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:

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!

Celebrate 100 years of the National Park Service in Michigan

The National Park Service, which oversees more than 450 park sites throughout the United States, is turning 100! Discover a little history behind Michigan’s seven parks and how you can celebrate this incredible milestone without traveling far from home.

In 2016, a major milestone will be marked across the country as the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Indeed, the birthday party has already started across the more than 400 National Park sites in the U.S., seven of which are in Michigan. There are countless activities and programs available for the whole family all with the hope of inspiring the next generation of park stewards.

The NPS is widely celebrated by Michiganders and out-of-towners alike, with dazzling natural beauty such as the mineral-laden colors that adorn 200-foot tall cliffs at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore or miles of picturesque sandy beachfront at Sleeping Bear Dunes.

As the 2016 NPS Centennial draws closer, residents across the country are being encouraged to experience a National Park and then share their impressions by tagging #FindYourPark via social media.

So for those seeking a truly unique Michigan experience while basking in the celebration of the NPS Centennial, here are some ideas to jumpstart your journey:

Find Your Park

Day trip with your 4th-grader as part of Every Kid in a Park

In honor of the NPS Centennial, all 4th-graders now have access to their very own Every Kid in a Park passport which grants free admission to all federally owned natural lands such as national park sites, national forests, wildlife refuges and more from now until the end of 2016.

For 4th-grade students in southeast Michigan, the National Park Foundation is supporting two sets of Fourth Grade Discovery days to be held at Historic Fort Wayne in June 2016 and September 2016. The goal is to reach 4,000 of the Detroit Public School’s fourth-graders during the NPS Centennial.  Students visiting the fort during the Discovery Days program will take part in demonstrations and activities that enhance their grade level social studies and natural science curriculum, as well as have an opportunity to have fun in the park.

Get away from it all at Isle Royale

Crossing the icy, deep waters of Lake Superior from Copper Harbor and entering the unscathed wilderness of Isle Royal National Park – visitors truly feel that they have entered a different world.

The isolated, stunning vistas are truly a way for visitors to explore wilderness, slow down the pace of life and relax the soul. As an island park, there are many ways to enjoy Isle Royale from the water, land or air.

Visitors can enjoy these life experiences during the 2016 Centennial and beyond. Please note: The park is officially closed to visitors until April, 2016.

Discover Keweenaw’s copper story through a scavenger hunt

The Keweenaw National Historic Park is not only known for its radiant, natural beauty but also for its copper mining heritage which dates back 7,000 years ago. Discover the Keweenaw copper and 21 Heritage Sites throughout the region during 2016 by going on the Copper Country Scavenger Hunt.

What did miners put in their lunch pails to keep their pasties warm? Who rescued 24 people and a dog from the shipwreck L.C. Waldo in 1913? Children of all ages have a chance to win a prize by finding the answers to questions like these by completing the hunt. The booklet is free and available at each of the staffed Keweenaw Heritage Sites as well as the NPS’s Calumet Visitor Center.

Other Centennial program at Keweenaw will include a “History Smackdown” competition among local high school teams, a 1916 fashion show featuring park rangers, a monthly history speaker series focusing on the NPS Centennial and much more!

‘Find Your Road Trip’ within the MotorCities National Heritage Area

Southeast Michigan has the largest concentration of historical sites related to the evolution of the automotive industry in the entire world. Indeed, there are many twists and turns one can take while traveling from The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn to the Gilmore Car Museum in bucolic Hickory Corners, and coming in early 2016 the MotorCities National Heritage Area will be encouraging auto enthusiasts to “Find Your Road Trip,” with a one-of-a-kind tourism booklet exploring the vast automotive heritage of the region.

Travelers will be able to have their road trip booklet stamped with an exclusive 2016 NPS Centennial stamp at historical sites across the National Heritage Area and fellow National Park Service sites.

So blaze your own trail, chart your own journey and experience something great using our free publication! It will be available at National Heritage Area partner sites, Michigan Welcome Centers and more.

Photo Courtesy of Austen Smith

Photo Courtesy of Austen Smith

North Country Trail

Headquartered in Lowell, The North Country National Scenic Trail (North Country Trail) is a unit of the network of scenic, historic and recreation trails created by the National Trails System Act of 1968 and is administered by the National Park Service.

Traversing seven states along its 4,600 mile route, it is the longest national scenic trail in the United States. While the North Country Trail is managed primarily for hiking and backpacking, some portions of the trail may also permit other non-motorized uses. Of primary importance is protecting the trail experience—providing opportunities for recreation, education, inspiration, solitude, and enjoyment; and ensuring user safety and resource protection.

The wide variety of terrain, flora and fauna offers everything from a leisurely afternoon stroll to a multiday, rigorous long-distance hiking challenge. In every locale, opportunities abound for bird watching, botany, photography, and wildlife study, either alone or as an experience shared with others seeking the respite of the outdoors.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Loudenslager

Photo Courtesy of Chris Loudenslager

Take a cruise around Pictured Rocks 

At Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the park and partner Pictured Rocks Cruises have combined forces to offer a free cruise ticket to every 4th-grader in Michigan.

Following a successful test in 2015 with enthusiastic response, about 100,000 tickets will be distributed in Michigan schools in December. Kids can redeem their free ride by bringing their family/guardian/adults to the Munising City Docks Pictured Rocks Cruises booking office and choose their tour.

Tours include Spray Falls, the round trip tour to Chapel Rock or the popular sunset trip. Super thanks to Pictured Rocks Cruises for making it possible for every Michigan 4th grader to Find their (Great Lake) Park.

Photo Courtesy of Laura Rotegard

Photo Courtesy of Laura Rotegard

Discover Michigan’s role in the War of 1812 at River Raisin

Over a century before the founding of the National Park Service, the War of 1812 raged in southeast Michigan, Ohio and Canada. The River Raisin National Battlefield Park – located in Monroe, about 40 miles southwest of Detroit – preserves, commemorates, and interprets the January 1813 battles of the War of 1812 and their aftermath in Monroe and Wayne counties in southeast Michigan.

Artifacts and exhibits pertaining to the battles at the River Raisin are displayed in the visitor’s center museum. Be sure to watch a 14-minute fiber optic map presentation in which the conflict in the Old Northwest Territory is unfolded.

In the west wing, a collection of original military firearms and accoutrements, and an additional diorama, accompany the fiber optic map. In the east wing, handcrafted miniature dioramas depict scenes from the River Raisin, the battles of Lake Erie, and the battle of the Thames. In the main gallery, full-scale vignettes bring to life the American and British troops as they might have appeared at dawn on January 22, 1813, just before the second battle.

Step back in time at Sleeping Bear Dunes

At Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, visitors will be able to step back in time and experience the year 1916, when the National Park Service was founded, as part of Glen Haven Days on May 28. Visit an historic Great Lakes village and United States Life Saving Station/Maritime Museum as part of the day-long program. Visitors can also stroll through the Port Oneida Fair happening Aug. 12 and 13, 2016 and experience life as it was in Port Oneida in 1916!

Other Centennial programming at Sleeping Bear will include the monthly Research Rendezvous Series of public discussions held throughout 2015 and 2016. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and highlight the value of national parks as our nation’s “living laboratories,” Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is hosting a monthly series of public talks by park researchers called “Research Rendezvous.” This program will provide an opportunity to learn about the diversity of scientific investigations occurring in or near the National Lakeshore.

Photo Courtesy of the National Parks Service

Photo Courtesy of the National Parks Service

For more information on these parks, visit their respective websites and social media channels. Which of Michigan’s National Parks is your favorite?

Isle Royale: Facebook

Keweenaw National Historic Park: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram 

MotorCities National Heritage Area: Facebook, TwitterInstagram

North County Trail: Facebook, Twitter

River Raisin National Battlefield Park: Facebook

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Facebook, Twitter

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter