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A wonderful lakeshore weekend in St. Joe

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

No one I know ever says, “Let’s spend a weekend in St Joseph.”

It’s called St. Joe. And it’s one of the many wonderful lakeshore towns in Michigan that really make this state a fabulous weekend vacation destination.

You can get to Lake Michigan in an hour from Battle Creek and start making your way up our own version of the French Riviera. St. Joe’s sits on top a bluff, with great views of our namesake lake.

We bumped along the brick streets of downtown to get to our hotel, The Boulevard Inn and Bistro. From the outside, the hotel looks modern and a bit plain. But don’t worry; the inside of the hotel is very pleasant and the guest suites were super big. The beds definitely measure up to Indulgent Traveler specifications. The Bistro at the hotel also offers a great dining choice and we decided to try their Sunday brunch at the end of the weekend.

Right in front of the hotel, you can stroll along the Antiques on the Bluff, and think about what new treasures you might want to take home from the many booths filled with antiques and collectibles. The open-air event is held the first Sunday of the month May through October.

We chose a table outside at Schu’s Grill and Bar. My favorite entrée is the Black and Bleu Salad—romaine tossed with blue cheese and grilled sirloin. The Michigan Cherry Salad, with pecans and blue cheese, was also tempting. My husband can’t pass up the burger and fries. Fortified with lunch, we decided a short walking tour of downtown would be a good use of time before heading down to the beach.

We made a quick stop at Kilwin’s, even though we were still too full for any of their great ice cream. I picked up two caramel turtles for later.

We have a must-stop at Forever Books, a locally owned bookstore for more than a dozen years. The poster in the store—Eat, Sleep, Read—about sums it up for us, except we would add Travel to the list.

G & M Variety was a fun place to browse, like the old five and dime stores.

One of the key attractions of St. Joe is Silver Beach, running 1,600 feet along the lake and featuring that wonderful fine, white sand. You can walk the pier and view the iconic white and red lighthouse. The open air Shawdowland Pavilion can be rented for family reunions and sits on the site of what was once the Silver Beach Amusement Park. From 1891 until 1971, the park offered a shuddering rollercoaster, games of chance and skill, a boardwalk for romantic strolls and a dance pavilion for the jitterbug.

While the amusement park is long gone, the Silver Beach Carousel was brought back to its beachfront location in 2010. You can ride a brand new hand-carved horse for $2. I choose Black Beauty for my ride.

The Bistro at the Boulevard Inn was certainly not an ordinary hotel dining room but offered locally sourced ingredients in an inventive menu. Who could pass up a Blueberry Salad with blueberry Stilton cheese, spinach, pecans and pears?

You may want to plan your visit the second weekend in July, when the Krasl Art Center hosts an art fair. You can see their spectacular Chihuly glass sculpture on any weekend. Like any great Michigan beach town in the summer, there are always lots of activities to plan your visit around.

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