Looking to escape the humidity of Cincinnati this summer? Then you might want to dust off your digital camera and head to Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan. Visiting the island is like taking a stroll back in time, replete with horse-drawn carriages, quaint Victorian architecture and a charming community of 500 permanent residents, where the focus is on rest and relaxation.

"It's so incredibly beautiful here," says Mary McGuire Slevin, the director of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau. "It's peaceful, it's pretty, and you can mosey."

Mackinac Island is also known as The Island of the Great Turtle because of the shape of the island. Be sure to bring your walking shoes. Cars are restricted. The best ways to get around are walking, bicycling, horseback or horse-drawn carriages. The island is home to more than 600 horses.

Each July, the island hosts the Mackinac Island Festival of the Horse where visitors can tour historic Victorian barns, watch an antique carriage show, let the kids ride a pony and hear lectures on the role of horses in Mackinac Island's history. This year's festival is July 20-24.

GRAND SIGHTS

Mackinac Island has many types of architecture to inspire visitors, including: French Rustic, Colonial Revival with The Grand Hotel (the location of Somewhere in Time, a feature film starring Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer), the Stick Style, and Carpenter Gothic.

For folks who like to stay active there are opportunities for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding in Mackinac Island State Park, with more than 70 paved and unpaved trails available.

Golfers might want to try the Wawashkamo Golf Club, a par 72 course that was named one of America's Historic Golf Landmarks by Golf Digest magazine in 1996.

Enjoy a taste of Mackinac's famous fudge, a delicious combination of sugar, butter, chocolate and cream. Mackinac offers many fudge shops, including Murdick's, the oldest fudge shop on the island (they have been serving fudge since the late 1880s), with fudge options ranging from chocolate to amaretto to coconut to raspberry truffle.

According to McGuire Slevin, fudge lovers should try May's Blueberry Fudge, a special item that appears for a short time during the summer. If you are a vacationer obsessed with fudge ("fudgies" as the locals say), The Mackinac Island Fudge Festival is August 19-20.

For history buffs, Mackinac Island has many options to explore.

Take a stroll inside Fort Mackinac, where you can witness a court martial re-enactment, hear a cannon blast and soak up the history of an 1880s era fort. Immerse yourself in Historic Downtown Mackinac, where visitors can enjoy examples of 18th-century French-Canadian architecture, blacksmithing and wool spinning demonstrations, and hear plenty of storytelling.

The allure of Northern Michigan doesn't end there. Also, consider these enticing attractions:

MACKINAW CITY

Mackinaw City offers the traveler a convenient home base with access to museums, an amusement park and three historical sites. Visit the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse for its spectacular view of the Straits of Mackinac, Mackinac Bridge and the beach.

The Historic Mill Creek is a working water-powered sawmill with interactive exhibits and access to nature trails. The Colonial Michilimackinac, a re-creation of a 1770s fort, is a great place to engage children in history.

It offers a number of hands-on activities, re-enactments and slides in the Kids' Rendezvous Interpretive Playground.

ISLAND LILAC FESTIVAL

This 10-day festival celebrating the beauty of lilacs has been around since 1949. Mackinac locals and visitors will get
the opportunity to explore the world of Mackinac lilacs with activities that include afternoon tea at the Grand Hotel, live music venues, the coronation of the Lilac Festival queen, the Lilac Festival 10K for adults and the Lil' Lilac Run/Walk for children, walking tours, the Mackinac annual book sale, wine tasting and more from June 10-19.

TRAVERSE CITY

If sitting on the beach and soaking up rays is your idea of a great time, check out the beaches of Traverse City. With more than 180 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline open to the public, Traverse City is sure to be a top hit for beach lovers.

"Traverse City has always been known for its amazing natural beauty, with our crystal-clear lakes and rivers, sugar-sand beaches and green hills featuring orchards and vineyards," says Brad Van Dommelen of the Traverse City Travel and Visitors Bureau. "Combine this with our legendary friendliness and small-town charm that is seasoned with just the right amount of sophistication, and you will see why we have become a popular destination for people who keep coming back. Traverse City is well known for our boutiques and galleries, our championship golf and our arts and culture scene."

Traverse City's reputation is growing as a destination for foodies and wine lovers, as well. "You must come see what all the fuss is about," Van Dommelen says.

Another way to enjoy the waters of Northern Michigan is by taking a boat ride on a Tall Ship. The Traverse Tall Ship Co. offers many types of packages on their schooner, Manitou, including day and evening trips, a bed and breakfast experience and specialty cruises.

Once you're finished with water activities, Traverse City offers casinos, museums, and art galleries.

NATIONAL CHERRY FESTIVAL

The annual eight-day National Cherry festival (July 2-9) in Traverse City celebrates everything "cherry." Known as America's Cherry Capital, Traverse City throws a giant shindig with activities, food, beverages and performances dedicated to the love of cherries. Activities include a Family Sand Sculpture Contest, Cherry Pit Spit Contest, air shows, cherry pie eating contests, volleyball tournament, arts and crafts fair and Cherry Idol Contest.

OLD MISSION PENINSULA

If you are a lover of wine, Old Mission Peninsula, located in the Grand Traverse Bay, is just the spot. Old Mission Peninsula boasts seven wineries that host tasting events year round. During Blossom Days (May 14-15), local wineries give guests the opportunity to taste unreleased wines. Barrel and Reserve wines will be showcased from each winery.

STURGEON RIVER

Take a ride along the Sturgeon River, the fastest-flowing river in Michigan's Lower Peninsula. Big Bear Adventures offers rafts, canoes, tubes, kayaks and catamarans for your adventure. A few minutes away, take a chance on spotting an elk by visiting the park at dawn or dusk. Indian River is a great area for fishing in Crooked and Pickerel Lakes, hiking along the North Central State Trail and golfing at the Indian River Golf Club.

FESTIVAL ON THE BAY

The Festival on the Bay is a three-day festival Aug. 19-21 at the waterfront in Petoskey, Mich. Activities include music, a Jiimaan Race (canoe race), Keweenaw Star Sunset Boat Cruise, an arts and crafts show, food vendors, magic acts and juggling.

TRAVERSE CITY FILM FESTIVAL

 

Are you a film lover? Then you might want to investigate the seventh annual Traverse City Film Festival.

The event, July 26-31, is one of the largest film festivals in the Midwest and focuses on foreign films, American independent productions and documentaries, sure to please any film buff. 

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The following web sites contain more information on Northern Michigan travel.