A Distinguishing Winter Ritual – Celebrating 25 Years of Marquette’s UP 200 Sled Dog Race

The UP 200 is one of America’s premier 12-dog, mid-distance sled dog races. Mushers say this is one of their favorite races, not only because of the challenging race, but because of the cheering crowds and warm welcome they receive in the Upper Peninsula.

up200finishHappening February 12th-15th, The UP 200 trail covers 240 miles of challenging terrain through the areas of Marquette, Grand Marais, Wetmore, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and finishes at Mattson Lower Harbor Park in Marquette. Today, Barry Winslow from Travel Marquette tells us how you can make the UP 200 a winter ritual of your own.

Crowds gather along the race track which is comprised of the pure snow hauled into Marquette’s downtown streets. Spectators clutch Irish coffee and hot cocoa. Voices and laughter mingle with the excited yipping of the dogs. It’s time for the race to begin. It’s time for the UP 200.

For twenty-five years, mushers and their teams have endured the UP 200 and its scenic trail that runs along the frozen shore of Lake Superior, from Marquette to Grand Marais and back. For the mushers, it’s a chance to test their dogs in the Iditarod qualifying race. For the spectators, it’s a time to enjoy the wintry weather and local culture of this Upper Peninsula city.

A Communal Gathering
For the spectator, the UP 200 is more than an incredible and unique sporting event to watch from a distance. The event is a social catalyst that sparks the forging of a special relationship between the area and its people. Winter is a season that Marquetter’s take very seriously, and the apex of that seasonal appreciation is achieved at the UP 200 every February. This special relationship between the area and its people is replicated by that of the mushers and their relationship with their sled dogs. It is this outstanding appreciation for nature and a tightly-knitted community that makes Marquette County the perfect location for the UP 200.

Photo courtesy of Travel Marquette

Photo courtesy of Travel Marquette

Pristine Cuisine!
From Das Steinhaus to Lagniappe Cajun Creole Eatery to the Wild Rover, race fans eat their fill and get their thrills as they watch the teams of dogs both start and finish the UP 200 from the packed sidewalks and downtown storefronts in Marquette. Marquette, the largest city in both Marquette County and the Upper Peninsula, is home to some of the most delicious local restaurant options in the state of Michigan. A wide array of cuisine choices include authentic German food, delicious Cajun dishes, home-cooked Irish plates, delectable Italian pasta’s, slow-cooked barbecue, fine American dining and so much more.

Marquette takes great pride in their local restaurants, which stems as a direct result of its people, the “small-city” size of Marquette, and the passion for the area that its residents and visitors have. But, with great food there must be great beverages to go along. Marquette County is home to some of the greatest beer in not only the state of Michigan, but all of the country.

Peruse Some Brews!
The UP 200 draws a generous crowd to the five microbreweries in Marquette County. One of the favorites has to be the Ore Dock Brewing Company. Built in an old brick building in downtown Marquette that once functioned as a car garage and dealership, the Ore Dock has re-stylized itself as one of the trendiest venues in the state to grab a beer and dance to some live music. Specializing in Belgians, Saisons and Ales, the Ore Dock delivers a delicious beer menu to go along with the friendly atmosphere.

Photo courtesy of Travel Marquette

Photo courtesy of Travel Marquette

Another UP 200 spectator favorite is Blackrocks Brewery. Located just up the hill from downtown on north Third Street, Blackrocks started up their microbrewery operation in an old two story house in 2010. What started as an “open ‘til empty” policy with their original brewing equipment and smaller capacity is now a full-fledged brewing business with a weekly rotating menu and additional canning facility. Stop in and grab a mug of the good stuff. You never know what’s going to be on tap!

There’s even more beer in the area. The Vierling serves up some delicious varieties from their downtown Marquette location and has been doing so since 1995, making them one of Michigan’s first brew pubs. Ask for their “blueberry beer” and you’ll be in for a treat! Even in the small suburb of Harvey, Chocolay River Brewery recently hit the scene and doubles with the Bayou Restaurant to deliver excellent food and beer at even better prices.

A Progressive Northern City
Beyond the downtown nightlife, breweries, local restaurants, storefronts and boutiques, there is something even more special about Marquette. The shining gem of this incredible place is the comforting aura it gives off and the unwavering attitude of its people. It is a passion for place that drives the people of Marquette County to host such incredible events as the UP 200.

Do yourself a favor and make the trip north to Marquette County this winter. The sled dogs and mushers are ready…are you?

Seven Michigan Destinations That Earned Travel Bragging Rights in 2014

There’s no doubt that Pure Michigan is home to a number of diverse, unique and remarkably beautiful locations. In 2014, a number of Michigan cities were recognized as must-visit destinations. If you’re making plans to travel in 2015, keep these seven locales on your radar. 

Michigan Theater with Couple2

Photo courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor
Last year, Ann Arbor ranked second on Livability’s  list of top 10 college towns. The ranking was determined by factors including high quality of life, cost of living and walkability. Livability gave Ann Arbor the nod for its bustling tree-lined streets, independent restaurants and bookstores, numerous bars, parks and museums, and of course the University of Michigan’s distinct presence.

Detroit
With die-hard Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons fans, it’s hard to ignore the fact that sports are serious business in the Motor City. So much so that USA Today Travel named Detroit as #1 in its 10 Best Cities for Sports. Game day in Detroit is an experience like no other. Check out these suggestions for game day excitement around the city.

Photo by Instagram user @loosecanonphotography.

Photo by Instagram user @loosecanonphotography.

Grand Rapids and Lake Michigan’s Gold Coast
Early last year, the West Michigan city earned the #1 spot on Lonely Planet’s List of Top U.S. Destinations to Visit in 2014. Grand Rapids’ art scene including the international art competition ArtPrize, award-winning craft breweries, attractions like Frederick Meijer Gardens and stunning beaches along Lake Michigan’s 300 mile Gold coast, the west-side city has something to offer a great variety of tastes and interests. Here are a few more reasons why Grand Rapids earned their bragging rights from Lonely Planet.

Holland
Impulcity shows that small town America is alive and well with their list of 19 Most Beautiful Small Towns in America, and Holland, MI proudly claimed the number two spot. Holland boasts breathtaking sights rarely seen, such as swinging windmills and fields of tulips in full bloom. After a stroll down Lake Michigan’s summertime shore, a stop at Holland’s historic lighthouse and a visit to New Holland Brewing Company, it’s easy to see why Holland is a popular place to stop and smell the tulips.

Houghton
Small, but mighty with an estimated population of 7,700 residents, Houghton, MI in the Keweenaw Peninsula was named among the Best Places to Live in the U.S. by Outside Magazine. Factors like number of outfitters, miles of trails, and number of bike shops, plus considerations like unemployment rates and median incomes helped determine Houghton’s place on this list for outdoor enthusiasts.

Photo by Instagram user @theoriginaljwin overlooking Houghton.

Photo by Instagram user @theoriginaljwin overlooking Houghton.

Located about as far north as you can get in the Upper Peninsula, there’s plenty of adventure to be had all year long.There are more than 28 miles of world-class cross country ski trails along the outskirts of town, while nearby Mount Bohemia claims the best ungroomed powder east of the Rocky Mountains, with an annual average of 273 inches and 900 feet of vertical. In the summertime, residents and visitors enjoy boating,  fishing, surfing, and kiting on Lake Superior, as well as mountain-biking on the trails at Copper Harbor. Don’t forget to try the Upper Peninsula’s delicacy at Roy’s Pasties in downtown Houghton!

Saugatuck 
One of Lake Michigan’s prime beach towns, Saugatuck earned the title of Best Summer Weekend Escape by USA Today and the number 3 spot on Coastal Living’s 2014 list of American’s Happiest Seaside Towns. Less than four hours from Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee, the town’s laid-back vibe attracts visitors looking for a place to unplug, relax and enjoy the simple things. Stroll the boardwalk, admire 200-foot sand dunes or enjoy an old-fashioned soda at  the Saugatuck Drug Store. Throw in opportunities for a great round of golf, fishing or winery tours, and you have one unforgettable lakeside getaway.

Traverse City
It was a big year for Traverse City! The northern Michigan city took home accolades from at least six travel publications. Most recently, TC was listed as one of TripAdvisor’s 10 Choice Destinations on the Rise for 2015. If that’s not reason enough to plan a visit, Michigan’s cherry capital also earned bragging rights from Travel + Leisure (America’s Most Scenic Waterside Drives – Leelanau Peninsula, America’s 20 Most Romantic Towns), Family Fun Magazine (Top 10 National Parks for Families – Sleeping Bear Dunes) and The Weather Channel (World’s 50 Clearest Waters – Torch Lake).

There are so many other Michigan cities that have received accolades of their own. For more information on popular Pure Michigan destinations visit, michigan.org/hotspots.

See What’s on Tap for Kalamazoo Beer Week

Now in its fifth year, Kalamazoo Beer Week supports the craft beer experience in the Kalamazoo area through special tastings, dinners and interactive events. As we get ready for the event to kick off  Saturday, January 10th, take a look at what’s on tap and make your plans to attend. 

Boatyard Brewing Co.'s label artwork was on display during Art Hops at the Epic Center in downtown Kalamazoo.

Boatyard Brewing Co.’s label artwork was on display during Art Hops at the Epic Center.

Kalamazoo Beer Week, initiated and organized by Kalamazoo-based Imperial Beverage and tourism entity Discover Kalamazoo, will return for its fifth year tomorrow, January 10, and last until the 17th. Dubbed KBW by repeat participants, the weeklong series of events features more than 200 events and nearly 50 Michigan and out-of-state breweries, craft beer activities and educational events at bars, restaurants, and gourmet retail locations.

A couple of breweries will host beer dinner’s, and one of last year’s favorites, the Dark Horse “Anti-Beer Dinner” will be back again. The “Anti-Beer Dinner” is a spoof on the idea of a fancy beer dinner. For $15 a person, Dark Horse will serve a flight of Dark Horse Beer and a pint of Dark Horse beer, as well as food to pair with each beer. Don’t miss out on Hot Pockets, Ramen Noodles, Pop Tarts and this year, they’ve hinted at a Jello-O mold!

Arbor Brewing Co. offered a sour tasting with the brewer at Old Burdick's in downtown Kalamazoo.

Arbor Brewing Co. offered a sour tasting in downtown Kalamazoo.

A new event this year, Kalamazoo’s Boatyard Brewing and PEDAL (Bike Shop) are celebrating the relationship between craft beer and cycling with Fat Tire Bike Drag Racing!  Pedal will have fat bikes on hand for you to ride. Bring your helmet or your cheering voice as the races should be fun to watch.

A few other things new to KBW this year:

Rails to Ales
On Amtrak’s Wolverine or Blue lines, Kalamazoo Beer Week goers can travel between Chicago and Kalamazoo for 20% off.

The Kalamazoo Beer: A cross between a bear and deer…so you get a "beer!"

The Kalamazoo Beer: A cross between a bear and deer…so you get a “beer!”

Untappd Badge
If you are already a craft beer lover, you know about the great social media site “Untappd”.  Unlock your KBW Badge by checking into two or more KBW locations.

Hotel Packages 
Local hoteliers have put together packages for visitors.  Most include late check out, gift bags, or entries to events.

Stay up-to-date on KBW events throughout the week by following @KzooBeerWeek on Twitter! For a full list of events, visit the KBW website.

Have you attended Kalamazoo Beer Week in the past? What was your favorite event?