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:

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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.

7 Must-See Michigan Destinations for 2016

A new year brings with it a chance to visit places your feet have never taken you before. Guest blogger Aaron Cruz from The Awesome Mitten suggests seven Michigan towns that are worth a look in the New Year.

Downtown Plymouth

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Plymouth. If your plans this year are taking you to southeastern Michigan, visit this town that, while in the heart of suburbia, gives off the feeling of being in a small town far, far away. With a hand-crafted Espresso Elevado coffee in-hand, walk the downtown streets at the Plymouth Ice Festival in winter and Art in the Park in summer.  Hold hands with a loved one as you stroll through Kellogg Park in the center of town. In the summer road trip, hike or bike the 17-mile continuous park that is Hines Drive. Winter brings with it the chance to sled with the kids at Plymouth Township Park. For food, enjoy some pizza and smoked barbeque at Ironwood Grill, go for a more upscale feel and cocktails at Fiamma Grille or grab the gang and enjoy family-style dining along the railroad tracks at Station 885.

Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Frankenmuth. No town epitomizes Christmas and the holidays in Michigan more than Frankenmuth. Visit the world’s largest Christmas Store, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. Shop the stores with German themed names like Cheese Haus along the one-street downtown also known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria. Experience a specialty coffee at The Harvest Coffeehouse & Beanery. Grab a flight of beer at Frankenmuth Brewery to wash down their delicious lobster mac ‘n cheese. Looking for romance? Contact the Frankenmuth Carriage Company about a horse & carriage ride. Those looking for family fun, make a weekend out of it with the kids at the Bavarian Inn of Frankenmuth resort.

Beach in Grand Haven

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Grand Haven. The Lake Michigan coastline in the mitten offers one charming, beautiful resort town after another. The Grand Haven lighthouse and pier is reason enough to choose Grand Haven for a first time visit. Alongside the lighthouse, you will find Grand Haven State Park, which is made up entirely of beach and sand dunes with camping opportunity. As you browse the shops in the cozy downtown, get a freshly-made baked good from the boutique-styled The Bakers Wife. Experience hand-crafted coffee at Aldea Coffee in the Armory, where Grand Armory Brewery Company and Righteous BBQ also await. During summer evenings, watch the synchronized Musical Fountain and all its water, lights and music.

Beach in Oscoda

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Oscoda. The Lake Michigan coastline gets al lot of love, but the Sunrise Coast and Lake Huron showcase their own beauty like in the resort town of Oscoda. Grab a cup of coffee at the colorful Garden View Coffee Mill, then head down the street for a walk on the pier at Oscoda Beach Park.  Time your visit for the summer and you might run into their Annual Art on the Beach fair. Just north of town sits miles of sugar sand beach fun. For nature enthusiasts, head west of town along the River Road National Scenic Byway and you will quickly be in the Huron National Forest. Waterfalls, scenic overlooks, hiking trails, monuments, lumberjacks, 300+ step staircases and plenty of camping options await you. Eagle’s Nest Overlook is a must visit.

Spicer Orchards in Fenton

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Fenton. Just south of Flint and easily accessible from the Detroit area, Fenton’s motto might as well be go big or go home when it comes to its thriving food scene. Grab a peanut butter and jelly donut that is big enough for two from Crust. Head down the street for a Reuben or one of the other endless selection of humongous sandwiches at The Laundry. During the dinner hour order a large of any pasta dish at Fenton House and you’ll have enough for the whole family, with tons to spare. In autumn, mix in some cider, donuts, wine tasting and family fun at Spicer Orchards and enjoy some carnival food, apple pie and entertainment at one of the biggest fall festivals in Michigan, Apple Fest.

Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Sault Ste. Marie. The fun as we turn the calendar does not have to be confined to the Lower Peninsula. Head to the U.P. and Michigan’s oldest city. Go on a boat tour at the famous Soo Locks and/or watch from the three story observation deck as giant ships pass through the locks and canals of the largest waterway crossing in the world. Next head across W. Portage Ave. to walk along and scope out the tourist traps. For eats I recommend grabbing a burger with everything on it and hanging out at Clyde’s Drive-In. Before getting into the car watch the ferries head to-and-from Sugar Island while walking around Rotary Park.

Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Port Huron. A lot of people pass through Port Huron as they go into Canada. In the New Year, as you head towards the Blue Water Bridge, get off the interstate and checkout the international crossing from the south along Thomas Edison Parkway. Just north of the bridge visit the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse and Lighthouse Park. You’ll find beachfront where you can watch as Lake Huron flows into the St. Clair River while waving over to Canada. Staying in town, grab a sandwich, a specialty coffee and some tunes at Ravens Café. In the warmer months, walk along Quay Street and the docked boats, as well as visit the Vantage Point Farmers’ Market which sits right along the riverfront.

What other Michigan towns would you like to visit and explore for the first time in the New Year?

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 TwitterInstagram and on his personal travel blog.