Five Spectacular Michigan Destinations Nominated for 8th Wonder of the World

We all know that Michigan is a beautiful state and home to some pretty amazing places, but are we home to any “wonders of the world?” Travel website Virtual Tourist is on a quest to find the 8th Wonder of the World, and several Michigan spots are in the running.

Below see a roundup of the Michigan destinations up for the title and vote for your favorite here from now through September 30th.  

What do you consider the “8th Wonder of the World?” Tell us in the comments below.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Empire, Mich.
Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore encompasses a 60 km (35 mi.) stretch of Lake Michigan’s eastern coastline, as well as North and South Manitou Islands. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park was established primarily for its outstanding natural features, including forests, beaches, dune formations and ancient glacial phenomena. Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Lakeshore also contains many cultural features including an 1871 lighthouse, three former Life-Saving Service/Coast Guard Stations and an extensive rural historic farm district. Learn more about the Sleeping Bear Dunes here.

Frankenmuth
Frankenmuth, Mich.
Willkommen. In German it means welcome. In Frankenmuth, Michigan’s Little Bavaria, welcome to family time, welcome to playtime, welcome to Christmas time all year long. It’s a place with horse-drawn carriages and covered bridges, riverboat cruises and world famous chicken dinners, big water parks and small-town strolls. Frankenmuth is the perfect place to simplify the agenda and spend the whole day with family. Frankenmuth is a place to enjoy the simple things in life. More information can be found on Frankenmuth’s website and in the video below.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Grand Rapids, Mich.
One of the world’s most significant botanic and sculpture experiences, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park serves more than a half-million visitors annually. Meijer Gardens was recently ranked in the top 100 most-visited art museums worldwide by Art Newspaper, the leading publication in global art news. The 132-acre grounds feature Michigan’s largest tropical conservatory; one of the largest children’s gardens in the country; arid and Victorian gardens with bronze sculptures by Degas and Rodin; a carnivorous plant house; outdoor gardens; and a 1900-seat outdoor amphitheater, featuring an eclectic mix of world-renowned musicians every summer. The internationally acclaimed Sculpture Park features a permanent collection including works by Rodin, Oldenburg, Moore, Bourgeois and Plensa, among others. Indoor galleries host changing sculpture exhibitions with recent exhibitions by Picasso, Degas, di Suvero, Borofsky, Calder and Chadwick. Click here for more information.

Soo Locks
Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
The Soo Locks have already been referred to as one of the great wonders of the world and are still the largest & one of the busiest waterway traffic systems on earth! Watching huge vessels pass through the Locks is a unique experience that cannot be seen anywhere else in the United States! The Locks consist of two canals and four locks that allow vessels of many types/sizes to safely traverse the 21-foot drop in elevation of the St. Mary’s River between Lake Superior and Lakes Michigan and Huron. From viewing decks, you can watch “Lakers” and “Salties” (ocean-going vessels) as they travel the seaway between ports and navigate the rise/drop of the water levels. More information can be found at the Soo Locks website.

Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area
Saugatuck, Mich.
The Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area is a 173-acre tract of magnificent duneland along the Lake Michigan shore owned by the City of Saugatuck. The land is home to several species of rare plants, birds and animals, and demonstrates the unique geological and ecological features of Great Lakes dunes. It’s freshwater parabolic dunelands are designated by The National Trust as one of the 11 most endangered ecosystems in the world. The Natural Area is open year round and guided walks are held every Saturday morning at 10 am from May 25, 2013 to Sept 14, 2013.

Head over to the 8th Wonder of the World contest page to cast your vote today!

Four Reasons to Love Springtime at Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Empire, Michigan is a wonderful place to visit year-round. Today, photographer Neil Weaver tells us what makes Good Morning America’s choice of “The Most Beautiful Place in America” special in the springtime.

Now that the cold days of winter have surrendered to the warmth of spring, the landscape around us is brand new again. The blooms and blossoms give us vibrant colors that we’ve been missing since last autumn. As a nature and landscape photographer one of my favorite places to photograph this time of year is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

The Setting

Spring is an excellent season to visit. The wildflowers are out, the climate is comfortable and the park is peaceful. Upon arrival the first thing you will notice is that this park is not simply sand dunes but a diverse group of forests, streams, inland lakes, beaches, historic buildings, and hiking trails. 

The Beaches

The beaches within the park make for excellent photography subjects.  Whether you visit Platte River Point with its river winding out into Lake Michigan, Esch Beach with the towering Empire Bluffs in view, or Good Harbor Bay with its deep aqua-blue water, it is worth your while to take the time to see each one.  These are just a few of the beautiful beaches you can explore as each one along this 35 mile stretch of lakeshore is pleasantly unique.

The Views

For panoramic views of the area’s unique landscape, I like to stop at the park’s scenic overlooks as I take a ride around Pierce Stocking Drive. This seven-mile driving loop is full of stunning views of the dunes, Lake Michigan, and nearby Glen Lake.  The park also has some short hikes that lead to breathtaking lookouts at Alligator Hill, Empire Bluff, and Pyramid Point. I guarantee that after getting a glimpse of the scenery from these spots you won’t want to leave!

The Trails

When I want the full experience of the Sleeping Bear Dunes I take a walk along one of the park’s many hiking trails, which vary in length and difficulty.  To photograph the large expanse of wind-sculpted dunes I enjoy walking the Dunes Trail.  This path winds up and down through sandy terrain past dune grasses, juniper, thistles and bearberries.  The highlight of the hike is passing through the Ghost Forest, an old grove of sun-bleached trees that have been overtaken by the shifting sand.  When standing among them you’ll feel like you’re in another world.

The park’s features mentioned above only scratch the surface of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – a lifetime could be spent exploring and enjoying every corner of the park, realistically. The best part is knowing that at the end of your stay you will leave with some great photos and a lot of good memories. 

To see more photos of the Sleeping Bear Dunes visit Neil’s website and Facebook fan page.

Neil Weaver is a landscape photographer and proud Michigander.  He travels throughout Michigan photographing the state’s beaches, lighthouses and parks.

Will you be making a visit to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore this season? Share with us below!

Guest Post: Quiet Places in The Most Beautiful Place in America

Many people are aware that Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was recently voted the Most Beautiful Place in America on ABC’s “Good Morning America” show. But besides the obvious beauty of the dunes, there are some lesser-known parts of the park well worth exploring. I recently explored some of these and wanted to share them with you.

If you enjoy solitude with your beauty, there are several less-traveled parts of the park that enjoy the same great beaches or sand dunes of the busier areas. I discovered a very secluded beach at the end of Peterson Road. This road is a gravel and dirt road in the park that is located just about opposite the end of Benzie County 708 at highway M-22, just north of the busy Platte River area. Out at the end of the road is a beautiful beach with few people! If you’re staying at the Platte River Campground, you can even hike out to this beach; it’s less than 1.5 miles away.

Another pleasant place is Esch Road Beach, where Otter Creek empties into Lake Michigan. This stream is much smaller than the Platte River and consequently it’s not crowded with tubers, canoeists and other watercraft. But at the beach, it’s still a fun stream flowing into the lake, complete with a sandbar to wade on. And just like the Platte River, Otter Creek is a warm water creek that contrasts nicely with the cold water of Lake Michigan where they merge. This spot is located at the end of Esch Road; turn west off highway M-22. Besides the beach, there is a trail system so you can hike to Otter Lake and other small lakes. Maybe the creek’s namesake river otter are up there, or maybe beaver.

Whether you’re hiking or driving through Sleeping Bear Dunes, make sure to enjoy the wildflowers. There is a constantly changing seasonal display, with big white trillium blossoms covering whole hillsides in the early spring, or bright red cardinal flower patches in the marshes in late summer. Field areas in midsummer have purple milkweed and orange butterfly weed, both providing chances to watch butterflies as a bonus.

Of course you’re here to see the dunes too and there are some quiet spots with vistas to rival any along the busy Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. You won’t see these other dunes from your car though; you’ll have to hike a bit. The area at the end of Peterson Road that I mentioned earlier has one such scenic outlook. Two others can be accessed from here also. One is a hike of about a half mile west, and the other is about 1.2 miles east. But if you enjoy your viewing away from the crowds, these are good locations. I hope you’ve enjoyed discovering some of Sleeping Bear Dune’s hidden gems as much as I did!

Donald Dale Milne is a former traffic engineering technician and currently makes maps for county road commissions and others. He loves to travel, especially enjoying hiking the woods. He is currently writing a travel blog at http://www.roadtrip62.com/, where he discusses travel in the context of the year 1962.