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.

Knock the Snow from Your Boots with Unique Winter Events in Ann Arbor

From January through March, there are a number of special events in the Ann Arbor area perfect for a wintry weekend getaway! No need to hibernate this year. Check out these exciting opportunities.

Ann Arbor Restaurant Week (January 18-23)

Bar

John Steinbeck wrote, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” Winter can be very sweet on its own, especially when you can explore Ann Arbor’s overabundance of foodie goodness during Restaurant Week! This celebration of dining includes 45 restaurants featuring one-price menus — $15 for lunch and $28 for dinner — or save even more with two-for-one specials at select restaurants! The newest restaurant to join the ranks is the delicious Mezzevino .  While you’re there, be sure to ask for a small bowl of the crispy chickpeas!

U-M Ice Carving Extravaganza (January 23-25)

Join us for a weekend of chainsaws, ice picks and flame throwers! Stand back while the University of Michigan Ice Carving team members display their talents and masterpieces along Main Street with custom designs inspired by the city, its shops and restaurants, and more!

38th Annual Folk Festival (January 30-31)

Wait! This isn’t your parents’ folk music … Or maybe it is! The appealing element of folk music, and it’s a philosophy so perfectly embodied by the festival, is that there are as many styles as there are artists! Join us for the two-night event and show your support for one of the top music clubs in the world — The Ark — celebrating 50 years of presenting, preserving and encouraging folk, roots and ethnic music and related arts. This year’s festival features Amos Lee, Ani DiFranco, Brandi Carlile and Jason Isbell. Get ready to find your folk!

Michigan Theater with Couple2

53rd Ann Arbor Film Festival (March 24-29)

Visit Ann Arbor and the historic Michigan Theater to experience the longest-running independent and experimental film festival in North America. Internationally recognized as a premiere forum for independent filmmakers and artists, the Ann Arbor Film Festival engages audiences with remarkable cinematic experiences. The six-day festival presents 40 programs with more than 180 films from over 20 countries of all lengths and genres, including experimental, animation, documentary, fiction, and performance-based works.

FoolMoon and FestiFools (April 10-April 12)

FestiFools

Night time revelry and larger-than-life puppets make up this weekend of foolish amusement.  Friday night kicks things off with FoolMoon— an after dark extravaganza of lightshows, music and a delicious event-inspired microbrew from our friends at Grizzly Peak. On Sunday, watch as magnificent and bizarre human-powered papier-mache puppets amble along Main Street to the sound of beating drums, brassy horns, and the cheers of our Foolish friends! Go from being a spectator to participant by building your creations and joining in the fun!

What is your favorite thing to do in the Ann Arbor area?

Seven Ways to Spend New Year’s Eve Pure Michigan Style

It seems like just yesterday we were ringing in 2014 and looking forward to another great year in Pure Michigan. But don’t get nostalgic just yet – this year’s fun is far from over! If you’re looking for a great New Year’s Eve event to attend in Michigan, check out these seven events happening around the state.

Marquette Ball Drop

New Year’s Eve Ball Drop, Marquette
Every New Year’s Eve, the intersection of Washington Street and Front Street becomes the location where locals and visitors come together in a large crowd to welcome in the New Year. On the 12th strike, an illuminated ball is lowered from the historic Savings Bank Building. This year will mark the 26th anniversary of ringing in the New Year Marquette style!

Hot New Year’s Eve Celebration, Grand Rapids
If you’re looking for music, dancing and fun on New Year’s Eve, look no further than Grand Rapids! This year’s Hot New Year’s Eve Celebration will include Cobra Starship, The Outer Vibe, Dyllan Murray, and Grand Rapids Got Talent winner, Fire Alarm. There will also be the annual ball drop at midnight. Just in case you get a little cold, there will be a warming tent with free hot chocolate and coffee for all who pass through.

Midnight-on-Main_Countdown-300x168Midnight on Main New Year’s Celebration, Midland
One of the Michigan’s largest New Year celebrations can be found in the heart of the state – Midland!! It’s Midnight on Main, but the party begins long before midnight with a full schedule of entertainment and activities. The event features four heated tents, 10 bars, food vendors, Michigan’s largest ball drop and an exciting fireworks display. The event is held on Main Street, from Gordon Street to Townsend Street, in Downtown Midland. Midnight on Main is a ticketed event for ages 21+.

Charlevoix Bridge Drop, Charlevoix
Celebrate New Year’s Eve with a bang! Charlevoix’s second annual Bridge Drop will ring in 2015 with a downtown party full of festivities and fun. Daytime family friendly activities include a winter petting zoo, camel rides, snowman building, food trucks, s’mores and bonfires. The evening’s events of live music and activities throughout Charlevoix’s restaurants, bars and shops will culminate with the “bridge drop” and firework display at midnight. Fun for all, and all for fun!

NYE-in-Pure-Ludington2015 New Year’s Eve Ball Drop, Ludington
Beginning at 9:30 p.m., make your way to the North James Street Plaza in Ludington where you’ll enjoy music, an entertainment tent, commemorative light-up glasses, fireworks, and of course, Michigan’s largest environmentally friendly New Year’s Eve Ball.  Bring your family and friends to experience this amazing night! If you’re looking for something to do before the festivities, don’t forget about the Resolution Run 5K also taking place at 9 a.m. at the OJ DeJonge Middle School North Gym.

Cherry Ball Drop, Traverse City
Ring in the New Year in beautiful downtown Traverse City and watch a giant cherry drop as 2015 begins! The event will also feature Magic 4 Humans at Traverse City Opera House) and Magic at Midnight at Top of the Park (both are ticketed events). If you’re looking for a New Year’s Eve celebration in Northern Michigan, the annual Cherry Ball Drop is the event for you!

New Year’s Eve Anchor Drop, Port Huron
Ring in the New Year in the city of Port Huron! The New Year’s Eve Anchor Drop is a New Year’s countdown party with a maritime twist. A lighted anchor will drop from the top of the 150-foot McMorran Tower at midnight! Live music, beer tent, free open skating, and much more.

 For a complete list of events happening on New Year’s Eve, visit michigan.org/events. How are you planning to celebrate the new year near you?