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!

How To Make The Most of An Indie Film & Music Festival on Historic Hell’s Half Mile

Today, guest blogger Blair Giesken gives us some tips for making the most of Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival happening in Bay City September 25-29, 2014! 

The name “Hell’s Half Mile” started in the late 1800’s when a stretch of Bay City’s riverfront was peppered with rowdy saloons and seedy hotels where loggers and shipmen would go to “blow off a little steam.”  Then, locals came to call it Hell’s Half Mile.  Today, they call it home to one of the most collaborative and inspiring film and music festivals around.

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Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

As a writer and director of 4 films showcased over 2 years at Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival, Rider Strong (yes, 80’s babies— we’re talking former Boy Meets World actor Rider Strong), sees the irony in it all.  “’Hell’s Half Mile was the strip of waterfront where lumberjacks used to go boozing… Now, a bunch of us from Hollywood go there for a film festival. Not much has changed.”’

Jokes aside, Hell’s Half Mile does more than satisfy those who live for great independent films and music.  It’s a movement.  A grassroots effort to grow and celebrate a community that hasn’t lost (and will never lose) its love for the arts.  And in its 9-year history, HHM has been bringing independent filmmakers, actors, and musicians from across the country to experience how truly alive with the arts the Great Lakes Bay Region is.

If you love independent film and music even half as much as the artists, directors, actors, and musicians who attend Hell’s Half Mile Film and Music Festival each year, you’ll want to plan ahead so you can soak up the total experience when it returns to Bay City, September 25-28.

Here are a few tips for taking in all the great film & music that spans this all-out 4-day festival:

Don’t just sit there!

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

HHM isn’t about plopping down mindlessly in a seat to watch a movie or squishing into seat number 2,001 at a sold-out arena concert.  If you’re looking for that type of passive experience, this isn’t your jam.  It’s about connecting people to true, raw independent film and music.  Connecting musicians to filmmakers, filmmakers to festival-goers, filmmakers to film students, and so much more.   Our suggestion?  Get involved.  HHM makes it easy for you to sit in on panel discussions from the film directors and actors themselves, attend workshops to learn more about the art of filmmaking from the pros, or mingle with the musicians you came to see firsthand.  You can even volunteer at the festival to get behind-the-scenes access (and in some cases, entry into the opening night party & premiere film!)

Get Your Bearings

While HHM Film & Music Festival takes place primarily along… you guessed it… Hell’s Half Mile… there are other venues and festival hotspots you’ll want to explore between films and performances.  Check out HHM’s festival venues & hotspots map ahead of time so you know how to hop from venue to venue (and where to stop for a cold brew or a bite to eat along the way!).  And be sure to pay special attention to the list of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops on the list of festival hotspots – many of them host special dinners and live music performances during the festival to round out the total Hell’s Half Mile experience.

Do Your Homework

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival is a totally hands-on, involved experience for independent film & music lovers.  So if this is your first time attending, you might want to get in the spirit of the festival by revisiting some past classics.  Get your hands on films from past years of the festival, or download a few tracks of some musicians who have graced the Hell’s Half Mile Stage.  Though the lineup changes each year, it’ll give you a feel for the types of film and music that flood Hell’s Half Mile during the 4-day celebration (and will get you familiarized with many of the writers, directors, and actors who are repeat visitors to HHM).

Don’t View & Run

With so many great films and performances packed into just a few short days (this year, September 25th-28th), you’re not going to want to miss a minute.  So find a place to cozy up, and do it well in advance.  Hell’s Half Mile has put together a list of hotels near the film and music venues, or you can book your stay directly at the new GoGreat.com.

Blogger- Blair GieskenBlair Giesken is the Founder & Creative Director of Brandscape, a boutique branding and marketing firm based in Grand Rapids.  She was born and raised in the Great Lakes Bay Region, and loves to come back often to visit family, friends, and the place that will always still feel like home.

Back Roads and Time Travel, Discovering Sleeping Bear Dunes’ Best-Kept Secret

Today, Northern Michigan photographer Aubrieta V. Hope lets us in on Sleeping Bear Dunes’ best-kept secret.

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Photo courtesy of Aubrieta V. Hope Photography (michiganscenery.com)

Sometimes the best travel secrets are hidden in plain sight. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, known for its Dune Climb and majestic Scenic Drive also harbors a secret place off the beaten path that many visitors never see.  It’s a quiet place that invites exploration, where the past seems so near that maybe you could just slip into it.  To discover this special place, travel north on M-22 from Glen Arbor and turn west on Port Oneida Road into the Port Oneida Rural Historic District.

Drive slowly, or better yet, ride a bicycle along the back roads that branch out from Port Oneida Road.  It’s a storybook landscape with more than a dozen farmsteads dating from the mid-1800′s surrounded by rolling hills, wildflower-tangled pastures and beautiful Lake Michigan beaches.

Photo courtesy of Aubrieta Hope Photography

Photo courtesy of Aubrieta Hope Photography

The old pioneer community is quiet now.  But life goes on: wild roses and poppies bloom, orchards bear fruit, and migrating birds and other wildlife proliferate. Two well-marked hiking trails (the Bay View Trail and the Pyramid Point Trail), traverse the region, both offering panoramic views.  You can spend an entire day here and feel like you have just begun to explore.

Port Oneida offers endless inspiration for artists. As a photographer, I visit the area every chance I get.  I especially enjoy photographing the old farms on misty days and during the fall color season when the trees glow like candles on the hills.  I find secrets of Port Oneida’s pioneer past everywhere, in the glint of an old window at sundown or the crunch of a vintage apple in late summer.    ­

Photo courtesy of Aubrieta V. Hope Photography (michiganscenery.com)

Photo courtesy of Aubrieta V. Hope Photography (michiganscenery.com)

Every season brings beauty to Port Oneida, but summertime is special because that is when many events bring the old farms to life.  It’s a fun way to connect with the area’s rich history.  Some events during the summer in Port Oneida include: the Port Oneida Fair, a 5K Barn to Barn Trail Run/Walk, ranger-led interpretive programs, art classes, horse and wagon tours, and volunteer building and restoration projects.

Go ahead, take a back road and time travel into the heart of Sleeping Bear Dunes’ past.  Bring your hiking boots, your binoculars, a picnic, a friend, maybe even your whole family.  You might just want to stay awhile…

For maps, schedules and other information, stop by Sleeping Bear Dunes’ Visitor Center in Empire.

Aubrieta V. HopeAubrieta V. Hope is a landscape photographer with a special interest in Northwest and Upper Michigan.  To see Aubrieta’s images, visit her website, www.michiganscenery.com, check out her Michigan Scenery Facebook page, or stop by Petoskey Pete’s in Glen Arbor or Great Goods in Suttons Bay, Michigan.