These 12 Can’t-Miss Grand Rapids Events Will Keep Your 2015 Calendar Full!

It’s going to be a busy year on Michigan’s west side! Today, our guest blogger from Experience Grand Rapids shares the scoop on twelve can’t miss events happening in the city in 2015. 

Happy New Year!  If you’re like me, you have a fresh 2015 planner just waiting to be filled with the fun things to do this year.  Whether it’s a summer playcation, a weekend away, a date night or a day trip, Grand Rapids is a city chock full of fun in 2015.  Here are twelve big deal events to look forward to this year.

Art Prize PM

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

ArtPrize 2015
What: The 7th annual open art competition covers the city in a variety of art in all mediums.  Vote for your favorites or take a tour of the juror’s top twenty.
When: September 23rd-October 11th

LaughFest
What: Gilda’s Club in Grand Rapids has one message-  Laughing is good for your health!  Remind yourself of how good it feels to cackle and check out the impressive lineup of comedians headed into town.
When: March 5th-15th

DisArt
What: This is a brand new festival in Michigan and is centered around an international exhibit in its first US showcase.  DisArt features all artists who have disabilities and “Art of the Lived Experience” will be displayed at a number of local museums surrounding the festival.  DisArt includes more traditional mediums but also features film, fashion, dance and music.
When: April 10th-25th

GrandJazz
What: This year will be the third annual Grand Jazz Festival in Grand Rapids- it’s two days of wonderful music and company in Rosa Parks Circle of Downtown GR, and it’s FREE!  If you like jazz or want to fall in love with it, check this out.
When: August 15th and 16th

Freedom Cruise
What: Fifth-Third Ballpark and the DeltaPlex Arena are teaming up to host a huge classic car and bike show to help raise awareness and funds for West Michigan veterans.  Check out the vehicles, enjoy live music, food, and say thanks to the men and women who have served so bravely.
When: June 24th-28th

Photo Courtesy of Pat Evans.

Photo Courtesy of Pat Evans.

Festival of the Arts
What: For 46 years, Grand Rapids has reserved this first weekend in June to celebrate food, music, art, and the beginning of summer.  Six stages are reserved for poets, musicians, storytellers, dancers and film, while Calder Center is transformed by art sale tents.  Check out the juried exhibitions around the downtown area as well.
When: June 5th-7th

Japanese Garden Opening
What:  The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden has been in the works since 2012 and will add eight acres of beauty to the already breathtaking Frederick Meijer Gardens.  Have tea in the authentic Japanese Tea House, walk amongst the waterfalls, or sit and rest in a zen garden.
When: June 13th

LPGA
What: This year, West Michigan’s Tullymore Golf Resort is excited to host 144 LPGA hopefuls in the Symetra Tour.  The top ten women will win tour memberships for LPGA 2016 and the winner leaves with $15,000.
When: July 3rd-5th

 KBS Week
What: Kentucky Breakfast Stout is an imperial stout brewed with chocolate and coffee and left in the caves beneath Grand Rapids to age for a year in oak bourbon barrels.  It has made beer lovers into fanatics and now merits its own week of celebrated releases.  Kegs are sent all over town in coordinated releases before bottles hit the shelves so try it first in Grand Rapids!
When: March 9th-14th

Experience Pink
What: Susan G. Komen of West Michigan brings you the 2nd annual Experience Pink, a whole month of support and fundraising for the foundation that has brought so many breakthroughs to breast cancer researchers.  Watch the GR Drive, dodgeball between local hotel employees, an exciting match from the GR women’s roller derby team, and a four-course wine dinner at the Holiday Inn in downtown Grand Rapids.
When: February!  An assortment of events on the 9th, 11th, 21st, and 26th

Photo Courtesy of The Electric Cheetah.

Photo Courtesy of The Electric Cheetah.

Cool Brews. Hot Eats.
What: If you like beer AND food, this event was designed for you.  Purposefully planned around GR’s Beer Week and the MI Brewer’s Guild Winter Beer Festival, CBHE marries beer and food in unique ways as chefs get creative in their kitchens.  Dozens of local restaurants are participating so plan to eat out…a lot.
When: February 16th-28th

Restaurant Week GR
What: Just a few short months after CBHE comes Restaurant Week, GR’s proudest culinary weeks on the calendar.  During the peak season for Michigan agriculture, chef’s around town are challenged to produce MI inspired menu items that will wow their guests.  Many design multiple courses or gear the tasting towards couples so grab a partner and try to decide where to eat!
When: August 12th-23rd

What events do you have penciled in your planner for 2015? 

Pure Michigan February 2015 Events Roundup

February may be the shortest month of the year, but there’s no shortage of winter fun happening around the state! From the Michigan International Auto Show in Grand Rapids to Free Fishing Weekend, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So, pull out your calendars and pack your bags, a snow day getaway awaits you in Pure Michigan. For a full list of events, visit michigan.org/events.

February 1 – 8

Au Gres Polar Splash
January 31 – February 1, Au Gres
The Au Gres Area Chamber of Commerce is helping break up those “Winter Blues” by hosting a winter festival at the Au Gres City Park. Enjoy activities such as ice skating, soup cook off, music, polar dip, fishing contest, beer tent, & poker run! This will also coincide with an exciting snowmobile drag race event at the Au Gres DNR Breakwall site along the Au Gres River!

CrossCountrySkiersMeijer State Winter Games Cross Country Nordic Ski Race
February 1, Grayling
The Meijer State Games of Michigan added the inaugural Winter Games to continue fulfilling the mission of being a grassroots organization that welcomes athletes from all ages and abilities. The Winter Games consisted of 12 different sports, including the famous nordic ski race,  in which 1,645 athletes participated. Head to Grayling for an epic winter adventure!

Meridian Winter Blast
February 6-8, Detroit
Meridian Winter Blast, produced by Jonathan Witz & Associates, features hip and cool winter events centered around Campus Martius Park. Many signature winter activities are returning with Buick sponsoring the 200 Foot Snow Slide, free ice-skating in Campus Martius Park, professional skating demonstrations, unique sculptures in the Flagstar Bank Ice Garden, the Winter Blast Off presented by GM Foundation and more.

International 500 Snowmobile Race
February 7, Sault Saint Marie
Come join Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, for the 47th Annual International I-500 Snowmobile Race and experience all the thrills of NASCAR on a one-mile oval ice track. The I-500 is the biggest event in the Upper Peninsula and in the entire snowmobile-racing world. When drivers accelerate to speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour on the straightaways, your heart will race!

ManVsMountainMan vs. Mountain
February 7, Mt. Pleasant

A unique winter 5K obstacle course that challenges participants to brave Michigan’s brutal elements and go beyond the average obstacle course. Run, climb and jump your way through obstacles that are strategically placed along the course. The challenge begins in front of Nelson Park and will take you through Mt. Pleasant’s beautiful park system.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park – Guided Snowshoe Hike
February 7, Paradise
Discover how easy snowshoeing really is during this guided hike through the snow-covered woods of Tahquamenon. This fun, inexpensive winter sport can keep you healthy and happy through the cold winter months. A limited number of snowshoes are available to borrow at no charge.

February 9 – 15

Frostbite Winter Festival
February 12-15, Harrison
This four day event features the unique and popular golf tournament on the ice of Budd Lake, an ice fishing tournament with cash prizes, an arts & crafts fair, children’s carnival, Snowmobile Radar Run, Polar Dip, silent auction, bar tour, scavenger hunt and a whole lot more! Set in beautiful Harrison, this event has something for everyone – whether you love the Michigan outdoors or prefer to play indoors.

UP200UP200 Sled Dog Race 2015
February 12 -16, Marquette
The UP 200 is one of America’s premier 12-dog, mid-distance sled dog races and also a pre-qualifier for the Iditarod. 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 here in the Upper Peninsula. 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. Come join in the excitement for the start of the race located in downtown Marquette! If you’re looking for more Dogsled action, check out the Midnight Run!

Labatt Blue UP Pond Hockey Championship
February 13-15, Saint Ignace
The Labatt Blue UP Pond Hockey Championship drew a record 191 teams from 11 states to St. Ignace in 2014. Come and play in one of the few pond hockey tournaments where the ‘pond’ is actually one of the five Great Lakes – Lake Huron! This is a USA Hockey sanctioned tournament, and welcomes players over the age of 21 to participate.

Ice Fishing Tournament
February 14, Mayville
On February 14, 2015, The Fowler Center will be having its 20th annual Ice Fishing Tournament, hosted by Rob and Susie Trott of Great Lakes Outdoors. Come fish for the chance to catch the grand prize pike. Cost is $20 per session for ages 17 and over, $5 per session for those under 17.

Romancing the Riesling
February 14, Traverse City
We’ve long had a romance with the Riesling grape, and Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula (WOMP) will be pairing this beautiful wine with a complementary dish that will possibly even make you fall in love a little bit more. Head to Traverse City to keep up that love affair with your favorite wine!

February 16 – 22

Grand Rapids Boat Show
February 18-22, Grand Rapids
A West Michigan tradition! Exhibits include boats up to 50 feet, fishing boats, ski boats, pontoons, kayaks and motor yachts. Also, boating accessories and services like marina slips and ski gear abound. It is one of the finest water sports expos in the country featuring the Key West Crab Shack, an antique and classic boat display and the Tuber’s Truckload sale.

Meijer State Games of Michigan – Winter Games
February 20-22, Cannonsburg
The Meijer State Games of Michigan is a multi-sport, Olympic-style event that welcomes athletes regardless of age or ability. The Games embody the values of participation, sportsmanship and healthy living among residents of the state of Michigan. The philosophy of the Meijer State Games of Michigan is that everyone participates regardless of age or ability; everyone is welcome and everyone plays. Opening Ceremonies for all participants will be held Friday, February 20, 2015 at Cannonsburg Ski Area.

Kalamazoo Reptile & Exotic Animal Show
February 21, Kalamazoo
Head to Kalamazoo to meet your new slithering best friend! Buy sell or trade a variety of reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and other exotic pets. Snakes, lizards and many more exotic animals will be on display and ready to warm your heart during the winter season.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – Guided Snowshoe Hike
February 21, Ontonagon
Snowshoers on this hike can ride the ski lift up the hill then snowshoe down the east side of the ski area. With a stop at East Vista for the view then bust through fresh snow on the way back down. Bring a camera on this picturesque hike. All experience levels welcome. Snowshoes can be borrowed from the park if needed, just arrive a few minutes early. The hikes is 2 hours and of moderate difficulty.

Michigan Historical Museum – Picture-Perfect Photography Hunt
February 21, Lansing
Bring your camera or smartphone and find your artistic voice in the museum galleries! Take a selfie and then post it to the Michigan Historical Museum page on Facebook. Usually, flash is not allowed in the exhibits, so look for the special “flash allowed” signs. This activity is included with museum admission.

February 23 – 28

Outdoorama
February 26-March 1
Whether it’s hunting, fishing, boating, canoeing, hiking, camping, mushroom hunting or bird watching – this is one of the year’s best shows. The Outfitter’s Expo area along with major feature attractions like Big Buck Night, Entertaining Dog Acts and the Trout Pond provide the best place to book the trip of a lifetime or entertain the family. In addition, there will be a huge display of boats, docks and lifts and marine accessories.

Tony-N-Tina’s Wedding
February 27, Warren
At Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, audience members play the roles of Tony n’ Tina’s family and friends. Allow yourself to be caught up in the activities! This incredible evening of entertainment will be something you and your friends will be talking about for many years. $63 advance tickets include: show ticket, champagne toast, Andiamo gourmet Italian dinner, a piece of wedding cake, and entertainment.

timthumbWinter Beer Festival
February 27-28, Grand Rapids
Winter Beer Festival is an outdoor celebration of Michigan beer, featuring over 600 beers from more than 70 breweries. Dress for winter weather and let the hearty winter brews warm your soul. Snow, rain, or shine.

Big M Moonlight Ski
February 28, Manistee
The Big M Moonlight ski and snowshoe is a tradition that will get you out of your house on a beautiful winter’s night and ski the freshly groomed trails of Big M! Portions of trails are lit up by candle light making this a memorable trek for any cross country ski enthusiast. During the event, event organizers open up the warming lodge and offer warm desserts and drinks to warm up after an evening of great skiing.

Polar Plunge
February 28, Chippewa Lake
Get in touch with your inner Michigander and take a dive into frozen Chippewa Lake! A polar plunge is an experience unlike any other! The Chippewa Lake – Mecosta/Osceola County Polar Plunge takes place February 28, 2015, at Chippewa Lake. The parade of costumes will start at 12:30pm. The After Splash Bash will take place immediately following the plunge at the Chippewa Township Community Building.

What’s your favorite way to spend a snow day in Pure Michigan? Share your photos enjoying winter fun using #PureMichiganSnowDay on Twitter and Instagram or visit michigan.org/snowday.

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?