Nick takes his first trip to South Haven on his paddle board.
Nick takes his first trip to South Haven on his paddle board.
Like so many people around Michigan, Travis Parrott spent quality time with his family in the Silver Lake Sand Dunes Area when he was a kid. Some of his favorite memories are from driving around the state park’s ORV area, the gigantic 450-acre sandbox between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan.
Everybody should be able to experience the largest sand dunes east of the Mississippi River, but not everybody has a dune buggy or a jeep that can power up the hills and tool around. So, Parrott started a business that offers vehicles for visitors to rent and have a great, safe time on the dunes the way he always did with his family.
Parrot’s Landing has been helping families have fun on the dunes for 18 years now.
“You reach the top of the hill and see the dunes, and you’re going to say ‘Where did all this come from?’ It’s like the Sahara Desert out there,” said Rob Obbink, Parrot’s Landing manager. “It’s fun. It’s exhilarating. It’s breathtaking. The views out there are beautiful.”
More than 850,000 people visit Silver Lake State Park each year, and many of them find their way onto the dunes thanks to Parrot’s Landing. The business located right in the heart of town offers user-friendly Jeep Wranglers that are perfect for families, with two seats in front and room for up to three people in the back seat.
You can also try the Polaris RZR 1000 4-seat utility vehicle or a Yamaha Kodiak 450 quad that’s perfect for one person.
Of course, not everybody is comfortable grabbing the keys to a Jeep and driving up a sand dune. That’s why Parrot’s Landing runs guided tours so visitors can get a feel for what it’s like before they go off on their own.
One of the most popular ways to experience the dunes is to pay for an hourlong tour, then get a discounted hour on your own.
“The tour guide gives you a description of the history of the dunes, how they were created, and then gives you a lot of insight into how to drive safely out there,” Obbink said. “Safety is our first concern.
“You’re going to have a really fun time because you’re in control. You’re not being driven by anybody else. You have your own vehicle. It’s a safe vehicle, and it also has plenty of power to get over any of the hills out there.”
The ORV area is a 450-acre section of Silver Lake State Park, which includes about 2,000 acres of sand dunes between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan. One section of the sand dunes is limited to pedestrian use, while the ORV area is for off-road vehicles only.
To access the ORV area with your own vehicle, the state park requires you to have a Michigan ORV registration, state trail permit, parking lot voucher and vehicle-mounted safety flag. But when you rent from Parrot’s Landing, all of that is taken care of for you. And if you run into any trouble up there, the Parrot’s Landing dune patrol is right there to help.
After you’ve experienced the dunes, you can cool off on the all-sports Silver Lake right at the foot of the dunes. Parrot’s Landing rents 3-seat wave runners and 19-foot, open-bow Yamaha Jet Boats by the half-day or full day. You can even add tubes or skis for some seriously fun water sports action.
The dunes, the water, the thrill of adventure…it all makes the Silver Lake Sand Dunes Area a destination spot for Michigan. To have a Michigan’s Best Day in Silver Lake, make Parrot’s Landing your first stop.
Eric Hultgren talks to Bob Wilson and Andrea LaFontaine from Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance, about the Great Lake-to-Lake Trail’s inaugural ride, September 13-18. From fresh coast to fresh coast, South Haven to Port Huron, over 17 trails and 275 miles – watch the video below to learn more about the Great Lake-to-Lake Trail.
Military veterans get $100 off the registration for this inaugural ride.
The Great Lake-to-Lake inaugural ride takes place September 13-18, sign up at Michigander.bike
Nick visits a few iconic U.P. lighthouses across the southern shore of the Upper Peninsula. “Born out of necessity, maintained with passion,” click the video below for some of the best views in the U.P., a spooky ghost story, and the correct pronunciation of Seul Choix.
Sure, you could let some air out of the tires, install a safety flag and drive your own vehicle around the largest sand dunes east of the Mississippi River. Or, you could skip the hassle and rent a four-door Jeep Wrangler for an hourlong guided tour of the 500-acre ORV Area at Silver Lake Sand Dunes – one of Michigan’s most incredible natural attractions.
Not everybody knows how to go off-roading, especially in the sand. But thanks to an 18-year tradition of jeep rentals and tours at Parrot’s Landing, everybody can safely enjoy the exhilarating experience of driving through Michigan’s biggest sand box.
After a guided tour, you’ll know how to drive on the dunes safely – and you’ll be eager to get back up there on your own, riding high above the breathtaking shore of Lake Michigan all the way down to the water’s edge and back.
Come get the keys to your new summer playground…
6 things to do, sights to see in popular Lake Michigan beach town | You have 48 hours this weekend. Come explore Ludington
There are beautiful beaches all over Michigan, but only one is ranked No. 1 in the state. There are boats all over the Great Lakes, but there’s only one Badger. There are more than 100 state parks in Michigan, but only one has over 5,000 acres to explore and is home to the Mitten’s tallest lighthouse.
Anywhere you go in Michigan there are amazing beach towns and summery spots.
But there’s only one Ludington.
Why not check it out this weekend? You won’t be able to experience everything Ludington has to offer in just 48 hours, but you can get your feet wet. (Literally!)
To help plan your visit, here’s how to get there. And here are several things to do while you’re in town:
Stearns Park Beach – In addition to a half-mile of sandy Lake Michigan shoreline, Stearns Park Beach also features mini-golf, a skate park, volleyball and shuffleboard courts, a playground, grassy areas in the shade for picnics and a lighthouse at the end of a long pier that’s great for fishing, watching sunsets or waving to the S.S. Badger. No wonder USA Today named it one of 51 Great American Beaches. By the way, the North Breakwater Light at the end of the pier was named by The Weather Channel as one of the country’s Top 10 lighthouses to see.
House of Flavors – There are many places to get ice cream. But only one place is home to the House of Flavors. The Ludington dairy produces 25 million gallons of delicious homemade ice cream per year and has a restaurant right downtown that hosted a successful Guinness World Record attempt for Longest Ice Cream Dessert. The final numbers: more than 2,970 feet of ice cream, 944 pounds of chocolate syrup, 600 cans of whipped topping, 102 pounds of maraschino cherries and a total weight of more than 3 tons.
Ludington State Park – Not only does Ludington State Park have shoreline and beach along Lake Michigan, but also the all-sports Hamlin Lake. In between are 5,300 acres of scenic sand dunes, ponds, marshlands and forests that make for one of Michigan’s most popular places for camping and outdoor recreation. In Ludington State Park you can float your way down the Big Sable River in a tube from the Hamlin Lake Dam straight into the big lake, hike through the woods or bike through miles of trails. The park also is home to the tallest lighthouse in the Lower Peninsula, the 112-foot high Big Sable Point.
Big Sable Point – Speaking of lighthouses, the historic black-and-white-striped Big Sable Point Lighthouse dates to 1867. It’s 112 feet high and open for tours from May through October. You can climb the tower for an unparalleled view or explore the original Keeper’s Quarters that have been converted into a gift shop. You can reach Big Sable Point on a beautiful two-mile trail that winds through sand dunes and along the Lake Michigan shore through Ludington State Park.
Outdoor recreation – Kayak down the Pere Marquette River. Take a jet ski for a spin around Hamlin Lake. Laze away the day floating down Big Sable River in a tube. When it comes to enjoying a Michigan summer, what’s your jam? Whatever it is, the Ludington area has a unique way to experience it. Charter a boat for some Great Lakes fishing. Go sailing in a yacht. Play golf on one of the Top Ten Best New Affordable Courses in America. Hike or bike through the wilderness of the Manistee National Forest. Come explore and enjoy!
Downtown shopping – Ludington is a beach town. It also has a great downtown, with lots of cute shops and unique restaurants. In addition to the famous House of Flavors, you’ll find art galleries, antiques, music retailers, boutique clothing stores, brew pubs that showcase Ludington’s growing craft beer scene and the Sandcastles Children’s Museum. Plus, there are scenic parks right along the waterfront. Downtown also is home to a farmers’ market and family-friendly summer street parties on the last two Fridays in July and the first two Fridays in August.
Spending more than 48 hours in Ludington? Check out these attractions, too:
Amber Elk Ranch – Ever seen an elk up close? Here’s your chance. Take a wagon ride through this beautiful 130-acre farm to see huge bull elk. There’s also a petting zoo where kids can meet and feed interesting animals that aren’t quite so big as the bull elk.
S.S. Badger – Like clockwork, the 410-foot-long, seven-story-tall steamship goes back and forth across Lake Michigan between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wis. carrying up to 620 passengers and 120 automobiles on the four-hour, 60-mile journey. Even if you’re not on board, it’s a thrill to stand on the pier at Stearns Park Beach and watch the Badger come and go. In addition to lake crossings, the Badger runs special shoreline cruises at times during the summer.
Country Dairy – Go to Moo School at this working family farm and dairy processor. You can take a 90-minute tour and see milk get bottled, meet cows and sample delicious chocolate milk. If you dare, try some “moochies” while you’re there. (You’ll just have to visit to see what those are!)
Historic White Pine Village – Go back in time and relive Michigan’s pioneer days with a tour of more than 30 historic buildings including the original 1849 Mason County Courthouse. There’s also a working sawmill and first-person interpreters who re-enact life as it was over 100 years ago.
Lewis Farms Petting Zoo – Farms grow food. This one also has acres of fun for the whole family. There’s a petting zoo with strange animals, tons of unique games like Redneck Tic Tac Toe and play spaces to keep kids busy including a Crawley Spider Web, Jumping Pillow, Pedal Carts and a Carousel. There’s also a farm market and a bakery that’ll take your breath away.
Port of Ludington Maritime Museum – Shipwrecked schooners along the Ludington shore attest to the area’s long nautical history, and it’s all chronicled through artifacts, photographs and interactive exhibits in this former U.S. Coast Guard Station overlooking Lake Michigan. There’s even a simulation where you can pilot the famed Pere Marquette 22 car ferry around Ludington’s harbor with guidance from a hologram of Capt. Andy Van Dyke.
Visit Pure Ludington to plan your Ludington trip.
It won’t take long after meeting Sam Short to realize that his effusive personality makes a stranger feel like a long-time friend in minutes.
And his Potent Potables restaurants – Punk Taco, Zoobie’s Old Town Tavern, The Cosmos and The Creole – were created with the same spirit, providing an engaging look at food, people and the life around them.
Sam, who is one of three partners in the Lansing gathering spots with Aaron Matthews and Alan Hooper, recently sat down with MLive’s John Gonzalez and Amy Sherman to talk about what makes the restaurants hum, how they’ve connected with employees and made a difference in the lives of others.
“There’s a movement toward locally owned restaurants, but that only goes so far if you’re not doing something that sets you apart and makes an impact, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Sam said off-camera.
“If I’m going out and spending my money at a restaurant, I’m going for an experience. It should be a bit nostalgic, fun-filled, a bit geeky. So, our focus is on delivering happiness. We just sell food. The thing that differentiates us is our people. That’s why we focus on them and helping them grow and give the community what it wants.”
The entrepreneurs have created establishments with a neighborhood vibe and a focus on chef-driven, fresh food. The teams at each restaurant curate menus to challenge their skills and extend the palate of guests. The parameters, Sam said, are: “We want (the chefs) to make it interesting.”
Everything at the restaurants is hand-made, Sam said. That includes dressings, cheeses, breads and more.
“We do it because we’re geeked about food,” he said. “To us, it’s important that the food doesn’t come out of a can or a box, that it’s not the same as you get everywhere else. We ask ourselves ‘how can we make this better,’ whether that’s a sausage that goes on a pizza or a tortilla for a taco.”
Sam and his partners want the food to stand-out in the same manner they seek to create a work environment that cultivates and incentivizes employees to be their best. They offer benefits, such as a wellness program, 401k match and flexible spending accounts, not often available in the food industry. There are also opportunities to reward and recognize fellow employees – with financial bonuses – by noting how they’ve pitched in to help their colleagues.
“We try to think as holistically as possible,” Sam said, adding they also have reciprocal discounts at a yoga studio and other local establishments. “We want to motivate and reward people. If you want to learn something and grow as a person, we’ll help you. We have kitchen managers that started as dishwashers, but they wanted to do more than that. That’s exciting, and we encourage that.
“The thing people need is a passion about food. That’s number one. We can teach you other things, but people need to be engaged and interested.”
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