It’s hard to believe, but we celebrated the one year anniversary of our move to Michigan last week. While everyone back home in North Carolina was enjoying their first real tastes of Spring, we headed northwest for a weekend adventure to Traverse City, Michigan and the surrounding areas. Mitsubishi and DriveShop provided me with the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL to test drive for the week and it seemed silly not to get her out and “stretch her legs” a bit. I’ve heard so much about Traverse City, so we planned a quick weekend trip to explore the area.
First things first, we checked out the weekend weather in Traverse City. While it might not have been warm at home, it was sunny. We had nice blue skies, a little breeze, and our first steady sun in months. The weather was not the same in Traverse City. The forecast was for snow and ice. All weekend long. The upside was that I knew I’d get to test out the Outlander Sport’s All Wheel Drive (also known as 4 wheel drive). I have never owned a 4 wheel drive vehicle before, so I really had no idea what to expect. More on that later…
I searched around online and ground a great deal on a hotel. Winter rates in the Traverse City area are super affordable. When I made the reservation, we weren’t looking for luxury. We didn’t plan to do much more in the hotel than sleep and shower, so I took that into consideration when making our choice. Bayshore Resort had really good reviews online, and with taxes included, a water-view room would cost us $180 for Friday and Saturday night (and included breakfast!) When we checked in, we were very pleased to find that the photos online were true to the condition of the hotel. They had a great pool area (nice enough that I was disappointed I hadn’t packed a swimsuit), the rooms were spacious and the beach area was really nice. We were also pleased with breakfast (very traditional continental style), particularly how much space the dining area had and how well stocked it was kept throughout breakfast. After a good night’s sleep, we headed out to explore the west side of Grand Traverse.
Our first stop was the Robert H Manning Memorial Lighthouse along the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Shoreline. When I say it was cold, it was COLD. The wind blowing moisture in off Lake Michigan was brutal (but not so brutal that I didn’t get out and take a look around). The shoreline is gorgeous and the waves roll in off the lake just like they do off the oceans of the east coast of the US. This was my first time seeing Michigan lighthouses, and while they are smaller than the North Carolina lighthouses I’m used to, they were very beautiful. Bonus of the freezing weather, we didn’t have to fight crowds anywhere! I’m not sure it if was the temperature keeping everyone at home, or the road conditions (terrible), but the solitude was nice either way.
One of my absolutely favorite features if the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL was the 4 Wheel Drive. Like I mentioned before, I’ve never driven an AWD vehicle before. I’ve driven plenty of front wheel drive vehicles on snow and ice, and I’ve even driven my husband’s rear wheel drive V-8 (no thank you!). With both of those, slipping and sliding are expected (especially RWD). Knowing how to drive accordingly is a must. After turning on 4WD in the Outlander Sport, I couldn’t believe the difference in driving on snow and ice. There were only a few instances where I could feel any slipping at all, and again, we were on some seriously snow and ice covered, desolate roads. We were able to venture to some spots that I wouldn’t have dared taking my front wheel drive car.
We drove up the coast from the lighthouse to the Sleeping Bear Dunes Dune Climb. The view was beautiful and the dunes are truly stunning, even when covered in snow. There were several people using the dunes as sledding hills (getting great speed and distance too!) Despite nor being dressed appropriately for a winter hike, we attempted to make it up the dunes anyway. I tapped out half way (which is pretty far) and decided that going downhill in the snow was far preferable for me. I will save the dune climb for a warmer day.
After nearly freezing ourselves to death, we hopped back inside the Outlander Sport to warm up. I have always wanted a vehicle with heated seats (my husband’s car has them – mine doesn’t), and now that I’ve had a taste of luxury, I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to buy a vehicle again without them. The heat in the Outlander Sport was quick to work, but having the immediate warmth from the seats was amazing after all of the bone chilling wind on the dunes.
After I could feel my feet again, we headed up the coast of Lake Michigan toward Leland. We stopped by to see Fishtown (photo below – a very cool little fishing village) and dropped by Trish’s Dishes for lunch. I had the most amazing Mooshu Chicken Salad. I would drive all the way back to Leland just to eat there again. The town of Leland was very small, but cute, and paired with Fishtown, would make a lovely Summer Saturday stop.
A few of the other places we stopped on Saturday were Hop Lot Brewing Company (amazing nachos), Grand Traverse Distillery and Mackinac Brewing Company (delicious sandwiches). If you are a foodie, the Traverse City area will not disappoint. Downtown Traverse City was full of restaurants and shops. We had a hard time choosing which to visit. Locals were super friendly and more than willing to give suggestions on their favorites. We hit up as many places as we could and literally rolled ourselves into bed Saturday night. We were officially stuffed!
Sunday morning, we slept in a bit then headed out to breakfast. We stopped by a unique little place called Rounds. It was packed, and after having the biscuits and gravy, there was no surprise why. The portions were huge, prices were reasonable and the staff was friendly. From Rounds, we hopped back into the Outlander Sport to head up the peninsula to the Mission Point Lighthouse. The drive up the coast was beautiful, but definitely snow covered and icy in many places. Again, I loved having the control of the four wheel drive. It made driving overall easier, but also allowed us to explore a few roads we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to.
Mission Point Lighthouse was the only place we visited over the weekend that really had a crowd, and even then it wasn’t bothersome at all. There were maybe 10 other small groups there, all at various places around the property. Some were walking the shoreline, others we checking out the historic cabin or otherwise wandering the property. The lighthouse was closed when we stopped by, so we didn’t get to see the inside, but we checked out the exterior, read a little about the restoration project and walked the shoreline.
After checking out the lighthouse, we headed back down the east side of the peninsula and made stops at several local wineries: 2 Lads Winery, Chateau Grand Traverse and Brys Estate (pictured below). I wish I had more photos for you, but it was snowing pretty good and hard to get around on foot outside in most places. There are TONS of wineries on the peninsula, so if wine is your thing, don’t skip driving the peninsula.
My overall thoughts on the Traverse City area …
Don’t skip visiting just because it’s winter. There are plenty of things to see and do that you may enjoy even more in winter than in summer. The crowds are small (or in some cases non-existent) and that is a huge plus for me. Shopping, food and indoor activities are plentiful, and if you’re a fan of snow, there’s plenty of that too! There are several things we’d like to head back in late spring to check out again, particularly Sleeping Bear Dunes and the beach areas, and we still have so many restaurants to try!
My overall thoughts on the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL …
As the driver of a small sedan, I was very pleased with how comfortable I was in the Outlander Sport. I was worried it would feel “big” on the road, but it didn’t. It actually felt a lot like driving my small car, but with far more room on the inside. I loved the convenience of the folding rear seats and the cargo space, and was impressed with how big the Outlander Sport felt inside verses it’s compact exterior. It was packed with lots of other little conveniences too, though none that I can note being exclusive to this particular vehicle / brand. As I mentioned a few times before, I fell in love with the All Wheel Drive. I couldn’t believe the difference it made when driving on snow and ice.
As with most vehicles, there is always something that could be improved upon. My biggest, and really only, complaint with the Outlander Sport was engine power. Let me start by saying that my husband builds race car engines for a living, so I am a little biased when it comes to power. If you’re looking for something small and compact with power to tow or haul heavy cargo, I would not recommend the Outlander Sport for you. Mitsubishi does offer a 168-hp 2.4 liter engine option, which would be an improvement, but even that is still light on the power side.
So, who would I recommend the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport to? For anyone looking for a smaller option, daily driver, that has room for all your kids and all their gear, the Outlander Sport is a great option. It has a nice interior and exterior, it offers all of the common convenience features, gets great gas mileage and is super roomy. It also comes in at a very reasonable price, starting at just $19,795.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Outlander Sport and Traverse City! If you’re familiar with the Traverse City area and have suggestions on places to visit or things to see/do, please share! Leave me a comment below or connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.