“Are you taking my Mom white water rafting?” asks Dani, my niece. My head cocks to the side as I confusingly ponder her question. “No. What do you mean?” “She said you’re taking her somewhere with rapids in Michigan. I asked if she was going white water rafting with you and she said she doesn’t know but wouldn't doubt it.” I laughed out loud. It sounds like my sister to say yes to something she doesn’t even know what she’s getting into. I explained to her that Grand Rapids, MI is a city and we’re going to visit Riley while she’s there attending a friend’s wedding. Part of me wished we were going white water rafting!
My sister is 3 years older than I. We’ve been close since our teenage years but we hadn’t been on a trip together in a very long time. So I was excited when she said she could go! We were heading to Michigan, which happens to be the state she was born in. Let’s do this!
Our drive there from Erie to Grand Rapids was about 5.5 hours give or take. We stopped at a rest stop once which I have to give it to Ohio for really nice rest stops! They have lots of information on local attractions, restaurants, nice vending machines and they’re clean! I was impressed. (It doesn't take much.) Just over the Michigan border, we stopped for gas. First, I noticed police cars with their lights on in the corner of the parking lot. Hmm…weird. Then, as I pulled up to the pump, I realized they’re doing a search of a car literally right on the other side of the pump! They had their blue gloves on and all the doors open as the (I assume) owners of the car were plopped down on a sidewalk across the way with officers standing next to them. I was like…”Yikes. It’s not their day.”
We get to our Airbnb close to dinner time so we checked in and then checked reviews for restaurants close by. We end up at Applebees…not local…not exciting…but they have a great selection and we won’t end up with diahrrea. So that’s always a win in my book. ;) The rest of the evening, we chilled at the apartment. Wendy put on Golden Girls which I hadn’t seen in ages so it was fun and and reminiscent of childhood. It was nice to share that moment with her.
Riley arrived very late that night…actually Saturday morning around 1am so we pretty much hit the hay as soon as we were back at the apartment with her. The next morning, we headed for downtown Grand Rapids. We had a few hours to kill before the wedding so we decided to do a little shopping and grab brunch. Before heading to a new place, I like to do a little research on places we should visit and unique things to experience. A blog post I read recommended Social Misfits for brunch and boy, were they right! This place was one of the highlights of the trip for me. The food and service were both impeccable! They have all sorts of different ways you can order your waffles. It was pretty cool!
For navigation, I used my phone to find parking in the area and to get us to the restaurant. Do you use your phone’s navigation even if you’re walking somewhere? It’s very handy when you’re in an area you aren’t aware of. Something else I did the night before heading downtown was research areas to stay away from for safety purposes and there was great information I found that showed the 10 worst neighborhoods in Grand Rapids. That came in handy as we navigated this new city we’d never been to. I made sure wherever we were headed, we didn’t go in those directions.
We walked around downtown but didn’t find too much great shopping to be honest. There were a couple shops we found that were okay but it didn’t fulfill what we were looking for. Riley also did a little research before our trip and told us about another little shopping district she read about so we headed there. It was a really nice, chic, little shopping district. It wasn’t huge but the shops were nice and filled with kind people. We spent most of our time in a shop called Adored Boutique.
The owner told me about a product line she’s producing with other women from a developing country in the east. I was very moved by her story and the information she provided so I bought a candle made by the women. It smelled amazing and I love supporting local businesses and women so I didn’t mind spending a little more than i normally would have on a candle. Honestly, it’s been weeks since we were there and the candle still has lots of life in it so it was well worth the money!
We dropped Riley off at the wedding she was attending and headed over to Lake Michigan which was a little less than an hour away.
The drive was easy until we got into the place we wanted to eat at… It was Saturday evening and the small city of Saugatuck (very touristy) was insanely busy. So much traffic! However, once we found parking (we got the last parking spot in a paid lot) we headed off to find a bite to eat.
We ate at El Burrito Feliz which was, again, delicious and then did some exploring through all the little shops. I love visiting local touristy shops and looking at all the unique and often, not unique, products. If something really catches my eye and heart, I’ll buy it. But more times than not, I leave empty handed because, honestly, I really don’t need another sweatshirt. In case, you didn’t already realize, I make my own so I have a lot…LOL.
Next, we visited Saugatuck Dunes State Park to visit the beach on Lake Michigan. I read, prior to visiting, that it was quite a walk to the beach and they weren’t kidding.
After figuring out how to pay to park, we had to walk about a mile through the woods to get to the beach! I realized then just how blessed we are to have Presque Isle State Park…where we don’t pay to visit (yet) and the water is literally directly across from the beach. #blessed. I can’t imaging hauling kids with all the beach stuff a mile through the forest before reaching the water!
However, once we were there, it was worth the hike. We spent some time just sitting and people watching. We were also entertained by those paragliding right along the beach.
That looked like fun and something I’d LOVE to do! I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as seeing the sand dunes but basically, they were hills…of sand. With trees on them. I know there are other areas of Michigan with sand dunes that are much more vast (from what I’ve seen) and I plan to someday explore those.
The water seemed much chillier than Lake Erie to me. Which makes sense as Lake Erie is the most shallow great lake so it’s also the warmest. After our quick visit, we headed back over the lands of Michigan to pick Riley up. She was downtown by this point so we got to see Grand Rapids at night. However, we didn't get to see the lit-up bridge I was told about that’s suppose to be super cool.
The next day, we went to brunch with Riley and some of her friends and then relaxed at the Airbnb. It was a nice, relaxing day.
After taking them to the airport, Wendy and I went back to the apartment and ordered deep dish pizza because that seems like something you should do when you’re visiting Michigan. I didn’t want to drive anywhere so we had it delivered which is rare for me. I’m typically too cheap to pay someone else to bring me my food…lol. But, I was tired. The delivery man arrived and placed a very small box in my hand and I was shocked this tiny pizza cost $30! Like…what?!!! I opened the box to find 4 pieces of pizza. 4. Pieces. That may be the most expensive pizza I ever bought. However, it was DELICIOUS. And I only at one piece because…hello…deep dish. They were heavy pieces. So, basically, the next morning, we threw out a $7.50 piece of pizza…lol. We watched Wine Country on Netflix with our pizza. If you like chick flicks and haven’t seen that yet, I highly recommend. It’s one of my favorite movies.
The next day, we headed home. This trip made me realize my sister and I are still really close and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. We don’t talk all the time or hang out a ton but we are always there for each other when needed and I know I have a best friend for life. Thanks for taking the journey with me, Wendy, and for always being down to explore and take on any rapids we come across. Love you! ;)