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White Birch Lodge
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Reviewed August 10, 2015 via mobile

When I Googled "Top 10 Family Lake Vacations", I was debating between Minnesota and Michigan (we've never visited or vacationed in either state). I was reminiscing about a roadtrip to visit family in Iowa and Chicago when I was between my 10yo daughter and 7yo son's ages and wanted to recreate the great American Heartland roadtrip for my kids. Plus, my husband is English and the closest he's ever been to a good, old-fashioned roadtrip was watching National Lampoon's Vacation (the original) as a kid. I saw the review for WBL on Trip Advisor that said it was like vacationing on the set of Dirty Dancing (throwback to the 1950s, family-style dining, screened in porches, daytime water sports, evening activities), and I knew I wanted to try it. This was going to be great for all of us.

After my first trip there, I am hooked and already made reservations to bring back three generations of my family next year. Plenty of other resorts have water activities on turquoise lakes, delicious food, and kids programs with fancier accommodation. We're coming back to WBL because it is on the right side of the Haimish Line.

The Haimish Line is a fantastic piece David Brooks from the NY Times wrote in his column about his families' recent vacation, depicting the various places they had visited that summer. His family found that they connected more with other guests and had more fun at the simpler camps than the did at the more private luxury camps: "I know only one word to describe what the simpler camps had and the more luxurious camps lacked: haimish. It’s a Yiddish word that suggests warmth, domesticity and unpretentious conviviality." Brooks went on to describe how his family began avoiding camps that crossed the invisible "Haimish Line" into more posh, stuffy camps that they could afford so they would have more fun at the unpretentious, convivial camps. WBL is the most haimish resort where I have ever spent a week.

Maybe it because WBL is a 3-generation family-owned business since 1958. Maybe it is because the owners have always made their profession out of teaching or instructing sports and a number of their loyal returning guests also seem to have education in common. Maybe it is because the 20-something college kids that run around and staff your visit are without exception the most polite, well-trained, friendly, welcoming staff I have encountered. It's the Midwest turned up to Eleven.

Thank you Conrad Family and WBL Staff. You gave this West Coast family everything I knew we needed, but also something I didn't know we needed in this age of connected devices and high-tech: good old-fashioned, face-to-face connection with wonderful people.

"When we’re shopping for a vacation we’re primarily thinking about Where. The travel companies offer brochures showing private beaches and phenomenal sights. But when you come back from vacation, you primarily treasure the memories of Who — the people you met from faraway places, and the lives you came in contact with."

Stayed: August 2015, travelled with family
22  Thank Delyn S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed August 6, 2015

This is our second summer at WBL and once again, we've had an amazing vacation! This may seem surprising, because our first full day here included the worst storm this area has seen in recorded history. We were without electricity until Tuesday evening, but that didn't stop the Conrad family and WBL staff from providing outstanding service. They got a generator in and never a meal was missed. By Monday evening most of the downed trees and all the debris was cleaned up. Every staff member greated guests with a smile and asked if there was anything he or she could do. Activities went on and everyone had a great time.

This is a beautiful place. The lake is amazing. It is an ideal place to relax and put aside the hustle and bustle of the world. The guests are friendly and our children enjoy meeting other children, the lake and all the activities.

I have food allergies and it is difficult to eat when I am away from home. Here, everyone on staff is very aware of the what is in the food. If they don't know, they are quick to find out. Special food has been made so that I can eat. It is wonderful to be able to eat away from home and not do the cooking.

  • Stayed: August 2015, travelled with family
    • Value
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
7  Thank 4Reds
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed August 5, 2015

This is our second stay at WBL and all comments in my review from last year still hold true. I wanted to write another review to give BIG kudos to the owners and staff for how well they handled the power outage this week. Major storms blew through the area on Sunday, knocking down many trees and leaving over 100,000 people without power including WBL. Immediately steps were taken to clear the downed trees and power lines, and to provide services for all the guests here. A generator was brought in to keep the kitchen going so there was never an interruption in meal service, and we were amazed at how quickly the mess was cleaned up. Clearly the owners have no control over the weather and how fast the power is restored, and the hard work of everyone on staff minimized the inconvenience and made the whole event a bit of an adventure. This type of thing can ruin a vacation, but thanks to great management, it was hardly a blip in our week. Well done!

Stayed: August 2015, travelled with family
7  Thank peglegdebs
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed July 29, 2015 via mobile

What an awesome week with our family. White Birch Lodge staff and owners continue their 'magic': gorgeous comfortable venue, excellent food, great programs for our kids, safe beaches and water activities for the whole family, evening campfires by the lake, and so much more. The warm, clear azure-colored waters of Elk Lake were so inviting during a week of sunshine and the summer warmth of Northern Michigan. There are people here this week from all over the United States...and beyond...who've chosen White Birch Lodge for their family vacation. No wonder this is the Sine Qua Non of American Plan resorts that guests like us are drawn to return to year after year. The Conrad family who own the lodge, and the wonderfully caring staff who shepherd new guests from week to week, are beyond extraordinary; we'd like to adopt them all. I do know our kids practically cry when we reach the end of our week and have to leave. I think we've already made enough memories in the space of only a few days to keep us warm for the entire winter. And the week isn't over yet! God bless White Birch Lodge.

Stayed: July 2015, travelled with family
7  Thank Haldaman
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed June 23, 2015

White Birch Lodge (WBL) is an amazing family vacation experience, like no other! We take other vacations (in addition to our annual trip to WBL) and we own our own lake house...No other place compares to being at WBL.

Although the accommodations are very rustic (think of the movie "Dirty Dancing"), they actually add to the charm. You don't go to WBL to feel fancy...YOU GO TO RELAX! There are no TVs in the rooms and the kids forget that they own electronics (so do the adults). Instead, the kids are beyond excited to go to the planned kids activities or to learn how to water ski/wakeboard. They try paddle boarding or kayaking while the adults are sitting on the beach reading, playing tennis or just taking a nap.

The staff is amazing and is made up of mostly college-aged kids who grew up vacationing at WBL. They know how magical the place was for them and work with great attention to make sure that everyone (young and old) has the same experience. The guests typically vacation the same week each year and since you can't just try WBL once, they usually end up coming every year for generations.

The meals are all served family style and are served each day at 9:00, 1:00 and 6:00. Instead of haggling with the rest of the family about when we are going to eat, where we are going to go, how we are going to get there, what we are going to wear, etc. (like other vacations), we roll off the beach, find our flip flops and stroll up to our table. No hassle, no mess, nothing to think about!

We were talked into trying WBL (when our oldest child was just an infant) by a friend who grew up going there for their annual family vacation. We had NO INTENTION of our first trip to WBL to be anything other than a one time vacation to Northern Michigan...Fast forward 15 years and we haven't missed a year. Our kids look forward to this vacation more than they do every other vacation and holliday combined (including Christmas and their birthday). Most kids have a countdown clock to Christmas; every year when we leave, there isn't a dry eye in the car and our kids start the countdown clock to the next year @ WBL, with holidays coming and going in between.

I will always owe a debt of gratitude to the Conrad Family (who have become friends) for the memories that their resort has given us. They could sell their land for millions and walk away. Instead - the third generation of Conrads (Mike) is now running the resort and works incredibly hard to make a decent living so the rest of us can make the best family memories of our lives!

On the way up this year, my 12 year old said "Dad - We aren't really going on a vacation; we're kind of just going home." She is right!

  • Stayed: June 2015, travelled with family
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
8  Thank davismp427
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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