Tag: Featured

Is winter or spring your favorite? March in Michigan gives us both!

downtown

Michigan is blessed with four distinct seasons, each with its own unique opportunities for outdoor recreation. And in March, we often get to experience two of those seasons in the same month.

On the one hand, it’s still officially winter – at least until March 20. Yet, this month is also when we start to see the first beautiful glimpses of spring.

Whether you like winter or spring, you can get out there and enjoy it somewhere in Michigan this March. And you can save money, too, by jumping on one of these great Pure Michigan deals.

Here are seven ways this month to either enjoy a last blast of Michigan winter or feel the first fruits of spring:

  • Snow skiing – Cool nights mean Michigan ski resorts can keep making snow. There’s still time to hit the slopes at Shanty Creek Resort and enjoy overnight lodging rates as low as $108 per night with the Bellaire Means Fresh Air Or you can celebrate March and save at Crystal Mountain Resort with 25% off select Hot Lodging Dates this month, plus free skiing and breakfast for kids age 6 and under. With downhill runs, Nordic trails, tubing hills, ice skating and so much more, there’s an outdoor activity for every member of your party throughout March and even into April. Person snow-biking
  • Other winter activities – Farther north, on the Keweenaw Peninsula, conditions remain wintry. There’s incredible skiing at Mount Bohemia. And there’s still enough snow for other winter activities, too, from snow biking and snowshoeing to marveling at the splendor of frozen waterfalls and exploring more than 230 miles of snowmobile trails along the shores of Lake Superior and into historic downtowns where you can take a break and grab a bite to eat. With the Keweenaw Winter Package, you can save up to 25% on lodging this month when staying three or more nights.

RELATED: Why Northern Michigan is Ideal for Spring Skiing

  • Watching nature’s rebirth – Downstate, the weather is often a lot different in March. In fact, thousands of tropical butterflies are blooming at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids where the conservatory temperature is a balmy 85 degrees! Outdoors, it’s nice enough to watch salmon leap through the Grand Rapids Fish Ladder as they swim upstream to spawn. You could check out both signs of spring this month and get 25% off your second night with Spring Hotel Packages at select places to stay in Grand Rapids. Then, you can use the money you save on lodging to relax on a patio and sip new spring releases from Beer City USA’s many craft breweries.downtown
  • Exploring Michigan cities – March can be a pleasant time to stroll through a Michigan downtown. There are more than 250 cities across the state, each with its own unique personality and character. For example, Ann Arbor’s walkable streets, one-of-a-kind shops and diverse selection of restaurants offer plenty to discover on a weekend getaway or a mid-week break from the routine. More than 60 Hotel Packages and Promotions are available this month in Ann Arbor with savings of 15% to 50% off regular rates!
  • Hedge your bets with indoor/outdoor options – Whatever weather Mother Nature brings this month, you’ll find something to do during your stay at Bay Pointe Inn on Gun Lake, south of Grand Rapids. March is a perfect time to play on the area’s hiking and biking trails or relax on the resort’s 375 feet of lake frontage with pontoon and kayak rentals available. And you can always try your luck at nearby Gun Lake Casino, take a dip in the resort’s indoor pool or retreat to your own room’s whirlpool tub. Bay Pointe is offering 15% off rooms on weeknights in March, with great deals on cottages and villas for larger groups.
  • Golf – As the snow melts and green grass reappears, it’s hard not to think about getting back out on the links. March is a good time to make plans for a golf excursion. For example, Mackinac Island’s historic Grand Hotel right now is booking reservations for its incredible Tea for Two Golf Package that includes unlimited golf on The Jewel along with overnight accommodations, breakfast and dinner each day, admission to the Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum and daily Afternoon Tea in Grand Hotel’s Parlor.
  • Go on Spring Break! – Of course, March also brings the start of Spring Break as colleges and then grade schools take a week off from classes. Why not plan something special this year right here in Michigan? Drummond Island Resort offers a variety of action-packed family activities including ORV and bicycle trails, skeet clay shooting and other outdoor games as well as winter recreation, weather permitting. The resort’s Spring Break Family Getaway has packages from $125 per night including a $40 dining voucher. Or, stay on the mainland and use a Traverse City Escape Package to get discounted lodging and deals on a wide range of activities and attractions for all ages. Spring is when you can see new life burst forth at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, sample the latest varietals on a tour of the Traverse Wine Coast or have a blast with axe throwing, boutique bowling and other indoor fun at The Den at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. Plus, the Traverse City area is home to the Great Lakes Children’s Museum, Michigan Legacy Art Park at Crystal Mountain Resort and the West Bay Beach Resort with an outdoor swimming pool heated to 95 degrees!

Changing seasons are one of the special joys of living in Michigan. Be sure to take time this March to personally bid farewell to winter and welcome spring. Don’t miss out on the transition that’s already underway!

See more Pure Michigan vacation deals and packages available in March

Visit 6 unique cities on 1 dream trip to the Great Lakes Bay region

Dow Gardens' Dr. Seuss Sculpture

Moving through the treetops along the nation’s longest canopy walk is totally safe. But your brain doesn’t always process it that way.

As you hang out on a cargo net a few stories above ground or peer through a glass overlook 40 feet high, there’s a “perceived sense of danger,” as if you’re constantly on the edge of falling off a cliff. There’s also a very real and exhilarating sense of adventure and discovery.

You could say the same thing about this spring in Michigan.

The canopy walk at Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens in Midland takes you through the trees at heights of 25 to 40 feet.

The canopy walk at Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens in Midland takes you through the trees at heights of 25 to 40 feet.

It’s been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began. And although the virus remains a risk to be taken seriously, this spring is our best chance in a long time to get out of the house and enjoy some of our state’s coolest places, like the 1,400-foot canopy walk at the Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens in Midland. When you experience the thrill of getting up high in the trees – amid over 50 acres of forest, ponds, meadows and orchard – you realize in ways you never could see before that there’s just so much to explore.

We all know Detroit, our state’s biggest city, and Lansing, home of our state capitol. Maybe we’ve spent time on the west side of Michigan, anchored by Grand Rapids (a.k.a. Beer City USA), or gone “Up North” to enjoy four seasons of outdoor recreation in small towns and endless miles of wilderness.

But what do you know about Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay region?

Well, it’s where you’ll find the nation’s longest canopy walk, for one. It’s also a collection of Great Lakes Bay logosix unique communities, each with their own personalities and one-of-a-kind attractions that you can safely visit this spring.

“As you go through Michigan you’re going to have awesome experiences. The Great Lakes Bay region really is the opportunity to experience six very different communities in a very short amount of time,” said Michael Hensley, travel marketing manager for the Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“If you’re planning a spring road trip, you could hit all six communities if you wanted to and have a plethora of things to do throughout the region.”

RELATED: Get to know Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay region

Let’s take a closer look at some of the things to do in the Great Lakes Bay region. Here are six stops to make on a Michigan road trip this spring:

Bay City – The Great Lakes Bay region gets its name from Saginaw Bay, and it’s no wonder the community near the base of the bay is called “Bay City.” Bay City has a nice mix of urban and outdoor recreation to enjoy. It’s the place to book a Saginaw Bay fishing charter (and spring is the best time to hook a walleye). It’s also where you can catch a ride out into

Downtown Saginaw, MI skyline along the river

Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay region features a mix of urban settings such as downtown Saginaw to go along with rural and suburban experiences.

Saginaw Bay for some incredible tall ship sailing, or cruise the Saginaw River on the Princess Wenonah. Bay City State Park features five miles of trails with a pair of 32-foot observation towers plus a nature center in one of the largest remaining freshwater, coastal wetlands in the entire Great Lakes. And the Riverwalk makes for a nice stroll or bike ride through parks and along the waterway that splits Bay City in two.

 

Downtown, you’ll find boutique shops, art galleries and the enormous 60,000-square-foot Bay City Antiques Center, which is Michigan’s largest antique store with more than 400 booths. Of course, there are plenty of downtown dining and drinking options, too, including the Sunrise Pedal Trolley where you can ride from place to place on a bike big enough for 16 people!

Shiawassee Flats at sunset

The Great Lakes Bay region is where wildlife finds sanctuary in the “Everglades of Michigan.”

Saginaw – With a craft brewery, wine and martini bar, distillery and other watering holes, the Great Lakes Bay’s largest city is the perfect place to start a self-guided tour of the region’s many breweries and taprooms. It’s also a cultural center that’s home to the Saginaw Art Museum, which has a permanent collection of more than 2,000 objects spanning over 4,000 years, and the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum, which exhibits more than 200 plaster, bronze and metal works.

Families visiting Saginaw with younger children will want to check out the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum for tons of hands-on educational activities and the Saginaw Children’s Zoo for 10 acres of beautiful gardens, animal exhibits and a hand-carved carousel.

Saginaw also makes a great home base for an exploration of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, nicknamed the “Everglades of Michigan.” Even just driving through the refuge can expose you to lots of migratory birds. But the best ways to catch sight of bald eagles and great egrets is by booking a scenic boat tour with Johnny Panther Quests Adventure Trips.

Wilderness Trails Zoo signBirch Run – With the warmer weather of spring, it’s a great time to come out of hibernation and enjoy some outdoor shopping. Birch Run Premium Outlets has more than 100 name-brand stores offering daily discounts of up to 65% off.

But shopping is just one of many things to do in Birch Run. The community offers up-close animal encounters at Wilderness Trails Zoo, which features more than 200 animals and 50 different exotic species including zebras, lions, parrots and reptiles. Kids will also have a blast at Alpine Mountain, an entertainment center with two mini-golf courses, an arcade, go karts and bumper boats. And spring is when the green flag comes out for the start of racing season at the short track Birch Run Speedway.

River Place Shops entranceIn addition to brand-name shops, you’ll also find lots of familiar restaurants where you can refuel during a day of activity in Birch Run. And if you’re looking for something special, be sure to check out Tony’s I-75 Restaurant where you can get a one-pound BLT loaded with bacon!

Frankenmuth – Although it’s in the middle of the Great Lakes Bay region, Frankenmuth looks and feels like you’ve gone across the pond. The community with strong German roots highlights that heritage through architecture, food and even shops. River Place Shops is a German-style outdoor mall with more than 40 stores and attractions such as a maze of mirrors. Frankenmuth also is known for Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store.

Shiawassee River rapids is among the peaceful and relaxing attractions in Chesaning, a charming village in the Great Lakes Bay region.

Shiawassee River rapids is among the peaceful and relaxing attractions in Chesaning, a charming village in the Great Lakes Bay region.

Beyond shopping, Frankenmuth is a paradise for kids with two indoor water parks and the Frankenmuth Aerial Park high-ropes course and zip line. Visitors of all ages will appreciate The Michigan Heroes Museum, a one-of-a-kind attraction that pays tribute to military veterans from our great state. And, of course, like any good town with a German influence, guest ages 21 and up won’t have any trouble finding adult beverages in Frankenmuth. In fact, Frankenmuth Brewery is the oldest brewery in Michigan, and one of many stops you can make on a 2-hour PedAle Trolley cycle tour.

Chesaning – With a population of fewer than 2,500 this charming village nestled into the countryside on the Shiawassee River offers a quiet getaway in classic small-town America.

You can slow the pace of life with a picnic along the picturesque waterfront or a relaxing round of disc golf in Showboat Park. You can browse the farm market or take a look at the

The 1,400-foot canopy walk at Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens is the longest of its kind in the country.

The 1,400-foot canopy walk at Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens is the longest of its kind in the country.

Laura Ingalls Wilder display at the Chesaning Area Historical Museum. Sit down to a peaceful dinner in a downhome restaurant such as Showboat Restaurant or the Riverfront Grille or savor dessert at The Malt Shop. Then you can spend the night in a delightful country inn or one of five cozy scrapbooking and quilting retreats.

Midland – Spring brings leaves to the trees along the canopy walk in Midland. It also brings a blooming display of more than 20,000 flowers to the beautiful Dow Gardens, and spruces up the exterior of the nearby Alden B. Dow Home & Studio where a tour of the 20,000-square-foot structure is a delight for architecture buffs and a really intriguing experience for the rest of us, too.

Spring is a great time to get outside and hike some of the 19 miles of trails at Chippewa Nature Center, a 1,200-acre haven including a visitor center with hands-on exhibits. This time of year is also when the Great Lakes Loons minor league baseball team gets back on the field at Dow Diamond, one of the best minor league stadiums in the country.

RELATED: Visiting with kids? Don’t miss these must-see attractions

Once you decide which stops to make on your spring road trip to the Great Lakes Bay region, it’s a good idea to check on any COVID restrictions that may be in place. You can contact attractions directly or find updated information through the Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention & Visitor Bureau. Gogreat.com is the best place to plan your spring trip!

MEDC-Pure Michigan logoPrecautions including social distancing, hand sanitizing and mask wearing are in place throughout the region to keep visitors comfortable and safe. That lets you concentrate on discovering all the extraordinary things to do in the Great Lakes Bay region.

“We have been experiencing the same thing for the last 12 months,” Hensley said. “We want to give people the chance to get out and have new experiences this spring.”

Black History Month: Restaurant owners grateful for past, but ‘every day of the year is black history for us’

A decorated outdoor wall, with faces painted on it

Just as Italian-Americans and Michiganders of other backgrounds contribute to the state’s diverse menu of local food offerings, so do African Americans.

We’re taking the occasion of Black History Month to note and celebrate the influence of black restaurant owners across the state – from Eugene Allen, a “country bumpkin” who grew up hunting squirrels in northern Michigan and has deer and turkey mounts on the walls of his bar, to Godwin Ihentuge, a first-generation American who’s bringing the food culture of his Nigerian heritage to the Mitten State. And from Cory and Tarra Davis, who barbecue award-winning ribs in Grand Rapids while broadening the menu to include plant-based options, to Lloyd M. Talley, a Ph.D. in human development who’s conducting a “social experiment” in Detroit by opening a new kind of eatery that’s a model for the future of urban food.

They all have vastly different stories. Yet, they share in common the experience of being black business owners working to make Michigan’s local food scene more delicious than ever.

 

Continuing a legacy

Cory and Tarra Davis of Daddy Pete's BBQ

How can you support black-owned restaurants in Michigan? “(Black History Month) is not just a one-month fad. It is a life that we live all year long, and we really just want people to be intentional in thinking about where you’re spending your dollars,” said Tarra Davis, here with Cory outside Daddy Pete’s BBQ in Grand Rapids. “Where possible, make an intentional effort to support diverse suppliers and vendors. Don’t let black-owned business support be a trend. Let it be a lifestyle.”

Slow smoked barbecue runs in the family at Daddy Pete’s BBQ in Grand Rapids. Not only are owners Cory and Tarra Davis husband and wife, but the popular food truck with a dine-in location at 2921 Eastern Ave. SE on the corner of 28th Street gets its name from Cory’s pit master father, Pete.

Since Black History Month is about remembering the past and “continuing on the legacy for the up-and-coming generations,” as Cory says, Daddy Pete’s is a perfect black-owned restaurant to highlight. After all, Cory and Tarra have been carrying on Pete’s BBQ legacy since 2012. And they’re living up to the challenge. Combining Cory’s barbecue skills with Tarra’s gift for entertaining, Daddy Pete’s is one of Michigan’s Top 21 Restaurants to Visit in 2021.

“I love the connection between taking something from its raw state and turning it into something beautiful that people enjoy,” Cory said. “The secret to great barbecue is having a passion for it.”

In addition to succulent slow-smoked meats including ribs, pulled pork, chicken wings and beef brisket, Daddy Pete’s has award-winning side dishes and also has launched a plant-based menu with vegetarian and vegan options. There’s even a plant-based version of the restaurant’s iconic “Hot Mess.” Instead of a BBQ sundae served in a funnel cake with baked beans, six-cheese mac and cheese, a meat of your choice and creamy coleslaw, the plant-based “Hot Mess” features vegan ingredients and smoked jackfruit.

The plant-based menu has been one of Daddy Pete’s biggest sellers, “at a barbecue place of all places,” Tarra said.

“We are a husband-and-wife team together in the sauce and doing the best that we can with the gifts that we’ve been given,” she said. “Cory and I know we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors who have not had the opportunities that we do, and that we are making them proud.

“Our goal when we started was to change the financial trajectory of our family tree and to leave a legacy of ownership and self-sufficiency. Every day of the year is black history for us. We live it, and we try to be living examples of black business excellence. We are certainly not perfect, but we are always aiming towards that goal.”

Building upon the foundation laid by those who came before

Everybody seems to know Geno’s Sports Bar and Grill. The restaurant in Thompsonville, not far from Traverse City, is a popular stop for northern Michigan tourists who come to ski or golf at nearby Crystal Mountain Resort, to fish or kayak the Betsie River and to snowmobile or bike on trails that run right outside the door.

Yet, lots of people are surprised to meet Eugene Allen, the African American man who has owned the place for the past 12 years.

“They say, ‘Oh, you’re Geno? You’re not Italian,’” Allen explains, with a laugh.

A graduate of Benzie Central High School, Allen is northern Michigan through and through. He grew up hunting and fishing with his dad, who was born in Thompsonville in 1933 after Geno’s grandparents came up from Georgia because they heard how great Michigan was.

Geno Allen of Geno's Bar & Grill

After nearly 30 years working in the auto industry, Eugene Allen came to his hometown restaurant looking for a change of pace. “I got up out of my chair and asked the owner if she wanted to sell it,” he said. “Two weeks later we made a deal over the phone.” Geno says Black History Month is about “all the efforts people went through to help afford us the opportunity to better ourselves. A lot of those efforts made back then paved the way for folks like myself to have a chance.”

Allen’s dad used to catch raccoons for their pelts as one of his money-making hobbies. Then one day he caught sight of a pretty girl named Lucille, who had moved with her family from St. Louis to a farm east of Thompsonville.

Good thing for Geno. His parents’ genes helped make him a state wrestling champion. And his mother’s talent in the kitchen has helped him succeed in the restaurant industry.

“She could really cook,” Geno said. “Even when we were growing up we would tell her she should open a rib place.”

Lucille passed away last year, but she lives on through her recipes including the “sweet with a little heat” sauce that Geno uses for Lucille’s St. Louis Style Ribs, which is the special on Thursdays. The rest of the menu at Geno’s features American classics from Philly Steak Flatbread and broasted chicken to the best burger and best fish fry in all of Benzie County. And everything at Geno’s comes at great prices. There’s even $1 pints of PBR on tap.

“My accountant keeps telling me I’m not charging enough,” Allen joked.

In the same way Geno benefits from his mom’s rib sauce, he also knows that his success owes in part to civil rights pioneers. Without them, he may never have been able to buy his hometown restaurant when he came looking for a change of pace after nearly 30 years of working in the auto industry. While spending some time in town figuring out what he could do if he accepted a buyout, he asked the restaurant owner if she wanted to sell. Two weeks later, they made a deal over the phone.

“(Black History Month is about) all the efforts people went through to help afford us the opportunity to better ourselves,” Geno said. “Back in the day you weren’t even given the opportunity. You couldn’t get a bank loan, for example, or move into a certain neighborhood.

“A lot of those efforts made back then paved the way for folks like myself to have a chance. All you ask for is a fair shot.”

Celebrating the past

When Godwin Ihentuge started a pop-up restaurant in Detroit, people told him there was no market for African food. Yet, in a city populated primarily by people of color, including many like himself with family ties to Africa, the chef’s pioneering spin on fast casual Afro-Caribbean cuisine has really taken off.

The pop-up evolved into a food truck, then two years ago Ihentuge opened Yum Village in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood. The menu of “African raised, Detroit made” food features dishes such as Moin Moin, a bean dish from Nigeria, Maafe, a West African peanut stew, and Caribbean jerk chicken – many with ingredients imported from overseas.

Chef Godwin Ihentuge of Yum Village

“I think I applied for maybe 300 jobs,” said Godwin Ihentuge, who finished high school during a recession in 2002 and graduated college during the recession brought on by the subprime mortgage crisis. After working dozens of jobs ranging from rock wall climbing instructor to coupon book intern, the first-generation American built a pop-up restaurant into Yum Village, which opened in 2019 in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood.

“I grew up eating this food,” said Ihentuge, a first-generation American whose father survived civil war in Nigeria and came to the United States. “We take part in black history every day by serving African food to people of color.

“I’m here to open up the dialogue so we can start talking about all the different types of African food there are. It’s important for us to see and acknowledge representations of ourselves (in the food we eat).”

Ihentuge has an extensive food background, from working as a dishwasher in the cafeteria at Wayne State University to cooking in the kitchens of several Michigan restaurants. But he envisions Yum Village as more than a restaurant bringing African food culture into the Michigan market. In fact, he’s broadening Yum Village into a market pantry with a variety of products and services including lessons in cooking and West African djembe drumming, sauces, spices, fresh-made juices and smoothies, take-out meal kits, bath and body items inspired by the restaurant’s recipes and clothing.

Some of the expansion has been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, which overnight shifted the restaurant’s business from about 85% in-person transactions to 90% online. Yum Village needed to generate new streams of revenue to keep providing employees with good wages and quality benefits.

The wider focus also is a natural fit for Ihentuge’s merchandising skills, which he honed as a former district manager at Target.

“We’re inventing things here. We’re doing a lot of pioneering things,” he said. “By the end of it we’ll probably be like an Afro-Caribbean Target or an Afro-Caribbean Trader Joe’s.”

Forging a new future

At East Eats in Detroit, Black History Month brings a sense of gratefulness for the past. It also implores the owners to sustain and advance progress into the future, and their innovative restaurant is an effort to do just that.

Birthed out of the COVID-19 pandemic, East Eats has no indoor dining nor even an on-site kitchen. Instead, it’s a collection of geodesic domes set up in an abandoned lot in the city’s Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood.

Lloyd M. Talley of East Eats

There’s a lot happening in downtown Detroit, but there’s so much more of the city’s landscape to be experienced – including a visit to East Eats. “I don’t think we always need multi-million dollars from outside corporations to come and develop (a more robust black future),” Lloyd M. Talley said. “We’ve taken things that already exist within our local area and stitched them together in a framework.” Next time you’re in the Detroit area, come and see a side of the city that you might never have seen before.

Guests make reservations and place orders in advance from an intriguing menu that changes seasonally to reflect the owners’ diverse African American, Caribbean, Liberian and Ghanian heritages. Each reservation includes two sides (soup, salad or dessert) and an entrée such as butter shrimp, roasted chickpeas or salmon tikka. East Eats offers lots of vegan and vegetarian options, too. When visitors arrive for their picnic in a dome, their meals already have been prepared in a catering kitchen about a mile away and are there in hot bags to meet them. It’s merging the best of remote delivery with in-person dining.

East Eats not only gives people the chance to go out safely during the pandemic, benefitting both mental and physical health. It’s also a relatively low-cost alternative to a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant that makes it more affordable for many guests.

And you can tell by the sound of kids playing and of dogs barking in backyards that the neighborhood setting meets people right where they live.

“There are neighbors here that drive past every day and say ‘I didn’t think that could be in my hood,’” said Talley, who teamed with fellow Howard University alum and Detroit Black Restaurant Week founder Kwaku Osei-Bonsu on East Eats.

Talley, Osei-Bonsu and a third partner, Flint native Nygel Fyvie, say the model of East Eats can happen quickly and affordably in an eco-friendly way that empowers the community. And they believe it can be replicated across Michigan and throughout the country, especially in urban areas with large amounts of vacant land and large populations of people of color.

To them, East Eats is a way of taking the celebrated legacy of black history and pushing it forward toward an even brighter future for underserved communities in metropolitan areas around the country.

“Black History Month is a reminder that there are a lot of things that have occurred and a lot of work that has paved the way for us to be here right now,” Talley said. “But I also think about it as a responsibility to ensure that black history is not stopping with us. I hope my role in Black History Month is to show a new black future.”

RELATED: Celebrate Black History Month and explore more incredible stories, art and legacies

Save money (and your sanity) with this Spring Break road trip

Kid exploring a store in Traverse City, MI

It’s cold outside now but take a minute to imagine yourself on Spring Break. Lounging by the pool. Sipping your favorite beverage. Taking a dip in the warm water.

Too bad you can’t get pool weather on Spring Break unless you travel all the way to a place like West Bay on Grand Cayman. Or West Bay, Texas. Or West Bay Beach in Traverse City.

Wait, Traverse City? In Michigan?

Yes! The West Bay Beach Resort on Grand Traverse Bay features dining igloos and an outdoor pool heated to 95 degrees! It’s one of several ways right here in Michigan to have a hot Spring Break without flying south or booking a cruise in the midst of a pandemic.

“It’s like swimming in a hot tub,” said Michael Scandariato, hotel general manager. “Weekends have been very busy with families (at the resort) and the igloos have also remained very busy.”

swimming pool and view of outdoor dining igloos in Traverse City, MIEven as COVID-19 vaccines get slowly distributed, there remains an elevated risk in traveling across the country or overseas. That’s making road trips more popular than ever for Spring Break.

By taking a road trip within Michigan, you can save a few bucks and experience things that only the Mitten State can offer. And you can still enjoy some time poolside, too!

The Traverse City area offers lots of unique things to do for Spring Break, with options for both indoor and outdoor recreation. By taking advantage of a Traverse City Escape Package, you can even get special lodging rates combined with discounts on dining, shopping, outdoor activities and more.

Here are some ideas to help you start planning:

  • The outdoor heated pool and igloos at West Bay Beach Resort provide the perfect illustration of the indoor/outdoor fun you can have in the Traverse City area on Spring Break. You can relax inside a poolside igloo with dinner or drinks, then step outside and hop into the 95-degree pool for a swim. The heated pool is open to resort guests and to visitors who reserve a dining igloo.
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is most popular in the summer, but it’s a four-season attraction that features some special character in the spring. While some trails remain open all winter, many more are ready for visitors come March and April.  person running down a sand dune at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Traverse City, MIPlus, they’re uncrowded! Many families enjoy crawling up the park’s iconic Dune Climb, which rewards you with a stunning view of Glen Lake from the top. And if you’re really adventurous, you can keep heading west from the top of the Dune Climb all the way to Lake Michigan and back.
  • Springtime weather in the Traverse City area can vary a lot, from sunny days warm enough to spend at the beach to cool afternoons where you may need a raincoat. That’s why the variety of things to do both indoors and outdoors is such a blessing. The Great Lakes Children’s Museum is open by reservation during the pandemic and offers lots of hands-on activities for children age 8 and under.
  • For a cultural experience that’s entirely outdoors, the Michigan Legacy Art Park is a fantastic Spring Break attraction. The park showcases more than 50 sculptures along walking trails that run through a 30-acre forest preserve. Spring temperatures that are neither too hot nor too cold make for a comfortable stroll through the woods to see contemporary art the whole family will get a kick out of.

From axe throwing, boutique bowling and other indoor fun at The Den at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa to biking, hiking and other outdoor recreation on the TART Trails, there’s plenty  couple playing a virtual game at The Den at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa of opportunity to experience a memorable Spring Break right here in Michigan by visiting the Traverse City area. You could even go ice skating where the Detroit Red Wings train!

And you can do it all safely, thanks to COVID precautions being taken by Traverse City-area hotels, restaurants, shops and other attractions.

Just because we’re all leery of planes and crowded cruise ships doesn’t mean you have to cancel Spring Break. You don’t even have to endure a never-ending car ride. There’s a close-to-home option for a Spring Break excursion in the Traverse City area.

Check out Traverse City Escape packages to find a place to stay and start looking forward to Spring Break 2021!

This 330-mile trail system, the Snowmobile Capital of the Midwest, is in Michigan

snowmobiling in Munising, MI

It seems perfectly fitting for 2020, which has been unusual in so many ways, that a lack of significant snowfall has delayed activity in the Upper Peninsula’s Snowmobiling Capital of the Midwest, centered around 330 miles of trails near Munising.

But weather reports indicate that a return to normal is coming as the late December and early January forecast shows snow accumulations to hit the area in 7 of the next 10 days.

friends pose in front of the frozen Eben Ice Caves in Munising, MI area“There’s never really a problem or a question if we’ll have enough snow,” said Cori-Ann Cearly, the president of the Munising Visitors Bureau. “It’s always just a matter of when.”

The region averages 230 inches of snow each winter, making Munising and Alger County the perfect destination and starting spot 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 groomed terrain matches any snowmobiler’s taste for adventure, or an easy day on the packed surfaces to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Miner’s Castle. The wide berths and stress-relieving scenic views are the perfect tonic to the tumultuous year stained by the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of the virus in Alger County has been minimized by safety measures and social distancing. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in winter

“Going on an adventure and seeing things that bring you joy is something we all really need right now,” Cearly said. “The most important thing is that it offers an opportunity for activity that is safe and healthy.

“The trails are like a highway in the woods, and it’s a place that we can slow down take your time and just be outdoors.”

Here is what Munising visitors will find:

330 miles of trails groomed daily

Members of the Snowmobile & O.R.V. Association of Alger County (SORVA for short) begin grooming the trials Dec. 1 and continue as long as the snow lasts, which is usually into April. The system provides access from Au Train to Shingleton and all trails and points between, Cearly said.

Widened trails improve safety

The trails that already allowed riders to glide across the snow 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.”

Smaller season crowds and better rates

Now, to be fair, with hundreds of miles of trails and countless off-trail spots to ride, there’s rarely snowmobile gridlock. History, however, shows that winter is slower than the summer influx of sightseers. Lodging rates fluctuate with demand, so 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 (and pandemic) stress: The holiday haze is real as we spend much of November and December rushing around shopping and 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.

 

Cutting-edge virtual physical therapy treats everyday aches and pains at home

Alliance PT Agile PT at home

As Grand Rapids-based Alliance Physical Therapy’s leaders prepared for the nationwide launch of its Agile Virtual Care telehealth practice, they were confident in the distinct advantage the service is providing patients.

CEO Richard Leaver explained: “We are embracing the technology that allows us to leverage a 40-year history of delivering high-quality care and exceptional patient experiences beyond our brick-and-mortar locations. We have developed a network that relies on existing physical therapy professionals and their expertise and proven clinical abilities.

“While others rely on the platform and try to build out the care network, we are balancing the strength of our practices with telehealth advancements. It is a fundamental difference.”

Patients will be able to access physical therapy from the comfort of their home and at the time that fits their schedules, Leaver said. The process is simple, convenient and, most importantly, effective because of the physical therapists who will customize treatment plans for each patient.

The standard of care, evidence-based treatment and attention to detail is no different from an office visit except for it taking place via a smartphone app, on a computer or tablet.

Agile Virtual Care will serve patients experiencing everyday body pain, movement limitations, strength decreases, a lack of flexibility, as well as those who require treatment before or after surgery. The most common areas of need center around:

  • Neck
  • Back
  • Shoulder
  • Hip
  • Knee
  • Foot
  • Ankle
  • Wrist

“There is a full range of service and direct 1-on-1 care,” Leaver said. “As a consumer, you get more attention because there are no distractions and no one else in the session.”

Direct access to therapists can begin without a doctor referral and Agile Virtual Care will work with patients to determine any insurance coverage across the 29-state network. Virtual care reduces patient expenses by up to 47 percent and speeds scheduling an appointment by 60 percent over in-person care, studies have found.

“Our goal is to improve timely access to care and also geographical access,” Leaver said, pointing out that many patients do not live near a physical therapy center. Patients who do live near an office can use a hybrid treatment, particularly useful if manual therapy is needed.

The easy-to-navigate four-step process to regaining agility and muscle memory starts with requesting an appointment online or calling 1-844-648-0024 to provide patient information and a description of symptoms and limitations. Next, patients, within 12 to 24 hours, will receive an email with instructions to join a virtual care appointment at a time they’ve selected.

Patients enter a virtual waiting room before their visit and meet the therapist who will discuss the problem before evaluating mobility and movement thresholds. The trained, licensed therapist determines a course of care and recommends exercises and other recovery strategies.

The treatment continues at home through prescribed video exercises that give patients visual reference to their treatment, reminders to perform the movements and the ability to track their work. Future visits with physical therapists are charted out based on individual need. A typical first consultation and evaluation lasts approximately an hour and follow-up appointments are generally about 30 minutes

Virtual physical therapy is ideal for time-crunched professionals, weekend-warrior athletes who want to get back in the game and those simply looking to improve their lives, Leaver said. The virtual platform allows patients to skip steps necessary to access help.

Instead of going to an urgent care or scheduling an appointment with a primary care physician, who often will refer patients to physical therapy, there is a direct line to assistance.

“We’re really breaking new ground here with the immediate access to a robust, effective method of treating a wide range of conditions,” Leaver said. “We’re making it easier for people to live and feel their best.”

Visit Agile Virtual Care today to learn more or reach the physical therapy team here.

Public art exhibition is “a gift” to viewers and artists

ARTpath 2019 is here!

Maddie Jackson doesn’t mince words when she talks about her experience painting a massive mural as part of the third annual ARTpath River Trail Exhibition along a 3.5-mile stretch of the path from Old Town to REO Town in Lansing

“It’s important that art is openly available to the public,” said Jackson, of Muskegon. “Working on this project has, honestly, just been a gift. It’s allowed me to get a piece that’s really personal to me out to the public and hopefully brighten someone’s day.”

The public art exhibition, sponsored by the Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center, features 19 unique art installations from Michigan-based makers and brings visual arts to accessible spaces.

The gallery partnered with donors, the City of Lansing and its Parks and Recreation Department to create the display. The path, accessible on foot, bike or hopping in and out of a kayak from the Grand River, features sculptures, paintings, large scale murals and mixed media.

The pieces, which can be found on this map, are designed to be interactive and engaging with park visitors. Last summer over 62,000 visitors enjoyed the River Trail during the duration of the project.

Watch the video below to learn more.

Visit Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center’s website to discover more about ARTpath.