Inside Information: Helpful Hints for Planning Your 2015 Summer Vacation

Photo courtesy of Instagram user @john_a_gessner

Photo courtesy of Instagram user @john_a_gessner

Before we know it, the snow and ice will begin to melt and we’ll be looking forward to warm sunshine and long days. The only thing better than a Pure Michigan summer, is a Pure Michigan summer well planned. With that thought in mind, and summer dreams dancing in your head, check out this inside guide on the best times to book a warm weather Michigan getaway. Plus, see what’s new around the state in 2015 to help you plan your travels. 

When to book your stay

A stay at a Michigan resort is the perfect way to spend a summer getaway, and travelers from all over the country know it. The busiest times for these hometown hotspots are during the summer peak months of June, July and August. Typically, space sells out well before the busy season.

When planning a trip to a popular Michigan resort, it’s best to book a reservation months ahead of time to assure vacancy and lower prices. The Grand Hotel staff on Mackinac Island recommends booking summer trips as soon as registration opens in November, as rooms typically are sold out by August and sometimes even July!

Consider planning and booking your trip months ahead to avoid the headache of overbooked resorts.

When to go on a summer vacation

Photo courtesy of Instagram user @oni_one

Photo courtesy of Instagram user @oni_one

Once you’ve decided where you want to stay, it’s time to pull out the calendar and pick when you want to go.

A great way to avoid the sunscreen-covered masses it to plan your trip during the slower times of the season, which are right before or after the peak summer months. For example, resorts like The Homestead in Glen Arbor are popular during both the summer and winter seasons due to the complex being a golf and ski resort.

Expert travelers might advise that a trip in May or September could mean a Pure Michigan paradise nearly all to yourself. Besides not having to fight to find a beach chair, many resorts will offer lower prices for stays outside of the busy seasons!

When to buy your tickets

If you’re looking for some summer fun closer to home, summer events and concerts are always happening around the state. Similar to resorts, buying tickets to a concert, show  or festival early could potentially save you hundreds. Tickets to a popular concert only increase closer to the event date, and can be harder to come by when looking last minute. An added bonus of buying tickets early is the assurance of being able to sell your tickets if you can’t make it through services like StubHub.

Now that you know when to book, you can plan the most important part of your Pure Michigan summer getaway – the attractions!  In 2015, travelers will discover a diverse offering of new and improved things to do, places to stay, food to eat and activities to explore. Here’s a just a sampling of them. See a full list here. 

New Attractions

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit opens at the Detroit Institute of Arts March 15 and runs through July 12, 2015. The exhibit explores the couples’ careers and their impact on Detroit with nearly 70 works of art.

Photo courtesy of SEA LIFE

Photo courtesy of SEA LIFE

- The Sea Life Michigan Aquarium opens at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills at the end of January. Measuring 35,000 square feet the aquarium features more than 5,000 aquatic creatures, including an exhibit highlighting the Great Lakes.

The Detroit Zoo will open a new, $21 million Penguinarium in late 2015. The 24,000 square foot center will be the largest center in the nation dedicated to penguins.

The Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Gardens at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids will have its grand opening June 12, 2015. The garden will have an authentic Japanese teahouse, waterfalls, and zen-style gardens.

- The Discovery of King Tut Exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum opens May 16, 2015 featuring more than 1,000 reproductions of items from the tomb of Tutankhamun.

- The exhibit Roadside America: From the Lens of John Margolies will be on display at The Henry Ford Museum May 9-April 7, 2015 and the revamped Ford Rouge Factory Tour opens February 2015 with full production at The Henry Ford.

- Grand Traverse Commons now features a botanic gardens on the grounds of Historic Barns Park. The 25-acre garden incorporates existing meadows, hillsides and a pair of massive 19th century barns.

- Two new exhibits have opened at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners. The Lincoln Motor Heritage Museum was patterned after a historic Lincoln dealership and celebrates the Lincoln with more than 20 vehicles. The Cadillac-LaSalle Club Museum is a premier attraction for enthusiasts.

- The Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson is now offering tours of Cell Block 7 – the only prison exhibit within the walls of an operating penitentiary.

- Owosso’s rebuilt, LEED certified Lebowsky Center has re-opened featuring live shows from the Owosso Players.

The Thumb Quilt Trail showcases barns and agricultural traditions in Huron, Sanilac, and Tuscola Counties.

- Ludington will be offering smartphone tours of both the Mason County Barn Quilt Trail and the Mason County Agricultural Trail.

What’s New to Do 

Adventure and Recreation

- The Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Outdoor Adventure Center on the Detroit riverfront will provide guests with exhibits, displays, and hands-on simulators to showcase the natural and cultural resources in Michigan.

Zehnder's - Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

Zehnder’s – Photo courtesy of Frankenmuth CVB

-Zehnder’s Splash Village of Frankenmuth has opened its new 29,000 square foot atrium waterpark. The retractable roof is the only of its kind in the Midwest.

Trestle Park in Denton Township provides recreation opportunities in Roscommon County including campsites and swimming at Sullivan Beach.

Thumbs Up Wine Trail is a 275 mile trail spanning from Bad Axe to Clinton Township. The trail consist of vineyards, wineries, a meadery and a cider house.

- The 42-mile Fred Meijer Clinton Ionia Shiawassee State Trail is now open. The trail connects the communities of Ionia, Muir, Pewamo, Fowler, St. Johns, Ovid and Owosso, utilizing a former railroad corridor.

- Michigan’s new statewide trail running from Belle Isle Park to Ironwood is now open offering two distinct routes (one for hiking, one for biking) and serving as a link between many existing trails.

Michigan Activity Pass (MAP) has combined with Michigan state parks, the Michigan Historical Center and Michigan libraries to offer free passes to more than 120 historic and cultural destinations around the state.

Hanson Hills Recreation Area, in Grayling, has a new six mile Fat Bike trail.

- Au Train’s new trailhead was completed this fall. The trailhead includes a universally accessible kayak launch and fishing pier, railroad depot pavilion, log cabin interpretive center, picnic tables, restrooms, and trail head for multi-uses.

- A 9-hole footgolf course is coming to the Riverwood Resort in Mt. Pleasant and Hawk Hallow in Lansing is also now offering a footgolf course.

- Holland has created a new walking guide/map allowing people to take advantage of the snow-melted streets and sidewalks as well as enjoy the natural beauty of the town all year long. New walking and driving guides of historic and art sites in the Holland region is also now available.

River Town Adventures has opened in Lansing offering kayak, canoes or paddle boards available to rent and explore the Grand and Red Cedar Rivers. Taxi tours are now also available from the Lansing City Market, Old Town or REO Town.

- Traverse City’s Mt. Holiday now has a ten station zipline available with advanced reservations.
-Running Rivers in Douglas now offers a three hour kayak and stand up paddle board float trips on the Kalamazoo River.

Sports and Events  

- A new, reversible Tom Doak designed golf course will be built at Forest Dunes Golf Club in Roscommon.

- Bassmaster returns to Michigan with an Elite Series tournament at Lake St. Clair August 27-30, 2015.

- Kalamazoo hosts the U.S. Curling National Championships February 14- 21, 2015 as well as the PDGA Amateur Disc Golf World Championships July 18-25, 2015.

- ATV Riders will be able to travel across the Mackinac Bridge for the first time ever as part of the inaugural Trek the Mighty Mac event October 3, 2015.

DisArt Festival – a 15-day multi-faceted celebration of arts – is launching in downtown Grand Rapids April 10-15, 2015.

What’s New to Eat or Drink

10298784_10152849038958289_2327881022500686165_nWineries – New wineries opened or opening in Michigan include:

Walloon Lake Winery (Walloon Lake)

Petoskey Farms Vineyard (Petoskey)

3 North Vines (Croswell)

J-Tree Cellars Winery (Tecumseh)

Love Wines (Ludington)

Aurora Cellars (Lake Leelanau)

The Villa Mari Vineyard and Bonobo Vineyards (Traverse City)
Seasons of the North (Indian River)

WaterFire Vineyards (Torch Lake)

Breweries – Michigan’s craft beer scene continues to grow with the opening of the following breweries:

Thumb Coast Brewing Company (Port Huron)

Thumb Brewery (Caseville)

Cognition Brewing Company (Ishpeming)

Elk Street Brewery (Sandusky)

One Well BrewingBrite Eyes Brewing CompanyTexas Corners Brewing Company (Kalamazoo)

Photo courtesy of The Mitten Brewing Co.

Photo courtesy of The Mitten Brewing Co.

Tecumseh Brewing Company (Tecumseh)

Territorial Brewing Company (Battle Creek)
Tripel Root Brewery (Zeeland)

Hop Lot Brewing Company (Suttons Bay)

Brewery Becker (Brighton)

Constantine Brewing Company (Constantine)

Elk Brewing (Grand Rapids)

Eternity Brewing (Howell)

Fetch Brewing Company (Whitehall)

Northport Brewing (Northport)

Railtown Brewing Company (Caledonia)

River’s Edge Brewing Company (Milford)

Upper Hand Brewery (Escanaba)

Other Spirits  

Grey Skies DistilleryLong Road DistillersFlatlanders Barstillery (Grand Rapids)

Detroit City Distillery (Detroit)

Ready to plan your trip? Visit michigan.org to see everything there is to do in the summer, and all year long.

How the Great Turtle Half Marathon Came To Be on Mackinac Island

Anne Gault_Gault Race ManagementWe recently had a chance to sit down with Mackinac Island resident, Anne Gault of Gault Race Management – the team behind the scenes at Mackinac Island’s Great Turtle Half Marathon and 5.7 Mile Run/Walk! This year’s race will be held on October 25, 2014.

Today, Anne gives us an inside look at planning the race and how it came to be on Mackinac Island.

Q: How did you get your start in race management?

A: John (Anne’s Husband) has had a love for running for over 40 years. When we first met we ran together as a couple with a running club in mid-Michigan. Participating in club events it became apparent the need for a computerized scoring system at race events. We started the company nearly 20 years ago, and have been fulltime with Gault Race Management for the past 15 years.

Photo courtesy of Mackinac Island Tourism

Photo courtesy of Mackinac Island Tourism

Q: Why Mackinac Island?

A: We fell in love with Mackinac Island, and were married there. We now own a condo on the island so we are part time residents. John’s been involved in the Mackinac Island Eight Mile & Kids Run since its inception. We started the Great Turtle Half Marathon and 5.7 Mile Run/Walk weekend because the island holds a special place in our heart but also because we felt fellow runners should share in the beauty that is Mackinac Island in the fall.

Q: What makes the Great Turtle Half Marathon and 5.7 Mile Run / Walk weekend on Mackinac Island different from the other races?

A: So many things make the Great Turtle Weekend different than other race weekends. First, it’s Mackinac Island. The course is much different than other races we go to. While it considered a trail run, as some of the run is through the island, in the middle of the woods, other parts are on the paved roads of Mackinac Island. The course offers runners the opportunity to take in the beauty and serenity of the island.

One of the other things that makes the Great Turtle Half Marathon stand out is the medal. Runners receive one of the coolest looking medals, more of a keepsake…a turtle that opens with the shape of the course in the middle. Participants can also have the media engraved.

Q: What’s changed over the years?

Photo courtesy of Mackinac Island Tourism

Photo courtesy of Mackinac Island Tourism

A: Over the years we’ve watched the Great Turtle Half Marathon weekend grow more than we ever imagined. What started out as a co-op with Mission Point Resort, a small group where everyone enjoyed a post-race meal has grown into a weekend of nearly 3,000 runners. People come in from around the country to see and enjoy a run on this piece of heaven we know as Mackinac Island.

Q: What do you look forward to on Mackinac Island?

It’s the last hurrah of the tourist season on the island so many businesses are having sales. It’s also Halloween weekend so there are plenty of fun things for kids and families to do. The race weekend has become a tradition in that runners bring costumes and Halloween candy, and families enjoy trick-or-treating.

There’s still time to register for the 2014 Great Turtle Half Marathon and 5.7 Run/Walk. Visit the website for details!  

Six Exceptional Things to Do on Mackinac Island

Today, featured blogger Jesse Land of Things to do in the U.P. tells about six of his favorite can’t-miss Mackinac Island activities and attractions.

Photo by Eric Baillies

Photo by Eric Baillies

Growing up in the central Upper Peninsula made it easy for my family to take day occasional day trips to Mackinac Island. My Dad would pack up the car in the early morning and about three hours later my mom, dad, sister and I would be on a ferry to the island.

Those early memories include horses (lots of horses), fudge and ice cream, the hustle and bustle of the downtown area and bike rides around the island. They’re fond memories, but I realize now that my family only scratched the surface. Known for it’s horse and buggy rides, fudge and bicycles, I continue to discover things to do on the island that I never knew about.

Below I’ll list just a few of my favorite things to do on the island. Some you’ve heard of, others you probably haven’t!

The Mackinac Legends and Lore Nature Trek

Photo by Eric Baillies

Photo by Eric Baillies

Want to to be guided around the lesser known parts of Mackinac by a local? Mary Patay’s “Mackinac Island’s Legends and Lore Trek” will get you just that. On my recent trip to island, Mary guided my friends and I away from the busy downtown and through the solitude of Mackinac Island State Park. We toured Arch Rock, Sugar Loaf, Fort Holmes and caught the view from Robinson’s Folly.

The walk was peaceful, scenic and it was great to get a local’s perspective. The tour is just $10 per person and you can set up your own trek by calling Mary at (231) 590-5731 or emailing her at mackinachealthandfit@yahoo.com.

The Observation Tower and Exhibits at Mission Point

Maybe you’ve seen the tall glass observation tower at Mission Point Resort, maybe you haven’t. But one things for sure, it’s well worth checking out. With five floors of historical exhibits ranging from the filming of Somewhere in Time to the construction of the Mackinac Bridge and much more. And though each level boasts a different enthralling exhibit, they all share one feature, an awesome view!

The Carriage Ride

The Mackinac Island Carriage Tour is popular for a reason! It’s a great way to see some of the islands highlights while experiencing part of what makes Mackinac great, the horses. And the tour guides to a great job with imparting tidbits of history and little known facts as you’re pulled away from downtown, past Arch Rock, to the Butterfly House and back again.

Bike Around the Island

Photo by Baillies

Photo by Eric Baillies

Also popular for a reason, the eight mile bike ride around the island is one of a kind experience. Even though there was a light rain, we threw on our raincoats, rented bikes from Mackinac Wheels†and had a great time. I love this bike ride because it’s mostly flat, very scenic and of course, there are no cars. And for you fat tire enthusiasts, Jimmy from Mackinac Wheels has been guiding weekly group single track rides through Mackinac’s interior, so be sure to ask about that.

Tour Mackinac by Kayak

Though we weren’t able to make time to get out on kayaks or stand up paddle boards on my last trip, I really, really want to make sure we do next time. Paul and the crew at Great Turtle Kayak Tours have a great selection of kayaks, canoes and stand up paddle boards to choose from, as well as a few great tour options. Personally, I want to check out the nearby Round Island Lighthouse so I’ll be connecting with them on my next trip!

Stay on the Island!

Photo by Eric Baillies

Photo by Eric Baillies

One thing we didn’t do during my childhood trips to the island was stay there. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I fist stayed on the island and I’ll never forget how cool it was to wake up to the sound of the horses hooves clopping on the street below our room. On my most recent visit, we stayed in a waterfront suite at the Chippewa Hotel and wow, what a view! And of course, it was nice to be just a few steps from the Pink Pony, too.

Yes, it can cost more to stay on the island but if you sign up for the hotel’s newsletters (like I do) and keep an eye on their social media channels (which I also do) you might be surprised at some of the great deals they offer.

Those are just a few of my favorite things to do on Mackinac Island. What are a few of yours?

Jesse-Land-headshot1Jesse Land writes about Upper Peninsula travel at www.thingstodointheup.com.