Six Mini Michigan Getaways You Didn’t Know Could Be Romantic

February is the month of love and there are plenty of ways to put a romantic spin on night out with your sweetie in Pure Michigan. Whether you’re taking a quick romantic weekend getaway or planning a day trip or staycation, these fun and simple outings can easily be made extra special for Valentine’s Day. 

Photo via Instagram user @sandruhh

Photo via Instagram user @sandruhh

Head Outside
There’s something so magical about soft falling snow. Winter in Michigan makes a beautiful background to any night. Bundle up, grab a hot drink and explore. Recreation Areas around the state are hosting winter festivals, which will include various winter sports, exhibits, crafts and food. Each festival highlights everything Michigan’s winter wonderland has to offer. For the more adventurous Valentine’s Day date, check out the Winter Sports Complex in Muskegon. There, you and your honey can have a blast channeling your inner-Olympian while trying out a multitude of new sports.

Dinner and Drinks
Trying something new together is a great way to strengthen your bond. Michigan has a large selection of unique restaurants, award-winning craft breweries and wineries that are sure to wow you. Whether it’s the tried and true Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, the ever-pleasing Short’s Brewing Company in Bellaire or these new buzzworthy restaurants in Detroit, you won’t have a hard time choosing a spot to spend a few hours or an entire day with your sweetheart. 

Photo via Campus Martius Park on Facebook

Photo via Campus Martius Park on Facebook

Go Ice Skating
What could be more romantic than ice skating? Many cities have skating ponds in the winter time, but Detroit and Grand Rapids are home to two of the most notable. In Grand Rapids, Rosa Parks Circle turns into a skating rink. In Detroit, Campus Martius Park is home to a skating rink January through March. Grab some hot chocolate, hold hands and take a spin around the rink like you’re Meryl and Charlie. 

Head to a Sporting Event
Get close while cheering on your favorite Michigan sports teams! After all, Detroit was named Best City for Sports by USA Today Travel 10 Best. So, wrap up in your Red Wings gear to watch the team work hard to get to the playoffs, or support the Detroit Pistons with games throughout the entire month of February. You can also head to either Ann Arbor or East Lansing and catch a great hockey or basketball game from the Spartans and Wolverines.

Up North Weekend Getaway
It doesn’t matter what season it is, Northern Michigan never disappoints. Fall in love all over again amidst the small town charm of a bed and breakfast. Explore Pictured Rocks or Tahquamenon Falls with snow shoes and you’ll be sure to catch a view or two that will take your breath away. If you are feeling a little more adventurous, make your weekend exciting with skiing at Northern Michigan ski resorts. Whether it’s heading out or staying in, an Up North weekend getaway is a Pure Michigan Valentine’s Day classic.

Attend a Show
Dim the lights and prepare to be entertained! Whether it’s a movie at an iconic Michigan theater or a live performance, catching a show with your sweetheart can create lasting memories. The Dow Event Center in Saginaw is hosting the ‘All About Love’ Valentine’s show featuring Freddie Jackson with a special guest star Angela Winbush in concert. If you are in the laughing mood or want to sing along with your favorite artists, see what’s playing in Michigan this month here. 

Snuggle up at Home and Plan Your Next Vacation
Rather stay inside with your love? Enjoy some quality time while planning your next Pure Michigan summer getaway. There are a variety of selections you can make based on your personality and interests to plan the perfect trip. Take advantage of a romantic vacation package with February’s featured deals or create your own adventure on michigan.org.

How do you plan to spend Valentine’s Day? For more ideas, visit michigan.org.

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.

Ten Facts You Might Not Have Known About Michigan Ice Wine

Connoisseurs might describe Ice Wine as liquid-gold. Several Michigan wineries produce this high-risk, highly prized delight, but only in years when conditions are just right.

Photo courtesy of David L. Fox - Black Star Farms

Photo courtesy of David L. Fox – Black Star Farms

Not familiar with this particular variety? Impress your wine-wise friends with these ten fun facts about Michigan Ice Wine from guest blogger Karel Bush of the Michigan Wine and Grape Industry Council.

1. Ice Wine is sweet and delicious. But you probably already knew that.

2. Michigan is ideally suited for Ice Wine production. Most other U.S. states cannot produce this decadent libation – it just doesn’t get cold enough.

3. There are strict rules governing the harvesting, handling and labeling of Ice Wine, not just in Michigan, but internationally.

4. Ice Wine is made from grapes that have been partially frozen on the vine. There are “ice-style” wines that are made from grapes that are harvested then frozen. These cannot be labeled as “Ice Wine.”

Photo courtesy of David L. Fox - Black Star Farms

Photo courtesy of David L. Fox – Black Star Farms

5. Leaving grapes on the vine for Ice Wine is risky. The longer the grapes hang on the vine, the more the sugar is concentrated. More sugar means more tasty morsels for birds, raccoons and other critters. Growers often cover the vines with netting to help reduce the damage.

6. The grapes can also be lost to other elements of nature – hail, wind and even a sudden warm spell can jeopardize an Ice Wine crop.

7. Harvesting grapes for Ice Wine must be done when the temperature drops to about 18 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, the water in the grapes freezes, but the sugar does not.

8. If the temperature dips too low, for too long, the grapes can actually freeze too hard and the grapes are like marbles. No juice can be extracted, so the grapes are unusable.

9. The grapes can’t be allowed to thaw, so harvest must happen quickly, often with very short notice. It’s not uncommon to harvest grapes for Ice Wine in the middle of the night. And it’s done by hand. The grapes must be pressed while still frozen, yielding mere drops of concentrated ultra-sweet elixir.

Photo courtesy of David L. Fox - Black Star Farms

Photo courtesy of David L. Fox – Black Star Farms

10. Ice Wine is irresistible on its own and luscious with desserts like crème brulée or pecan pie; but it’s also fun to pair with strong cheeses or a creamy paté.

These Michigan wineries have received awards for their Ice Wine in local and national wine competitions: Black Star Farms, Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery, Burgdorf’s Winery, Chateau Aeronautique, Chateau Chantal, Cody Kresta Vineyard and Winery, Fenn Valley Vineyards, Lemon Creek Winery and Mackinaw Trail Winery.

Have you ever sampled Ice Wine from a Michigan winery? What did you think? Visit www.michiganwines.com for information about these and all the other award-winning wineries in the state. 

Karel Bush is promotion specialist for the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, a program within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.