Family Vacation 2020 Covid style

Like many of you our spring break and summer vacation plans changed numerous times this year. Thanks to Covid 19 our Disney cruise during spring break and a full week at Disney World in late summer had to be rescheduled as well. This was extremely frustrating for my boys because they have not been to Disney World in 3 years and have not seen Galaxys Edge or Toy Story Land. It was also going to be the first time we were going to let them venture out by themselves while we were at the parks. While Disney World has opened because of the travel advisory from our local health department and the risk of it potentially affected sports playing, school attendance and my husband’s work we decided to postpone it for now. Disney World is not going anywhere and just maybe we can get a short fall break trip in. Fingers crossed.

Just to give you a little background before we dive into our trip.  I am raising my 3 grandsons along with my husband of 37 years. David is 16, Christopher is 14 and Matthew is 13. We have raised them since birth, and they are my world. David has an anxiety disorder and really doesn’t like to travel much.  He enjoys history and is deeply knowledgeable in history. Christopher is my sports nut and is always in it for the fun and adventure. Matthew is autistic and is high functioning and enjoys water, beaches and transportation vehicles. Since we are a family of 5 adult size individuals it can be challenging to find hotels to accommodate us. The days of sharing 2 queen beds in a room have long since past!

Our new plan was to travel along Lake Michigan on the Michigan side, and it was a great trip full of surprises and great family quality time. After talking with each of the three boys & asking them what they wanted to do during our vacation I put together an itinerary that included something for everyone. Christopher wanted to visit a zoo oddly enough. This was a surprise and the first revelation to always ask each member of the family what they would like. You just might be surprised in what they tell you. Matthew wanted the beach and water and David & my husband really didn’t care 😊!  I wanted to just get away and explore some new locations, relax and maybe a little shopping.

For Christopher we started out in Battle Creek Michigan and the Binder Zoo.  This is a nice zoo and all of the animal exhibits were open. We got to feed giraffes which was really fun. We actually stayed in Kalamazoo at the Courtyard Kalamazoo Portage. I recommend this hotel if you are a large family. It has a nice coffee/alcohol bar but unfortunately because of Covid it was not open.  We also went to Airway Fun Center in Kalamazoo. We rode the go carts and played a game of putt putt golf. While we were playing golf I stepped back and exhaled.  It was then that I realized how intense the last few months has been for all of us.  Watching everyone laughing and enjoying themselves was just what I needed and obviously they did too. All of the tension and uncertainty left for a little while and it felt so good. We actually played putt putt golf a couple of other times and it ended up being David’s favorite thing to do. This is huge for him. He is our “Mikey” he hates everything or just doesn’t care.

After spending one night there we went on to Benton Harbor/St Joseph.  We stayed at the Inn at Harbor Shores. It is a 4 star hotel and is beautiful. It has a small outdoor pool and bar. Which was open since it was outside and they served food at the bar as well. This was nice for the adults as we could enjoy a drink the views while the boys played in the pool. It also is located by a marina and we could watch boats come and go from Lake Michigan into the harbor. It’s a 10 minute drive to Silver Beach. This is a public beach and has a playground, volleyball nets and a small concession stand. There is a splash zone and carousel but it was not open. All of the boys enjoyed the beach and it was a great family day!  Later that night we went to Silver Beach Pizza which is in an old train depot. There is a working train track very close and it is a stop for Amtrak. Unfortunately, we did not see any trains while we were there but I will say it was some of the best pizza I have ever had. Highly recommend! There are also several wineries in the area that have tasting rooms. This would be a great location for an adult only trip and visiting the wineries in the area.  This is definitely in the near future for me!

We drove up to Saugatuck which was about 30 minutes away and enjoyed a sunset cruise in the Serenity. This was a 2 hour cruise on a Tall Ship Schooner. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect and we even found a hidden Mickey on board. Christopher got a chance to set sails and be part of the crew! Again, another recommendation for the area. They offer sunset as well as day cruises. You can even bring your own bottle of wine!

From there we traveled up to Ludington for the bulk of our stay and stayed at the Best Western.  We enjoyed an apartment like room with a full kitchen.  There is a lot of sightseeing and things  to do in this area.  There are numerous beaches along Lake Michigan as well as fishing charters, boat rentals, boat tours. This is where I got my surprise.  I have some very special clients that just so happened to be in Ludington at the same time we were. Not planned at all!  Rose is a 4 year old little girl whom I had not met and she is battling kidney cancer.  I have been sending her some special pick me ups along the way because her Disney vacation was cancelled due to her treatments. Meeting her and her family was the highlight of my trip. Not to mention it included ice cream at the House of Flavors  which is a must do in Ludington. And once again for a brief moment all was right in the world!  I cannot put into words what this meant to me and how I can’t wait to help her family return to the Magic when it is safe to do so.  Many times, I have questioned if I am in the right job and this meeting reminded me that I am not finished yet.  I have a promise to keep! 

We also made an almost 4 mile round trip hike up to Big Sable lighthouse.  This was my husbands’ favorite part of the trip.  Unfortunately, we could not go inside and take in the views from the top of the lighthouse. It gives us an excuse to go back 😊! This is a great walk.  It has a nice level path with many places to stop along the way. In my opinion it’s a must do when you visit Ludington!

Another must do in Ludington area is visiting Silver Lake.  It’s a short 15 minute drive from Ludington or there are numerous places to stay there. Here we rode Mac Woods Dune rides. It combines adventure with education about the sand dunes. Not to mention some amazing views. You can rent ATVs or bring your own. Here is an example of what is available at Parrots Landing.  You can also rent boats or jet skis. There is also in Sliver Lake that offers more family fun!  This is a great family location with numerous things to do in the area!

There are also several small towns along the shore with some great shopping. St Joseph has a nice downtown area with small boutiques, art stores and even a G&M variety store. Pentwater also has some nice shopping as well as downtown Ludington.  Many local artists have shops and you can find unique one of a kind things. Not to mention nice locations for lunch or a glass of wine.  Again, numerous wineries in the area that have tasting rooms. It’s also a reason for a girls trip. The boys were not interested in the shopping!

While exploring the area we stumbled across another highlight to our trip. Especially for my husband and I. The Fox Barn Winery. We enjoyed a “flight” of wine as well as a cheese, crackers and meat board on the outside patio. This included a selection of cheese and crackers along with salami & prosciutto. Plus local mixed berry jam, pickled asparagus and olives. Another highly recommended location! We even brought home 6 bottles of wine.

I could go on and on about the things we did and things you can do in the area.  Our family had a well-deserved family vacation that everyone enjoyed. One thing I want to say. I don’t know where you at on the mask situation but something to consider when you visit any business that I noted on our trip.  Michigan has had a mask order in place since the beginning of July and 99.9% of the businesses we visited had visible signage about wearing mask and had hand sanitizer readily available as well as sanitized pens. Most of the businesses are locally owned Mom & Pop locations that were happy to be open and was doing everything possible to stay open. I honestly feel this is why Michigan’s numbers are low. My point is even if you don’t believe in wearing a mask do it for the business owner that wants to remain open. These business owners don’t make the rules but in order to maintain their business they have to follow them.  A short time for discomfort for us equals a paycheck to them.  

In some ways I’m glad our plans got de-railed. It gave us a chance to visit a somewhat local location and support the businesses that make this country what it is. I don’t know why we never thought of Michigan as a vacation spot but it is definitely on our list now and looking forward to an adult only trip very soon! If you are looking for a girls or guys trip or family vacation consider Southwestern Michigan.  And contact me I can make it happen!