The town of Gaylord, home of Treetops Resort, features the surprisingly fascinating Bottle Cap Museum (989-732-1931). Kids will enjoy a trip to Traverse City's Clinch Park, where they can visit the zoo or ride a quarter-scale model of a 1940s steam train.
On the edge of Little Traverse Bay and just up Highway 31 from Traverse City, Petoskey is home to a gaslight shopping district that may remind some of Carmel, California. The town also boasts the Little Traverse History Museum (231-347-2620), which chronicles the life of Ernest Hemingway, who grew up in Petoskey and returned there after serving in World War I. Once you've finally had enough of earnest Ernest history, Petoskey's Victories Casino & Hotel (877-442-6464) offers golf and gaming packages galore.
12500 Crystal Mountain Drive, Thompsonville; 231-378-2000, crystalmountain.com. Rooms: $89-$169. Condos: $129-$539. Suites: $99-$189.
Crystal Mountain's wide variety of rooms, some with kitchenettes, many with mountain views, feel as cozy and secluded in summer as they do in winter. Nearly every unit has an in-room whirlpool. The resort opened its first eleven Cottages at Water's Edge—reminiscent of early-twentieth-century Northern Michigan cabins—in May, and will cut the tape on an adjacent one-acre water park in July.
4700 North Red Oak Road, Lewiston; 877-442-7526, garlandusa.com. Rooms: $99-$189. Villas: $139-$339. Cottages: $209-$379.
This log-cabin-style resort includes the main lodge—the largest log structure east of the Mississippi—as well as "golf cottages," villas and condominiums, and meeting rooms for corporate retreats. One of the Midwest's only AAA four-diamond resorts.
GRAND TRAVERSE RESORT AND SPA
100 Grand Traverse Boulevard, Acme; 800-748-0303, grandtraverseresort.com. Rooms: $115-$255. Condos: $105-$435. More than 200 of the rooms here are newly renovated, but there are 660 total accommodations in this sprawling complex that includes three golf courses, four pools, a salon and spa, and a private beach. Tower rooms boast double Jacuzzi tubs and wet bars.
THE INN AT BAY HARBOR
3600 Village Harbor Drive, Bay Harbor ; 231-439-4000, www.innatbayharbor.com. Rooms: $119-$279. Suites: $209-$819. Penthouse: $569-$1389.
With its waterfront elegance and red-tiled roof, the Inn at Bay Harbor recalls the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. It features 134 rooms and suites, sandy beach access, stunning sunsets over Little Traverse Bay and an in-house salon and spa. Take the wife or lose her forever.
SHANTY CREEK RESORT & CLUB
1 Shanty Creek Road, Bellaire; 800-678-4111, shantycreek.com. Rooms: $90-$190. Condos: $199-$625.
For lodging at Shanty Creek, as with the golf, guests have a choice. There are three separate villages: Cedar River, Schuss and Summit. All are splendid, but our favorite is Summit, where rooms feel more like home than hotel. Get the right room here and you'll cap your day with a sunset over Lake Bellaire.
3962 Wilk inson Road, Gaylord; 800-444-6711, treetops.com. Rooms: $109-$129. Suites: $149-$169. Condos: $300-$380.
With its golfy vibe, Treetops always felt more like a guy getaway than a family destination. Not so after last summer's $1.5 million renovation, which included an expanded spa and fitness center and a paintball course. Each room, replete with high-speed Internet access, now offers enough bells and whistles to keep your whole clan occupied.
BIG BUCK BREWERY AND STEAKHOUSE
(American) 550 South Wisconsin Street, Gaylord; 989-732-5781. $$
This boisterous local favorite delivers the standard brewery atmosphere (glass walls reveal huge casks, mysterious pipes) along with a wide assortment of tasty beers and surprising, above-average food—especially the Big Buck Filet.
(Californian/French/New American) 2151/2 Howard Street, Petoskey; 231-347-2981. $$$$
You'll break the bank but be happy you did at this intimate hideaway with live music and some of the best food in the state. On the menu: fresh seafood daily, plus beef, pork, lamb and veal dishes. Not on the menu but worth ordering, if it's in season: the morel-mushroom appetizer (morels grow wild in Northern Michigan).
(Contemporary/Multicultural) Bay Harbor Village, Bay Harbor; 231-439-2750. $$$
Known for its diverse menu (from brick-oven pizza to wok-seared shrimp and sea scallops on somen noodles) and its wine list as much as for its fiery sunsets over Lake Michigan, Latitude is an easy and reliable choice for guests at the nearby Inn at Bay Harbor.
(French/American) 6303 East Jordan Road, Ellsworth; 231-588-7351. $$$$
A hidden gem not far from Tapawingo (below), the Rowe offers imaginative twists on a local favorite: pecan-stuffed morel mushrooms and wild rice and morel soup, both appetizers. Entrées include rainbow trout with shrimp stuffing and tarragon beurre blanc.
SCHLANG'S BAVARIAN INN
(Bavarian/American) 3917 South Old 27, Gaylord; 989-732-9288. $$
What Schlang's lacks in decor it makes up for in no-frills meat and potatoes and pilsners. Don't get too fancy here; go with the specialties (bratwurst or the legendary one-and-a-half-pound pork chops), a stein of beer and your heartiest friends.
(American) At the downtown bridge, Charlevoix; 231-547-4311. $$$
This unpredictable menu includes regional favorites such as Lake Superior whitefish and almond-crusted walleye as well as zany entries like the "Roadhouse Style Flashed Frog Legs." Get a window table for a view of the Pine River drawbridge.
(American/Eclectic) 9502 Lake Street, Ellsworth; 231-588-7971. $$$$
Executive chef Stuart Brioza was selected as one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs in 2003 for his menu here of, among other dishes, shrimp-crusted black sea bass and roasted rabbit. Brioza has recently left, but the first-rate cuisine remains. Rated the finest food in Michigan by Zagat Survey in 1996 and one of the best restaurants in the nation by Gourmet.