One of our favorite styles of stays when we're on the road is a bed-and-breakfast inn, and our recent stay at the Sleeping Bear Bed and Breakfast in Empire, Michigan perfectly fit the bill as a beautifully serene post-holiday getaway in the area named the "Most Beautiful Place in America" by tens of thousands of viewers of ABC's the popular "Good Morning America" in 2011.
Susan and Van Wilson welcome guests year round to their home in a rambling late-nineteenth-century farmhouse on four rolling acres of farmland just a few miles down the road from the main visitors' center for the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and just a short drive from Glen Arbor, Michigan, which is home to the Michigan cherry goodness that is the Cherry Republic. Many of our other favorite northern Michigan destinations are also within a half-hour drive of the inn...places like Leland, Glen Haven, Sutton's Bay, Interlochen, Benzonia and Traverse City.
We headed on up to the Sleeping Bear B&B on a cold February day, arriving just as what would become an overnight six-inch snowfall arrived in this area of northwestern Michigan, but we found a warm welcome when we arrived at the inn.
Tim's reaction as we walked through the inn's yard from our car? "This looks just like a postcard!"
The next morning, we enjoyed pumpkin waffles before heading back out to our car, which we found Van had thoughtfully cleared of the freshly fallen snow.
We stayed at the Sleeping Bear B&B eight days, and Susan served up a different breakfast each morning. We started each day with things like the pumpkin waffles, omelets, a tasty egg bake featuring roasted red peppers, berry smoothies, scrambled eggs featuring Feta cheese with a side of locally produced bacon, a lactose-free puff pancake and more.
Special diets are no problem. Susan comes up with meals to suit dietary restrictions that taste great, like the puff pancake recipe she perfected for a guest who was extremely lactose-intolerant to gluten-free meals that had another online reviewer raving about her meals on Yelp. Just be sure you give her at least 48-hour notice if you require a special diet, or let the Wilsons know of your special dietary needs as you make your room reservations.
Susan worked as a pension actuary for 30-plus years. She also studied cooking to become a great chef along the way to becoming an innkeeper while Van has a background as a former art teacher and skilled construction craftsman.
While Susan expresses her artistry in the kitchen, you can check out samples of Van's artwork throughout the inn that include some of his large sculptures and totems that feature black birds and other Native American-style motifs.
The inn has five rooms, and we stayed in the Sleeping Bear room, which is a large first-floor room that formerly served as a parlor with a comfortable queen-sized sleigh bed.
The home became a B&B in the early 1990s, with Susan and Van moving from the Chicago area to Empire and acquiring the B&B in 2002.
The duo enjoys sailing and kayaking and are ever-ready with suggestions about places to explore and great places to eat when it comes to dinner in the area.
We had a lot of fun talking with Susan (who originally hails from Ohio) and Van (a native of Texas) during our stay, and loved the fact that because it was such a quiet week, we saw a lot of their two dogs during our week at the Sleeping Bear.
Check out the Sleeping Bear Bed and Breakfast Web site to find out more about the inn or to book your own stay!
© Dominique King 2015 All rights reserved