Start your adventure in downtown Charlevoix by snapping up picnic essentials at Scovie's Gourmet Deli & Bake Shop (111 Bridge St., 231-237-7827). The just-baked-today goodies here are fit for a queen - carrot cake, key lime pie, lemon bars and rich turtle brownies laced with fresh caramel. Pick your pleasure and a sandwich to-go; the Cool Runnings wrap is a thrill with Jamaican-jerk chicken, curry-mayo, coconut, oranges, celery, peanuts and Napa cabbage tossed in roasted sesame dressing.
With your picnic basket packed, drive south up Bridge Street and veer left onto M-66 toward East Jordan. A few miles up the road, the regal mien of Castle Farms (5052 N. M-66, 231-237-0884, castlefarms.com) looms to your left. The stone castle and barns here were once part of a 1,600-acre farm built by Albert Loeb, former president of Sears, Roebuck & Company. Since its creation in 1918, the farm has served widely varying purposes - dairy farm, storage facility, artists studio, rock concert hall and, now, backdrop for picturesque weddings, conventions and day trips like yours.
Enter at the King's Pavilion, where you can watch a quick film documenting Castle Farm's history and pick up a map for a self-guided tour. Wander the grounds as you please, making sure not to miss the 1918 Museum - stocked with WWI memorabilia and grainy photos of the original Loeb Farm - and the airy Queen's Courtyard, where you can pose like a princess next to the artesian spring-fed fountain. Your kids will love playing a game of oversized checkers in the gardens or getting lost in the Hedge Maze; when they finally work up an appetite, just plop down on a sunny spread of lawn with your picnic and let the feasting commence.
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.