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Finding Magic in Marquette

Updated: Aug 27, 2021

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

Yoopers, a term for describing folks who live in the Upper Peninsula, are a hardy all-season people. But many of us trolls, living south of the Mackinac Bridge, need to make our way to the far north while the sun still shines.

Summertime is something that comes late and leaves early in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but it provides a spectacular experience for those inclined to explore the northernmost part of the Mitten State.

I never have enough time to really do justice to the U.P. when I visit because it has so much to offer, especially for enthusiasts of the great outdoors. A few highlights come to mind: Lazing around any of the three contiguous Great Lakes (Superior, Huron and Michigan), and biking, climbing or hiking miles and miles of pristine natural areas.

Mapping my U.P. route for a recent visit reminded me that getting there would be a real commitment. Driving time from Battle Creek to Marquette is seven hours. While the cliché may be true about getting there being half the fun, I decided to fly to Marquette instead and started my exploration there.

The largest city in this part of the state, Marquette boasts a robust 20,000 population, and it is also home to Northern Michigan University. The charming historic brownstone buildings along Washington Street confirm the age of the city, founded in 1849.

My overnight destination was the Landmark Inn, its brick exterior visible from many parts of the downtown.

A member of Historic Hotels of America, the Landmark is a small boutique hotel with 62 rooms and nine suites, having opened its doors in 1930. Everyone who was somebody—including notables like Amelia Earhart, Duke Ellington and the Rolling Stones—stayed at what was originally known as the Northland Hotel.

The warm dark wood paneling, crystal chandeliers and oriental carpets in the lobby were part of a top to bottom renovation done in 1995. My room had a spa tub and a king-sized bed that required a short step-stool to reach.

To get a sense of place, I visited the downtown Marquette Regional History Center with its exhibits and displays of Marquette County’s past. Where else can you visit a beaver pond exhibit, an authentic Ojibwa wigwam and an early settler’s cabin (moved from a local homestead)? Through September, the center is hosting a great display of area folk art.

For sustenance, I settled on Sweet Water Café, which offered breakfast — my favorite meal of the day — until 3 p.m. Their focus on fresh, local and made-from-scratch meals sounded wonderful. It was a difficult choice between building my own omelet and the Rise and Shine Sandwich, which united bacon, fried eggs, tomato and cheddar cheese on a wheat bun. The sandwich won me over and filled me up, especially with grilled potatoes on the side.

There are lots of dining choices in Marquette, from Cajun cooking at the Lagniappe to Doncker’s, with its old-fashioned soda fountain and luncheonette.

Getting outside is, of course, the main area attraction, and the miles of secluded beaches and bike trails won’t disappoint. While I could have rented a bike, I opted for a rental car instead and started down scenic Lakeshore Drive to Presque Isle State Park. The park is a 323-acre forested oval shaped peninsula jutting into Lake Superior at the very northern tip of the city.

I also recommend a guided tour of the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse. The view from atop the lighthouse is not to be missed. Once you’ve experienced it, you’ll appreciate why so many locals have embraced the motto, “Lucky to be from da U.P.”

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