Four Important Pieces of a Long Weekend in Michigan

The Memorial Day fun kicks off this weekend! With boating, beaches and cookouts galore, there are endless opportunities to unwind in Pure Michigan. Today, our guest blogger from The Awesome Mitten shares his four most important pieces of a long weekend in Michigan!

Being the Car State, Michigan is true to its name beyond being the home of the Big Three. Our state is huge! It takes two more hours to drive from Detroit to Ironwood than from Detroit to New York City. I know you might be asking, “Who wants to drive to Ironwood?” (I do!) Perhaps you just want a casual weekend getaway north, or maybe you’re driving to your parents’ house for the weekend–it’s still probably three to six hours. Those holiday weekends that add an extra day of vacation time sure come in handy; to prepare yourself for such a weekend, we’ve come up with a list of necessities that you shouldn’t leave home without!

Grand Traverse Bay - Photo courtesy of The Awesome Mitten

Grand Traverse Bay – Photo courtesy of The Awesome Mitten

1) Layers of clothes for persistent changes in weather. You’re likely to be sweating, shivering, and almost-but-not-quite comfortable throughout the whole weekend. I like to head to Moosejaw in Detroit and find gear that prepares me for all the climates; a few years back, I learned this lesson when it was thirty-five degrees in Traverse City in the morning and I left for my day adventure all bundled up. I went to Sleeping Bear Dunes for the climb, but failed to wear removable layers. Halfway to Lake Michigan, I looked like a wrestler preparing for the Big Fight in my sweatshirt; sweating and tired, I gave up. Now I leave for my many Michigan adventures with rain gear, sun gear, swim gear, and anything-can-happen gear!

2) A beach towel because you’ll inevitably end up with wet, sandy feet. Since you’re never more than six miles from water in Michigan (according to my fourth grade teacher in Ludington), you should always have a towel with you. Buy one from your hometown! It’s a fun way to show hometown pride–you’ll probably find that the folks in the cabin next door actually live ten miles from you. I use my mom’s towel from high school and receive a lot of shout-outs when people see “Mona Shores Sailors”–they’re mostly about the championship hockey team, but I love being able to make a connection and share a story with other Michigan adventurers.

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Photo courtesy of The Awesome Mitten

3) A very large cooler (and perhaps a companion picnic basket) that can fit Michigan craft beer and wine, the makings for sandwiches, and fruits and veggies from the many roadside stands that dot the state. This way you can picnic among the state’s many natural gems. Make a point to drive down unfamiliar roads and find some of the lesser known treasures we’re lucky to have in our state. Being from Ludington, I know there are a ton on any road. But I can’t tell you where they are–local’s honor. A must-stop is Forty-Five North Winery on Leelanau Peninsula, which is just off of CR-204 smack in the middle of the peninsula. Adventures abound from I-94 to US-2!

4) Tunes! Whether planning to drive all over or lounge on the beach from 11:00am to 11:00pm, you need music. Greetings from Michigan by Sufjan Stevens is perfect for when the windows are down, the sun is shining through prongs of white pines, and the roads curve around lakes and hills. Take time before you head out to make a Michigan-centric playlist–you may, and should, find music you didn’t know was about Michigan. “America” by Simon and Garfunkel is a good place to start your Michigan musical journey.

JonathonArntson.Spring.HeadshotJonathon Arntson grew up in Ludington where he spent most of his summers at the beach or napping afterward to the lingering rhythm of the waves. He moved to Detroit in September of 2013 to join the Urban Studies program at Wayne State University. He is an adventurer with an affinity for the streets of Detroit Some of his favorite things about the Mitten are Jeffrey Eugenides, Tigers baseball, Michigan brews, UpNorth, and, of course, the beaches of the Great Lakes.

Eight Ways to Spend a Long Weekend in Michigan

Memorial Day weekend starts tomorrow! If you’re still looking for ways to spend it, check out the ideas below from Erin Bernhard of The Awesome Mitten.

Grand Traverse Bay. Courtesy of The Awesome Mitten.

Memorial Day weekend often marks the beginning of summer in many Michigan towns. All over our great state, Michiganders spend the weekend putting in boats and docks, firing up grills, and finishing yard work. Memorial Day is also a patriotic holiday, commemorating lost soldiers and veterans who dedicated themselves to defending this country, so there are parades and American flags galore! We celebrate the end of a long, cold winter by breaking out shorts, sundresses and flip flops, crossing our fingers that it doesn’t snow in June (and knowing full well that it might). And the best part? Having an extra day off of work! Let us help you plan your long weekend with our top eight favorite ways to celebrate Memorial Day.

  1. Throw some shrimp on ‘the barbie.’ From Marquette to Milan, grill chefs will rejoice next weekend as they celebrate the beginning of barbeque season. Whether you’re of the charcoal or propane persuasion, you know that almost everything tastes better grilled. Hit your local farmer’s market and stock up on seasonal asparagus, rhubarb, and mixed greens to complement your choice of meat. Create a make-your-own burger bar with mushrooms, caramelized onions, tomato, lettuce and condiments OR throw together some shish kebobs with steak, chicken, bell peppers, pineapple, and cloves of garlic. Invite twenty of your closest friends to bring a dish or drinks to pass, pull your bocce ball and croquet sets out of the basement, and bam! You have yourself a party.
  2. Get outside. Generally, Michigan in late May is warm enough to go out and play. Whether you take a quick spin around the neighborhood on your freshly tuned bike or throw the kayaks on top of the car for a weekend-long adventure, make sure you enjoy the outdoors at some point this weekend. Pop over to the sunrise coast and hike somewhere off of historic US-23, or head up north to Keweenaw National Historical Park. There are plenty of outdoor treasures across the state; if you don’t feel like leaving home, you don’t have to look any further than your own backyard.
  3. Celebrate. Michigan has an incredible amount to offer and Memorial Day weekend is a great time to celebrate every little thing. In northwest Michigan, the cherry blossoms are blooming along M-22. Mackinac Island is preparing for the Lilac Festival that begins on June 7, and visiting over Memorial Day is a great way to beat the crowds. Recognize our military heritage by attending a parade in a new town or check out a festival that celebrates Michigan food, drink, nature, or history.
  4. Break out your orange and blue. This weekend, the Detroit Tigers face the Minnesota Twins at home in Comerica Park. Get tickets on Friday to check out the fireworks and Polish-American Heritage Night, or go on Sunday for Kids Day. If you’d rather be wearing red and white, the Red Wings face the Chicago Blackhawks in round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs during Memorial Day weekend; get tickets for Monday’s game three at Joe Louis Arena to watch Datsyuk and Zetterberg up close.
  5. Chill out, but not literally. But what good is a long weekend if you don’t get to relax? If you’ve already finished the yard work, sometimes there’s nothing better than a hammock or blanket in the sunshine, a glass of ginger-mint lemonade, and a copy of The Great Lakes Book Project or anything by Jim Harrison, either of which will make you yearn for the lakes and land that are much closer than you think.
    Fishtown. Courtesy of Ken Scott Photography (facebook.com/KenScottPhotos).

     

  6. Embrace the season. The last weekend in May is exciting for many reasons, but topping the list is the opening of seasonal shops and businesses and extension of hours for summertime. Because the sun sets later, restaurants and local shops are open longer to accommodate a higher level of patronage. You’ve waited all winter to walk to your corner ice cream shop at 8:30pm for a cone, and summer is the season for that. Small tourist towns like Leland’s Historic Fishtown and Saugatuck are open for business and ready to provide you with all the fudge, souvenirs, great food and drink, and goods you can handle.
  7. Raise a glass. Last week, Grand Rapids was named Beer City USA for the second year in a row. Michigan brewing is at a record high and Michiganders statewide are happy to help pick up the slack. Bell’s Oberon opening day, a state holiday, was March 25th but enjoying the ale has been somewhat lackluster this year, considering the influx of wintry weather over the last two months. Fear not! Memorial Day brings the promise of the type of wonderful weather that good summer ale will always compliment. So, crack open a cold one; cheers to craft brewing in Michigan.
  8. Predict the unpredictable. We all know the old adage: if you don’t like the weather in Michigan, wait five minutes. For as much as we always hope for bright sunny days over Memorial Day weekend, all Michiganders know to prepare for rain. Not sure what to do if you can’t be outside? Watch a movie! Michigan has been featured in films for years, and there are plenty of made-in-Michigan films available for rental or purchase. Even if you can’t enjoy the great outdoors yourself, you can still get a glimpse through some wonderful films. 

This is only the beginning of ways to spend your long weekend. How do you do Memorial Day?

Erin Bernhard is the Managing Content Editor for The Awesome Mitten. She’s a northern Michigan twentysomething who loves good microbrews, great wine, summertime grillouts, and well-roasted coffee. She is also a dedicated yoga practitioner, social media and marketing enthusiast, reader and writer, local food junkie, and outdoors explorer–and she’s always adding to the list. She is located in Traverse City and loves helping to make her hometown shine. Follow her on Twitter (www.twitter.com/errnbrrn), connect with her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/erin.bernhard) and feel free to email (erin@awesomemitten.com) her anytime!