5 Michigan Destinations Perfect for Watching Wildlife

Michigan is known for having a variety of interesting fauna, including  moose, cougars, bears, birds, deer and so much more. Birding is an especially popular hobby in the Great Lakes state and is steadily growing each year. However, we can’t forget about all the other species of animals that you can watch and admire here. Animal sanctuaries provide great learning opportunities for animal lovers of all ages. Here are a few cool places to visit across the state great for birding and animal watching.

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1. Saginaw Bay Birding Trail
First up, the Saginaw Bay Birding Trail is a fantastic place to see a large variety of birds. On the Sunrise Coast, it runs from Port Crescent State Park to Tawas Point State park, covering 142 miles. The distinct change in seasons and habitats makes it easier to see a variety of over 200 species of birds. Be sure to check out the Tawas Point Birding Festival on May 19-22 for a fun- and education-filled event.

Another bird

2. Sleeping Bear Birding Trail
Heading over to the west side, the Sleeping Bear Birding Trail is another great place to visit if you love to watch and examine different types of birds. Stretching all 123 miles of the M-22 Highway, from Manistee to Traverse City, this trail is home to a diverse habitat and miles of shoreline. The Piping Plover, an endangered shorebird, has a home here due to the long sections of beach. Check it out and consider joining their eBird movement, where you can help provide your own bird photos and manage their database of sightings and early and late arrival dates.

eagles

3. Summer Wind Farms Sanctuary
This local non-profit is a licensed sanctuary for exotic birds, mammals and reptiles. Located in Brown City and home to more than 200 animals, the sanctuary looks to provide a safe haven for foxes, llamas, peacocks, alligators and more! In order to see the animals up close and personal, schedule an educational tour of the facility, where you can learn about the different animals. This is a perfect opportunity for children to learn about the world around them or even adults who love animals and want to be more educated. Also, check out their volunteer opportunities in order to make a great difference!

4. Howell Nature Center
The Howell Nature Center has a ton of fun activities for people of all ages. First and foremost, the center has a space called the Wild Wonders Wildlife Park where there are more than 70 mammals, like Taz the bobcat, and birds, like Kili the bald eagle. Visit and get educated about the variety of fauna at the park. The Nature Center also has camps for children from kindergarten through 12th grade. Kids can climb rock walls, go canoeing and have a ton of outdoor fun with their friends! Another special activity is the high adventure course where you can zip line through trees, climb on Michigan’s tallest outdoor climbing tower and participate in a high ropes course. Be sure to check it out!

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5. Deer Ranch
The Deer Ranch in St. Ignace is a great opportunity to see many types of deer including whitetails, white whitetails and even albino deer! First established in 1950, the Deer Ranch is the oldest live whitetail exhibit in North America. The ranch allows visitors to feed, pet and photograph the deer, maybe even bottle feed a fawn. Be sure to visit if you have always been fascinated by our Michigan deer and want to see them up close!

What places do you love to watch and visit fauna in Michigan? Comment below!

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

Four Ideas for a Post-Valentine’s Day Romantic Michigan Getaway

Valentine’s Day may have passed, but romance is forever. To show appreciation for those you love, flowers and chocolate top the list of popular gift ideas.  This year, consider the gift of travel.   Many hotels, spas, restaurants and attractions offer specials or packages for those looking to treat their significant other, or even themselves.

Here are four ideas to experience some romance in Pure Michigan for those looking for a romantic getaway anytime of the year.

Relax at a Bed and Breakfast 

Michigan has more than 400 bed and breakfasts around the state. Whether it’s a historic house steps away from the shore or a log cabin nestled in the woods, staying at a bed and breakfast is a great way to relax and unwind with your significant other.

What makes a stay at a B&B so special is that all of them are unique in their own way. Innkeepers provide special touches like desserts, unique furnishings and soft, comfortable beds that will make any stay memorable.

The Huron House Bed and Breakfast is right on the shores of Lake Huron in Oscoda, and is a couples-only retreat.  Rooms offer stunning views of the shoreline and many rooms come with a private outdoor hot tub.

Cocoa Cottage Bed and Breakfast in Whitehall is a 1912 Arts and Crafts bungalow that has been restored into a charming bed and breakfast just minutes away from Lake Michigan, with a sweet twist.  Guest rooms are named after well-known chocolate delicacies and every breakfast is started with chocolate.

Many historic homes in Ludington have been converted to beautiful inns.  The Cartier Mansion was the former home of Ludington lumber baron Warren Cartier.  Many of the rooms still have the original woodwork, fixtures and flooring.

Photo Courtesy of John Hill Photography

Photo Courtesy of John Hill Photography

Gaze at the stars  

The Headlands Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City is one of only ten International Dark Sky Parks in the world, which offers some of the best star gazing in the state.

The 600-acre park sits on more than two miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline in Emmet County. Here you will find the darkest of skies, undiluted by light pollution.

The Headlands is open 24 hours a day, every day, at no charge. There is no camping allowed, but visitors are welcomed to stay out through the night for dark-sky viewing opportunities.  You can bring blankets, sleeping bags, chairs, food and beverages.

Grab some warm and cozy gear and snuggle up by the stars for a date to remember.

Wine (Or Brew) and Dine

Kick your culinary experience up a notch with a beer or wine tour or experiencing some of Michigan’s best culinary destinations.

With more than 100 wineries nestled among 15,000 acres of scenic vineyards, Michigan truly is wine country with wine trails all around the state including Traverse City, Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail and the Thumbs Up Wine Trail.

If beer is more your thing, Michigan’s beer trails will quench your thirst. Head over to Grand Rapids for an extensive tour of some of the best breweries in West Michigan. It’s no wonder the city was voted Beer City USA in 2012 and 2013!

Michigan brewery tours are a great way to try a variety of craft beers right in the microbreweries that brew them! From Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City to Detroit Beer Company in Detroit, you’re sure to find that perfect pint. Check out this breweries map for an extensive list of places to visit!

Immerse spa

IMMERSE Spa, Photo Courtesy of MGM Grand

A Day at the Spa

What’s more relaxing than a day, or weekend, at the spa?  Fortunately, Michigan has several award-winning spas to choose from to pamper your loved one.

Boyne Mountain and Crystal Mountain might be known for ski slopes and winter sports, but the resorts’ spas are worth the trip alone.

Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville has a 18,500-square-foot, LEED-Certified oasis with private transition rooms with heated floors, steam rooms and infrared saunas, and an outdoor Mosaic Garden with hot tub.  The Crystal Spa offers a Winter Spa Menu, as well as specials for Valentine’s Day.

Boyne Mountain in Boyne Falls is home to Solace Spa, with spectacular views of the mountain and amenities such as cedar saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, relaxation and treatment rooms.   Solace Spa offers unique winter seasonal treatments, couples massages and a Petoskey Hot Stone massage.

MGM Grand’s IMMERSE Spa, in the heart of Detroit, has a menu of remineralizing seawater and marine extracts, exotic botanical, and meticulously customized aromatherapy-based treatments and rituals.

What are some other Pure Michigan romantic getaways? Comment below!