5 Things You Can’t Miss On a Pictured Rocks Road Trip

The untouched natural beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is unlike anywhere else in the world, especially near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This stretch of coast from Munising to Paradise is worth a visit for some of the most unbelievably beautiful adventures in the state. This is a great place for a family summer vacation, with a cool to moderate climate and unlimited things to discover. Come along as Jennifer from The Awesome Mitten shares five things that make this gorgeous area Pure Michigan.

The Upper Peninsula seems like it was made for adventures with incredible experiences available in both the summer and winter months. It’s easy to fall in love with the beauty of this area. With eighty four percent of the Upper Peninsula covered by forests and 917 miles of shoreline along the deepest of the Great Lakes – Lake Superior – this is the perfect place to get away from it all and have an unforgettable vacation. Don’t miss these unique experiences during your next trip to the Upper Peninsula.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

1. The Food

Brown Fisheries Fish House

With fresh fish caught within hours of hitting your plate, Brown Fisheries Fish House boasts the tastiest fish near Paradise. Served with either two or three pieces of fish, their ultimate meal is the Lake Superior Whitefish Baskets. It is the most delicious, flaky, perfectly flavorful fish you could imagine and all for an affordable price. This family owned and run business is very low key, so we’re letting you in on the secret of this amazing hidden gem.

Bear Trap Inn

When in the Upper Peninsula you must get a pasty, and you better know how to pronounce it! If you’re looking for a pasty near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, look no further than Bear Trap Inn. Served by some of the friendliest folks, their food is hot, tasty and filling. The unique interior is unforgettable as well, with rooms filled with taxidermy animals exclusive to the area and a bar with hundreds of numbered mugs for all of the locals.

2. Lighthouses on Every Route

Whitefish Point Lighthouse

Jutting out into Lakes Superior, Whitefish Point Lighthouse is the oldest operating light on this Great Lake. All vessels entering and leaving this treacherous shoreline of Lake Superior must pass this light. This light looks out to the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes” where more shipwrecks have occurred than any other area of the lake so it’s full of remarkable and mysterious history.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

Au Sable Light Station

This active lighthouse along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is in the middle of astonishingly beautiful shoreline. Just west of Grand Marais, it is right around the corner from Log Slide lookout and in the opposite direction Twelve Mile Beach. The 1-1/2 mile walk along the historic U.S. coast guard road is worth the trek. With scenic overlooks of Lake Superior and areas that lead out onto Twelve Mile Beach, the beauty only increases the closer you get to Au Sable Light Station. With over 180 degree views, this landmark is a place not to be forgotten.

3. Small Town Adventures

Munising

The name Munising comes from the Ojibwe word for “island at.” This is the gateway to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore since it is the largest and closest city to the area. This city boasts small town charm and great local businesses that are exclusive to the city. You can even see the stars from this city, whether it’s on billboards advertising Kid Rock’s “Born Free” music video that was filmed in the area of the Northern Lights.

Log Slide Lookout

Located about seven miles west of Grand Marais is Log Slide lookout. This incredible place is breathtaking, with views of where loggers used to slide logs down this steep slope and into Lake Superior, where they were then hauled away and turned into products. This is also a good place to glimpse the Au Sable Light Station.

Oswald’s Bear Ranch

With 29 bears, Oswald’s Bear Ranch is the largest Bear Ranch in the entire United States. Just north of Newberry, one man, Dean Oswald, created this preserve for abandoned and orphaned bear cubs from Michigan and other states. This unique experience allows you to see these incredible animals up close and personal while giving a loving home to these bears who weren’t able to live a healthy and normal life until they came to Oswald’s. As a proud associate member of the Zoological Association of America, Oswald’s Bear Ranch is an exciting place for visitors to take part in giving these bears a sanctuary for a better life.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

4. Waterfalls All Around

Munising Falls

The majority of waterfalls in this area are the result of water running over a shelf or cliffs of hard limey sandstone called the Munising Formation. This formation extends from Tahquamenon Falls to Laughing Whitefish Falls. There are quite literally waterfalls all around you when you enter this area, especially near Munising which even has its own waterfall named after the city.  Located within the city limits of Munising, a short paved trail leads you up the cool sandstone canyon along Munising Creek to two viewing platforms at the base of the falls.

Miners Falls

Just a short hike off of Miners Castle Road is the impressively powerful Miners Falls. The gravel path is a beautiful stroll through the northwoods wilderness that ends with two incredible overlooks of the falls. Make sure to bring bug spray, because you won’t want to miss this astounding waterfall.

Tahquamenon Falls

Well known for its sheer size, the Tahquamenon Falls State Park is one of the most popular attractions in the Upper Peninsula. With 46,179 acres, it is the second largest state park in Michigan. Tahquamenon Falls’ Upper Falls has a magnificent 50 foot drop, while the Lower Falls include cascades and rapids. Bordering along Lake Superior, the majority of this state park is located in Whitefish Township.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

5. Not Your Average Tour of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Stretching for about 15 miles along Lake Superior, these incredibly bold and colorful cliffs range from 50 to 200 feet and jut out directly from the lake. There are numerous ways to see these beautiful cliffs including Miners Castle which provides a wonderful vista of Pictured Rocks. However, the best way to experience these cliffs is by water. There’s a variety of different tours to choose from, but the only vessel that will allow you to get within arm’s reach from these massive cliffs is by kayak.

One of the most popular companies is Uncle Ducky’s Paddling Michigan tours. They feature a variety of unique experiences, but the most incredible Pictured Rocks tour is probably their six hour Sunset Paddle. With the sun at a lower angle, the cliff walls are illuminated in beautiful hues of orange and reddish copper. Gliding along the crystal clear waters and feeling the waves crash into the astonishing cliffs that rise up to 200 feet above you is a humbling experience that is breathtaking and mind boggling full of natural beauty. The journey features many landmarks including Miners Castle, Bridalveil Falls, Caves of the Bloody Chiefs, Mosquito river, and circling beneath the iconic Lovers Leap Arch. Whether you’re a novice or expert kayaker this adventure is built for every skillset.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

The beauty of this region is almost indescribable; you just have to go live the adventure for yourself. These were the most unforgettable places I experienced along my last road trip in the Upper Peninsula that I’d recommend over and over again. It’s incredible to live in such a diverse state that offers unlimited adventures. And Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is unlike any other part of Michigan because of the unique experiences that await around every curve.

What’s your favorite landmark near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore?

AM1Jennifer Polasek is currently a student at Grand Valley State University earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing. Jennifer splits her time working as a public relation and marketing intern for The Awesome Mitten and Opera Grand Rapids. She’s an avid adventurer and loves exploring the hidden gems within Michigan! She currently resides in Grand Rapids, but loves escaping to Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula during the summertime. She loves promoting Michigan because of its endless adventures and diversity. Follow her Mitten adventures on Twitter and Instagram

6 Michigan Cities to Stroll Through this Spring

It’s finally spring and we can emerge out of our winter cocoons, stretch our legs, and stroll the beautiful streets and cities in Michigan. Here are six places we think your feet should travel, according to Margaret Clegg of The Awesome Mitten.

Sault Ste. Marie

As the oldest city in Michigan, there’s a lot of history to see in Sault Ste. Marie. See the historic Soo Locks up close and personal or take a walk to The Tower of History and enjoy a panoramic view of the Soo and the city from a height of 210 feet. If you enjoy shopping, there are numerous unique shops along the downtown strip. Find unique items for your home at Thinking of U, handmade wooden products from Island Books & Crafts, and outdoor weather wear at Bird’s Eye Outfitters. After a stroll through Sault Ste. Marie, quench your thirst at any of the drinking establishments in the “BARmuda Triangle,” featuring 13 bars that are all within walking distance to each other and to hotels. Visit 1668 Winery and Lockside Brewery for locally made brews or make a stop at Zim’s, a bi-level bar that features a live DJ and dancing.

Brighton

The downtown area of Brighton feels like strolling down a road from yesterday. With the church set up the hill, just atop the river, the setting is so peaceful. There is so much to do and see along Main Street. On a warm spring day there are children playing in the park, people taking their dogs for a walk, and families feeding the ducks in the pond. Downtown Brighton prides themselves in being a “strolling community,” and you can see more than 30 public art exhibits as you walk through the area. There are also many fun-filled shops, like Oh My Lolli, where they make handmade candies,  conveniently located just across the from the playground. There’s Sassafrass Gifts, where you can unique items for a friend. When you’ve worked up the hunger for a bite to eat, you can enjoy an authentic Italian meal at Buon Gusto or a drink at Downtown Main Martini Bar and Grille.

Photo Courtesy of Margaret Clegg

Ann Arbor

College campuses are always the best place to take a stroll. Around the University of Michigan campus there are college students out throwing frisbees, musicians on street corners, and community events all year long. Nothing accompanies a good walk quite like a good meal, and Ann Arbor is great place to grab a bite. You can grab an outdoor seat at the Jolly Pumpkin for a salad or granite baked pizza, accompanied by a nice locally made beer. If your tastes are a bit more ethnic, you can pop on over to The Earthen Jar, where the Indian buffet is completely vegetarian and gluten-free, and the other customers are so friendly. If you want to walk with the community in a unique way, take part in the Fool Moon art parade, which kicks off the outdoor festival season.

Photo Courtesy of Margaret Clegg

Grand Rapids

We can think of no grander place to take a walk in the spring than Grand Rapids. While this 158-acre campus has many things to see on foot, the annual butterfly exhibit at Frederik Mejier Gardens & Sculpture Park is a huge attraction.  There are over 50 different species represented during this time, from March 1st through April 30th. Additional features of the gardens include outdoor sculptures to view, wooded trails to walk, and a children’s garden that provides hours of enjoyment. Once you’ve had your fill of viewing fresh flowers, you can take a short drive down the street to Green Restaurant, an eatery that focuses on fresh, local and organic foods. If time allows, venture a bit farther into the city and stop at the Downtown Market. There you can sample a variety of local flavors, with an appetizer of meat and cheese from Aperitivo, locally sourced meals from Making Thyme Kitchen, and organic desserts from Love’s Ice Cream.

Photo Courtesy of Margaret Clegg

Petoskey

If the view of the coastline takes your breath away, Petoskey is a beautiful place to visit. If you’re looking to enjoy the scenic beauty up close, Petoskey has many trails, pathways and preserves to take by foot or by bike. For historic views of Petoskey on foot, participate in one of their hour long Ghost Walks or do a self-guided tour of the Petoskey locations that were significant to Ernest Hemingway while he vacationed here. For a quick lunch after taking a stroll, stop by The Grain Train. This health food store also has a convenient hot food bar and deli. The view from the seating area overlooks the water, and is truly refreshing. If you’re looking to sit down meal, make sure to visit Petoskey during their annual Restaurant Week, which takes places May 20th through the 27th.

Photo Courtesy of Margaret Clegg

Traverse City

Traverse City is know as the Cherry Capital of the World, and in spring time the orchards are in blossom. There is more to this city than cherries and wine though. Tucked a few miles away from the downtown, The Village at Grand Traverse Commons invites people to walk back to older times. What was once the Traverse City State Hospital has been beautifully restored to include restaurants, unique crafters, business offices and housing. Enjoy their outdoor scenery by strolling through the gardens and preserved parklands, enjoying a picnic on their front lawn, or visiting their historic arboretum. Inside you will find many shops, including Gallery Fifty, which carries art from every state around the country. Purchase clothing that represents our great state from High Five Threads and enjoy locally grown tea at Cuppa Joe Cafe. For a fun dining experiences, enjoy homemade tamales at Spanglish or visit Left Foot Charley to sample local wines.

Photo Courtesy of Margaret Clegg

What are your favorite places to visit in the spring? Which Michigan destination are you headed to in the coming weeks?

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Margaret Clegg was born and raised in Michigan and resides in Flint. She is a Central Michigan University graduate and the proud wife of an amazing husband and owner of two adorable dogs. She is a passionate advocate for Celiac Disease and works with many organizations within the state to help those with these special needs. She’s a proud MSU fan and loves ice cream. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Periscope.

Leap into these 29 Obscure Facts about Michigan

As the childhood, adulthood or industrial homes of leaders of the greatest technological advances of last century, we Michiganders have a long history of being number one. And as the only state in the country with two peninsulas, we also like getting a little extra. To celebrate the one extra day of February we get each Leap Year, guest blogger Joel Heckaman from The Awesome Mitten has put together this list of 29 “ones” – instances where a Michigan city is the first, best or only of its category.

Every four years, a Leap Year provides us the fortune of one extra day to enjoy the great things we love about Michigan. Unfortunately, that day happens in the cold, shortened daylight of February, so I’ve put together this list of 29 “ones” – instances where a Michigan city is first, best or the only – to help you get through each day with a little more Pure Michigan pride as we wait for spring:

detroit

Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. Photo courtesy of Mary Anne Novak

1. The first permanent European settlement in Michigan was Sault Ste. Marie in 1668.
2. The Ambassador Bridge in Detroit is the busiest international border crossing in North America.
3. Michigan State University in East Lansing was the nation’s first land-grant institution and first agricultural college.
4. University of Michigan in Ann Arbor features the top graduate programs in Health Care Management, Social Work and Nuclear Engineering.
5. Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti was the first in the nation to introduce a four-year curriculum for teacher education.
6. Kellogg’s, originally the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, produced the first flaked breakfast cereal.
7. The St. Clair River Tunnel from Port Huron to Sarnia, ON was the first underwater railroad tunnel built in North America.
8. Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Company, which later became Gibson Guitar Corp., was founded in Kalamazoo.

Downtown Lansing and the Michigan Capitol. Photo courtesy of Joel Heckaman

Downtown Lansing and the Michigan Capitol. Photo courtesy of Joel Heckaman

9. The Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame in Lansing was the first organization dedicated to women’s history in the nation.
10. M-185 on Mackinac Island is the only highway in the nation where motor vehicles are banned.
11. De Zwaan, brought to Holland as a way for the city to pay homage to its heritage, is the only authentic, working Dutch windmill in the U.S.
12. The Nordberg Steam Hoist, located at the Quincy Mine in Hancock, is the largest steam-powered hoist engine ever built.
13. Although Traverse City no longer holds the record for world’s largest cherry pie, it does still have the world’s largest cherry pie tin.
14. Grand Rapids was named the #1 U.S. travel destination in 2014.
15. United Auto Workers’ first sit-down strike, starting at GM’s Fisher #1 plant in Flint, gave the union legitimacy and leverage just a year after its founding.
16. The nation’s largest indoor-outdoor museum complex, which features entertainment as well as American history, is The Henry Ford in Dearborn.
17. Until the Fountains of Bellagio, the Grand Haven Musical Fountain was the largest musical fountain in the world.
18. The world’s largest tire is the 80-foot tall Uniroyal landmark along I-94 in Allen Park.

Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

19. Bronner’s in Frankenmuth is known nearly all the way up and down I-75 as the world’s largest Christmas store.
20. Although many places claim to be his hometown, the first published story about Paul Bunyan appeared in the Oscoda Press in 1906.
21. Magic capital of the world and home to Abbott Magic Company and FAB Magic, Colon is the world’s largest manufacturer of magic supplies.
22. Green Meadow Farm in Elsie is one of the largest dairy operations in the state and at times had the largest Holstein herd in the world.
23. Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Saugatuck Chain Ferry is the only hand-cranked chain ferry still operating in the country.
24. The northern-most part of Michigan is the island of Isle Royale, which is the least-visited of the U.S. National Parks.
25. Northern Michigan is rich with limestone, and the world’s largest limestone quarry is Rogers Quarry in Rogers City.
26.The cement plant in nearby Alpena, originally Huron Portland Cement Company and now owned by Lafarge, was once the largest in the world.
27. Between those two cities is Presque Isle, home to the tallest lighthouse on the Great Lakes.

View from the New Presque Isle Lighthouse. Photo courtesy of Joel Heckaman

View from the New Presque Isle Lighthouse. Photo courtesy of Joel Heckaman

28. At 31 feet high and 22 feet wide, Cross in the Woods in Indian River is the largest crucifix in the world.
29. The world’s largest weathervane can be found in Ellenwood Park in downtown Montague.

Congratulations! You’re now one month (plus one day) closer to Opening Day, Red Wings playoffs, warm Great Lakes beaches, or however you celebrate spring in your part of the state.

What makes your Pure Michigan city singularly unique? Let us know in the comments!

IMG036-3smJoel Heckaman is a longtime Michigan resident who loves the culture, scenery, beer and music of the mitten state. He is a Michigan State University alumnus and founder of the Middle of the Mitten local music festival. He is on the social media team at Identity, and his experience includes work with MSU, UM, TEDxDetroit, the Big Three and other proud Michigan brands. You can find him talking about many of these things, as well as cheering on the Spartans and Red Wings, on Twitter and LinkedIn.