Four Pure Michigan Ways to Spoil Yourself For Singles Appreciation Day

Now’s your chance to spoil yourself! Our friends at The Awesome Mitten share four fun and delicious ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day’s counterpart –  Singles Appreciation Day.

Being single doesn’t mean you have to stay home on February 14th – Valentine’s Day can and should be celebrated by singles!

Photo courtesy of Aaron Murdick's Fudge

Photo courtesy of Aaron Murdick’s Fudge

Michigan provides many opportunities to enjoy single life. Of course, there are many Michigan winter outdoor activities such as skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling or ice fishing to occupy your time. If that’s your thing gather up your group of girlfriends or buddies, bundle yourself up and spend your day in the brisk Michigan winter. I am not what you would call “outdoorsy,” but I still can get a mad case of cabin fever and mid-February is often when that reaches its peak.  If you prefer the indoors, Michigan provides just as many opportunities to treat yourself.

Spoil Yourself with Michigan Chocolates
If you are going to stay in, invite your friends over and treat yourselves to some classic Valentine’s Day Michigan chocolates. My personal favorite is Jackson’s Gilbert’s Chocolates  (mmm I could really go for some chocolate covered potato chips right now.)

The Chocolate Garden is another Michigan favorite that beckons travelers along I-94. With billboards featuring accolades from the likes of the Food Network, I had to stop. When I tasted those delicious truffles, I was amazed at the quality of this seemingly roadside attraction (They sell online too!)

Another popular Valentine activity is to drown our single sorrows in some Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream.  Make it a true Michigan sundae with a little Sander’s Hot Fudge on your Hudsonville Ice Cream.

Photo by Rebecca Calkins

Photo by Rebecca Calkins

Chocolate also pairs well with Michigan wine! Mindo Chocolate does wine pairing events including wine festivals which is where I first tasted these delicious dark specialties, including a few varieties with Michigan fruit. They do not have a storefront, but they are distributed in great little shops around Michigan. I know in my neighborhood they are available at Lone Oak Vineyard Estate.  Speaking of alcohol…

Go Out for a Drink…
Choose your favorite Michigan wine or beer, of course! A tour on a Michigan wine or beer trail is just what a group of single girls or guys needs to have a good time this Valentine’s Day.

I’ve taken several tours along the Southeast Michigan Pioneer Wine Trail both with friends and with family. Pro Tip: pack some bread and cheese or stop at your local farmers market on the way and snack between stops. It’s a great way to soak up some alcohol and make your trip a little more delicious. Weaving your way from Adrian in the south to Haslett in the North is at least a two day activity in order to hit them all, but my personal favorites are Sandhill Crane Vineyards and J. Trees Cellars.

I just went on a mini beer tour in Grand Rapids a few weeks ago with a stop at Brewery Vivant and Arcadia. Of course, Founders is usually a requisite stop for me. Near my home, I’ve also made a mini tour right along I-94 with Dark Horse, Grand River and Chelsea Alehouse.

Sandhill Crane - Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

Sandhill Crane – Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

Eat Your Way through Michigan
Although restaurants maybe booked up for dinner, that doesn’t mean a nice singles awareness lunch tour couldn’t satisfy a friends’ trip. Most of my favorites are around my hometown of Jackson, including a few award winning Jackson restaurants  including Michigan’s Best Barbeque at West Texas BBQ.

Work Off the Food with a Dance Party
Since I’m not the outdoorsy type, I have to find some way to work off all of that chocolate, beer, wine and food. There are many great Michigan nightlife hotspots to choose from all over the state. If shaking your booty on the dance floor isn’t your thing, there is always an evening at the casinos or another of my personal favorites, karaoke!

Whether single or taken, we love our fans! Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Headshot 1 originalRebecca Calkins is the Communications Director for Experience Jackson. She grew up in Jackson and returned after attending college at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. When not working, Rebecca enjoys cooking and traveling, always looking for the next culinary or cultural adventure.

Giveaway: Celebrate National Fudge Day with Pure Michigan

Mackinac Island is world-famous for its fudge, and with National Fudge Day coming up on Sunday, June 16th, we thought it seemed fitting to celebrate.

The sweet and creamy treat has been a staple on the island for more than a century – ever since Harry Murdick opened the first fudge shop in Michigan on Mackinac Island in the late 1880s. Today, Mackinac Island is home to seven different fudge confectioners with several locations of each on the island.

Here are just a few other reasons why Mackinac Island fudge is Pure Michigan:

  • Mackinac Island is home to more than 15 fudge shops within a 3.8 square mile radius.
  • Each summer, visitors flock to the historic Northern Michigan destination and bring back a sweet souvenir – more than 10,000 pounds of fudge leave the island each day during travel season. 
  • Many fudge shops on Mackinac Island have a special ventilation system to waft the smell of freshly made fudge out onto the Main Street sidewalk. Ryba’s was the first to have this system in 1960.
  • Mackinac Island fudge makers ship in about 10-tons of sugar per week and 10 tons of butter per year to make fudge. About 80 percent of the sugar used comes from Michigan.
  • President Gerald Ford visited Mackinac Island in July 1975, and made a personal stop at May’s Candy Shop for fudge.

To get our fans involved with the Fudge Day fun, we’ve teamed up with four shops from around the island – Joann’s Fudge, May’s Candy Shops, Murdick’s Fudge and Ryba’s Fudge – to offer fans on Twitter the chance to win a prize package of fudge every hour between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. this Friday, June 14th. To be eligible to win, fans can simply tweet their favorite flavor of fudge to @PureMichigan on Friday.

Pure Michigan will then choose one winner at random each hour to win a package from one of the shops in the following order:

  • 10:00 a.m. – Joann’s Fudge
  • 11:00 a.m. – May’s Candy Shops
  • 12:00 p.m. – Murdick’s Fudge
  • 1:00 p.m. – Ryba’s Fudge

Winners will be contacted through Twitter with details on obtaining their prize. Tweets must include the hashtag #puremichiganfudge and entrants must follow Pure Michigan on Twitter.*

Additionally, we encourage fans that are on Mackinac Island on Sunday, June 16 to celebrate National Fudge Day by taking a tasty tour around the island to find your favorite shops and flavors. Fudge shops can now also be found in other vacation spots across the state of Michigan, such as Traverse City, Petoskey and Frankenmuth, and fudge fanatics can order their favorite flavor online from shops across the state.

And, don’t forget to return to Mackinac Island in August to celebrate the sweet sensation that is fudge during the Mackinac Island Fudge Festival, August 23-24, 2013. 

Are you looking forward to National Fudge Day? Be sure to follow @PureMichigan on Twitter this Friday for your chance to win authentic Mackinac Island fudge!

*Disclaimer: Users can only enter the Twitter contest once and those who make multiple accounts in order to enter more than once will be ineligible to win. Those who post the same tweet repeatedly or violate any of the other Twitter Rules will also be ineligible.

The History Behind Ryba’s Fudge Shops

Todd V.Callewaert is no stranger to the hospitality industry. His family started Ryba’s Fudge Shops in 1951 and eventually expanded the business to Mackinac Island, where they also own the Island House Hotel. Today, Todd fills us in on the history behind the businesses and gives us some insight to the fudge industry.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your position?

A: My wife Jennifer and I live six months on Mackinac Island and six months in Grosse Pointe Farms Michigan.  Our son Andrew is graduating from MSU this December and William is a freshman at the University of Michigan.  I have worked for Ryba’s Fudge since I was 16 years old making fudge and caramel corn and have been the General Manager of the Island House Hotel since 1988.

Q: What’s the history behind The Island House Hotel and Ryba’s Fudge Shops?

A: Ryba’s Fudge Shops was started by my grandfather and father in 1951with a popcorn and confection store in Detroit.  We started making fudge in 1956 calling ourselves Mackinac Island Fudge.  We moved to Mackinac Island in 1960 and changed the name to Ryba’s Fudge Shops. We now have five locations on Mackinac Island and two in Chicago.  In 1969 we purchased the Island House Hotel, which was to be slated to be torn down due to its state of disrepair.  The Island House was renovated and reopened in the 1970s.  Over the years it has gone through several more renovations and is now a registered Michigan historic landmark.  It has two excellent restaurants, the 1852 Grill Room and the Ice House Bar & Grill. 

Q: What makes fudge the perfect holiday gift?

A: Fudge has a nostalgic quality that makes it the perfect addition to any holiday gathering.  Fudge travels well and stores splendidly; however, we have never know it to last very long once it is brought out.

Q: What types of unique offerings does Ryba’s have for shoppers?

A: We offer ten flavors of fudge to choose from, including our popular Turtle and Chocolate Peanut Butter varieties.  This is in addition to our ‘Ryba’s Special Package’ which includes our fudge, caramel corn, peanut brittle and taffy.

Q: What are people surprised to learn about fudge?

A: Our fudge is all made by hand on marble slabs so it is smooth, unlike other fudges.  

Q: Outside of Ryba’s and The Island House, what are some Mackinac Island must-sees for visitors?

A: Over 83% of Mackinac Island is State Park so there are plenty of trails and bike paths to explore. The best way to see then Island is to take advantage of the lack of cars, grab a bike and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Q: What’s your favorite flavor of fudge?

A: Chocolate Pecan

Q: Where can people to go learn more?

A: Visit or call 800.44.RYBA to connect with Ryba’s Fudge. For more on Island House Hotel, visit or call 800.626.6304.

Todd V.Callewaert is currently president of his family business, Ryba’s Fudge Shops. The company began in 1951 with his grandfather opening a store in Detroit. Victor Callewaert joined Harry in 1954, the company eventually moved to Mackinac Island in 1960 and began producing their famous fudge, along with the original caramel corn and myriad handmade confections. Over the next 24 years, the family tradition continued as Todd joined his father in the family business after graduating from Central Michigan University in 1984.  Together they expanded to five separate locations on Mackinac Island, in addition to two locations in Chicago, a year-round mail order operation, the Island House Hotel, three Starbucks locations and four restaurants. Today, Todd looks forward to his oldest son Andrew’s graduation from the School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University and his son William’s graduation from the University of Michigan so this strong family tradition may continue into the next generation.