Heading "Up North?" From Petoskey to Traverse City, Empire to Mackinac Island, if you're heading to Northern Michigan for cozy evening 'round the campfire, here's everything you need to pack!
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Updated August, 2022
Wondering what to wear "Up North?"
With two parents hailing from "the Mitten," I'm extremely lucky to have spent almost every summer (and several ski seasons) exploring the various cities, and beaches, in Northern Michigan. It's truly one of my favorite places in the world.
Relaxed, laid-back, "chill," you pick the terminology, but Northern Michigan is a family-friendly place where you're more likely to spend your vacation on cash on Moose Tracks than Massimo. That's not to say you shouldn't double check to make sure you're bringing all of the essentials you'll need on your trip!
With another trip just around the corner, I thought I'd collect my Northern Michigan packing tips for my fellow travelers!
What's the weather like in Northern Michigan?
The weather is perfect. Need I say more? Something that always surprises people from farther south is how chilly it can get "Up North," even during the summer. In May, it can - and does - snow. In June, expect daytime temperatures 70's, with lows dipping into the low 60's (and high 50's!) at night! Things warm up only slightly for peak season in July and August, but this is *not* a Florida beach vacation!
Many a tourist has had to make a first-day run for a sweatshirt upon arrival! And humidity? Not going to find it. A nice breeze off the lake and crisp, cool evenings are the recipe for a perfect vacation. And if you're coming from a virtual swamp like me, it'll be Heaven!
Up North Packing List: Sweaters and Sweatshirts
First things first! Sweaters and sweatshirts. While you'll likely want t-shirts for daytime, don't forget to bring light sweaters and sweatshirts for those cooler evenings. While they're not something I *ever* wear in the summer in Indianapolis (hello, 95 degrees!), they're a must Up North! On our last visit, my husband commented on how ubiquitous the Up North/Great Lakes sweatshirts are - likely because of surprised, freezing tourists grabbing the nearest piece of warm clothing!
Whether it's before, during, or after your visit, of course, you must become the proud owner of an Up North sweatshirt. If you buy nothing else during your trip, make it this. If you aren't ready to take the dive into Up North gear, I'd suggest checking out Old Navy's sweatshirts. They're my new favorite (and so affordable).
Interested in exploring Glen Arbor, Michigan?
Up North Packing List: Shorts
Northern Michigan vacations are..."relaxed active?" Mornings walking the beach, afternoons climbing the Sleeping Bear Dunes, and evenings spent around the campfire. You'll want comfortable, wearable shorts, for day, night, and everything in between.
I personally love J McLaughlin and J Crew's shorts. And this year, I've gotten into Old Navy bike shorts and, of course, denim shorts.
Up North Packing List: Rompers!
Up North Packing List: Lake Attire
Check out my top 8 Midwest road trips!
Unless you're visiting in winter, you'll want to plan on hitting either the gorgeous beaches of Lake Michigan, or the pool at your resort. In fact, even if you are visiting in winter, you'll likely want to explore the hot tub after a day spent skiing!
Days Up North aren't particularly hot, so in addition to your bathing suit, you'll also want a good cover-up, in the event that you're not wanting to dive in. You may even see a fair number of people enjoying the beach in shorts and a t-shirt - like I said, this isn't Florida! The mid-70s don't require a bathing suit, if you aren't taking a dip!
Up North Packing List: Evening Attire
Don't get me wrong - this is not Downton Abbey! Evenings Up North are spent looking for the Northern Lights or strolling with an ice cream cone from the Pine Cone. But, in the event it's not a sweatshirt campfire night, I pack a few *very casual* dresses for dinners either at home or in town, particularly if I'm in one of the regions cities.
Don't forget a light sweater - it can get chilly at night!
Up North Packing List: The Right Shoes
When it comes to shoes, which always deserve their own category, I'd recommend bringing:
Of course, it's the year of the sneaker - though that's always the case Up North. You can't go wrong with a basic white pair or some classic Adidas. If you're in a larger city and feeling slightly fancier, Birdies new sneakers are a cute blend - slip-on sneakers with a loafer-style top.
Shoes for the beach
Michigan's beaches can be sandy or rocky (depending on where you'll be), so a pair of flip-flops that could get wet won't go amiss! This year I also bought a pair of adorable slides that I wore almost everyday on our trip.
Shoes that kayak
Whether it's climbing the dunes - who wants sand in their shoes? - or kayaking through Northern Michigan's gorgeous bodies of water, bring one pair of shoes that it's afraid of the outdoors. A cheap pair of Keds will do the trick!
Flip flops on the dunes = annoying.
And finally, if you're staying at a nice resort or in one of the larger cities, read: Petosky or Harbor Springs, or somewhere with a dress code read: The Grand Hotel, bring some nicer shoes for dinners and drinks!
Consider a visit to charming Leland, Michigan!
Thanks for stopping by!
I know you'll enjoy your trip Up North as much as we always do! And don't forget to leave your comments below and sign-up for the blog's monthly newsletter!
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