Todd Zawistowski; courtesy Shay Station
Cadillac's sweet downtown boutiques are a shopper's dream any time of year. But when the weather warms, you've got to explore Cadillac's wild side. Start with the 3,700 acres of fish-hoppin' waters offered by in-town lakes Mitchell and Cadillac. Pilgrims Village (181 S. Lake Mitchell Dr., 231-775-5412) will hook you up with a fishing boat; Funtime Rentals at Cadillac Sands Resort (M-115 at M-55, 800-64-SANDS) rent fishing boats too, plus pontoons, kayaks, paddleboats and canoes.
If you prefer dry land with a view of the water, you're in luck. A 7-mile pathway circles Lake Cadillac—a favorite route for biking, roller-blading and long sunset walks. Want to up your mileage? Jump on the White Pine State Trail, a partially paved, partially packed-gravel path that is the state's longest rail to trail. At 92 miles, it extends from Cadillac to Comstock Park, just north of Grand Rapids. Need to borrow a bike? Rentals are available at McMcClain Cycle & Fitness (311 N. Mitchell St., 231-775-6161).
Finally, don't forget about Cadillac's courses. You'll find 10 bridges, a two-mile nature trail, giant 75-foot trees and some seriously sublime vistas at Caberfae Peaks Golf Resort, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr.-trained Harry Bowers (231-862-3000, caberfaepeaks.com). If you're looking to brush up on your swing, head over to the new Eldorado course, host to Golf Digest Instructional Schools (231-779-9977, golfeldorado.com). Besides fantastic dining and updated lodging, longtime Cadillac favorite, McGuire's Resort, offers two options for golfers: the challenging Spruce course or the sporty Norway course. (800-634-7302, mcguiresresort.com)
Come winter, Cadillac's Caberfae Road is your winter-sports highway to heaven. This short stretch north of M-55:
Hot tub under the stars, slip into the sauna, then retire to a luxe Northwoods-style suite at Beary Lake Inn Bed and Breakfast (231-779-9875, bearylakeinn.com). Every condo at Sunset Shores Resort (888-876-2300, sunsetshoresresort.net) boasts a fireplace, kitchen and bar, and overlooks Lake Cadillac.
Your mamacita wishes she could make burritos like they do at Chico's Taco House (231-775-7272). At Shay Station Coffee Co. (231-775-6150, shaystation.com) you'll find big leather chairs, a fireplace, a working 1920's soda fountain and some of the tastiest soups, sandwiches and snacks around. Inside the 19th-century-style Maggie's Tavern (231-775-1810), homemade chili comes a half-dozen delicious ways, and free popcorn only one: fresh-popped perfect.
Tip Behind the bar at Hermann's European Café (231-775-9563, chefhermann.com), find the once-banned spirit absinthe - former French malaria treatment, favorite elixir of Bohemian artists, essential ingredient in Ernest Hemingway's infamous cocktail, dubbed Death in the Afternoon. Papa's instructions: "Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly."
Lynda Twardowski is travel editor at Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine. email@example.com
Note: This article was originally published in January 2008 and was updated for the web February 2008.