The Jiffy storage silos tower 135 feet above Chelsea’s Main Street, a symbol of the role that the world’s leading manufacturer of baking mix has in the community. Just seeing the brand’s familiar blue and white boxes evokes feelings of an earlier era, such that Jiffy has been labeled in business circles as “retro hip.”
You might say the same about Chelsea itself. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, downtown Chelsea features an eclectic mix of shopping, dining, arts and entertainment — all in a walkable space that feels like you’re strolling through a Norman Rockwell painting.
Chelsea truly is something else, a great place in Michigan to discover something special.
In the midst of the holiday rush, keep in mind that not every gift can be ordered online, packaged in a box and shipped to your door. Nor should it. Sometimes, the most extraordinary gifts are something else — something outside the box.
How about sharing the experience of a small-town getaway this winter? Follow this guide to plan an excursion to Chelsea in a jiffy:
As a historic place, downtown Chelsea itself is a gallery of art featuring quaint streets lined with Victorian homes and a business district with beautiful Italianate architecture. It looks like the set of a movie.
Chelsea also is the setting for The Purple Rose Theatre, which brings original works by Michigan artists as well as American classics to the stage. The professional theatre company founded by actor/singer/playwright Jeff Daniels, a Chelsea native, performs in an intimate, 168-seat venue right downtown.
Daniels’ own “Diva Royale” is being performed at The Purple Rose through Dec. 29, with the curtain set to go up Jan. 17-March 16 on the world premiere of “Never Not Once.” The Purple Rose 2018-2019 season also features Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” from April 4 through June 1 and the world premiere of “Welcome to Paradise” from June 20 to Aug. 31. Performances are nightly from Thursday through Saturday, with matinees on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Get tickets here.
Whatever your palate and dining style, you can find a restaurant you’ll love in downtown Chelsea. For fine dining, Common Grill is routinely ranked as one of southeast Michigan’s best restaurants. People travel from all over for the upscale bistro’s premier seafood and seasonal menu, and it does not disappoint.
If your mouth waters for an old-fashioned burger or steak, stop by Cleary’s Pub. The classic Irish pub features outstanding food and live music in a space with old brick walls and a turn-of-the-century original tin ceiling.
Smokehouse 52 BBQ this fall was voted one of the 10 best barbecue restaurants in Michigan. The all-American BBQ sports a cow hanging from the sign outside the door.
For local craft beer paired with bites from a deli-style kitchen, check out Chelsea Alehouse Brewery, which hosts live music on Wednesday nights this winter. Across the street you can sip craft spirits at Ugly Dog Distillery.
Valiant Bar & Grill is a new sports bar that opens in December with a perfect mix of food, drink and sports. The diverse menu features everything from All-American burgers to Mediterranean cuisine to Tex-Mex along with a variety of beers, specialty cocktails and wines.
Pizza lovers will enjoy classic hometown pies at Thompson’s Pizzeria. And, in Chelsea, the Michigan chain Jet’s Pizza takes the form of a sports bar with unique craft beers and live music in The Rumpus Room next door.
Live music and open mics also are hosted regularly at Zou Zou’s Café in a French-themed setting where you can pair delicious cinnamon rolls and scones with a beer.
Whether you’re on the hunt for that perfect Christmas gift or shopping for yourself, there’s something for everyone in downtown Chelsea. If someone on your list is a challenge to buy for, check out Bumble’s Dry Goods. The store offers all kinds of hard-to-find items, unique artwork and homemade furniture.
Speaking of furniture and home décor, Merkel Furniture offers three stories of it in downtown Chelsea and is an inspiring place to wander around and dream. La Maison is a boutique home décor store that features Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan and holds workshops on refinishing furniture.
Elsewhere downtown you can browse the shelves at Serendipity Books, peruse old-world quality at La Jolla Fine Jewelry, find a one-of-a-kind pieces at Chelsea Antiques or visit the fitting rooms at one of Chelsea’s boutique clothing stores to try out a new style (inspired, perhaps, by the costume design at The Purple Rose!). Then, take a break and unwind at Wines on Main, be pampered at Amber Indigo Facials, grab a snack at Chelsea Bakery or treat yourself at Hair By Trios, a certified organic salon.
On Feb. 8-9, Chelsea will transform into the world headquarters of chocolate and curling. The community will set up four sheets of ice for the Curling Fest that involves competition, lessons, beer, food trucks and fire pits. That same weekend is the Chocolate Extravaganza when stores in Chelsea give out free samples of everything chocolate.
Just outside of town in Michigan’s largest state park in the Lower Peninsula you can find some of the best mountain biking and hiking around. The DTE Energy Foundation Trail inside the Waterloo Recreation Area features more than 20 miles of trails, including one loop that’s been named the best in Michigan. The recreation area also is home to the Eddy Discovery Center, a nature center with hiking loops through Michigan’s great outdoors.
And, of course, the Jiffy Mix plant is open for tours. “It’s actually fascinating to watch them fill thousands of boxes of mix,” said Monica Monsma, executive director of the Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce. “It’s really a huge operation. They’re one of our largest employers and it’s what we’re really known for.”
Relaxing places to stay
Just a few steps from The Purple Rose and the rest of downtown, Chelsea House Victorian Inn bed-and-breakfast offers period-decorated rooms and an intimate carriage house suite. So much of the home’s interior, from the woodwork to the furniture, is original to the 19th century with details perfectly preserved.
A short drive out of town is the Waterloo Gardens Bed & Breakfast, a country inn in a beautiful setting close to hiking and biking trails and near the Triple Crane Monastery that offers yoga and meditation classes.
If a B&B isn’t your style, check in to the Chelsea Comfort Inn where you can relax in an in-room whirlpool or lounge by the indoor pool.
Start building your small-town Michigan getaway with tickets to a Purple Rose play and go from there!
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.