Take advantage of summertime's long days - just bring your dancing shoes and your appetite to Elk Rapids for Evening on River Street (231-264-8202, elkrapidschamber.org). Held most Wednesdays from June through mid-August, this downtown shindig dishes out the season's best: grilled goodies, live tunes, sidewalk games and boutique shopping, all just a few blocks from one of the North's best beaches.
Cruise into town and thread your way through the excitement - there's a bearded man in a pirate's cap juggling on a unicycle, a woman twisting balloons into puppy-dogs and swords, a tousle-haired volunteer fireman awaiting his watery fate in a dunk tank. Hungry? Head to any concession booth for lip-smackers like fresh-squeezed lemonade, cherry Sno-cones, grilled sweet corn and barbequed ribs. For a true Elk Rapids classic, hightail it to Chef Charles' Pizza (147 River St., 231-264-8901) where zazzy pies like the Arizona - homemade pesto, chicken, mushrooms, garlic, red onion, Roma tomato and four cheeses - are worth the inevitable wait.
Duck into one of River Street's sweet little shops like The Nature Connection (137 River St., 231-264-6330) where you'll find toys for tree huggers. Pick up candles and cards at Mill Creek Gifts (113 River St., 231-264-0807) and playthings galore at Little Treasures (115 River St., 231-264-6885).
Grab a cup of blueberries-and-cream custard at George's Frozen Custard (103 River St., 231-264-5585) and make your way west down River Street, crossing the footbridge over Elk River and snagging a spot on the beach. It's time for the finale - a Lake Michigan show-stopping sunset.
Emily Bingham is assistant editor at Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine.
Note: This article was first published in May 2007 and was updated for the web February 2008.