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

Pure Michigan Fourth of July 2014 Activities Roundup

 Fourth of July fireworks, festivals and more have already started happening across Michigan, and many will be out and about celebrating the Fourth of July both before and after the big day! With so many festive events and plenty of Michigan campground space available, there’s still time to plan a great Independence Day adventure. Below is just a sampling of celebrations and quick weekend getaways you can still book!

For a complete listing of events in Michigan visit www.michigan.org

Fireworks4th of July Celebration | St. Ignace
Combining the nostalgic sentiment of a small-town celebration with the picturesque backdrop of Lake Huron and Mackinac Island makes the 4th of July in St. Ignace something special. Watch the parade at 1pm, enjoy Kiwanis Kid’s Games and a community picnic at 2pm, and watch the fireworks over Moran Bay at dusk. Let us show you patriotism, St. Ignace style!

Fourth of July Parade & Fireworks | Port Austin
One of the Thumb’s largest parades is hosted annually in beautiful Port Austin. Entertainment at Veteran’s Waterfront Park, and fireworks at dusk over the harbor will encompass a wonderful evening of red, white and blue fun on Independence Day.

4th of July Fireworks | Grand Haven
Grand Haven’s annual 4th of July Fireworks display lights up the night sky after the evening’s showing of the Grand Haven Musical Fountain.  Come see the sights and sounds of summer as you kick back and enjoy an exciting fireworks display.

Independence Day Concert | Saint Joseph
Join this joyous celebration of America’s birthday!  Complete with traditional patriotic songs, Tchaikovsky’s rousing 1812 Overture and, of course, a spectacular fireworks show! This free concert will be at the Shadowland Pavilion at Silver Beach beginning at 9pm.

July 4th Fireworks Cruise | Muskegon
See the spectacular fireworks from the water with the best view in town on this fun cruise for the whole family! This unique cruise will take you on Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan and includes an all American picnic buffet. $55 adults, $45 kids under 12. Service fee added. Call-ahead reservations required.

Star Spangled Fourth | Mackinac Island
Celebrate America’s Independence on Mackinac Island. Patriotic fun in oh so many ways … visit Fort Mackinac for the 38 Gun Salute, Soldier demonstrations, dancing, canon firing and more from one of the only two remaining all original Revolutionary War Forts in America. Then feast at the All American Picnic at Fort Mackinac catered by Grand Hotel. Mackinac Island’s Fire Department is the host to the Fun & Games at Windermere Point. There are excellent fireworks to be watched on the water or from the shoreline on the west end of Main Street to Grand Hotel. They start at dusk, which is usually between 9:30pm-10pm. Most bring blankets to stretch out on the shoreline, others bring folding chairs to watch from the school yard and guests of Grand Hotel may watch from the longest summer porch in the world.

4th of July Fireworks | Traverse City
Enjoy a spectacular 4th of July fireworks display beginning at dark with great viewing from anywhere along the West Bay shoreline in beautiful Traverse City.  The fireworks will be from 10 p.m. – 11 p.m. so make sure you show up early to get a good spot!

Light Up the Lake Fireworks | South Haven
Watch a spectacular fireworks display and listen to the Light Up The Lake soundtrack live on SuperHits 103.7 COSY-FM! The fireworks shoot off synchronized to the music and are set off from the pier at dusk. Find a cozy viewing location along the South Haven Lake Michigan shoreline on the beaches, the riverfront park located near the South Side Marina along the Black River, Kid’s Corner on Monroe Boulevard, or in a boat! Parade will be held on July 4 through downtown.

4th of July | Les Cheneaux
Enjoy the spectacular view of fireworks over Cedarville Bay from the Cedarville’s downtown waterfront park or the lawn of the Great Lakes Boat Building School on July 4. Earlier that day, a parade, kids games, hot dogs and burgers, Up in Smoke BBQ, races and contests, and more wind down into early evening with music on the bay by Dance Commander DJ and a Jersey Mud eating contest.

Appldore_IV MIORGBBQ Dinner Sail | Bay City
Set sail this Independence Day! Make sure you have your ticket and hop aboard the family friendly Appledore IV for a fun and relaxing evening of cruising along the Saginaw River and sailing in the Saginaw Bay. While on board, guests will enjoy a delicious and casual barbecue meal catered by a local restaurant.  The voyage departs from downtown Bay City, Wenonah Park and sails rain or shine.  Tickets are non-refundable.

Friday Night at the Museums | St. Ignace
From 7-9pm, these fun-filled evenings in July and August will have something for everyone! As you stroll along the streets in downtown St. Ignace on a Friday night you will see a variety of activities to watch and/or participate in. The Museum of Ojibwa Culture will have Native American drumming and singing and you can also enjoy music and storytelling at Fort de Buade Museum. Friday nights is in July and August.

Independence Fest | Clarkston
This is an all-day event from 11am-11pm filled with fun activities for the whole family. Activities include visiting a mermaid, an extreme zip line, kid’s games, inflatables, a craft show, live entertainment, and much more! After a great day of entertainment you can kick back, relax and watch the fireworks show starting at 10 p.m. Parking and shuttle fees.

Volkslaufe / The People’s Race 2014 | Frankenmuth
Head to Frankenmuth for a variety of races on Independence Day!  Race location is Heritage Park on Weiss

Thunder Bay Maritime Festival | Alpena
A spaghetti dinner, music and fireworks show will be on July 3rd. Bring the whole family to this free annual community event hosted by the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Tour tall ships, research vessels and fishing boats docked along the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Trail. Enjoy live music on the main stage, kids games and crafts, see the small boat workshop, taste some local whitefish, explore the shipwreck century exhibits and more! Festivities start eachyear at 500 W. Fletcher Street following the 4th of July parade in downtown Alpena.

4th of July in Boyne City
Boyne City’s 4th of July Festival is always held on July 4th, regardless of the day of the week!  All events are held at Veterans Memorial Park on Lake Street unless otherwise noted. Make your way up to Boyne City for the annual parade and fireworks show!

As June comes to a close, so does National Camping Month. But don’t put away that tent just yet! Check out these great campgrounds that still have space for the Fourth of July weekend and beyond. 

Brighton-BishopLakeBeachPathBrighton Recreation Area
Consisting of nearly 5,000 acres of rolling woods and meadows interspersed with lakes, streams and marshes. There are several campgrounds, beaches and hiking and mountain bike trails. The majority of the area is open to hunting, fishing and most winter activities including snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. Bishop Lake beach offers an ADA accessible path which will allow all of our visitor’s access to the lake for swimming and several of our new picnic areas. We have added a sand volleyball court and horse shoe pits. The park also offers canoe,kayak and paddle boat rentals. Bishop Lake boat launch now offers an ADA accessible EZ Dock launch. The park also features complete equestrian facilities, including a riding stable with rental horses, campground, staging area and 18 miles of bridle trails. Metal detecting area.

Palms Book State Park
Palms Book is a rewarding side trip for the vacationer touring the Upper Peninsula, for here can be seen one of Michigan’s alluring natural attractions — Kitch-iti-kipi, The Big Spring. Two hundred feet across, the 40-foot deep Kitch-iti-kipi is Michigan’s largest freshwater spring. Over 10,000 gallons a minute gush from fissures in the underlying limestone. The flow continues throughout the year at a constant 45 degree Fahrenheit. By means of a self-operated observation raft, visitors are guided to vantage points overlooking fascinating underwater features and fantasies. Ancient tree trunks, lime-encrusted branches and fat trout appear suspended in nothingness as they slip through crystal waters far below. Clouds of sand kept in constant motion by gushing waters create ever-changing shapes and forms, a challenge to the imagination of young and old alike.

Fayette Historic State Park
Fayette townsite is a restored iron smelting company town (1867-1891). Once a bustling industrial community, Fayette offers visitors the unmatched serenity of a Lake Michigan harbor, white cliffs and verdant forests. This well-preserved museum village recalls another time when it was a noisy, dirty company town with an immigrant population that shared daily hardships, joys and sorrows. Three miles of shoreline on Big Bay De Noc. Park amenities include: sixty-one semi-modern campsites, boat camping, fully furnished, cottage that sleeps up to ten people, picnicking, beach, playground, fishing, and boat launch. Five miles of hiking trails overlooking town from limestone cliffs. Groomed for cross country skiing, perfect for the beginner.

Hog Island Point

Photo courtesy of Chris Blake Photography

Muskallonge Lake State Park
159 site campground located between Muskallonge Lake and Lake Superior. Activities include swimming, boating, picnicking, agate & rock hunting on Lake Superior shoreline, camping, hunting and fishing. You can also do some wild berry picking while at the state park.

Newaygo State Park
Newaygo State Park is a 99-site rustic campground and day use area sitting atop 20-foot embankments overlooking the Hardy Dam Pond, a six-mile flooding of the Muskegon River. The campground noted for its large, private sites and scenic beauty with a 20-30 foot forested buffer between sites.

Ionia Recreation Area
Ionia Recreation Area offers you 149 campsites (100 modern and 49 rustic), 4,500 acres that offer a swimming beach, good fishing in Sessions Lake, camping, hunting, 3.5 miles of hiking trails looped within the park, nine miles designated for mountain bike trails, 15 miles of horse trails and a boat launch. We also have three designated trail loops for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling when there is four inches or more of snow. Additional amenities include a dog trail area and metal detecting area.

What do you have planned for the 4th of July in Michigan? Tag your Michigan fireworks photos with #PureMichigan on Twitter and Instagram. 

Camping in Michigan, An “In-tents” Adventure

June is National Camping Month! Today, our featured blogger from the Awesome Mitten shares her list of must-visit Michigan camping destinations to help you plan for an “in-tents” adventure.

photo3There’s no better way to explore Michigan than by camping. Whether you’re a seasoned backcountry backpacker or feel more comfortable in an RV, there are an endless amount of camping locations across the Great Lakes state. Every year my sister and I plan out our must-visit camping locations, and it’s a struggle to narrow our list down. While we like to camp year-round, there are a few places we can’t skip during the summer months. It was difficult, but I’ve rounded up my top three favorite camping spots in Michigan.

Disclaimer: southern Michigan is seriously underrepresented in my list. Do you have any suggestions for SMI camping locations?

1. Hiawatha National Forest – Grand Marais

photo1Hiking, kayaking, boating: oh MI! There are so many ways to explore the staggering cliffs, sandy beaches and turquoise shores of Lake Superior along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. There are quite a few beautiful and rustic campgrounds in the Hiawatha National Forest that provide quick access to the lakeshore. Sites are first come, first serve, so make sure to get to the site early in the day. If rustic camping isn’t your thing, you can stay at one of the modern campgrounds in Grand Marais. Once you’ve set up your nylon home-away-from home, I recommend hiking the Chapel Falls trail to Chapel Rock and beach or taking a guided kayak tour along the shoreline.

2. D.H. Day Campground- Sleeping Bear

Tucked away from Glen Arbor but close to the Sleeping Bear Dunes, D.H. Day is the perfect place to camp when exploring the Northern Lower Peninsula. Some of the sites are a little close to each other, but this rustic campground is relatively quiet. The campground offers easy access to Lake Michigan and is close to Sleeping Bear Trails. After you’ve explored the trails and conquered the Dune Climb, swap your hiking shoes for a kayak and paddle down the Crystal River.

photo23. Exploring the Wild Wild West (UP) – The Porcupine Mountains

With 60,000 acres of wilderness area, the Porcupine Mountains are an awesome place to explore yearround. Visitors can hike into several campsites throughout the park (hike lengths vary), and some drive-up campsites are also available. Or, skip the tent altogether and reserve a cabin or YURT! All of my yurt-camping dreams came true a few winters ago, and I’m sure they are as equally cool in the summer. There are tons of different hiking and mountain biking trails to explore throughout the park, it’s hard to choose which area(s) to explore. Definitely visit Lake of the Clouds!

This summer I’ll be visiting (and camping in) Leland, South Manitou, and Ludington for the first time. I can’t wait to camp and explore each area. Do you have any activity recommendations for the areas?

What’s your favorite camping destination? What should I add to my list? Most importantly, what’s your favorite s’mores recipe?

photo1 (1)Jessica Holli is an associate editor for the Awesome Mitten. She has lived in, and loves, both parts of America’s High Five. This Michigan State University alumna is obsessed with the Great Lakes, the color red, and spending as much time as possible outside. When she is not working she’s exercising in Michigan’s natural playground or planning her next adventure.