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.

The Ultimate List of Upper Peninsula Wineries

Today, featured blogger Jesse Land of Things to Do in the U.P. shares his ultimate list of Upper Peninsula wineries.

10298784_10152849038958289_2327881022500686165_nDid you know that the Upper Peninsula currently has eight wineries? From Carousel Winery up in the Keweenaw to Threefold Vine Winery way down in Stephenson, U.P., wineries have been opening up (and sticking around) regularly over the past few years.

Following is a full list of all the wineries in the Upper Peninsula, as well as one bonus location I don’t want you to miss. But before we get started, here are a few impressive facts about Michigan’s wine industry I borrowed from the recent Four Fun Ways to Celebrate Michigan Wine Month blog post:

- Michigan wineries attract more than 2 million visitors annually
- Michigan’s wine, grape and grape juice products add nearly $790 million of economic value
- The industry accounts for more than 5,000 jobs statewide and produce a payroll of more than $190 million
- Michigan is ranked the fifth state in wine grape production in the nation and vineyard area has doubled in the last 10 years
- The wineries produce more than 1.3 million gallons of wine annually – placing Michigan 13th in wine production

Yes my friends, Michigan is a serious player in the national wine industry. If you’re a wine lover, I’d highly suggest carving out a little time to visit a few of these great vineyards and tasting rooms on your next Upper Peninsula vacation.

Leigh’s Garden Winery
904 Ludington Street

Escanaba, MI 49829
(906) 553-7799

Located in a historic building in downtown Escanaba, Leigh’s tasting room makes a great stop when visiting the Escanaba area. Leigh also hosts a summer artist series with the work of local artists rotating through the summer.

Northern Sun Winery
983 10th Road
Bark River, MI 49807
(906) 399-9212

Not from from Leigh’s in Bark River, Michigan sits Dave and Susie Anthony’s estate winery. Northern Sun has been growing grapes for twelve years and their three and a half acre vineyard is home to about 3,000 vines. A fully equipped below ground cellar and Mediterranean style cottage tasting room round out this excellent winery.

DSC_1044

Photo courtesy of Jesse Land – Things to Do in the U.P.

Threefold Vine Winery
S232 Menominee St.
Stephenson, MI
(906) 753-6000

Formerly located on the Garden Peninsula, Threefold Vine Winery recently relocated to the town of Stephenson.  But don’t worry, they brought last fall’s grapes, apples and other fruit with them and won’t miss a beat. Andy, Jan and family try to positively impact the local community as well as U.P. viticulture, and I’d say they definitely succeed in those efforts! I can’t wait to get to their new tasting room in the historic Stephenson bank building.

Garden Bay Winery
321 E Superior
Munising, MI 49862
(906) 361-0318

When the golf course owned by Garden Bay Winery owners John and Gloria could no longer support itself, they repurposed the course by planting grapes and berries and began making wine in what used to be the club house. Known for their award winning fruit wines, the folks at Garden Bay will be opening a new tasting room this year in Cooks, which is just a few minutes away from Manistique.

Mackinac Trail Winery
103 W Lakeshore Dr.
Manistique, MI 49854
(906) 341-2303

Just fifteen minutes away from the new Garden Bay Winery location sits Mackinaw Trail Winery’s Manistique tasting room. With live music outside in the summer and world class sangria on hand, this cool little tasting room makes for a fun stop. And if you want to grab lunch while in Manistique, the excellent Upper Crust Deli is right across the river.

Algomah Acres Meadery
611 Plank Rd.
Greenland, MI 49929
(906) 883-3894

Thanks to the folks at Algomah Acres, I now know what mead is. And for those of you who are in the dark like I was, mead is simply wine made from honey. And it’s delicious. Located in a historic catholic church, Algomah Acres makes many different great beeswax products in addition to their mead.

Want to give mead a try? Stop in and see Algomah Acres during the Michigan Honey Festival in Frankenmouth on July 12th, where they’ll be handing out samples of their artisanal brews.

Photo courtesy of Carousel Winery

Photo courtesy of Carousel Winery

Carousel Winery
21 Trimoutain Avenue
South Range, MI 49963
(906) 487-9463

Located in the same small town as Keweenaw Brewing Company’s production facility, Carousel Winery actually allows customers to make their own wine! They say the process takes about one hour and then in six to eight weeks you can return for the final bottling. They even let you create a custom label. Talk about a cool gift idea.

St. Charles Winery
1104 West Washington St.
Marquette, MI 49855
(906) 273-1109

As far as I’m aware, the St. Charles Winery in Marquette is the newest player in the Upper Peninsula wine scene. They’re so new, I haven’t had the chance to stop in yet. But according to a U.P. Second Wave article about them, they offer “wine tastings, samples, and bottle sales in-house, as well as private bookings, a gift shop and customer events.”

And if you’re looking for a place to stock up on a variety of Michigan made wine (or beer), check out the very cool Michigan Made Beer, Wine and More store in Marquette. They’ve got surprisingly cool shop full of great beer, wine and other products and make it easy to support all of the wineries listed above!

Have you been to any of these Upper Peninsula wineries? 

JesseLand21111Written by Jesse Land of Things to do in the U.P.