A Distinguishing Winter Ritual – Celebrating 25 Years of Marquette’s UP 200 Sled Dog Race

The UP 200 is one of America’s premier 12-dog, mid-distance sled dog races. Mushers say this is one of their favorite races, not only because of the challenging race, but because of the cheering crowds and warm welcome they receive in the Upper Peninsula.

up200finishHappening February 12th-15th, The UP 200 trail covers 240 miles of challenging terrain through the areas of Marquette, Grand Marais, Wetmore, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and finishes at Mattson Lower Harbor Park in Marquette. Today, Barry Winslow from Travel Marquette tells us how you can make the UP 200 a winter ritual of your own.

Crowds gather along the race track which is comprised of the pure snow hauled into Marquette’s downtown streets. Spectators clutch Irish coffee and hot cocoa. Voices and laughter mingle with the excited yipping of the dogs. It’s time for the race to begin. It’s time for the UP 200.

For twenty-five years, mushers and their teams have endured the UP 200 and its scenic trail that runs along the frozen shore of Lake Superior, from Marquette to Grand Marais and back. For the mushers, it’s a chance to test their dogs in the Iditarod qualifying race. For the spectators, it’s a time to enjoy the wintry weather and local culture of this Upper Peninsula city.

A Communal Gathering
For the spectator, the UP 200 is more than an incredible and unique sporting event to watch from a distance. The event is a social catalyst that sparks the forging of a special relationship between the area and its people. Winter is a season that Marquetter’s take very seriously, and the apex of that seasonal appreciation is achieved at the UP 200 every February. This special relationship between the area and its people is replicated by that of the mushers and their relationship with their sled dogs. It is this outstanding appreciation for nature and a tightly-knitted community that makes Marquette County the perfect location for the UP 200.

Photo courtesy of Travel Marquette

Photo courtesy of Travel Marquette

Pristine Cuisine!
From Das Steinhaus to Lagniappe Cajun Creole Eatery to the Wild Rover, race fans eat their fill and get their thrills as they watch the teams of dogs both start and finish the UP 200 from the packed sidewalks and downtown storefronts in Marquette. Marquette, the largest city in both Marquette County and the Upper Peninsula, is home to some of the most delicious local restaurant options in the state of Michigan. A wide array of cuisine choices include authentic German food, delicious Cajun dishes, home-cooked Irish plates, delectable Italian pasta’s, slow-cooked barbecue, fine American dining and so much more.

Marquette takes great pride in their local restaurants, which stems as a direct result of its people, the “small-city” size of Marquette, and the passion for the area that its residents and visitors have. But, with great food there must be great beverages to go along. Marquette County is home to some of the greatest beer in not only the state of Michigan, but all of the country.

Peruse Some Brews!
The UP 200 draws a generous crowd to the five microbreweries in Marquette County. One of the favorites has to be the Ore Dock Brewing Company. Built in an old brick building in downtown Marquette that once functioned as a car garage and dealership, the Ore Dock has re-stylized itself as one of the trendiest venues in the state to grab a beer and dance to some live music. Specializing in Belgians, Saisons and Ales, the Ore Dock delivers a delicious beer menu to go along with the friendly atmosphere.

Photo courtesy of Travel Marquette

Photo courtesy of Travel Marquette

Another UP 200 spectator favorite is Blackrocks Brewery. Located just up the hill from downtown on north Third Street, Blackrocks started up their microbrewery operation in an old two story house in 2010. What started as an “open ‘til empty” policy with their original brewing equipment and smaller capacity is now a full-fledged brewing business with a weekly rotating menu and additional canning facility. Stop in and grab a mug of the good stuff. You never know what’s going to be on tap!

There’s even more beer in the area. The Vierling serves up some delicious varieties from their downtown Marquette location and has been doing so since 1995, making them one of Michigan’s first brew pubs. Ask for their “blueberry beer” and you’ll be in for a treat! Even in the small suburb of Harvey, Chocolay River Brewery recently hit the scene and doubles with the Bayou Restaurant to deliver excellent food and beer at even better prices.

A Progressive Northern City
Beyond the downtown nightlife, breweries, local restaurants, storefronts and boutiques, there is something even more special about Marquette. The shining gem of this incredible place is the comforting aura it gives off and the unwavering attitude of its people. It is a passion for place that drives the people of Marquette County to host such incredible events as the UP 200.

Do yourself a favor and make the trip north to Marquette County this winter. The sled dogs and mushers are ready…are you?

How to Experience Sled Dog Racing in the Upper Peninsula

Winter in Michigan is a great time for snow sports such as skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing, but if you’re looking for a different type of winter sports action, then you won’t want to miss the UP 200 and other sled dog races around the state. Today, featured blogger Jesse Land of Things to Do in the U.P. gives us the inside scoop on sled dog racing in the Upper Peninsula.

The UP 200

Photo courtesy of aaronpeterson.net

The UP 200 sled dog race is one of the premier sled dog races in the country. Mushers from all over travel to the Marquette, Michigan each winter to compete in this race. They love it not only for the beautiful and challenging terrain, but also for the warm welcome they receive from the huge crowd that assembles in Marquette to cheer them on.

The start of the race is truly something to see. The city of Marquette shuts down Washington Street, which runs through the heart of Marquette’s downtown district, and covers the street with snow. This is where thousands of people will gather onto the sidewalks on the evening of Friday, February 14th to watch the dog sled teams embark on the 240 mile course.

The mushers travel from Marquette toward Munising, through sections of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and then on to Grand Marais. Grand Marais is the layover point, where the teams will arrive sometime the morning of Saturday, February 15th. After spending a few hours in Grand Marais to rest and refuel, the teams will head back to Marquette sometime late Saturday afternoon and evening.

The Midnight Run

Photo courtesy of aaronpeterson.net

And then there’s the Midnight Run, an exciting ninety-mile race that takes place between the start and finish of the U.P. 200. Midnight run mushers leave Marquette from Washington Street shortly after the U.P. 200 mushers. However, their course is different.

In the past Midnight Run teams have finished in Grand Marais. New this year the teams will race to Chatam, then turn around and finish in Marquette’s Mattson Lower Harbor Park.

Where is the best place to see the dogs?

One of the most popular questions that gets asked by spectators is “where’s the best place to se the dogs?” Luckily, there are many great options.

Washington Street in Marquette is the most popular viewing area by far because the races start right there and it’s located in the heart of downtown. However, for those looking to avoid the crowds or take in a different stage of the race there are definitely other options.

Photo courtesy of aaronpeterson.net

Not far from downtown Marquette, the welcome center offers a great spot to view the teams as they head into the woods. Restrooms are available and food and drinks will be provided here at no cost.

The Prince of Peace Church in Harvey also offers a great viewing area. They’ll have a bonfire to help spectators stay warm. Restrooms are available inside the church, and food and drinks will be available for purchase.

The Lakenenland Sculpture Park offers another great viewing spot as the mushers race right by there.

The Downtown Showdown

And if you’re in Marquette for the UP 200 and Midnight Run, be sure to check out the Downtown Showdown rail jam competition on Saturday night. The snow from Washington Street gets moved to nearby Front Street where an awesome course of rails is set up on which snowboarders and skiers will test their skills. It’s a great time for skiers, snowboarders and spectators alike.

So plan a trip to Marquette, Michigan for the weekend of February 14th, 15th and 16th! It’ll be an action packed weekend full of great events!

If you can’t make it to the race, there are plenty of other ways to experience sled dog racing the Upper Peninsula. Visit michigan.org to see a full list of sled dog tours available near you. 

Have you been to a sled dog race in Michigan? Tell us about your experience. 

This post was written by Jesse Land of Things to do in the U.P. on behalf of Travel Marquette Michigan.