Author: Becca

9 outdoor adventures for your fall bucket list

a road through an autumnal tunnel of trees

With one of the world’s largest bodies of water on one side and one of the Lower Peninsula’s biggest inland lakes on the other, there’s a lot of H2O surrounding Ludington State Park. There’s also a lot of land within the park between Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake – 5,300 acres of it, which is more than all but a few parks in Michigan.

The best way to experience both the beautiful expanse of Ludington State Park and the incredible waterfront views may be to lace up your hiking boots and hit the park’s 24 miles of trails. The network of several shorter trails loops through the park in varied terrain, from sandy

women walking up a wooden trail in the Ludington, MI woods

Instagram photo by @actively_becoming courtesy of Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

dunes to wooded marshes to riverside paths. The trails go over hills to the top of high bluffs and down through valleys, across boardwalks and along foot bridges over some of that picturesque shoreline.

“There’s a lot of diversity in the trails here,” said Jim Gallie, park manager. “There’s a bit of everything for everyone.”

Hiking the trails in Ludington State Park is an exhilarating experience any time of year, but perhaps no time is quite as scenic as fall. Once the temperatures cool down, it’s especially enjoyable to get out on the trails for some healthy exercise in a refreshing outdoor setting.

Two of the park’s most popular routes are the Lost Lake and Island trails, which skirt the edge of the water – and in some spots go right over it on boardwalks and foot bridges. Gallie said the combination of boardwalk and big views of Hamlin Lake is appealing, as are the beautiful stretches of cedar and hemlock forest full of birds and wildlife.

There’s also the Coast Guard Trail right along the Lake Michigan dunes, the Sable River Trail from the dam at Hamlin Lake along the river toward Lake Michigan and the Skyline Trail with several scenic overlooks offering panoramic views of landmarks as far away as the Silver Lake Sand Dunes. Plus, there’s the Lighthouse Trail that follows rolling dunes to the photogenic Big Sable Point Lighthouse.

bags of apples from an apple orchard

Instagram photo by @pureludington courtesy of Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Each trail offers a unique glimpse of Ludington State Park’s immense natural splendor.

Of course, hiking isn’t the only recreational activity to enjoy this fall in Ludington. There’s also a couple miles of bike trail, a four-mile canoe route in Hamlin Lake and a nice fall salmon run. And that’s all just in the state park!

The Ludington area has many miles of hiking and biking trails outside the park, not to mention ample opportunity for kayaking, fishing and golfing – all of which offer their own special beauty in the fall.

Fall also brings delicious fresh produce to farmers markets and the chance to see some of Michigan’s most intense fall color on a leisurely drive through the back roads of Mason County.

See what else fall brings to the Ludington area:

man holding a fish in a stream

Instagram photo by @victorruano1 courtesy of Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

From big-lake fishing on Lake Michigan to casting a line in over 40 inland lakes to fly fishing in nearly 2,000 miles of trout streams, there’s no wonder Ludington is one of Michigan’s top fishing destinations. In fact, Ludington is the state’s No. 1 salmon fishing port! In the fall, the Sauble and Pere Marquette rivers provide anglers with salmon runs lasting into October.

 

stream winding through a forest in Ludington, MI

Instagram photo by @rvagogo courtesy of Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Paddling down a quiet river in the fall can be a spiritual experience as you disappear into the serene beauty of the Pere Marquette National Scenic River. The Ludington area is home to several paddle sports vendors that rent kayaks and canoes for expeditions into the heart of Manistee National Forest.

 

a tree-lined 'country lane' in Ludington, MI

Instagram photo by @canonontheloose courtesy of Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Just as you can escape into a kaleidoscope of fall colors on the water, you can venture off the pavement onto the backroads of Mason County and immerse yourselves in the stunning yellows, reds and oranges of a fall color tour in the Ludington area. Or take a drive on one of Mason County’s six self-guided Cultural Trails – complete with narrative accessible from your smart phone.

 

a sunset on lake michigan

Instagram photo by @cranickshelly courtesy of Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Speaking of a color tour, sunsets in the Ludington area are just as incredible in the fall as they are in the summer. Every night and every vantage point is different.

 

a Ludington hat on the beach in Ludington, MI

Instagram photo by @emilykosik courtesy of Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Water temperatures are cooler in the fall, but Ludington-area beaches remain a relaxing place to spend the day. Set out a chair and warm your toes in the sand on a sunny day or pack a picnic for a hike up the shore to the iconic Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Ludington State Park.

 

two women shopping in downtown Ludington, MI

Instagram photo by @theroostludington courtesy of Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Ludington Avenue tends to be a little quieter in the fall than during the height of summer, which gives you more space to browse the unique downtown shops and art galleries. You can create a custom T-shirt at Gordy’s Skate Co. or admire the incredible images on display at Todd & Brad Reed Photography. While strolling through town, grab a bite to eat at one of Ludington’s brew pubs or enjoy dessert at the famous House of Flavors.

 

two silly scarecrows sitting on top of hay bales and pumpkins in a fall themed display

Instagram photo by @downtownludington courtesy of Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

What’s fall without a pumpkin and some farm-fresh produce? While out on the roads in pursuit of glorious fall color, be sure to make time for a stop at a roadside stand or farmers market so you can taste and savor the flavors of the season.

 

bicycle leaning against the railing of a bridge over a stream

Instagram photo by @lycra_and_lace courtesy of Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

In addition to a couple miles of paved bike trail within Ludington State Park, there’s a wealth of bike routes throughout the Ludington area including scenic road routes, four-season mountain biking, fat-tire trails and more.

 

looking across a lake at trees turning fall colors

Instagram photo by @lola_cotidiana_ courtesy of Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Phone cameras are better than ever these days, making it easy for photography novices to capture slices of heaven all around the Ludington area, from sunsets to lighthouses to fall colors. Wherever your adventures take you in the Ludington area, use the hashtag #PureLudington to share images of your journey.

Make the most of Michigan’s glorious fall this year and cross some of these items off your bucket list in Ludington. Find a place to stay and start planning your getaway!

Explore the dark sky parks of the Alpena area

view of the nighttime sky and stars above Alpena, MI

Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground

Theodore Roosevelt

Two days, three dark sky parks – check out the video below as Eric Hultgren heads to Alpena to explore the area’s dark sky parks and view the Perseid Meteor Shower.

Whichever is first on your list – Rockport State Recreation Area (Michigan’s 100th State Park with over 4200 acres of preserve), Negwegon State Park (beautiful sandy beaches on the shores of crystal clear Lake Huron), or Thompson’s Harbor State Park (7.5 miles of undeveloped beauty) – it’s worth a trip to Alpena to experience the incredible sights both on the ground and in the sky.

 

Make it a Fab Fall with trip to Traverse City

women walking a dog through autumn leaves

Well, Spring Break was a bust with the outbreak of COVID-19 and the virus altered many summer vacation plans, too. While life isn’t completely back to normal yet, there are some things you can do to make this fall feel as ordinary as possible.

And by ordinary we mean fabulous, because that’s exactly how to describe the bounty of fall in Traverse City. Whatever craziness has characterized your life over the past five months, you can count on a Fab Fall in Traverse City with the usual opportunities to enjoy the familiar comforts and blessings of fall in Michigan.

RELATED: 5 activities to make this fall fabulous

In case you’ve forgotten what life was like last fall before the pandemic, take a look at these pictures of autumnal bliss:

man and woman walk on the path near Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore gets a little sleepier in the fall when summer crowds fade. It just means there’s that much more space for you to find our own little slice of paradise, maybe high above Lake Michigan on the Empire Bluff trail or at one of the overlooks along the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. The cooler fall temperatures make for glorious hiking and biking through the 71,000-acre park, and there are miles of quiet shoreline for a relaxing stroll by the water, too.

 

child picks an apple off a tree

Fall brings an abundant harvest of fresh fruits and vegetables in the Traverse City area. You can make a day of it searching for crisp, juicy apples at a U-pick farm or pull over to the side of the road and sample the produce at one of the area’s countless farmers markets and roadside stands.

 

women pick a pumpkin

Fall brings pumpkin patches, too, and the popular pastime of browsing for that perfect jack-o-lantern. Plus, corn mazes where you can get lost for awhile amid the towering stalks as you find your way out.

 

aerial view of Traverse City, MI area in the autumn

A leisurely drive through the Traverse City area’s country roads offers ample opportunity to see gorgeous fall color most anytime from late September through October. Some scenic drives come highly recommended, as do some vantage points including the top of Summit Mountain at Shanty Creek Resort. A scenic chairlift ride at Shanty Creek in Bellaire or at Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville is a fall activity that should be on every Michigander’s bucket list.

 

beers in glasses in a serving tray

While a scenic chairlift ride is something everyone should do at least once, a tour of the Traverse Wine Coast should be an annual endeavor. With more than 40 wineries across the region, you’re sure to find plenty of new tastes to savor along with some familiar favorites. Fall is a great time to explore the area’s wide variety of hard ciders, too. And, of course, there’s no shortage of craft breweries in Traverse City, either.

 

two people cycle through an autumnal tunnel of trees

The Traverse City area offers four seasons of great outdoor recreation and fall just may be the best time of the year. From biking in the crisp air on dirt tracks through woods full of stunning fall colors to hiking along one of the area’s many incredible trails to fishing cool streams full of trout, fall in Traverse City puts a special touch on your favorite outdoor activities. For a family affair, climbing up and running down the Dune Climb gets the fall air flowing through your hair and creates picturesque photo ops of both Glen Lake and Lake Michigan.

 

person canoes on a lake viewing trees turning fall colors

Let’s not forget kayaking through the quiet beauty of an inland lake surrounded by trees in brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red.

 

two people golfing among fall colored trees

As for fall golf Up North, it’s hard to get upset about a 3-putt when you’re spending a few hours in a setting like this.

 

aerial view of Traverse City shoreline in the fall

Fall is quieter throughout much of the Traverse City area, making it a fine time to explore a new place. The region is full of cute small towns such as Bellaire and Frankfort. You can spend the afternoon strolling down Main Street and happen upon memorable restaurants and unique boutiques.

 

Grand Traverse Resort in the autumn

Places to stay such as Grand Traverse Resort & Spa take on a special character in fall, too. Many Traverse City-area resorts, hotels and B&Bs offer Fab Fall packages from Sept. 8 through Dec. 11. In addition to deals on lodging, you’ll get a digital coupon book with money-saving offers on dining, shopping, wineries, spas and more. Traverse City is committed to being a safe destination for your fall getaway, with places to stay and other area travel partners adopting extensive COVID-19 precautions.

 

NCAA tournament-style bracket creates Michigan fall color tour competition

woman canoeing looking at fall colors

First, it was the iconic Upper Peninsula pasties squaring off against each other in a no-holds-barred, if-only-for-fun, competition that went down to the wire.

Now, the battle really gets colorful as scenic drives, hikes and overlooks take centerstage in a take-no-prisoners contest to determine where visitors (and residents) of the Keweenaw Peninsula can find the best explosion of red, orange and yellow in Michigan’s Copper Country.

The Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge launched on Aug. 25 and continues through the week of Sept. 29, featuring head-to-head, popular-vote matchups that dwindle aerial photo of Keweenaw Peninsula from the pre-selected Sweet 16 to the championship round.

“There’s no wrong answer, but there’s no right answer because everybody has their favorite spot to check out what nature has in store for us,” said Brad Barnett, executive director of the Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau. “People are passionate about fall colors, and it’s a great way to engage with friends, family and the larger color tour community.

“You can get involved while visiting or just being a part of the campaign for the place you remember seeing something amazing.”

The schedule features sleepers and the time-honored favorites, Barnett said. Here’s how to get involved and a look at the opening round:

  • August 25: Match 1: Brockway Mountain vs Gratiot Lake Overlook
  • August 27: Match 2: Mount Baldy vs Covered Road (Freda Area)
  • August 30: Match 3: Isle Royale National Park vs Pilgrim Community Forest
  • September 1: Match 4: Mount Bohemia vs Estivant Pines
  • September 3: Match 5: Bare Bluff vs McLain State Park
  • September 6: Match 6: South Shore Drive vs Mont Ripley
  • September 8: Match 7: Covered Drive (US 41) vs Hungarian Falls
  • September 10: Match 8: M-26 Scenic Drive vs Churning Rapids

aerial view of trees turning fall colors in Keweenaw Peninsula Recent weeks have paired warm days with cooler overnight temperatures – along with some rain – that create a perfect environment for northern hardwoods to make dramatic turns right on schedule. Peak colors generally hit the Copper Country at the back half of September and the first two weeks of October.

The geography of the region, which is generally the hardest hit by winter snowfall, also makes for prime and long-lasting color. The Lake Superior micro-climate of Copper Harbor delays the burst to extend the sight-seeing timeline as areas to the south and west change first and then the tip of Michigan follows.

Discover more: Plan a trip with these 36 sites to get outdoors

Where to stay: Keweenaw lodging features downtown lodging and shoreline views

In addition to the contest, the County Road Association of Michigan has highlighted drives that will make the trip memorable with a series of “don’t miss” roads that reflect the views of experts.

car drives on road through fall leaves“Driving the county roads is an ideal way to view fall colors,” said Denise Donohue, executive director for the County Road Association (CRA) of Michigan. “Fall is a special time of year to discover new drives that showcase Michigan’s natural beauty.”

Here’s what the agency recommends:

Keweenaw County

  • Brockway Mountain Drive
  • Lac La Belle Road
  • Gratiot Lake Road
  • Mohawk-Gay Road
  • Eagle Harbor Road
  • Cliff Drive
  • Five Mile Point Road

Houghton County

  • Covered Drive Road
  • Freda Road
  • Calumet Waterworks Road

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Why do the colors change?

Here’s a quick color season primer for those who have forgotten, or just want to look like the smartest person in the car when the question pops up.

The spring and summer sun foster the production of Chlorophyll, which turns budding leaves green and allows them to stay that way until fall, when the shorter days and cooler temperatures change the equation.

Orange hues comes from Beta-Carotene, one of the most common carotenoids present in most leaves. Strongly absorbing blue and green light, it reflects yellow and red light from the sun, giving leaves their orange appearance.

Red tones come from Anthocyanin production that increases dramatically in the fall months and protects the leaf.

Yellows are the result of Flavonols, a protein that is always present in leaves but not seen until the production of Chlorophyll begins to slow.

After scenic drives and hikes, but before calling it a night and restarting again the next day, here are some popular dining spots in and around Keweenaw.

  • Fitzgerald’s: Awesome waterfront dining on Lake Superior in Eagle River. Great beer selection and really delicious BBQ.
  • Harbor Haus: Located in Copper Harbor, and inspired by Austrian/German cuisine, amazing seafood entrees and incredible Lake Superior views.
  • Keweenaw Mountain Lodge: Historic property just outside Copper Harbor. Great cocktails and selection. Access to golf course and mountain biking trails for those looking for fall entertainment
  • Parkview Grill: Located near Twin Lakes State Park, this restaurant is right off the MDNR ATV/Multi-Use Trail. Great Americana food, hearty portions, and friendly service.
  • Mohawk Superette – This unassuming convenience store in Mohawk is known for fantastic pasties! Winner of the 2020 Keweenaw Pasty Challenge, you can grab a few for the road on your way up to Copper Harbor.
  • Four Suns Fish & Chips – Located across the street from the historic Quincy Mine and with plenty of outdoor seating, locally caught whitefish and perch meals are highlights of a visit. Customers can bring their own beer and wine while taking in the mine’s great scenic backdrop.

Use the Keweenaw Adventure Guide to plan your fall visit to Copper Country.

Munising: Where your four-season U.P. adventure begins

Kayaking at Pictured Rocks National Park

Explore.

Unwind.

Recharge.

Reconnect.

The picture perfect U.P. vacation allows visitors to experience the world exactly at the pace they desire.

And we think you’ll discover everything you’re looking for and more in Munising, a four-season wonderland that will soothe your soul and fulfill a chase for outdoor adventure.

Marvel at the dramatic views of the multi-colored sandstone cliffs – dazzling displays of red, orange, green and blue – at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore or to find inspiration while gazing out at the expanse of a churning Lake Superior.

Here is a season-by-season guide on how to road trip the right way:

Fall

Temperatures that cool during the color-tour season create the perfect setting for trail hikes, mountain biking excursions and ATV rides that put the natural beauty at the heart of your trip. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore offers 100 miles of trails and 42 miles of Lake Superior’s shore. It’s one amazing step after another.

Winter

There’s a reason Munising is called the Snowmobile Capital of the Midwest. There is no other spot that can send you out on 330 miles of groomed trails that have been in-filled and widened for safety and smooth-riding. The trails usually open in November and the snow lasts into May. With an annual snowfall of 230 inches, Munising is a rider’s dream. There are also more than 20 miles of cross-country ski trails and we’re an ideal launching point for a visit to the mesmerizing Eben Ice Caves

Spring

The geological evolution that created Pictured Rocks also formed a lesser known, if not equally as stunning, physical phenomenon many don’t realize exist in Michigan: Waterfalls. Munising’s 17 falls range from roadside stops to challenging hikes. There are small, stream-like drops to cascading falls. Spring water volumes are at a peak with the snow melt.

Summer

Munising delivers lake activities that range from the serene and passive to the adrenaline-pumping. See Lake Michigan shipwrecks in the Alger Underwater Preserve from a glass-bottomed boat. Take a cruise that shows off the brilliance of the cliffs, sea caves and beaches that line the lakefront. Chill in a kayak as you paddle the park. Or get your thrills in a decommissioned Navy Seal jetboat that rips through the water at high-speeds, blasts into sharp turns and even pulls 360-degree spins to the delight of howling riders.

Learn more at Munising.org and then come see us for a great Michigan vacation.

Petoskey Area boasts 5 of the state’s best fall color routes

A road through a tunnel of trees in Petoskey, MI

Both high school and college football may be cancelled and many students are learning remotely from home instead of in a classroom, but no matter how much will be different this fall due to COVID-19 some things will certainly be the same.

One thing you can count on, pandemic or not, is that the leaves will change colors soon in northern Michigan.

How soon, of course, is always up for debate among meteorologists, who think the Great Lakes peak could come a bit later than usual this year. But whether the leaves a road through a tunnel of trees in Petoskey, MIburst into color a few days earlier or a few days later than normal, you can plan your fall color tour knowing that the Tunnel of Trees will be a sight to behold.

The 20-mile stretch of M-119 north of Petoskey is regarded as Michigan’s top fall color tour route. Yet, some people will argue that for fall color, there are even better routes in the Petoskey Area!

In fact, the Tunnel of Trees is just one of five great fall color routes worth the drive:

 

RELATED: Check out the Petoskey Area Fall Color Guide

In addition to color tours, there’s a lot of other activities in the Petoskey Area communities of Harbor Springs, Bay Harbor, Alanson, Petoskey and Boyne Falls/Boyne City where you can immerse yourself in the beauty of fall. Here are just a few examples you may want to add to your itinerary:

  • Hiking through woods ablaze with fall color in the Bear River Valley Recreation Area or through wetlands out to the Lake Michigan beach at the Thorne Swift Nature Preserve in Harbor Springs are just two of many hiking trails in the Petoskey Area where you can step right into the thick of fall and be a part of the season.
  • While we’re on the topic of trails, don’t forget to bring your bike or to rent one from a Petoskey Area shop. Whether you prefer off-road mountain biking through the woods or paved trails that go past incredible, scenic overlooks, there’s no shortage of beautiful biking trails in the Petoskey Area.
  • Speaking of beauty, fall is an especially refreshing time to tee it up at any of Boyne’s 10 world-class golf courses including the glorious Bay Harbor, one of the best in the country, or at an old-school classic track such as Belvedere Golf Club in Charlevoix.
  • Follow in the footsteps of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway on a self-guided walking tour of Hemingway’s Michigan. Hemingway spent many summers in the Petoskey Area and there are several sites with plaques that detail his time spent here.
  • Pick a pumpkin or savor fresh produce at any of the Petoskey Area’s many farm markets including Pond Hill Farm. Thefamily-friendly destination north of Harbor Springs offers afarm-to-table café, winery, brewery, pumpkin patch, farm animals and more. Fall Fest weekends Sept. 26-Oct. 25 feature pumpkin smashing, hayrides and, of course, cider and doughnuts.
  • There’s lots to do in the Petoskey Area for adventure seekers, too, including Zipline Adventure Tours at Boyne where you go soaring down a mountain for some 3,000 feet on the longest zip line in Michigan. Less adventurous? Go for a scenic chairlift ride up the mountain instead. Both Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands offer complementary chairlift rides for resort guests, while day guests can buy tickets online.
  • Of course, the Petoskey Area is also the best place to hunt for Michigan’s state stone, the Petoskey stone! Come see if you can find a special treasure all on your own.
  • Fall is the perfect time to visit a Petoskey Area winery for a sample or two. Book a ride on a winery tour or find a new favorite bottle at your own pace. You’ll also come across craft breweries and distilleries, and when the weather’s nice there’s still lots of outdoor dining to enjoy all over the Petoskey Area.

Fall is a popular season in the Petoskey Area, so find a place to stay and start planning your visit now for Michigan’s ultimate color tour and a host of other autumnal activities. As of now, masks are still required indoors and social distancing is a must.

Try to travel midweek for the best deals and lightest crowds, and keep in mind that sometimes the temperatures drop before the leaves do so don’t wait too long to get your fall visit to the Petoskey Area on the calendar.

Michigan’s Little Bavaria turns 175, discover what makes the city unique

St. Lorenz construction, in Frankenmuth, MI

When Heidi Chapman, the Director of the Frankenmuth Historical Museum, was taking German classes in high school, she and her father had difficulty communicating in the language because of the different dialect she was learning and the one her father had spoken since he was a child.

While Chapman learned today’s traditional German, her dad and other multi-generational families in Frankenmuth spoke “Frankish,” an old-school version that has dwindled in popularity even in the country it was born.

“People from Germany come to visit, and they want to meet someone who speaks Frankish because it’s used here still,” said Chapman. “We’re a language island even to natives.”

Frankenmuth, MI early settlementIt’s an illustration of how deep the German roots are in the community that is widely known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria. Frankenmuth’s story begins with a group of 15 settlers who finally made it to the bay area roughly 15 miles southeast of Saginaw in 1845. The arrival came after a months-long journey that had the newcomers experience more grief than glory.

Here’s a snapshot of what they encountered along the way:

  • Departed from Nuernberg on April 5, 1845, and traveled by foot, wagons, and trains.
  • Boarded a ship and the drunken captain steered it into a sand bank of the Weser River.
  • Winds and storms later forced them to sail around Scotland instead of through the English Channel.
  • They had a second mishap in a collision with an English trawler.
  • More winds drove the ship north into icebergs and dense fog for three days.
  • Food spoilage in the ship that was damp and overcrowded.
  • A train ride – between steamship voyages – was interrupted by a collision with a coal train.

That left them with only a 12-mile hike to where they settled and they were joined by a group of 90 more Germans a year later. Waves of family members and friends came and aided in the city’s development.

“They had a tough go of it,” Chapman said, understating the hardships of the first group. “But they never stopped. That was their mentality, they were determined to stay true to their word.”

TRACKING THE TIMELINE: Learn key dates in Frankenmuth’s history

The promise was to settle the land as an exclusive German-Lutheran community that was loyal to Germany, but it was those same roots, however, that came with suspicion during the world wars, Chapman said. Americans looked askance at the German village in the early and mid 1900s, but by then the community’s foundation was a commitment to each other and their new country.

The Frankenmuth Woolen Mill, during World War I, made socks that were sent to American troops overseas. During World War II, Universal Engineering and its employees pledged enough money to build the “Spirit of Universal” fighter plane, part of an effort that historian Carl Hansen wrote was “necessary to the war effort and the Frankenmuth residents independently needed to prove to a nation they imagined hostile to themselves, that they were indeed loyal Americans.”

A piece of the fighter, whose pilots shot down eight Japanese planes before it was rendered unserviceable because of enemy fire, is on display in the historical museum.

Frankenmuth, now recognized by many for the year-round Christmas store Bronner’s, the Bavarian Inn and famous chicken dinners at Zehnder’s, was built by craftsman who brought their entrepreneurial spirt and work ethic to agriculture and producing beer, cheese and sausage.

DISCOVER MORE: Read stories that provide in-depth detail on Frankenmuth’s history

Frankenmuth, MI 1996“It’s 175 years of heritage that’s on show in just about everything that we do,” said Christie Bierlein, the Marketing Director of the Frankenmuth Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It’s the architecture, it’s the reason behind the festivals and how we embrace community, it’s German language church services and so much more.

“We didn’t just wake up and decide to brand ourselves this way. It’s in our blood.”

The celebration of the town’s anniversary, officially Aug. 18, will be more muted than originally planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the recognition of the historic achievement is being noted with special promotional offers, tours of the historic St. Lorenz church, and in community groups.

Chapman said while Frankenmuth has held on to its traditions, it’s also diversified into a welcoming bedroom community that engages with new residents and visitors, a pleasant step back in time in a trying time.

“Frankenmuth is a friendly place,” she said. “People wave to strangers, say ‘hi’ on the street and take comfort in being a city people love to visit. Relationships matter here.”

Here are tips to plan your first, or your next, visit to Frankenmuth.

5 incredible recipes using Michigan-made, barrel-aged food products

Foods made with Blis Gourmet barrel-aged food products

Steve Stallard has lived by the mantra “Because Life is Short” since he was a teenager, but the creation and impact of one of the most popular Michigan-made line of food products is anything but fleeting.

Stallard, who was trained at the legendary Culinary Institute of America and later worked at gourmet restaurants including Taillevent Restaurant of Paris, The Greenbrier Club, Dow and The Amway Grand Plaza, created Grand Rapids-based BLiS Gourmet in 2004.

He pioneered using barrel-aged items with the launch of domestic roes and maple syrup, following up with one-of-a-kind products such as barrel-aged vinegar, hot sauce, soy sauce, steak sauce, and fish sauce, as well as salt and spices. The ingredients were all chef-driven and developed as the finishing touches to dishes.

Stallard began dabbling in barrel aging while working professionally and using maple syrup and bourbon as his “house” cure. He wondered: “What would happen if I put syrup in a barrel?” The discovery, through trial and error, was a revelation.

He began a quest to source the best barrels and perfected the craft syrup. The barrels that hold syrup for 6 months to 1 year then get another use as roughly a gallon of the syrup is absorbed into the wood, providing an environment that boosts flavors of other ingredients used in food prepration.

“Essentially, what we’re doing is we’re adding products that would benefit from that (syrup),” Stallard said, noting the items are used in professional kitchens around the world but are equally friendly and adaptable in home kitchens by cooks of all skill levels.

DISCOVER THE STORE: The complete BLiS product line is available here

The recognition of BLiS products is long, including awards as best in show at the Bissel Maple Farm Craft Maple Syrup festival the past two years and a SOFI award from the Specialty Food Association for the best dessert topping.

The sauces, syrups, rubs and oils have also earned praise in nationally renowned magazines and food sites such as Food & Wine, Wine & Spirits and Bon Appetit as well as cooking show and media celebrities like Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey.

On the horizon, BLiS teases, is a limited-edition Jamaican rum that will launch at Mammoth Distilling tasting rooms Labor Day weekend.

Check out the video below to learn more about Blis Gourmet products:

 

Here are five of the favorite recipes from the BLiS creative team:

Blis Gourmet vegetarian 'BLT'

Vegetarian “BLT” (sans bacon)

Ingredients:

  • Good whole grain bread
  • The best heirloom tomatoes available
  • 2 tbsp Duke’s or homemade mayo
  • 1 tsp BLiS rye aged apple cider vinegar
  • 5 tbsp BLiS hardwood smoked soy sauce (per 3 slices of tomato)
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Organic leaf lettuce (Bibb, Boston, Red Leaf, etc.)
  • Cracked black pepper

Method:

  • Marinate 3 thick tomato slices in BLiS hardwood smoked soy sauce and olive oil for 45 minutes
  • Blend mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar, and apply liberally to toasted bread
  • Layer with marinated tomatoes, lettuce, and top the tomatoes with cracked black pepper

Blis Gourmet chicken wings

Chicken Wings

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds meaty chicken wings
  • Frying oil (we recommend peanut oil)
  • 5 cups BLiS “Blast” hot sauce
  • 1/3 cup BLiS bourbon barrel aged maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup melted butter

Method:

  • Fry wings until crisp and done
  • Combine hot sauce and maple syrup, and then whip in the melted butter until emulsified
  • Toss wings in sauce and enjoy

Blis Gourmet Elote (Mexican street corn)

Elote (Mexican street corn)

Ingredients:

  • 6 ears fresh corn
  • 1/3 cup Duke’s or high-quality mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp BLiS Santa Fe spice rub
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • Mexican crumbling cheese (we recommend Cotija)
  • Cilantro

Method:

  • Grill corn in husks until tender
  • Peel back husks and liberally spread the mayonnaise on the corn
  • Sprinkle with BLiS Santa Fe seasoning
  • Top with cheese, cilantro, and lime zest

 

Blis Gourmet Green Chile Bison Burgers

Green Chile Bison Burgers

Ingredients: (makes 2 burgers)

  • 1 pound ground bison meat
  • 5 tbsp BLiS smoked soy sauce
  • ½ tsp BLiS Elixir
  • Sliced Monterrey Jack Cheese
  • 1 large onion sliced thin
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 2 cups roasted, diced, and peeled hatch peppers or green chiles
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Adobo spice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano

Method:

  • Mix ground meat and 1.5 tbsp smoked soy thoroughly, let rest
  • Caramelize the large sliced onion, adding the maple syrup and elixir at the end to make an onion jam
  • Sauté the diced onions and garlic in olive oil until clear, add the chilies, spices and 1.5 tbsp smoked soy and cook for 15 minutes on low heat
  • Cook burger to medium rare, lightly grill the bun
  • Add heaping tablespoon of chili sauce, then sliced Monterrey cheese and melt the cheese. Add the onion jam on top of the cheese, and one more scoop of the green chilies.

 

Blis Gourmet lime glazed salmon

Lime Glazed Salmon

Ingredients:

  • Four 5-6oz Salmon fillets – skin on – scaled (cross score the skin with a razor blade or very sharp knife)
  • Olive oil or 
Grape Seed oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 2T BLiS Blast Barrel-Aged Hot Sauce

  • 2T BLiS Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup

  • Zest of one lime
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 1 small clove of minced garlic

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Prepare glaze by whisking Blast hot sauce, maple syrup, lime zest, lime juice, and garlic together in a small bowl.
  • Set aside.
  • Rub salmon with olive oil and season with salt
  • Heat a liberal amount of grape seed oil in a large oven-safe nonstick pan over high heat until very hot
  • Place salmon in the pan skin side down (making sure there is plenty of oil beneath the salmon to prevent sticking)
  • Sauté for a few minutes until a crust begins to form
  • Remove from heat, spoon/brush some of the maple syrup/Blast glaze over the salmon (reserving about half the glaze)
  • Slide the pan into the oven and continue to cook the salmon until just cooked through
  • Remove from the oven and baste with the pan sauce
  • Plate salmon and spoon the remaining lime glaze over the salmon

Crystal Mountain is your northern Michigan home base for a summer ‘staycation’

Michigan's only Alpine slide at Crystal Mountain resort

Imagine 1,500 acres of fresh air where you can bike and hike, swim, golf or ride a chairlift to the top of a mountain. Are you thinking of some place out West? Down south? Along the coast?

There are amazing travel destinations all over the country, but you don’t have to drive 1,000 miles or catch a flight to have a great vacation. One of the best places to visit is Crystal Mountain, right here in Michigan.

Crystal Mountain logoWhile the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many people to change vacation plans, surveys show that Americans are still taking trips. It’s just that they’re going shorter distances and traveling by car to places with relatively few cases of the coronavirus.

In fact, 84% of people feel “extremely or moderately comfortable” about traveling by car right now, according to a VacationRenter survey, and they typically are going no more than 385 miles from home.

Crystal Mountain is an ideal destination within a four-hour drive of pretty much everywhere in Michigan.

“Even if you’re from a neighboring community, it’s good to be able to get away,” said Sammie Lukaskiewicz, public relations director for Crystal Mountain.

“This is a good time to get back to nature, uncrowded spaces and fresh air. With all of the different outdoor activities that we offer here, it’s perfect for people to reconnect with themselves and their families in a meaningful, fun way.”

Golfers know Crystal Mountain as a summertime destination with two championship golf courses, and skiers know Crystal Mountain as a wintertime hot spot with nearly 60 downhill ski runs, three terrain parks for snowboarding and the No. 1 cross-country trail network in Michigan.

Crystal Mountain resort in MichiganBut Crystal Mountain is a true four-season resort with outdoor activities for the whole family including an outdoor pool, disc golf, tennis and pickleball courts, outdoor laser tag, archery range, climbing wall, zipline and adventure course. Plus, Crystal Mountain is home to Michigan’s only Alpine slide where you can cruise down a 1,700-foot curved track in a specially designed sled.

Chairlift rides to the top of Crystal Mountain are a visual treat any time of year with panoramic views of northern Michigan, and the Michigan Legacy Art Park invites you to hike past 50 sculptures in a wooded, 30-acre preserve right on the Crystal Mountain property.

And, of course, the renowned Crystal Spa takes reservations any time of year for massages, facials, manicures, pedicures and more.

Crystal Mountain is the perfect home base for a Michigan staycation yet this summer, this fall or this upcoming winter.

“We’re just down the road from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, from Iron Fish Distillery, and we’re just a short drive from the 45th parallel which has fantastic wineries,” Lukaskiewicz said. “We’ll help you schedule a trip down the Platte River or the Betsie River to tube or kayak, and the salmon are getting ready to run so there’s great opportunities for salmon fishing, too.”

Crystal Mountain cottages at water's edge Crystal Mountain has a wide variety of lodging accommodations for individuals, families and larger groups, from hotel rooms to cottages, condos and homes that can sleep up to 18 people and in most cases are pet friendly.

Resort capacity is being limited during the pandemic to ensure safe social distancing and additional cleaning and housekeeping precautions are being taken. For example, there’s now a 24-hour window between stays for extra cleaning and disinfection of hotel rooms, including the use of electrostatic foggers to sanitize hard-to-reach areas after checkout.

“We were already a clean resort, but we’ve stepped up all of our sanitation and disinfection measures through our Crystal Clean initiative,” Lukaskiewicz said. “You can rest assured that your room is clean.”