This Rare 3D View of the Top of Mackinac Bridge Using Google Maps Street View is Mind-Blowing!

Have you ever imagined what it’s like to stand atop one of Michigan’s most recognizable structures, the Mackinac Bridge? Now, using Google Maps Street View, you can. And you can do it from the comfort of your own living room!

Google Trekker at the top of Mackinac Bridge

We’ve partnered with Google to make many of Michigan’s most iconic destinations accessible to the more than one billion people all around the world who use Google Maps each month.  Using Google Trekker technology, attractions such as the Mackinac Bridge – not previously accessible on Google Street View – now have 360 degree, fully navigable imagery that will allow potential travelers to explore these destinations.

We’re giving our readers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how we captured this truly remarkable footage. Get ready – you’re in for the climb of your life!

What did you think? As you search for the words to describe this breathtaking virtual experience, here’s a behind-the-scenes look into how it all came together.

The Street View Trekker is a backpack system with a camera on top that is worn by an operator who walks through pedestrian walkways or trails on foot. The imagery is captured automatically and stitched together to create the 360 degree panorama seen on Google Maps. More than 44,000 panoramic photos were taken by members and volunteers on the Pure Michigan team and the Department of Natural Resources who borrowed the Trekker and traveled for four weeks, capturing some of the most breathtaking scenes around Michigan.

Google Trekker at Mackinac Island looking at Mackinac Bridge

There are 15 lenses at the top of the mast, each pointed in a different direction that enabled us to create a 360-degree panoramic view. As the operator walks, photos are taken every 2.5 seconds. The Trekker weighs approximately 40 lbs, and is the size of a large hiking backpack. It’s about 4 feet in height when set on the ground, and when worn, the camera system extends 2 feet above the operator’s shoulders.  The Trekker battery can last around 6-8 hours on a full charge.

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So, we strapped on the Trekker and made our way to one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. According to Robert Sweeney, executive director of the Mackinac Bridge Authority, the trek to the top of the bridge can be characterized by feelings of anticipation and exhilaration. The climb starts by navigating a series of small openings, similar to what you would expect on a submarine.

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There are 2,500 cells in each tower that range in size from 6 cubic feet to 60 cubic feet. Needless to say, we ran into a bit of trouble getting the Trekker to the top…

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…But we made it. And the view was 100 percent worth it!

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Here’s what it looks like on Google Maps Street View.

Top of the Mackinac Bridge on Google Maps Street View

Top of the Mackinac Briddge

Are you adventurous enough to make the climb? Each year, the Mackinac Bridge Authority donates 25 certificates to charitable organizations. Each certificate enables two people to take a tour of the top of the Mackinac Bridge.

The public can bid on the certificates or buy raffle tickets (depending on how each organization chooses to handle their fundraising campaign). For more information and a list of participating organizations, send an e-mail to powellm1@michigan.gov or call 906 -643-1336.

Other Michigan destinations available on Google Street View are:  Mackinac Island, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the Island Loop Route National Water Trail in St. Clair County, the State Capitol building in Lansing, Ford Field, the Detroit Riverwalk, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Wagner Falls, Bond Falls, Silver Lake State Park and Sand Dunes, Palms Brook State Park, Brighton State Recreation Area, Pinckney State Recreation Area, Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, Ocqueoc Falls in Millersburg, Agate Falls in Trout Creek and the Presque Isle River.

These sites join other natural wonders, including the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramids, the Galapagos Islands and many more available in the Street View feature of Google Maps.

For more information and to view other Michigan destinations on Google Maps Street view, visit michigan.org/GoogleTrekker.

Know Before You Go: Seven Important Lessons from Skiers and Snowboarders

For some, winter means staying indoors and watching the snow fall softly with a cup of hot cocoa, but for many Michiganders and winter visitors, the snowy season means plenty of powder and plenty of opportunity to shred the slopes

Layer up with gear from the Pure Michigan store!

If you’re a seasoned ski or snowboard fanatic, you may have already learned some of these lessons the hard way (and now have a funny tale to tell), but if you’re a winter warrior ready to strap on some skis and give it a try, keep these do’s and don’ts for a successful ski or snowboard experience in mind – no matter how obvious they seem!  

DO: Layer up. Suiting up with the right clothing is very important before strapping on a pair of skis or buckling up your snowboard boots. There’s no need for expensive ski clothes your first-time out. Consider some long underwear, a turtleneck, fleece and some kind of insulating leg wear to wear under a winter jacket and waterproof snow pants. A pair of waterproof winter gloves is a good idea, too.  When you know you’re hooked on skiing or snowboarding, you can upgrade your wardrobe with some new winter weather gear from the Pure Michigan Store. Wearing comfortable and warm clothes will allow you to stay out on the slopes longer. So, unless you’re heading to the ski resort spa, you can leave the shorts and tanks at home!

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Proper equipment is a must! – Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

DON’T: Let your friends be your ski instructors. Even if your friends or family members ski and want to teach you, investing in a ski lesson is a better bet to ensure your success on the slopes. You’ll get started with a quality base of ski knowledge, and the individual attention will help you progress faster. Ski resorts often offer specials on lessons for first-timers. Ski Snowboard Michigan can help you find the right one for you. 

DO: Use proper equipment. Ski goggles are a must for both beginners and experts. Goggles reduce the sun’s glare during the day, and can protect your eyes from a fall or an unforeseen tree! Also, consider renting equipment instead of buying new or borrowing a friend or family members’ old pair of dated skis or boots. Buying new ski or snowboard equipment can be expensive, but learning to ski on a modern pair of skis is not only safer than skiing on old skis, but, it will help you progress faster. For beginners just starting out, renting is the way to go.

Photo via @Boyne.Mountain on Instagram

Mind the ski lift and have fun! – Photo via @Boyne.Mountain on Instagram

DON’T: Forget to pay attention to the chairlift. Every year, countless skiers and snowboarders get wrapped up in the excitement of a completed run or the beauty of the scenery and aimlessly get bumped or fall off the chairlift. You never want to be “that person” that holds up the line. Always stay alert and aware of your surroundings!

DO: Know your limits. There’s no shame in taking a few falls while getting used to the sport on a smaller hill. Ask any expert snow sports enthusiast – it all comes with practice. Too slow and too fast are often times right next to each other for beginners. Go at your own pace and stick with it!

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Know your limits and work your way up! – Photo by Joey Wallis, Mount Bohemia

DON’T: Head down a black diamond your first time on the hills. Besides losing most of your gear after you inevitably wipe out, you’re risking serious injury. Build up to harder slopes as you gain more experience. It is important to choose a ski resort with a good beginner’s area. You want wide, not very steep slopes. And more than just one “bunny hill”, so you can work your way up gradually.

DO: Head to Michigan.org to find  the best places to carve up the slopes this winter. Doing your research will not only save you time when booking a hotel, but you might find discounts on lift tickets or rentals through your search as well! Before you go, set the mood for your ski trip by watching videos of skiers having a blast, as they float through powder and weave through trees.

Have you learned any of these lessons the hard way? What else would you recommend to beginning skiers and snowboarders? 

For more information on planning a Pure Michigan ski or snowboard trip, visit michigan.org/snowday.

Cure Your Cabin Fever! Five Reasons to Take a Vacation Day and Head Outside

According to the U.S. Travel Association, U.S. workers only use 77 percent of their paid time off, resulting in nearly 169 million forfeited vacation days and $52.4 billion in lost benefits! Luckily, PTO days can be used any time during the year, and a quick winter trip is sure to cure any cold-weather blues. Here are six reasons to use those vacation days and explore what a winter day in Pure Michigan has to offer.

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1. There’s plenty of fresh powder! 

With more than 51 ski areas, 260 chairlifts, 1,000 runs, 50 terrain parks and an annual snowfall of more than 100 inches, Michigan offers some of the best ski and snowboarding slopes you can find in the Midwest. In-state resorts like Boyne Mountain Resort and Crystal Mountain are perfect for weekend away to shred some fresh powder or even take your very first lesson. Many resorts offer tubing and sledding fun, too!

2. Wineries are less crowded in the winter.

Take a winter winery tour! Many think that all Michigan wineries hibernate during the winter season, but some stay open all year long  for you to enjoy! One popular winter activity among foodies is to warm up with a glass of wine/small bites from a trio of wineries along a 7.5-mile ski and snowshoe path on the Leelanau Peninsula. The only question is, do you prefer red or white?

3. Trying something new can be thrilling!

Dog Sledding
Dog sledding is a wild winter adventure. The hot breath of the huskie pack fogs the crisp winter air as they pull you with focused determination across the glistening landscape. Imagine you’re racing against another team, over the same frozen terrain that explorers did long ago! Dog sledding is a fun activity for the whole family and can create memories that last a lifetime.

Iceclimbing

Ice Climbing
One of winter’s newest silent sports, Ice climbing, combines challenge and adventure. With ropes and harnesses, ascend stunning icefalls, cliffs and rock slabs, all waiting to be conquered. Swing your axe into the ice, hold on tight and inch your way up the frozen ladder. Be one of the first people to know to say you climbed a frozen waterfall!

Ice Luge
Did you know that one of lonely three luge tracks in the United States can be found right here in Michigan? Located near the shores of Lake Michigan in the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, you’ll be able to fly down the track just like the winter Olympians do.

4. There’s always time for quality time.

Photo courtesy of Zehnder's

Photo courtesy of Zehnder’s

Romantic Getaways
Sweep your sweetie away on a romantic getaway. You don’t have to go far to find a perfect weekend getaway with that special someone in your life. Some romantic packages include champagne dinners, in-room Jacuzzi’s and wine tastings while others let you relax with spa treatments or special in-room amenities. There’s no wrong choice when surprising a loved one with a romantic getaway in Michigan.

Family Fun
If you’re experiencing some cabin fever, we bet the kids are too! Family-friendly waterparks can be found all over the state, just waiting to wash away the norm. Whether you splash in the shallows with the little ones, or race each other for bragging rights down the twisting water slides, nothing brings families closer together than a Pure Michigan water park adventure. 

Ice Fishing5. The fish still bite during the winter. 

During the winter, Michigan’s four Great Lakes, more than 11,000 inland lakes and hundreds of rivers and streams provide anglers with the perfect location to ice fish for bluegill, perch, pike and walleye. Whether you’re a master angler or don’t quite know your way around a reel yet, fishing in Michigan is fun for everyone. Make sure to mark Free Fishing Weekend (Feb.14-15) on your calendar and check out our Winter Angler’s Ultimate Packing List before hitting the ice!

How would you spend a winter day off in Pure Michigan? Share your photos enjoying the snow using #PureMichiganSnowDay on Twitter and Instagram or visit michigan.org/snowday.