My sister and her fiance took a train in from the suburbs. I offered to drive them back. I had parked a few miles away, like I normally do, to avoid spending a hundred bucks to park near Wrigley. I used to work and live near Wrigley, so I always enjoy walking around the area. I had a really pleasant walk to the game. I stopped in one of my old haunts for a hot dog. The owner remembered me, which was cool.
The walk back to my car was not as pleasant. My sister's fiance was freaked out, thinking we were going to get shot. So here is some insider information from a fourth-generation Chicagoan. As I told my sister's fiance, who didn't believe me, you are NOT going to get shot anywhere near Wrigley Field. The neighborhood that contains Wrigley is called Lake View, it is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Chicago and is very expensive to live in. While there are some trouble spots due to the large number of taverns in the area, shootings are rare. If you stumble out of a bar at 3 a.m. and are one step away from losing your cookies, yes, you may get conked on your head and lose your wallet. But if you are walking around at 4 p.m., you may just pass a local family or two out for a stroll. There are no gangs in Lake View. Shootings are rare. It is a really nice place. Over the years I lived in two different apartments in Lake View and rented an office there. The only problems I ever had were with Cub fans who couldn't handle their liquor.
I know Chicago is regularly in the national news for violence and shootings but these things are largely confined to parts of the South and West sides of the city where poverty is high and gangs are rampant. Chicago is a very large city and Wrigley Field is located on the North Side, well away from the violence that regularly takes place on the South and West sides. So rest assured, you will NOT be shot near Wrigley Field.
Note to self, never offer to give sister and her fiance a ride.
For as long as my family has been in Chicago, well over a hundred years, my family has been spending summers in southwest Michigan. Somewhere there is a photo of my grandmother on the beach in the 1920s. In the late 1800's, there was a wealthy lady in Chicago named Jane Adams who assisted immigrants with her settlement house called Hull House. Jane Adams assisted my great-grandparents by getting them a farm in the town of South Haven, Michigan.
We had lunch in South Haven which is quite the tourist town these days. We wanted to go to the beach but it was too crowded, there was no place to park. We stopped in St. Joseph as well and had ice cream. My dad recommended Saugatuck. We stopped there and tried to find a place for dinner but the town was jammed. We walked around then continued north.
We settled down for the night in Holland, Michigan. I've actually done card shows in Holland but never had a chance to explore. We spent the morning touring a Victorian Dutch windmill, pictured above. We then continued our drive north along Route 31 and made our way to Traverse City. The scenery along Route 31 is something else -- rich, dark green forests, golden bluffs with tremendous views of Lake Michigan.
In Traverse City, we arrived during the Cherry Festival. This part of Michigan is known for its cherries. There was an art fest and carnival in the center of town. My kids enjoyed the carnival. Below is a picture of my daughter at the carnival. I really like Traverse City, it is a beautiful old-timey town on a bay along Lake Michigan. The only downer is a restaurant called The Towne Plaza where we made the mistake of dining. The hostess was snooty and rude. After we left, I realized the waitress short-changed me by five bucks. Avoid the Towne Plaza restaurant in Traverse City at all costs.
The best part of Traverse City is actually a short drive away in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. Here we found some beautiful beach front and spent the day swimming in Lake Michigan.
Our room at the Bavarian House was scented with mold which was a bummer. Though, out the back door was our own private beach on Lake Huron with a view of Mackinac Island across the bay.
I have been lucky enough to have traveled to Mackinac Island many times. It never gets old. I love it. If you have never been to Mackinac Island, you must go! The center piece of the island is an old fort that dates back to the Revolutionary War. There are actors that give tours and shoot off muskets and cannons.
The most unique aspect of Mackinac Island is that motors are not allowed. There are no automobiles there. The only modes of transport on the island are bicycles and horses. Also, the only way to get to Mackinac Island is by boat. There are two ferry companies in St. Ignace -- Shepler's and Star Line. Shepler's is nice because parking is free and it is only a 15 minute ride to the island. Star Lines charges extra to park and is slightly more expensive than Shepler's. The nice thing about Star Lines is that it is a longer ride and takes you under the Mackinac Bridge.
So the whole island is on the National Register of Historic Places. It became a tourist designation in the 1800's. There is the famous Grand Hotel where the movie "Somewhere in Time" with Christopher Reeve was filmed in 1980. We arrived at the Grand Hotel on the Fourth of July where the hotel was hosting a carnival. My son enjoyed playing games at the carnival and he spent the day attempting to win a silly hat, which he won after several hours of play, pictured below.
While my son was playing games, my wife, daughter and I sat on the amazing front porch of the hotel. The wife and I drank a few cocktails and enjoyed the old-time jazz band performing below at the carnival. We then took a horse and buggy tour across the island. The tour would have been enjoyable except for a large group of folks sitting behind us with a ton of small kids. The group was so loud that we could not hear the tour guide. I was a little peeved because I dropped 80 bucks to take my family on the tour. We hopped off the tour by the fort and headed for fudge shops.
Mackinac Island features dozens of fudge shops and for some reason fudge tastes better on Mackinac Island than any other place in the world. We brought a bunch of fudge home. I'm a stickler for the traditional chocolate fudge. My wife likes blueberry and my son like mint chocolate chip.
When the sun went down on the fourth of July, we were able to watch the St. Ignace fire works from the beach behind our hotel. We could also see fireworks being shot off the island.
On the way home, we thought we would explore central Michigan. Ugh! Big mistake! There is nothing in central Michigan except farms and run-down towns like Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. Next time, I will stick to the coasts. I would really like to explore the Lake Huron coast on the east side of Michigan. That will be a trip for another time.
In the meantime, I recommend a trip along the west coast of Michigan. It is amazingly beautiful and the towns are wonderful.