An Annual Summer Getaway to Harbor Springs, More than a Family Tradition

Melanie Dawson currently lives in Minneapolis, but she’s been visiting Harbor Springs, Michigan for 15 summers now. Today, she shares with us what draws her family back to the area year after year.

Photo credit: Lou Peeples-Photography; www.pointephotography.net


I grew up in Phoenix, AZ, the desert landscape being infinitely different from northern Michigan. But I lucked into marrying a Midwestern man from Indiana, whose family comes to Harbor Springs every summer. I’ve been visiting Harbor Springs for 15 summers now, my husband for 39. His mother spent her summers there, as did his grandmother and her parents, making our daughter the fifth generation. It’s more than a family tradition, for them (and now for me) it’s a way of life. A summer not spent in Harbor Springs is a summer with something missing. Every year we look forward to revisiting old favorites and finding new gems.

Restaurants we love: Depot Club & Restaurant, serving gourmet food. Coat required indoors, more casual on the patio. New this year is Petoskey Brewing, housed in an old brewery from 1898. This family-friendly place serves delicious microbrews (try a flight of three or four 4 oz pours) and a solid pub menu and is located on the drive between Harbors Springs and Petoskey. We also thoroughly enjoy sitting outside at Dudley’s Deck, which provides covered dining on the patio or the open grass area across from the dock. On a gorgeous night it’s a pleasure to sip one of their famous Hummers and watch the sun go down. Don’t miss Turkeys Café & Pizzeria (serving pizza and sandwiches) and Gurneys Harbor Bottle Shop (a liquor store that makes amazing cold sandwiches to order at lunchtime). There’s nowhere to sit at Gurney’s so take your sandwiches down to the pier and watch the yachts come in and out.

For ice cream and treats, my daughter would tell you that Yummies is a must, serving her favorite flavor of ice cream: Superman. As a grown-up, I am loving the new Velvet, an ice cream shop with a more sophisticated interior and delicious flavors. Not a summer goes by where we don’t get a cookie from Tom’s Mom’s. Housed in the tiniest shop you may have ever seen, the cookies are fresh baked. If you love fudge, check out Kilwin’s and Howse’s.

Leaving the downtown area, Pond Hill Farm is a wonderful way to spend a few hours. The farm is home to cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and geese. It features a café and winery with farm fresh ingredients.  There’s a trout pond to fish in, a squash rocket to experiment with, and a market that features pesticide and herbicide free produce hormone and antibiotic free organically raised beef, pork, and lamb, plus other organic products. My daughter’s grandparents enjoy taking the grandchildren to Thorne Swift Nature Preserve, featuring a boardwalk through dense woods and beach frontage and several stopping points with educational information on trees, flowers, animals, insects, and environmental topics. You can’t go wrong visiting the beach at Petoskey State Park where you can spend hours searching for the hard-to-find Petoskey Stone.

Pirate’s Cove Mini Golf in Petoskey is my daughter’s number one favorite activity to do when we visit Northern Michigan. With several locations around the country, it isn’t exclusive to Michigan, but it provides an hour or so of wicked fun. What kid (or kid at heart) doesn’t enjoy miniature golf with the family?

If you love being active on the water, visit The Outfitter. This comprehensive shop features all the gear you need (you can rent paddleboards and kayaks) plus a generous amount of activewear, shoes, and accessories for all of your active pursuits.

Melanie Dawson is an avid traveler who loves exploring the United States and abroad with her husband John and 8 year old daughter Reese. She lives in Minneapolis, MN where she pursues her passions of cooking, nutrition, and living an active lifestyle.

For more things to do and see in Harbor Springs, visit michigan.org.

From our Fans: Cars in Pure Michigan

In honor of the Pure Michigan 400 and the Woodward Dream Cruise we asked our fans to share photos of cars on the Pure Michigan Facebook wall. We had so many great photos we wanted to share more than just one. 

Take a look at the slide show below to see some great cars, both old and new, from around the state. Visit michigan.org for more information on car events going in Michigan. 

Do you have a favorite classic car? Share with us in the comments below. 

Family Fun at Cheeseburger in Caseville

Michigan is home to a ton of festivals year-round, but one of the most unique may just the Cheeseburger in Caseville Festival! Held every August as a tribute to Jimmy Buffett and delicious cheeseburgers, the festival is all about having fun in the sun whether you’re 8 years old or 88! This year’s event is happening now through next Sunday, August 18.

Below, festival chairman Steve Lowers answers on our questions on the annual event.

Q. Can you tell us more about your role in Cheeseburger in Caseville?

A. I have been president of the Caseville Chamber of Commerce for 10 years and am also Chairman of the Cheeseburger Festival.  I am just one of the many volunteers that help to put the festival together and am involved in the overall planning of the event including scheduling the bands and details of events throughout the festival.

Q. The festival is now in its 15th year; are there any new additions?

A. Some of the new events this year include a larger kid’s day and a book signing by “Michigan Killers” author Jonathan Rand. Throughout the festival we have several new kids’ events. We also are bringing back the popular laser light show and have some new bands that will be taking the stages.

Q. Since the festival’s start, it has definitely grown throughout the years. Can you tell us more about the history of the festival?

A. The festival has grown a lot since it all started in 1999. The first year it was only a three day festival and now lasts 10 days. When I took over as Chairman 10 years ago we decided to expand and because three days just wasn’t enough time. The attendance has also jumped each year; the first year of the festival we sold 300 buttons for $3.00 and last year we sold over 10,000 buttons for $10 apiece. Each year thousands descend on our small town for 10 days of fun.

Q. Cheeseburger has won several “Michigan Fun Awards,” what makes the festival so deserving of these awards?

A. We are a really creative bunch! We really enjoy planning the festival and take a lot of pride in the community and the festival. I believe that a group of decision makers is better than one and it shows in the festival.

Q. What other activities can festivalgoers do in Caseville outside of the festival?

A. Caseville has beautiful beaches, great golf courses, lots of campgrounds and some really great shops.

Q. Just for fun, can you tell us what would be on your perfect burger?

A. I really like blue cheese so for me it would have to be one of the black and blue burgers that some of the vendors sell. A black and blue burger is a cajun seasoned burger loaded with blue cheese.

Q. What’s the most surprising thing you have learned or seen working in this event?

A. I’ve learned that there is a fine line between a festival and a party. A festival involves ages 1-100 and a party is for adults, through the years we have prided ourselves on remaining a great festival. Our festival is one of the best and biggest in Michigan because it is so family oriented. That’s why I do it!

Q. Where can you go to learn more about the festival?

A. Visit www.casevillechamber.net, the Caseville Area Chamber of Commerce Facebook page or take a listen to the radio show below!

Steve Lowers is the President and Chairman of Caseville Area Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of the Cheeseburger in Caseville Festival. For more information about events going on across Pure Michigan visit michigan.org/events.