5 Michigan Destinations Perfect for Watching Wildlife

Michigan is known for having a variety of interesting fauna, including  moose, cougars, bears, birds, deer and so much more. Birding is an especially popular hobby in the Great Lakes state and is steadily growing each year. However, we can’t forget about all the other species of animals that you can watch and admire here. Animal sanctuaries provide great learning opportunities for animal lovers of all ages. Here are a few cool places to visit across the state great for birding and animal watching.

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1. Saginaw Bay Birding Trail
First up, the Saginaw Bay Birding Trail is a fantastic place to see a large variety of birds. On the Sunrise Coast, it runs from Port Crescent State Park to Tawas Point State park, covering 142 miles. The distinct change in seasons and habitats makes it easier to see a variety of over 200 species of birds. Be sure to check out the Tawas Point Birding Festival on May 19-22 for a fun- and education-filled event.

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2. Sleeping Bear Birding Trail
Heading over to the west side, the Sleeping Bear Birding Trail is another great place to visit if you love to watch and examine different types of birds. Stretching all 123 miles of the M-22 Highway, from Manistee to Traverse City, this trail is home to a diverse habitat and miles of shoreline. The Piping Plover, an endangered shorebird, has a home here due to the long sections of beach. Check it out and consider joining their eBird movement, where you can help provide your own bird photos and manage their database of sightings and early and late arrival dates.

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3. Summer Wind Farms Sanctuary
This local non-profit is a licensed sanctuary for exotic birds, mammals and reptiles. Located in Brown City and home to more than 200 animals, the sanctuary looks to provide a safe haven for foxes, llamas, peacocks, alligators and more! In order to see the animals up close and personal, schedule an educational tour of the facility, where you can learn about the different animals. This is a perfect opportunity for children to learn about the world around them or even adults who love animals and want to be more educated. Also, check out their volunteer opportunities in order to make a great difference!

4. Howell Nature Center
The Howell Nature Center has a ton of fun activities for people of all ages. First and foremost, the center has a space called the Wild Wonders Wildlife Park where there are more than 70 mammals, like Taz the bobcat, and birds, like Kili the bald eagle. Visit and get educated about the variety of fauna at the park. The Nature Center also has camps for children from kindergarten through 12th grade. Kids can climb rock walls, go canoeing and have a ton of outdoor fun with their friends! Another special activity is the high adventure course where you can zip line through trees, climb on Michigan’s tallest outdoor climbing tower and participate in a high ropes course. Be sure to check it out!

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5. Deer Ranch
The Deer Ranch in St. Ignace is a great opportunity to see many types of deer including whitetails, white whitetails and even albino deer! First established in 1950, the Deer Ranch is the oldest live whitetail exhibit in North America. The ranch allows visitors to feed, pet and photograph the deer, maybe even bottle feed a fawn. Be sure to visit if you have always been fascinated by our Michigan deer and want to see them up close!

What places do you love to watch and visit fauna in Michigan? Comment below!

Six Ways to Celebrate Spring in Ann Arbor

Spring has finally arrived in Pure Michigan! The days are getting longer, the weather warmer and exciting events are taking place around the state. That means it’s time to celebrate spring in the Ann Arbor area! Below are six ways to experience the season in AA.

Get your geek on.
Plan your next visit to coincide with Free Comic Book Day on Saturday, May 7 hosted by Vault of Midnight. A retail event like no other, hundreds of costumed fans of all ages will line up around the block to participate in what feels like a mini-comic con in the heart of Downtown Ann Arbor. While waiting in line may seem like a drag, Vault staff entertains everyone with games, prizes, and general shenanigans. Learn more about the event, including which other downtown Ann Arbor retailers will be participating in the event.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

Score in Ann Arbor
AFC Ann Arbor kicks off its first season in the National Premier Soccer League this year, joining the ranks of some incredibly competitive teams throughout the Midwest Region. Specifically, the Mighty Oaks are looking forward to hosting Grand Rapids FC over Memorial Day Weekend and Detroit City FC over Independence Day Weekend. Check out the complete schedule and to incorporate a match into your weekend.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

Photograph an heirloom peony garden.
Nichols Arboretum, located on the University of Michigan campus, features a stunning spring display of historic peony varieties. When filled to capacity the garden holds nearly 800 peonies and up to 10,000 flowers at peak bloom! The best time to visit is usually Memorial Day – mid-June. Follow Visit Ann Arbor on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for bloom updates.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

Tackle the Argo Cascades.
Did you know that Ann Arbor features kayaking along the Huron River? Suitable for novices but enjoyable for those more experienced, the Argo Cascades is a series of nine small rapids, rock chutes and pools. Continue down the river to Gallup Park — about a 90-minute journey — for some of the most scenic views of the area! Equipment rentals are available starting at 10am in May and 9am starting Memorial Day Weekend.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

Score at the LPGA Volvik Championship.
This Memorial Day Weekend marks the inaugural year for the LPGA Volvik Championship tournament at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor. The event will feature a full field of 144 players competing in a 72-hole showcase for a purse of $1.3 million. Join fans on Saturday for “Orange Out for ChadTough!” — a special $30 ticket package available until May 15 which includes a Saturday Grounds ticket, a t-shirt, and your choice of either a sleeve of orange golf balls, an orange Volvik baseball hat, or an orange tee-holder. $10 from each ticket package sale will go directly to The ChadTough Foundation.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

Bacon! Bacon! Bacon!
June 1- June 5, join Zingerman’s in this epic tribute to cured pork. Camp Bacon® features a week’s worth of bacon-based events, from a film festival to The Main Event — a day filled with meaty speakers, lots of learning, and, of course, all the bacon you can eat! The festivities conclude on Sunday with the Camp Bacon Street Fair at Kerrytown. As always, this year’s Camp Bacon is a fundraiser for two amazing non-profit organizations: The Southern Foodways Alliance and the 4H Club of Washtenaw County.

Go to VisitAnnArbor.org for more information about all these events and more in the greater Ann Arbor area. You can also follow Visit Ann Arbor! on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. See you soon!

5 New Ways to Enjoy Traverse City This Summer

Even on vacation, you can get stuck in a rut.

Fortunately, up here in Traverse City there are so many different things to see, do and taste that there’s really no reason for doing the same thing over and over. There are new thrills in store for those who are willing to try something different. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Watch the sunset from a kayak.

Summer sunsets are part of Traverse City’s magic, whether you watch them from your hotel balcony, the top of a sand dune or a lonely Lake Michigan beach. But one of the most beautiful ways to enjoy the lovely colors of sundown, the deep hues of twilight and the wonder of a star-dusted night is from the cockpit of a kayak as it knifes its silent way through the dark water of Grand Traverse Bay.

Photo Courtesy of Northern Swag

The ladies at Paddle Away Tours have years of experience leading small groups of kayakers on sunset, moonrise and starlight excursions in the waters of Bowers Harbor and Power Island.

2. Explore a Shipwreck.

There are dozens of shipwrecks lying in the crystal-clear waters near Traverse City – schooners, steamships, freighters and tugs. Some are in deep waters and can only be reached by experienced scuba divers – but a surprising number can easily be reached from shore, and all you need is a pair of fins and a mask.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

The 160-foot wooden steamer Three Brothers and the 246-foot freighter Francisco Morazan, the Rising Sun and the skeletal remains of the 124-foot schooner Metropolis are all within easy reach of the adventurous snorkeler!

3. Do a Microdistillery Tasting

Traverse City is already well-known for the quality of its wines and its craft brewing scene. But if you’ve already done the wine trail route or the brew trail route — or if you’re just not the wine or beer-drinking type — there IS a third alternative. Traverse City is blessed with several fine microdistilleries that produce a bewildering array of brandies, vodkas, whiskeys, gins and other spirits – and putting together a tour of these places can be lots of fun as well as a great learning experience.

4. Walk, bike or skate the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail

The Traverse City area is well-known for its many hiking, cycling and skiing trails, but one of the most exciting ones is still being built. It’s the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, a paved pathway that allows cyclists, strollers, wheelchair pilots, in-line skaters and others to reach the highlights of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Right now the pathway is 13 miles long. When completed it will stretch 27 miles, from the northern end of the park to Manning Road, just south of Empire.

 5. Play a Round of FootGolf

Ever hear of FootGolf? This challenging hybrid between golf and soccer, where players try to sink regulation-size soccer balls in 21-inch holes with as few “strokes” as possible, is now being played at Elmbrook Golf Course in Traverse City and The Summit at Shanty Creek Resorts.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

The game is great fun, and its basic rules are like those of golf: the first shot at each hole has to be taken from the tee, and players must play past the usual array of bunkers, trees, water hazards and hills. Get your “team” together and try it!

Which of these Traverse City activities have you tried? Share with us in the comments!

Mike Norton spent 25 years as a newspaper writer and columnist before starting a second career as media relations manager at Traverse City Tourism. An avid cyclist, kayaker and hiker, he lives in the village of Old Mission.