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Road Trip to Michigan

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I got a friend of mine that asked my advice on a route to go from Chicago area to Charlevoix/Traverse City area.
I had suggested that taking 94 to 196 to Grand Rapids. Then straight up US 131.

What I need are some pros/cons between that route and taking US 31 by Lake Michigan the whole way up.
Estimated time, scenery, traffic, current construction, speed limit drops for towns, etc.
Also good restaurants and hotels (Arnold Schwarzenegger voice) and things of this nature in that area or along the route.

This is planned for around 4th of July to Mid July.
Advice will be appreciated.

US-131 is freeway all the way to the Manistee River, and then there are only at most five towns to slow down for between there and Charlevoix (Fife Lake, South Boardman, Kalkaska, Mancelona, East Jordan).

US-31 through Grand Haven is a mess at most hours due to obscene traffic (50,000 AADT) and poor design (lots of stoplights and a drawbridge). In my opinion, Grand Haven should have been bypassed 20 or more years ago. The freeway around Muskegon is quite tight, but from roughly the north BUS US-31 merge to Ludington, it's mostly smooth sailing. From Ludington to TC, it's mostly two-lane that flows right along, but watch out for the 30 mph zones in Manistee and Bear Lake. Traverse City is a mess at all hours, especially during the Cherry Festival (July 7-14).

Certainly US-31 is more scenic (at least north of Muskegon) all the way up to Petoskey. The towns along the way have better local restaurants, as they cater to the tourists and summer residents. US-131's main benefit is shorter travel time.

You can add to the scenery by following M-22 along the lakeshore, which eventually terminates just outside of Traverse City near US-31. The natural beauty of the area is quite incredible.

All the roads are going to be fairly busy due to the hoilday; the freeways especially will be heavily trafficked.

If your friend goes through Grand Rapids, there are many restaurants I can recommend. Some of them, such as Brann's, Peppino's, or Uccello's, are local chains which have locations spread throughout the metro area. There are also good choices downtown. If there's time, I'd definitely recommend HopCat (25 Ionia Ave SW). The beer selection there is always great because the owner refuses to pour anything owned by the big brewers. I also highly recommend Ottawa Tavern (151 Ottawa Ave NW), although they've reduced the number of toppings you could order on a burger over the years, they still make a pretty good burger and the atmosphere is great. Grand Rapids is priding itself tying with Asheville for Beer City USA, so there are a number of brewers that make their home there. (Founders probably being the biggest one.)

I think I've recommended checking out the wineries on Leelenau and Old Mission in a previous thread where someone was headed to the area. Short's Brewing is also based in Bellaire, but their beers can be had pretty much throughout the state. The drive on M-22 is beautiful and worth it if time is available for it.

ok my friend has taken things under advisement and will like be doing 131. He wants to get there in "chase mode".  For non-storm chasers, that means drivethrus and 3 min pee stops.


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