Monday, July 19, 2010

Trip Report: South Haven, Michigan

Who goes to Michigan in November on vacation?

That's the question everyone kept asking us as we embarked on our very first vacation as a family of three. The answer is a family looking for a quiet and affordable spot for a long weekend that wasn't too far of a drive.

We rented a cottage on the grounds of The Victoria Resort, a B&B right off the beach. Our cottage had two bedrooms, one bath, a full kitchen and spacious living room. Renting a little place of our own instead of staying in one small hotel room is probably my top travel advice for families. It allowed us to have some time as adults once our son went to bed at night. Plus, because we traveled in the off-season, we were able to rent all that space for less than the cost of what a decent hotel would be anyway.

So what to do in South Haven in November? First, we broke up our drive with a stop at Notre Dame to walk around and enjoy the campus. I highly recommend that if you have to drive more than 3-4 hours with kids in tow, you find a great spot along the way to stop and let everyone get some fresh air.

Once we arrived in South Haven, we got settled into our cottage, and then "hit the beach." Bikini, suntan lotion, and beach chair? More like fleece blanket, baby bjorn, and sweatshirt! But just as breathtaking for this typically land-locked midwestern mom!

That night, we had an amazing dinner at Clementines, a South Haven staple. If you go, you MUST get the perch. It's heavenly. Clementines is great for kids--situated in a large, historic building right downtown. Plenty of big families gathered together, very casual, and just enough noise to mute any fussing that might occur.

The next day, we walked the long pier, hit up the shops in town, and settled in for a nice long nap that afternoon. Later, we found a great park just a few blocks from our cottage, which had beautiful views of the marina. That night, we ate at a local Mexican spot to finish out the day.

There is plenty more to see and do in South Haven, regardless of season. The staff at the Victoria Resort was so helpful in making recommendations. Their website includes plenty of suggestions for activities to please just about anyone.

My husband and I were pretty seasoned travelers before we had our son. By the time he was six months old, we were itching to tackle our first adventure and see what kind of little traveler we had produced. As you can see, we kept our first trip pretty simple, made sure he took naps each day, ate at his usual times, etc. We were so pleasantly surprised with how well he did, and this first success led to more adventures down the road. So it will always remain a favorite time in our lives as a family.