full fall color.
Lake Michigan sunset, as seen from the Bayshore Resort's beach in Traverse City.
Mission Point Lighthouse on the Old Mission Peninsula.
Climbing a giant sand dune at Sleeping Bear Dunes!
Fall colors spotted while driving from Traverse City to Grand Rapids.
Downtown Grand Rapids on a sunny day.
Art at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids.
Kite-flying at the beach at Grand Haven Lighthouse.
A Rodin piece at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.
Looking out over a vineyard on the Old Mission Peninsula.
The “American Horse” in Grand Rapids. This thing is HUGE!
At Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore along Lake Michigan.
Fall harvest in Michigan.
One last look at Grand Have Lighthouse and Lake Michigan.
Does this inspire some #PureMichigan in you, too? Which photo is your favorite?
Amanda Williams is the award-winning blogger behind A Dangerous Business Travel Blog. She has traveled to more than 60 countries on 6 continents from her home base in Ohio, specializing in experiential and thoughtful travel through the US, Europe, and rest of the world. Amanda only shares tips based on her personal experiences and places she's actually traveled!