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Grand Rapids’ 5/3 Riverbank Run is happening this weekend, and even though it’s one of my bucket races, this isn’t the year for me to go since I’ll be working. If you’re visiting from out of town, I put together a list of some of my favorite Pure Michigan summertime activities to check out!
Tubing is arguably the best and most popular Michigan summer pastime. Just go “up north,” rent a tube, and launch – my favorite ride is down the Muskegon River in my alma mater town of Big Rapids. Grab a case of beer and go for a six hour float and make a day of recovering from the race, or if you can’t stand the freezing temperatures, opt for a more sensible two hour ride.
Like anywhere, Michigan is full of great food (but I’m biased in thinking ours is The. best). If you fly into Detroit, make sure to hit a Coney Island before you leave, or check out one of the eateries in downtown GR. My favorites are Marie Catrib’s and HopCat, and The BOB is a great choice when your party can’t decide on just one kind of food. We also have great coffeeshops – grab a Chumpkin from Biggby, a tall pourover from Madcap, or an alternative brew from Rowster.
I would rather drink beer over liqour any day of the week, and it’s largely due to the fantastic breweries I was spoiled with growing up in the mitten. Grand Rapids is home to Founder’s (known for their KBS and Dirty Bastard brews,) and it’s a short drive down to Kalamazoo to check out Bell’s Eccentric Eatery and enjoy the essential summer Oberon. Or drive north on 131 until you hit Short’s Brewery for some of the most unique flavors beer has to offer.
If beer isn’t your thing, we have equally great wine. My favorite grapes grow in the southwest region along the Lake Michigan Wine Trail. Karma Vista Vineyards‘ Ryno Red is my all-time favorite red wine, and the Leelenau Peninsula is also worthy of a day trip for tasting.
Mackinac Island: Visiting an island where there are no cars allowed after running a 25k might not be your first inclination, but Mackinac is a must-see at some point in your life. Go on horse-drawn carriage tours, rent a bicycle built for two and see the island on your own terms, or bring a book and set up shop on the Lawn at Mission Point (my personal favorite island activity.)
I’ve been to a lot of museums in a lot of different cities, but two of my favorites are close to home. The Grand Rapids Art Museum features a rotation of rotation of collections, and I’ve never seen a “bad” one. The highlight of the Public Museum, to me, is the Furniture City and Streets of Old Grand Rapids exhibits. The also have a planetarium and sometimes they show Pink Floyd on Saturday nights – a good way to prep for the race 😉 These two museums, along with the Ford Museum, the John Ball Park Zoo, and Meijer Gardens participate in the Free Admission Tuesday program in the summer. And if you love the GRAM, come back in September for Artprize!
The piece de resistance of Michigan: we have the most beautiful clear beaches. I love Grand Haven, Muskegon, Ludington and Saugatuck. Given that the lakes almost completely froze over this winter, I’d be surprised if it ever gets warm enough to really enjoy a dip, but set up your beach chair, grab some ice cream, and let the sun help you relax.
Writing out this list has made me horribly homesick and even more jealous of everyone taking on Riverbank!