Midwest Magic: Discover Glen Lake, Michigan, in all Four Seasons

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This summer, why not consider a trip to the Midwest? The turquoise hues of Glen Lake may resemble the Caribbean (it truly has to be seen to be believed), but the evergreen appeal of this idyllic town in northern Michigan is of a decidedly more rustic nature. As Hemingway once said about the Midwestern land that was once his home: “It's great northern air. Absolutely the best trout fishing in the country. No exaggeration. Fine country. Good color, good northern atmosphere, absolute freedom, no summer resort stuff, and lots of paintable stuff.” Paintable stuff, indeed. 

Hemingway grew up in this part of the world: skiing, hiking, shooting, fishing—doing all of the masculine things that would later become the trademark of all his literary protagonists. But fame and fortune never erased the memory of his childhood playground—the famous ex-pat never forgot his roots, and Glen Lake devotees today are similarly fanatic. But after our visit this past September, it’s safe to say that they have reason to be. Read below for our recommendations on where to eat, sleep, and of course, explore in Glen Arbor, Michigan. 

Eat

Cherries covered in rich chocolate

(Image provided by Adobe Stock)

The legendary Art’s Tavern is the best place to visit in town for a burger and a beer—though we recommend ordering the whitefish. When possible, in this lakeside town, do order the freshwater specialties. The utility of this tavern is not to be dismissed: the place is great for breakfast and especially suited for last call. A must-visit. If you’re in the mood for a heartier meal, do as the locals do and book a reservation at Funistrada—though be sure to book at least a week in advance. The Italian servings are quite generously portioned, so be sure to come hungry.

Foot Hills Café (which doubles as a motel) is another favorite spot. Head to this tiny diner for a quick/delicious breakfast before setting out on your day. Another solid breakfast option is Good Harbor Grill, though this establishment delivers a solid lunch, as well. Midwestern hospitality at its best. Lastly, be sure to check out the Cherry Republic for a taste of Americana in the cherry capital of the world. Chocolate-covered cherries, cherry salsa, cherry wine—whatever you can imagine—are available at this shop. Fill your bag to bring back home.

Hot Spots:

Art’s Tavern

6487 W Western Ave, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

Cherry Republic

 6026 S Lake St, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

Funistrada

4566 W. MacFarlane Road, "Burdickville", Maple City, MI 49664

Foot Hills Café

7097 S Dunns Farm Rd, Maple City, MI 49664

Good Harbor Grill

6584 Western Ave, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

Joe’s Friendly Tavern

11015 W Front St, Empire, MI 49630

Boonedocks

5858 S Manitou Blvd, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

Sleep

A rustic bedroom in a cabin

(Image provided by Adobe Stock)

The Homestead, also known as “America’s Freshwater Resort,” can’t be beaten regarding options for places to stay. This massive property offers condos, apartments, and individual hotel rooms, depending on the size of your party. Plus, they have all kinds of leisure/sporting activities available, with beach access, a golf course, a swimming pool, a spa, and even a small ski hill in the winter. Definitely recommended. Leelanau Vacation Rentals is another good option to check out for rentals on Glen Lake and the surrounding area, and the people who work at Leelanau are extremely helpful and accommodating—the Midwestern hospitality is a welcome relief from the gruffness of the East Coast. The Sylvan Inn and the M22 Inn Glen Arbor are perfect if you want to stay in town, and (of course) the people who run the inn are very nice as well. If you’re looking to go native, Airbnb has many listings in the Glen Lake area that are spacious and affordable—for fellow New Yorkers, the prices will shock. 

Hot Spots:

The Homestead 

1 Woodridge Rd, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

Leelanau Vacation Rentals

6546 S State St, Glen Arbor, MI 49636 

The Sylvan Inn 

6680 W Western Ave, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

The M22 Inn Glen Arbor

5793 South Ray St, Glen Arbor, MI

Explore

A man throwing a fishing line in the lake

(Image provided by Adobe Stock)

Before we get into activities requiring equipment, we’ll focus on the simplest way (and the best way) to appreciate the vistas of Lake Michigan and the Manitou Passage: taking a hike.

Alligator Hill and Pyramid Point are longer hikes, at ten and twelve miles, respectively, while the three-mile Empire Bluff is a less strenuous endeavor.  Our personal favorite? Sleeping Bear Point. Hailed as the most beautiful place in America, this nine-mile hike through the dunes is capped off with a refreshing dip in the lake. Dune running is highly recommended (and liberating), but remember that what goes down must come back up. Running up a mountain of sand is all the more punishing after a day spent hiking, fishing, and boating. But, of course, it’s worth it. Reward yourself later with a visit to Boonedocks for some après-hike activities (yes, this term exists): grab a beer, listen to the live music, and kick back.     

For those who’d rather cruise around on wheels, hop on a bike to cruise the Heritage Trail to Empire (a 10-minute drive from Glen Arbor). Bike to Joe’s Friendly Tavern—an institution very similar to Art’s (as in: its perfection)—and grab some lunch and a drink before returning. Want to get more off the beaten path? Take a trip over to Leland’s historic Fishtown (a twenty-minute drive up 22 from Glen Arbor) and take a ferry to the Manitou Islands. Once there, the world is your oyster/sunken treasure: go camping, explore the ancient shipwrecks, find yourself in the woods, etc. If you’re visiting from October 27th to November 3rd, you can participate in the North Manitou Island Deer Hunt, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is open for hunting throughout the year. 

Last but not least—the most important activity of all: fishing. Whether by boat or by land, the freshwater is fishing heaven. Glen Lake is home to massive amounts of yellow perch, smallmouth bass, and northern pike, as well as brown trout and lake trout. We recommend kayaking or canoeing out on the water to experience the serenity of your surroundings fully: the pine trees dotting the shore, the clear stillness of the water, and the immensity of that Midwestern sky. Forgive the poetics, but this sentiment was echoed by Hemingway himself (though in much sparer prose, of course): “The best sky was in Italy or Spain and in Northern Michigan in the fall,” he wrote a friend. Having lived in all three places, he would know. Time for you to book that flight and check it out for yourself. 

Hot Spots:

Glen Lake Fishing Michigan

Hike around Lake Michigan

Bike the Heritage Trail

Sleeping Bear Dunes

North Manitou Hunting

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