New Year’s Eve in the Big Cherry

A lot of people associate New Year’s Eve with “The Big Apple”, or New York City, because of the festivities held there in Times Square each December 31st. This year, instead of doing our usual routine of going out in our hometown, we decided to try something different, because the local celebrations had been pretty sleepy the past couple of years. Instead, we rang in the holiday in the winter wonderland of northern Michigan, and spent the last night of the year in the cherry capital of the state, Traverse City.

We had talked about planning a winter trip up north with Dustin’s mom, Kathy, and while researching for things to do in the winter time near Traverse City, I stumbled upon a website where I found out about how the city does their own version of the NYC ball drop, but instead they do a cherry ball drop, to represent the city. It sounded like so much fun, and only 3 1/2 hours away versus 10 or 11 to NYC! I shared it with Dustin and his mom and they agreed that it sounded fun. For our Christmas gift, Kathy surprised us by booking us a hot tub suite for New Year’s Eve right on the East Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City at the Pointes North!

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The view of the bay from our hotel room

We left the morning of New Year’s Eve and took the fast route on the way up to Traverse City so that we could get to the fun faster and arrived around 1:30pm.

Kathy is very familiar with the area so she drove us around a bit, pointing out several quaint little lakeside towns that she had spent time in as a boater in her prime. Elk Rapids is one that definitely stood out that I’d like to go back to in the summer sometime with Dustin on our boat. We also drove around part of Torch Lake, which is an absolutely gorgeous and HUGE lake just outside of Traverse City. Northern Michigan is dotted with crystal clear inland lakes and they all have the bluest water you’ve ever seen aside from tropical waters in the Caribbean. It seems like just around every curve, another lake pops out of nowhere. The views are gorgeous and expansive and it’s really the best of both worlds up there, because Lake Michigan is also just a stone’s throw away from most of them if you prefer the big lake instead. After touring the area and appreciating the natural beauty of the area that God put there for us, we headed out to dinner near Long Lake.

Kathy recommended a restaurant called Boone’s Long Lake Inn, which sits just outside of Traverse City in the countryside. We figured it would have less of a wait than the urban spots downtown and decided to try it out. The snow covered log cabin style gave the restaurant a certain charm, and just inside was an inviting, lovely stone fireplace. The place was quaintly situated near Long Lake (hence the name) and the building was huge but very cozy.

As we opened the main doors, we quickly saw that the entire place was packed and at least 50 people were waiting to be seated still! A little disappointed after being told of the hour and a half wait, we headed over to the bar to grab a cocktail while we waited. After a bit, a couple seats at the bar opened up and not too long after that, one of the bar tables cleared out. We asked the owner if we could order food from the bar tables and to our delight, she said yes so we were able to escape the rest of the long wait! Boone’s had an amazing menu, and I ended up ordering filet mignon with shrimp, sautéed mushrooms and onions topped with gorgonzola cheese and Dustin got a steak with lobster tail. The portion sizes were a bit out of control, but the meal was delectable!

After a wonderful meal, we practically waddled out of the restaurant with our full bellies and hopped back in the truck to head back downtown. On the way there, we had spotted an Elks Club located on the bay. Dustin and I have been Elks members for 6 years now so we make it a habit when we are visiting new towns in the US to check out their local Elks Clubs. It’s kind of fun because even on a crazy busy night like New Year’s Eve, Elks Clubs are “members only” establishments so we always have a place where we know we can get in without a wait. Each club sells pins that represent their city, so we purchased a pin to add to our collection, had a quick (and extremely inexpensive drink- this is another reason we like being members- cheap food and drinks!) and then headed back to the hotel to bundle up to go watch the cherry ball drop!

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I have an extremely finicky body thermometer- I get hot really quickly and I get cold really quickly. Taking this into account, I put on a lot of extra layers so that I didn’t inhibit myself from having fun due to freezing. We bundled up, put on our goofy lit up New Year’s Eve attire and then drove downtown. Our hotel offered a free shuttle but we didn’t want to get stuck downtown so we drove ourselves. Parking was free and it only cost $3.00 to get into the ball drop area.

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Downtown Traverse City before the crowds arrived

There was a stage set up with a DJ that was playing really fun music and we showed up at exactly the right time, because it hadn’t gotten too busy yet. We got a great spot directly in front of the stage and the crane holding the ball that would drop. For about an hour and a half, we danced in the street and enjoyed the party as the crowd slowly started to multiply.

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Before long, the streets were full as far as we could see in every direction. The energy from such a large crowd made it really fun and exciting! Soon the 10 second countdown to 2017 began and we chanted along until the cherry ball dropped above us, changing from 2016 to 2017 in the process.

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While enjoying our 7th New Year’s Eve kiss together, we watched a brief fireworks display and welcomed in the New Year under the stars and city lights. It was an absolute blast and I’m so glad we were there for it! After the ball drop, we went back to the hotel, had a glass of champagne and then called it a night around 2am!

The next morning, we slept in a bit then headed out for another scenic drive. Unfortunately, a lot of things were closed on New Year’s Day, which we had kind of expected, so we just drove around taking in the natural beauty again. We drove into Sutton’s Bay, which is an adorable little town that we had previously stayed in a few years back. It was fun to be there again, as we had really enjoyed it the first time!

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Dustin and I at the marina in Northport

 

We kept on driving to Northport and stopped to see the Grand Traverse Lighthouse.

It was an adorable lighthouse and they had it all decorated for Christmas, which made it even better.

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While we were there walking around, we spotted a huge freighter off in the distance. It’s not often we see a ship of this magnitude on Lake Michigan so it was kind of neat to see!

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After a quick stop and snapping some photos, we headed over to Leland, which is adoringly known as “Fishtown” to Michiganders. It is a charming little fish village on Lake Michigan situated across from the Manitou Islands.

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We have been there several times in the summer for weekend getaways and it was neat to see it in the winter with all of the snow and ice. Nothing was open due to the holiday but when we had visited in the past, we had always stopped at Carlson’s Fisheries to pick up some smoked salmon and whitefish dip. They have hands down the best that I’ve ever had!

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It was a shame that they were closed, but we managed to find one tiny restaurant called the Blue Bird that was open for us stragglers passing through so we stopped in to grab a bite to eat. I had snapper tacos and Dustin had a grilled ham and cheese with tomato bisque. Both were good, but nothing special.

After lunch we made our way back to the hotel in Traverse City. Kathy had arranged for us to go tubing that afternoon at Mt. Holiday, which was a small ski resort just around the corner from our hotel, so we needed to get our snow gear on. When we got to Mt. Holiday, we were expecting a pretty small place since we had never heard of it but were surprised to see that the ski hills were decent sized and we were a little disappointed that we hadn’t brought our skis along to use after tubing!

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Anyhow, we got our tickets (which were only $13- good price!) and walked over to the tubing hill. They had a couple of different runs with berms in between them to prevent collisions and to get up to the top, there was a toe rope. Each tube had a lanyard on it and hooked onto the rope, then we sat in the tube once it was connected, offering a nice leisurely pull to the top.

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For the first run, we sat in a triangle with our tubes and overlapped our legs, holding onto each other’s boots. The next few times, the guy working at the top gave us a good spin as he pushed us off the hill and we got spinning really fast! Once we saw how fast we could go, Dustin and I decided to try it face first for even more of a rush. It was so much fun! We were all laughing like Beavis and Butthead by time we got down to the bottom on each run. We got in as many runs down the hill as possible in the hour that we had reserved and then turned in our tube as the resort was closing for the day. We had hoped to go back and relax in our jacuzzi after being out in the cold, however, when we turned on the hot water, it was more like room temperature luke warm. I called the front desk to see if they were having a problem and she informed me that the whole floor was booked at that time and everyone was probably using the hot tubs simultaneously. She said that they had an old boiler system so we would have to wait an hour or so and try it again. Not the most convenient system for a hotel to have, but we decided to just curl up and watch a movie instead.

After a relaxing evening and good night of sleep, we woke up refreshed. Hungry, we went in search of somewhere that served yummy breakfast. We had seen a place called the Omelette Shoppe as we were driving around the day before, and with Dustin’s love of omelets, we had to stop in. I could eat breakfast for every meal of every day and be happy so this was also perfect for me. They had a great menu and good coffee! I instantly noticed that they had Boursin cheese, which is one of my favorites, so I opted to create my own omelet and had Boursin cheese, sautéed mushrooms and onions and spinach. It was really, really good!

After breakfast, we started our drive home. This time we took the scenic route along the lake on M-22. This is a beautiful highway in Michigan that meanders through the hills and along the coastline past numerous quaint little towns and lighthouses. One of which is the Point Betsie Lighthouse, which is one of the stops we made in Frankfort.

Despite the winter weather, it was a sunny day near 40 degrees so we got out and walked around it a bit. Kathy and I both enjoy collecting rocks on the beach and she said this was a great beach for it. I wasn’t really planning on rock picking that day since it was so cold, but once I saw all of the neat rocks, I couldn’t help myself and ended up with a whole pocket full of them!

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There were a lot of neat ice formations that had built up from the waves busting over the sea wall that looked really cool and the sun looked really pretty glimmering across the ice.

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It was refreshing to spend some time on the beach in the sun, even in the cold, because it has been a few months since we’ve been able to do that. After this last stop, we headed on home just in time for the sun to disappear and the rain to start. It was sunny and around 35-40 the whole time we were up north and the day after we left, it dropped down to 15! God really blessed us with the weather for our little weekend adventure and we had a great time!

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