48 Hours In Upper Peninsula, Michigan

Above: Eben Ice Caves, a frozen winter waterfall in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (Photo: John McCormick/Shutterstock)

When you think of Michigan, Detroit probably comes to mind, or perhaps Ann Arbor or Traverse City, both of which are getting more buzz lately especially from foodies and craft beer lovers. But there’s the entire northern part of the state that you’re overlooking—the Upper Peninsula (or U.P. for short). And if you’re looking for a place where you can learn to embrace and even love winter—those moments when the dirty slush and frigid windchill has you wondering why you live where winter is so harsh—then a visit to the U.P. is in order.

It’s an area where record snowfalls of 390 inches is not out of the ordinary, and so locals have no choice but to embrace it and make the most of it. One visit will renew your love of winter—doubtful? Just a handful of the activities and local haunts that’ll make you fall for it.

Where to stay

The only hotel on the water, the Hampton Inn Marquette, will offer you some pretty views of Lake Superior, but is also just a short walk away from downtown Marquette. Even if the lake is almost entirely frozen over, the expanse of flat white snow is a serene view in which to watch the sun rise over. Be sure to bring your swimsuit to enjoy the saltwater pool and Jacuzzi, and if your outdoor winter activities aren’t enough fitness for you, the gym is open 24 hours. Those who can’t live without their smartphones will also appreciate the free wifi, especially as coverage can be spotty in the area depending on who your carrier is.

What to do

Hopefully, you’ve packed your ice cleats (or else consider picking up a pair) as you will not want to miss visiting the Eben Ice Caves. Located near Eben Junction, the ice caves are a moderate walk (about one mile) from where you park your car. Located in the Rock River Wilderness area of the Hiawatha National Forest, the ice caves are formed by a frozen curtains of ice over the sandstone rock. The  ice formations are so gorgeous, it’ll make you forget how you ever cursed ice storms back home. Click here for driving directions.

Sure, you can snowmobile, but doesn’t working with a team of huskies that’ll haul you through the forest sound way cooler? Man’s best friend will wow you with their power—and we bet you’ll be wanting to kidnap a husky or two to come home with you. Make the 90-minute drive to Nature’s Kennel for a dog sledding excursion. You’ll have a chance to interact closely with the friendly dogs as you harness them up and then return them to their respective kennels afterwards. Grab the opportunity to drive the sled (it beats being a passenger in the sled)—a quick lesson of how to operate the sled is all you need; the dogs do all the work. It can get cold sledding—wear your warmest gear (the kennel has heavy duty boots and mitts you can borrow, too). (And if you want to watch pros dog sled, time your visit to the U.P. for mid-February so that it coincides with the annual UP200 race, a 240-mile race.)

If you’re keen to try something new, then fatbiking or snowbiking is a must in the U.P. (in Marquette you can rent a fatbike at Sports Rack). With a good trail system for the sport, you’ll get a good adventure on these bicycles with oversized tires (most popular tire width ranges from 3.7 to 4 inches) and work off some of the comfort foods you’ve been eating all season.

Where to eat

Fueling your body to help you face the cold weather and give you energy for you winter sports means you need one hearty breakfast. Head to the charming Sweet Water Cafe in Marquette, where everyone can find something scrumptious that suits their taste. The French toast is superb—go for the seed bread to get a nice little crunch—doused in local maple syrup, of course.

For your sweet fix, you’ll definitely have to pop into Donckers, a traditional candy shop where you can get handmade chocolates and candies. For a casual lunch or dinner, venture upstairs where the creamy macaroni and cheese with bacon and sriracha is a spicy, savoury bowl of heaven.

If the hike to the Eben Ice Caves has tuckered you out, grab a seat at the Rock River Cafe in nearby Chatham and order one of their signature burgers. The focus at this resto is local purveyors—the beef in the burgers is from less than 10 miles away and is a crumbly, juicy wonder. And it may be cold outside, but a frothy milkshake is a must, too—trust us.

Tags: Michigan, Travel Guide

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