Be a Tourist in Your Own Town: Unique Upper Peninsula Day Trips

Fresh air, fresh water and fresh memories are what Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is all about. If you’re a native Yooper, you know all of the beauty and uniqueness the U.P. has to offer. If you’ve ever been curious what north-of-the-mitten is all about, here’s a roundup of some in-state adventure every Michigander should have on their bucket list.

Are you hungry? Either way, you will be after hearing about - the food.

The U.P. boasts some of the best culinary hidden gems that Michigan has to offer, and we wanted to have a taste for ourselves. Here are just a few of the many unique eateries you can find in the Upper Peninsula:

The Ambassador
On January 1, 1965, the Ambassador Restaurant opened under new ownership. The new owners, the Rossi family, had transformed the space from a tap bar into a restaurant that specialized in pizza and sandwiches. In 1978, the Ambassador was expanded into the space next door, and the second dining room was added. To explain the history of the Ambassador and the unique murals that line the interior walls, the owners conducted research and wrote a poem detailing the story. The poem, entitled “Come Fill a Bumper,” has since been printed on the cover of the Ambassador menu.

The Library Restaurant and Brew Pub 
Library and Brew PubThe Library is not your ordinary restaurant. They don’t worship the frozen or torture it in frying oil until it’s crispy. They cherish fresh ingredients and never take them for granted. The Library’s goal is simply for you to “Taste Something Great” in every entrée, every salad, every appetizer. This U.P. experience mixes traditional foods with unique flair and twists. The award-winning microbrew is the favorite of many, and premier drinks, wines and beverages bring it all together with a smile.

Kaleva Café
In 1891, Daniel T. Pearce opened a small saloon. The latest offered a warm retreat for hard working miners to gather over a welcomed spot of ale and to exchange tales. Eventually the business exchanged hands, becoming known as John’s Saloon. The new owner proudly promised his guest the “best brands of wine and liquor always on hand”. In 1918, Henry Moilanen took over at 234 Quincy with the idea of opening a restaurant. However, he needed a name. A contest was held and the name “Kaleva” was chosen, a direct take-off from the “Kalevala” national Finnish epic poem. In May 2006, Frank and Sandra Beauchamp reopened the Kaleva Cafe after an extensive renovation. They strive to carry on the Kaleva tradition of good home-cooked food in a friendly atmosphere.

Jampot Bakery
The Jampot bakery is a Catholic Monastery of the Byzantine rite, under the jurisdiction of The Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago, and belonging to the Ukrainian Metropoly in the United States of America, which is in union with the Pope of Rome, supreme pastor of the universal Church. They embrace traditions of the Christian East while making delicious confections, cakes and preserves year round. In our skete at Jacob’s Falls, on the shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, we devote ourselves to a common life of prayer and work for the praise, love, and service of God and for the upbuilding of His Kingdom through the Arts.

The Mariner North
MarinerThe Mariner North holds a very large place as the hospitality center in the history of Copper Harbor. First established in the1920′s, it was called the Pontiac and was a thriving Inn / Restaurant / Bar as Copper Harbor launched its tourism era into a summer resort community with the shuttle service on the Copper Queen to Isle Royale National Park and the establishment of Fort Wilkins State Park. Over 40 years later, it changed hands and became known as the Keweenaw Inn North. The fresh air, gorgeous scenery, and the draw of Lake Superior made Copper Harbor a natural escape from the city confines. In 1977 The Keweenaw Inn again changed hands and renamed it “The Mariner North”. The early days of The Mariner involved the development of the snowmobile program to assist Copper Harbor in its goal as a year round tourism destination area.

Harbor Haus Restaurant
Without a doubt, the most frequently asked question at the Harbor Haus is “Can we have a table with a view?” Fortunately, that’s an easy request to fill as it’s situated right on the shore of Lake Superior. Through the large picture windows, each guest has a beautiful harbor view expanding onto the big lake. While dining, it’s not uncommon to see ore freighters in transit or small marine traffic and kayakers taking in the beautiful surroundings. All of this is framed by a patio adorned with flowers and trees, providing a German/Austrian flavor. The Harbor Haus offers a vast dining menu featuring fresh local fish, seafood, steaks and many more items, as well as Ahi flown in from Hawaii the day after it was “swimming.” Local berries and vegetables are utilized in the dishes when available.

Jamesen’s Fish Market
At Jamsen’s Fish Market and Bakery, freshly baked goods are highlighted through the use of local ingredients when possible.  The market offers fresh and smoked Lake Superior Trout and Whitefish.  Stop in for a great cup of coffee, as well!

Laurium Manor Inn
Laurium Manor Inn has been restored into an historic mansion hotel that has been welcoming guests since 1989. This mansion has 10 guestroom with private baths in its 13,000 square feet on four floors. A parlor, library, den, dining room, and third floor ballroom are all open for our guests to use and enjoy. Victorian Hall was purchased and restored into a bead & breakfast in 1993. Within its 7,000 square feet is eight guestrooms, each with its own private bathroom. The first floor library, music parlor and dining room are always open for visiting guests.

Paul’s Superior View Restaurant
Paul’s Superior View is committed to providing the best dining experience around. Paul’s menu features an eclectic mix of traditional favorites that is sure to satisfy any craving. Stop in & check out their nightly features, including: Friday Fish Fry & Saturday Angus Prime Rib. Pair your dinner with one of the daily drink specials in Porky’s Pub.

Joey’s Seafood & Grill
Joey’s is famous throughout the Copper Country and the Midwest, as well as the rest of the world, for their seafood… but the spectacular seafood is just the beginning! The menu includes steaks, chicken, Baby Back ribs, steak burgers, pasta, tacos and quesadillas. Joey’s is a must for all seafood lovers visiting the U.P.

Suomi Home Bakery & Restaurant
The Suomi Home Bakery & Restaurant has become a Houghton staple. The famous Finnish French Toast is known throughout the state and Midwest as a taste explosion for the mouth. Get it with fresh fruit and you’ll melt in your chair. Enjoy Suomi’s small town ambiance and see for yourself why Suomi has been doing breakfast successfully for many, many years.

Roy’s Pasties & Bakery
RoysRoy’s moved to their current location on Houghton’s waterfront in October of 2013 and never looked back.  They’d love for youto stop by, have a cup of coffee and a Danish, maybe some soup or a sandwich, enjoy the free Wi-Fi and be their guest!

Of course, filling your stomach isn’t the only thing to do in the U.P. When you’re looking to have an adventure in Michigan’s north, consider these thrilling and unique trips and tours.

Quincy Mine Tour
rideintomineThe Quincy Mine Tour offers three unique tours for all visitors: Surface Tour only, Surface Tour with Tram Ride, and Full Tour.All tours include a visit to our museum, a video-tour of the No. 2 Shaft-Rock House and a guided tour of the enormous and complex Nordberg steam-powered hoist engine and the building it is in. On the Full Tour, you will take a ride on the cog-rail tram car down the hill to the mine entrance and then ride by tractor-pulled wagon into the mine, seven levels underground. For a family friendly adventure, check out the Quincy Mine.

Adventure Mining Company Copper Mine Tour
While visiting the Copper Country, you’re invited to experience the best in underground mine tours: a tour through the historic Adventure Copper Mine. Walk through part or all of the tunnels on the first level or try your hand at rappelling with a rope and harness to the second level of the mine…the choice is yours! Whatever your vacation plans in the U.P. may be, be sure they include a stop by the Adventure Mining Company to boldly go where no underground mine tour has gone before!

Sea Kayaking  and Mountain Biking with the Keweenaw Adventure Company
Originally founded in 1843 during the great copper boom of the 1800’s, Copper Harbor has long held a maritime significance as the largest natural harbor in the northern Keweenaw Peninsula where ships have taken refuge from Lake Superior’s furious storms. Today the same crystal clear waters allow paddlers to see to depths of nearly 20 feet below, including sights of rocky shoals, reefs and even the remnants of several shipwrecks.  The Keweenaw is home to some of the oldest exposed rock in the world and was originally formed by ancient volcanoes.

KeweenawCoInitially receiving an IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) “Epic Ride” recognition in 2009, the Copper Harbor Mountain Bike Trails were designated as an IMBA  ( “Bronze Level” Ride Center in October of 2011.  This designation was trumped in 2012 with that of an IMBA “Silver Level” Ride Center, which currently ranks these trails among the top five in the world!   Points were scored on a variety and quality of gateway, cross-country, flow and gravity trails, in addition to being considered as a mountain bike friendly community, complete with a bike shop and a brew pub!

Copper Harbor Lighthouse Boat Tour
Whether traveler or Keweenaw resident, don’t miss a tour of the Copper Harbor Lighthouse.  This single tour encompasses a total lighthouse experience, including a ride in a boat similar to an early 20th century lighthouse launch.  Because lighthouses are built in treacherous waters, it took a versatile boat to ferry supplies to lightkeepers and their families.  The time-proven “double-ender” hull design and dimensions of the launch are identical to the early wooden boats of the United States Lighthouse Service which tended to the needs of the lightkeepers of the Keweenaw Peninsula.  You will arrive at Hayes Point just as the lightkeepers did over 150 years before you.

Porcupine Mountains Lake of the Clouds
Surrounded by the silhouettes of the ancient Porcupine Mountains, the Lake of the Clouds is a blue gem amid the thick forests. The Lake of the Clouds is perhaps the most photographed feature in the Porcupine Mountains region. No matter what the season, it is a truly breathtaking sight to behold. The Lake of the Clouds Scenic Area is located in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum 
MineralsLet’s be crystal-clear: the Seaman Mineral Museum is handsome, classy, and suitable—a fortune that houses a fortune. A hundred people gathered on a hot afternoon, across from the ATDC, and attested to a milestone more than a century in the making: a permanent home for the official Mineral Museum of Michigan. Appropriately, for a museum noted for its copper collection, the structure sits on an old mine shaft and the parking lot sits over a stope.

Do you know of any other unique eats or attractions in the Upper Peninsula? Tell us!

Have Appetite, Will Travel: A Guide to Grand Rapids Restaurant Week 2014

Restaurant Week Grand Rapids is happening August 13-24, 2014. Sixty restaurants offer three-course tasting menus featuring their culinary team’s skills and the West Michigan harvest. Molly Crist, Experience Grand Rapids blogger and Onward Travel tour operator, fills us in on this year’s RWGR highlights.

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Grand Rapidians love food, beer, wine, and getting out on the town… which makes Restaurant Week one of the best times of the year in our corner of the Mitten. It’s time to head to West Michigan and warm a restaurant seat while soaking up the waning summer because RWGR is happening Wednesday, August 13 to Sunday, August 24. Read on for highlights of this year’s event that combines creative chefs, a range of beverages, the peak of Michigan’s harvest, and summertime revelry.

Great food for a terrific value

Three-course menus are $28 per person, though you’ll find two for $28 at several restaurants: Lindo Mexico, Rezervoir Lounge, Fajita Republic and Osta’s Lebanese Cuisine. Check out Fajita Republic’s DIY guacamole – fresh haas avocados with a selection of toppings (spiced pepitas, pico de gallo, bacon, chiles, oh my!) that you can mix until your heart’s content.

Perfect timing

August is the height of harvest in West Michigan. It’s the best time of the year for farmers markets and gardeners (holy summer squash!), which means locavore chefs are smiling, too. RWGR menus celebrate the bounty and your taste buds will, too. From sweet corn, to heirloom tomatoes, to Great Lake fish, it doesn’t get any fresher.

Food and beverage pairing

Alambre_Especial1

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

This year’s theme is Perfect Pairings. GR’s reputation as Beer City USA is well established with fifteen craft breweries and more popping up all the time. The Great Lake’s ability to insulate coastal farmland, keeping it cool in summer and preventing a bitter freeze in winter, means Michigan has a climate for wine production, and fortunately many local producers are creating delicious wines. Distilleries are popping up around the state, with creative spirits growing in popularity. To celebrate Michigan’s status as a beverage-producing-triple-threat – not to mention all the carefully roasted and brewed coffees – RWGR’s theme emphasizes the art of pairing food and drink.

CitySen is featuring a Southern-Style American menu, from Fried Green Tomatoes, to Chicken and Waffles, to Pecan Pie. Try the Baby Back Ribs braised in Bell’s Oberon paired with a pint of Oberon mixed with Founders’ Rubaeus, a good complement to the fruity house-made BBQ sauce.  Bar Divani has an eclectic, flavor-forward-menu that offers an appetizer, salad, and entree – try starting with the Pulled Pork Rangoons with Sesame Chili Sauce, paired with a glass of Noel Bougrier Vouvray.

Local beverages are in the food, too!

In addition to pairing food and drink, chefs are cooking with locally-made beverages. At Grand Rapids Brewing Company, you can enjoy Michigan’s only certified organic brewery and chef-inspired, gourmet cuisine. The Brewer’s Flan on GRBC’s RWGR menu is a chocolate stout custard with cocoa nibs, salted caramel and mint, no doubt delicious with some stout in your glass, too. The Rubeaus Cheesecake at Licari’s is quite decadent, too, with Amoretti Cookie crust and a suggested pairing of Ferris Coffee Nicaraguan brew or Atwater’s Decadent Chocolate Stout.

Do good while dining

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

One dollar from each meal goes towards a scholarship fund at the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College. Since 2010, RWGR participating restaurants have donated almost $75,000 to the fund. It’s all about growing our local food culture in Grand Rapids, from farms to classrooms.

Cocktail competition

Local mixologists at participating RWGR restaurants are shaking it up for the Grand Cocktail competition that debuts August 6. Mixologists will vie to win an all-expense paid trip to Woodford Reserve in Kentucky. You can participate by sipping cocktails around town and voting at restaurantweekgr.com. Start at Judson’s at the B.O.B. with a sip of their Bufala Negra, a seasonal concoction of Woodford Reserve, basil, brown sugar, ginger beer and balsamic brown sugar simple syrup. Cheers, indeed!

Be a part of the fun

Beyond the tantalizing food choices, RWGR is an annual dining highlight because of the bustling atmosphere and feeling of culinary-inspired revelry.

Take advantage of an opportunity to visit a spot that might normally be out of your price range, a newly opened restaurant, or a place you’ve never been. invite your friends and enjoy wonderful food, a bustling city, a walkable downtown with many dining choices, and al fresco dining options to make the most of the beautiful summer nights ahead.

Do you plan to check out Grand Rapids Restaurant Week? 

Take a Staycation, Explore Culinary Hidden Gems in Northern Michigan

You won’t find salt water beaches, palm trees, or coral reefs in northern Michigan – and that’s just the way we like it. Traverse City and its surrounding areas are some of the most scenic and beautiful destinations in the world, and they just might be in the comfort of your own back yard. If you’re a northern Michigander, here’s a roundup of some of the off-the-beaten-path food and culture gems to check out when you want to get away without going far.

First things first- the beer.

Traverse City is home to many breweries, taprooms, and pubs that you can only find when visiting.  You can’t truly call yourself a craft beer connoisseur until you try some of the many, many delicious brews that have made the breweries famous.  Some of the most popular destinations to grab a cold one:

  • Brewery Terra Firma fall-color-tour
    • Brewery Terra Firma is unique in its approach as a brewery and as an agricultural destination. Through the integration of sustainable production methods, environmentally conscious waste management and innovative water recycling/reclamation techniques, they hope to become a model for breweries and agricultural destinations throughout the nation.
  • The Workshop Brewing Company
    • The Workshop Brewing Company exists to preserve Northern Michigan’s spectacular natural environment, to reinforce Traverse City’s warm and vital community, and to honor traditional craft. They do not consider their business to be a success unless they are demonstrably and sustainably doing all three. They express this commitment by using the Trifidelity symbol, which stands for their motto: Nature. Community. Craft.
  • The Filling Station Microbrewery ???????????????????????????????
    • Established in the spring of 2012, The Filling Station Microbrewery is a family owned and operated business, dedicated to providing friendly and knowledgeable service and the highest quality of hand crafted brews and edibles.  Located just off the TART Trail in the historic railroad district, the Filling Station Microbrewery features a rotating list of at least 10 craft beers, which pair perfectly with our wood-fired flatbreads and fresh salads.  Whether on your own, meeting friends or with your family, patrons of all ages feel welcomed in our casual pub-style setting.   You’ll enjoy views of Boardman Lake from inside the pub or out on the patio, live music and the occasional train passing by.
  • Right Brain Brewery
    • Right Brain Brewing is committed to using the best available local ingredients in every small batch of  craft brew. Featuring a rotating right brained beer menu & artwork!
  • Short’s Brewing Company
    • Today Short’s Brewing Company continues its efforts to make the best beer on earth in Northern Michigan. Although Shorts has quickly grown to be one of Michigan’s largest breweries, they still take pride in their hands-on, mom-and-pop approach and the energy they put into the quality of our beer, food, staff, customers and facilities.
  • Stafford’s Noggin Room Pub
    • The Noggin Room Pub’s casual and comfortable atmosphere provides a great place to break from shopping the near-by Gaslight District, meet with friends and enjoy our award winning selection of domestic and imported beers. With personal service from the “Best Staff in Northern Michigan” (as voted by Northern Express), we’re sure you’ll feel right at home.

For those looking to enjoy their favorite node of Traverse City wine, check out these taste rooms and vineyards:

  • Left Foot Charley LeftFootCharly
    • The winery has since grown to around 6000 cases and is located in the former Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane in Traverse City, Michigan. The urban environment has served to bring the terroir to the people. LFC is a Michigan version of an Austrian Heuriger – a place where aromatic and flavorful wine is an everyday event. Locals and visitors alike have come to realize that the non-traditional setting pairs perfectly with the atypical fruit sourcing and old style winemaking that defines LFC. Left Foot has a committed a focus on white wine varietals, hard cider, and sparkling wine.
  • Blustone Vineyards
    • Bluestone’s story started 20 years ago visiting Leland as a family for the first time. The simplicity and beauty of the “tucked away” secret that is Leelanau has always been what we treasure most about the area. There is a connection to the land found only here amongst the lakes, dunes, hills, and sunlit fields and our dream to start Blustone was born out of that.

If you give a mouse a cookie, they’ll ask for a glass of milk. If you give a tourist a beer, they’ll ask for something to eat.  

Along with famous craft beers, Traverse City is known state and nation wide as a hub for unique and tasty meals from your not-so-typical mom and pop type restaurants.  Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty breakfast, fresh caught walleye, or a mouth watering burger, Traverse City boasts it all.  At the risk of leaving out some hidden gems, here’s a few nibble nooks you won’t want to miss:

  • Bay Bread Co.
    • Specialties: Breakfast and lunch sandwiches and some of the best baked goods you can find!
  • Cherry Republic

    • Celebrating the beauty and spirit of northern Michigan in everything we make and do, Cherry Republic has grown from a t-shirt sold out of the trunk of a car to the world’s largest exclusive retailer of cherry food creations. Along the way, we have turned one man’s vision into a nation of citizens embracing his creed of life, liberty, beaches, and pie.
  • Pepe Nero Kabob
    • PepeNero is a cozy and intimate restaurant snuggled inside the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Owners Giorgio and Monica Lo Greco are experienced professionals who know how to amaze your palate by preparing simple, genuine Italian food utilizing the gift of fresh seasonal ingredients from local markets and the high quality of imported Italian products.
  • Quay Restaurant and Bar
    • Quay Restaurant + Terrace Bar, pronounced kwā, is located in the beautiful town of Charlevoix, Michigan.  Come enjoy our three story restaurant and bar offering a New American menu along with a comprehensive wine and beer list.
  • Terry’s of Charlevoix
    • With over 35 years in the business since graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Terry Left, the proprietor, and Paul Bradley, the executive chef, have brought their years of experience to bear in developing exquisite recipes complemented by just the right sauces. Terry’s offers excellent full course dinners in a warm, casual dining atmosphere. Given the close proximity to the Great Lakes, their fish entrées are a fresh and ever-popular selection.
  • City Park Grill
    • In 1997 Bob & Mary Keedy, Dick & Laura Dinon, Chef John Norman, and Patrick Faylor purchased the Park Garden Café and changed the name to City Park Grill. The menu was changed as well to reflect their scratch kitchen and daily/seasonal specials. Since then, the restaurant has been restored to the glory days of the past, serving a wide array of guests from around the world.
  • Twisted Olive Quattro beef_1920x1200
    • A true Northern Michigan gem, Twisted Olive Quattro offers some of the most unique and decadent samplers, entrees, and drinks of anywhere in the mitten.
  • Cafe Sante
    • A casual, European-style bistro serving The Classics—simply and with flair. Featuring wood-fired pizzas, mussels and frites, pastas, Panini, unique breakfasts and casual cuisine from other fine European traditions.

Now that’ you’re good and full, you’re probably wondering what is there to do?

From the Sleeping Bear Dunes, scenic Lake Michigan beaches, and countless trails to explore, there truly isn’t enough time in one day to see it all.  If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing, we encourage you to check out a guided tour or make a stop at one of the local museums.  You can’t go wrong with what you pick to do in TC, but here’s a few of our favorite things to get you started:

  • Sleeping Bear Dunes tour outdoors_naturepark_dunes
    • You will find a wide variety of activities for every age available to you at the Lakeshore. Climb the Dunes, swim at one of the many beaches, or take a hike through the Maple/Beech forest to some beautiful overlooks. Maybe you will want to spend some time in the museums or tour Port Oneida to learn about the rich history and culture of the area.
  • Music House Museum Tour
    • Recognized by Forbes.com as one of the ten reasons to visit Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, the Music House Museum offers a unique collection of instruments that provide guests with a walk through the history, the artistry and the engineering of automated music.
  • Earl Young House Tour
    • This tour will take you around the triangular block bounded by Park Avenue, Grant Street, and Clinton Street.  Here you can see some of the most famous, and most beloved, work of long-time Charlevoix resident, Earl Young, homes he built or remodeled beginning in the late 1930s, and culminating in the construction of the “mushroom house” in the 1950s.
  • Castle Farms Garden Tour kings_grand
    • Northern Michigan’s very own fairy tale castle! With cobblestone courtyards, soaring stone towers, and magnificent sweeping gardens, Castle Farms has earned a reputation as one of Michigan’s premiere historic attractions, as well as a celebrated wedding venue. Whether you’re on a travel adventure, or searching for the perfect site in which to exchange marriage vows, this French Renaissance style castle offers the perfect blend of old-world charm and modern-day elegance for visitors seeking family fun and bridal couples-to-be.
  • Little Traverse History Museum
    • The Little Traverse Historical Socity was established in 1905 and, 1969, it was incorporated as a non- profit organization, “To preserve, advance and disseminate knowledge of the history of the Little Traverse Bay Area.” To this end, and with the support of members and winter and summer residents, they acquired and restored the abandoned Chicago and West Michigan Railroad depot. Originally built in 1892 to accommodate the large influx of summer resorters, the depot now serves the area as The Little Traverse History Museum.  The museum houses the historical society’s archives, long term displays, and an annual new summer display.  It is also the site of ongoing programs.  Currently, the museum is only open during the summer season (Memorial Day – mid October).
  • Cooking demonstration at Fustini’s
    • The company was founded by Jim and Lane Milligan, who lived in Minneapolis/St. Paul and took frequent family vacations to the beautiful resort town of Traverse City, Michigan. Like many others before them, the Milligans fell in love with northern Michigan and hoped to “someday” settle down there.  Flash-forward to today and Fustini’s is a Northern Michigan staple!

With everything there is to eat, drink and do in Northern Michigan, there’s no reason not to plan your staycation!  These are just a few of our own suggestions, however.  For more information on how to plan your own staycation in Northern Michigan or any other #PureMichigan destination, visit michigan.org