The state debate
Besides sharing a border, Metro Detroit and northern Michigan are far from the same. From the people and activities to the culture, opinion editor Katie Harrington and opinion writer Greg Olsen battle it out to decide which part of the state offers the most.
Greg: up north
When the topic of a debate is foolish, arguing for the logically-superior position just seems like a waste of time.
The dispute about which place is better — Metro Detroit or northern Michigan — is exactly one of those arguments.
Don’t get me wrong — Metro Detroit is great.
In what seems like no more than a five-minute drive in any direction, you can find yourself in the parking lot of another mall, movie theater or restaurant that differs slightly from the one you passed moments ago. Heck, there’s even an IKEA.
These certainly are all things you won’t find in abundance in northern Michigan.
But, you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s too easy for people to point out the things you can’t find in Northern Michigan before taking a minute to consider all the other things you won’t find anywhere else.
Growing up in Manistee, Mich., my friends and I learned from an early age we had to make the most of what was around us.
The nearest mall was an hour north. The nearest movie theater was a half hour south. But the thing we had in abundance was one of the most aesthetic sceneries in all of Michigan — and I couldn’t be more grateful.
I spent every summer of my childhood in a place most people take their families on vacation, and I was able to watch the sun disappear over Lake Michigan any night I pleased.
I’ve been sunburned after falling asleep on the beach, gotten a rash from poison ivy while hiking through national forests and had to vacuum sand out of the driver’s side of my car more times than I can count — and I couldn’t have been luckier.
Nothing against the southern part of the state, but none of these things would have been possible had I grown up in Metro Detroit.
So for those out there who think differently, that’s fine, but I’ll have to respectfully disagree.
You can keep your shopping malls. I’ll gladly settle for the lake.
Katie: down south
I love taking trips up to northern Michigan every once in a while. But if I had to live up there year round, I’m pretty sure I’d die of boredom.
Because northern Michigan lacks a year-round cultural identity and vivacity you can only find in Metro Detroit.
Many people think of Detroit as the once-prosperous, now-defunct wasteland of Michigan. I always considered myself lucky to grow up near Detroit. When I was in school, I got to take field trips to the Detroit Zoo and the Detroit Science Center.
As a teenager, I lived minutes away from some of the greatest concert venues in the country, so I was able to see all my favorite bands — from big names to hardly-recognizable ones. Recently I saw Skrillex at the Palace of Auburn Hills. It’d be a cold day — which happens far too often up north — before Skrillex set foot up there.
In the past decade, southern Michigan has hosted the Super Bowl, two World Series and a PGA Championship. We have the Detroit Auto Show, the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
The list goes on and on. Southern Michigan has better shopping, more diverse restaurants, movie theaters showing independent and foreign films, musical festivals and major sporting events.
Northern Michigan residents might be able to watch the sunset on the beach, but to me, there’s nothing better than watching the sunset from the stands at Comerica Park.
OK, you guys have the Great Lakes — you got me. But when it’s only warm enough to go swimming two months of the year, is it really something to brag about?
And you might make fun of us because we have a lot of malls, but at least my entire wardrobe doesn’t come from Gander Mountain.
While I dearly love northern Michigan, a few visits up there each year is all I need. Northern Michigan is where you go to retire — a good place to wither away and die. Metro Detroit is where you go to live.