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1st Time Travelers to Michigan

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My husband and I are planning a first time trip to Michigan in September. We definitely will go to Henry Ford museum area and then will head toward Muskegon on up the coast. If you had to pick one town/city in which to overnight between Muskegon and Traverse City, where would you stay? And, the criteria we would prefer: lodging under a $100, a decent size tourist area to walk around, and also a scenic one? For the same reasons, a good place to stay in the Traverse City area? i.e. TC is fine or any town close by. Of St. Ignace and Mackinaw City, which is preferable? We plan to include Lake Superior region also. Which side of the Soo Locks is better for an overnite - U.S. or Canada? And also, where to stay near Pictured Rocks. Any input greatly appreciated!

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