Fabled, Fantastic Petoskey

Festivals and Events

Winter Carnival
February 17-19, 2017: Downtown Petoskey is partnering with the long-running Winter Carnival, in its 89th year, with ice sculptures displayed on downtown sidewalks and in Pennsylvania Park. Participate in ice skating, retail therapy, a ghost walk and more in downtown Petoskey. Other events will take place at the Petoskey Winter Sports Park.
For more information, visit www.petoskeydowntown.com

Petoskey Art in the Park
July 15, 2017: More than 130 artists from all over the nation will descend on Pennsylvania Park with pottery, jewelry, paintings, photographs and more in tow for this 32nd annual and awe-inspiring show.

Festival on the Bay
August 18-19, 2017: The annual music, art, food and fun festival brings more than a dozen events and activities to the waterfront for two days: Wine on the water, a silent disco, cardboard boat races, a petting zoo and much more. For more information, visit www.petoskeyfestival.com


Fabled, Fantastic Petoskey

by Lynda Wheatley
There is a moment in Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novella, “The Torrents of Spring,” when the soul-searching protagonist, Scripps O’Neill, finds himself at the train station in Petoskey, Michigan, in the middle of a snowstorm. Adrift, unhappy and in the midst of an existential crisis, the bewildered Scripps looks at the sky above and wonders if it is in fact the sky. He feels a gust of warm Chinook wind and wonders, too, if that could be the warm Chinook wind. Was it true, as he had been told, that spring was not far behind? Finally, he looks at the station’s signboard labeled “Petoskey, Michigan,” and asks himself: Does that signboard truly read “Petoskey, Michigan”? And, if so, could this place really be Petoskey, Michigan? In fact, it was — for Scripps and for Hemingway — as it is for countless other seeking souls, Petoskey, Michigan, a place whose otherworldly charm makes it seem an almost unreal place to find yourself.

Putter on in

Unlike Scripps, you likely won’t arrive in Petoskey between wives and by way of Mancelona, a northwest Michigan town to the east. You’ll drift in the way the ancestors of the area’s Native Americans, the Anishnaabek tribe, did: Floating atop the azure ripples of Little Traverse Bay from Lake Michigan.

The bay, about 170 feet deep and 8 miles across at its widest point, is Lake Michigan’s fourth largest. Its shore links four of the most picturesque burgs at the tip of Michigan’s mitten: The city of Harbor Springs to the north, the Victorian-era cottage enclave of Bay View to the southeast, the city of Petoskey (just 3.5 miles across the water from Harbor Springs) at the southern base, and the Bay Harbor community at the southern tip of the bay’s opening.

Petoskey’s recently expanded 144-slip city marina — whose transient dockage is open from May through October — offers a tantalizing deal for any boater who wants to spend just a few hours poking around the city’s 170 bustling boutiques and outstanding eateries: Free short-term shopping dockage in the best slip available.

But before you hail the marina on Channel 16 to find out which slip will welcome your abbreviated stint, consider instead setting your sights on one of the marina’s 72 slips designated for transient use. You likely won’t need to stay the maximum 14 days allowed (a limit that’s waived if open slips are available after day 14), but few could blame you for wanting to.

Petoskey’s City Marina offers updated and always clean restrooms, showers and laundry facilities; a renovated lounge with a HDTV, cable and internet; improved marina-wide Wi-Fi; and loads of small but significant family-friendly essentials like picnic areas (both open and sheltered), a change machine, a vending machine and a playground with a viewing telescope that tot mariners love.  

As for the practical stuff, most slips boast a 7-foot depth, and a few go to 10 feet. You’ll find spring pilings between each slip; 30-, 50-, and 100-amp power; premium ethanol-free gasoline and diesel with ValvTect; multiple pump-out locations; water hookups; block and cubed ice; and an exceptionally trained, friendly staff.

Note: Reservations for Petoskey’s City Marina can be made up to six months in advance of your arrival date via the State of Michigan Central Reservation System, 800-447-2757. If all slips are booked on the system, call the marina directly to inquire about the availability of same-day slips, 231-347-6691.

Land ahoy

The major perk of Petoskey’s marina, however, is its easy access to the city’s downtown and surrounding area, the latter of which brings you both big-box stores and the potential for big wins at Petoskey’s Odawa Casino Resort, home to 1,200 slots, table games, a poker room, fine and casual dining and nightlife options. Both are a quick taxi or shuttle ride away.

Likewise, the marina’s courtesy bikes and the city’s weekend trolley are available to take you to Petoskey’s downtown. But truth be told, you probably won’t need either; downtown Petoskey is not only delightfully walkable but is also steps away from the marina via a safe pedestrian tunnel.

Named one of the “Best Small Towns in America” by Smithsonian magazine, the wee downtown of Petoskey packs a seriously large wallop of arts, culture, shopping and dining opportunities along its gently sloping streets.

At the heart of it all is the downtown’s famed Gaslight District. A glowing nod to the city’s Victorian roots, the warm streetlamp lights cast an incomparably quaint ambiance over its clusters of shops, galleries and restaurants, giving today’s visitors a glimpse of the city’s earliest incarnation as a vacation destination.

Thanks to the northward expansion of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, Petoskey in the early 1870s became far more than the safe harbor it had long been for fur traders and missionaries trekking up and down the coast; it became a luxury resort town that drew trainloads of wealthy Chicagoans and Detroiters in search of respite and renewed health in the cool breezes off Little Traverse Bay.

A modest holdover from the city’s time as a purveyor of miracle cures can be found today on the south side of East and West Lake streets between Bayfront Drive and Quaintance Avenue: Mineral Springs Park, whose natural mineral springs — purported to cure whatever ails you — were often tapped, capped and transported home by locals and visitors alike.

Overnight success

A harder-to-miss beacon of Petoskey’s Victorian heyday is Stafford’s Perry Hotel. Erected in 1899 by Dr. Norman J. Perry, a grieving dentist who dumped his clinical profession after a tooth extraction killed his patient, The Hotel Perry was one of 21 grand hotels standing in Petoskey in 1900. It would endure longer than any other, however, for one simple reason: Unlike the others of that kerosene-fueled era, The Hotel Perry was made of brick, not wood.

Today, its turn-of-the-century charm and style is fully intact, along with modern conveniences like private, in-room baths in each of the hotel’s 79 rooms, air conditioning throughout the hotel and a well-wired business center.

Should you opt to stay a night at Stafford’s, do yourself a favor — step back to a time when carbs didn’t matter and indulge in the hotel’s malted Belgian waffle with fresh strawberries, ginger, toasted almond and crème chantilly. You’ll find this palatial treat in the hotel’s H.O. Rose Dining Room, whose sweeping views of Little Traverse Bay are a fitting tribute to the city’s legendary Captain Hiram Obed Rose.

Considered the father of Petoskey, Rose arrived in the burgeoning community in 1873, when it was still known as Bear River. Until his death 40 years later, Rose operated scads of businesses (railroad, shipping dock, limestone, mercantile, an electrical plant and more) and is credited with driving the development of Petoskey as we know it today.

It’s likely that Rose never stayed at  The Hotel Perry — he had his own lodgers’ manse, The Arlington Hotel, until it too burned — but Petoskey’s other famous Papa, Hemingway, most certainly did. In 1916, the not yet famous author booked a $.75 room at the hotel on his way to his family’s nearby Walloon Lake cottage, Windermere, which remains in the family today.

Note: As an ode to its most famous literary lodger, Stafford’s Perry Hotel hosts an annual Hemingway birthday celebration on July 21 each year.

Famous footsteps

Even if you don’t stay at Stafford’s, you can easily follow Hemingway’s well-trod path through Petoskey. Simply download a full walking tour map of Hemingway’s favorite downtown haunts at mihemingwaytour.org or hit these two must-sees: Jesperson’s Restaurant and City Park Grill.

The original owner of the 1903-established Jesperson’s Restaurant is said to have inspired the character Yogi Johnson in Hemingway’s “Torrents of Spring,” and its long lunch counter was a favorite hangout for the author. Once you taste the eatery’s famous homemade pies, unbelievably fresh whitefish and hearty soups, you’ll know why.

The City Park Grill was in its former life The Annex, a saloon, a billiard hall, and — during Prohibition — part of an underground tunnel network for running illegal alcohol. Between 1910 and 1920, it was also the summer watering hole of choice for Hemingway, who often sat at the second seat from the end of the bar to sketch out plots and characters for his books. The Annex is featured in his short story “Gentleman of the World.” Today, as City Park Grill, it’s a hot spot for all, offering excellent cocktails and tasty lunch, dinner and kid’s menus. Dinner, by the way, is served all day on Sundays. Hello, breakfast of maple-mustard grilled pork loin scallopini and a side of Sriracha deviled eggs with candied bacon, blue cheese and scallions — pleased to meet you.

While Hemingway’s old haunts certainly won’t disappoint, there’s something to be said for loosening up your sea legs and forging your own path through Petoskey. An absolute essential for social boaters: A stop at Symon’s General Store. Housed in the oldest brick building in the city, Symon’s General Store offers a huge selection of gourmet delicacies, Michigan-made products, old fashioned candy, liquor and wine, wine, and more wine — so many stellar varieties, in fact, that Food & Wine magazine named Symon’s General Store one of America’s “50 Most Amazing Wine Experiences.” Grab a bottle and gourmet sandwiches from the on-site deli for a picnic, or take a seat on the secret garden-like patio of Chandler’s next door for an elegant dinner you won’t soon forget.

A tour of Kilwins Chocolate Kitchen is a must-see for the whole family while you’re in the area. They have been a celebrated part of Northern Michigan since they were founded in 1947 by Don and Katy Kilwin. The tradition continues today with the highest quality confections made from premium ingredients —using original recipes and a warm, friendly customer experience. With more than 108 stores in 22 states, Kilwins is where people celebrate and share the experience of life, family and gifting in a nostalgic Americana setting. A box of the world’s best Mackinac Island fudge is the perfect gift for those back home... if it makes it back!

If it’s arts and culture you seek, you’ll find oodles of art — paintings, furniture, artisan jewelry, ceramics and more — in the many shops and dedicated galleries dotting the town. But you’ll find a veritable cornucopia of it, as well as concerts, dance, live theater and other events, inside the breathtaking 130-plus-year-old church that is Crooked Tree Arts Center.

Three Thursdays each month during summer, Crooked Tree hosts live music in its neighboring Bidwell Plaza. It also sponsors live concerts — folk, jazz, strings, rock and more — several times each week from noon to 1 p.m. in downtown’s Pennsylvania Park.

Every Friday morning from June through September, you can stock up on the freshest provisions in town at the Downtown Petoskey Farmers Market. Nearly 30 vendors of fish, meat, herbs, fruits, veggies and more line the 400 block of Howard Street.

No matter what you do in Petoskey, don’t leave without taking in one of the city’s million dollar sunsets. Except for the deck of your own floating kingdom, the best places to watch that ball o’ fire sink into Lake Michigan’s waves is the aptly named Sunset Park overlooking the harbor, or Bayfront Park, directly adjacent to the marina.

Should you take the marina up on its offer of courtesy bikes before you leave Petoskey, leave Petoskey. A quick roll north on the Little Traverse Wheelway — a paved, non-motorized path that runs about 23 miles along the coast between Charlevoix, south of Petoskey, and Harbor Springs — brings you to one of the prettiest places in northern Michigan: Petoskey State Park, home to camping, hiking trails, beaches, dunes, playgrounds and, of course, Petoskey Stones, the fossilized coral remnants of Michigan’s ice age.

Is it unreal that all this exists within just 5.2-square-miles on Lake Michigan’s shore? It might at first seem so. But whether or not you’re feeling as lost when you come ashore as Scripps O’Neill did at the train station, chances are you’ll find whatever you’re looking for in Petoskey. Even the fictional Scripps’ very real train station, once a part of the fabled Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad line, is now the Pennsylvania Plaza Office Complex at the corner of Bay and Lewis streets. Did that signboard truly read “Petoskey, Michigan”? And, if so, could this place really be Petoskey, Michigan? It was once and it is still. Savor every inch before you ship back out.



Prestige 750 Skyscraper