Citizen Speaking With a Ghost
overnight it’s getting cold, when every day is different in Michigan you never know. it’s been a while since you’ve called, I’m speaking with a ghost and I’m wondering how you’re making out.
Matt Nathanson Detroit Waves
all of Detroit waves goodnight, spread out beneath me now. if I could, if I could change, believe me, I would.
Sweet Japonic Two O’Clock Sirens I could hear those sirens singin’, leaving me no choice but to follow through
Mayer HawthorneHer Favorite Song
friday night at the scene is bright at Avalon. walked straight to the bar in her party dress. told the bartender pour her a shot and make it strong because she needed cheering up, she proceeded to get drunk
Half Light MusicOn the Floor just look over your shoulder, ’cause I won’t let you in
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!
What’s your favorite summer activity? Have you run Grand Rapids?
Look at that, a Michigan post appears and it’s not a Monday 😉 The longer I live outside the mitten, the more snobby I realize I am about beer. A few weeks ago, a friend and I went out for happy hour. When they read us the beer list and it was all local Virginia beer, I looked at him and said “we have got to get out of here.” It’s not that these beers aren’t good…. there’s just nothing as good as my favorite northern brews. If you’re looking for some summer refreshments or heading to the Great Lakes State this summer, here are a few Michigan beers to look out for:
Bell’s Oberon – the essential summer beer. Pack a case of this and bring it to the beach, the pool, outdoor festivals, whatever. Only acceptable when served in a glass with an orange slice. I’m not typically a diva about how I take my beer and usually drink from the bottle (the first time I went to a bar in Charlottesville and was given a glass to pour it into, I was confused) but this is the only acceptable way to drink an Oberon.
Bell’s Smitten – I’ve covered this find before: Smitten was a new release this year, and it immediately became my favorite springtime American pale ale. When I thought that winter was never going to end and the summer beers would never come to us, this citrus-tinged, hoppy beauty was like a lighthouse beacon signaling the end was near. The Bell’s cafe is also exceptional if you ever find yourself in Kalamazoo.
Founder’s Centennial – I love IPA’s, and this is one of my favorites. It’s sweeter and more citrusy than most, which makes it great for summer. Founder’s is becoming more well known now for their KBS, but the All Day IPA is worth a drink too (and I will plead the fifth about having a Breakfast Stout the morning after a very very late night.)
Short’s Pineapple Pilsner – this is the only beer that I can’t find in Virginia and I am not happy about it. Short’s was founded by a guy who wanted to experiment with crazy beer flavors and combinations, and he has really hit on it with his beers. They don’t make my favorite anymore (a PB&J ale) but I had a taste of this interesting brew before I moved and loved it.
Arcadia Sky High Rye – this brewery was the only saving grace Battle Creek had. My girlfriend and I would hit this place after concerts, meetings, late nights in the office, and Fridays. Sky High Rye, a pale ale, was my first favorite, quickly joined by Whitsun, Jaw Jacker, Cereal Killer and Nut Brown Ale. If you ever do have the misfortune of finding yourself in BC, eat here. The food was out of this world, too.
It’s no secret that I love my home state, and this is one of my favorite times of the year! If you’re looking for a nice long weekend this fall, consider heading up to Michigan.
Go on a color tour. This can take as long as you like and cost as little as you want to spend on gas, so it’s a great option for budget travellers! Go early enough in the season before it gets too cold and it can be even cheaper by renting a bike. Or find a trail and go for a run – the Michigan State University campus is beautifully scenic, and the buildings are equally regal.
Wine tasting! While many may not think of Michigan as a hotbed for vineyards, it actually has a rich tradition in wine. My favorite wineries are Karma Vista in Coloma and Black Star Farms in the pinky finger (Leelanau Peninsula.)
Mackinac Island is rich in history, from Fort Michillimackinac to the horse and buggies that travel the streets. Grab a jacket for the ferry ride over and remember your bicycle turn signals – the only motor vehicles on the island are emergency vehicles. Eat some fudge, enjoy the Adirondack chairs on the lawn of Mission Point Resort (one of my favorite places in the world,) or for a spendier evening out, try the Grand Hotel. It’s regularly included on “Best Of” lists and was also featured in Christopher Reeves’ 1980 Somewhere in Time.
National parks may be closed, but Michigan state parks aren’t. In the Upper Peninsula, the picture-perfect Tahquamenon Falls feature trails, programs, and cabins to rent.
If you aren’t the outdoorsy type, no worries – there are 25 casinos across the state. I know this is largely a frugality blog and this is supposed to be “Michigan vacation on a budget” – but sometimes it’s great fun to play the penny slots for an hour or so! Plus the restaurants are fantastic (my favorite, Mijem, is at Firekeepers in Battle Creek) and at the Native American casinos, gamblers only have to be 18. (I’m willing to say this is a good thing – being able to gamble at that age jaded me quickly, and on my first trip to Vegas, I was bored after $20.)
I’ve definitely saved the best for last. Any trip to the Mitten would not be complete without a tip of the hat to BEER CITY USA! While there are great breweries all over the state, Grand Rapids won the title with 27,000 votes last spring. Start at HopCat on Ionia Ave., and work up and down downtown to hit Stella’s, Founder’s (my favorite), and end the night with a snack from Peppino’s.
That’s my idea of a dream weekend in Michigan! What are your must do or must sees when you travel?