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Quality Inn, Oswald’s Bear Ranch, Seder’s Pizza, and the School Playground

Usually before or after we travel to Mackinac Island each summer, we also like to visit Traverse City, Michigan.  It’s a beautiful place, but this year the hotel rooms were completely out of our budget.  So we decided to look elsewhere.  Although I would love to go back to Traverse City at some point, I am so glad we broadened our Michigan horizons and went on a new adventure in Newberry, in Michigan’s wonderful Upper Peninsula.

This adventure started on a night when my husband fell asleep with PBS on the TV.  He had been watching Under the Radar Michigan . . . and then I continued watching it as the host traveled to Newberry to visit Oswald’s Bear Ranch.  My oldest son loves bears, so it really caught my attention as visitors could observe many rescued bears in this beautiful habitat that Mr. Oswald had created for them.  As I explained to my dad who is a cattle farmer, “It’s just like you having cows, except he has bears.” 

So we looked at the map, decided on plenty of things to do in the area, and made a hotel reservation at the Quality Inn in Newberry after reading a few reviews.  The hotel also fulfilled my vacation hotel wish list — has a refrigerator in the room for leftovers and milk  and has laundry facilities for after going to the beach.

Close enough to Newberry are the Tahquamenon Falls and Pictured Rocks, two natural wonders that I wanted to see along with my boys. 

So after getting off the boat from Mackinac Island, we crossed the Mackinac Bridge that connects our two peninsulas and is another cool thing to do any way. 

The Quality Inn was a good place to stay with the family, clean with a free hot breakfast.  It doesn’t have a pool though, and by talking to other travelers along the way, it seemed like a pool in the area hotels may be a hard thing to come by.  It had a huge hot tub, which I imagine caters to many snowmobilers in the winter.  In any case, I got the room with a refrigerator that I requested.  The mini-fridge was big enough to fit all our stuff and keep our ice packs semi-frozen. 

As soon as we checked in, we were off to Oswald’s Bear Ranch.  For $20 a car, you can observe the bears in 4 different habitats.  So load your car full of people and be sure to go around 4 pm because around that time, they feed the bears. 

Loving the bears.

I can’t speak of any other time, but when we were there, most of the bears were up near the fences, easy to see.  Some were even up in the trees.  We got to see them play, get in the water, climb trees, and eat.  You can purchase a bag of apples and feed them yourself by throwing the apples over the fences.  (There are 2 chain link fences separating humans from bears.)  We preferred to save our money and watch everyone else feed the bears. 

When the owners feed the bears, they go in with an ATV, give them a whole bunch of food that looks like leftovers from area restaurants, and they even pet them and tell you their names.  They seemed like such gentle creatures, and for my bear lover, this was his very favorite part of the trip.

At the bear ranch there is also a gift shop with many affordable souvenirs for your little ones. 

Little items from the gift shop.

They also sell snacks and have small tables to sit an enjoy these snacks.  There was also a fire pit and several wood carvings of animals outside that my smallest son enjoyed playing with. 

After the bear ranch, we decided to have dinner at Seder’s Pizza, a small wood fired brick oven pizzeria on the main street of Newberry.  My husband had read good reviews about it, so even though it was Friday at 4:45 pm (an early dinner for us), we decided to get some pizza.  And it was a good thing because as we were eating, the place totally filled up and there was no other place to sit.

Our recommendation is to order a large pizza (or more if your family is bigger) with your favorite toppings — it was delicious and provided us with leftovers to eat the next day so we didn’t have to go out for dinner.    My husband had also read about Seder’s Pizza’s famous “Stinky Sticks” so we decided to order some and see what the hype was about.  My youngest is very sensitive to smells, so if your kid is like mine, don’t order the Stinky Sticks.  Just stick with regular garlic bread sticks.  The dough is tasty, but they were covered, perhaps “slathered” was what the menu stated in garlic butter and freshly grated Romano cheese (the stickiness factor).  So if that sounds good to you and you have no sensitive smellers — go for it. 

After dinner, kids usually need to blow off some steam, use those calories they just ingested . . . so we asked our waitress about area playgrounds.  She pointed us to the school which was just up the street.  It had a great playground where our kids played with two little girls from Wisconsin for about an hour.  This is where we learned that the pool in the Wisconsin family’s hotel was broken + the dad gave us some great advice for the Pictured Rocks Cruise the next day. 

But that is for another post.