Labor Day Weekend Upper Michigan

Old Feb 15th, 2010, 04:39 AM
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Labor Day Weekend Upper Michigan

We just realized we will be arriving in Chicago from Europe on Friday of Labor Day weekend to start a 3 week trip. Arrival about 1:00 p.m. at O'Hare. We had planned a first night at Kalamazoo and then Saturday to Traverse City. Any advice on Labor Day weekend traffic and best route from O'Hare to Kalamazoo? Or should we stay overnight closer to O'Hare and start our drive Saturday morning? I looked at the ferry schedules from Milwaukee and Manitowoc but the times do not seem very attractive. Appreciate your input.
N.B. After Traverse City we are heading up to Sault Ste. Marie and then west across Canada but wanted to get a glimpse of beautiful upper Michigan on our way. We've been through Door County and that direction.
Many thanks for your help,
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Old Feb 15th, 2010, 05:56 AM
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Hello, BJinHolland. Traffic out of Chicago can be dicey on any Friday, but on a holiday weekend...if you arrive at 1:00, by the time you get your luggage and pick up a car, you probably won't be able to avoid getting stuck. Plus, the stretch of road you have to take to get through Indiana (I90/94) is always under construction. The actual route is easy, though; you take I90/94 out of Chicago, get on the Skyway (I90, a toll road, but generally faster), get back onto I94 toward Detroit, and stay on I94 to Kalamazoo.

It's a relatively short drive to Kalamazoo if everything goes smoothly (under 3 hours) but only you know how energetic you will be after a day of travel. It might not be a bad idea to give yourself a rest and start the drive in the morning. (Is there a special reason to stop in Kalamazoo? If not, you can bypass it altogether and take Rte. 196 north to Grand Rapids, which would also give you various lunch options along the lake.)
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Old Feb 15th, 2010, 07:22 AM
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"which would also give you various lunch options along the lake"

US-131 goes north from Kalamazoo thru Grand Rapids up north to the straits.

It's 35 minutes from the lake at 2:00 in the morning. On Labor Day weekend at 7:00 PM (1:00 Chicago is 2:00 Grand Rapids time, and it's a 3 hour drive) you could plan on maybe 75 minutes...one way....and not for lunch.
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Old Feb 15th, 2010, 07:53 AM
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Many thanks for the input. I had a feeling the traffic would be a nightmare on Friday evening. We only chose Kalamazoo as it was a good driving distance for an overnight stop. 3 hours after an international flight is max for us. Now I'm thinking we might be better off heading up toward Milwaukee from O'Hare and then up past Green Bay to Sault St. Marie the next day. From there we will head northeast into Canada. We would like to see the upper Michigan peninsula but not if we are going to sit in holiday weekend traffic. Better to save the area for a next non-holiday visit.
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Old Feb 17th, 2010, 05:21 AM
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I think when I said "three hours" I was estimating the time it would take to get a car and get on the road. Sorry! Sometimes I can't think and type at the same time. But I have been stuck on that stretch for longer than 75 minutes. I do not know what the construction situation will be when the OP is passing through but I would certainly count on some delays if leaving O'Hare in the mid- to late afternoon on a holiday weekend (not 2 in the morning or 7 in the evening).

As for lunch, if you left Chicago after breakfast, you could easily stop in Saugatuck to walk around a little and have a bite to eat before continuing north. Or Holland - not on the water but not a bad place for a stop, and not too far off the path towards Grand Rapids.

BJinHolland - if you are just passing through on your way to Canada it might make sense to save the UP for a time when you can stop and spend some time rather than get a glimpse from the car. But if you really want to do a "drive by" your original plan would work.
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Old Feb 17th, 2010, 09:02 AM
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To recap:
1:00 Plane arrives
2:00 Got luggage, clear customs, rent car, on road
3:00 (Central time) An hour's ride in Labor Day, RUSH HOUR traffic might get you to the Illinois/Indiana state line
4:00 (Eastern time) now you're at the Illinois/Indiana state line
You have not eaten lunch yet.
Two hours more to Kalamazoo

Barbara_in_FL said "As for lunch, if you left Chicago after breakfast, you could easily stop in Saugatuck to walk around a little and have a bite to eat before continuing north. Or Holland - not on the water but not a bad place for a stop, and not too far off the path towards Grand Rapids"

Well, Barb, a scheduled 1:00 arrival would infer a takeoff 9 hours earlier. So, to "leave Chicago after breakfast" let's say 10:00, after having spent an hour clearing customs etc, would mean the plane arrived at about 7:00, in other words go twice as fast as normal, or about 1100 miles per hour. Highly doubtful.

Furthermore, re:"Or Holland - not on the water but not a bad place for a stop" I agree it's a nice place, that's why I live here. And IT IS ON THE WATER!!!!! Holland has a very nice harbor
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Old Feb 17th, 2010, 03:40 PM
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Spent several years in Sault Ste. Marie and have been snowed on more than once over Labor Day weekend. That said, it is still a great place to visit. Try to find time to take the ferry out to Mackinaw Island and try some fudge while you're there.
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Old Feb 17th, 2010, 07:48 PM
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Hi Tomboy,

The OP asked about spending a night and beginning the drive the morning *after* arriving. So I was assuming overnight in Chicago, leaving the next morning, driving around the lake. As for water, if one is walking around the scenic downtown or Hope College area, it is not immediately apparent how close the water is. Really, no need to yell. I think this is all moot anyway if the OP is focused on getting further north as quickly as possible.
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Old Feb 28th, 2010, 09:02 PM
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Labor Day is special on the long Mackinac Bridge - it's open to walkers, the only day of the year. So it's closed to traffic in the morning, and drivers have just one lane in the afternoon. You might want to avoid that.
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Old Mar 30th, 2010, 07:58 AM
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The Bridge is not closed, but will be slower, since it is shut down to one lane each way.

If you are going to stay within 3 hours of the Straits of Mackinac that weeeknd, you want to get your hotel room ASAP. Up to 70,000 people walk the Mackinac Bridge that morning.

Keith
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Old Mar 30th, 2010, 01:46 PM
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I looked forward to seeing the Upper Peninsula but just wasn't impressed at all. No scenery. You are just driving through a forest of fairly new trees, you almost never see the water from the road, no cute little towns. I've been to nearly all 50 states and this area was my biggest disappointment. We did enjoy seeing the locks at Sault Ste. Marie.
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