Four Important Pieces of a Long Weekend in Michigan

The Memorial Day fun kicks off this weekend! With boating, beaches and cookouts galore, there are endless opportunities to unwind in Pure Michigan. Today, our guest blogger from The Awesome Mitten shares his four most important pieces of a long weekend in Michigan!

Being the Car State, Michigan is true to its name beyond being the home of the Big Three. Our state is huge! It takes two more hours to drive from Detroit to Ironwood than from Detroit to New York City. I know you might be asking, “Who wants to drive to Ironwood?” (I do!) Perhaps you just want a casual weekend getaway north, or maybe you’re driving to your parents’ house for the weekend–it’s still probably three to six hours. Those holiday weekends that add an extra day of vacation time sure come in handy; to prepare yourself for such a weekend, we’ve come up with a list of necessities that you shouldn’t leave home without!

Grand Traverse Bay - Photo courtesy of The Awesome Mitten

Grand Traverse Bay – Photo courtesy of The Awesome Mitten

1) Layers of clothes for persistent changes in weather. You’re likely to be sweating, shivering, and almost-but-not-quite comfortable throughout the whole weekend. I like to head to Moosejaw in Detroit and find gear that prepares me for all the climates; a few years back, I learned this lesson when it was thirty-five degrees in Traverse City in the morning and I left for my day adventure all bundled up. I went to Sleeping Bear Dunes for the climb, but failed to wear removable layers. Halfway to Lake Michigan, I looked like a wrestler preparing for the Big Fight in my sweatshirt; sweating and tired, I gave up. Now I leave for my many Michigan adventures with rain gear, sun gear, swim gear, and anything-can-happen gear!

2) A beach towel because you’ll inevitably end up with wet, sandy feet. Since you’re never more than six miles from water in Michigan (according to my fourth grade teacher in Ludington), you should always have a towel with you. Buy one from your hometown! It’s a fun way to show hometown pride–you’ll probably find that the folks in the cabin next door actually live ten miles from you. I use my mom’s towel from high school and receive a lot of shout-outs when people see “Mona Shores Sailors”–they’re mostly about the championship hockey team, but I love being able to make a connection and share a story with other Michigan adventurers.

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Photo courtesy of The Awesome Mitten

3) A very large cooler (and perhaps a companion picnic basket) that can fit Michigan craft beer and wine, the makings for sandwiches, and fruits and veggies from the many roadside stands that dot the state. This way you can picnic among the state’s many natural gems. Make a point to drive down unfamiliar roads and find some of the lesser known treasures we’re lucky to have in our state. Being from Ludington, I know there are a ton on any road. But I can’t tell you where they are–local’s honor. A must-stop is Forty-Five North Winery on Leelanau Peninsula, which is just off of CR-204 smack in the middle of the peninsula. Adventures abound from I-94 to US-2!

4) Tunes! Whether planning to drive all over or lounge on the beach from 11:00am to 11:00pm, you need music. Greetings from Michigan by Sufjan Stevens is perfect for when the windows are down, the sun is shining through prongs of white pines, and the roads curve around lakes and hills. Take time before you head out to make a Michigan-centric playlist–you may, and should, find music you didn’t know was about Michigan. “America” by Simon and Garfunkel is a good place to start your Michigan musical journey.

JonathonArntson.Spring.HeadshotJonathon Arntson grew up in Ludington where he spent most of his summers at the beach or napping afterward to the lingering rhythm of the waves. He moved to Detroit in September of 2013 to join the Urban Studies program at Wayne State University. He is an adventurer with an affinity for the streets of Detroit Some of his favorite things about the Mitten are Jeffrey Eugenides, Tigers baseball, Michigan brews, UpNorth, and, of course, the beaches of the Great Lakes.

Five Ways to Celebrate Michigan Craft Beer

To keep the momentum from National Beer Day going (or in case you weren’t able to enjoy a Michigan craft brew yesterday), here are five ways to celebrate Michigan craft beer from The Awesome Mitten.

Photo courtesy of Chaz Parks

Photo courtesy of Chaz Parks

1. Visit a brewery: Ever wonder how the magical process of brewing works? Give your local brewery a call to see if they offer tours of their facilities so you can take in all the glory that is Michigan craft beer. As you wander the rows of huge fermenters, mash tuns and other crazy contraptions, your guide will educate you on how each part works to put beer into your glass. They’ll show you the process of combining water, barley, malts, hops, and yeast into that euphoric substance that makes every happy hour truly amazing.

2. Take it to the beach: One staple for every Michigander’s summer is Bell’s Oberon, enjoyed on a sandy beach someplace along the Great Lakes State’s coast. Nothing compliments the soft sand between your toes like a couple of Oberons, some golden rays, and a cool breeze. Across the state, at any liquor store you decide to poke your head in, you’ll find a six-pack of this summer nectar gazing back at you, kooky sun and all. With the addition of Bell’s providing Oberon in a 16-ounce can for the first time, you can ditch the solo cup and sport your craft beer pride this summer. While others across the country will flock to crowded, salty waters, us Michiganders are lucky to cherish our secluded, freshwater beaches with Oberon in hand.

Photo courtesy of Chaz Parks

Photo courtesy of Chaz Parks

3. Attend a Michigan Brewers Guild beer festival: While all beer festivals are a wonderful thing, there’s nothing like the festivals put on by the Michigan Brewers Guild. Ranging in location from Detroit to Marquette to Grand Rapids and bringing over 60 breweries from all across the state, the Guild festivals tend to make grown adults act like children in candy stores. Upon entry, you’ll be handed a golden cup to beerdom, the holy grail of Michigan craft beer lists, and a map. As you meander around beer heaven, sampling beers that are brewed only once, this is also an amazing opportunity to discover those indie-breweries looking to make a name for themselves. Some define day-drinking by overindulging themselves with a light-tasteless substance but, in Michigan, we day-drink ample amounts of craft beer while wearing pretzels around our necks.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Michael

Photo courtesy of Lauren Michael

4. Get to Comerica: What’s a more American combination than beer and baseball? Maybe apple pie with American cheese melted on top, but I think a Founders sounds way better. This summer, when you’re walking through the gates of Comerica Park in downtown Detroit, make your way to right field where you can find Michigan craft beer bliss. What could be more satisfying then watching Miggy crank home runs your way with a Two Hearted in hand? What about lasting nine innings with an All-Day IPA clinched between your fingers, as Verlander throws another no-hitter? Sounds like the perfect outing in the Motor City.

5. Attend a Beer Pairing: Brewers are masters of their craft, spending diligent hours perfecting the science that is brewing. Chefs work endlessly to provide dish after dish to anxiously-awaiting costumers. When these two gurus combine forces, it’s a night to remember. A three-course meal that combines food and craft beer in perfect harmony is a perfect night to spend with a friend or significant other. As you take your tastebuds on this foodie quest, note the little things, like how your spicy curry dish was paired with an IPA to give your mouth some relief or how that brown ale helped you savor the smokiness of that tenderloin. This will make you a hero at barbeques this season; pairing up pale ales with burgers and ribs will get you invited to everyone’s summer grillout.

Did you celebrate National Beer Day yesterday? What did you do? 

Bio PicA dexterous Detroiter. Born again Yooper. All around Michigander. Chaz is a Libra that enjoys nature hikes, dancing to techno, Michigan Craft Beer, digging through vinyl, pizza, tattoos, urban exploration, long walks on the beach, bike rides and blue eyes. You can reach Chaz on Twitter and Instagram at @BrewChaz.

Eight Awesome Spring Activities to Enjoy this Season

Today, guest blogger Jennifer Hamilton of The Awesome Mitten gives us the run down on some great spring activities to enjoy in Pure Michigan this season.

When thinking about what activities I will be participating in this spring, ideas such as flood-proofing my home and shopping for heavy-duty rain boots came to mind. However, I dug a little deeper into my brain and with the help of others, came up with some great spring activities that we can all delight in.

Spring Building

Spring BuildingI once visited the Upper Peninsula  and was shocked to find my friend building a bonfire in the driveway. If you want to have a bonfire and do not have a fire pit, no fear, there is an excellent Plan B. It is as simple as using a steel wheelbarrow, placing kindling and logs inside, and making fire! It is great fun and a unique way to hold a bonfire almost anywhere.

Other fantastic springtime building projects are birdhouses and bird baths. Birdhouses and baths are always useful, and they are a great project for families to create together.

Spring Eats

During the winter, there are certain comfort foods we consume on a regular basis; soup, slow cooker delights, and various heavy pasta dishes. Spring food is so much more exciting! Most importantly, we can all get our grills out again. There is nothing more delightful than recognizing that grill smell for the first time after a long winter. Additionally, seasonal foods are about to make a great change. Locally grown watermelon, tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers will soon be at our disposal. As we all know, nothing tastes as good as local produce.

Motorcycle/Bicycle Rides

A great way to delight in the smells, sights, and sounds of spring is to get out there on your favorite two-wheeled contraption. Whether you prefer pedaling a bicycle or gliding along on a motorcycle, just go enjoy the fresh air. A fellow Awesome Mitten writer mentioned that he loves going for motorcycle rides to Michigan’s best ice cream spots. And of course, our beloved potholes become a fun obstacle to weave around.

Garden Planning

Though the ground may be taking ages to thaw, it is never too early to decide what you want to grow this year. Some of these items may even be started indoors in pots and transferred outside when the time is right. Michigan’s garden centers are filling up with people buying soil, indoor planters, and seed packets. Items such as tomatoes, broccoli, and cabbage are great produce goods to start growing indoors, then transfer to an outdoor garden.

Disc Golf

Once the snow is melted enough, spring is a great time to explore some of Michigan’s disc golf courses. The sport has exploded over the last ten years, and many parks have taken notice and constructed courses as a result. Many courses wind through the woods, near water, and over beautiful areas of land. Disc golf does not require much physical effort, either, so people of almost any fitness level can participate and enjoy.

Spring Races

Disc GolfSpring is when fairweather runners make a comeback. Jump into a 5K to kickstart this running season! The best part about spring races is that many of them are themed; Easter Races, 5Ks with pets, and costume races start their season in March and continue on through the rest of the year. The best kind of race is the kind that allows you to get a little creative while running, then celebrating with some great food and beverages from race sponsors afterward! RunMichigan.com is jam-packed with races that take place literally every weekend; take a peak and pick one out.

 

 

Fishing

To go along with the great activity of grilling, one needs to catch some fish. Opening day of trout season is the last Saturday of April, so get those fishing licenses ready. Creeks, streams, rivers, bays, and lakes are all full of great tasting fish that want to come home with you. On one occasion, I even had the pleasure of purchasing live worms that had been injected with a fluorescent green dye, making the worms glow in the dark. So get those green worms ready, folks, it’s fishing season!

Morel Mushroom Picking

RelaxingThis is an activity for those with patience. It can be very tedious, but it is a spectacular way to get deep into the woods and spend quality time with your face near the ground of mother nature. Many people cook and eat these mushrooms, and quite a few also sell these morels at a fairly decent price. I do advise going in areas you are familiar with, or at least taking your phone with a GPS because it is alarmingly easy to lose track of oneself out there.

In short, spring is messy, but it is the loveliest kind of messy. Spring is for mud puddles, open windows, and new life. We Michiganders survived one crazy winter; now it is time to rejoice with a fine patio cocktail.

What are your favorite spring activities? 

1236752_10104693579790294_533864666_nJennifer Hamilton is a graduate student and outdoor enthusiast living in Traverse City. Jennifer splits her time between working in the substance abuse field, writing for the Awesome Mitten, and chasing after her three dogs.