Six Exceptional Things to Do on Mackinac Island

Today, featured blogger Jesse Land of Things to do in the U.P. tells about six of his favorite can’t-miss Mackinac Island activities and attractions.

Photo by Eric Baillies

Photo by Eric Baillies

Growing up in the central Upper Peninsula made it easy for my family to take day occasional day trips to Mackinac Island. My Dad would pack up the car in the early morning and about three hours later my mom, dad, sister and I would be on a ferry to the island.

Those early memories include horses (lots of horses), fudge and ice cream, the hustle and bustle of the downtown area and bike rides around the island. They’re fond memories, but I realize now that my family only scratched the surface. Known for it’s horse and buggy rides, fudge and bicycles, I continue to discover things to do on the island that I never knew about.

Below I’ll list just a few of my favorite things to do on the island. Some you’ve heard of, others you probably haven’t!

The Mackinac Legends and Lore Nature Trek

Photo by Eric Baillies

Photo by Eric Baillies

Want to to be guided around the lesser known parts of Mackinac by a local? Mary Patay’s “Mackinac Island’s Legends and Lore Trek” will get you just that. On my recent trip to island, Mary guided my friends and I away from the busy downtown and through the solitude of Mackinac Island State Park. We toured Arch Rock, Sugar Loaf, Fort Holmes and caught the view from Robinson’s Folly.

The walk was peaceful, scenic and it was great to get a local’s perspective. The tour is just $10 per person and you can set up your own trek by calling Mary at (231) 590-5731 or emailing her at mackinachealthandfit@yahoo.com.

The Observation Tower and Exhibits at Mission Point

Maybe you’ve seen the tall glass observation tower at Mission Point Resort, maybe you haven’t. But one things for sure, it’s well worth checking out. With five floors of historical exhibits ranging from the filming of Somewhere in Time to the construction of the Mackinac Bridge and much more. And though each level boasts a different enthralling exhibit, they all share one feature, an awesome view!

The Carriage Ride

The Mackinac Island Carriage Tour is popular for a reason! It’s a great way to see some of the islands highlights while experiencing part of what makes Mackinac great, the horses. And the tour guides to a great job with imparting tidbits of history and little known facts as you’re pulled away from downtown, past Arch Rock, to the Butterfly House and back again.

Bike Around the Island

Photo by Baillies

Photo by Eric Baillies

Also popular for a reason, the eight mile bike ride around the island is one of a kind experience. Even though there was a light rain, we threw on our raincoats, rented bikes from Mackinac Wheels†and had a great time. I love this bike ride because it’s mostly flat, very scenic and of course, there are no cars. And for you fat tire enthusiasts, Jimmy from Mackinac Wheels has been guiding weekly group single track rides through Mackinac’s interior, so be sure to ask about that.

Tour Mackinac by Kayak

Though we weren’t able to make time to get out on kayaks or stand up paddle boards on my last trip, I really, really want to make sure we do next time. Paul and the crew at Great Turtle Kayak Tours have a great selection of kayaks, canoes and stand up paddle boards to choose from, as well as a few great tour options. Personally, I want to check out the nearby Round Island Lighthouse so I’ll be connecting with them on my next trip!

Stay on the Island!

Photo by Eric Baillies

Photo by Eric Baillies

One thing we didn’t do during my childhood trips to the island was stay there. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I fist stayed on the island and I’ll never forget how cool it was to wake up to the sound of the horses hooves clopping on the street below our room. On my most recent visit, we stayed in a waterfront suite at the Chippewa Hotel and wow, what a view! And of course, it was nice to be just a few steps from the Pink Pony, too.

Yes, it can cost more to stay on the island but if you sign up for the hotel’s newsletters (like I do) and keep an eye on their social media channels (which I also do) you might be surprised at some of the great deals they offer.

Those are just a few of my favorite things to do on Mackinac Island. What are a few of yours?

Jesse-Land-headshot1Jesse Land writes about Upper Peninsula travel at www.thingstodointheup.com.

An Out-of-Towner’s Guide to Planning a Pure Michigan Wedding

Conrad Chase and Abigail Paul are in the process of planning their dream Pure Michigan wedding. Today, they give us an inside look at the process and their reasoning behind choosing Michigan as their ultimate wedding destination.

Photo courtesy of Andreijka Photography

Photo courtesy of Andrejka Photography

My name is Conrad.  I was born in Chicago, have lived in 4 countries, traveled to 15, and spent countless months in major cities around the U.S., including Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and other places considered to be the center of the action, attracting the best of the best.

I have to be honest – two years ago when I was presented with the opportunity to relocate to Michigan, I considered the move to be a temporary one, which would have me back in these major markets in no time.

However, what actually happened (and what I am sure happens to every other guy who falls in love and doesn’t see it coming) is I bumped into the most beautiful and amazing woman in the world, in the most unsuspecting of places, Buchanan, MI.  You have heard of Buchanan, right?  Wrong.  Not many out-of-staters like myself have, which is why this story gets even better.

So here I am, starry-eyed and in love, learning all about this new lady who has come waltzing into my life.  She is from Southern Michigan, as are her family and friends.  Our dates include winery tours, days at the beach, athletic events on the most pristine beautiful lakes, all in Michigan. Very quickly, my calls back to my friends and family became full-blown endorsements for Michigan and aggressive solicitations to get them here to experience this wonderful place!

Photo by Dennis Lee Photography

Photo by Dennis Lee Photography

Well, as you can imagine, our relationship took its course and we quickly moved from dating, to wedding planning.  When evaluating the options of how and where we would get married, all kinds of ideas came to mind.  A destination wedding in the tropics, a church wedding and a high-rise reception in a major city, and more.  However at the end of the day, we both agreed that it would be so much more special, to bring everyone together, as close to our home and our life in Michigan, as possible. We wanted to show them all of the wonderful things in Michigan she has grown up with, and I have grown to love.  With the decision made, we began our planning.

The Venue:  What could be a better setting for a Michigan wedding, than in a barn, on a vineyard, closely located to Buchanan.  We will tie the knot at the Hidden Vineyard Wedding Barn in Berrien Springs. (Birth place of Mohammad Ali… another fun Michigan fact!)

Photo by Nate Farran

Photo by Nate Farran

The Vendors:  We wanted all of the elements of the wedding to be meaningful, and representative of Michigan, and also be appropriate for a barn wedding. We chose a wedding designer from Buchanan called Rustica.   Their shop is located in downtown Buchanan, and is a place that Abby and I go on Sunday mornings after grabbing fresh brewed coffee, and see what new artisanal items this husband and wife team have crafted up.  The music is from a bluegrass band from Southern Michigan called the ArtGomperz.  We both thought it fitting that if we were tying the knot in a barn, a banjo must be involved.  This brings us to food and drinks.  Our main course is a pig roast with a pig from a local Michigan farm.  Additionally, all produce, cheese, bread, beer, wine and spirits are coming from local farms, breweries and wineries.  Even the desert will have a number of delicious items from Cherry Republic, a staple of Michigan tourism.

As I am writing this post, I am looking out the back yard, over the largest inland lake in Southern Michigan, at the boats, jet skis, families on pontoons, and dogs happily running and playing in the shallow water.  I have spent years of my life looking for best places, best cities, most excitement… I never thought that I would find it here, in Pure Michigan.

For more on planning a wedding in Michigan, see our Pure Michigan Weddings board on Pinterest or watch the replay of our live chat with local wedding expert Megan Swoyer.

IMG_3815Conrad Chase is a business development executive for a growing technology company, Data Realty, headquartered in South Bend IN.  His beautiful fiancée, Abigail Paul is a dentist in Eau Claire, Michigan.  The couple share common interests such as travel, Crossfit, and family.  Abigail and Conrad reside in Buchanan, MI with their 2 cats, Susie and Stimpy.

 

How To Make The Most of An Indie Film & Music Festival on Historic Hell’s Half Mile

Today, guest blogger Blair Giesken gives us some tips for making the most of Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival happening in Bay City September 25-29, 2014! 

The name “Hell’s Half Mile” started in the late 1800’s when a stretch of Bay City’s riverfront was peppered with rowdy saloons and seedy hotels where loggers and shipmen would go to “blow off a little steam.”  Then, locals came to call it Hell’s Half Mile.  Today, they call it home to one of the most collaborative and inspiring film and music festivals around.

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Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

As a writer and director of 4 films showcased over 2 years at Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival, Rider Strong (yes, 80’s babies— we’re talking former Boy Meets World actor Rider Strong), sees the irony in it all.  “’Hell’s Half Mile was the strip of waterfront where lumberjacks used to go boozing… Now, a bunch of us from Hollywood go there for a film festival. Not much has changed.”’

Jokes aside, Hell’s Half Mile does more than satisfy those who live for great independent films and music.  It’s a movement.  A grassroots effort to grow and celebrate a community that hasn’t lost (and will never lose) its love for the arts.  And in its 9-year history, HHM has been bringing independent filmmakers, actors, and musicians from across the country to experience how truly alive with the arts the Great Lakes Bay Region is.

If you love independent film and music even half as much as the artists, directors, actors, and musicians who attend Hell’s Half Mile Film and Music Festival each year, you’ll want to plan ahead so you can soak up the total experience when it returns to Bay City, September 25-28.

Here are a few tips for taking in all the great film & music that spans this all-out 4-day festival:

Don’t just sit there!

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

HHM isn’t about plopping down mindlessly in a seat to watch a movie or squishing into seat number 2,001 at a sold-out arena concert.  If you’re looking for that type of passive experience, this isn’t your jam.  It’s about connecting people to true, raw independent film and music.  Connecting musicians to filmmakers, filmmakers to festival-goers, filmmakers to film students, and so much more.   Our suggestion?  Get involved.  HHM makes it easy for you to sit in on panel discussions from the film directors and actors themselves, attend workshops to learn more about the art of filmmaking from the pros, or mingle with the musicians you came to see firsthand.  You can even volunteer at the festival to get behind-the-scenes access (and in some cases, entry into the opening night party & premiere film!)

Get Your Bearings

While HHM Film & Music Festival takes place primarily along… you guessed it… Hell’s Half Mile… there are other venues and festival hotspots you’ll want to explore between films and performances.  Check out HHM’s festival venues & hotspots map ahead of time so you know how to hop from venue to venue (and where to stop for a cold brew or a bite to eat along the way!).  And be sure to pay special attention to the list of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops on the list of festival hotspots – many of them host special dinners and live music performances during the festival to round out the total Hell’s Half Mile experience.

Do Your Homework

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival is a totally hands-on, involved experience for independent film & music lovers.  So if this is your first time attending, you might want to get in the spirit of the festival by revisiting some past classics.  Get your hands on films from past years of the festival, or download a few tracks of some musicians who have graced the Hell’s Half Mile Stage.  Though the lineup changes each year, it’ll give you a feel for the types of film and music that flood Hell’s Half Mile during the 4-day celebration (and will get you familiarized with many of the writers, directors, and actors who are repeat visitors to HHM).

Don’t View & Run

With so many great films and performances packed into just a few short days (this year, September 25th-28th), you’re not going to want to miss a minute.  So find a place to cozy up, and do it well in advance.  Hell’s Half Mile has put together a list of hotels near the film and music venues, or you can book your stay directly at the new GoGreat.com.

Blogger- Blair GieskenBlair Giesken is the Founder & Creative Director of Brandscape, a boutique branding and marketing firm based in Grand Rapids.  She was born and raised in the Great Lakes Bay Region, and loves to come back often to visit family, friends, and the place that will always still feel like home.