The Upper Peninsula of Michigan Is The Best Vacation You Aren’t Taking.

The Big Knob Beach, Upper Peninsula Michigan.

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the best vacation you aren’t taking. I’m going to say that again, because it is true and you should remedy that as soon as possible.  The Upper Peninsula of Michigan IS THE BEST VACATION YOU ARE NOT TAKING. 

When the global economy collapsed in 2008, it really hit the UP hard. It had been struggling for a while, but that really just destroyed it. Now the global economy has rebounded, however, in large- domestic tourism has not. Some areas are doing well; some are even thriving better than before. The UP isn’t one of those places. 

Typical roadside bog in the UP.

For whatever reason, when people go on vacation now- they want something exotic and foreign. That’s all fine and well, but there are plenty of exotic locations HERE, in the United States, that support local economies that DEPEND on tourism.  

The Kitch Iti Kippi spring as seen looking down. Also known as Palms Book state park.

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is amazing. Once upon a time in the 40’s and 50’s the UP was a tourist mecca. Desiring a return to a simpler time and a return to nature, the UP was the destination of choice. Hemingway spent a lot of time there, and it’s beauty inspired much of his writing.  His time spent on the Fox river inspired ‘The Big Two Hearted River.’ There is a river up there called the Big Two Hearted River, but that name was only chosen because it sounded more poetic than the Fox. 

The shore of Lake Michigan in Marquette.

This was the beginning of auto tourism as we know it and the UP responded in grand style. Thousands of roadside hotels and motels sprang up, often with an outdoorsy / big woods theme. They dot the only major thoroughfare through the UP, US Route #2. US Route 28 also traverses the UP, but most of my time has been on Route #2.  

The underside of the Cut River Bridge. An absurdly tall bridge. Beautiful park with a hiking trail down to Lake Michigan.

Sometime in the 60’s, interest in the great outdoors waned. So did the associated tourism. It has continued to decline ever since, until the 2008 economic crisis just about finished it off.  Many of the small businesses that sprang up in the Upper Peninsula decades ago are now utterly abandoned.  They are disconcerting ghosts of the past and a sad commentary on shifting values. 

The Tonerville trolley. Take a long train ride through bogs.

One of those shifting values is that we are no longer taking vacations. We are more over worked than ever.  This has a ripple effect on our entire lives and those whom we spend our lives with. Our coworkers, our families, our bosses…. the people who check us out at the grocery store.. all of them are suffering right along with us.  

Naubinway Bay. The northern most shore of Lake Michigan.

Somehow, the American culture has shifted to see vacations as a bad thing. We are perceived as lazy or less diligent about our jobs if we use our vacation time.  This has left us more stressed as individuals and society as a whole.  

The Tahquamenon Falls State Park.

We can solve two problems at the same time.
There are still many small tourist businesses that remain in the UP, but they are hanging on by a thread.  Those economies have become distressed, and it is affecting the communities as a whole. Sound familiar? 

Pictured Rock National Lakeshore.

There are plenty of studies that show that families, and children in particular, NEED the outdoors for healthy development.  Here are just a few to read herehere and here.

Kayaking on the Fox River in the path of Hemingway.

NPR recently had a segment on how overworked and under-vacationed we are. I vicariously know the guy they interview, Matt Grawitch. I don’t have his PhD in psychology,  but I know I am far more productive and my quality of work is better when I vacation more and work less.   

The Newberry movie theater is beautiful!! It’s more like a stage theater.

My German friends,  who have 35 hour work weeks and 5 weeks of paid vacation a year,  think the amount of hours I (as well as the average American) work is barbaric.   My personal opinion is that if you want to know why or crime and general malaise as a society comes from…. one might start looking at the number of hours we work and the days of vacations we aren’t taking.  Just a thought. 

The old projector in the lobby of the Newberry theater.

Why on earth are we going on cruises,  and flying overseas to relax? How about you disconnect from the electronics that are making us all miserable, recharge your batteries with a vacation, reconnect with nature and help the domestic economy? 
This is a huge, beautiful, nation.  Why are we going to exotic places when we could be seeing the nation we live in?  If you want to help our economy, and your own mental wellbeing, take a vacation.  I’m serious!  Take a vacation. 

The Black river. Surrounded by blueberries, currents, gooseberries and choke cherries.

That helps you and everyone you work with. It helps your family, and it helps your wellbeing.  If you take your vacation in the beautiful upper peninsula of Michigan, you help yourself, your family and the local economies.  I will begin posting various tourist ideas in the UP and I sincerely hope you give them a chance. 

Your peace of mind needs the UP. Their economy needs you. 

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