Eight New Year’s Resolutions for the Avid Traveler (with a Pure Michigan Twist!)

The beginning of a new year opens the door to new travel possibilities. Today, guest blogger Aaron Cruz from The Awesome Mitten shares some New Year’s resolutions for the avid traveler looking to explore new horizons. 

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Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Great Lakes resort town it up. Wherever you are in Michigan, you are within 85 miles of a Great Lake. Go for the day in the summer or a long winter weekend at a bed and breakfast in Lexington, on Lake Huron, or in Grand Haven, on Lake Michigan. Regardless of  what lake you are on, a beautiful sunrise and sunset is sure to await. The resort town possibilities seem to be endless.

Eat and drink local. Forget the chains: experience something not found around home. Go to the most popular spot in the town you are visiting or discover a hidden gem. If you are in Detroit, stop at Slows BBQ. Visiting Grand Rapids? Forget Starbucks in favor of checking out to Rowster or MadCap Coffee. Don’t go to a bar in Holland and grab a beer you can get anywhere; visit New Holland Brewery and experience some of Michigan’s finest craft beer. If grabbing snacks for the car, go Michigan with some Faygo Rock & Rye and Better Made potato chips.

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Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Set out on a mural walk. You will find public artwork painted on the walls of buildings in Michigan’s biggest cities and smallest towns. It’s a great way to get outdoors, to explore off-the-beaten path areas and to learn some history. “The Water Cycle” mural in the Woodbridge neighborhood of Detroit and the Community House Mural in small-town Harbor Beach should be on your list to visit.

Go on a trip with no plans. Take a road trip with no Michigan destination in mind. That means no maps, no GPS and no idea on when you are going to stop. It will be just you and whatever randomly comes up. Live in the moment. Your best travel stories could come from this unplanned adventure.

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Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Spend more time with nature by visiting a Michigan State Park.  Get away from it all at one of the 97 parks scattered through the state. Many are along one of the Great Lakes, while others are inland and in the country. You can even hang out on an island at Mackinac Island State Park. Bluffs, sand dunes, long hiking trails, forest, vast beaches and wildlife lie straight ahead.

Collect mementos from every place you visit. Purchase a postcard, magnet and other souvenirs.  Grab a free local magazine, flyer or business card and keep your receipts and event tickets. Put them all in a box at home. Later on, when you go through it, you will remember all the great Michigan and travel experiences you have enjoyed.

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Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Head to a lighthouse. Michigan has more lighthouses than any state with over 115, each with its own history and unique design. Some of them contain museums where people used to live as well as stairs you can climb to see the light up close and get panoramic views. Tawas Point Lighthouse is a beautiful example. Where there is a lighthouse, a shoreline and beach to explore is usually waiting.

Putting many of the other resolutions together and a great way to checkout numerous lighthouses and points of interest at once is to experience a Great Lakes Circle Tour. Each route/tour circles a Great Lake, so water will always be nearby, with much of the route following Michigan roads. You’ll find plenty of signage to help you along as you bounce from town to town, country to forest and from the Lower to Upper Peninsula.

What are some of your New Year’s travel resolutions? 

Aaron Cruz

Aaron Cruz is a lover and long time resident of The Mitten. When he is not out on the open road, he’s probably drinking coffee in a random indie coffee shop. He loves taking  photos and road trips, along with checking out skylines, the seasons, shorelines and  hanging around water which makes Michigan the perfect place to live. You can find him  on Twitter Instagram and on his personal travel blog.

 

Twelve Nights of Michigan Bright

The holidays are coming up fast, and there’s no better way to celebrate than by jumping in your car and looking for Michigan’s brightest spots. Guest blogger Maureen Clemons from The Awesome Mitten has located some of the best holiday light displays around the Mitten – one for each of the 12 days of Christmas:

Campus Martius

  1. Campus Martius: Your to-do list at Campus Martius includes renting some skates and gliding around Detroit’s best rink while gazing at Detroit’s biggest and brightest Christmas tree. Afterwards stop by The Snowman Collection (an igloo full of decked out snow men) and grab a hot chocolate from Fountain Bistro. Make sure to park on Woodward because buildings are lit up all along that avenue as well!
  1. Wonderland of Lights: Potter Park Zoo in Lansing also offers lots of animals made out of lights and animals in real exhibits. They also have cookies, crafts and live entertainment. While you’re so close, make sure to check out Michigan’s official Christmas tree at the capital complete with over 9,000 lights!
  1. Wayne County Lightfest: Celebrating 21 years of being bright (and merry), Hines Park is lit up with over 50 animated light displays. This year they’ve got a new 40 foot snowman. Your car can enter on Merriman Road in Westland and see over four miles of Christmas fun.
  1. Adam’s Castle: Royalty lives among us – in Bloomfield Hills. Take Adams to Adam’s Castle Drive (in between Big Beaver and Wattles) and drive until you reach the dead end that is Adam’s Castle. It’s always decorated to impress. Make sure you grab some hot chocolate from Birmingham Chocolate before heading over.

Detroit Zoo Lights

  1. Wild Lights: The Detroit Zoo gets wild every December with their half mile light trail. You’ll see stars, butterflies, turtles, bears and tunnels made of bright bulbs. Stop in the Reptile House to warm up or visit the Wild Adventure Zone to see The Polar Express in 4D. They sell seasonal drinks and snacks too.
  1. Edsel & Eleanor Ford House: A historical site to see all year round, but especially special during the holiday season – the Ford House in Grosse Pointe beckons to you with canopies of lights and the promise of Santa. You’ll see over 80,000 bulbs and maybe even some carolers. For the adults in attendance, there will be some mulled wine.
  1. Huckleberry Crossroads: Hop on the Huckleberry Railroad to ride through lots of lights. If you’d rather take your own car, there is a drive through option as well!
  1. Christmas Lite Show: Over a mile of light displays make up one of Michigan’s largest displays in Grand Rapids. At the end you are promised a picture with Santa. And for convenience there is a Biggby Coffee right next door!
  1. Frederik Meijer Christmas Trees: For all the visual learners out there, Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids offers a unique opportunity to see Christmas trees and displays from over 40 countries. You’ll also be able to observe over 300,000 lights, carolers and horse drawn carriage rides. And check out their calendar for a chance to meet Santa’s real reindeer!Rochester Lights
  1.  Downtown Rochester: Every building gets a different color store front – complete with string lights hanging down over the whole thing. They call it the Big, Bright Light Show and it doesn’t disappoint! This year, you can visit all the way through the end of January. Don’t forget to stop at Dessert Oasis Cafe to get your hot chocolate on.
  1. Christmas in Lights: The citizens of Iron River enter their decked out homes in a best lights competition and the city creates a map – everyone votes for their favorite! Even though the official voting period is over, grab a map and visit all the contenders/winners.
  1. International Festival of Lights: Throughout December in Battle Creek you can witness tons of light structures on the Battle Creek River along State Street. Every weekend they’ve got special events like the Holiday Extravaganza full of live entertainment on December 20th.

Clemons_PicAre there any other light displays or even houses that you visit every year?

Maureen Clemmons is your resident Royal Oak local (Royalocal), beer drinker, concert goer, road tripper, ice cream advocate, cat lover, and MSU Spartan. Learn more on Twitter, @moreangrim.

Ten Cherished Pure Michigan Holiday Traditions

Are you ready for the holiday season in Pure Michigan? Today, our guest bloggers from The Awesome Mitten, plus a few of our Facebook fans, share their most cherished holiday traditions. 

As we move in to yet another holiday season, the staff of The Awesome Mitten thought it best to take a look back at some of our most cherished holiday memories and traditions. This special compilation would not be possible without the contributions of Team Awesome members Hayley Serr, Rebecca Calkins, and Rachell Weeks.

Rachell

Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays. It’s also one of the few days of the year I wish for snow. My parents made the decision when I was a baby to relocate from England to the United States for work and we’ve been here ever since. Holidays have always been quiet for us, given that all of our extended family still lives overseas, but my parents did an excellent job of keeping with tradition; needless to say, I grew up with Christmases that were different from all the other kids.

Christimas Eve is hands down the busiest day of the year in the kitchen! Every year, we get up early, head to Meijer and do all of the food shopping for the feasts of the next two days. Once the mad dash around the store is finished, we head to Downtown Holland for some coffee at JPs Coffee House, and in recent years lunch at New Holland Brewery before stopping at the Holland Peanut Store to pick up chocolates for Santa.

Once home, we spend the afternoon prepping food for the next couple of days. In British tradition, this means a full feast of: Brussels sprouts, carrots, potatoes, sausages wrapped in bacon, dates wrapped in bacon, bread sauce, cranberry orange sauce, chestnut stuffing, sausage rolls, turkey, Christmas pudding, and mince pies.

Before going to bed, we make reindeer food (oats and glitter) and run around the yard scattering it everywhere. The glitter helps Rudolf find the food!

Hayley

In the Serr family, we have one tradition that many of my friends have never experienced: each year, we go to Niklas Tree Farm in Metamora to cut down our own (real) Christmas tree. Likely because we’ve done this every year for as long as I can remember, rumbling down the hill toward the fields of Christmas trees on one of Niklas’ tractors feels to me like the beginning of the holiday season. There is always some debate as to the tree (needs to be nice and conical, not too bushy or too sparse), but eventually, we always find “the one.” And after that perfect tree had been selected and cut down, we’d load it up on the top of the car and head for home.

Once inside and snugly in its stand at home, my dad would hang the lights, my mom the garland, and then each of us would open our box of ornaments (most wrapped in some sort of Christmas-themed napkins or tissue paper for safe keeping). As my two sisters and I got older, our boxes grew to the point that we began needing to cut down two trees just to fit them all.

Other bits of the tradition changed as we aged, as well—for example, we are absolutely not allowed to wake our parents up until 8 AM on Christmas morning, and are only allowed to LOOK at the tree with our presents underneath starting at 7 AM. But we still pile in the car every year to head to Niklas Tree Farm to bring home our perfect tree.

Rebecca

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I am a big fan of Christmas Lights. Even though my family was never the biggest of decorators, I love to drive around the neighborhoods that always took it to the next level. I remember piling into the minivan to drive through the Nite Lites at the Jackson County Fairgrounds; at a full mile long, Nite Lites is one of the longest light shows in Michigan.

We’d tune the radio to 106.9 Home.FM for “All Christmas Music All the Time,” programming that always starts on Thanksgiving Day (but let’s face it, in our house the Christmas Music starts playing right after Halloween). The van would slowly crawl through the grounds as we were ooo-ing and aww-ing at the newest decorations, laughing, joking and/or fighting about the silly lights. Is it a cat or a chipmunk? We were never really sure.

Then, we’d park and going into the American One Events Center for a hot chocolate and to stroll through the decorated Christmas Trees, each one decorated by a local non-profit. We would vote for our favorite tree with donations, usually just change from our mom’s purse. The littlest kids would wait in line to visit Santa or if they were lucky pet the live reindeer too. To this day it is an annual tradition that continues even if we don’t continue to stare with childlike wonderment. We have to visit our favorite chipmunk, right?

Each one of us has a holiday tradition that ties us back to home. Spending the holiday season in Michigan is one thing that so many of us have in common — that, coupled with our love for the Great Lakes State, helps us stay connected to one another.

IMG_0836Compiled by Erin Bernhard, Managing Editor at The Awesome Mitten. Erin considers herself a simple northern Michigan twentysomething who loves good microbrews, great wine, summertime grillouts, well-roasted coffee and Traverse City.

 

 

From Our Fans:

Our Facebook fans hold special holiday and traditions near and dear to their hearts. Check them out below. 

We have to watch the Lions on Thanksgiving with a traditional dinner and then turkey sandwiches with mayo on squishy bread in the evening! – Facebook Fan Carol DeVore

Hosting dinner for anyone we know without family in the area. my husband attends the Maritime academy, so we pack the place with anyone who needs a surrogate ‘home’ for the day or weekend. Guest beds & couches are always available & usually get filled! – Facebook Fan Whitney Fisher Miller

1497721_10152475224943289_675394493_nMine is a trip to Frankenmuth. A great dinner at Zehnders, and just enjoying the beauty of the town. -Facebook fan Kimberly J. Pachey

Church attendance and gathering with family on the holiday for a meal. – Facebook fan Rita Gerstheimer

Lions football is a tradition! Even after we were uprooted to the Chicago area, Thanksgiving is food, drinks, and Lions football. – Facebook fan Cait Stephanie

My folks had a hunting cabin on 40 acres in West Branch. Other than a pump in the sink there was no running water. Out house. Fire place, battery operated radio and comic books. My Dad was a meat cutter so he dressed out his own deer. There was always snow on the ground when we sent up and it looked like a Christmas Card. Thinking of it makes me smile! – Facebook fan Margaret Proulx

During hunting season, my mom and I always put up our Christmas tree and decorations when the men were gone and not under foot! -Facebook fan Vicki Goodwin Meisel

Where in Michigan do you spend the holiday season? What is your favorite holiday tradition?