Category: Travel and Adventure

Michigan high school students ‘open up new worlds’ at renowned flight school

View from an airplane cockpit

Once Regan Lezotte completed Crosswinds Aviation’s high school flight program and then earned her private pilot’s license, she knew her next move was to share the excitement by becoming a flight instructor.

Crosswinds Aviation student explaining an airplane dashboard“Teaching is awesome because I’m taking my passion and bringing it to somebody else,” said Lezotte. “I can open up new worlds to them. (At Crosswinds) I’ve seen a lot, I’ve experienced a lot and it’s fun knowing we’re training the next generation of pilots.”

“Once you get into the air, that’s when the fun starts to happen.”

Matt Dahline, owner of Crosswinds Aviation and a 20-year pilot, said the look on students faces the first time they are in the air and at the controls of an aircraft is the inspiration behind the flight school.

“They love it, and that fascination with flying takes another step,” he said. “It’s about the smiles on their faces and opening up opportunities to them.”

“We are passionate about exposing as many kids to aviation, and we are committed to helping to make a positive impact on the aviation industry’s pilot shortage by producing as many qualified pilots as possible.”Crosswinds Aviation logo on an airplane rudder

“We know that any committed high school student looking to get into the aviation can do it. It takes dedication, hard work and a passion for the skies.”

Crosswinds high school programs, which are open to juniors and seniors, are available at Livingston County, Oakland County International and Bishop International airports. Students from high schools in Livingston and Genesee counties, where Crosswinds has partnerships, typically spend a majority of their day at their home school and then two hours at Crosswinds for ground and flight instruction over two consecutive semesters.

“We love partnering with our local schools and communities and showing the students the future flying provides,” Dahline said. Crosswinds Aviation instructor and student

Crosswinds instructors prepare pilots with a firm base of flying fundamentals that launch a lifetime of success in aviation, either as a professional or recreational pilot. The curriculum readies students to complete their written exam while also providing:

  • Exposure to many aspects of the aviation industry
  • Meet with industry experts
  • Free 10 hours of simulator time per student ($250 value)
  • Computer-based ground training ($200 value)
  • EAA will reimburse students that take and pass FAA written exam ($150 value)

 

 

Commercial airline pilot Ryan Lawrence got his start at Crosswinds after enrolling in the high school program as a senior. He and his parents scouted various flight schools and determined the modern fleet of aircraft and the family atmosphere at Crosswinds was the perfect fit.

“It was a no-brainer,” Lawrence said. “Earning my private pilot license was the best head start I could possibly get. The instructor set me up for success. It was a professional environment and learning experience the entire time. It was very one-on-one, and it was great every time we went up for a flight and every time we met in the classroom.”

Now, Lawrence looks around airports and sees the industry’s growth threatened by a shortage of available pilots prepared to replace a wave of veterans who will soon be hanging up their wings. He knows Crosswinds can change the trajectory of students’ futures.

“If you’re interested in aviation, now is the time to get started,” said Lawrence, who is flying regionally and plans on becoming a captain. “At Crosswinds, everything is laid out for you and there’s a great support system to show you how to get to where you want to be.

“Crosswinds was able to help me make my dream of being a career pilot come true.”

Picture your magical winter wedding in northern Michigan

Jenna and Daemian Koehler

Living just a block away from Stafford’s Perry Hotel, Jenna and Daemian Koehler would pass by weddings pretty much every summer weekend. Seeing all the joyful brides and grooms at the downtown Petoskey venue, they knew that they wanted to have their own wedding there, too. So, when Daemian proposed, Jenna called Stafford’s right away to check on availability.

The only challenge was that Daemian manages a bike shop, and that makes his summers in the northern Michigan tourist destination really busy. As a result, the couple decided to get married in March.

Wedding rings on bicycle wheel

(Photo by Marissa Dillion Photography)

In Petoskey, March is still very much in the thick of winter. And when Jenna and Daemian got married in March 2019, it was cold outside and there was still snow on the ground – lots of snow! But their wedding day dawned with bright blue skies and Stafford’s helped make the occasion a wonderful, memorable experience that a year later still brings Jenna tears of joy.

“I really wasn’t sure how it was all going to come together, but it turned out beautiful,” Jenna said.

“It was like wedding fairies were putting everything together. I still can’t believe how easy a winter wedding was.”

A lot of couples get engaged in the winter. In fact, the most popular time of year to get engaged is between the holidays and Valentine’s Day.

But have you ever considered a winter wedding?

Stafford’s hosts weddings at Stafford’s Perry Hotel and a couple miles outside of Petoskey at Stafford’s Bay View Inn. Each venue has unique character: Stafford’s Perry Hotel is close to downtown shopping and dining, while the historic Stafford’s Bay View Inn is a more intimate event space with only 31 rooms and no TVs or phones.

At both locations, Stafford’s provides full on-site event coordination with exclusive catering that lets brides and grooms focus on each other instead of worrying about multiple moving pieces of the party.

Plus, during the value season from November through April, weddings at Stafford’s get deep discounts on room rentals for the reception and guests get deals on lodging, too. At the Perry Hotel, larger weddings can reserve the gorgeous H.O. Rose Dining Room, and smaller parties can reserve the more intimate Reycraft Room, for 50-percent off. Or, you can reserve the entire Bay View Inn at special off-season pricing for the wedding of your dreams!

“What really sold us was the Rose Room with that huge view out over the bay,” Jenna said. “It’s just beautiful. And the price difference was a no-brainer.”

RELATED: 2020 and 2021 Value Season Weddings – Now Booking!

Not only is winter the value season for weddings at Stafford’s, but it’s a lovely time in northern Michigan that makes for distinctive and stunning wedding photos. See just how perfect a winter wedding at Stafford’s can be…

 

RELATED: More photos of winter weddings at Stafford’s

One of the unique things about Jenna and Daemian’s winter wedding is that instead of lots of flowers, the ceremony and reception featured natural items for decorations.

Jenna & Daemian's wedding display

Photo by Marissa Dillon Photography

Jenna had her bridesmaids collect sticks, stones and pinecones in the months leading up to the wedding.

“We both love the outdoors and are very into outdoor adventures,” Jenna said. “All our decorations were from the outdoors. I really wanted to bring our love of the outdoors into our wedding.”

Mutual love of the outdoors is actually what brought Jenna and Daemian together. When Jenna moved to Petoskey for a teaching job, she stopped at High Gear Sports to ask for recommendations on where to ride her bike. That happens to be the shop where Daemian works! He took time to highlight a map of different roads and routes for Jenna to ride.

High Gear Sports turned into Jenna’s go-to bike shop, and she visited quite a few times over the next few weeks for help with mechanical issues. After a few months, Daemian finally got the hint and asked her out.

“Luckily, I had a spoke that was going through the rim of my tire and I kept getting a flat,” she laughed. “It worked out really well!”

When Daemian proposed, it was on a hike at Sleeping Bear Dunes. They took a break under a tree on top of a dune, and he popped the question. It was a beautiful view and a perfect day, just like their winter wedding at Stafford’s!

Getting married a block from where they live at a place they often see is special to Jenna and Daemian because the excitement and happiness of that day can be recalled so easily.

Jenna and Daemian wedding dance

Photo by Marissa Dillon Photography

“Stafford’s Perry Hotel will always have a special place in our hearts,” Jenna said. “You can look out (from the dinner table) and see all of your friends and family celebrating your wedding. Everyone was just so joyful and loving, and to have all of that in one room it was like magic.

“It was amazing to have our wedding at Stafford’s.”

Start planning your winter wedding at Stafford’s.

Warm up this winter with Traverse City Restaurant Week

Traverse City restaurant week

It happened to be Restaurant Week when Forrest and Nicole Moline vacationed in Traverse City several years ago. They dined together at Trattoria Stella, Michigan’s Best Italian restaurant, sharing a table in one of the hidden alcoves inside historic Grand Traverse Commons. The beautiful encounter is one of the reasons the couple decided to move to Traverse City.

Now this winter the Molines are taking part in Restaurant Week for the first time as restaurant owners, hoping to give their guests the same kind of memorable dining experience. Forrest: A Food Studio is one of about three dozen restaurants offering three-course meals for $25 to $35 from Feb. 23-29.

Forrest: A Food Studio

‘It’s super exciting for us to be a part of (Restaurant Week),’ said Forrest Moline, who opened Forrest: A Food Studio last fall in Traverse City. ‘The goal for the Food Studio is to resemble an Art Studio, but instead of the craft being woodwork, painting or ceramics, the medium is for the culinary arts.’ (J.Zevalkink Photo)

“There are restaurants all over (the Traverse City area) and every town has a different look and feel,” said Forrest Moline, who has worked in Cleveland and Detroit with renowned chef Michael Symon and in Birmingham with charcuterie expert Brian Polcyn.

“It’s so fun to visit each little town, dine at the restaurants and meet the locals and hear their story. That’s what drew us up here, the warm feel you get from the locals.”

Warm might not be the first word that comes to mind when describing Michigan in January and February. After all, the Mitten state is a winter wonderland where you can go skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing, ice fishing, winter hiking and fat tire biking. But winter in Michigan also is a great time of year to warm up indoors and try new restaurants, discover new wines or sample craft spirits.

You can do it all in Traverse City and enjoy the best of Michigan’s winter, both inside and out. Not only is Traverse City the Best Winter Getaway in Michigan, but it’s also

Red snapper

Feast your eyes – and your tastebuds! – on some of the best dishes in Michigan during Traverse City Restaurant Week. ‘We built our small 1,200-square-foot space to feel more like a home kitchen and dining room than a typical restaurant,’ owner Forrest Moline said. ‘Everyone has a seat at the chef’s table.’ (J.Zevalkink Photo)

one of America’s best beer towns, one of the country’s leading wine regions and the No. 1 Foodie Destination in the Midwest.

Traverse City hosts many unique winter events that will whet your appetite for the area’s celebrated food and beverage scene. You can plan your trip around a Vine to Wine Snowshoe Tour, the annual Ice Wine Festival or one of several wine trail events such as Taste the Passion, Romancing the Riesling or the Winter Warm Up.

Michigan’s headline winter event for foodies is Traverse City Restaurant Week, scheduled this year Feb. 23-29. About three dozen restaurants in one of America’s most underrated food towns will offer three-course meals for $25 or $35 all week long.

Restaurants typically offer a few options to choose from for each of the three courses. You can find participating restaurants and menus here. Reservations are strongly encouraged.

“We’re going into our 10th year for Restaurant Week,” said Colleen Paveglio, marketing and communications director for Downtown TC. “The intent is to highlight the restaurants here in Traverse City. A lot of them are local-food focused. Long before it was trendy we were on that path just due to this being an agricultural community.

“It’s grown throughout the years and now we have people that travel to Traverse City for the event.”

While in town for Restaurant Week, you can pair delicious dinners with a tour of the Traverse Wine Coast – either self-guided or led by one of the area’s many wine-savvy tour operators. You’ll find award-winning wines at dozens of wineries nestled in Traverse City Restaurant Week - winebeautiful nooks and crannies all over the region, including the famed Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas. Both peninsulas have been recognized as Top Wine Regions through USA Today’s Readers’ Choice Awards.

Traverse City also is home to more than a dozen microbreweries, and a growing number of craft distilleries that take the fruits of Michigan’s bountiful agricultural harvest and turn it into small-batch vodkas, whiskeys and gins for your pleasure.

When you’re not sipping spirits or sampling fine wines, you can make time to experience Traverse City’s historic movie theatres or to browse downtown shops for unique items you didn’t even know you were looking for.

Exploring Traverse CityAnd, of course, you can enjoy outdoor recreation in Traverse City all winter long, whether by cross-country skiing the rolling hills above Grand Traverse Bay, tubing down one of the area’s thrilling runs or exploring the incredible Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

RELATED: 5 Traverse City Restaurants Sourcing Local Foods Year-Round

Whenever – and for whatever reason – you come to Traverse City this winter, you can take advantage of Traverse City Escape Packages. The seasonal special combines discounted rates on lodging with an assortment of coupons on everything from dining, movies and spa services to wine purchases and entertainment. Escape Packages are available all winter.

 

Discover Michigan’s award-winning, 330-mile snowmobile trail system

Munising snowmobiling

When Cori-Ann Cearly assesses the outlook for the Upper Peninsula snowmobiling season, there’s zero worry about what it will produce: “There’s never really a problem or a question if we’ll have enough snow,” she says with a laugh.

Alger County averages 230 inches of snow each winter and while the season has started slowly in the southern reaches of Michigan, the U.P. is ahead of schedule having gotten hit by heavy accumulation in November.

Munising, where Cearly is the president of the visitors bureau, is branded the Snowmobile Capital of the Midwest and is the place to be for sled riders looking for a complete trail system that allows travel between towns, through magical woods and to majestic ice caves and ice structures that daring climbers scale daily.

The Munising region is home to more than 300 miles of groomed terrain – more about that later – that can match any snowmobiler’s taste for adventure or an easy day on the packed surfaces to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Miner’s Castle. There are also opportunities for off-trail excursions for a more rugged ride.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore snowmobilingTrail reports show an average snow depth and base of 40 inches already, and the snowiest months of the winter are still ahead of the area. Here are four reasons to visit and stay in Munising in January and beyond:

Crowds are smaller: Now, to be fair, with 300 miles of trails and countless off-trail spots to ride, there’s rarely snowmobile gridlock. History, however, shows that February is the busiest time of the year for people to visit and stay in Munising while snowmobiling. By beating the masses going to the Michigan Ice Fest or the UP 200, Midnight Run & Jack Pine 30 sled dog races, you’ll have more room to roam – and slide easier into area bars and restaurants to warm up and enjoy a refreshing beverage or a tasty meal. All that said, February is fun, too!

Groomed trails: Members of the Snowmobile & O.R.V. Association of Alger County have been preparing the 300-mile trail network for months, and once the snow accumulates the group goes out every night with heavy machinery to perfect the trail. Cearly said the ride is so smooth “it’s like a highway in the woods.” The bump-free surface is easier on the rider and on the sled.

Better rates: Lodging rates fluctuate with demand, and as noted earlier, February is the high-traffic season. That means there are even better deals to be found at area hotels. If you don’t have your own machine, you can potentially find rental sleds available at a lower cost as well. It’s the perfect time for a quick winter weekend up north.

Shake off the holiday stress: The holiday haze is real as we spend much of November and December rushing around shopping and going to gatherings only to hunker down with the turn of the new year. Break out of the cabin fever doldrums and see natural beauty that will relieve all the pent-up pressure.

Learn more about all Munising has to offer here.

5 really cool things to do in Gaylord this winter

winter rafting in Gaylord, MI

So winter is here and your normal outdoor routine is shelved. It is cold and there is snow and you’re just not crazy about it.

There are many of us crazy folks that LOVE winter. It is quiet, it is pretty and with the Gaylord, MI skiingproper gear, you can stay warm and cozy! Don’t have a snowmobile? No problem. You skied once as a kid and had a bad experience? Not to worry. You can’t afford expensive gear right now? Gotcha covered!

Here are five really fun and, excuse the pun, cool things to do in Gaylord this winter:

Snowshoeing

Let me just say that snowshoeing is a blast. You never need a groomed trail. You can go with six inches of snow on the ground or 60 inches of snow on the ground – snowshoes work the same. All you need are some public or private trails, a pair of boots, a hat, gloves and snowshoes. Poles are optional.

I have a pair of snowshoes that are 20 years old and work just as well now as they did then. Snowshoes don’t go out of style, except for maybe bindings, but the technology is the same. You walk on the snow. You get a great workout and you can literally go anywhere. Once you start moving, you warm right up. Most novices actually overdress. With no leaves on the trees, you see vistas, valleys and streams that you would never see other times of the year, which is just cool.  

Take a Downhill Ski Lesson

Most non-skiers have tried downhill skiing and had a bad experience or just gotten out of Gaylord, MI ski lessonsit. Well, take a lesson. Both Otsego Resort and Treetops Resort have rental equipment and experienced, fun ski instructors.

This is a great activity to do with a friend or two or your children. Usually, within a few hours, the instructor will have you stopping comfortably, making gentle turns and safely getting on and off the chairlift.

As a long-time skier, knowing the basics is worth the price of a lesson in enjoyment. Equipment has come a long way since I was a kid back in the 1970s. It is more comfortable, warmer and carved skis literally turn themselves.

Winter Rafting

No, I am not daft and I did not make this up. Gaylord has two outfitters in the area that will take you and up to five of your friends or family members winter rafting down the Sturgeon River! The Sturgeon is the fastest river in the Lower Peninsula and does not usually freeze over.

This is not tubing or kayaking and you get into a raft big enough not to tip. You actually sit on the sides and everyone helps paddle. Winter rafting comes with an experienced guide who makes sure you have an outstanding experience. Excursions last an hour or two and you dress like you would for any outdoor winter activity.

Gaylord MI winter funYou will see parts of Northern Michigan not seen in summer, as there are no leaves on the trees.  There are numerous wildlife viewings as they come to the river for water (other lakes are frozen over, so this is where they go!). Winter rafting is great for a group of friends or families with kids 12 or older. It is something memorable you can all experience together.

Skiable or “Snowshoeable” Feast

There is nothing like taking frequent breaks while you are out enjoying winter, right? I can’t think of a more perfect stop than gourmet food and beverage stations along the way.

A few years ago, Treetops Resort started regular events called Skiable Feast. It is a point-to-point relaxing cross-country or snowshoe course, complete with five gourmet food stations. Food stations allow you to take a break and enjoy delectable foods from the culinary team at Treetops. You can warm up with a blazing fire and visit with new friends.

If you don’t have gear, Treetops has rental equipment for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Experienced guides ensure you don’t get lost and make it to each food station.

Tubing Gaylord MI tubing

This is nothing like the days of sledding down the local hill when you were a kid. Going “down the hill” has taken on a whole new meaning! The tubes are provided, the course is smooth, and a lift attachment pulls you and the tube back up the hill! Pretty great, huh?

20 minutes to anything: Here is the center of Detroit

Greektown Casino-Hotel Casino

Maybe it’s a home game for the Detroit Lions, Tigers, Red Wings or Pistons.

Or perhaps a night on the town with friends?

How about a concert or Broadway show at the historic Fox Theatre and its next-door neighbor the Fillmore Detroit?

And let’s not forget live jazz clubs, comedy performances or other late-night entertainment.

Whatever brings you to Detroit, you’ll find the Greektown Casino-Hotel at the center of any stay-and-play visit.

Guests at the 400-room, 30-floor hotel have prime access to its exciting 100,000-square-foot gaming floor, a destination in and of itself, in addition to being less than a mile and a 20-minute walk – shorter with a cab or ride-sharing service – to many of Michigan’s best and biggest attractions.

Here’s a primer on what’s nearby:

  • Little Caesars Arena
  • Ford Field
  • Comerica Park
  • The historic Greektown neighborhood
  • Fox Theatre
  • The Fillmore Detroit
  • Campus Martius Park
  • Hart Plaza

Before heading out to an event, Greektown offers its own incredible entertainment and dining options. There are more than 2,500 slots and 60 table games over two floors of gaming activity. The playing floor, machines and dealers are routinely identified as the best in Detroit.

Sam Arabo, an executive casino host, recommends guests visit the hotel-casino’s restaurants during their stay. There is a wide diversity at Monroe Market, a 24-hour curated collection of culinary experiences in a setting similar to a street market. The market has six restaurants that serve everything from burgers and pizza to BBQ and southern-style fried chicken.

Meanwhile, Arabo said a visit to Prism, the property’s signature steakhouse, seafood and pasta fine-dining, is a must-stop.

“We’ve won several awards for our food selection, our wine selection,” Arabo said. “Everybody enjoys it.”

Greektown staff members excel at attending to guests needs and making them comfortable during their stay.

“Customer service is our biggest thing,” Arabo said. “If a guest is happy, my job is easy.”

Why Greektown is the center of NFL gameday in Detroit

Tailgating at the Lion's game, brought to you by Greektown Casin-Hotel

Step outside Greektown Casino-Hotel on a Sunday morning in the fall or winter, and there’s no doubt when it’s a National Football League gameday for the Detroit Lions.

Fans dressed head-to-toe in Honolulu blue and silver stream by. Greektown restaurants and bars are packed. Tailgaters fill nearby parking lots with tents, grills, spaceheaters, generators and fully customized RVs to support their team and enjoy themselves before kickoff.

It’s a community event with statewide draw, allowing perfect strangers to become fast friends over a game of sack toss or throwing a football around, a cold beverage and a bite to eat – and Greektown Casino-Hotel is at the center of it all.

After staying at the neighborhood’s premier hotel and gaming floor, but before hitting the stands, guests can hang out in the entertainment center’s incredible dining areas.

Check out Bistro 555 for the breakfast buffet that will fill you for the day’s adventures. Pop into Monroe Market, a 24-hour curated collection of culinary experiences that line 11,000 square feet in a setting similar to a street market. The market has six restaurants that serve everything from burgers and pizza to BBQ and southern-style fried chicken.

Or guests can also choose to head out to Greektown favorites like the Old Shillelagh, Astoria Bakery, Red Smoke Barbecue or Fishbones.

From there, it’s a short 10-minute walk to Ford Field, but one ripe with opportunity for the full Lions experience.

The franchise’s official pre-game party tailgate is at Prize Plaza on Brush Street, and it has free admission. The close-to-the-stadium spaces opens at 10 a.m. and features beer tents, music, food trucks and interactive fan games. There are also large-screen televisions for watching and listening to pre-game commentary.

But for the more colorful tailgating visit, continue on to the parking lots at Eastern Market. This is the hub of pregame activity and where you’ll find thousands of diehards who arrive early and stay late. They pack for the apocalypse and leave unwanted. Burgers, brats, ribs, side dishes, you name it, and it’s being prepared.

Groups who have celebrated pre-games together for years – and gone to great lengths to put on a heck of a party – are welcoming of fellow Lions fans and willing to give tours of specialized Lions-themed vehicles.

Take the “Since 1957” tailgate leaders, who bought an RV and decked-out the vehicle in Lions memorabilia of all sorts. They’ve been together since 2005 and have designated themselves as “Since 1957” because that’s the last time the team won a championship.

They make sure to put on a spread and “keep everyone hydrated” before kickoff.

Once the game is over and Lions fans are ready to wind down or keep the party going, it’s a quick jaunt back to the Greektown Casino-Hotel for the night.