Category: Travel and Adventure

The U.P’s ‘big gun’ attraction and 4 more great social distancing outings

Take the edge off COVID-19 stress by visiting these 5 U.P. natural treasures

The incredible natural wonders and extensive outdoor adventure opportunities of Munising and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are legendary, with the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore often serving as the focal point of travelers’ visits.

But there’s so much more to see and do while staying in and around Munising while enjoying panoramic views of Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes.

From majestic waterfalls to crystal clear waters that reveal a scuba diver’s shipwreck paradise, Cori-Ann Cearley, president of Munising’s Visitors Bureau, says the region is more than a one trick pony destination.

“We call Pictured Rocks our ‘big gun’ attraction, and rightfully so,” Cearley said, “but one of the moments we love to see is when our guests come and discover all of the other beautiful and amazing parts of our area that they weren’t aware of.

“They find there’s beautiful scenery to explore while hiking, biking, kayaking or on a boat cruise.”

As Labor Day approaches and the fall colors set to explode – and crowds tend to dwindle with school back in session – now is an ideal time to head north to Munising to enjoy social distancing outdoors. Local businesses and organizations support wearing masks when in public to keep others safe, Cearley said.

“We’re all still in this together, and we need to stay vigilant for the health and safety of each other,” Cearley said. “As a region with so much to offer, Munising is a place where people can kind of hit pause and relax. It’s a great time to get away from it all and find comfort in your surroundings.

“The outdoors – going on a hike or seeing things that bring you joy – are great stress-relievers. I think we’re all ready for something to take off that edge of what’s been going on in the world.”

Check out these four Munising vacation ideas:

Shipwrecks at the Alger Underwater Preserve

Hugging the lakeshore between Munising and Grand Island, the eight shipwrecks of the Alger Underwater Preserve are a throwback to another era of transportation and shipping. Whether diving or viewing from a glass-bottomed boat tour, the wrecks, some of which have been preserved for more than a century, are visible through clear blue and green waters that are breathtaking in their own right. The area was a shipping sanctuary with the natural protection of Grand Island, but big seas sometimes proved too strong. Wooden schooners, steam barges and steel freight ships dot the coast.

Waterfalls

At its core, a waterfall is a simple concept – gravity pulls liquid from a higher point until it finds an outlet, but the release and flow of water is something that captures the attention of nature lovers and photographers. The tranquil sights abound in the Munising area, where 17 waterfalls are found throughout Alger County. The waterfalls are accessible to all and active year-round, an ice-flow waterfall in the winter is a sight to behold on its own. The waterfalls can be found on Grand Island, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and elsewhere. The Munising Visitors Bureau can help you find all the waterfalls in the area.

Lighthouses

Navigational advances may have diminished the need for the prime function of lighthouses, but the uniquely built structures remain a beacon for people interested in history and beauty on the shores of the Great Lakes. Munising is the home of eight lighthouses, including the Au Sable Point light that can be toured and climbed from mid-June through Labor Day. Other lights have been renovated and can be seen up close while serving as the center for memorable vacation photos. Some lighthouses have been converted to dream-like private residences.

Grand Island

Hop aboard a narrated bus tour and learn about the 3,000-year history of Grand Island, a 13,000-acre bit of paradise in the Hiawatha National Forest that sits only a half-mile from Munising. The southernmost island in Lake Superior, this natural phenomenon is ideal for hiking and biking to white-sand beaches, stunning elevated vistas and an “I’m all alone in the woods” secluded sites that offer silence from the rush of daily life. Visitors can get to the island via personal boat or ferry. The wilderness area offers unmatched scenery where travelers can see black bear and white-tail deer. Be sure to check out Echo Lake and bring your fishing pole.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Practice your “oohs” and “wow!” before visiting this national treasure that features 40 miles of sandstone cliffs, rock formations, sea caves and sea arches that are equally stunning from the ground and the water. The dramatic colors are breathtaking and the sheer size of the protected lakeshore allows you a freedom that doesn’t generally exist where up to 700,000 people visit annually. Hike 100 miles of trails or jump on a guided boat tour to take in beaches, sand dunes, waterfalls and hardwood forests that will leave an impression for a lifetime – or at least until you come back to experience it again.

 

Charming small towns, boundless outdoor recreation: Welcome to Antrim County

Sunflowers in Antrim County, MI

Three dozen beautiful lakes for boating, paddling, fishing or just splashing the day away on a sandbar.

Expansive natural recreation areas with thousands of acres for hiking, biking, birdwatching, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.

More than 300 miles of snowmobile trails. Nine gorgeous golf courses. Over 50 downhill ski and snowboard runs.

All these numbers give you a sense of everything there is to do in Antrim County. But there’s one number that really tells the area’s story: Four, as in four distinct northern Michigan seasons to enjoy – summer, winter, spring and fall.

Kayaks on the Grand Traverse Bay and the 75-mile Chain of Lakes in Antrim County

Located northeast of Traverse City along Grand Traverse Bay and the 75-mile Chain of Lakes, Antrim County offers a variety of outdoor recreation in all four seasons.

“We like to say that there’s something for every season,” said Samantha Hall, marketing and event coordinator for the Bellaire Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a location where you can be in a downtown like Bellaire, Alden or Elk Rapids, and then you go five minutes away and you’re in the middle of a natural paradise any time of year.”

You can’t fit all there is to do in Antrim County into one weekend. But over the course of a year, you can experience a lot of what makes one of Michigan’s most picturesque counties such an attractive place to spend some time.

Here are four Antrim County attractions to build your weekend around, any time of year:

  • Chain of Lakes – Antrim County is home to a water trail that winds for more than 50 miles through a series of 14 connected lakes and rivers including some that are considered among the most beautiful in the world. From tubing on the 19-mile-long
    Grass and trees reflected on a river in Antrim County

    There’s so much water in Antrim County that there’s room for you to enjoy your favorite water sports whether that’s boating, paddling, fishing or just relaxing on a sandbar.

    Torch Lake to cruising the Grass River in a pontoon, the “Chain” features a variety of large bodies of water, small lakes and meandering rivers that together are heaven on water for boating, paddling and fishing. There’s so much water in Antrim County that you’ll find the perfect place for any kind of water sport, and the area has several places to rent kayaks, paddleboards and boats, too. In the winter, huddle up in a shanty on the Chain of Lakes for some ice fishing or wade into one of the area’s trout streams for world-class fly fishing.

  • Grass River Natural Area – Located on the Chain of Lakes along the Grass River north of Alden, this 1,500-acre preserve offers a pristine setting for recreational activities including kayaking six miles of shoreline and hiking seven miles of boardwalk and trails that pass through lush forests, swamps and bogs. Visitors can spot eagles and other wildlife in the preserve that’s home to 500 different kinds of plants, nearly 150 bird species and 50 kinds of mammals. While people love to explore the Grass Lake Natural Area on foot or with a paddle in the spring, summer and fall, it becomes a haven for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter. It’s one of several natural recreation areas in Antrim County including the Glacial Hills Pathway with 30 miles of trails for hiking, biking and cross-country skiing, the Antrim Creek Natural Area with a mile of undeveloped shoreline along Lake Michigan, and the Maple Bay Natural Area with stunning fields of happy sunflowers to brighten your day.
  • Shanty Creek Resorts – In addition to Hawk’s Eye Golf Resort and A-Ga-Ming, Shanty Creek offers a third full-service resort in Antrim County. What all three have in common is a wealth of great golf courses tucked along the Chain of Lakes with stunning views and dramatic elevation changes. You’ll find courses designed by legends of the game including The Legend, by Arnold Palmer, and Cedar River, which Golf Advisor this year named the seventh-best course design in the country. In the winter, when Antrim County turns into a sparkling white playground for snow sports, Shanty Creek stands apart as a premier northern Michigan ski destination featuring more than 50 downhill runs from beginner hills to “Kingdom Come,” a black diamond trail with a super steep 450-foot vertical drop. The resort also has six terrain parks for snowboarding, an alpine tubing area and trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat tire biking, snowmobiling and even dogsledding!
  • Small towns – Whenever you visit Antrim County, you can make a home base in any of the charming small towns that give character to the community. From the Twisted Fish Gallery and Sculpture Garden in Elk Rapids to Guntzviller’s Spirit of the Woods Museum in Williamsburg, there are unique attractions across the county. Or you can spend the day browsing art galleries, shopping for local treasures and sampling the eclectic menus in lakeside towns such as Alden and Bellaire. When you get thirsty, Michigan’s largest microbrewery, Short’s Brewing, heads a nice mix of brewpubs and wine bars where you can explore craft beverages with a northern Michigan flair.

Whether you visit Antrim County to enjoy the wide variety of year-round outdoor recreation or to slow down for a few days in small towns brimming with hospitality, you can find a place to stay that’s just your style.

And because of the Antrim Promise, you can rest assured that wherever you stay and whatever you do while you’re here, the entire community is following public health guidelines to make your visit as safe as possible during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“All of our restaurants, bars and shops all have the same guidelines, so you know what to expect,” Hall said. “We’re going to give you a safe experience.”

Michigan beer industry outlook strong, but COVID-19 threatens brewers

Glasses of beer on a state of Michigan shaped board

Scott Graham jokes that watching the Michigan beer industry grow for more than 30 years reminds him of parents watching their children grow up.

“When parents are in the midst of raising a family, they don’t always see the growth and may not notice the changes over time, but to others the changes are much more dramatic,” Graham, the executive director of the Michigan Brewers Guild, said recently. “But then you step back and that child isn’t so little anymore and they’re out on their own.

“That’s kind of how it is with Michigan having nearly 400 breweries. The state of the industry is amazing, but people take it for granted because that’s where we are now. I can tell you, though, it wasn’t a given. People flew in the face of adversity, they grinded and scraped by to build all these community assets that we have today. That’s really noteworthy.”

It’s also a timely and relevant reminder amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has taken a whipsaw to both established and fledgling brewers’ business. It should serve as a nudge to visit a local brewery for a drink, a meal or some beers to take home, as well as a move to snag a Michigan brew at retailers, Graham said.

“Surviving the COVID pandemic of 2020 – let’s hope it’s just 2020 – I have concern for our friends who make up our membership. There’s not a big pile of money behind breweries. Everybody works hard and has to give it everything they’ve got.

“It’s not easy street, but I really think and hope that our industry will get through this hiccup and it will ultimately be stronger. The faster that can happen, the better. So, to the extent that anyone can, it’s a great time to support these local businesses.”

The Michigan Brewers Guild represents more than 300 brewers, ranking Michigan as the sixth largest beer state in the U.S. The industry supports 21,000 full-time jobs and nearly $900 million in employee income. The total economic impact of Michigan’s craft breweries is more than $2.5 billion.

The guild, which also has enthusiast and business memberships for backers not directly involved in the industry, promotes Michigan beer and aims to help breweries in the state reach 20 percent of sales by 2025. It has designated each July as Michigan Beer Month, but the drive to help breweries succeed is a year-round endeavor.

That push is generally highlighted by seasonal beer festivals that bring people from around Michigan and the Midwest to sample beers and interact with industry players. The pandemic has forced the cancellation of the summer and U.P. festivals, while the fall festival hangs in the balance. Dropping the events from the calendar pains Graham.

“Those are really good times to get together and see old friends,” he said. “I think we’re all sad in different ways because we can’t do that and then the breweries can’t show what they’ve been working on. And the festivals have always been a chance for people to learn who’s out there, what’s new and how we got to where we are.”

Graham, however, said there are new opportunities to become familiar with Michigan beer through the weekly Michigan’s Great Beer State podcast that he co-hosts with Fred Bueltmann, an industry veteran.

The podcast was developed as an outtake from interviews and conversations Bueltmann had while chronicling Michigan beer for the guild’s book project “A Rising Tide, Stories from the Michigan Brewers Guild.” The show is a mixture of the history and stories shared by brewers while also providing a forum to talk about the current state of the industry.

“We knew we had something with those interviews because there’s so much that people either don’t know or forget over time,” Graham said. “The podcast and the book are great ways to get a look inside at all the people and incredible beer that call Michigan home.”

The continued focus on local craft beer will energize breweries and their employees as they operate under social distancing guidelines and occupancy limits.

“I still see an industry maturing, and I anticipate growth because people recognize the value of having creativity and locally owned businesses in their communities,” Graham said.

Visit the Michigan Brewers Guild website to learn more and here’s a map to discover a brewery near you.

Time for a weekend getaway? Check out Benzie County

family rides a chairlift in Benzie County

With 100 lakes, miles of river and thousands of acres of state forest land, there’s ample space in Benzie County to get outside in the fresh air and experience the ever-present beauty of northern Michigan.

Plus, there are picturesque lighthouses along the Lake Michigan shore, great little towns with unique shops and inventive brewpubs, and farms where you can get in touch with your roots by picking strawberries and cherries – or gawking at emus and alpacas!

“There’s all sorts of cool stuff,” said Sammie Lukaskiewicz, public relations director for Crystal Mountain, a four-season family resort which has 1,500 acres to enjoy south of Traverse City including golf in the summer, skiing in the winter and the world-famous Crystal Spa all year long.

“It’s very recreational here and given the environment today where people are looking for fresh air and open spaces, Benzie County is a really good reflection of that.”

RELATED: 10 fun facts about Benzie County

Five Shores Brewing beer glass and menu

Five Shores Brewing on the shore of Crystal Lake is one of a handful of brewpubs in Benzie County, south of Traverse City.

If you’re looking to get away for a weekend to remember, take a look at what Benzie County has to offer. There’s golf and fishing, hiking and biking, beer and wine, and water sports galore. And that’s just in the summer!

There are also chairlifts that take you up to spectacular vantage points for fall colors, and snowy slopes to ski down in winter. There are vast public lands for hunting and hundreds of miles of trails for snowmobiling or cross-country skiing.

Whatever season you visit Benzie County, there are fun things to do for all ages.

“The beauty of Benzie County is that it really is year-round,” Lukaskiewicz said. “There’s summertime options and there’s also wintertime options.

Point Betsie Lighthouse

With only one traffic light in all of Benzie County, you can move at your own speed – whether that means a relaxing visit to Point Betsie Lighthouse (above) or a speedy trip down Michigan’s only Alpine Slide (below).

“You can do recreation anywhere, but to be able to have a year-round opportunity for recreation in a community that understands tourism and hospitality like ours is special. This entire county is about hospitality. We really know how to treat people when they come here.”

Benzie County is also home to several unique attractions you just won’t find anywhere else. Here are a few places to put on your Michigan travel bucket list:

Michigan's only Alpine Slide

  • Weaving along the shore of Lake Michigan, M-22 routinely makes lists of the most scenic roads in America. The 116-mile stretch runs right through Benzie County, skirting past several inland lakes as it courses along the edge of the most beautiful of the Great Lakes. “You’re essentially driving on a paved beach, when you think about it,” Lukaskiewicz said. Along the way you can stroll the pier at Frankfort North Breakwater Lighthouse, admire wind surfers playing on the big lake or cozy up to a bonfire on the beach and watch a gorgeous sunset.
  • When you think about “Up North” golf, Benzie County has some of the best. Teetering on the cliffs above Lake Michigan, Arcadia Bluffs ranks among the top 100 golf courses in the entire country. The private Crystal Downs often  kid jumping on a beach duneranks in the top 20! Benzie County is home to several other classic northern Michigan golf courses, too, including two championship tracks at Crystal Mountain.

 

  • Speaking of national accolades, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has been voted the “Most Beautiful Place in America.” The southern half of the 71,000-acre park is in Benzie County with trails through the dunes to stunning waterfront vistas and lots of space to get out and enjoy the natural goodness of summer in Michigan.
  • With nearly 50 works of art and sculpture by Michigan artists permanently installed along walking trails in a 30-acre forest preserve, the Michigan Legacy Art Park offers a memorable way to experience the beauty of northern Michigan. “You almost see the history of Michigan as you hike,” Lukaskiewicz said. “It really is a nice place to reflect.” kids at a water park
  • The only one of its kind in Michigan, the Crystal Coaster Alpine Slide at Crystal Mountain is the ultimate in summer sledding. Sitting in a special sled, you surrender yourself to the wonder of gravity and zip down one of two parallel slides that wind 1,700 feet down the mountain.
  • For a more puzzling experience of gravity, pull off the highway for a cruise down – er, up – Gravity Hill. Thanks to an optical illusion, you’ll feel like you’re coasting uphill when you’re actually going down.

Whatever you choose to do in Benzie County, and whenever you come to visit, you’ll find a wide variety of places to stay, from world-class resorts to cozy cabins on the lake. Explore what else there is to see and do in Benzie County and start planning your next weekend getaway.

Summer in Ludington is a day at the beach

Northern lights seen in Ludington, MI

As home of the longest freshwater coastline in the world, we’re blessed with lots of water here in Michigan. We are the Great Lakes State, after all!

But with record-high lake levels, we now have so much water it can be hard to enjoy all that coastline. Many beaches are cramped and have even disappeared in some places.

Not in Ludington. There’s plenty of shore where you can spread out a blanket and soak in the wonderful beauty of our Michigan.

With so many of you staying closer to home this summer and trading long-distance vacations for drivable destinations right here in our state, we’d like to invite you to experience Pure Ludington.

Not only can you relax and recharge at the beaches in Ludington, but there’s opportunity for outdoor recreation all over Mason County. Here are just a few ways you can get out in the fresh air of Ludington and immerse yourself in the unique splendor of your own state’s backyard:

Beaches

There’s still a ton of beachfront in the Ludington area along Lake Michigan, from the half-mile of sandy shore at Stearns Park Beach downtown to the seven miles of pristine shoreline leading to the iconic Big Sable Point lighthouse in Ludington State Park. The state park also has an inland lake beach along the warm, shallow waters of Hamlin Lake, one of the largest inland lakes in the Lower Peninsula.

Lakes

For water recreation, there’s no shortage of options in Ludington. There’s Lake Michigan, of course, which is great for everything on water from skipping stones to wind surfing. There’s also all-sports Hamlin and Bass lakes for boating as well as Pere Marquette and Lincoln lakes for fishing.

Rivers

Paddle the Lincoln River, enjoy a family-friendly float by tube down the Big Sable River in Ludington State Park or explore the wilderness of the Manistee National Forest by way of the many canoe liveries along the Pere Marquette River.

Trails

For an overland adventure, you can hike, bike or ride off road vehicles through the massive Manistee National Forest. Hiking and biking trails weave through Ludington State Park, too, and there’s an Urban Single Track system that’s perfect for novice mountain bikers with 10 miles of trails in town.

Events

Precautions surrounding COVID-19 have resulted in many summer events being cancelled around Michigan, but there’s still a lot going on in Ludington. From a summerlong farmers market and monthly bonfires on the beach to weekly live music events downtown, there’s something happening whenever you visit this summer.

We haven’t even mentioned golf, ice cream at House of Flavors, shoreline tours on the SS Badger…the list goes on! To plan your visit, go to pureludington.com!

 

Download the MI Best Ludington Summer Road Trip

6 places with ‘Room to Roam’ this summer in northern Michigan

Woman zip lining in Petoskey, MI

To golfers, the former Little Traverse Bay Golf Club in Harbor Springs was known for dramatic downhill tee shots and unparalleled views of the water from high above. Although the course now has closed, the 290-acre property high on a bluff above Little Traverse Bay retains all the same rolling hills and scenic vistas.

Only now, instead of being a destination for golf, the land that has reopened as the Offield Family Viewlands offers a glorious escape for hiking, biking and birdwatching that everyone can enjoy free of charge.

Man and woman walk dogs along a trail in Petoskey, MI “There are hiking trails all over the Petoskey Area communities, and this is another wonderful addition,” said Diane Dakins, assistant director of the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau.

With the Little Traverse Conservancy turning the former golf course into a natural space, there’s more room to roam than ever in the Petoskey Area near the tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. That’s especially important in the midst of an ongoing pandemic when many outdoor activities present low-risk opportunities for recreation. In the Petoskey Area communities of Harbor Springs, Bay Harbor, Alanson, Petoskey and Boyne Falls/Boyne City, it’s easy to social distance, get fresh air and enjoy the striking beauty of northern Michigan all at the same time.

In addition to plenty of room to roam, the Petoskey Area also features room to glide through the pristine waters of northern Michigan on a kayak, boat or paddleboard. There’s room to ride through the beautiful scenery of biking trails, and room to safely enjoy time with family. Of course, there’s still lots of room to take out the golf clubs and launch drives on award-winning courses, too.

Here are five more places with “room to roam” for you to keep in mind while planning a northern Michigan getaway this summer:

  • Boyne Valley Trailway – Newly completed this summer, this scenic 6-mile paved path between Boyne City and the Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls is perfect for biking, running and roller blading. family with kids ride bikes along a trail in Petoskey, MI It’s one of many paved trails in the Petoskey Area including the Little Traverse Wheelway, a 26-mile path between Harbor Springs and Charlevoix that passes through beautiful parks, along eye-popping stretches of waterfront and into unique places such as historic Bay View and the elegant Bay Harbor. (Please note that a couple sections of the Little Traverse Wheelway are currently closed due to erosion.) Whatever trail you choose to ride, you can find bikes to rent at shops throughout the Petoskey Area.
  • Bay Harbor Golf – With 10 golf courses at Boyne resorts alone, there’s more than enough tee times to go around in the Petoskey Area. The Boyne collection includes one of Golf Magazine’s top 10 courses in the country in Bay Harbor, as well as the National Golf Course Owners Association’s 2019 National Golf Course of the Year in The Heather. Beyond Boyne, there are several other renowned golf courses within a 30-minute drive including Belvedere Golf Club, Dunmaglas and Hidden River Golf & Casting Club.
  • Little Traverse Bay Ferry – The new non-profit ferry service between Petoskey, Harbor Springs and Bay Harbor made its debut this summer. Golf course in Petoskey, MI It’s the first time in 80 years that the communities have been connected via ferry service. The ferry offers a unique perspective on Little Traverse Bay and is one of many ways to get out on the water this summer in the Petoskey area, from sailing or charter fishing in the big lake to renting a kayak and paddling down the river to boating the Inland Waterway that is Michigan’s longest chain of rivers and lakes. To experience an old-fashioned car ferry, check out the Ironton Ferry over the south arm of Lake Charlevoix.
  • Petoskey Breakwall – This harbor breakwall in Petoskey is one of the best places to find an elusive Petoskey stone. Searching for Michigan’s state stone is a relaxing and fun activity for all ages, and it’s a thrill to find one of our state’s special treasures! Other popular Petoskey stone Boy hunts for Petoskey stones on a beach in Petoskey, MI hunting grounds include Magnus City Park Beach, just west of downtown, and Petoskey State Park northeast of the city. If you like relaxing without being on the hunt, the Petoskey Area has plenty of beaches to spread out a blanket, soak up the sun and take a dip in the crystal clear waters of northern Michigan.
  • Zipline Adventure Tour – Imagine yourself soaring down a mountain instead of skiing down one. On the Zipline Adventure Tours at Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands you’ll ride a chairlift up to an elevation of over 3,000 feet, then fly back down on the longest zip line in Michigan at speeds of up to 25 miles an hour! For a slower-paced experience of the panoramic views atop the ski hills, you can enjoy a scenic chairlift ride and see as far as the Mackinac Bridge on a clear day.

In addition to all the great places with room to roam, the Petoskey Area also features hundreds of rooms where you can rest your head after a day of adventure. Whether you’re looking for a world-class resort, a hotel in the middle of town, a secluded getaway tucked in the woods or an historic bed-and-breakfast, you can find it in the Petoskey Area.

Find a place to stay and start planning your northern Michigan getaway today

Founders focuses on lifting Michigan brewing community’s connections, culture

Founders Brewing Co.

At Founders Brewing, our story has lots of twists and turns.

From Mike, our CEO, taking a second mortgage on his home while growing his family, to the bank almost putting a lock on Founders’ doors, getting to where we are today took a lot of hard work, risks, experimentation, and ultimately a community who believed in what we were trying to do.

Founders Brewing Co. logoWe know that an exciting new beer release, or simply enjoying a beer that has been around for years, means nothing if it doesn’t bring people together.

And that’s part of what being an artist is about: Experimenting, refining, and sharing ones craft with the community around them, bringing people together to enjoy and celebrate their craftsmanship.

What we learned at the beginning, back in 1997, is as true today as it was then – brewing is about being part of a supportive culture where people are challenged and encouraged to do their best. Where people can come together and enjoy the art of beer.

Amy Sherman and John Gonzalez at Railtown Brewing

That’s why when the pandemic hit, we knew that the best thing we could do was to highlight the artisans in the creative community around us, a glimmer of positive hope in an otherwise uncertain time. Our founders have felt the deep fear of almost having to close our doors, but it was when we were able to innovate and make a beer that this community loved, and when this community continued to support us, that we were able to make it out and to where we are today. So it’s our turn to give back to this community, and highlight other crafters – artists, musicians, printers, bakers, potters, jewelers and more – all in an effort to raise awareness and bring people together through art and inspiration.

Now, we’re turning the attention to our craft – beer – and highlighting Michigan brewers, some established and some new; some who distribute and some who don’t; some that might face situations similar to our past. For the love of our craft, we cheers them for contributing to the craft culture of Michigan.

Visit and follow us on social media – @foundersbrewing – to read more #CraftedinMI stories and help support local however you can. Whether it’s liking an artist’s page, sharing a feature about a small craft brewery, or purchasing a gift from your favorite store, you can help empower others in our community, even from a safe distance.

Mackinaw area traditions, outdoor activities carry on amid COVID-19

Kids playing in a Mackinaw area park

As Deb Spence and her team began planning for the first weekend of the annual Premier Arts & Craft Show – one of the region’s most popular summer events – it was a bit of a question mark on how it would go with COVID-19 social distancing changes.

“All I heard from the vendors and from people attending the show is that it was better than ever,” said Spence, the executive director of the Mackinaw City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There were a ton of people in town and they walked through the show, shopped, talked and had a great time.”

Couple biking at sunset

Visitors will have that chance again on Aug. 29-30 to discover artists from around the country as they display their incredible work on hand-crafted jewelry, custom-designed clothes, woodworkings and paintings in beautiful Conkling Heritage Park, on the shore of the Straits of Mackinac that bridges Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. The show is set for 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

The show has changed to comply with social distancing restrictions by reducing the number of artisans and changing the layout to line the sidewalks in the park instead of being set up in the middle of the grassy areas.

“It worked out really well,” Spence said. “Everyone was spaced out and the set up made the traffic flow easy.

“I think the second weekend should be just as successful.”

It’s been an interesting year for the Mackinaw area, which witnessed a sharp reduction in visitors and business during the spring and in June because of the pandemic. There have been only 9 confirmed cases of the virus, and each businesses and residents are doing their part to stay safe by following the recommended safety guidelines.

Mill Creek Discovery Park in Mackinaw area

Restaurants in the city are open, as are outdoor attractions and activities, all serving visitors while being vigilant about sanitization and other precautions.

That has allowed the area to press on with many of its annual traditions, including Independence Day activities and the upcoming 7th annual Ford Mustang car show that is set for July 18 at the Straits State Harbor Park, next to Conkling Park.

The ultimate classic muscle car and the sleek late-model rides are a sight to see, and organizers expect roughly 100 vehicles to be on display from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will feature the annual car parade over the Mackinac Bridge.

Outdoor movies in a historic setting

The iconic bridge will also be the site of weekly “Movies by the Bridge” at the Michilimackinac State Park, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary. For themed weekends as well more information on movie times and locations, visit the Mackinac State Historic Park’s calendar page. The family-friendly movies begin at dusk and attendees are encouraged to bring a blanket, chair, or snacks. The movies began on July 3 and run through the summer. The schedules is as follows:

  • July 11: Mary Poppins Returns
  • July 18: A League of Their Own
  • July 25: Wreck-It Ralph
  • August 1: Space Jam
  • August 8: Finding Nemo
  • August 15: The Mighty Ducks
  • August 22: Moana
  • August 29: The Lego Movie
  • September 5: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Treat yourself to a Dark Sky experience

Take your stargazing outing to a whole new level at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, which was one of the first 10 such land areas in the world when it earned the prestigious designation in 2011. The park, which is open during the day for natural excursions that often lead to sightings of wildlife including bald eagles, osprey, coyotes and even black bear, also is free to enter.

Couple in chairs on the beach

There are trails that guide hikers and cyclists through nearly 600 acres of woodlands that are adjacent to two miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline. The land, which is protected and can never be developed, offers an exceptional view of starry skies because of the lack of ambient light from nearby homes or businesses. The location is ideal for photographers in all seasons.

Get outside

A trip Up North always calls for outdoor activities, and the Mackinaw area offers outstanding adventures from hiking and biking to parasailing, golf and fishing. The pristine beaches and blue waters of the Great Lakes are a perfect spot to get away from the rush and stresses life presents daily.

Walking along a beach in Mackinaw area

Mackinaw City also provides an easy centralized hub for day trips to Mackinac Island, the Soo Locks, Tahquamenon Falls State Park and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

“Up here, it’s one day at a time,” Spence said. “Pick what you want to do, head out and just relax. There are a ton of things for families to do and there are great places to visit. There’s always something new to do.”

To learn more about everything available in Mackinaw City, check out the visitors bureau here or give the friendly and helpful staff a call at 800-666-0160.

Looking for places to dine alfresco? Traverse City has over 200 beautiful options

Lots of restaurants offer outdoor dining. But in the Traverse City area, dining al fresco is kind of a way of life.

In fact, two blocks in the heart of downtown are closed to traffic this summer so diners can spill into the streets and enjoy one of America’s Most Under-the-Radar Food Towns while out in the fresh air of one of the 10 Best Social Distancing Travel Destinations in the country.

“Outdoor seating is popular everywhere you go, but there is a sense of connection to nature up here that is unique to Michigan, that is unique to the Midwest,” said Harry Burkholder, chief operating officer of the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority. “We’re seeing more and more restaurants looking at ways to maximize outdoor space.”

Brew Pub in Traverse City, MI

Burkholder is one of the community leaders who teamed  up with restaurant owners and other downtown stakeholders to close part of Traverse City’s Front Street to motor vehicles through Labor Day. Instead of cars and trucks passing along Front between Union and Park streets, the pedestrian-only stretch now functions as additional café space for restaurants.

On the one hand, additional outdoor dining space is a low-risk way to increase capacity in restaurants where indoor seating now is limited during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s also another way to indulge the public’s appetite for outdoor dining in a beautiful northern Michigan setting along Grand Traverse Bay.

Dining outside on a patio in Traverse City, MI

While outdoor dining is bigger than ever this summer in downtown Traverse City, there’s also no shortage of al fresco dining options elsewhere in the Traverse City area. This searchable directory of outdoor dining options includes more than 150 restaurants and over 60 wineries, breweries and distilleries across the region – from the picturesque vineyards and tasting rooms of the Leelanau Peninsula and laid-back taverns of Benzie County to the waterfront restaurants in Antrim County and the eclectic mix of eateries and taprooms downtown.

Whether you’re looking for your morning cup of coffee, your mid-day fuel or a long sit-down dinner, there are plenty of options in the Traverse City area to dine safely outdoors and enjoy the sensory delights of a northern Michigan summer.

“Finding an outdoor dining spot around the Traverse City area is as easy as finding cherries,” said Coryn Briggs, director of digital marketing for Traverse City Tourism. “It’s no surprise since the natural scenery and small-town architecture create the perfect settings for al fresco dining.”

RELATED: 10 of Our Favorite Al Fresco Dining Spots

Some people feel more comfortable dining outdoors during the pandemic. But aside from COVID-19, there are other health reasons to make a point of eating outside this summer. For example, just as the CDC advises that outdoor dining is a relatively low-risk summertime activity, it notes that spending time outside can stimulate your body’s production of Vitamin D, which strengthens bones and helps ward off illness and disease. There’s also medical evidence that being out in the fresh air increases energy, strengthens the immune system, helps you relax and improves overall physical and emotional health.

Outdoor dining at a winery in Traverse City, MI

Plus, outdoor dining offers a comprehensive menu of sensory delights where you not only can taste the delicious flavors and smell the soothing scents of your food, but you also get to feel the warm breeze, hear the sounds of summer and see the beautiful sights of the Traverse City area.

“There’s a unique and special element of eating outside, especially in the summer months,” Burkholder said. “We only have so many months of summer in Michigan, and people want to take advantage of it.”