Category: Travel and Adventure

Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry Took Guests Around the World and Beyond in 2018

It’s only eight miles to Mackinac Island from the Shepler’s ferry dock in Mackinaw City, and even fewer than that for passengers departing from the other side of the Mackinac Bridge in St. Ignace. Yet, when you shuttle Mackinac visitors back and forth throughout the spring, summer and fall, the mileage starts to add up.

During the 2018 season from late April through October, Shepler’s made thousands of round trips from the mainland to Mackinac. The total distance for all those ferry trips? More than 102,000 miles.

That’s the equivalent of going around the world four times! Or about half the distance that Apollo 11 traveled to reach the moon nearly 50 years ago!

Were you along for the ride in 2018?

Even though it’s been less than a month since the 2018 Mackinac ferry season ended, it’s already time for the holidays. The days are counting down to Christmas, and the clock is ticking down to Shepler’s 2019 opening day, too. There are less than 150 days until the new Mackinac ferry season starts April 21!

You can get a jump on 2019 travel to Mackinac by taking advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials available this week as Shepler’s gives thanks for a great 2018. Use the promo code blackfriday18 to get $6 off regular adult round-trip tickets purchased here on Friday, Nov. 23, or Saturday, Nov. 24. Tickets are good anytime during the 2019 season, from April 21 through Oct. 31.

Then, on Cyber Monday, you can get bonus bucks on gift cards. For every $50 gift card purchased here on Monday, Nov. 26, you get an extra $10 for free. The gift cards can be used for Shepler’s rides anytime over the next five years.

Here are some more fun facts about Shepler’s 73rd season ferrying visitors back and forth to Mackinac:

  • Shepler’s ferries made 7,290 trips to the island — nearly 40 trips per day over the course of the season.
  • Shepler’s ferries traveled 102,060 miles, which is enough to circle each of the five Great Lakes 10 times, cross the Pacific Ocean 20 times or span the Atlantic Ocean nearly 30 times.
  • In addition to ferry rides to Mackinac, Shepler’s took 100,000 guests under the Mackinac Bridge on cruises around the Straits of Mackinac to see lighthouses, the sparkling northern Michigan night sky or Fourth of July fireworks.

Looking ahead to 2019, Shepler’s 74th season will open on Sunday, April 21, with a 7:30 a.m. Easter morning shuttle. In the meantime, remodeling of the Shepler’s dock on Mackinac continues and several other improvements are in the works including parking upgrades in St. Ignace and Mackinaw City.
You can stay updated on the Shepler’s Facebook page and start saving on a 2019 trip to Mackinac with these great Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

8 Unique Michigan Experiences for Your Next Date Night

So, axe throwing is a thing. Just pick up a hatchet, stand about 15 feet from a target and let it fly.

How about that for your next date night?

“We’ve actually had a lot of people come in looking for an alternative to dinner and a movie,” said Rich Baker, owner of Bull’s Eye Axe Throwing in Lansing. “It’s one of the only sports where men, women and kids are all on the same playing field.

“It’s not about strength at all. It’s all about technique and consistency. We have as young as 8-year-olds that throw with us and our oldest people that we’ve had throwing with us is 90.”

Axe throwing in the past couple years has emerged as a popular leisure activity that’s growing around the country, although Bull’s Eye is one of only a few places in Michigan where you can do it.

Wanna give it a shot, er, throw? Book a hotel and come hang out at Bull’s Eye for an hour or two. While you’re in town, you can check out other unique Michigan experiences that you can only have in Lansing:

1. There’s yoga, with stretching and breathing exercises. Then there’s goat yoga, with cute little animals climbing over, under and on top of you as you do stretching and breathing exercises. Goat Yoga Michigan in Williamston, just east of Lansing, is one of a handful of centers around the country where yoga turns into animal-assisted therapy with the playful presence of goats. It’s a memorable way to get some exercise while bonding with friendly animals that pine for your attention.

2. The Beatles never performed in Lansing, but the city is home to one of the most impressive collections of Beatles memorabilia. The Spector Beatles Collection includes about 2,000 square-feet of paraphernalia in a private house in Dimondale. Fans can make an appointment to tour the collection for $10. Artifacts include many vintage items from the 1960s, original works of art and hand-signed items that owners Victoria Spector-Walker and Jim Walker have collected over the years.

3. ChrisCross SlaughterSauce and Malice in Plunderland are real characters in the Capital Region, where the Lansing Derby Vixens and East Lansing Mitten Mavens compete in the rough-and-tumble realm of roller derby. The sport is chronicled in the 2009 Michigan-made movie, “Whip It,” and is truly a change of pace from mainstream sports like football and basketball. Check out the team sites for match schedules and see the women make incredible moves on the flat track.

4. If you’d rather participate in an activity than watch it, check out the District 5 Extreme Air Sports trampoline park. The facility in Lansing has 10,000 square-feet of connected trampolines for crazy jumping, slam dunking, extreme dodgeball and even a ninja obstacle course like on TV. And, no, it’s not just for kids. Grown-ups can have a blast here, too.

5. Don’t have tickets to the basketball game? No problem. The Izzo Hall of History at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center is open throughout the year on non-game days. You can relive the glories ofMSU basketball by getting a look at the program’s trophy collection, paying tribute to notable former players and taking a selfie in Sparty heaven. Afterwards, head on over to the MSU Dairy Store and taste what even Michigan fans will tell you is the best ice cream in the state.

6. You can taste the best food in mid-Michigan by visiting any number of Greater Lansing restaurants, and with JoyRide Pedal Tours you can combine the area’s fine cuisine with the happiest biking experience in the world. Get a group of friends together on a bike with 15 seats and go on an extraordinary pub crawl, progressive dinner or exercise expedition.

7. Cross something off your Michigander bucket list by attending the lighting of the official state Christmas tree, a 62-footer from Alpena. The 2018 event in front of the Michigan Capitol building is part of the annual Silver Bells in the City that kicks off the holiday season with a gift market, live concert and arrival of Santa Claus in an incredible Electric Light Parade.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

This National Park’s Growth Helps Michigan Businesses Thrive

When Amie Nolan looks out at Munising’s downtown business district, she’s quick to note what isn’t there — chain-owned stores and big box retailers.

From her Taco Primo restaurant, there’s a couple of pizza joints, a brewery, an ice cream shop, a flower store and more, all within a stone’s throw in this Upper Peninsula city that is known as the home of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Indian Head, Munising

“We’re built on local businesses,” said Nolan, who opened her taco shop in May. “A lot of my friends own their own businesses and we put our hearts and our passion into what we do. We do it for our year-round residents and all the interesting people we meet every day when they visit us from wherever they call home.

“There’s so much energy here in Munising.”

Chapel Rock, Munising

Kathy Reynolds, who heads the Alger County Chamber of Commerce, said within the last year about 12 new restaurants, stores and shops have opened, placing Munising’s vacancy rate at almost zero.

“That’s almost unheard of for a rural, small town like we are,” Reynolds said. “Everything is homegrown here and these people are invested in the community, but we couldn’t be as successful without the park and what it gives us.”

Learn more about Munising here and start planning your vacation by requesting a visitors guide.

The national park drives the tourism industry in Alger County and has become an international destination. More than 775,000 people visited the park in 2017, spending about $33 million, according to a government analysis. The visitors supported 400 jobs that likely wouldn’t exist otherwise, authorities say.

Visitor spending centers on lodging or campsites, food and beverages as well as souvenirs, experts reported.

Park Superintendent David Horne said in a statement that the park is honored to show off the resources it has, in addition to helping the local economy.

Munising

“National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service,” Horne said. “We greatly appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”

The revenue has allowed locals to stay in the region instead of having to leave to find jobs elsewhere. Nolan, who is originally from Lansing, moved to Munising with her husband, a native of the town of roughly 2,500.

“People want to live and work here,” Reynolds said. “The park’s growth has given them the opportunity to do that and diversify our economy. Sure, there’s growing pains from time to time, but we’re happy to have that experience rather than one where we’re losing amenities.”

Reynolds said local business owners have been improving storefronts, adding to the town’s revitalization.

Cori-Ann Cearley, president of Munising’s Visitors Bureau, said tourism is a way of life in Munising.

“It’s our number one industry and we love it,” she said. “I think people enjoy feeling welcomed and being greeted with the kindness and manners that we have in Munising. I truly believe the park’s health is our health and we need each other to be our best.”

Miners Castle, Munising

Nolan, meanwhile, marvels at what her staff of 15 does while serving more than 200 guests a day during the height of the season.

“We work for each other and to treat our customers as best as we can every day,” she said. “It’s hard work, but we love it.”

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

11 Awesome Michigan Things to Put on Your Fall To-Do List

Cool nights, changing leaves and football tailgates are just some of the reasons that fall is a great time of year. In fact, more Americans say fall is their favorite season than any other.

Fall is especially nice in Michigan, where we experience a clear transition from the hot, sunny days of summer to the chilly snows of winter. In Michigan, we really do have four distinct seasons, each offering its own unique joys.

Some people like spring the best, or summer or even winter. But here are 11 reasons that fall is the best time of year in Michigan:

Fall is time for the harvest. We celebrate our state’s bounty of agricultural goodness on Thanksgiving Day. Until then, we head out to the farm and have a blast picking apples, navigating corn mazes and taking hayrides to the pumpkin patch. Heading to a U-Pick farm or farm market makes a great family outing.

Speaking of agricultural bounty, Michigan is a big producer of wine grapes and fall is the best time to see the grapes pressed into wine on a vineyard tour. Of course, it’s also the best season for visiting a tasting room and finding a new favorite wine. Combining a wine tasting with a fall color tour gives you the base ingredients for a romantic weekend getaway.

Let’s not forget about hard ciders, or craft beers. Just like you can go on a winery tour, you can go on a tour of Michigan microbreweries and find something new. You can reserve a beer bus, or incorporate Michigan’s great outdoors on a paddle or cycling tour of breweries and distilleries. Traverse City Beer Week from Nov. 9-16 is a great way to experience Michigan’s craft beer scene.

The water isn’t as warm and you might need a windbreaker, but the beach is still open in the fall. It’s much less crowded, yet no less beautiful. The blue lakes and golden sand mix with the changing colors of the leaves to create an incredible setting for romantic picnics and long walks by the water. Plus, the sun sets earlier in the evening, leaving more time to enjoy the rest of your vacation.

There’s no one right way to go on a fall color tour. Maybe you drive around in search of roadside fruit stands or go from one winery to the next. Maybe you seek out charming restaurants along the way or take breaks to shop in some of Michigan’s great downtowns. The important thing is to get out on the open road and soak in the stunning vistas of the Great Lakes State in fall. A couple recommended routes: M-22 in Leelanau County and the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

fall color tour by kayak on any of Michigan’s many inland lakes and rivers also is a fantastic option…

…and so is a fall color tour by bike. It’s not so hot and sweaty to get out in the fall on a trail like TART, Michigan’s premier trail network in Traverse City.

When crowds thin out after school starts in the fall, popular tourist spots like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore quiet down a bit. Yet, fall hiking in Michigan offers some of the more incredible sights of the year. Fall is also a great time for birding, when you can see migratory birds head south for the winter, and fishing, when salmon make their annual run upriver from the big lakes.

As you can see here on The Torch course at A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort near Traverse City, “Up North” golf reaches its peak in the fall. The courses stay green and the water remains a beautiful blue, while the trees come ablaze with colors of scarlet, orange and gold. It almost makes you want to hit your ball into the woods! After the round you can settle your bets — or double-down on your winnings — at the casino.

With more freshwater coastline than any other state, Michigan naturally has an abundance of lighthouses. Many of them, like the Grand Traverse lighthouse in Northport on Lake Michigan, are open for tours, and the photo ops in fall are better than ever.

From 5k runs like the Harvest Stompede on Old Mission Peninsula to bike races like the Iceman Cometh Challenge in Traverse City, Michigan has plenty of opportunities in the fall to get outside and compete. Have you ever tackled an obstacle race? Is this fall the time to run your first marathon? Maybe you should celebrate Halloween this year with a Zombie Run.

You can experience any or all of the 11 reasons fall is Michigan’s best season by visiting Traverse City. Plan now and take advantage of Fab Fall Packages that include deals on lodging between Sept. 4 and Dec. 14 and discounts on dining, shopping, wineries, spas and more.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

How These 3 Changes Will Impact Your U.P. Snowmobiling Plans

As an El Niño weather pattern pushes into the U.S. this winter, potentially bringing warmer than normal temperatures and lighter than normal snowfall, there’s little worry in Cori-Ann Cearly’s voice as she evaluates the upcoming Upper Peninsula snowmobile season.

“There’s never really a problem or a question if we’ll have enough snow,” Cearly, the president of the Munising Visitors Bureau, says with a laugh.

She’s gained that confidence based on an average snowfall of 230 inches in Alger County, making it nearly a guarantee that the Lake Superior-side town of Munising and its surrounding 330 miles of groomed trails will be as flush with snow as ever.

The “preseason” also indicates the trail system will be ready to go. As Cearly talked in mid-November, there were already more than 8 inches on the ground and volunteers were putting the finishing touches to be ready to send snowmobilers off for adventures to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and beyond.

Known as the Snowmobile Capital of the Midwest, Alger County is the place to be for sled riders looking for a complete trail system that allows travel between towns, through woods and to incredible ice caves and ice structures.

Cearly said offseason improvements have prepped the region for another outstanding year.

Here are three new developments that will make snowmobiling Munising better than ever:

30 more miles of trails groomed daily

Members of the Snowmobile & O.R.V. Association of Alger County (SORVA for short) have taken over an additional 30 miles of trail that they will groom every day beginning on Dec. 1, the official start of the snowmobiling season. The added miles are on either end of the 300 miles that have been regularly maintained. It will provide access Au Train to Shingleton and all trails and points between, Cearly said. A group that had maintained the trails handed the mileage over because it was too hard and too far from their home base. SORVA goes out every night to perfect the trail so there will be less rattling and rolling for your ride.

Widened trails improve safety

The trails that already allowed riders to glide across the snow like a highway in the woods will now include a median of sorts. SORVA brought in brush-hogging equipment over the warmer months to provide more room to ride — a key safety factor when sled operators encounter each other while traveling in opposite directions. Cearly estimates that the paths have 30 percent more room. While the width could allow three riders to fan out side-by-side, it is still strongly recommended to travel the trails single-file.

Low-lying areas have been in-filled

More off-season trail preparation has brought even better grading and filling to eliminate large depressions and holes. Don’t worry, there are still great hills and varying terrain, but riders won’t hit pothole-like conditions while zipping around the trail. Previously snowfalls would not completely fill and level the terrain since the snow packs down and forms around the hole, just like a pothole that will jar you while driving on pavement.

“All of this has been done to make it a better experience,” Cearly said. “You’re going to have just as much fun, probably more, because it’s going to be such a smooth ride.”

Learn more about all Munising has to offer here.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

3 Adventurous Ways to Enjoy Fall on Mackinac Island

There’s a reason the British built Fort Holmes where they did. Two hundred years ago, it just wasn’t easy for American forces to get up there, some 320 feet above lake level on the highest point of Mackinac Island.

 

The peak summer tourism season has ended, but Mackinac Island is still open for adventure this fall. And it’s as beautiful as ever.

Two centuries later, reaching Fort Holmes remains a challenge.“It’s all uphill,” said Jimmy Fisher, a year-round islander who owns Mackinac Wheels and Mackinac Bike Barn.

The reward for making it up to the top is not only a look around the recently-restored fort, but a spectacular, panoramic view of the island and the surrounding waters. It’s especially beautiful in the fall, when the blue of the Mackinac Straits contrasts with the reds, oranges and yellows of the leaves on the trees below Fort Holmes and nearby Point Lookout.

“Seeing the changing colors adds a different perspective to the island,” Fisher said. “One of my favorite spots in the fall to go is Point Lookout. You get a good northern view of the trees.”

The summer tourism season has faded into fall, but Mackinac Island is still open for adventure. Here are some of the best ways to experience the splendor of Mackinac in September and October:

Hike the trails — More than 80 percent of the island is a state park, and there are 70-some miles of trails running through it — including over 30 miles of single-track trails only wide enough for single-file hiking or biking.

 

A state park makes up more than 80 percent of Mackinac Island, which has 70-some miles of trails running through it.

Tranquil Bluff Trail is one of the more challenging trails on the island, and it offers incredible clifftop views of the lake below. “It’s very rooty and rocky with lots of ups and downs and they’re pretty steep,” Fisher said. “Part of it’s not even bikeable, but you can walk it.”

Other scenic trails: Lime Kiln and Winnebago trails on the east side of the island near Arch Rock; Allouez, Coffee, Indian Pipe and Trillium trails on the west side near the village; British Landing Nature Trail on the north side. Find maps here.

Explore the sites — Everybody goes to the iconic Arch Rock. Not everybody sees the other unique geologic sites farther into the island’s interior. If you can make it up to Point Lookout, you not only get a great view of the trees to the north but also a look at Sugar Loaf, a giant rock that rises 80 feet out of the middle of Mackinac.

The contrast between the island’s largest limestone stack, the fall colors around it and the beautiful blue waters beyond makes for a striking vista. Adventurous types can even take a staircase down to Sugar Loaf to get up close, where you’ll feel dwarfed by the sheer size of the tower.

Other sites to explore: Sunset Rock in the Stonecliffe Area is a popular engagement spot with a great view of the Mackinac Bridge; Crack-in-the-Island near the airport is a literal crack in the island; Skull Cave near Fort Holmes once housed piles of bones.

Pedal around — Because cars are not allowed on Mackinac, there are tons of bikes. You can take your own to the island on the ferry or rent from one of several shops. Most everybody who bikes takes a ride around the island on M-185, the country’s only state highway without cars. It’s 8.2 miles around the loop, which takes about an hour or so without stops.

 

You can take your own bike to Mackinac on the ferry or rent from one of several shops on the island.

There also are many miles of paved or gravel roads running the interior of the island, as well as single-track dirt trails. A fat tire bike is recommended to handle the roots and rocks of the dirt paths.

Other ways to get around: take a horse-drawn carriage ride through town or a saddle ride through the island’s interior; go for a sunrise kayak paddle and see fall colors from the water; get behind the wheel of a golf cart at the historic Wawashkamo Golf Club or The Jewel at the Grand Hotel.

After a day of play outdoors, relax the night away at one of Mackinac’s great restaurants and taste some world-famous Mackinac Island fudge, or join the party during the island’s inaugural Macktoberfest or popular Halloween weekend. Check out the island’s calendar of fall events.

 

Combine Work and Play in this Michigan Meeting Hub

 

A week-long class at Central Michigan University brought Mary Zucchero to Mt. Pleasant, but it was her discovery of Deerfield Nature Park that keeps bringing her back even when she’s not on business.

Zucchero, the executive director of the Livingston County Convention & Visitors Bureau, was impressed by the wildlife, the soothing sounds of the Chippewa River and the ability to stretch her legs on eight miles of hiking trails after being in a classroom all day.

“(It’s) a hidden gem and it’s one of the best parks in the state,” said Zucchero, an avid hiker who enjoys time on her local metroparks system in addition to state and national trails. “I needed a break from all the studying and classes and found this park. I went every day and sometimes twice a day.

“It’s rare to find a park in Michigan with a covered bridge, two suspension footbridges and amazing trails that overlook the river.”

Zucchero sat by the river and read, watched as kayakers floated by on the Chippewa River and observed birdwatchers in the serene setting. It’s an environment that relieves stress and serves as a year-round attraction for those looking to unwind. The 591-acre park also features:

  • 4 covered pavilions
  • kayak/canoe launch
  • Two 18-hole disc golf course
  • artesian well
  • cross-country skiing (groomed trails)
  • sledding hill
  • sandy swimming beach
  • fishing along the Chippewa River

In addition to Deerfield Park, the Mt. Pleasant area claims many other activities to free your mind. Here are tips to get the most out of your visit:

Outdoor action:

Mt. Pleasant is surrounded with outdoor beauty and activities that will get your blood moving after a day in a meeting or classroom.

  • Golf: Bring your clubs on your fall trip because Michigan’s Central Swing can help craft a perfect golf outing for your group or individuals can use it as a guide for the 11 courses on the golf trail. The diverse course styles can challenge golfers with championship, links-style or classic designs.
  • Footgolf: Try something new with footgolf, a soccer-style outing that uses your legs as the club at Riverwood Resort. Nine holes gives people of all skill levels to enjoy the outdoors without the precision of traditional golf.

  • Water wonderland: Head out on clear and calm waters of the Chippewa River in a canoe or kayak. Check out these three rental locations and take in three season views of woodland habitats and wildlife.

Indoor enthusiasm:

There’s no shortage of activities and events to keep you busy while around town.

  • Roll the dice or Rock the house: Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort has the largest gaming floor in the Midwest with thousands of slots, table games, poker and more. The jam-packed excitement extends to the resort’s indoor concert hall and huge outdoor venue, sites where national acts in country, pop, rock and comedy routinely light up the night and bring down the house.

  • Play Pebble Beach: When the weather won’t allow for live golf, Bucks Run Virtual Golf is a full-swing, indoor golf simulator that has 16 world-famous courses to choose from.

Dinner and a drink on the town:

If you’re looking for a more relaxing wind down, you’ll find it here.

Find an event or activity to entertain you on your trip to Mt. Pleasant.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.