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Up North in Cadillac

Woods and water surround a vibrant community in this Wexford County gem

By Dianna Stampfler

For more than a century, Cadillac has welcomed visitors seeking natural settings for leisure and business activities. Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) is among them, choosing Cadillac for this year’s Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference at the end of May. “Cadillac is growing fast with new retail shops, restaurants, and cafes opening in just the last year,” says Parker Jones, innovation counselor at MSUE’s Product Center, citing Threads North, The Bird House, Roasted Cafe, Chunky Bear Coffee Roasters, and Wildflour Bakery among them. “It’s that entrepreneurial ecosystem that we want to showcase to other communities across the state.”

The Rotary Performing Arts Pavilion at Cadillac Commons
The Rotary Performing Arts Pavilion at Cadillac Commons || Courtesy of Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau

Vibe: Life in Cadillac is relaxed. Situated in the heart of the 538,765-acre Manistee National Forest, the area is home to three lakes and three rivers. More than half of the 660-acre William Mitchell State Park is within the city’s boundaries.

Transportation: Blacker Airport—47 miles away in Manistee—provides service to Chicago and beyond and is the nearest for commercial air travel. Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City is slightly farther. Locally, Wexford County Airport in Cadillac is a general aviation facility. Cadillac also sits at the crossroads of U.S. Route 131, state Route 55, and state Route 115, and is easily accessible by car.

Hotels: Caberfae Peaks’ 16,000-square-foot, 39-room Mackenzie Lodge can accommodate groups of up to 250 with on-site dining options, bar service, catering, and a golf course next door. With 117 rooms, on-site dining, an indoor pool, and 27 holes of golf, Evergreen Resort can host groups of up to 200. Sunset Shores Resort offers 22 two- and three-bedroom units with an event room for 50. Coyote Crossing Resort sits on 50 acres with an on-site bar and restaurant, outdoor stage, 10 two-bedroom cottages, and a private hospitality suite.

Mackinaw Timbers Cabins || Courtesy of Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau

Venues: Consumer events and trade shows use the Wexford Civic Center with its ice rink and 20,000-square-foot auditorium accommodating up to 1,000 attendees. NanBop Farm offers a country event setting with a large enclosed tent that holds up to 250. Manton Trails presents three event venues for gatherings of up to 1,000 attendees standing or 800 seated. Fox Hill Event Center offers a large indoor gathering space with seating for up to 275 with catering options from Blue Heron Cafe.

Restaurants & Markets: The classic and casual waterfront Lakeside Charlies can accommodate up to 200 and provides off-site catering. The upper level of Clam Lake Beer Co. in downtown Cadillac has space for 40 as well as a 12-person conference meeting area. Willow Market and Meats offers The Greenhouse for special events of up to 130 people and Willow’s Wine for small groups of 10 to 15. The farm-to-table eatery, Raven Social, can accommodate groups of up to 50.

Must-Sees & -Dos: Delve into the community’s past with a visit to the Wexford County Historical Museum or The Sound Garden, which features a musical art sculpture, perennial gardens, and more. Cadillac Commons is a central gathering place with a performing arts pavilion, open-air market, the White Pine Trailhead, and other attractions.

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