Remember when the stay at home order was issued in March and we said things like “Enjoy & cherish this time with your kids!”? Unless you have the patients of a saint, that positivity expired for many parents around May- It definitely did for us! By June I was desperate for a break from not only my kids, but the city. The thought of spending two more months with 2 boys, no yard, no friend interaction, no in-person camps and no sports was completely sending me into a tail spin! Our home wasn’t going to survive if I didn’t find a solution!
Growing up in Michigan, we didn’t attend the cool, fancy camps that my kids have been fortunate to experience here in Chicago. My summers were filled with car trips, camp fires, swimming, nature, kick-the-can type games- and they were so much fun! As Chicagoans we look forward to summer all year, so leaving when it’s finally here isn’t usually even a thought! With everything closed through July though, what better time to travel around the Midwest and give my kid something closer to the summer I grew up with? Without offices to report to, we could be anywhere! So the search began with a few requirements to travel safely:
– No elevators to get to the room.
– A kitchen situation to allow for minimal eating out.
– A wide variety of activities to keep kids busy.
– A work space for my husband.
– The biggest requirement was of course to be area and resort that seemed to be taking COVID measures seriously.
The plan forward is that every few weeks we’ll spend a week away from the city in the “wilderness” as my kids call it. Lol. As far as the cost, I’m justifying it a few ways. We’ve canceled 2 vacations since March and haven’t used a sitter in 4 months. These trips will serve as vacation/camp/and date days all in one! Also, the cost of summer camp in Chicago per day for 2 kids is pretty close to the cost of our room each day. I’ve listed a few we’ve made reservations at below and will give you a little run down of each one after. Who knows what the future looks like, these might even come in helpful for the fall!
First up was Boyne Highlands in Northern Michigan. Spoiler- we loved our time there so much that we’re heading back next week! Here’s the full scoop.
Boyne Highlands is in Harbor Springs, Michigan and no more than a 15 minute drive to Petoskey. Both are have gorgeous, picturesque downtowns along Lake Michigan with shops, restaurants, parks, and harbors. Boyne has several buildings onsite along with small rental homes. We chose to stay in the Heather Highlands building because it is centrally located, we could walk in and out through a sliding door throughout the day, and the building has it’s own pool that only guests staying in that building can use. For times that the main pool had more guests than we felt comfortable with, it gave us an extra option. There are a number of room configurations in Heather Highlands that work well for families. We had a 1 bedroom with 2 queens, a living space with a king murphy bed, a kitchen, and two bathrooms. With my husband using one room as an office 9-5, the layout worked perfectly.
As far as activities, even after a full week we hadn’t fit everything in that we wanted to! There are multiple golf courses, tennis, hiking, zip lining, biking (paved paths as well as down the ski hills), tons of yard games available and complimentary s’mores Thursday-Sunday nights- and that’s just at the resort! Petoskey and Harbor Springs are a quick drive and offer beaches, their own biking and running paths, a sailing school, shopping, boat rental and the state park has an amazing beach with dunes (rocky until just before you go in so bring water shoes).
The biggest draw for making Boyne Highlands our first resort choice was their Adventure Camp. My kids have taken ski lessons at resorts throughout MI and the Highlands program has been their very favorite. I knew they would be in good hands, and they were more than due for interaction with other children. Adventure Camp runs 9-5 daily, with 1/2 day options. This summer has been modified to meet COVID19 safety standards, but all the fun is still included. The kids spent their day mainly outside playing different games, running through giant sprinklers, hiking, and had activities like golf and archery added on different days of the week. I started them as a half day, but my oldest wanted to stay a full just about every day! After camp we would usually swim, throw on cover ups, then have a casual dinner at Slopeside restaurant on the patio that overlooks the yard games and putting green- my second favorite aspect of the resort. I can’t express how absolutely blissful it is sitting at a quiet table with a glass of wine while my kids play yard games as we wait for the food.
Safety at camp: I felt very comfortable with my kids joining the camp. I know this is a personal decision for each person based on your own situation. We felt we had been very responsible with quarantine since March, having only spent time with our household members and my parents. We hadn’t so much as eaten out, or gone grocery shopping and our interaction with others was basically limited to delivery. Really, it’s actually more of a risk for the local staff and campers to allow people from Chicago to attend than it is a risk for us. Northern Michigan has had very little cases of COVID19 and if you do decided to travel, please be considerate of where you have been and what you may be carrying to the area. That said, the entire resort was very conscious of good hygiene, distancing, temps were taken daily, the campers spent 90% of their time outdoors, and sanitizing stations are everywhere across the resort. The staff wears masks when inside, but not outdoors. (At all other areas throughout the resort masks are worn by staff inside and out). We ALL loved the camp option so much that since home we’ve quarantined to just our household again so we’re able to go back safely next week!
Now the down sides- there really aren’t many!
This isn’t a luxury resort. If you’re looking for luxury, you’re better off renting one of the homes through Boyne or even a private home and purchasing a yearly membership with use of the facilities. The resort is clean, with wonderful staff and beautiful grounds though, and the outdoor activities are endless. The resort seems to be updating different areas each time we visit and I have no doubt it will just get better in the next few years. The rooms are more than adequate, just a little dated. I recommend Heather Highlands building and up… we were in the main lodge for a last minute ski trip last winter and it was in need of an overhaul. Another thing to mention is that Boyne was victim to a fire this year, and there is an unsightly section near one of the pools that was damaged. It’s now in the middle of renovation (we didn’t hear any noise throughout our stay, you just see a huge, white tarp covering the area). This didn’t impact our stay other than it not being pretty in one small section. This summer the resort is running at a lower capacity which is wonderful, but it also means that during the week there aren’t a lot of dining options on property and there isn’t service around the pool. We found the trade off of less guests to be more than worth eating at the same restaurant a few times though & we simply brought a small cooler bag to the pool. Petoskey and Harbor Springs are close enough and so cute that you’ll want to venture into town for a few meals anyway! In either town you’ll find plenty of dining options from fine dining to kid-friendly breweries. We had a date lunch at Chandlers in Petoskey one afternoon while the kids were at camp and it was definitely a favorite!
All in all, we had an amazing week at Boyne and will continue to go back not just this summer, but every year. We rarely saw other guests in common areas outside of meals on the patio in the evenings. Many times we had the pools and hot tubs to ourselves! As far as the resort capacity, we got really lucky. I don’t know what the rest of the summer will bring as more areas open, weekend travel starts increasing, and people feel comfortable traveling more, but it was perfect for us through the week. I live near Oz Park and with the crowded green areas and sidewalks we’ve experienced throughout Lincoln Park this spring, I felt more comfortable at Boyne than than I have in my own neighborhood in months! It was exactly the trip we needed and I can’t wait to get back next week.
If you need ideas for summer getaways within a days drive from Chicago, these are a few resorts we’ve added to our plans over the next few months that offer something for the whole family:
Boyne Highlands, MI
Boyne Mountain, MI
Grand View Lodge, MN
Big Cedar Lodge, MO
The Abby, WI
We decided not to visit Wisconsin this year because of the high number of COVID cases.