Author: Corina VanDuin

Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry Took Guests Around the World and Beyond in 2018

It’s only eight miles to Mackinac Island from the Shepler’s ferry dock in Mackinaw City, and even fewer than that for passengers departing from the other side of the Mackinac Bridge in St. Ignace. Yet, when you shuttle Mackinac visitors back and forth throughout the spring, summer and fall, the mileage starts to add up.

During the 2018 season from late April through October, Shepler’s made thousands of round trips from the mainland to Mackinac. The total distance for all those ferry trips? More than 102,000 miles.

That’s the equivalent of going around the world four times! Or about half the distance that Apollo 11 traveled to reach the moon nearly 50 years ago!

Were you along for the ride in 2018?

Even though it’s been less than a month since the 2018 Mackinac ferry season ended, it’s already time for the holidays. The days are counting down to Christmas, and the clock is ticking down to Shepler’s 2019 opening day, too. There are less than 150 days until the new Mackinac ferry season starts April 21!

You can get a jump on 2019 travel to Mackinac by taking advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials available this week as Shepler’s gives thanks for a great 2018. Use the promo code blackfriday18 to get $6 off regular adult round-trip tickets purchased here on Friday, Nov. 23, or Saturday, Nov. 24. Tickets are good anytime during the 2019 season, from April 21 through Oct. 31.

Then, on Cyber Monday, you can get bonus bucks on gift cards. For every $50 gift card purchased here on Monday, Nov. 26, you get an extra $10 for free. The gift cards can be used for Shepler’s rides anytime over the next five years.

Here are some more fun facts about Shepler’s 73rd season ferrying visitors back and forth to Mackinac:

  • Shepler’s ferries made 7,290 trips to the island — nearly 40 trips per day over the course of the season.
  • Shepler’s ferries traveled 102,060 miles, which is enough to circle each of the five Great Lakes 10 times, cross the Pacific Ocean 20 times or span the Atlantic Ocean nearly 30 times.
  • In addition to ferry rides to Mackinac, Shepler’s took 100,000 guests under the Mackinac Bridge on cruises around the Straits of Mackinac to see lighthouses, the sparkling northern Michigan night sky or Fourth of July fireworks.

Looking ahead to 2019, Shepler’s 74th season will open on Sunday, April 21, with a 7:30 a.m. Easter morning shuttle. In the meantime, remodeling of the Shepler’s dock on Mackinac continues and several other improvements are in the works including parking upgrades in St. Ignace and Mackinaw City.
You can stay updated on the Shepler’s Facebook page and start saving on a 2019 trip to Mackinac with these great Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

This National Park’s Growth Helps Michigan Businesses Thrive

When Amie Nolan looks out at Munising’s downtown business district, she’s quick to note what isn’t there — chain-owned stores and big box retailers.

From her Taco Primo restaurant, there’s a couple of pizza joints, a brewery, an ice cream shop, a flower store and more, all within a stone’s throw in this Upper Peninsula city that is known as the home of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Indian Head, Munising

“We’re built on local businesses,” said Nolan, who opened her taco shop in May. “A lot of my friends own their own businesses and we put our hearts and our passion into what we do. We do it for our year-round residents and all the interesting people we meet every day when they visit us from wherever they call home.

“There’s so much energy here in Munising.”

Chapel Rock, Munising

Kathy Reynolds, who heads the Alger County Chamber of Commerce, said within the last year about 12 new restaurants, stores and shops have opened, placing Munising’s vacancy rate at almost zero.

“That’s almost unheard of for a rural, small town like we are,” Reynolds said. “Everything is homegrown here and these people are invested in the community, but we couldn’t be as successful without the park and what it gives us.”

Learn more about Munising here and start planning your vacation by requesting a visitors guide.

The national park drives the tourism industry in Alger County and has become an international destination. More than 775,000 people visited the park in 2017, spending about $33 million, according to a government analysis. The visitors supported 400 jobs that likely wouldn’t exist otherwise, authorities say.

Visitor spending centers on lodging or campsites, food and beverages as well as souvenirs, experts reported.

Park Superintendent David Horne said in a statement that the park is honored to show off the resources it has, in addition to helping the local economy.


“National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service,” Horne said. “We greatly appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”

The revenue has allowed locals to stay in the region instead of having to leave to find jobs elsewhere. Nolan, who is originally from Lansing, moved to Munising with her husband, a native of the town of roughly 2,500.

“People want to live and work here,” Reynolds said. “The park’s growth has given them the opportunity to do that and diversify our economy. Sure, there’s growing pains from time to time, but we’re happy to have that experience rather than one where we’re losing amenities.”

Reynolds said local business owners have been improving storefronts, adding to the town’s revitalization.

Cori-Ann Cearley, president of Munising’s Visitors Bureau, said tourism is a way of life in Munising.

“It’s our number one industry and we love it,” she said. “I think people enjoy feeling welcomed and being greeted with the kindness and manners that we have in Munising. I truly believe the park’s health is our health and we need each other to be our best.”

Miners Castle, Munising

Nolan, meanwhile, marvels at what her staff of 15 does while serving more than 200 guests a day during the height of the season.

“We work for each other and to treat our customers as best as we can every day,” she said. “It’s hard work, but we love it.”

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

11 Awesome Michigan Things to Put on Your Fall To-Do List

Cool nights, changing leaves and football tailgates are just some of the reasons that fall is a great time of year. In fact, more Americans say fall is their favorite season than any other.

Fall is especially nice in Michigan, where we experience a clear transition from the hot, sunny days of summer to the chilly snows of winter. In Michigan, we really do have four distinct seasons, each offering its own unique joys.

Some people like spring the best, or summer or even winter. But here are 11 reasons that fall is the best time of year in Michigan:

Fall is time for the harvest. We celebrate our state’s bounty of agricultural goodness on Thanksgiving Day. Until then, we head out to the farm and have a blast picking apples, navigating corn mazes and taking hayrides to the pumpkin patch. Heading to a U-Pick farm or farm market makes a great family outing.

Speaking of agricultural bounty, Michigan is a big producer of wine grapes and fall is the best time to see the grapes pressed into wine on a vineyard tour. Of course, it’s also the best season for visiting a tasting room and finding a new favorite wine. Combining a wine tasting with a fall color tour gives you the base ingredients for a romantic weekend getaway.

Let’s not forget about hard ciders, or craft beers. Just like you can go on a winery tour, you can go on a tour of Michigan microbreweries and find something new. You can reserve a beer bus, or incorporate Michigan’s great outdoors on a paddle or cycling tour of breweries and distilleries. Traverse City Beer Week from Nov. 9-16 is a great way to experience Michigan’s craft beer scene.

The water isn’t as warm and you might need a windbreaker, but the beach is still open in the fall. It’s much less crowded, yet no less beautiful. The blue lakes and golden sand mix with the changing colors of the leaves to create an incredible setting for romantic picnics and long walks by the water. Plus, the sun sets earlier in the evening, leaving more time to enjoy the rest of your vacation.

There’s no one right way to go on a fall color tour. Maybe you drive around in search of roadside fruit stands or go from one winery to the next. Maybe you seek out charming restaurants along the way or take breaks to shop in some of Michigan’s great downtowns. The important thing is to get out on the open road and soak in the stunning vistas of the Great Lakes State in fall. A couple recommended routes: M-22 in Leelanau County and the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

fall color tour by kayak on any of Michigan’s many inland lakes and rivers also is a fantastic option…

…and so is a fall color tour by bike. It’s not so hot and sweaty to get out in the fall on a trail like TART, Michigan’s premier trail network in Traverse City.

When crowds thin out after school starts in the fall, popular tourist spots like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore quiet down a bit. Yet, fall hiking in Michigan offers some of the more incredible sights of the year. Fall is also a great time for birding, when you can see migratory birds head south for the winter, and fishing, when salmon make their annual run upriver from the big lakes.

As you can see here on The Torch course at A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort near Traverse City, “Up North” golf reaches its peak in the fall. The courses stay green and the water remains a beautiful blue, while the trees come ablaze with colors of scarlet, orange and gold. It almost makes you want to hit your ball into the woods! After the round you can settle your bets — or double-down on your winnings — at the casino.

With more freshwater coastline than any other state, Michigan naturally has an abundance of lighthouses. Many of them, like the Grand Traverse lighthouse in Northport on Lake Michigan, are open for tours, and the photo ops in fall are better than ever.

From 5k runs like the Harvest Stompede on Old Mission Peninsula to bike races like the Iceman Cometh Challenge in Traverse City, Michigan has plenty of opportunities in the fall to get outside and compete. Have you ever tackled an obstacle race? Is this fall the time to run your first marathon? Maybe you should celebrate Halloween this year with a Zombie Run.

You can experience any or all of the 11 reasons fall is Michigan’s best season by visiting Traverse City. Plan now and take advantage of Fab Fall Packages that include deals on lodging between Sept. 4 and Dec. 14 and discounts on dining, shopping, wineries, spas and more.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

Grand Hotel’s Wine Weekend Highlights ‘Star’ Northern Michigan Winery

When Elizabeth Schweitzer, the master sommelier and creator of the Fall Wine Appreciation Weekend at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, talks about the 2018 event featuring Shady Lane Cellars, the excitement in her voice is evident.

Schweitzer praises the Leelanau County winery, saying she has watched it since she arrived in Michigan in 2010 and touting its development under lead winemaker Kasey Wierzba. Schweitzer, this year, invited Wierzba and Shady Lane to be the showcase of her biennial weekend wine celebration

“She’s our highlight,” Schweitzer said of Wierzba. “Shady Lane and Kasey have really become a star among Michigan wineries and we’re so thrilled to have them as our host winery this year. People are really going to learn that they are making great wines and dispelling some myths about Rieslings.

“Kasey’s seminar will educate guests on reinventing Reislings and how they are not always sweet. We’ll pour her dry (styles) and provide a platform for people to know and love Shady Lane Cellars wines.”

The three-day affair offers guests:

  • A Friday welcome cocktail reception
  • Saturday wine seminars and tastings
  • Saturday evening Grand Cocktail reception
  • Saturday evening special dinner (adults only)
  • Saturday evening Cordial Reception

Shady Lanes wine will be exclusively featured at each of the receptions and dinners while Saturday’s tasting will be designed like a trade-show with all Michigan wines. Nearly 300 people are slated to attend the event, drawing mostly from the Midwest, but stretching to the Eastern seaboard in some cases, Schweitzer said.

“It’s always a big afternoon for Michigan wines to get some great exposure,” Schweitzer said.

Wierzba and Shady Lane are equally excited about the opportunity. Shady Lane Cellars’ Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc will be poured as featured wines during the special dinner Saturday evening.

“I’m over the moon to have the Grand Hotel’s dining room full of wine lovers drinking Shady Lane Cellars,” Wierzba said.

It’s not a one-way learning window, Wierzba said, as she intends to take advantage of working with Schweitzer, who is only one of eight female master sommeliers in the world.

“She works with an amazing cellar at the hotel and she really dedicates herself to experiencing world wine regions,” Wierzba said. “As a winemaker my focus is in my own cellar with grape varietals that are central to cool climate wine growing. It’s a drop in the bucket. There’s so much to experience and I always take advantage of learning from true Masters of world wines.”

Shady Lanes also intends to use the event as a lead on guests who may want to follow-up with a visit to the estate winery’s tasting room a short distance off Grand Traverse West Bay and M-22.

Schweitzer said the winery will leave a welcome letter and card offering a free wine and cheese tasting at the facility that features scenic vineyard views from a sweeping 32-foot covered furnished patio.


“That is so kind and so thoughtful, and no one has ever done that before,” she said.

Learn more about the story about Shady Lane Cellars, the people behind the wine and the land that makes it possible.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

How 1 Week in November Could Change What You Think About Beer Forever

So, you don’t like beer, huh? Then maybe you just haven’t tried the right one.

There are a lot of beers in the supermarket cooler and many of them do taste a lot alike. But there are dozens upon dozens of other kinds of beer you’ve probably never had. 

Like, for example, “Cakewalk,” a vanilla cream ale from Michigan’s Right Brain Brewery, or the “Harvest Moon Oatmeal Stout” from Mackinaw Brewing or the “Strong Brew Coffee Porter” from Rare Bird Brewpub.

There are more than 150 styles of beer recognized by the Brewers Association — from the American-style lagers at the grocery store to India Pale Ales (IPAs), porters, stouts and beers with notes of fruit, pumpkin, coffee or chocolate.

“Our goal is to find something for everyone,” said Joe Short, founder and CEO of Short’s Brewing in Bellaire, near Traverse City. “Our favorite customer who comes in is the person who doesn’t like beer. That’s where we get excited about the possibility of conversion.”

Short’s, Right Brain and other local Traverse City breweries are taking part in Traverse City Beer Week (TCBW), Nov. 9-16. TCBW features a variety of tastings and other events that make a great introduction to craft beer.

Even though the craft brewing industry is rapidly growing, it still makes up just a tiny fraction of the commercial beer market. That small scale is partly what defines craft beer — it’s the opposite of big industrial brewers.

But it’s also defined by the craft of brewing. While the predominant style of beer sold in the United States is a light lager that’s more or less the same all across the country, craft beer is as unique as the brewery that makes it. The Local’s Light classic American lager by Short’s is different from the Northern Light lager at North Peak Brewing, which is different from the Glen Light lager at Cherry Public House, and so on.

During Traverse City Beer Week you can also try hard ciders like “Cinnamon Girl” by Left Foot Charley, “Greenman” by Tandem Ciders and “Madagascar Vanilla Bean Bourbon Barrel Aged Cider” by Taproot.

That’s not even to mention the vast array of other beer styles that craft brewers create. They experiment with yeast, hops and malted barley ingredients to produce a variety of different colors and flavors of beer: the “Cherry Springer” cherry ale at Lake Ann Brewing, the “Pembroke Stout” at Earthen Ales, and the “Trail Ryeder” IPA at Hop Lot Brewing, for example.

“No one beer captures all consumers,” Short said.

But which kind of craft beer might capture you? Short offers three suggestions to help you discover craft beer that you’ll enjoy:

Start with a sample tray. Try a variety of styles so you can taste the difference between a sour beer and a hoppy beer, for example, or between a Belgian beer and an American ale.

Ask your server questions. When you taste one kind of beer, find out why it tastes the way it does. When you find a particular style of beer that you like, your server will be able to identify what you like in that beer, so you can try other kinds with similar characteristics.

Narrow down what you like best. If you discover that you like light lagers, then explore more lagers because you might also like an amber lager or a dark lager. Or, if you decide that you like the smell, flavor and bitterness of hops, then keep exploring IPAs and other beers within that window.

The key is to explore craft beer, because there’s so much more out there than the familiar beer that you might not even like. Traverse City Beer Week is a great time to do just that, with 19 breweries and tap rooms participating!

Events include the 5th annual TC Ale Trail IPA Challenge, a Flapjack and Flannel Festival, The Great Beerd Run and many activities hosted by individual breweries. For example, you can discover the creative magic behind Right Brain’s award-winning beer on a free brewery tour 5-9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, and sample special mini-flights of craft beer starting at $6.

Check out the full schedule of TCBW events here.

If you spend a couple days enjoying the festivities, you can take advantage of Fab Fall packages being offered by many Traverse City-area hotels, resorts and B&Bs now through Dec. 14. The packages include lodging deals as well as discounts on dining, shopping, breweries, wineries, spas and more.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.