NASCAR fans heading to Michigan International Speedway (MIS) for the August Race Weekend can plan an extended stay before or after the Pure Michigan 400 Sprint Cup Series on Sunday.
Here are examples of ways to expand your experience in the Great Lakes State. Mix, match, or combine elements of each itinerary. You can't go wrong with a Pure Michigan vacation!
West of MIS
You don't have to venture far from the campgrounds at MIS to find activities for the whole family. Spend a few extra days in the lower central area of the state near Jackson and Coldwater, which is on the historic US-12 Heritage Trail:
- Go directly to jail on a tour of the Old State Prison-turned Armory Arts Village in Jackson.
- Share a monstrous sundae at Jacksons famous Parlour Old Fashioned Ice Cream Shoppe.
- Take in the water and light show at the Cascades fountain at Sparks County Park. This Jackson landmark was dedicated in 1932, and features a 500-foot long man-made, stepped waterfall with colored lights and music.
- Sample the fruit of the vine at the Cherry Creek Old Schoolhouse Winery in Brooklyn.
- Get up close and personal with the resident creatures on a wagon ride at The Buffalo Ranch in Hanover, where you can also go on a horseback trail ride or test the Zip line.
- Rent a pontoon and explore the 14 miles of lakes and channels in the Coldwater/Marble Chain of Lakes.
- Treasure hunt at the Allen Antique Barn and many other antiques stores in the area.
- Do your feet a favor and slip into a comfy pair of moccasins at the largest Minnetonka Moccasin store in the U.S.A., the Sauk Trail Trading Post in Coldwater.
- Take in a movie under the stars at Coldwaters classic Capri Drive-In.
Make it a five-day vacation by adding these attractions in the Battle Creek/Kalamazoo area:
- Talk Turkey over an-all turkey menu at Cornwells Turkeyville in Marshall, where you can shop, take in a dinner show and even stay at the new Camp Turkeyville RV Resort.
- Stop in Marshall for a great lunch or dinner at the historic Schulers Restaurant and Pub and tour the largest national Historic Landmark District in the US.
- See some cool cats at the Binder Park Zoos snow leopard exhibit and take a day safari in Battle Creek at the Zoos Wild Africa Savanna
- Spend a day inspecting the cars in barns at Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners. This is a one-of-a-kind must-see for those who love vehicles. In addition to weekly Wednesday Night Cruise-Ins there are themed shows each weekend and these special exhibits: The History of Stock Car Racing, Vintage Motorcycles and Ford Muscle and SuperCars.
- All ages enjoy the Air Zoo in Portage, with its vintage aircraft, indoor rides, thrills like the Paratrooper Jump, full-motion flight simulator, exhibits and new outdoor disc golf course.
- Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the special exhibit, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum (through September 5). There's also a planetarium, history exhibits and more under one roof at this free downtown museum.
- Eat your way through town, where the flavors range from exotic to all-American. Great burgers and pizza, Indian cuisine, vegetarian and Greek favorites---not to mention local wines and brews---are just a sampling of what's on the menu. You'll agree that Kalamazoo tastes great!
- Hit the Kal-Haven Trail on foot or bicycle. The 34-mile state park traverses the countryside, small towns and woods between South Haven and Kalamazoo.
Squeeze in two more days and include a memorable visit to Lake Michigan's Harbor Country. There you can:
Make it seven days and take time to experience Michigan's Little Bavaria, Frankenmuth:
- Just a short drive north of Flint, get ready for famous family-style chicken dinners, Main Street and River Walk shops, carriage and riverboat rides, farm visits and more. There are many campgrounds and lodging options nearby, including family fun at Zehnders Splash Village and Waterpark and the Bavarian Inn Lodge, with five indoor pools. Frankenmuth Summer Music Fest August 9-13 with Polka, Polish, German and Slovenian music, food, dancing, German beer and other refreshments.
- Frankenmuth is also home of the world's largest Christmas store, Bronners CHRISTmas Wonderland. Browse through 50,000 holiday trees, gifts and trim displayed throughout a space the length of 1-1/2 football fields.
For a three day trip, take some time to experience Lenawee County.
- Follow the old Chicago Road (US 12) to Cambridge Junction (M-50) where you can take in the museum at Walker Tavern Historic Site, a stagecoach stop from a time when travel between Detroit and Chicago took five days. See what tickles your taste buds at Pentamere Winery, where the motto is Drink what tastes good to you.
- Sip a cuppa tea or enjoy a delicious lunch at the British Tea Garden.
- Looking for an adrenaline rush? Follow the Skydive Tecumseh bumper stickers to Michigans Premier Drop Zone for a thrilling tandem skydive no experience required. Stop by the J. Trees CellarsTasting Room for the boutique winerys ice wine and ice cider, and other fruit of the vine. Grab a burger in a barn at the Main Street Stable & Tavern, or splurge on gourmet meal at the gracious Hathaway House, built in 1851.
- Round out your stay in Lenawee County at one of the many golf clubs in the area, as well as disc golf and family fun centers that include miniature golf courses.Geocache enthusiasts will also enjoy the trove of sites to explore in the area.
Make it a five day trip with stops in Dundee and Monroe:
- Make a splash with the family at Splash Universe Water Park Resortin Dundee.
- Stock up on hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoor supplies at Cabelasin Dundee, or just admire the impressive display of mounted trophy animals and gigantic aquariums.
- Catch the free River Raisin Jazz Festival, August 12-14 in downtown Monroe. River Raisin Battlefield in Monroe, scene of a bloody battle in January 1813.
- Salute the memorial and view the historical museum exhibit on General George Armstrong Custer, who called Monroe his hometown.
- Shop for back-to-school bargains or something for yourself at Monroe Factory Shops.
Add Lake Erie to the itinerary for a seven-day trip:
- Fish for walleye on a Lake Erie charter fishing trip, or cast your line at Sterling State Park where you can camp, picnic, or swim at Michigans only state park on Lake Erie.
- Watch freighters heading to and from the Detroit River and explore three miles of Lake Erie shoreline at the Huron-Clinton Metropark on the Great Lake. There's a Great Wave swimming pool, picnic grounds, nature center, and 18-hole golf course, too.
And for those who have a need for more speed, the Flat Rock Speedway and Milan Dragwayare an easy drive from any of these attractions in southeastern Michigan.
Take an excursion to Grand Rapids. Spend a day (or two) on the beach and take a trip to Holland---no passport required. It is less than 140 miles from MIS to Grand Rapids.
Three days are easily filled exploring Michigans second largest city:
- John Ball Zoo is home to more than 1,100 animals from around the world. While there you can also take flight on the zip line and sky trail ropes course, ride a camel, and experience Michigans only sting ray lagoon complete with rays and sharks.
- Slow down and smell the roses at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, an indoor/outdoor wonderland of plants and art. Monumental sculptures, including the 24-foot tall Leonardo da Vinci Horse, dot the grounds. Kids love to splash in the Great Lakes water feature and explore the fort and more in the Childrens Garden. West Michigan Whitecaps, Class A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, play a series of home games the week following the Pure Michigan 400. Catch the baseball action and fun promotions for the whole family at Fifth Third Ballpark.
- Wash down a two-fisted sandwich with a local craft beer at Founders Brewing Companyin downtown Grand Rapids. Take in a comedy show or music at the B.O.B.entertainment complex just a few blocks away.
- Pack your dancing shoes and head to Rosa Parks Circle any Tuesday evening through the summer for a G.R.O.S.S. time. The Grand Rapids Original Swing Society even gives quick instruction at 7pm before the free dance session, attended by hundreds of folks of all ages, begins.Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in his hometown of Grand Rapids. Learn about his time in office and the life of President Ford and First Lady Betty Ford.
Make it a five-day adventure with trips to communities surrounding Grand Rapids:
- Enjoy a meal at the original Rosies Diner, which moved to Rockford years ago from New Jersey where it was the location for the famous quicker picker upper Bounty paper towel TV ads. Wednesday is Cruise Night and Thursday is Bike Night. Lowell, a 25-minute drive east of Grand Rapids, for a free concert at the Lowell Showboat Sizzlin Summer Concert Series along the Flat River. The Trace (formerly Natchez Trace) performs at 7pm August 18, and Tami Helm and MacNaughton Blvd. entertains at 7pm August 25.
- Roller coaster fans love the high-speed, wooden Shivering Timbers and Thunderhawk, a suspended coaster, at Michigans Adventure amusement park in Muskegon. In addition to the thrillers there are plenty of family-friendly rides and the colorful BeachParty water park.
To round out the week head south to Holland:
- Spend an evening browsing downtown Hollands shops, sipping a local beer at New Holland Brewing Company(which offers brewery and distillery tours on Saturdays), and enjoying the free entertainment by street performers. Windmill Island Gardens, where you can tour an authentic windmill from the Netherlands and buy wooden shoes for decoration or to wear at DeKlomp Wooden Shoe & Delft Factory. Those that keep on the northern road will find Silver Lake Sand Dunes, the only place west of Utah where you can drive your own (approved) off-road vehicle on the sandscape. You can also rent a vehicle for the experience, or let Mac Woods Dune Rideshandle the driving.
Regardless of which direction you drive, you can hit the sun, sand and surf at your choice of Michigan Beachtowns, nine Lake Michigan communities between the Indiana border and Ludington.
For more information on trip ideas and things do to in Michigan, visit www.michigan.org.