Category: Sponsor Content

Is winter or spring your favorite? March in Michigan gives us both!

downtown

Michigan is blessed with four distinct seasons, each with its own unique opportunities for outdoor recreation. And in March, we often get to experience two of those seasons in the same month.

On the one hand, it’s still officially winter – at least until March 20. Yet, this month is also when we start to see the first beautiful glimpses of spring.

Whether you like winter or spring, you can get out there and enjoy it somewhere in Michigan this March. And you can save money, too, by jumping on one of these great Pure Michigan deals.

Here are seven ways this month to either enjoy a last blast of Michigan winter or feel the first fruits of spring:

  • Snow skiing – Cool nights mean Michigan ski resorts can keep making snow. There’s still time to hit the slopes at Shanty Creek Resort and enjoy overnight lodging rates as low as $108 per night with the Bellaire Means Fresh Air Or you can celebrate March and save at Crystal Mountain Resort with 25% off select Hot Lodging Dates this month, plus free skiing and breakfast for kids age 6 and under. With downhill runs, Nordic trails, tubing hills, ice skating and so much more, there’s an outdoor activity for every member of your party throughout March and even into April. Person snow-biking
  • Other winter activities – Farther north, on the Keweenaw Peninsula, conditions remain wintry. There’s incredible skiing at Mount Bohemia. And there’s still enough snow for other winter activities, too, from snow biking and snowshoeing to marveling at the splendor of frozen waterfalls and exploring more than 230 miles of snowmobile trails along the shores of Lake Superior and into historic downtowns where you can take a break and grab a bite to eat. With the Keweenaw Winter Package, you can save up to 25% on lodging this month when staying three or more nights.

RELATED: Why Northern Michigan is Ideal for Spring Skiing

  • Watching nature’s rebirth – Downstate, the weather is often a lot different in March. In fact, thousands of tropical butterflies are blooming at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids where the conservatory temperature is a balmy 85 degrees! Outdoors, it’s nice enough to watch salmon leap through the Grand Rapids Fish Ladder as they swim upstream to spawn. You could check out both signs of spring this month and get 25% off your second night with Spring Hotel Packages at select places to stay in Grand Rapids. Then, you can use the money you save on lodging to relax on a patio and sip new spring releases from Beer City USA’s many craft breweries.downtown
  • Exploring Michigan cities – March can be a pleasant time to stroll through a Michigan downtown. There are more than 250 cities across the state, each with its own unique personality and character. For example, Ann Arbor’s walkable streets, one-of-a-kind shops and diverse selection of restaurants offer plenty to discover on a weekend getaway or a mid-week break from the routine. More than 60 Hotel Packages and Promotions are available this month in Ann Arbor with savings of 15% to 50% off regular rates!
  • Hedge your bets with indoor/outdoor options – Whatever weather Mother Nature brings this month, you’ll find something to do during your stay at Bay Pointe Inn on Gun Lake, south of Grand Rapids. March is a perfect time to play on the area’s hiking and biking trails or relax on the resort’s 375 feet of lake frontage with pontoon and kayak rentals available. And you can always try your luck at nearby Gun Lake Casino, take a dip in the resort’s indoor pool or retreat to your own room’s whirlpool tub. Bay Pointe is offering 15% off rooms on weeknights in March, with great deals on cottages and villas for larger groups.
  • Golf – As the snow melts and green grass reappears, it’s hard not to think about getting back out on the links. March is a good time to make plans for a golf excursion. For example, Mackinac Island’s historic Grand Hotel right now is booking reservations for its incredible Tea for Two Golf Package that includes unlimited golf on The Jewel along with overnight accommodations, breakfast and dinner each day, admission to the Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum and daily Afternoon Tea in Grand Hotel’s Parlor.
  • Go on Spring Break! – Of course, March also brings the start of Spring Break as colleges and then grade schools take a week off from classes. Why not plan something special this year right here in Michigan? Drummond Island Resort offers a variety of action-packed family activities including ORV and bicycle trails, skeet clay shooting and other outdoor games as well as winter recreation, weather permitting. The resort’s Spring Break Family Getaway has packages from $125 per night including a $40 dining voucher. Or, stay on the mainland and use a Traverse City Escape Package to get discounted lodging and deals on a wide range of activities and attractions for all ages. Spring is when you can see new life burst forth at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, sample the latest varietals on a tour of the Traverse Wine Coast or have a blast with axe throwing, boutique bowling and other indoor fun at The Den at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. Plus, the Traverse City area is home to the Great Lakes Children’s Museum, Michigan Legacy Art Park at Crystal Mountain Resort and the West Bay Beach Resort with an outdoor swimming pool heated to 95 degrees!

Changing seasons are one of the special joys of living in Michigan. Be sure to take time this March to personally bid farewell to winter and welcome spring. Don’t miss out on the transition that’s already underway!

See more Pure Michigan vacation deals and packages available in March

Visit 6 unique cities on 1 dream trip to the Great Lakes Bay region

Dow Gardens' Dr. Seuss Sculpture

Moving through the treetops along the nation’s longest canopy walk is totally safe. But your brain doesn’t always process it that way.

As you hang out on a cargo net a few stories above ground or peer through a glass overlook 40 feet high, there’s a “perceived sense of danger,” as if you’re constantly on the edge of falling off a cliff. There’s also a very real and exhilarating sense of adventure and discovery.

You could say the same thing about this spring in Michigan.

The canopy walk at Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens in Midland takes you through the trees at heights of 25 to 40 feet.

The canopy walk at Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens in Midland takes you through the trees at heights of 25 to 40 feet.

It’s been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began. And although the virus remains a risk to be taken seriously, this spring is our best chance in a long time to get out of the house and enjoy some of our state’s coolest places, like the 1,400-foot canopy walk at the Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens in Midland. When you experience the thrill of getting up high in the trees – amid over 50 acres of forest, ponds, meadows and orchard – you realize in ways you never could see before that there’s just so much to explore.

We all know Detroit, our state’s biggest city, and Lansing, home of our state capitol. Maybe we’ve spent time on the west side of Michigan, anchored by Grand Rapids (a.k.a. Beer City USA), or gone “Up North” to enjoy four seasons of outdoor recreation in small towns and endless miles of wilderness.

But what do you know about Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay region?

Well, it’s where you’ll find the nation’s longest canopy walk, for one. It’s also a collection of Great Lakes Bay logosix unique communities, each with their own personalities and one-of-a-kind attractions that you can safely visit this spring.

“As you go through Michigan you’re going to have awesome experiences. The Great Lakes Bay region really is the opportunity to experience six very different communities in a very short amount of time,” said Michael Hensley, travel marketing manager for the Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“If you’re planning a spring road trip, you could hit all six communities if you wanted to and have a plethora of things to do throughout the region.”

RELATED: Get to know Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay region

Let’s take a closer look at some of the things to do in the Great Lakes Bay region. Here are six stops to make on a Michigan road trip this spring:

Bay City – The Great Lakes Bay region gets its name from Saginaw Bay, and it’s no wonder the community near the base of the bay is called “Bay City.” Bay City has a nice mix of urban and outdoor recreation to enjoy. It’s the place to book a Saginaw Bay fishing charter (and spring is the best time to hook a walleye). It’s also where you can catch a ride out into

Downtown Saginaw, MI skyline along the river

Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay region features a mix of urban settings such as downtown Saginaw to go along with rural and suburban experiences.

Saginaw Bay for some incredible tall ship sailing, or cruise the Saginaw River on the Princess Wenonah. Bay City State Park features five miles of trails with a pair of 32-foot observation towers plus a nature center in one of the largest remaining freshwater, coastal wetlands in the entire Great Lakes. And the Riverwalk makes for a nice stroll or bike ride through parks and along the waterway that splits Bay City in two.

 

Downtown, you’ll find boutique shops, art galleries and the enormous 60,000-square-foot Bay City Antiques Center, which is Michigan’s largest antique store with more than 400 booths. Of course, there are plenty of downtown dining and drinking options, too, including the Sunrise Pedal Trolley where you can ride from place to place on a bike big enough for 16 people!

Shiawassee Flats at sunset

The Great Lakes Bay region is where wildlife finds sanctuary in the “Everglades of Michigan.”

Saginaw – With a craft brewery, wine and martini bar, distillery and other watering holes, the Great Lakes Bay’s largest city is the perfect place to start a self-guided tour of the region’s many breweries and taprooms. It’s also a cultural center that’s home to the Saginaw Art Museum, which has a permanent collection of more than 2,000 objects spanning over 4,000 years, and the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum, which exhibits more than 200 plaster, bronze and metal works.

Families visiting Saginaw with younger children will want to check out the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum for tons of hands-on educational activities and the Saginaw Children’s Zoo for 10 acres of beautiful gardens, animal exhibits and a hand-carved carousel.

Saginaw also makes a great home base for an exploration of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, nicknamed the “Everglades of Michigan.” Even just driving through the refuge can expose you to lots of migratory birds. But the best ways to catch sight of bald eagles and great egrets is by booking a scenic boat tour with Johnny Panther Quests Adventure Trips.

Wilderness Trails Zoo signBirch Run – With the warmer weather of spring, it’s a great time to come out of hibernation and enjoy some outdoor shopping. Birch Run Premium Outlets has more than 100 name-brand stores offering daily discounts of up to 65% off.

But shopping is just one of many things to do in Birch Run. The community offers up-close animal encounters at Wilderness Trails Zoo, which features more than 200 animals and 50 different exotic species including zebras, lions, parrots and reptiles. Kids will also have a blast at Alpine Mountain, an entertainment center with two mini-golf courses, an arcade, go karts and bumper boats. And spring is when the green flag comes out for the start of racing season at the short track Birch Run Speedway.

River Place Shops entranceIn addition to brand-name shops, you’ll also find lots of familiar restaurants where you can refuel during a day of activity in Birch Run. And if you’re looking for something special, be sure to check out Tony’s I-75 Restaurant where you can get a one-pound BLT loaded with bacon!

Frankenmuth – Although it’s in the middle of the Great Lakes Bay region, Frankenmuth looks and feels like you’ve gone across the pond. The community with strong German roots highlights that heritage through architecture, food and even shops. River Place Shops is a German-style outdoor mall with more than 40 stores and attractions such as a maze of mirrors. Frankenmuth also is known for Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store.

Shiawassee River rapids is among the peaceful and relaxing attractions in Chesaning, a charming village in the Great Lakes Bay region.

Shiawassee River rapids is among the peaceful and relaxing attractions in Chesaning, a charming village in the Great Lakes Bay region.

Beyond shopping, Frankenmuth is a paradise for kids with two indoor water parks and the Frankenmuth Aerial Park high-ropes course and zip line. Visitors of all ages will appreciate The Michigan Heroes Museum, a one-of-a-kind attraction that pays tribute to military veterans from our great state. And, of course, like any good town with a German influence, guest ages 21 and up won’t have any trouble finding adult beverages in Frankenmuth. In fact, Frankenmuth Brewery is the oldest brewery in Michigan, and one of many stops you can make on a 2-hour PedAle Trolley cycle tour.

Chesaning – With a population of fewer than 2,500 this charming village nestled into the countryside on the Shiawassee River offers a quiet getaway in classic small-town America.

You can slow the pace of life with a picnic along the picturesque waterfront or a relaxing round of disc golf in Showboat Park. You can browse the farm market or take a look at the

The 1,400-foot canopy walk at Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens is the longest of its kind in the country.

The 1,400-foot canopy walk at Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens is the longest of its kind in the country.

Laura Ingalls Wilder display at the Chesaning Area Historical Museum. Sit down to a peaceful dinner in a downhome restaurant such as Showboat Restaurant or the Riverfront Grille or savor dessert at The Malt Shop. Then you can spend the night in a delightful country inn or one of five cozy scrapbooking and quilting retreats.

Midland – Spring brings leaves to the trees along the canopy walk in Midland. It also brings a blooming display of more than 20,000 flowers to the beautiful Dow Gardens, and spruces up the exterior of the nearby Alden B. Dow Home & Studio where a tour of the 20,000-square-foot structure is a delight for architecture buffs and a really intriguing experience for the rest of us, too.

Spring is a great time to get outside and hike some of the 19 miles of trails at Chippewa Nature Center, a 1,200-acre haven including a visitor center with hands-on exhibits. This time of year is also when the Great Lakes Loons minor league baseball team gets back on the field at Dow Diamond, one of the best minor league stadiums in the country.

RELATED: Visiting with kids? Don’t miss these must-see attractions

Once you decide which stops to make on your spring road trip to the Great Lakes Bay region, it’s a good idea to check on any COVID restrictions that may be in place. You can contact attractions directly or find updated information through the Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention & Visitor Bureau. Gogreat.com is the best place to plan your spring trip!

MEDC-Pure Michigan logoPrecautions including social distancing, hand sanitizing and mask wearing are in place throughout the region to keep visitors comfortable and safe. That lets you concentrate on discovering all the extraordinary things to do in the Great Lakes Bay region.

“We have been experiencing the same thing for the last 12 months,” Hensley said. “We want to give people the chance to get out and have new experiences this spring.”

Black History Month: Restaurant owners grateful for past, but ‘every day of the year is black history for us’

A decorated outdoor wall, with faces painted on it

Just as Italian-Americans and Michiganders of other backgrounds contribute to the state’s diverse menu of local food offerings, so do African Americans.

We’re taking the occasion of Black History Month to note and celebrate the influence of black restaurant owners across the state – from Eugene Allen, a “country bumpkin” who grew up hunting squirrels in northern Michigan and has deer and turkey mounts on the walls of his bar, to Godwin Ihentuge, a first-generation American who’s bringing the food culture of his Nigerian heritage to the Mitten State. And from Cory and Tarra Davis, who barbecue award-winning ribs in Grand Rapids while broadening the menu to include plant-based options, to Lloyd M. Talley, a Ph.D. in human development who’s conducting a “social experiment” in Detroit by opening a new kind of eatery that’s a model for the future of urban food.

They all have vastly different stories. Yet, they share in common the experience of being black business owners working to make Michigan’s local food scene more delicious than ever.

 

Continuing a legacy

Cory and Tarra Davis of Daddy Pete's BBQ

How can you support black-owned restaurants in Michigan? “(Black History Month) is not just a one-month fad. It is a life that we live all year long, and we really just want people to be intentional in thinking about where you’re spending your dollars,” said Tarra Davis, here with Cory outside Daddy Pete’s BBQ in Grand Rapids. “Where possible, make an intentional effort to support diverse suppliers and vendors. Don’t let black-owned business support be a trend. Let it be a lifestyle.”

Slow smoked barbecue runs in the family at Daddy Pete’s BBQ in Grand Rapids. Not only are owners Cory and Tarra Davis husband and wife, but the popular food truck with a dine-in location at 2921 Eastern Ave. SE on the corner of 28th Street gets its name from Cory’s pit master father, Pete.

Since Black History Month is about remembering the past and “continuing on the legacy for the up-and-coming generations,” as Cory says, Daddy Pete’s is a perfect black-owned restaurant to highlight. After all, Cory and Tarra have been carrying on Pete’s BBQ legacy since 2012. And they’re living up to the challenge. Combining Cory’s barbecue skills with Tarra’s gift for entertaining, Daddy Pete’s is one of Michigan’s Top 21 Restaurants to Visit in 2021.

“I love the connection between taking something from its raw state and turning it into something beautiful that people enjoy,” Cory said. “The secret to great barbecue is having a passion for it.”

In addition to succulent slow-smoked meats including ribs, pulled pork, chicken wings and beef brisket, Daddy Pete’s has award-winning side dishes and also has launched a plant-based menu with vegetarian and vegan options. There’s even a plant-based version of the restaurant’s iconic “Hot Mess.” Instead of a BBQ sundae served in a funnel cake with baked beans, six-cheese mac and cheese, a meat of your choice and creamy coleslaw, the plant-based “Hot Mess” features vegan ingredients and smoked jackfruit.

The plant-based menu has been one of Daddy Pete’s biggest sellers, “at a barbecue place of all places,” Tarra said.

“We are a husband-and-wife team together in the sauce and doing the best that we can with the gifts that we’ve been given,” she said. “Cory and I know we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors who have not had the opportunities that we do, and that we are making them proud.

“Our goal when we started was to change the financial trajectory of our family tree and to leave a legacy of ownership and self-sufficiency. Every day of the year is black history for us. We live it, and we try to be living examples of black business excellence. We are certainly not perfect, but we are always aiming towards that goal.”

Building upon the foundation laid by those who came before

Everybody seems to know Geno’s Sports Bar and Grill. The restaurant in Thompsonville, not far from Traverse City, is a popular stop for northern Michigan tourists who come to ski or golf at nearby Crystal Mountain Resort, to fish or kayak the Betsie River and to snowmobile or bike on trails that run right outside the door.

Yet, lots of people are surprised to meet Eugene Allen, the African American man who has owned the place for the past 12 years.

“They say, ‘Oh, you’re Geno? You’re not Italian,’” Allen explains, with a laugh.

A graduate of Benzie Central High School, Allen is northern Michigan through and through. He grew up hunting and fishing with his dad, who was born in Thompsonville in 1933 after Geno’s grandparents came up from Georgia because they heard how great Michigan was.

Geno Allen of Geno's Bar & Grill

After nearly 30 years working in the auto industry, Eugene Allen came to his hometown restaurant looking for a change of pace. “I got up out of my chair and asked the owner if she wanted to sell it,” he said. “Two weeks later we made a deal over the phone.” Geno says Black History Month is about “all the efforts people went through to help afford us the opportunity to better ourselves. A lot of those efforts made back then paved the way for folks like myself to have a chance.”

Allen’s dad used to catch raccoons for their pelts as one of his money-making hobbies. Then one day he caught sight of a pretty girl named Lucille, who had moved with her family from St. Louis to a farm east of Thompsonville.

Good thing for Geno. His parents’ genes helped make him a state wrestling champion. And his mother’s talent in the kitchen has helped him succeed in the restaurant industry.

“She could really cook,” Geno said. “Even when we were growing up we would tell her she should open a rib place.”

Lucille passed away last year, but she lives on through her recipes including the “sweet with a little heat” sauce that Geno uses for Lucille’s St. Louis Style Ribs, which is the special on Thursdays. The rest of the menu at Geno’s features American classics from Philly Steak Flatbread and broasted chicken to the best burger and best fish fry in all of Benzie County. And everything at Geno’s comes at great prices. There’s even $1 pints of PBR on tap.

“My accountant keeps telling me I’m not charging enough,” Allen joked.

In the same way Geno benefits from his mom’s rib sauce, he also knows that his success owes in part to civil rights pioneers. Without them, he may never have been able to buy his hometown restaurant when he came looking for a change of pace after nearly 30 years of working in the auto industry. While spending some time in town figuring out what he could do if he accepted a buyout, he asked the restaurant owner if she wanted to sell. Two weeks later, they made a deal over the phone.

“(Black History Month is about) all the efforts people went through to help afford us the opportunity to better ourselves,” Geno said. “Back in the day you weren’t even given the opportunity. You couldn’t get a bank loan, for example, or move into a certain neighborhood.

“A lot of those efforts made back then paved the way for folks like myself to have a chance. All you ask for is a fair shot.”

Celebrating the past

When Godwin Ihentuge started a pop-up restaurant in Detroit, people told him there was no market for African food. Yet, in a city populated primarily by people of color, including many like himself with family ties to Africa, the chef’s pioneering spin on fast casual Afro-Caribbean cuisine has really taken off.

The pop-up evolved into a food truck, then two years ago Ihentuge opened Yum Village in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood. The menu of “African raised, Detroit made” food features dishes such as Moin Moin, a bean dish from Nigeria, Maafe, a West African peanut stew, and Caribbean jerk chicken – many with ingredients imported from overseas.

Chef Godwin Ihentuge of Yum Village

“I think I applied for maybe 300 jobs,” said Godwin Ihentuge, who finished high school during a recession in 2002 and graduated college during the recession brought on by the subprime mortgage crisis. After working dozens of jobs ranging from rock wall climbing instructor to coupon book intern, the first-generation American built a pop-up restaurant into Yum Village, which opened in 2019 in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood.

“I grew up eating this food,” said Ihentuge, a first-generation American whose father survived civil war in Nigeria and came to the United States. “We take part in black history every day by serving African food to people of color.

“I’m here to open up the dialogue so we can start talking about all the different types of African food there are. It’s important for us to see and acknowledge representations of ourselves (in the food we eat).”

Ihentuge has an extensive food background, from working as a dishwasher in the cafeteria at Wayne State University to cooking in the kitchens of several Michigan restaurants. But he envisions Yum Village as more than a restaurant bringing African food culture into the Michigan market. In fact, he’s broadening Yum Village into a market pantry with a variety of products and services including lessons in cooking and West African djembe drumming, sauces, spices, fresh-made juices and smoothies, take-out meal kits, bath and body items inspired by the restaurant’s recipes and clothing.

Some of the expansion has been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, which overnight shifted the restaurant’s business from about 85% in-person transactions to 90% online. Yum Village needed to generate new streams of revenue to keep providing employees with good wages and quality benefits.

The wider focus also is a natural fit for Ihentuge’s merchandising skills, which he honed as a former district manager at Target.

“We’re inventing things here. We’re doing a lot of pioneering things,” he said. “By the end of it we’ll probably be like an Afro-Caribbean Target or an Afro-Caribbean Trader Joe’s.”

Forging a new future

At East Eats in Detroit, Black History Month brings a sense of gratefulness for the past. It also implores the owners to sustain and advance progress into the future, and their innovative restaurant is an effort to do just that.

Birthed out of the COVID-19 pandemic, East Eats has no indoor dining nor even an on-site kitchen. Instead, it’s a collection of geodesic domes set up in an abandoned lot in the city’s Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood.

Lloyd M. Talley of East Eats

There’s a lot happening in downtown Detroit, but there’s so much more of the city’s landscape to be experienced – including a visit to East Eats. “I don’t think we always need multi-million dollars from outside corporations to come and develop (a more robust black future),” Lloyd M. Talley said. “We’ve taken things that already exist within our local area and stitched them together in a framework.” Next time you’re in the Detroit area, come and see a side of the city that you might never have seen before.

Guests make reservations and place orders in advance from an intriguing menu that changes seasonally to reflect the owners’ diverse African American, Caribbean, Liberian and Ghanian heritages. Each reservation includes two sides (soup, salad or dessert) and an entrée such as butter shrimp, roasted chickpeas or salmon tikka. East Eats offers lots of vegan and vegetarian options, too. When visitors arrive for their picnic in a dome, their meals already have been prepared in a catering kitchen about a mile away and are there in hot bags to meet them. It’s merging the best of remote delivery with in-person dining.

East Eats not only gives people the chance to go out safely during the pandemic, benefitting both mental and physical health. It’s also a relatively low-cost alternative to a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant that makes it more affordable for many guests.

And you can tell by the sound of kids playing and of dogs barking in backyards that the neighborhood setting meets people right where they live.

“There are neighbors here that drive past every day and say ‘I didn’t think that could be in my hood,’” said Talley, who teamed with fellow Howard University alum and Detroit Black Restaurant Week founder Kwaku Osei-Bonsu on East Eats.

Talley, Osei-Bonsu and a third partner, Flint native Nygel Fyvie, say the model of East Eats can happen quickly and affordably in an eco-friendly way that empowers the community. And they believe it can be replicated across Michigan and throughout the country, especially in urban areas with large amounts of vacant land and large populations of people of color.

To them, East Eats is a way of taking the celebrated legacy of black history and pushing it forward toward an even brighter future for underserved communities in metropolitan areas around the country.

“Black History Month is a reminder that there are a lot of things that have occurred and a lot of work that has paved the way for us to be here right now,” Talley said. “But I also think about it as a responsibility to ensure that black history is not stopping with us. I hope my role in Black History Month is to show a new black future.”

RELATED: Celebrate Black History Month and explore more incredible stories, art and legacies

Diverse black-owned Michigan restaurants worth celebrating during Black History Month, all year long

A decorated outdoor wall, with faces painted on it

MLive Michigan’s Best’s John Gonzalez and Amy Sherman shine a spotlight on a few of the local, black-owned restaurants around the state. Gonzo and Amy highlight each restaurant’s foundation story while enjoying delicious meals in unique locations. From an ‘igloo picnic’ to a Thursday rib night, to low-and-slow southern BBQ and Afro-Caribbean eats – these restaurants are your next MI Best ‘must try’!

East Eats – Kwaku Osei-Bonsu and Lloyd M. Talley, Ph.D., started East Eats in order to bring something special to this neighborhood and community. Intentionally choosing a location ‘off the beaten path’ and a unique dining experience of domes/igloo picnics. East Eats diners can travel around the globe from their dome with the sights, smells and tastes of a rotating seasonal menu of Eastern hemisphere foods.

Geno’s Sports Bar and Grill – after 28 years working in Detroit Geno Allen returned to Thompsonville and purchased the local bar. Quickly becoming a favorite for locals and tourists. With $1 pints of PBR, lots of TVs to catch all your favorite sports and plenty of great food including everyone’s favorite, Thursday night rib nights.

Daddy Pete’s BBQ – Cory and Tarra Davis, had a gift for BBQ and entertaining so they started Daddy Pete’s BBQ. Offering low and slow Southern style BBQ from both a food truck and dine-in location. They are committed to family, food and their customers.

Yum Village – with the motto, African raised, Detroit made, Chef Godwin Ihentuge is bringing Afro-Caribbean food to Michigan. With food as diverse as jerked ox tail and curried chickpeas and events such as group drumming lessons, this restaurant is not only a must-try foodie destination but also a community gathering spot.

5 things to see and do in Michigan before the snow melts

woman gazes out at a wintery lake

Who knew that the huge cinnamon rolls at Hilltop Restaurant in L’Anse weigh more than a pound? Or that there’s a statue just up the road along U.S. 41 called “Spider Jesus?”

That a nearby waterfall pierces the icy landscape of the “Grand Canyon of the U.P.” and that the parking lot of Irene’s Pizza in Baraga is a splendid place to watch the sunset over Keweenaw Bay?

“Every small town has something unique about it,” said Tieka Knight, a travel blogger who recently spent a gorgeous winter day exploring the distinctive character of the L’Anse-Baraga area in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “I like to find all those gems.”

Tieka Knight is a graphic designer who also blogs about travel at selectivepotential.com.

Tieka Knight is a graphic designer who also blogs about travel at selectivepotential.com.

Knight discovered snow-covered gems such as Canyon Falls and the Bishop Baraga Shrine on her day trip, and there are many more winter treasures to encounter in places all over Michigan. Whether you follow in her footsteps or blaze a trail of your own, the recipe for a winter day trip is the same: Just find something interesting on the map to visit – maybe a lighthouse or a scenic turnout – search out a few local shops and restaurants, then hit the open road for a day you’ll never forget. With a spirit of adventure, any Michigan town becomes a destination.

A winter day trip is one of many ways to enjoy the season while our state is glistening with snow.

And here are five more things to see and do this winter in Michigan before the snow melts:

Strap on some snowshoes – Snowshoeing is a different experience than speeding down a ski slope or pedaling a fat tire bike through the snow. But that’s not to say it’s not a workout! It might actually be the perfect way to get exercise out in the beauty of a Pure Michigan winter. And most anywhere you go in the state, you can find a place to rent snowshoes. Knight suggests renting from the Escanaba Civic Center and snowshoeing around the Peninsula Point Lighthouse or through Fayette Historic State Park.

Lace up some ice skates – From frozen ponds to outdoor rinks all across the state, there’s plenty of opportunity to get out on the ice and fancy yourself an Olympic champion – or just spend time hand in hand with your special someone. Knight suggests checking out the outdoor ice rink at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids. You can rent skates right there and enjoy an extraordinary setting amidst all the tall buildings. It feels like you’re in a real-life snow globe! Plus, there are lots of places just a short walk away for hot cocoa or dinner. And through February, Grand Rapids is hosting the World of Winter Festival with large-scale art exhibits and ice sculptures.

Visit a waterfall – People usually flock to see the incredible waterfalls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during the summer. But each falls has its own special character in the winter, when the landscape is as beautiful as ever. You’ll feel a bit like an explorer discovering something for the first time! Some parking areas near waterfalls are closed during the winter and some falls can be difficult to reach in the snow. But many falls are easily accessible with parking right on the road. Knight recommends Bond Falls off U.S. 45 near Paulding.

person walks across a snow covered wooden bridge in the woodsDine in an igloo – Even now that indoor dining is available again in Michigan, outdoor dining remains a popular winter activity. As a resident of both Marquette and Grand Rapids, Knight has recommendations for both areas: the heated igloos at historic Mt. Shasta Restaurant in Michigamme, the heated “deck rooms” on the deck at Elizabeth’s Chop House in Marquette and the heated igloos at Royals and other restaurants in the East Hills neighborhood of Grand Rapids. “It’s a fun way to experience the outdoors without being cold,” Knight said. “You don’t need a coat or anything.” Whether in an igloo, shanty or some other kind of enclosure, there are .

Take a lighthouse tour – There are so many summer photos of Michigan lighthouses. But these maritime relics remain standing throughout the winter, too. What better place to see them in all their wintry glory than in the Traverse City area? From Point Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfurt to Grand Traverse Lighthouse at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula to Mission Point Lighthouse at the tip of Old Mission Peninsula, the Traverse City area is home to some of Knight’s favorites. “A lot of the colors, especially the red ones, really pop in the white snow,” Knight said. Take a look at these incredible photos of frozen Michigan lighthouses.

There are so many great ways to spend a winter day in Michigan that it’s hard to whittle the list down to just five. The ideas above don’t even include cross-country skiing on the Noquemanon Trail, popularly known as the “Noque,” in Marquette; hiking through woods full of towering, snow-covered evergreens at Hartwick Pines State Park near Cadillac; having the surreal experience of visiting the Eben Ice Caves near Munising; winter rafting on the Sturgeon River near Gaylord; snowmobiling around Grand Marais; or walking the trails at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore west of Traverse City.

Explore all there is to do this winter in Michigan and plan an excursion while the snow’s still on the ground. Note that reservations may be needed for some activities due to pandemic-related capacity limits.

Winter is at its peak! Enjoy the snow and look forward to what’s next

person downhill skiing in Michigan

We’ve gotten a lot of snow all across Michigan in the past couple weeks and our state is as beautiful as ever. It is an ideal time to get out and enjoy the winter activities that make this time of year where we live so special.

It’s also time to start looking ahead to the next season of fun and book your spring and summer adventures in the Mitten State. Fortunately, many Michigan destinations are offering money-saving offers right now both for winter excursions and warmer-weather recreation.

In our Pure Michigan Featured Deals for February you’ll find a luxury getaway to Mackinac Island’s historic Grand Hotel, which has an April opening that will be here soon! If you book the hotel’s Simply Grand Package now, you’ll get a bonus resort credit to use at Grand Hotel restaurants and shops or on resort activities. And since we’re in the “month of love,” you can make a Simply Grand Package the perfect gift for your valentine by topping it off with a Touch of Romance basket that’s filled with a bottle of wine, flowers, world-famous Mackinac Island fudge and a card.

RELATED: Explore Local: A magical, local Valentine’s Day adventure

Of course, there’s still time for a winter getaway, too, either just the two of you or an entire family. But Mother Nature won’t keep sending snow for long. The groundhog says we only have a few more weeks of winter left!

skier shushing through fresh snow in MichiganIf you haven’t yet hit the ski slopes or taken the kids tubing, then make a plan today to do that before the snow’s gone. You can tube and go downhill or cross-country skiing – and save money too! – with lodging rates as low as $119 a night with the “Bellaire Means Fresh Air” deal at Shanty Creek Resort. At Trout Creek Condominium Resort in Harbor Springs near the Nubs Nob and Boyne ski areas, you can get a third night for free and warm up by the fireplace after each day of outdoor winter recreation.

With pandemic restrictions on indoor dining now relaxed, you can add nice sit-down dinners to your trip. Explore the incredible diversity of dining options in Ann Arbor while escaping for a night or two at any of 40-plus hotels offering rates starting at $89 a night. Or book a Traverse City Escape Package and get discounted lodging plus coupons for attractions, shopping, dining and drinks at some of Michigan’s best wineries and craft breweries.

For a more intimate dining experience, look at this amazing Dine-In deal at The Townsend Hotel in the walkable upscale community of Birmingham, where a night’s skis, snowshoes, and walking polesstay comes with a $75 room service credit and valet parking. And if you’re looking to escape from the world for a while to enjoy a unique nature-centric retreat, how about a winter cottage getaway to southwest Michigan’s picturesque Bay Pointe on Gun Lake?

Winter only comes once a year. Fortunately, there’s still time to make this winter extra special! And as you plan ahead for spring and summer, be sure to explore the wide variety of ways to shop, eat and stay local right here in our Pure Michigan.

RELATED: How to make the most of our Pure Michigan winter

5 uniquely Michigan winter adventures

Eric with sled dogs in winter

In this episode, Eric Hultgren talks with Tom Daldin and Jim Edelman from the Emmy award-winning Under the Radar about 5 winter adventures that are unique to Michigan. From ice caves to dog sledding there are tons of fun things to do in this winter weather here in Michigan. Stay safe while getting a view outside your own four walls.

Save money (and your sanity) with this Spring Break road trip

Kid exploring a store in Traverse City, MI

It’s cold outside now but take a minute to imagine yourself on Spring Break. Lounging by the pool. Sipping your favorite beverage. Taking a dip in the warm water.

Too bad you can’t get pool weather on Spring Break unless you travel all the way to a place like West Bay on Grand Cayman. Or West Bay, Texas. Or West Bay Beach in Traverse City.

Wait, Traverse City? In Michigan?

Yes! The West Bay Beach Resort on Grand Traverse Bay features dining igloos and an outdoor pool heated to 95 degrees! It’s one of several ways right here in Michigan to have a hot Spring Break without flying south or booking a cruise in the midst of a pandemic.

“It’s like swimming in a hot tub,” said Michael Scandariato, hotel general manager. “Weekends have been very busy with families (at the resort) and the igloos have also remained very busy.”

swimming pool and view of outdoor dining igloos in Traverse City, MIEven as COVID-19 vaccines get slowly distributed, there remains an elevated risk in traveling across the country or overseas. That’s making road trips more popular than ever for Spring Break.

By taking a road trip within Michigan, you can save a few bucks and experience things that only the Mitten State can offer. And you can still enjoy some time poolside, too!

The Traverse City area offers lots of unique things to do for Spring Break, with options for both indoor and outdoor recreation. By taking advantage of a Traverse City Escape Package, you can even get special lodging rates combined with discounts on dining, shopping, outdoor activities and more.

Here are some ideas to help you start planning:

  • The outdoor heated pool and igloos at West Bay Beach Resort provide the perfect illustration of the indoor/outdoor fun you can have in the Traverse City area on Spring Break. You can relax inside a poolside igloo with dinner or drinks, then step outside and hop into the 95-degree pool for a swim. The heated pool is open to resort guests and to visitors who reserve a dining igloo.
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is most popular in the summer, but it’s a four-season attraction that features some special character in the spring. While some trails remain open all winter, many more are ready for visitors come March and April.  person running down a sand dune at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Traverse City, MIPlus, they’re uncrowded! Many families enjoy crawling up the park’s iconic Dune Climb, which rewards you with a stunning view of Glen Lake from the top. And if you’re really adventurous, you can keep heading west from the top of the Dune Climb all the way to Lake Michigan and back.
  • Springtime weather in the Traverse City area can vary a lot, from sunny days warm enough to spend at the beach to cool afternoons where you may need a raincoat. That’s why the variety of things to do both indoors and outdoors is such a blessing. The Great Lakes Children’s Museum is open by reservation during the pandemic and offers lots of hands-on activities for children age 8 and under.
  • For a cultural experience that’s entirely outdoors, the Michigan Legacy Art Park is a fantastic Spring Break attraction. The park showcases more than 50 sculptures along walking trails that run through a 30-acre forest preserve. Spring temperatures that are neither too hot nor too cold make for a comfortable stroll through the woods to see contemporary art the whole family will get a kick out of.

From axe throwing, boutique bowling and other indoor fun at The Den at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa to biking, hiking and other outdoor recreation on the TART Trails, there’s plenty  couple playing a virtual game at The Den at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa of opportunity to experience a memorable Spring Break right here in Michigan by visiting the Traverse City area. You could even go ice skating where the Detroit Red Wings train!

And you can do it all safely, thanks to COVID precautions being taken by Traverse City-area hotels, restaurants, shops and other attractions.

Just because we’re all leery of planes and crowded cruise ships doesn’t mean you have to cancel Spring Break. You don’t even have to endure a never-ending car ride. There’s a close-to-home option for a Spring Break excursion in the Traverse City area.

Check out Traverse City Escape packages to find a place to stay and start looking forward to Spring Break 2021!

First-ever Ann Arbor Area Hotel Week to debut with deals, Restaurant Week tie-ins

Ann Arbor hotel and restaurant weeks graphic

Michael Weber hears it from friends, he hears it from fellow members of the Washtenaw County Hotel Association, and he hears it from guests who have stayed at his Weber’s Boutique Hotel in Ann Arbor during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People are saying they’re getting a bit stir-crazy,” Weber said. “They’re ready for a break and a release to get them out of their houses. They just want to do something that lets them focus on having fun and relaxing.”

Destination Ann Arbor and the hotel association are providing a solution with the first-ever Ann Arbor Area Hotel Week, an innovative promotion that offers incredible room deals, upgrades and dining packages to coincide with the region’s restaurant week that runs Feb. 21 to Feb. 26.

“There’s a lot of energy with restaurant week, and this adds to the excitement and the ability to do something that is a change of pace,” said Weber, the president of the hotel group. “It’s a great opportunity for a staycation or for people to come and see what Ann Arbor has to offer.”

Find your Hotel Week deal: A complete list of all discounts and packages

The annual restaurant week celebrates the dining scene as chefs and staffs show off creative menus at affordable prices. Nearly 20 eateries are participating in the event with dine-in and to-go meals, including family-sized options. Menus offer a variety of meals, including vegetarian and vegan options as well as two and three-course selections.

New this year are online demonstrations from Vinology’s James Beard Award winner Alex Young, who will teach viewers how to make his famous fried chicken, and Zingerman’s Deli Chef Rodger Bowser showing how to make its legendary Chicken Pot Pie.

“Restaurants are putting their best foot forward to highlight what they do best and to make something new for their guests,” said Sandra Andrade, the executive director of Main Street Ann Arbor, which organizes the week. “This is about connecting with the community and keeping this great dining culture thriving.”

Marriott hotel room in Ann Arbor, MIAndrade said the synergy and partnership between Hotel Week and Restaurant Week comes at a critical time for the hospitality industry. While the plight of restaurants has been well publicized, the impact of the pandemic has also battered hotels with minimal business and leisure travel and no convention or event traffic.

“The whole hospitality sector has taken such a big hit this year and that makes this even more important to get out there and support your favorite places or try something new,” she said. “It’s really exciting to have these events work together and support each other.”

The exclusive, limited time offers at area hotels can be found here, and while some are only available during the promotion week, others will allow and encourage guests to book packages now and stay later in the year.

Jamie Vecchioni, the director of sales and marketing at the Ann Arbor Marriott Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest, said hotels are committed to making the week enjoyable for guests.

“This is such a cool idea because there are so many great restaurants and so many great hotel properties in our area for people to experience,” Vecchioni said. “This is a perfect time to pair a delicious meal with a night out in a comfortable room.”

Participating restaurants and hotels have been practicing and adhering to strict safety and sanitation guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing signs and safety partitions are installed throughout properties and mask use is mandatory in common areas.

“The protocols are really important to us as an industry because we’re all in this together,” she said. “We encourage people to come now if they’re ready or to join us later in the year if they want to wait. We are excited to greet you.”

Explore Local: A a magical, local Valentine’s Day adventure

Explore Local: Valentine's Day video screenshot

Eric shows you how to put together a beautiful, local Valentine’s day extravaganza for your loved one – by shopping local you build relationships with local businesses (which means you get the inside scoop), you help to build a vibrant neighborhood and state, and your get unique products that represent our great state.

Shopping local means that your money has more impact; $73 of every $100 spent locally, stays local. It means you are a name, not a number; vibrant, thriving communities; 52% of Michigan jobs are provided by local companies; and MI continues to move forward.

RELATED:

So, as you shop, please try first to find local Michigan options for the items on your list. A helpful way to get started is by checking out this Pure Michigan Shop, Eat & Stay Local page.

You can also subscribe to Pure Michigan’s Featured Deals eNewsletter and get a look at money-saving Michigan offers. Each month will highlight a selection of packages and specials available throughout the state.