Category: Travel and Adventure

‘Dog winery’ one of many pet-friendly destinations in Traverse City

dogs playing with a stick on a sand dune

Otis was a yellow Labrador retriever who used to greet visitors in the tasting room at Bowers Harbor Vineyards with a friendly wag of his tail, while Cooper and Brix were Bernese Mountain dogs who added some special personality to the Traverse City winery. Though all three dogs have passed away, their spirits endure through bottles of wine labeled with their portraits.

After all, dogs are a part of life at Bowers Harbor.

“We are pretty much known as the dog winery,” said Bethany Heinrich, tasting room manager.

Bowers Harbor is just one example of the many pet-friendly wineries, restaurants, hotels and more in the Traverse City area. When you plan an escape to Traverse City this winter, you don’t have to worry about who’s going to watch the dog while you’re away. Your furry friend can come along for the fun!

Until Michigan’s indoor dining restrictions get lifted, you can bring your dog to Bowers Harbor and enjoy wine and cider by the glass, or by the flight, along with snacks and dips in an outdoor area with tables, heaters and fire pits. The menu includes the “Otis,” a semi-dry white, the “Cooper,” a sweet white, and the “Brix,” a sparkling wine that’s bubbly just like its namesake canine.

dog standing in the stone at a vineyard

Lucy, a Golden Doodle, is the new wine dog at Bowers Harbor Vineyards in Traverse City. The winery is one of many pet-friendly destinations in the Traverse City area. In addition to wine with dogs on the labels, Bowers Harbor sells dog wine stoppers, dog cork cages, dog treats and stuffed dogs.

Guests love to see dogs on the labels and they also get a kick out of meeting Winston, an English Cream Retriever who is the winery’s current vineyard dog, and Lucy, a Golden Doodle who is the new tasting room greeter. There’s even a snow dog at the vineyard this winter, too.

Lucy is too new to Bowers Harbor to have a wine named after her, yet. But when you order a glass of the “Winston” –  a half-Cabernet-Sauvignon-half-Merlot – part of your purchase will be donated to the Cherryland Humane Society to support dogs and cats awaiting adoption.

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While some Traverse City-area restaurants have remained open for pet-friendly outdoor dining during the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants across Michigan are expected to reopen for indoor dining Feb. 1. That’s great news for people eager to get back out and explore the state after an unusual year during which many of us – humans and dogs, alike – spent much more time than normal at home.

The Traverse City area makes a great winter destination for you and your dog because of pet-friendly establishments such as Bowers Harbor, and because there’s so much outdoor recreation to enjoy. At Bowers Harbor, for example, you can “snow-cial” distance right on site by wandering the expansive vineyards with your dog on foot or snowshoe.

dog playing on the beachThe Traverse City area also is home to beaches and trails that are delightful for dogs. To whet your appetite for the bounty of pet-friendly attractions, check out the Vasa Pathway in Williamsburg where there are groomed trail loops of 3 to 25 kilometers, the paved Leelanau Trails that runs 17 miles along picturesque forests, farms, vineyards, lakes and ponds between Traverse City and Suttons Bay, or the 80-acre Holiday Woodlands Preserve on the east side of town.

Pets also allowed in many areas of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

“As a whole, Traverse City is very pet-friendly,” said Heinrich, who has three dogs of her own including a Catahoula, black Lab and a shepherd mix. “The hiking trails are some of the best options and quite a few beaches are dog-friendly, too. And it seems like every year a new dog park pops up.

“Traverse City is very active, so anything we can get out and do with every member of the family is definitely a selling point. Our pets are a large part of our family.”

RELATED: Meet Lucy and other dogs waiting to greet you at attractions in the Traverse City area

When you and Fido need a rest at the tail end of a day of exploring, there are many pet-friendly places to stay in the Traverse City area. Right now, you can get discounted lodging with a Traverse City Escape Package that includes coupons for dining, shopping, wine and more.

From beer delivery to Facebook Live: How local Michigan businesses are changing

downtown Kalamazoo, MI

Sleepwalker Spirits & Ale has been in a constant state of change since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring.

First, the new brewery in Lansing’s REO Town changed the design of its kitchen and the front of the house to better accommodate takeout orders, which immediately went from about 5% of business to 100% during Michigan’s stay-home order. Then, a side door was converted into a pickup window for third-party delivery drivers on apps such as DoorDash. The local Michigan business also started offering contactless curbside pickup and added a patio for outdoor dining.

Now, Sleepwalker has launched its own beer delivery service. The brewery teamed with local artists to create special labels for 22-ounce bombers that you can have delivered right to your door.

“All you have to do is say ‘Hey, I want you to drop this off at my house’ and we will do that, and we’re not even charging for it right now,” said Jeremy Sprague, president, founder and head brewer. “We’re constantly on the move to find the next thing that makes our customer happy and is compliant (with pandemic health and safety rules).”

For restaurants and breweries that have been limited to takeout orders for several weeks both last spring and this winter, COVID-19 has been challenging. Ditto for many other local Michigan businesses that have had to adapt to new ways of serving customers during the pandemic.

With customers in many cases unable to visit shops and restaurants or uncomfortable doing so, businesses have come up with novel ways of connecting people with their products and services.

glass of beer“The last nine months they have just had to constantly innovate,” said Laurie Lonsdorf, regional director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center in Lansing. “It’s been such a trying time for so many businesses. For those people that have a brick and mortar location, they are working so hard thinking creatively and trying to do everything they can to bring more sales in.

“A common theme is local Michigan businesses either trying to bring customers safely into the store or bring the store to the customers.”

RELATED: Get ideas for shopping, eating and staying local this winter

Here are some more examples of local Michigan businesses taking inventive steps to survive and thrive during unusual times:

  • Private shopping – While an increasing number of local Michigan businesses now offer online sales, many people still yearn to browse items in person. To do that safely, some stores are setting up private shopping appointments where you get the place to yourself for a period of time. For example, Lansing Art Gallery is offering items from its retail gallery for sale online, but customers also can schedule an appointment to get a personalized, curated hourlong shopping excursion. “It’s one way to ensure a safe shopping experience and that all the protocols are followed,” Lonsdorf said.
  • Private dining – Sit-down dining inside Michigan bars and restaurants has been prohibited at times during the pandemic, prompting some creative workarounds. For example, while the Detroit Foundation Hotel’s on-site restaurant has been closed for dining, the hotel converted several suites into private dining rooms – replacing the beds with tables – so that visitors can enjoy the restaurant’s menu in a safer, private setting. Outdoor igloo dining is another trend picking up steam this winter.
  • Local delivery – In addition to beer delivery from breweries such as Sleepwalker and Presidential Brewing Co. in Portage, many Michigan restaurants are offering delivery of full meals. You can find a statewide listing of restaurants offering takeout, curbside pickup and delivery at com. Retail stores, too, are increasingly offering home delivery services as online orders have surged during the pandemic, up from just 1% or 2% of sales to a quarter or a third in some cases.
  • Facebook Live – Another way to bring a store to the customer is through Facebook Live events. At Bella Grande, a plus-size women’s consignment clothing store in Charlotte, owner Angel Fulkerson uses the platform to spotlight specific items. It lets her connect directly with customers, pandemic or not, and even sell items live. Viewers can comment “SOLD” in the chat along with the number of the item they’re buying, then come into the store to pick up their purchase or have it shipped or even delivered locally.

people shopping downtown“People aren’t waking in the door and you’ve got to figure out a way to have those sales to keep your business running,” Fulkerson said. “Speaking in front of people gives me anxiety, but I know these ladies. They’re my shoppers! I can have a conversation with them in my store, so why can’t I talk to them via Facebook Live?”

Fulkerson was hesitant to give Facebook Live a try, then finally decided that it wasn’t a choice. It was something she just had to do. The sales alone have been worth the effort, along with positive feedback and the thrill of serving customers in a new way.

“It’s not that people don’t want to shop (during the pandemic),” Fulkerson said. “They still want to shop. We just have to figure out other ways for them to be able to do it.”

Snow biking or Nordic skiing? Pick your path thanks to Marquette’s trail grooming ‘passion’

Winter bicycling

It snows a lot in Marquette. Like, upwards of 200 inches a year! You might even say that Marquette makes snow better than anywhere else in the country.

Yet, what really makes this part of Michigan special is the way the community makes all that powder perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.

Take fat tire biking, for example. There are more than 60 miles of single-track snow bike trails in Marquette County faithfully groomed by volunteers from the Range Area Mountain Bike Association (RAMBA) and the Noquemanon Trail Network (NTN).

“There’s a passion for it here,” said Todd Poquette, director of adventure for the 906 Adventure Team, which runs the annual Polar Roll fat bike race. “The quality of the trails is, bar none, head and shoulders above other areas. The quality, and the number of miles.

“You can come here and ride your fat bike in the winter all weekend and not ride the same trail twice.”

RELATED: See how Marquette “Whack Jobs” continue to pioneer trail grooming for snow bikes

people making snow angels next to bicycle

Marquette County has become known as the fat biking capital of the Lower 48 states because of its extensive network of groomed snow bike trails and events such as the Polar Roll, which is taking on a different format during the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is not a virtual event and it’s not a time trial,” said Todd Poquette, race director. “This is an adventure. This is ‘Either you finished, or you didn’t.’”

Whether you’re new to fat biking or a seasoned veteran, you’ll find single-track trails in Marquette County to match your skill level. For experienced riders, there’s the epic 25-mile snow bike route featured in the movie “Cold Rolled.” For beginner fat bikers, the NTN North Trails in Marquette offers a dozen inviting miles of groomed single-track, and there are several more miles on the RAMBA trails starting out of “The Hob” in Ishpeming.

You can even find a fat bike race or two to join this winter:

  • While many winter events around Michigan are being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Polar Roll is moving forward with a new format. Riders will complete a course on their own any time during a 45- to 60-day window. (Check The Polar Roll Facebook page for updates.)

 

  • Another winter fat bike race in Marquette County, The Fat-Ish, is adopting a new format with a little different approach. The event will be held on a particular day – Saturday, Jan. 9 – but will be conducted as an individual time trial. Each rider will get an assigned time to depart on either a novice or an advanced course.

Whether you’ve been training all year, or you haven’t taken your fat bike out of the shed since last winter, you can enjoy challenging yourself at The Fat-Ish or the Polar Roll. Or you can come rent a fat bike and give snow biking a try by mapping your own route on some of the 60-plus miles of groomed single-track in Marquette County.

Of course, when it comes to winter recreation, Marquette is much more than a hub for fat biking. It’s an entire playground of outdoor activities.

person standing in front of a beautiful winter lake scene throwing snow into the airYou can ski and snowboard at Marquette Mountain, snowshoe at Presque Isle Park or go ice skating at Marquette Commons. You can go hiking, snowmobiling and ice fishing. If you’re really adventurous, you can give ski jumping a try at the Suicide Hill Ski Bowl, spend an afternoon with the Upper Peninsula Luge Club in Negaunee or go ice climbing up a frozen waterfall.

It’s no wonder that USA Today readers voted Marquette County the country’s “Best Small Town for Adventure.”

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Cross-country skiing is another way to get outside for some recreation in the beautiful Michigan winter. Perhaps as mentally and physically challenging as any outdoor winter activity is the Noquemanon Ski Marathon, another extraordinary event on the calendar this winter in Marquette. The country’s premier cross-country ski epic offers courses as long as 50 kilometers, with participants going off in several separate waves of no more than 30 skiers at a time this year to limit crowding.

Noquemanon Ski Marathon racersFifty kilometers is a long way, but it’s just a fraction of the 125-plus miles of cross-country ski trails in Marquette County. There’s over 30 miles of highly groomed point-to-point and loop trails for a variety of skills levels at Forestville Trails north of Marquette, for example, and side-by-side classic ski tracks at the Blueberry Ridge Trail south of the city. There are lighted ski loops at the Fit Strip right in Marquette, and trails with a wilderness feel through a giant old-growth forest at Saux Head near Big Bay north of town.

“All of the trails are clearly marked and mapped, so it’s easy to select a loop or loops to take you as far as you feel like skiing,” said Jeff Stasser, a part-owner of Down Wind Sports who has watched Marquette County’s trail systems develop and expand over the years.

“Each of the systems offers a good variety of beginner and advanced terrain. We are fortunate to have good, long winters to enjoy them.”

Whichever path you choose, don’t go into hibernation this winter. Make plans now to come out and enjoy Marquette’s winter playground!

How to score great winter deals at a Northern Michigan ski resort

a family enjoying winter fun in Otsego, MI

Much like the summer golfing season – when Gary Vollmar and the staff at the Otsego Resort re-imagined protocols that let people enjoy the outdoors amid the COVID-19 pandemic – the team has developed a new vision that focuses on fun and safety for the winter ski season.

“People need to get outdoors to breathe fresh air and relax, it’s a great break from what has been a really stressful time,” said Vollmar, who purchased the resort in 2018 and has made substantial investments to make it a year-round destination. “We are getting creative in finding ways we can maintain the safety of our guests and staff while still being able to experience winter in northern Michigan.”

“We are rethinking our annual events and activities to find solutions that provide people with familiarity and stability along with safety.”

The resort, located about 1 mile off I-75 and downtown Gaylord, has done that with extensive ski and dining plans that allow for social distancing, capacity control and calls for extensive sanitization efforts. The 2020-21 winter marks the third year the formerly private ski hill will be open to the public.

The mountain’s natural bowl sits at the highest point in the famed Michigan Snow Belt, assuring exceptional skiing throughout the season on its 32 ski runs that are accessed by five chair lifts and a handle tow. The property has three tubing lanes, three terrain parks for snowboarders and 6.2 miles of marked cross-country ski trails.

downhill skiing at Otsego, MI resort“There’s something for everyone who wants to get out of the house and be active,” Vollmar said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time on skis or if you’ve been at it for years, the hills are like new because the resort had such limited access for so long.”

Otsego Resort also has an unparalleled setting overlooking 20 miles of the Sturgeon River Valley. The one-of-a-kind view in Michigan is due to the lodge sitting above the runs instead of the usual shape where guests stare up at a mountain from the bottom of the slopes.

Resort guests will find thorough safety precautions because of the pandemic, including:

  • Limit of daily lift tickets sold.
  • Online purchase is strongly recommended.
  • Lift lines will require mask use and allow single riders or 2 riders from the same household.
  • Tubing will allow linking of only those from the same household.
  • Installing smaller capacities in each building and staging lines outside as much as possible.
  • Plexiglass partitions are present to protect guests and employees.
  • One way traffic flow to minimize interaction between guests.
  • Floor stickers and door signs reminding about social distancing throughout the resort.
  • Masks are required upon entry into any building.
  • All touch areas will be sanitized often.
  • All employees will be health screened upon entry.

On the food and beverage side of operations, the resort has added multiple dining tents and igloos for up to six people of the same household to reserve and enjoy. There are also more outdoor fire pits to safely gather and social distance around. Reservations are recommended and masks will be worn by servers. The resort will re-evaluate indoor dining once allowed by the state, and that will come with proper sanitation practices.

“Everything is designed with safety and the best possible service in mind,” Vollmar said.

With remote-learning freeing up friends and family to travel for outdoor adventures, Otsego Resort designed mid-week “Ski & Stay” packages with two lift tickets and overnight lodging for $49 per person on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The resort also created “$10 Bump Days” for mid-week ski and dining deals on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The promotion features:

  • $10 Rentals
  • $10 ski lift tickets
  • $10 tubing passes
  • $10 rental skis
  • $10 pepperoni or cheese pizza
  • $10 burger & beer special

For the weekend traveler, Otsego Resort’s “Ski & Save” packages are available for two weekends in the new year, offering great deals for couples, friends or families. The offers are valid Jan. 8-10 and Jan. 29-31, subject to availability, and can be booked by calling 989-732-5181.

Here are the packages:

Two for Two: Two-night stay and a two-day lift ticket for two adults for $428.

Family Fun: Two-night stay and a two-day lift ticket for two adults and two children for $568.

Under the Vollmar’s ownership, the 80-room resort, which also has a hilltop retreat with eight executive-style rooms and a great room featuring a floor to ceiling see-through fireplace, has elevated position among Northern Michigan getaway locations.

“We have a constant focus on what we can do to make a visit here an incredible experience,” he said. “We want to stand out in the community and the industry for our customer service and ability to create a home away from home feeling. We can give people a place to look forward to visiting year-round.”

Eat Local to help Michigan endure COVID-19 pandemic

Beyond washing our hands, wearing a mask and social distancing, many of us may feel helpless when it comes to getting our state through the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is another to help: We can eat!

Specifically, we can Eat Local. We can try to eat just one more meal a week from a local restaurant. Local restaurants not only employ our friends and neighbors, but they also cycle our money right back into the local community and often are the first to step up and contribute to local causes.

These are also the kinds of restaurants that are hurting the most during the ongoing pandemic, with many already having closed and many more on the brink of shutting down.

None of us alone can snap our fingers to make COVID disappear and return things to normal for these restaurants. But eating just one more meal a week would have a bigger effect than you might think.

a loaded hot dogIn fact, if everybody switched just one of every 10 out-of-state purchases to a local Michigan option, the state would experience at $1.2 billion increase in economic activity. That’s enough to support 10,600 jobs and an extra $350 million in income across Michigan.

“People too often discount the power of one, but one plus one plus one into infinity makes a huge difference,” said Dave Lorenz, Vice President of Travel Michigan. “Imagine the impact that 10 million people would have if they change their habits to be more intentional about supporting their local businesses.

“If we support our local businesses, they’re keeping people working and everybody benefits. It’s a virtuous circle. One additional purchase this week will make a difference.”

RELATED: Find resources to eat, shop and stay local and help Michigan thrive through this holiday season and into the new year

Restaurants all over Michigan are doing what they can to survive, many of them adjusting operations to keep serving the public through the pandemic. They’ve taken the Pure Michigan Pledge to keep guests safe by committing to new health and safety precautions, such as marking spaces on the floor to maintain proper social distancing at ordering counters and installing plastic shields at cash registers. They’ve made call-in and online ordering more efficient, established curbside delivery procedures and started offering home delivery options. Some Michigan restaurants have even made structural changes to their buildings to accommodate walk-up windows for carryout orders or opened greenhouses and igloos for outdoor winter dining!

Most important, restaurant workers have put their own health at risk so that we can enjoy dining out and experience a sense of normalcy through the pandemic.

Pure Michigan LogoNow is an opportunity to repay the favor and support our unique local restaurants before it’s too late. We each can help soften the pandemic’s blow to restaurants and restaurant workers all across our state by making a conscious choice to support the local restaurants in our communities.

With local restaurants, it’s not just the fate of the business that’s at stake. These local restaurants support our local schools and youth sports leagues. These local restaurants help make our cities and towns vibrant places. These local restaurants give our local Michigan communities character and personality.

You probably have a few favorite local restaurants. But if you’re looking for more opportunities to Eat Local, here’s a list of local restaurants offering takeout, delivery and curbside services. Many local Michigan restaurants also have gift cards that make great holiday gifts.

When we eat local – even if it’s just one more time each week – more of the money we spend stays in our local Michigan economy. It also opens us to memorable experiences like these that are happening at local restaurants all over the state:

  • Running into masked-up friends and neighbors at a local pizza shop while waiting to pick up online orders on a busy night when a portion of sales are being donated to the local school
  • Getting an apology and heartfelt thank you from the manager of a local chicken shack because so many customers placed orders that the restaurant momentarily ran out of chicken!
  • Parking outside a local burger joint, placing an order on your phone and having your food brought out to you as if it were an old-fashioned drive-in restaurant
  • The joy of giving a local restaurant worker an extra tip for making a curbside delivery right to your vehicle on a cold night

Of all the things 2020 may be remembered for, it would be nice to add a few of these kinds of memories to the list.

“I’m hoping this is going to be a season of thoughtfulness toward each other that goes beyond the traditional holiday sentiment,” Lorenz said. “I’m hoping some of these things we’re doing today will end up being comforting memories in the future.”

Whenever you’re ready, you can travel safely in Michigan

Snowboarding in beautiful wintery Michigan

Michigan’s about to get a bunch of snow. But even in a pandemic, that doesn’t mean we have to stay cooped up at home.

Sure, the holidays look different this year and there’s uncertainty about how COVID-19 might affect our winter plans. Yet, this you can know for sure – whenever you are ready to get out of the house and travel, you can travel safely in Michigan.

In fact, lots of people who don’t feel comfortable going to far-flung destinations right now are changing their winter travel plans to include places they can drive to and experience safely right here in their own state.

And why not? Michigan already has the best winter environment in the Midwest with incomparable scenic beauty. Our state is a mecca of active outdoor winter recreation, too, Pure Michigan Logowith everything from downhill skiing on hundreds of slopes and ice fishing on more than 11,000 frozen lakes to fat biking and snowmobiling on endless miles of groomed trails. And because so many tourism businesses have taken the Pure Michigan Pledge, you can travel knowing that precautions are in place to ensure a safe and healthy environment.

Let’s face it: Many of us need a little break in the routine and to get away from our everyday stresses and struggle – probably now more than ever! If you need to get out of the house, check out Pure Michigan’s Featured Deals eNewsletter. This month’s edition highlights a handful of travel excursions with special pricing that you can enjoy this winter.

Is it time to start a new family holiday tradition by spending an unforgettable weekend together at one of Michigan’s 40-plus ski areas?

Time for a romantic getaway in a cozy chalet for just the two of you?

How about doing something truly extraordinary this winter, like snowshoeing through the solitude of Pure Michigan wilderness, hiking through one of Michigan’s ever-beautiful national parks or elk viewing from the seat of a horse-drawn sleigh?

Every featured deal comes with plenty of opportunity to get outside and enjoy the season. And who couldn’t use a breath of fresh air right now?

If you are ready to travel right now, here are a few tips to make your trip go as smoothly as possible:

  • Make a solid plan in advance of your trip. You can still enjoy moments of spontaneity but try to plot most of your travel before you leave.
  • Some outdoor recreation attractions may be doing business a little bit differently during the pandemic, so check ahead to make sure you know what to expect. Some ski areas have daily limits on lift tickets, for example, and may be taking only virtual e-passes purchased online rather than physical tickets.
  • Go ahead and try a new winter activity this year. You don’t even have to buy all new equipment first. Instead, you can find information on rental equipment at michigan.org/winter.
  • Identify shops to visit along the way to your destination and call ahead to make sure they’re open. Explore all things local and take the opportunity to discover some of Michigan’s many one-of-a-kind shops including charming boutiques, independent bookstores and more.
  • When you get hungry, search out local restaurants where more of your dollars will stay here in the Michigan economy. Here’s a searchable list of local restaurants offering online, takeout and curbside services.
  • Be cognizant of social distancing guidelines and be sure to have face coverings on hand and wash your hands frequently. If we take those simple steps, we all can safely experience the best Michigan has to offer this winter.

Explore Local: Shopping local has a real impact for shoppers and communities

Explore Local image

Have you ever wondered what happens to the money when you buy local? Eric Hultgren has partnered with the MEDC and Pure Michigan in order to dig into the impact shopping local has on your community.

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: How to add local Michigan flavor to your holiday shopping style

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.

7 ways to have fun this winter in Lower Peninsula’s snowiest city

Family getting ready to ski in Gaylord, MI

Your holiday shopping list isn’t the only thing to check off this time of year. Now is also when to make plans for a winter’s worth of outdoor activities to enjoy.

After all, Michigan is the ultimate winter wonderland. And here’s the Ultimate Winter Checklist to help you really get into the season.

These outdoor activities will get you started on a path – or a trail or a hill! – to a great winter. And guess what? You can enjoy each and every activity in the Gaylord Area, which is the snowiest place in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

Even though winter is just beginning, the spring thaw will be here before we know it. So, start planning a winter full of fun now, and when the world-famous Gaylord snowman cam shows a scene draped in white, you’ll be ready to get out there and make the most of it!

Gaylord, MI skiingHere are a few highlights from the Ultimate Winter Checklist to get your wheels turning as you think about how to make this winter a memorable one:

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing – Lots of places in Michigan get a bunch of snow. But not every place takes care to groom that snow into trails that are perfect for cross-country skiing. From the scenic Aspen Park right beside downtown Gaylord to the immaculate Forbush Corner in nearby Frederic to the Pine Baron Pathway nestled deep in the Mackinaw State Forest, you’ll find miles of groomed cross-country track in the Gaylord Area – including some trails that are lighted for skiing after dark!

Of course, sometimes nature draws you off the beaten path into the quiet bliss of Michigan’s wilderness. The Gaylord Area also offers endless miles of ungroomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, alike. For example, Pigeon River Country State Forest, also known as Gaylord’s “Big Wild,” is a heavily wooded attraction featuring rolling hills, cascading rivers and glimpses of wildlife around every turn.

Start planning a cross-country ski adventure in the Gaylord Area!

Winter rafting – The Gaylord Area is home to the Sturgeon River, which just happens to be the fastest-flowing river in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The speedy current means the

winter rafting in Gaylord, MI

Two different outfitters in the Gaylord area offer guided winter rafting down the Sturgeon River, the fastest-flowing river in the Lower Peninsula.

Sturgeon rarely freezes, so even on many of the coldest days of the year you can get out on the water (with an experienced guide) and enjoy a winter rafting trip.

If you’re unsure about being on a boat in the freezing cold, don’t worry. We’re not talking about whitewater rafting here. With an experienced guide at the helm, you’ll stay dry as you soak up the incredible beauty of the river with snow heaped on its banks.

Winter rafting down the Sturgeon is a bucket-list kind of thing you just have to experience.

Here’s a quick lesson in Winter Rafting 101!

Downhill skiing, snowboarding and tubing – Not only is Gaylord the snowiest place in the Lower Peninsula, but it’s also the city with the highest overall elevation. That means winter comes earlier and stays later. And, of course, the altitude is great for speeding down the slopes!

The Gaylord Area’s two premier ski destinations – Treetops Resort and the Otsego Resort – offer a combined 50-plus downhill runs carved into the scenic Pigeon River and Sturgeon River valleys, with options for all skill levels. Each resort also offers terrain parks for epic snowboarding as well as family-friendly and extreme tubing runs.

Then, after a busy day on the slopes, you can chill (without feeling cold) with some igloo dining in the Gaylord Area!

Start planning a downhill ski and snowboarding excursion to the Gaylord Area!

Snowmobiling – Another geographic blessing for the Gaylord Area is that it’s smack dab in the middle of Michigan’s Tip of the Mitt. That makes it an ideal hub for accessing 500 miles of groomed snowmobile trails.

Snowmobiling in Gaylord, MIFive hundred miles! That’s like going halfway to Florida without ever having to leave the snowy confines of northern Michigan. Whether you head north, south, east or west, you’ll find great sledding for miles in any direction. Then you can come back to Gaylord, park right outside your hotel room for the night and do it all over again tomorrow.

Get the Gaylord Area Snowmobile Trail Report along with a trail map and weather forecast!

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Whichever activities you choose to cross off the Ultimate Winter Checklist, you can find a place to stay in the Gaylord Area and make this your best winter yet!

Michigan winery adds rare certification, offers holiday deals

People enjoying wine at Shady Lane Cellars

When Shady Lane Cellars, a destination estate winery on the Leelanau Peninsula, decided to seek a third-party certification of its vineyard sustainability practices, the team had to sit down and assess what they’d have to change.

The answer: Not much.

And after documenting and demonstrating the Northern Michigan winery’s dedication to the farm, the surrounding environment and the people who perform the work, Shady Lane Cellars recently earned SIP Certification, becoming only the second in Michigan with the designation and the 25th nationally.

SIP, an acronym for Sustainability in Practice, is a California-based organization with rigorous, non-negotiable standards based on science and expert input, independent verification, transparency and absence of conflict of interest.

“Our core philosophy at Shady Lane Cellars has always aligned with sustainability and doing the right thing the right way for everyone involved,” said Rick DeBlasio, the winery’s general manager. “The fact there weren’t any big differences in what SIP requires and what we were already doing was a great validation of what we believed in from the very start.”

SIP measures a holistic set of practices addressing habitat, water, energy, soil, recycling, air quality, packaging, pest management, social equity, and business management. The practices are verified through independent records and on-site inspections. The vineyard-related standards exceed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s guidelines to achieve organically grown designation.

SIP’s root values include:

  • Social Responsibility: Competitive wages, medical insurance, training, and education.
  • Water Management: Reduced/recycled water in the vineyards and winery.
  • Safe Pest Management: Introduce beneficial insects, attract raptors and plant enriching cover crops to keep vineyards healthy.
  • Energy Efficiency: Alternative fuels and energy sources like solar and wind; minimal tractor usage; enhanced insulation in winery.
  • Habitat: Create wildlife corridors and preserve open space.
  • Business: Ethical practices; treat employees and community with care and respect.
  • Always Evolving: Evolve as new science, technology and research becomes available.

Beth Vukmanic Lopez, the SIP group’s certification manager, said she was excited to add a second vineyard in Michigan, with WaterFire Vineyards, near Torch Lake, as a partner in practices.

SIP Certified Sustainability in Practice trademark logo“It is a pleasure to work with a vineyard dedicated to caring for the people and planet,” Vukmanic Lopez said.

DeBlasio believes the SIP Certifed status is proof that Michigan’s growing wine industry is gaining ground.

“Not only can we achieve this certification in a dramatically different growing environment, but a group based in California is willing to put its name on our vineyard here in Michigan,” he said. “That is a real testament to our industry and to this state.”

Shady Lane Cellars has long taken pride in being handcrafted from the ground up and showing a respect for and stewardship of the land. Its hilltop setting, just miles from Traverse City, offers sweeping panoramic views of the 52-acre vineyard farmland.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Shady Lane Cellars undertook multiple safety procedures to protect its tasting room guests and the winery’s staff. Now, during the government-required shutdown, it has created an innovative 12 days of Christmas promotion to allow patrons access to wine deals in time for the holiday.

Below is the schedule for the sale that began on Dec. 9 and continues through Dec. 20, with shipping promised before Dec. 25.

Shady Lane Cellars Christmas Sale info

 

The sale can be accessed online here, reaching out via email to info@shadylanecellars.comor by calling Shady Lane Cellars at 231-947-8865.

Connect with the winery on Facebook and Instagram.

How to add local Michigan flavor to your holiday shopping style

Child and parent on a ski/sledding slope

Do you like to cross things off your gift list early or are you more of a last-minute holiday shopper? Would you rather buy online or is picking things out in person your preference?

Each of us in this great state of Michigan is a little different when it comes to how we shop this time of year. And, of course, what we shop for. Just as some of us are looking for Spartans stuff, others of us are eyeing all things Wolverines.

But, however we shop, we’re all Michiganders. That’s important to remember in the midst of the busiest shopping season of the year, especially this year during a global pandemic that has been so trying for so many stores and employees.

Whether we shop early or we shop late, online or in person, when we shop local Michigan businesses, we make a direct, positive impact in the communities where we live. We help both our local Michigan businesses and our friends and neighbors employed by them to thrive. It’s as if both the Spartans and the Wolverines win!

So, as you shop for gifts this holiday season, 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 available this holiday season. Each month, we highlight a selection of packages and specials available throughout the state.

In this eNewsletter you’ll find a Cold is Cool Passport that lets fourth- and fifth-graders ski free this winter. You’ll see unique T-shirts and face masks on sale to support Michigan hospitality workers in need during the pandemic. There are packages on shopping excursions to Grand Rapids, weekend adventures in Ann Arbor and cottage getaways Up North, too.

That’s just a sampling. Shopping local also means exploring vibrant Michigan downtowns, taste-testing craft beer from Michigan breweries and patronizing our state’s delicious array of local Michigan restaurants. Even with sit-down dining limited as a COVID-19 precaution, we can support our local restaurants by purchasing gift cards or ordering take-out. To find carry-out options near you, the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association has created this handy, searchable list.

For those of us who prefer to shop from the comfort of our own homes, keep in mind that many Michigan restaurants (and retailers, too) are offering safe online ordering. Many of our local Michigan businesses are delivering items to your home or offering curbside pick-up options through the pandemic.

If you enjoy doing your holiday shopping in person, take comfort knowing that hundreds of businesses have taken the Pure Michigan Pledge to protect the health and safety of Michigan employees, residents and visitors by maintaining cleanliness and social distancing protocols to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Even though we all have different ways of holiday shopping, if we all do more of our shopping from local Michigan businesses this year then more of our money will stay within our state’s economy. That way, we all can have the happiest of holidays this year!