Tag: Featured

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out these four Munising vacation ideas:

Shipwrecks at the Alger Underwater Preserve

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

Waterfalls

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

Lighthouses

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

Grand Island

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

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

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

 

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.

 

Nursing Facilities Must Be A Priority in Fight Against COVID-19: Testing is Key to Prevention

A nurse checks a patient

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state, particularly southeast Michigan, it became clear that this virus is most severe to our senior citizens. A shocking 69% of all of Michigan’s confirmed COVID-19 deaths were people over the age of 70. The average resident in our nursing facilities is 82 years old, often with multiple medical conditions. Therefore, it is no surprise that these individuals are particularly vulnerable once the virus enters a facility.

Through June, 46% of the state’s nursing facilities have reported no COVID-19 cases, and a significant number have reported fewer than 10 cases. This raises the question of what causes the spread in some nursing facilities but not others. The answer to that question will help determine proper policy going forward to prevent and curtail the spread among this highly vulnerable population in this highly vulnerable setting.

Melissa Samuel, president/CEO, Health Care Association of Michigan

Melissa Samuel, president/CEO, Health Care Association of Michigan

Research recently released by Harvard Medical School and the University of Chicago has important findings related to COVID-19 in nursing facilities that not only help explain the primary factors causing the spread, but also what does not cause it. The studies conclude that the prevalence of COVID-19 in a community is the main predictor of the virus entering a nursing facility, with larger facility size also being a factor. It further shows that no correlation exists between significant COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing facilities and various measures of overall nursing facility quality, such as the national Five Star rating system that rates all nursing facilities based on surveys, staffing levels and quality measures.

According to David Grabowski, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, “COVID-19 cases in nursing homes are related to facility location and size, not traditional quality metrics such as 5-star rating and prior infection control citations.”

Tamara Konetzka, professor of health services research at the University of Chicago, found “no meaningful relationship between nursing home quality and COVID cases or deaths.” Another study recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reached the same conclusions.

Researchers from Genesis HealthCare, Brown University and Florida Atlantic University found that COVID-19 prevalence in the surrounding community and higher number of beds were the most significant and consistent predictors of large outbreaks and mortality rates among nursing facility residents — not a facility’s Five-Star Quality Rating or infection control citations.

At the onset of the pandemic, nursing facilities were not a top priority at either the federal or state level for adequate staffing, personal protection equipment (PPE) and testing. Attempts to control the outbreak and spread of COVID-19 in nursing facilities instead focused on identifying individuals who exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 and prohibiting their contact with residents and staff in nursing facilities. However, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now show that individuals without symptoms — “asymptomatic” and “pre-symptomatic” individuals — infect multiple people without ever showing signs of the virus themselves.

Given that the virus is often spread by individuals who are asymptomatic, the research notes that if a community has a high prevalence of COVID-19, there is simply a greater risk of new nursing facility residents or staff serving as infection sources. Larger facilities accept more admissions and have more employees, thus they encounter more movement of people to and from the community.

This research tells us that the best way to prevent and curtail the spread of COVID-19 in nursing facilities is to do whatever possible to prevent it from getting a foothold from the larger community in the first place. Providing sufficient PPE for staff and conducting more testing with immediate results are critical to this effort. Only through broad and aggressive testing that delivers immediate results can facilities identify those infected — staff and residents — and quickly take appropriate measures.

Although the state of Michigan has recently implemented short- and long-term strategies to establish universal baseline testing and ongoing testing of all nursing facility residents and staff — a measure which we support — it still takes too long to receive the results. A new testing instrument to be distributed soon by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) promises to deliver results in minutes. If this works as suggested, it will give nursing facilities the capability to screen and test both residents and staff and provide the means to swiftly mitigate the spread of the virus.

Testing with quick results is also important to allow residents to visit with friends and family in person once again. Current restrictions have proven difficult for residents, families and staff. For visits to occur in a safe manner, adequate supplies of PPE and proper testing are essential.

We didn’t create this pandemic or choose to have it come upon us. There is no blame or finger pointing. We can make an enormous difference in the outcome of the COVID-19 battle in Michigan nursing facilities with the support from the state and our healthcare partners if we focus on the correct, research-driven solutions.

Please click HERE for further details on the research referenced above.

 

Melissa Samuel
President/CEO
Health Care Association of Michigan

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

Sunflowers in Antrim County, MI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan coffee company’s future focused on 100% farm-direct sourcing

When Bob Fish, the co-founder of Michigan-based Biggby Coffee, talks about the future of the business, some might be shocked to hear his assessment that “coffee as a product is unsustainable.”

But that’s exactly what Fish says and why Biggby is trying to change the equation.

And it starts with the goal and benefits of farm-direct sourcing 50% of Biggby’s 2 million pounds of coffee purchased each year by 2023. After that accomplishment, Biggby will set its eyes on buying 100% of its product from farmers with whom Biggby has a lasting relationship.

Here’s why that’s important and what it means both for Biggby and its farm partners:

There are more than 200 labor hours to produce a single cup of coffee, Fish explains. It includes a supply chain that involves farms, workers who are often mistreated, brokers, roasters and more middle layers that seemingly work against each other.

“Between climate change and traders driving the price down, farmers simply cannot economically survive,” Fish said. “So, what happens? The farms can’t make it and are being abandoned. This puts the whole supply chain at risk.

“We believe businesses are here to solve problems, not create problems, but that’s what’s happening in coffee, and it’s why we are focused on doing business directly with farmers that treat the planet right and treat their people right.”

The straight line from farmer to Biggby involves extensive research and travel to confirm that the grower has the same passion for social responsibility and community investment, Fish said. As part of the evaluation, Biggby requires:

  • Farmers who pay workers above the national average and employ no child labor.
  • Farms that employ sustainable and organic practices.
  • Farmers who engage others with strong and local social missions.

Fish and his wife, Michelle, visit farms and stay for days at a time, and at different times – during the growing, harvesting and off-seasons – to assess the commitment, he said. Biggby can be a stabilizing force for the growers, providing a premium payment by eliminating the broker/middleman and granting the farmer financial safety and security for their coffee. That allows for future investment in the farm and the community. It also ensures Biggby a sustainable pipeline of coffee for the future.

Follow the journey: Bob and Michelle Fish blog about farm-direct sourcing and local heroes

Leana Ferrey, left, with her daughter, Miriam Morales, in the African drying beds at the El Recreo Coffee Estate

Leana Ferrey, left, with her daughter, Miriam Morales, in the African drying beds at the El Recreo Coffee Estate

One of Biggby’s farm partners is the El Recreo Cofffee Estate in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. There, Leanna Ferrey and her family have an established farm that pays its workers fairly, shares a quest for growing a quality product and displays a care for its people that goes above and beyond.

Ferrey established an on-site school for the workers’ children to attend through the fourth grade, and she does not allow youth to work on the farm. Each child earns a scholarship and transportation to attend school in a nearby town through high school. She helps them find a way to go to college, if they choose, Fish said. She’s also helped educate the workers, many of whom were illiterate, provide basic health care and provide certainty that there is food for three meals a day.

“It’s really just amazing what she and her family have done,” Fish said. “And this wasn’t because of us but because it’s what they believed in and how they think people should be treated. She is making a difference now and for future generations.

“It’s exactly what we want, and it fits with our belief that you should feel good about doing business with people. And to take that to the next step, we hope a consumer can feel good about doing business with us because they know what our establishment stands for.”

Biggby has a second relationship with a Zambian farm that supports an orphanage. Fish and his team are cultivating more partnerships that create an impact abroad and reflect the coffee company’s values.

“We could go out and get the cheapest coffee and continue to pressure the fragile coffee economy, but we’d rather put money directly in the hands of the farmers who are doing their best,” Fish said. “We want to be involved with people who care for and are engaged with their community just as we are with ours.”

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

Glasses of beer on a state of Michigan shaped board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time for a weekend getaway? Check out Benzie County

family rides a chairlift in Benzie County

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

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

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

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

RELATED: 10 fun facts about Benzie County

Five Shores Brewing beer glass and menu

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

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

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

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

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

Point Betsie Lighthouse

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

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

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

Michigan's only Alpine Slide

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

 

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

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

How you can build new, whether you have lots of time or just a few months

Candie and Dustin Sentz in front of their Eastbrook Homes built home

Having searched a while for a larger home to meet the needs of their newly blended family, Dustin and Candie Sentz know it isn’t easy in this market to find just the right house in just the right place. That’s why the Jenison couple ended up building a new home in Lowing Woods.

The neighborhood of gorgeous new homes west of Grand Rapids not only is the ideal location for the Sentz family, it’s also a great place for any family as it features a community swimming pool, playground, walking trails and winding streets lined with trees and sidewalks.

Plus, because Lowing Woods is an Eastbrook Homes community, Dustin and Candie could build their new home exactly how they wanted.

“We toured some of the houses in here and liked the workmanship and quality of it,” said Dustin, a former builder. “We liked the ability to go on Eastbrook’s web site and look through their plans.

“We went with a lot of the upgrades they offered and we’re thankful we built it the way we wanted because we’re going to be here a long time.”

Dustin and Candie Sentz

Candie and Dustin Sentz chose a Ready-to-Build option that offered complete personalization of the interior and exterior of their new home in Lowing Woods, an Eastbrook Homes community west of Grand Rapids. Eastbrook also partners with clients on building Move-in-Ready and YourCanvas homes.

Dustin and Candie knew they wanted a main-floor master bedroom, so they filtered through the plans on the Eastbrook site and narrowed the options down to a handful. They also wanted a large basement so they could have a sizeable living space on that level of the house, too.

After browsing photographs of existing Eastbrook homes in dozens of communities around the state, Dustin and Candie ended up choosing a plan with an exterior look that’s unique to their new neighborhood. And they were able to partner with Eastbrook to accommodate personal touches such as custom handrails and a lower-level bar.

The couple chose paint colors, fixtures, trim and other features with the help of Eastbrook’s Home Creations Studio. They also selected certain upgrades including a larger garage.

“We were on that web site daily,” Candie said. “For me, it was fun. I had every plan printed out with all the different elevations and brought them to our families and said ‘What do you think about this?’ It was very organized.”

Dustin and Candie chose a Ready-to-Build Home, which is one of three great ways to partner with Eastbrook on building the home of your dreams:

Ready-to-Build

  • offers complete personalization of the exterior and interior of your home
  • takes 7 to 9 months with assistance from Eastbrook’s Home Creation Studio
  • benefits from the streamlined building process Eastbrook has honed over the past 50 years

Check out plans for Ready-to-Build homes and read what it’s like to build with Eastbrook.

Move-in-Ready

  • brand new homes already built and ready for you to move in as soon as 30 days after closing
  • perfect if you need a home right now, or if you’re sick of bidding wars on existing homes
  • beautiful, energy-efficient homes that come with new home warranties

Take a look at Eastbrook’s Move-in-Ready homes and read about how easy it is to get into a new home fast.

YourCanvas

  • homes are partially built with the foundation, structural and exterior selections already finalized
  • you get to choose and personalize interior features and finishes including paint colors, countertops, trim, lighting, fixtures, wall details and more
  • takes about 90 days from start of construction and is ideal for getting into your new home quickly with a flexible budget

RELATED: Want to build a new home in around 90 days from start of construction? Here’s how

Dustin and Candie visited their new home in Lowing Woods almost daily while it was being built. Just as it was fun to look through Eastbrook’s home plans, it was fun to pop in and see the progress on their own custom home.

Then, after closing on the home in summer 2019, the couple popped the cork on some champagne to celebrate. They moved in last July, hosted family for the holidays and this Fourth of July enjoyed a golf cart parade through their new neighborhood.

“We were attracted to the community feel they have here and thought it would be a great place to raise a family,” Dustin said. “We’d do it all over again. We’re just so happy with the house.”

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