Making a day of it in Cedar and Maple City

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By Linda Beaty
Sun contributor

Thousands of visitors flock to Leelanau County each year, many of them attracted by big draws such as the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. But while nothing compares to the delight of bounding down the Dune Climb after a sweaty trek uphill, or taking in the pristine view of the Manitou Islands from a sugar sand beach, there are plenty of lesser-known places in the county to have fun, too. Two of these places are sister communities Maple City and Cedar. Located in the rolling heartland of Leelanau, the little towns are ideal stopping spots for a bit of underrated fun. Here are nine things to do in Cedar and Maple City:

Take a paddle down Victoria Creek (Cedar River) through the 380-acre Leelanau Conservancy Cedar River Preserve, an extensive wetland complex. This is an ideal place to view yellow pond lilies, sundews, bladderworts, and insect-eating pitcher plants. You’ll also see osprey, kingfisher, turtles, frogs, and whirligig beetles, who hunt for food with one set of eyes scanning above the water and one looking below. If you’re really lucky, you’ll spot a mink or a muskrat! Put in at Solon Township River Park at the north end of Cedar, and paddle all the way to Lake Leelanau. The currant on the Cedar is almost nil, so you can paddle back the way you came.

Get your game on at Myles Kimmerly Recreation County Park a mile west of Maple City. Dedicated to former Probate Judge Myles Kimmerly in 1974, the park has a hiking trail, soccer and ball fields, volleyball, basketball and tennis courts, and even a driving range and an 18 hole disc golf course. Pack a picnic basket or something to grill and enjoy lunch after your activities under the cool shade of the picnic shelter.

Take in the view at one of Cedar’s golf courses. People usually pick a golf course for the layout or challenge. But Cedar’s golf courses earn plenty of praise for some of the best views in the county, with lakes, rolling hills, woods, and flower-studded meadows as a backdrop. Choose between the Manitou Passage Golf Course, a recently revamped Arnold Palmer-designed championship-level course which has received kudos from Golfweek magazine and Travel Golf, or Sugar Loaf the Old Course, a classic C.D. Wagstaff-designed course which reflects the architecture of the first half of the 20th century.

Stock up on summer reading at one of the little lending libraries at Maple City’s Health and Fitness Center or at Cedar’s Chase Bank. These community book exchanges offer an amazing variety of titles on an honor system; simply take what you want, and return when you’re done. You can also drop off books you’ve purchased and finished reading to expand the collection!

Sip and savor wine at one of Cedar’s two wineries, Bel Lago or Longview. Halfway between the equator and the North Pole at the 45th parallel (just like the Rhone region in France and the Piedmont region in Italy), and with Lake Michigan, which provides a “lake effect” influence ideal for viticulture, Leelanau County is rapidly becoming a world class wine region. Enjoy Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Auxerrois, a medium dry Riesling, and Gewurztraminer as well as Pinot Noir and a delectable red blend at Bel Lago. Longview offers Cabernet Franc and several red blends, a rose, dry and semi-dry Rieslings, and Mead, which is a specialty wine made with cherries and honey.

Eat your heart out. Maple City and Cedar have become a virtual eating destination, with everything from takeout sandwiches to an upscale meal available. Enjoy take- along pizza, subs and dinner specials at Buntings Cedar Market, or brats, soup or dogs as well as prepared sandwiches at Gabe’s newer market location on County Road 667 just north of M-72 in Maple City. Or have a casual sit-down meal at Maple City’s Pegtown Station, known for its fab breakfasts and homemade pizza and subs. Also for the casual crowd are Kerby’s Bar and Grill in the Red Schoolhouse in Maple City, known for its perch dinner, Cedar Tavern for burgers, the British Gastro Pub at the Little Traverse Inn in Maple City, where you can dine on toad in the hole and Shepherd’s pie, and Sugarfoot Saloon in Cedar, known for its Mexican fare. More upscale is the Cedar Rustic Inn, where you can enjoy a porterhouse steak or the vegetarian fettuccine fra diavolo. Round out your dining experiences with ethnic fare west of Maple City—authentic French country food at La Becasse, or Italian at Trattoria Funistrada.

Sing your heart out. Don’t let singing be just a spectator event a la American Idol or the kid’s holiday concert—showcase your inner diva with your friends after your perch or cod fish dinner by singing Karaoke at the Cedar Tavern in downtown Cedar on Friday night.

Load up on meat to take home. Celebrate Cedar’s Polish heritage with brats or dogs at either Pleva’s or at Buntings Cedar Market, where you’ll find a variety of traditional sausages and brats. Worth a visit too is Gabe’s in Maple City, which specializes in quality smoked meats as well as a variety of beef and turkey jerky—regular, spicy, BBQ or Teriyaki style.

Finish a perfect day with ice cream at Blue Moon Ice Cream Shop in Cedar. Open 7 days a week, the popular little stand carries a great selection of premium hard and soft ice creams for cones, shakes and sundaes.