Six Ways to Celebrate Spring in Ann Arbor

Spring has finally arrived in Pure Michigan! The days are getting longer, the weather warmer and exciting events are taking place around the state. That means it’s time to celebrate spring in the Ann Arbor area! Below are six ways to experience the season in AA.

Get your geek on.
Plan your next visit to coincide with Free Comic Book Day on Saturday, May 7 hosted by Vault of Midnight. A retail event like no other, hundreds of costumed fans of all ages will line up around the block to participate in what feels like a mini-comic con in the heart of Downtown Ann Arbor. While waiting in line may seem like a drag, Vault staff entertains everyone with games, prizes, and general shenanigans. Learn more about the event, including which other downtown Ann Arbor retailers will be participating in the event.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

Score in Ann Arbor
AFC Ann Arbor kicks off its first season in the National Premier Soccer League this year, joining the ranks of some incredibly competitive teams throughout the Midwest Region. Specifically, the Mighty Oaks are looking forward to hosting Grand Rapids FC over Memorial Day Weekend and Detroit City FC over Independence Day Weekend. Check out the complete schedule and to incorporate a match into your weekend.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

Photograph an heirloom peony garden.
Nichols Arboretum, located on the University of Michigan campus, features a stunning spring display of historic peony varieties. When filled to capacity the garden holds nearly 800 peonies and up to 10,000 flowers at peak bloom! The best time to visit is usually Memorial Day – mid-June. Follow Visit Ann Arbor on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for bloom updates.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

Tackle the Argo Cascades.
Did you know that Ann Arbor features kayaking along the Huron River? Suitable for novices but enjoyable for those more experienced, the Argo Cascades is a series of nine small rapids, rock chutes and pools. Continue down the river to Gallup Park — about a 90-minute journey — for some of the most scenic views of the area! Equipment rentals are available starting at 10am in May and 9am starting Memorial Day Weekend.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

Score at the LPGA Volvik Championship.
This Memorial Day Weekend marks the inaugural year for the LPGA Volvik Championship tournament at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor. The event will feature a full field of 144 players competing in a 72-hole showcase for a purse of $1.3 million. Join fans on Saturday for “Orange Out for ChadTough!” — a special $30 ticket package available until May 15 which includes a Saturday Grounds ticket, a t-shirt, and your choice of either a sleeve of orange golf balls, an orange Volvik baseball hat, or an orange tee-holder. $10 from each ticket package sale will go directly to The ChadTough Foundation.

Photo Courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

Bacon! Bacon! Bacon!
June 1- June 5, join Zingerman’s in this epic tribute to cured pork. Camp Bacon® features a week’s worth of bacon-based events, from a film festival to The Main Event — a day filled with meaty speakers, lots of learning, and, of course, all the bacon you can eat! The festivities conclude on Sunday with the Camp Bacon Street Fair at Kerrytown. As always, this year’s Camp Bacon is a fundraiser for two amazing non-profit organizations: The Southern Foodways Alliance and the 4H Club of Washtenaw County.

Go to VisitAnnArbor.org for more information about all these events and more in the greater Ann Arbor area. You can also follow Visit Ann Arbor! on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. See you soon!

5 New Ways to Enjoy Traverse City This Summer

Even on vacation, you can get stuck in a rut.

Fortunately, up here in Traverse City there are so many different things to see, do and taste that there’s really no reason for doing the same thing over and over. There are new thrills in store for those who are willing to try something different. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Watch the sunset from a kayak.

Summer sunsets are part of Traverse City’s magic, whether you watch them from your hotel balcony, the top of a sand dune or a lonely Lake Michigan beach. But one of the most beautiful ways to enjoy the lovely colors of sundown, the deep hues of twilight and the wonder of a star-dusted night is from the cockpit of a kayak as it knifes its silent way through the dark water of Grand Traverse Bay.

Photo Courtesy of Northern Swag

The ladies at Paddle Away Tours have years of experience leading small groups of kayakers on sunset, moonrise and starlight excursions in the waters of Bowers Harbor and Power Island.

2. Explore a Shipwreck.

There are dozens of shipwrecks lying in the crystal-clear waters near Traverse City – schooners, steamships, freighters and tugs. Some are in deep waters and can only be reached by experienced scuba divers – but a surprising number can easily be reached from shore, and all you need is a pair of fins and a mask.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

The 160-foot wooden steamer Three Brothers and the 246-foot freighter Francisco Morazan, the Rising Sun and the skeletal remains of the 124-foot schooner Metropolis are all within easy reach of the adventurous snorkeler!

3. Do a Microdistillery Tasting

Traverse City is already well-known for the quality of its wines and its craft brewing scene. But if you’ve already done the wine trail route or the brew trail route — or if you’re just not the wine or beer-drinking type — there IS a third alternative. Traverse City is blessed with several fine microdistilleries that produce a bewildering array of brandies, vodkas, whiskeys, gins and other spirits – and putting together a tour of these places can be lots of fun as well as a great learning experience.

4. Walk, bike or skate the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail

The Traverse City area is well-known for its many hiking, cycling and skiing trails, but one of the most exciting ones is still being built. It’s the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, a paved pathway that allows cyclists, strollers, wheelchair pilots, in-line skaters and others to reach the highlights of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Right now the pathway is 13 miles long. When completed it will stretch 27 miles, from the northern end of the park to Manning Road, just south of Empire.

 5. Play a Round of FootGolf

Ever hear of FootGolf? This challenging hybrid between golf and soccer, where players try to sink regulation-size soccer balls in 21-inch holes with as few “strokes” as possible, is now being played at Elmbrook Golf Course in Traverse City and The Summit at Shanty Creek Resorts.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

The game is great fun, and its basic rules are like those of golf: the first shot at each hole has to be taken from the tee, and players must play past the usual array of bunkers, trees, water hazards and hills. Get your “team” together and try it!

Which of these Traverse City activities have you tried? Share with us in the comments!

Mike Norton spent 25 years as a newspaper writer and columnist before starting a second career as media relations manager at Traverse City Tourism. An avid cyclist, kayaker and hiker, he lives in the village of Old Mission.

5 Things You Can’t Miss On a Pictured Rocks Road Trip

The untouched natural beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is unlike anywhere else in the world, especially near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This stretch of coast from Munising to Paradise is worth a visit for some of the most unbelievably beautiful adventures in the state. This is a great place for a family summer vacation, with a cool to moderate climate and unlimited things to discover. Come along as Jennifer from The Awesome Mitten shares five things that make this gorgeous area Pure Michigan.

The Upper Peninsula seems like it was made for adventures with incredible experiences available in both the summer and winter months. It’s easy to fall in love with the beauty of this area. With eighty four percent of the Upper Peninsula covered by forests and 917 miles of shoreline along the deepest of the Great Lakes – Lake Superior – this is the perfect place to get away from it all and have an unforgettable vacation. Don’t miss these unique experiences during your next trip to the Upper Peninsula.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

1. The Food

Brown Fisheries Fish House

With fresh fish caught within hours of hitting your plate, Brown Fisheries Fish House boasts the tastiest fish near Paradise. Served with either two or three pieces of fish, their ultimate meal is the Lake Superior Whitefish Baskets. It is the most delicious, flaky, perfectly flavorful fish you could imagine and all for an affordable price. This family owned and run business is very low key, so we’re letting you in on the secret of this amazing hidden gem.

Bear Trap Inn

When in the Upper Peninsula you must get a pasty, and you better know how to pronounce it! If you’re looking for a pasty near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, look no further than Bear Trap Inn. Served by some of the friendliest folks, their food is hot, tasty and filling. The unique interior is unforgettable as well, with rooms filled with taxidermy animals exclusive to the area and a bar with hundreds of numbered mugs for all of the locals.

2. Lighthouses on Every Route

Whitefish Point Lighthouse

Jutting out into Lakes Superior, Whitefish Point Lighthouse is the oldest operating light on this Great Lake. All vessels entering and leaving this treacherous shoreline of Lake Superior must pass this light. This light looks out to the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes” where more shipwrecks have occurred than any other area of the lake so it’s full of remarkable and mysterious history.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

Au Sable Light Station

This active lighthouse along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is in the middle of astonishingly beautiful shoreline. Just west of Grand Marais, it is right around the corner from Log Slide lookout and in the opposite direction Twelve Mile Beach. The 1-1/2 mile walk along the historic U.S. coast guard road is worth the trek. With scenic overlooks of Lake Superior and areas that lead out onto Twelve Mile Beach, the beauty only increases the closer you get to Au Sable Light Station. With over 180 degree views, this landmark is a place not to be forgotten.

3. Small Town Adventures

Munising

The name Munising comes from the Ojibwe word for “island at.” This is the gateway to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore since it is the largest and closest city to the area. This city boasts small town charm and great local businesses that are exclusive to the city. You can even see the stars from this city, whether it’s on billboards advertising Kid Rock’s “Born Free” music video that was filmed in the area of the Northern Lights.

Log Slide Lookout

Located about seven miles west of Grand Marais is Log Slide lookout. This incredible place is breathtaking, with views of where loggers used to slide logs down this steep slope and into Lake Superior, where they were then hauled away and turned into products. This is also a good place to glimpse the Au Sable Light Station.

Oswald’s Bear Ranch

With 29 bears, Oswald’s Bear Ranch is the largest Bear Ranch in the entire United States. Just north of Newberry, one man, Dean Oswald, created this preserve for abandoned and orphaned bear cubs from Michigan and other states. This unique experience allows you to see these incredible animals up close and personal while giving a loving home to these bears who weren’t able to live a healthy and normal life until they came to Oswald’s. As a proud associate member of the Zoological Association of America, Oswald’s Bear Ranch is an exciting place for visitors to take part in giving these bears a sanctuary for a better life.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

4. Waterfalls All Around

Munising Falls

The majority of waterfalls in this area are the result of water running over a shelf or cliffs of hard limey sandstone called the Munising Formation. This formation extends from Tahquamenon Falls to Laughing Whitefish Falls. There are quite literally waterfalls all around you when you enter this area, especially near Munising which even has its own waterfall named after the city.  Located within the city limits of Munising, a short paved trail leads you up the cool sandstone canyon along Munising Creek to two viewing platforms at the base of the falls.

Miners Falls

Just a short hike off of Miners Castle Road is the impressively powerful Miners Falls. The gravel path is a beautiful stroll through the northwoods wilderness that ends with two incredible overlooks of the falls. Make sure to bring bug spray, because you won’t want to miss this astounding waterfall.

Tahquamenon Falls

Well known for its sheer size, the Tahquamenon Falls State Park is one of the most popular attractions in the Upper Peninsula. With 46,179 acres, it is the second largest state park in Michigan. Tahquamenon Falls’ Upper Falls has a magnificent 50 foot drop, while the Lower Falls include cascades and rapids. Bordering along Lake Superior, the majority of this state park is located in Whitefish Township.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

5. Not Your Average Tour of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Stretching for about 15 miles along Lake Superior, these incredibly bold and colorful cliffs range from 50 to 200 feet and jut out directly from the lake. There are numerous ways to see these beautiful cliffs including Miners Castle which provides a wonderful vista of Pictured Rocks. However, the best way to experience these cliffs is by water. There’s a variety of different tours to choose from, but the only vessel that will allow you to get within arm’s reach from these massive cliffs is by kayak.

One of the most popular companies is Uncle Ducky’s Paddling Michigan tours. They feature a variety of unique experiences, but the most incredible Pictured Rocks tour is probably their six hour Sunset Paddle. With the sun at a lower angle, the cliff walls are illuminated in beautiful hues of orange and reddish copper. Gliding along the crystal clear waters and feeling the waves crash into the astonishing cliffs that rise up to 200 feet above you is a humbling experience that is breathtaking and mind boggling full of natural beauty. The journey features many landmarks including Miners Castle, Bridalveil Falls, Caves of the Bloody Chiefs, Mosquito river, and circling beneath the iconic Lovers Leap Arch. Whether you’re a novice or expert kayaker this adventure is built for every skillset.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

The beauty of this region is almost indescribable; you just have to go live the adventure for yourself. These were the most unforgettable places I experienced along my last road trip in the Upper Peninsula that I’d recommend over and over again. It’s incredible to live in such a diverse state that offers unlimited adventures. And Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is unlike any other part of Michigan because of the unique experiences that await around every curve.

What’s your favorite landmark near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore?

AM1Jennifer Polasek is currently a student at Grand Valley State University earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing. Jennifer splits her time working as a public relation and marketing intern for The Awesome Mitten and Opera Grand Rapids. She’s an avid adventurer and loves exploring the hidden gems within Michigan! She currently resides in Grand Rapids, but loves escaping to Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula during the summertime. She loves promoting Michigan because of its endless adventures and diversity. Follow her Mitten adventures on Twitter and Instagram