Featured in Michigan Travel Ideas 2011, beginning on page 53.
Capturing the bests—artwork, atmosphere, artists—was a challenge at these three annual events: East Lansing Art Festival, Ann Arbor Art Fairs and Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize. Read on to get inspired!
East Lansing: More Places to Go
This upscale clothing boutique in Lansing’s Old Town area beautifully merchandises its collection of clothing, bags and accessories. Hip without being immature, the clothing appeals to a sophisticated clientele looking for everyday dresses and casual (but not TOO casual) apparel. There’s also a distinctly mother-of-the-bride feel to much of the merchandise, for moms who don’t want to look matronly. In addition to regular store hours, they open for private shopping parties (517/927-8628).
Kresge Art Museum
Located in the Kresge Art Center, which also houses the Department of Art and Art History at MSU building, this museum is a little tricky to find. But the gallery offers a worthwhile stop on your local arts itinerary. Just one level, the large gallery space is subdivided into a collection of smaller exhibits that seem to play a strong educational role. Pieces by Dali and Calder and Louis Sullivan fit in the overall mix with African art, Baroque and Renaissance paintings, and intriguing rotating exhibits, such as the a modernist exhibit of eye-popping primary colors and shapes that was on display when we were there. A small corner of the museum offers a retail area that includes Kresge Museum publications (517/353-9834).
A sophisticated collection of handmade gifts and art make Mackerel Sky a must-stop for art lovers in East Lansing. It offers year-round inspiration right along the path of the annual East Lansing Art Festival. Pottery, some delicate and some functional, one-of-a-kind bags, silk scarves, a wide selection of jewelry, and reasonably priced cards and stationery all speak to the tastefully collected offerings here. There are a few children’s items, such as artsy handmade sock puppets and Braille alphabet building blocks. And a small collection of art books that feels intimate, not stuffy.
The staff seem to truly enjoy working in this beautiful gallery, and their enthusiasm and warmth provides another reason to stop here (517/351-2211).
Michigan State University Museum
On the beautiful MSU campus, this museum touts its strong connections to folk arts and folk life. Research and education programs related to quilts and stained glass mostly take place behind the scenes, but some aspect of those collections may be on exhibit when you visit. Or take the opportunity to use their rich resources to research your own interest in folk arts. The three-story museum also features the requisite dinosaurs, iconic cultural images (such as Living Traditions of Michigan Artists, with examples of things like porcupine-quill boxes, palm-braided fans and painted eggs, all handmade by Michigan artists), a hall devoted to Michigan wildlife and life-size dioramas of a General Store and old-fashioned printer’s shop. Admission is free, with a suggested donation. Grab a 2-hour parking pass in the administration office (517/355-7474).
This Old Town gift store and gallery is a don’t-miss stop in the neighborhood. The offerings of aprons, tea towels, soaps, lotions, throws, packaged gourmet foods and extensive purse lines. The selections are thoughtful and inspiring. You can spend a long time browsing the wide selection.
Like most Old Town shops, this one is long and narrow with exposed-brick walls and wood floors. Here, though, the floors are bleached blond, the brickwork is tan not red, and silver chandeliers offset the building’s industrial look.
Out front, the owner cultivates a surprisingly lush sidewalk garden that’s almost as interesting as what’s inside the shop. Her pots of flourishing salvia, violets, herbs — even tomatoes — inspire a smile (517/485-4100).
East Lansing: More Places to Eat
Clara's Lansing Station
Clara’s historic location near downtown Lansing is in an original 1903 train depot and a refurbished train car that includes an auxiliary dining area. The charming architecture features cut-stone arches, stained glass windows, rounded turrets and a soaring ceiling that helps you imagine the bustle of passengers coming and going 100 years ago. In the well-maintained dining car, tables line the edges of the space with their crisp, white tablecloths, imbuing it with the same sense of elegance you imagine train passengers would have felt a century ago.
The restaurant’s 16-page menu includes something for just about everyone: Mexican, pasta, pizza, ribs, steaks, sandwiches, burgers, desserts. The all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch offers more than 40 items on the buffet, including made-to-order omelets, which are cooked in a corner in front of the depot’s original manager’s office. Nobody leaves hungry, that’s for sure.
This is a restaurant sure to be a favorite for many. The wide variety of food plus the historic location likely put it at toward the top on the list of interesting places to go for a family celebration (517/372-7120).
Mumbai Fine Indian Dining
Set in a street-front store near the Michigan State University campus, Mumbai caters to a dinner crowd that appreciates the chance to slow down and enjoy a nice Indian dinner. The experience starts with the delivery of steaming hot hand towels, which sets the tone for a meal that feeds the senses. Attentive but unobtrusive service adds to the unhurried feel.
The menu offers a good selection of traditional Indian dishes, including a large variety of vegetarian meals. All are served with yummy basmati rice. The chef’s Indian-Chinese fusion dishes are intriguing. The traditional naan bread is the best. (It also comes in several flavor variations.)
The restaurant offers a lunch buffet, too (517/336-4150).
The inauspicious strip mall exterior hides a newly remodeled (finished June 2010) interior and fabulous pizza long on fresh ingredients. Big trestle tables, comfortable seats, thoughtful lighting and a big two-sided fireplace make this a comfortable spot to gather with large groups of friends or family. But it’s the food that has made Pizza House a favorite.
While the menu offers plenty of options, pizza is king. In fact, each pie is served royally on a raised silver platter, adding a sense of ceremony to the simple dish. The small traditional-crust pizza ($8.69) is plenty for two. And the veggies inside were clearly fresh, not from a can. Try the terrific Michigan Cherry Walnut Salad ($8.49) with crisp, green Romaine lettuce (no wilty or white pieces!). After eating all those veggies, splurge on the Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae ($6.29).
There’s also a Pizza House location in Ann Arbor (517/336-0033).
In new digs (as of January 2010), Troppo has nearly tripled in size compared to its original location across the street. This means more folks can enjoy this upscale yet friendly restaurant. Set in the shadow of the Michigan capitol building, Troppo undoubtedly draws the lobbyist crowd as well as business lunchers from nearby office buildings. Reminiscent of a traditional Italian supper club (with dark woods, red draperies at the windows and doors, and intimate seating areas), the restaurant infuses both its decorating and its menu with updated tastes.
The lunch menu includes a generous selection of meal-size salads (the Waldorf chicken salad is especially good, $10.95), as well as upscale sandwiches such as an open-face chicken salad melt on not-too-earthy whole-grain bread ($9.95). Soups such as roasted butternut squash ($3.95/cup) and heartier entrees (starting at $14.95) round out the lunch menu.
The dinner menu adds pasta, several varieties of fish, and a list of steaks and chops worthy of wheeler-dealers who gather in the restaurant’s private dining rooms to conduct business over dinner and drinks.
On a street of mostly quick-lunch eateries, Troppo stands out as a civilized way to enjoy a meal (517/371-4000).
East Lansing: More Places to Stay
East Lansing Marriott at University Place
Located conveniently next to the Michigan State University campus, this chain hotel makes a comfortable and hospitable spot to stay in the area. The staff is well-trained and helpful. Rooms were recently renovated and offer terrific beds and contemporary bathrooms. Plus, it’s very clean. Underground parking is convenient and at discounted rates for hotel guests. And you’re within extremely easy walking distance of many restaurants (at all price ranges), bookstores and shops.
There aren’t a lot of lodging choices in this neighborhood, but you won’t leave this hotel feeling like you settled for something convenient. The accommodations and service recommend themselves, with a handy location to boot (517/337-4440).
The English Inn
Feed your creative soul in the gorgeous gardens at this 1930s bed and breakfast south of Lansing. Thoughtfully updated with conveniences like free WIFI, this classic home still exudes the tranquility of a past era. Professionally managed, the B&B knows how to focus on the important details—great linens, comfy beds, cleanliness, pretty decor. Check in early to try the first-floor restaurant’s high-end dining, or drop in at the English-style pub on the lower level. In the morning, wake up to a basket with tea and coffee delivered to your door. Then head to the sunny breakfast room, overlooking the beautiful grounds, to finish your visit with a first-rate breakfast that’s included in the price of your room (517/663-2500).
Ann Arbor: More Places to Go
The University of Michigan Museum of Art
Recently renovated, The University of Michigan Museum of Art marries historical beaux art lines with stark modernity. You’ll love the dialog table, an interactive storytelling tool that allows visitors to collect images and information about various pieces from the collection, creating an individual “pool” of objects; free admission (734/764-0395).
Ann Arbor: More Places to Eat
While it’s easy to eat and stroll at the art fair, sometimes it’s equally pleasant to rest a spell.
Tucked away on a side street, Amadeus is a little touch of Vienna, right in Ann Arbor. White fluffy curtains adorn the windows, doily-covered tables rest atop shiny wooden floors, and guests nosh on all varieties of gooey Austrian delights. Entrees from $8, desserts from $6.The sacher torte and Amadeus coffee? Divine (734/665-8767).
A cozy microbrewery with exposed brick walls and creaky wood floors, Grizzly Peak serves salads, sandwiches and pizzas in addition to their local brews. The Salmon BLT, coupled with Grizzly's pale ale, makes a dandy lunch. Entrees from $7 (734/741-7325).
Tucked in the back of an office building, Silvio’s looks like an unlikely spot for the best pizza in a college town. But a thin crust, organic ingredients and a wood-burning oven are a marriage made in pizzeria heaven. In the family for a quarter-century, Silvio’s serves gluten free and vegan options, too (734/214-6666).
It’s a cliché, but it’s true. No one can visit Ann Arbor without stopping by Zingerman’s Deli, the tiny brick storefront that is a local culinary shrine. It's off the college student path, and its small size belies the gastronomic wonders inside. Here’s the best part. They make (almost) everything from scratch. Wear stretchy pants (734/663-DELI).
Ann Arbor: More Places to Stay
Hotels tighten their cancellation policies during the art fair, and fill up in advance. Keep that in mind when planning. With the excellent shuttle service, it’s easy to stay on the outskirts and come and go.
Geographically desirable, the Bell Tower hotel is right in the middle of campus. Its pleasant stone and awninged exterior are a nice counterpoint to the Faux-English furnishings; rooms from $170 (734/769-3010 ).
Owned by the same parent company, the Campus Inn features recently refurbished rooms with plush bathrobes, pillow top mattresses and marble bathrooms. It is, as the name says, right on campus. Rooms from $150 (734/769-2200).
Holiday Inn Express
Operated by the same parent company, the Holiday Inn Express is directly adjacent to the mall. It’s clean, convenient, and serves a free breakfast. Enough said. Rooms from $79 (734/761-7800).
Inn at the Michigan League
A student building on campus which is steps from the art fair, The Inn at the Michigan League has a small number of simple, serviceable accommodations. Rooms from $125 (734/764-3177).
Located next to Briarwood Mall, Kensington Court has a heated indoor pool and a sauna. A bit redundant during art fair time, but a nice relaxation spot nonetheless. Graham’s, the onsite restaurant, serves small plates at night including throwbacks like grilled sweetbreads and coquilles St. Jacques. Rooms from $129 (734/761-7800).
Grand Rapids: More Places to Go
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Spend a full day enjoying the gardens and galleries at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. A special Children’s Garden—and a Carnivorous Plant House—make it exciting for every member of the family. Check out special concerts, June through August, in the Amphitheater Garden, where you can bring your own picnic, or dine on food and beverages for sale at this Grand Rapids vacation venue (888/957-1580 or 616/957-1580).
Fulton Street Farmers Market
With a 100 percent Homegrown Certification, Fulton Street Farmers Market is, since 1922, a Grand Rapids institution offering fresh fruits and veggies, meat and eggs as well as handmade arts and crafts (616/454-4118).
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum
Become a part of history at Grand Rapids’ Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, with holographic displays, interactive video and hands-on exhibits. Gerald Ford’s America, a 1970s gallery, brings alive the 1970s; features include a Watergate exhibit and an interactive replica of the Ford Cabinet Room (616/254-5353).
Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM)
The world’s first LEED-certified art museum, The GRAM is as earth friendly as it is art friendly. Saturday is family day, with special opportunities for families to learn about and create art together. Stop by any day to roam the superb exhibitions, both permanent and visiting (616/831-1000).
Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
Schedule at least one “play day” at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. From “Imagine That!,” a Bricolage mosaic that spans an outside wall, to permanent exhibits such as Funstruction and Rainbow Run inside, this museum is dedicated to showing children to enjoy art—and create it. There are special events and seasonal exhibits, and, on Thursday evenings, special savings from 5 to 8 p.m. (616/235-4726).
John Ball Zoo
Get up close and personal with more than 1,100 wild animals from all over the world at John Ball Zoo. See the world’s largest rodent, touch a sea star—and don’t miss the Michigan’s only Komodo dragon; those are just a few of the world’s wild wonders at John Ball Zoo (616/336-4300).
Public Museum of Grand Rapids
With collections amassed over the past century and a half, the Public Museum of Grand Rapids opens the door to history for visitors of all ages. Step into re-created street scenes of Grand Rapids in the 1890s, peruse permanent and visiting exhibits (616/456-3977).
Grand Rapids: More Places to Eat
Chop House Restaurant
From perfectly aged steaks (the Midwest’s best) to Australian Rib Lamb Chops, savor world-class cuisine in Grand Rapid’s Chop House Restaurant. After, stop by La Dolce Vita Dessert and Cigar Lounge to top off the evening with tantalizing the after-dinner treat (888/456-DINE or 616/451-6184).
“From scratch” takes on a whole new connotation at Marie Catrib’s, where, for less than $10, you can buy anything on the flavorful menu. Fresh local ingredients with family-friendly folks serving make for a memorable meal at this restaurant and delicatessen in the East Hills neighborhood of Grand Rapids (616/454-4020).
San Chez, a Tapas Bistro
Enjoy the flavorful fun of Spain at Grand Rapid’s San Chez, a Tapas Bistro. From light hors d’oeuvres to hearty paella feasts, hot or cold, there’s a tapas for every taste (616/774-8272).
Located off the lobby of the new JW Marriott, Six.One.Six celebrates seasonal American cuisine and Michigan-raised ingredients. The chef’s table, a granite-topped bar lined with 11 padded chairs, looks over the wood-fired oven prep area, where busy sous chef’s plate and fire appetizers, flatbreads and salads. Dried Michigan cherries stud the salads, and the artisanal cheese plate showcases chevre, fresh buffalo milk mozzarella, Stilton, locally made cheddar and a delicious strawberry balsamic jam. A morning breakfast buffet includes made-to-order omelets, Belgian waffles, quiche, plum and apricot coffee cake and loads of fresh fruit (888/844-JWGR or 616/242-1448).
Grand Rapids: More Places to Stay
Amway Grand Hotel
Historic elegance characterizes this AAA four-diamond property known for its crystal chandeliers, updated rooms and nine on-site restaurant options. Be sure to look UP when you enter the lobby, to ogle the world’s largest gold-leaf ceiling—just a hint of the elegance to come. From $154 (800/253-3590).
Courtyard by Marriott
With a walkway to Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place, the Courtyard by Marriott offers some of downtown Grand Rapid’s most convenient lodgings. With an indoor pool and fitness facility and outdoor sports deck with basketball and tennis courts as well as a jogging track for fitness and fun (616/242-6000).
A hip, contemporary vibe touches every part of this new high-rise along the Grand River. Extra large showers and deep soaking tubs pamper guests, and the latest equipment tricks out the fitness facility. With packages for couples, families and special events, suites in this downtown Grand Rapids hotel are amenity laden, and adorned with commissioned photography of Grand Rapid’s five Sister Cities. From $169 (888/844-JWGR or 616/242-1500) .
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