5 New Ways to Enjoy Traverse City This Summer

Even on vacation, you can get stuck in a rut.

Fortunately, up here in Traverse City there are so many different things to see, do and taste that there’s really no reason for doing the same thing over and over. There are new thrills in store for those who are willing to try something different. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Watch the sunset from a kayak.

Summer sunsets are part of Traverse City’s magic, whether you watch them from your hotel balcony, the top of a sand dune or a lonely Lake Michigan beach. But one of the most beautiful ways to enjoy the lovely colors of sundown, the deep hues of twilight and the wonder of a star-dusted night is from the cockpit of a kayak as it knifes its silent way through the dark water of Grand Traverse Bay.

Photo Courtesy of Northern Swag

The ladies at Paddle Away Tours have years of experience leading small groups of kayakers on sunset, moonrise and starlight excursions in the waters of Bowers Harbor and Power Island.

2. Explore a Shipwreck.

There are dozens of shipwrecks lying in the crystal-clear waters near Traverse City – schooners, steamships, freighters and tugs. Some are in deep waters and can only be reached by experienced scuba divers – but a surprising number can easily be reached from shore, and all you need is a pair of fins and a mask.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

The 160-foot wooden steamer Three Brothers and the 246-foot freighter Francisco Morazan, the Rising Sun and the skeletal remains of the 124-foot schooner Metropolis are all within easy reach of the adventurous snorkeler!

3. Do a Microdistillery Tasting

Traverse City is already well-known for the quality of its wines and its craft brewing scene. But if you’ve already done the wine trail route or the brew trail route — or if you’re just not the wine or beer-drinking type — there IS a third alternative. Traverse City is blessed with several fine microdistilleries that produce a bewildering array of brandies, vodkas, whiskeys, gins and other spirits – and putting together a tour of these places can be lots of fun as well as a great learning experience.

4. Walk, bike or skate the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail

The Traverse City area is well-known for its many hiking, cycling and skiing trails, but one of the most exciting ones is still being built. It’s the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, a paved pathway that allows cyclists, strollers, wheelchair pilots, in-line skaters and others to reach the highlights of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Right now the pathway is 13 miles long. When completed it will stretch 27 miles, from the northern end of the park to Manning Road, just south of Empire.

 5. Play a Round of FootGolf

Ever hear of FootGolf? This challenging hybrid between golf and soccer, where players try to sink regulation-size soccer balls in 21-inch holes with as few “strokes” as possible, is now being played at Elmbrook Golf Course in Traverse City and The Summit at Shanty Creek Resorts.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

The game is great fun, and its basic rules are like those of golf: the first shot at each hole has to be taken from the tee, and players must play past the usual array of bunkers, trees, water hazards and hills. Get your “team” together and try it!

Which of these Traverse City activities have you tried? Share with us in the comments!

Mike Norton spent 25 years as a newspaper writer and columnist before starting a second career as media relations manager at Traverse City Tourism. An avid cyclist, kayaker and hiker, he lives in the village of Old Mission.

Enjoy the Preserved Beauty of Michigan’s National Parks

Throughout 2016, the National Park Service is celebrating its 100-year anniversary, and are encouraging people to venture out and find their park! In honor of Earth Day on Friday, April 22, here are a few ways in which Michigan’s 7 National Park units are working to preserve native plants and wildlife.

Protecting Nature

While Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes may be best known for its sloping, perched dunes rising majestically above Lake Michigan, there are many life forms of flora and fauna nestled comfortably within the park’s boundaries.

Sleeping Bear actively monitors the Great Lakes Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus), which is an endangered species of shoebird that appears at the park from early April to mid-August. They are sand-colored on the back and white below. During the breeding season adults have a black forehead band between the eyes and a single black band around the neck. (Its larger relative the killdeer is commonly seen at parks, playgrounds, and golf courses, and has two dark bands around the neck.) Piping plovers nest only on beaches and prefer beaches with gravel.

Attaching a ankle tag to a young Piping Plover, Photo Courtesy of Austen Smith

Piping plovers remain at Sleeping Bear through the summer months to nest and raise their young. In mid-July the females begin forming flocks and migrating south, leaving their mates to watch over the chicks until they learn to fly.

As for its native plantlife, Sleeping Bear Dunes is a part of The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The GLRI goals of Sleeping Bear Dunes include:

  • Restoring habitat to protect native species
  • Preventing and controlling invasive species
  • Education and outreach
  • Studying avian botulism outbreaks

Sleeping Bear also works hand-in-hand with its NPS neighbor to north, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to identify beech bark disease resistant trees for future restoration efforts. They also are working on an aquatic invasive species citizen science program for early detection and evaluating Eurasian watermilfoil (an invasive aquatic plant species) management using native beetles.

Photo Courtesy of Austen Smith

These efforts among others help to preserve the sprawling natural beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes which has become a destination spot for generations of Michigan families. Visitors to Sleeping Bear Dunes can enjoy touring the inland lakes via canoe, hiking one of the park’s many trails, or visiting the Manitou Islands for bird watching, wildlife viewing and enjoying nature at its very best.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NPS and highlight the value of national parks as our nation’s “living laboratories,” the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is hosting a series of public talks called “Research Rendezvous” by park researchers in 2016. Visit NPS.gov for the current schedule of upcoming talks.

Being a responsible park visitor

National Park Service rangers and other stewardship employees work hard to preserve beauty in its most pure and natural form at all NPS sites. But they also need your help to be aware and responsible when visiting one of these pristine areas.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which was recently featured in the national IMAX release of “National Parks Adventure,” has some tips for park visitors that will protect the park’s natural resources, enhance your park experience and keep you and your family safe. Here is what visitors should know when preparing to visit a National Park:

  • Please don’t litter – pack it in and pack it out
  • Stay on developed trails, especially during early spring wet season blooming times
  • If you use the woods for relief, please follow BURY IT ethics: 2-4 inches deep hole into the duff and cover, including the waste paper

In celebration of the NPS Centennial, Pictured Rocks will be participating in a series of programs built around natural conservation and inspiring a new generation of park stewards by partnering with the Every Kid in a Park Program – sponsored by the National Park Foundation, the White House and Federal Land Management Agencies. Every Kid in a Park, or EKIP, encourages 4th-graders to visit any federally reserved land or water such as a National Park, forest refuge or wildlife reserve.

Melissa O’Donnell, Education Specialist for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore/Hiawatha National Forest, will kick off the  Every Kid in a Park program by visiting 6 of the 12 schools awarded a free field trip to the park, from a National Park Foundation grant. Over 160 students will learn about federal lands and waters, why they are important, and what to know during a series of field trips in May.

Photo Courtesy of Austen Smith

Urban Preservation

Just as important as protection of our trails, streams and plant life, cultural and historical preservation in urban settings stands as an important pillar in the NPS Centennial as those in the “Millenial” generation are moving away from the suburbs and into the city.

The city of Detroit has a rich history and through recent preservation and interpretation efforts, many of the sites that weave the storied tapestry of the region are being safeguarded for future generations.

As part of the Every Kid in a Park program, the MotorCities National Heritage Area – an affiliate of the National Park Service, that preserves and promotes automotive heritage in southeast Michigan – is working with the National Park Service’s Urban Agenda to educate Detroit students about an important piece of the city’s history in historic Fort Wayne.

Photo Courtesy of Austen Smith

MotorCities National Heritage Area in conjunction with the Detroit Historical Society, Michigan Historic Preservation Network, Preservation Detroit and the State Historic Preservation Office will be leading an interactive experience in which 4th-graders will learn about local history through a “grab bag” of historical items. Students will have to guess the origin of the item and what it does while talking with knowledgeable proctors.

This and much more will be happening during a special event from May 31 to June 3 at historic Fort Wayne.

This educational outreach program is just one way in which the MotorCities preserves and promotes the automotive and labor history and how our story in southeast Michigan impacted the state, the nation and he world.

Learn more about these and other Centennial happenings at: nps.gov and findyourpark.com.

Austen Smith is the Communications Coordinator for the MotorCities National Heritage Area. He can be reached at asmith@motorcities.org.

Planning (And Planting!) Your Perfect Pure Michigan-Inspired Garden

Nothing soothes a winter-weary soul quite like the languid lure of gardening. Green thumbs know well the joy of poring over seed catalogs, daydreaming of bountiful blooms and homegrown goodness. But you don’t need to be a green thumb to enjoy the fruits of this labor! A garden-inspired getaway to the Great Lakes Bay Region - ripe and ready with tips, tricks and inspiration – will prepare you for planning and planting your perfect Pure Michigan garden! Grab your gardening gloves… it’s time to go and grow!

Photo Courtesy of Jen Wainwright O'Deay

Photo Courtesy of Jen Wainwright O’Deay

Beautiful Learning

The 110-acre landscape at Dow Gardens will both excite your eye and calm your mind as you stroll through diverse gardens including the “Pollinator”, “Herb”, “Stream Walk”, “Color”, “Pineside”, “Rose”, and “Children’s Garden”. (Psst! The Children’s Garden is a must for the young and young-at-heart, complete with forts and gigantic bubble-making opportunities!)

- Admission is just $5 for adults, $1 for children ages 6 – 17, and free for children ages 5 and younger.

Private Garden Tour: Take time for private pleasures. Enjoy a two-hour, in-depth, guided walk (for five adults or more) for $20 plus admission.

- Mark Your Calendar: May 10 and June 14 are Dow Garden’s Tuesday Evening Tours - evening strolls with Senior Horticulturist Chuck Martin! (Just imagine what you’ll learn here; you may want to bring a notebook!) Admission is just $5.

Photo Courtesy of Jen Wainwright O'Deay

Photo Courtesy of Jen Wainwright O’Deay

Insider Tip: Dow Gardens is, indeed, spectacular, but don’t leave without perusing the gift shop located inside. Gardening decor to daily essentials, signs to seeds – this place is filled with unique garden discoveries!  

Know, Then Grow

Just like gardens themselves, no two gardeners are alike! While some aim to grow delicious flavors, others long for bounty of the beautiful kind. Chippewa Nature Center is 1,200 acres of a little something for everyone, and simply walking about the nature preserve may inspire new interests! Admission is free. (Yes, free!)

Heads up! Once a year, Chippewa Nature Center holds their Native Plant Sale, a.k.a. the time to stock up on yard plants that are both easy on the budget and beneficial to the planet! Your chance to bulk up: May 27 – 28! (Hint: Make sure you clear out your trunk; you’re going to want the space to bring home your finds!)

Discover The Hill

 

Photo Courtesy of Jen Wainwright O'Deay

Photo Courtesy of Jen Wainwright O’Deay

Dahlia Hill, that is! Eight terraces, 3,000-plus dahlias (with over 250 varieties), and a working art studio and museum – this gem in Midland is mesmerizing, memorable, and designed to inspire.  What’s it like to be engulfed in dahlias? Often referred to as the quintessential cut flower, English plantsman Christopher Lloyd said it best: “Dahlias spell excitement and we can do with some of that in our lives.”

- Open to the public from dawn to dusk, seven days a week from April to November; free admission.

- Considering gardening with these “sassy, but elegant” flowers? The Dahlia Hill Society Tuber Sale is the place to be: May 21 & 28, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Hundreds of varieties will be available at or below cost (think $2 each and 6/$10) and expert volunteers will be on hand to answer questions.

Disclaimer: Planting bright and beautiful dahlias may cause your neighbors extreme jealousy; proceed with caution!

Dig This Gardening Décor

Photo Courtesy of Jen Wainwright O'Deay

Photo Courtesy of Jen Wainwright O’Deay

Some gardeners are dazzled by soil composition; others relish every rose species imaginable. And still others … enjoy digging for deals and gardening décor nearly as much as (or maybe more than) hands-on growing!

- Find something for every kind of gardener at Warmbier Farms, an absolute mecca of home and gardening supplies! For decorative statues and fountains to rubber gardening boots and wide-brimmed hats, too, make it a point to visit May 12 – 15 for “Best of the Garden”. With live demonstrations and specials galore, you’ll nab knowledge, gardening items  and ideas.

- Or head into Tumble Weed Farms, the outdoor garden center with lawn and garden décor (and one of seven shops and over 40,000 square feet) at Pride and Country Village of Unique Shops. (Psst! Gardeners might “dig” the attire in the Schoolhouse Fashion Boutique, too!)

Photo Courtesy of Jen Wainwright O'Deay

Photo Courtesy of Jen Wainwright O’Deay

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Jen Wainwright O’Deay is a freelance writer in Bridgeport, Mich. She specializes in creating effective connection through marketing communications copy, feature articles and content/blog posts. You can find her camping with her family, reading Thoreau, or at: www.feelthesewords.com