Leap into these 29 Obscure Facts about Michigan

As the childhood, adulthood or industrial homes of leaders of the greatest technological advances of last century, we Michiganders have a long history of being number one. And as the only state in the country with two peninsulas, we also like getting a little extra. To celebrate the one extra day of February we get each Leap Year, guest blogger Joel Heckaman from The Awesome Mitten has put together this list of 29 “ones” – instances where a Michigan city is the first, best or only of its category.

Every four years, a Leap Year provides us the fortune of one extra day to enjoy the great things we love about Michigan. Unfortunately, that day happens in the cold, shortened daylight of February, so I’ve put together this list of 29 “ones” – instances where a Michigan city is first, best or the only – to help you get through each day with a little more Pure Michigan pride as we wait for spring:

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Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. Photo courtesy of Mary Anne Novak

1. The first permanent European settlement in Michigan was Sault Ste. Marie in 1668.
2. The Ambassador Bridge in Detroit is the busiest international border crossing in North America.
3. Michigan State University in East Lansing was the nation’s first land-grant institution and first agricultural college.
4. University of Michigan in Ann Arbor features the top graduate programs in Health Care Management, Social Work and Nuclear Engineering.
5. Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti was the first in the nation to introduce a four-year curriculum for teacher education.
6. Kellogg’s, originally the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, produced the first flaked breakfast cereal.
7. The St. Clair River Tunnel from Port Huron to Sarnia, ON was the first underwater railroad tunnel built in North America.
8. Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Company, which later became Gibson Guitar Corp., was founded in Kalamazoo.

Downtown Lansing and the Michigan Capitol. Photo courtesy of Joel Heckaman

Downtown Lansing and the Michigan Capitol. Photo courtesy of Joel Heckaman

9. The Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame in Lansing was the first organization dedicated to women’s history in the nation.
10. M-185 on Mackinac Island is the only highway in the nation where motor vehicles are banned.
11. De Zwaan, brought to Holland as a way for the city to pay homage to its heritage, is the only authentic, working Dutch windmill in the U.S.
12. The Nordberg Steam Hoist, located at the Quincy Mine in Hancock, is the largest steam-powered hoist engine ever built.
13. Although Traverse City no longer holds the record for world’s largest cherry pie, it does still have the world’s largest cherry pie tin.
14. Grand Rapids was named the #1 U.S. travel destination in 2014.
15. United Auto Workers’ first sit-down strike, starting at GM’s Fisher #1 plant in Flint, gave the union legitimacy and leverage just a year after its founding.
16. The nation’s largest indoor-outdoor museum complex, which features entertainment as well as American history, is The Henry Ford in Dearborn.
17. Until the Fountains of Bellagio, the Grand Haven Musical Fountain was the largest musical fountain in the world.
18. The world’s largest tire is the 80-foot tall Uniroyal landmark along I-94 in Allen Park.

Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

19. Bronner’s in Frankenmuth is known nearly all the way up and down I-75 as the world’s largest Christmas store.
20. Although many places claim to be his hometown, the first published story about Paul Bunyan appeared in the Oscoda Press in 1906.
21. Magic capital of the world and home to Abbott Magic Company and FAB Magic, Colon is the world’s largest manufacturer of magic supplies.
22. Green Meadow Farm in Elsie is one of the largest dairy operations in the state and at times had the largest Holstein herd in the world.
23. Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Saugatuck Chain Ferry is the only hand-cranked chain ferry still operating in the country.
24. The northern-most part of Michigan is the island of Isle Royale, which is the least-visited of the U.S. National Parks.
25. Northern Michigan is rich with limestone, and the world’s largest limestone quarry is Rogers Quarry in Rogers City.
26.The cement plant in nearby Alpena, originally Huron Portland Cement Company and now owned by Lafarge, was once the largest in the world.
27. Between those two cities is Presque Isle, home to the tallest lighthouse on the Great Lakes.

View from the New Presque Isle Lighthouse. Photo courtesy of Joel Heckaman

View from the New Presque Isle Lighthouse. Photo courtesy of Joel Heckaman

28. At 31 feet high and 22 feet wide, Cross in the Woods in Indian River is the largest crucifix in the world.
29. The world’s largest weathervane can be found in Ellenwood Park in downtown Montague.

Congratulations! You’re now one month (plus one day) closer to Opening Day, Red Wings playoffs, warm Great Lakes beaches, or however you celebrate spring in your part of the state.

What makes your Pure Michigan city singularly unique? Let us know in the comments!

IMG036-3smJoel Heckaman is a longtime Michigan resident who loves the culture, scenery, beer and music of the mitten state. He is a Michigan State University alumnus and founder of the Middle of the Mitten local music festival. He is on the social media team at Identity, and his experience includes work with MSU, UM, TEDxDetroit, the Big Three and other proud Michigan brands. You can find him talking about many of these things, as well as cheering on the Spartans and Red Wings, on Twitter and LinkedIn.

6 Unique Places to Stay in Michigan on Your Next Trip

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Expedia.com shared some of the best hotels all across the Great Lake State.

A variety of eclectic cities with vivid scenery, cultural attractions, and scrumptious cuisine are sewn into the state of Michigan. We can’t get enough of the Wolverine State, from the islands in the north to the coastal spots overlooking Lake Michigan, so at Expedia.com we compiled some of our favorite hotels across the state. Whether you start in the south and work your way north, or dedicate a separate vacation for each of these cities, Michigan’s fantastic fudge and bubbling brewery scene are sure to impress.

Photo Courtesy of Expedia

Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island
If you’ve heard of Mackinac Island, then you’re probably familiar with some of the best fudge on the planet. Venture to this northern island resort, and eat your weight in sugary goodness on the world’s longest front porch, located at Grand Hotel.

The historical 1886 hotel stands pretty like a dollhouse with Americana charm; all it’s missing is a white picket fence. Dive into a five-course meal at the Main Dining Room that overlooks the Straits of Mackinac and splash around in the Esther Williams swimming pool, named after the actress that starred in “This Time for Keeps,” which was filmed at the hotel property.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Toursim

Great Wolf Lodge, Traverse City
As one of Michigan’s largest destinations, Traverse City is overflowing with things to do. In the warm months, get some rays and stake a claim at Clinch Park Beach or set sail along West Grand Traverse Bay. But if snowflakes are falling, the ski slopes at Crystal Mountain are only 30 miles southwest of the city.

Regardless of the temperatures outside, it’s always summertime at the Great Wolf Lodge, which features a 38 thousand square foot indoor water park. With water slides, wave pools, and a four-story tree house water fort, this lodge is perfect for the young and young at heart. The family-friendly hotel also provides spacious suites and on-site eateries.

Photo Courtesy of Expedia

The Inn at Harbor Shores, St. Joseph
Who needs France when you’ve got the “Riviera of the Midwest?” Hugging Lake Michigan, St. Joseph is a waterfront town sprinkled with sand dunes along the coast and orchards and vineyards in the countryside.

Once you’ve spent the day shopping at the boutiques and canoeing on the lake, retreat to The Inn at Harbor Shores in time for complimentary happy hour. Showing off views of St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan, the hotel includes an indoor and outdoor pool, spa, and even an art gallery. During your stay, create some friendly competition on the sand volleyball court—loser buys the first round at Plank’s Dockside Bar!

Photo Courtesy of Expedia

The H Hotel, Midland
It may not be unchartered territory, but the “City of Modern Explorers” is definitely worth a visit. Home to the immaculate Dow Gardens and Michigan’s oldest brewery, Midland belongs on your travel itinerary. Find some peace and quiet in one of the city’s 72 parks or get tickets to the symphony orchestra at Midland Center for the Arts.

When it’s time to relax, The H Hotel offers a tranquil retreat. Take a dip in the indoor whirlpool and swimming pool, or tempt your taste buds at the hotel’s high-end restaurant, The Table. The inviting accommodation also features a business center, fitness room, and shuttle service.

Photo Courtesy of Expedia

Amway Grand Plaza, Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids had us at “beer.” Local breweries like Founders Brewing Co. and Brewery Vivant entice our hoppy side, but it’s the up-and-coming foodie scene that makes linger in this town.

Loosen your belt buckle after hitting local favorites, such as Grove and Cult Pizza, and then sleep off that food coma at the Amway Grand Plaza. Ready for round two? The hotel has five eateries, including the elegant Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and the Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck. You’ll have access to The Spa and Salon, Lumber Baron Bar, and the Garden Court Lounge, too.

Photo Courtesy of Expedia

The Inn on Ferry Street, Detroit
If its automobile history is the only thing that comes to mind when you think of Detroit, then it’s time to broaden your horizons. Weave through the stalls at the Eastern Market, sipping and sampling the local eats. Artwork and fresh flowers brighten the rows, while local musicians color the air with sound.

After scooping up some fresh produce and slipping into the local bars that surround the market, put your feet up at The Inn on Ferry Street. The property is unique in that it spans four Victorian mansions and two carriage houses. Discover the charm and history at this accommodation, which serves as a bed-and-breakfast, hotel hybrid. Wake to up to complimentary breakfast and hop in the free shuttle that services anywhere within 5 miles.

North, south, east, west, and everything in between, Michigan just might surprise you. Set your sights on this state and spend your next vacation exploring it from the bottom of the mitten to the very tip of the UP.

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As a staff writer for Expedia, Chloe Mulliner is dedicated to providing top travel tips for your jaunts around the world. She believes there are adventures to be had on every inch of the globe from surf spots on the Peruvian coast to the charming villages of the English countryside. Chloe specializes in showcasing all the must-see attractions on your travel wish list. She lives by the belief that every adventure is a story worth sharing.

7 Things You Didn’t Know About the Blue Water Area

Are you looking for a new area to explore in Pure Michigan? The Blue Water Area is a getaway to be discovered along the eastern shores of the Great Lakes state. Guest blogger, Danielle Kreger from the Blue Water Convention & Visitors Bureau shares seven things you didn’t know about the Blue and its 140 miles of shoreline.

1) The Blue has six lighthouses to visit; some locations offer a guided tour and tower climb while others simply pose for great photo opportunities.  The nautical stories and current duties of each light station are different, however they have all stood their ground, placed for the purpose of guiding ships and their crew through rough waters.

Harbor Beach Lighthouse Tour, Blue Water Area CVB

Photo Courtesy of Danielle Kreger

2) The Blue has a nationally recognized water trail. The Island Loop Route National Water Trail, is a 10.2-mile looping water trail and is well suited to recreational paddlers, kayaks, canoes and paddle boards. It is the first nationally recognized water trail in Michigan and one of only 14 in the nation. The trail navigates through rivers, canals and lake and passes the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse amongst other favored locales.

3) The Blue has a dark sky preserve.  Port Crescent State Park, in Port Austin, has a designated area where no electric light exists for miles, giving star-gazers an unobstructed view of the night sky.  The dark sky preserve is located in the day-use area where there’s a charge for parking, but no overnight reservations are needed.  Sit back and enjoy the wonders of the universe right in the Blue.

4) The Blue hosts an incredible amount of festivals, free waterfront concerts and summertime events to enjoy like when 300 or more sailboats gather in the marinas of Port Huron to compete in the Port Huron to Mackinac Race.  On race day, it is a continuous flow of sailboats as they pilot into Lake Huron in a race to Mackinac Island.

Photo Courtesy of Danielle Kreger

Photo Courtesy of Danielle Kreger

5) The Blue has a 54-mile paved pedestrian/bike path that runs along the water’s edge as well as a bit inland, winding around parks and neighborhoods.  The Bridge to Bay Trail begins north of the Blue Water Bridge and extends to Anchor Bay in Algonac.  Where some of the trail links are still being developed, helpful signage will lead you to the next path.

6) The Blue has seven ADA accessible kayak launches.  These launches provide an easier and safer way for people with physical disabilities to launch a kayak.  They are located along waterways throughout the Blue.

St. Clair River, Blue Water Area CVB, credit Harry  Burkholder, Liaa

Photo Courtesy of Danielle Kreger

7) The Blue is the terminus of U.S. Bicycle Route 20, which is a cross-country bike trail that runs along M-29 into downtown Marine City. From there, riders have the ability to take the car/pedestrian ferry to Canada for a cross-continental journey.

Discover these things about the Blue Water Area and let them lead you on an experience you’ll treasure for a lifetime.  For more details and info about the Blue, visit the website and Facebook page.

Danielle Kreger lives and works in the Blue Water Area.  Though it is her home, she still sees the Blue as her getaway spot, loving the true-blue water and quaint hometown ambiance of each shoreline community.  She gets her kicks photographing her family as they make their own ventures every day.

Have you ever visited the Blue Water area? Comment with your experience below!