Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Specialty Ships in West Michigan

Here in West Michigan, it seems like there are boats everywhere during the summer! Kayaks, speedboats, pontoons, sailboats, and the list goes on and on. West Michigan is also home to some unique boats, ones which serve a special purpose, harbor some great history, or offer a new way to get out and enjoy a famous West Michigan sunset. Get ready to find your sea legs as we climb aboard the great specialty ships of West Michigan!

Set sail for history when you climb aboard the Friends Good Will, based out of the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven, MI. This is a working replica of a merchant square topsail sloop, which was captured by the British and used to fight the War of 1812. She was recaptured by the United States in September of 1813, and burned by the British that December. Friends Good Will now takes to the waters May through September, and offers educational sails, passenger outings, dockside boardings, charters, weddings, and conferences. Head north to Traverse City to experience another tall ship, the Manitou, part of the Traverse Tall Ship Co. Manitou is a replica of an 1800s “coasting” cargo schooner, specifically designed for passenger service. Capable of carrying 59 passengers with a length of 144 feet, she travels with a comfortable, relaxing motion, perfect for a day or evening cruise. Sign up for a specialty cruise (Wine Tasting, Musical Entertainment, Guided History Tour), or book the “Floating Bed & Breakfast” package to sleep aboard the ship and wake up to a full breakfast cooked right on the ship’s wood burning stove.

Holland Princess
 One of the great things about being a state with so much water is that here in Michigan, you can travel by boat to visit some great destinations! And for some of these places, by boat is the only way to get there. If you’re planning a trip to Beaver Island, situated in Lake Michigan just off shore from Charlevoix, your transit options are by water or by air. The Beaver Island Boat Company runs a ferry service that will transport you and your vehicle over to the island, whether you’re visiting for a day trip or an extended stay. Their ferries make around 750 trips to and from the island each year, bringing over 40,000 visitors to the shores of Beaver Island. If you head further north and hop aboard a Shepler’s Ferry headed to Mackinac Island, you won’t have the option of bringing your vehicle along. With no cars allowed on Mackinac Island, plan to travel by foot, bicycle, or horse-drawn trolley when you arrive. Shepler’s will take you to the island from either Mackinaw City or St. Ignace, and also offers cruises right under the Mackinac Bridge. There’s even the option of renting an entire ferry for a special event or group function, with the stunning backdrop of the bridge, the island, and the lake. If you’re looking to get out of Michigan for a vacation, there’s even a boat for that. The Lake Express High Speed Ferry travels between Muskegon, MI and Milwaukee, WI, crossing the lake in just two and a half hours. With three trips each day during the summer season and your choice of classic or premier cabin seating, you’ll enjoy a relaxing cruise across the lake. The Lake Express has space to transport 46 vehicles and 12 motorcycles on each trip, or has car rental counters at both ends of the passage if you would prefer to simply rent a car for the duration of your trip.

Star of Saugatuck
Maybe you’re not looking to travel anywhere by boat, but would simply prefer to take a relaxing afternoon or sunset cruise around one of the many majestic waterways of Lake Michigan. Set sail from Muskegon, MI, on the Port City Princess, who docks in Lake Muskegon, but carries her passengers out onto Lake Michigan as well. Carrying up to 150 passengers, her season begins each year during Memorial Day Weekend with the Blessing of the Boats. Head south to Holland, MI, to climb aboard the Holland Princess, a 65’ Victorian style paddlewheel river boat. She’ll carry you from Lake Macatawa into Lake Michigan, passing the famous “Big Red” lighthouse of Holland along the way. Lunch cruises and dinner cruises are available, with private decks available for large parties. Head further south along the coast yet to reach Saugatuck, MI, home to Star of Saugatuck Boat Cruises. This hour and a half trip will take you down the Kalamazoo River and into Lake Michigan on an authentic stern wheel paddleboat. Enjoy the live narration to learn about local landmarks and points of interest, as well as some of the local maritime history.

Traverse Tall Ship Co.
Now that you’re familiar with some of the unique ways to take to the water in West Michigan, plan a trip this summer to try some of them out! Settle in for a romantic sunset dinner cruise, or prepare for the high seas on a historic tall ship. No matter which vessel you choose to climb aboard this summer, bring your sense of adventure and prepare to experience West Michigan in a whole new way.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

West Michigan: The Lake Effect

Lake Effect snow. In West Michigan, it's a phrase that sends either shivers of joy or trepidation down your spine to your wool covered toes. In the winter months, it's the reason you either jump out of bed or burrow deeper under the covers. It means awesome skiing and snowmobiling, but also hours of shoveling the sidewalks. Any way you look at it, Lake Effect means snow, lots of snow.

What is Lake Effect really? It's a weather phenomenon that is best known in the Great Lakes region, though it takes place world wide. In the early winter months, a large body of water, such as Lake Michigan, will take its sweet time cooling, leaving the water temperature much warmer than the air above. As cool winds cross, the lake evaporates rapidly, forming narrow bands of precipitation that certainly do not hold back upon reaching leeward shores. Perhaps surprisingly, it's not the shoreline that gets hit the hardest by the snow bands, but 15 miles inland where the terrain begins to rise.
A few examples of Lake Effect:
Milwaukee and Muskegon are neighbors with 87 miles of Lake Michigan lying between them. Milwaukee receives an average of 52.6" of snow each year while the Lake Effect dumps an average of 105.5" inches of snow annually. This is great news for fans of theMuskegon Winter Sports Complex, home of one of only four luge tracks in the States.
The lakeside community of Charlevoix receives plenty of snow with an annual average of 117", but it's the Apline-themed village of Gaylord, located 30 miles southeast, that sees the Lower Peninsula's heaviest snow fall with an average of 149.2".
Lower Lake Michigan bowls out, creating a wide expanse of water for Lake Effect to creep across. More water means more evaporation which mean, of course, more snow. Kalamazoo, located in southern West Michigan, receives 78.6" of Lake Effect snow. Compare this to its seaside neighbor of South Haven with 54.3" or eastward Jackson with 48.2". The greater Kalamazoo area another great snow sport destination with three ski areas calling this region home: BittersweetSwiss Valley, and Timber Ridge.
Downhill sports, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, tubing and sledding: make the choice to rejoice in West Michigan's Lake Effect, and bundle up for winter's great white carpet. Find out more in Outdoor Recreation.

Do you like getting out & hitting the slopes in winter, or is curling up under a blanket more your style?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Put Some Education in Your Vacation!

Put Some Education In Your Vacation
Written by Katie White of the Silver Beach Carousel Society

There's a good chance your kids don't get excited when you announce it's time for an educational trip. There's an even better chance that you'll be able to find a trip in West Michigan that your kids will think is so much fun, they won't even realize it's educational! Many places in our region offer interesting, handson, action-packed, kid-friendly educational outings. Whether you're learning how the fresh ice cream you're eating was made, or finding out the properties of moving water by playing at a giant water table, there's an educational experience out there that your kids will enjoy! One popular stop for families is the Silver Beach Carousel. Read on to see why a stop at this carousel is more than just a fun fair-ground attraction.

Riding the 48 hand-carved and painted figures and two chariots on the Silver Beach Carousel in St. Joseph is fun all year round. But what parents and grandparents may not realize is what a treasure trove of history lessons this circa 2010 carousel offers all ages.

Want to show how great-grandma had fun in the early 1900s? Or what grandma and grandpa did for entertainment before there were tablets and smartphones? Or breathe in the vivid memories that fresh-spun cotton candy and hot, buttery popcorn bring up? That and so much more are waiting for families in the carousel house located just yards from the sandy shores of Lake Michigan.

There is no cost to explore the carousel house, and ride tokens are priced to provide entertainment that fits most family budgets. As you enter the carousel house from the Silver Beach Center boardwalk, there is a free Silver Beach Amusement Park Museum that keeps alive the millions of childhood and teenage memories the park created from 1891 to 1971. Children can interact with amusement ride exhibits, ask the Great Zandini to give their fortunes, or press the button and watch the mechanical model of the amusement park spring to life (it even wafts scents of grilling hamburgers from Eddy's Hamburger Hut).

The carousel is full of lessons, too. Around the top of the magnificent machine are 18 rounding boards that depict in photographs and drawings the rich local history of Southwestern Michigan. A guidebook is available to tell each board's significance to the area, or visitors can ask the carousel operator for volunteers to share stories. Among the featured faces and events are Ben and Mary Purnell, founders of The House of David, a Christian religious colony in Benton Harbor, Mich., that drew thousands of tourists for decades to play in its pre-Disneyland amusement park, and Augustus Herring's first airplane flight on Silver Beach five years before the Wright Brothers' takeoff.

Surrounding the carousel are fascinating displays, including some of the original horses from the circa 1910 Silver Beach Carousel, a model train and village, the original carousel's band organ and board games such as checkers and chess to play with family and friends. Each of the carousel figures and chariots also are a learning opportunity. Ask the carousel operator to share stories about why community donors chose each design and the special carvings. And challenge children to find the lead horse Marcie or the carved cat whose eyes follow riders around the carousel. A red-and-white concession stand offers affordable old-time treats such as cotton candy, caramel corn and popcorn to enjoy while rocking in the carousel house chairs.


The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre School of Theatre Arts offers the most comprehensive community theatre education program in the country. A large variety of specialized classes are available to anyone from age four to adults. With classes ranging from creating a character to musical theatre, and comedy to drama games, the school of Theatre Arts has classes for every interest, age, and skill level.

Younger students can begin with their introductory theatre classes, which offer the basics of drama games and musical theatre. From there, students and adults learn the essentials through scene work and character study, and can take musical theatre performance classes to hone dance skills and showcase the perfect audition songs. Small class sizes with qualified instructors ensure that everyone can get a hands-on approach to developing core theatre skills and gaining stage experience. The grand rapids Civic Theatre school of Theatre Arts has enriched the talents, skills, and lives of over 1,100 students every year. There are Fall, Winter, and spring Terms and summer Theatre Camps.


Chateau Chantal, Traverse City 

Great Lakes Childrens Museum, Traverse City 

Interlochen Center for the Arts, Interlochen

Music House Museum, Traverse City

Country Dairy, New Era

Lewis Farm Market, New Era

Broadway Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids 

Critter Barn, Zeeland 

Downtown Market, Grand Rapids 

Frederik Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids 

Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids 

Grand Rapids Public Museum, Grand Rapids 

Grand Rapids Civic Theater, Grand Rapids 

Grand Rapids Children's Museum, Grand Rapids 

Herman's Boy, Rockford

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New Year's Eve in West Michigan!

New Year's Eve

Mega 80's
This New Year's Eve, surround yourself with friends and family, sing "Auld Lang Syne" and ring in 2014 with West Michigan. Whether it be a posh party or family fun, there's something for everyone!

New Year's Eve in West Michigan

Battle Creek
Check back for more updates as we get closer to December 31!
  • Battle Creek CVB: New Year’s Day Splash: Wednesday, January 01, 2014 from 11:30 AM to Noon. Ever wanted to do the Polar Plunge? Here is your chance at the New Year’s Day Splash at Goguac Lake! Ring in 2014 with a chilly splash in the lake. Receive a souvenir, hot beverages, and snacks.

Grand Rapids
  • GRAM: The Grand Rapids Art Museum will be open until midnight!
  • Grand Rapids Children’s Museum: Ring in the New Year with a night of play at the Grand Rapids Children's Museum New Year's Early Eve!  December 31st, 6:00pm-8:00pm with a countdown and balloon drop at 7:30!  Decorate a noisemaker, make a firework picture, grab a party hat, enjoy refreshments from FooDesign and play your way into 2014!  Tickets are $12 per person, $10 for museum members, and are available by calling 616-235-4726.
  • Riverfront Hotel: For New Year's Eve we are offering many special packages, with complimentary late check out at 2pm the following day! They're hosting a Private Party with The John Brown Trio, and $5 cover to join them in The Landing Lounge for their New Year's Eve party.
  • Swiss Ski Valley has a great celebration for New Year’s Eve! There will be two parties: family style & traditional. Complimentary Never-Ever-Skied-Before lessons. Torch Light parade and just a great time! Visit their website for more information.
  • Food Dance celebrates New Year's Eve annually with a 5 course prixe fixe menu, reservations from 5-9:30pm. They are booked solid every year. It's a great way to spend the evening in downtown Kalamazoo. There are fireworks at midnight and a NYE celebration downtown.
Mackinac Island
  • Most of Mackinac Island’s hotels and B&Bs close down at the end of October and do not reopen until May. An overnight stay is necessary to experience the true seclusion and serenity that the Island has to offer. Here are a few hidden gems that remain open during the magic of New Year. The Great Turtle dropping (similar to the New York Ball Dropping) happens at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve and is truly a memorable experience. Stay at The Lilac Tree Suites & Spa, The Cottage Inn Bed & Breakfast, or The Pontiac Lodge, all open for New Years.
New Buffalo
  • There's lots going on over the New Year Holiday at Four Winds Casino! Their New Year’s Eve party includes a performance by Kenny Loggins at Silver Creek Event Center starting at 11 p.m. Tickets are $100 and available through Ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000. There is also a free show at Hard Rock Cafe Four Winds featuring PS Dump Your Boyfriend beginning at 11 p.m. on December 31st. The start of an exciting New Year calls for a celebration, so grab your family and friends and get to Four Winds New Buffalo for our special New Year’s buffets. Indulge in a lavish selection of entrees from around the globe including lobster, crab legs, prime rib and more. And delight yourself with a luscious array of desserts like rich home style fudge and a flowing chocolate fountain. New Year’s Eve Buffet will run December 31 from 4pm-2am, and New Year’s Day Buffet will run January 1 from 11am-9pm.
  • New Years Eve brings special dinners and celebration at area restaurants. Ring in the New Year with waterfront fireworks at Midnight. 
Sault St. Marie
  • Kewadin Casino will be having an "Around the World" New Years Eve party on Dec. 31.
Traverse City
  • The Annual Cherry-T Ball drop is a huge event -- “like Times Square, just bit smaller with a Northern Michigan feel.”  The 200 block of Front Street in downtown Traverse City is blocked off at 4 pm New Year’s Eve for live music, fun, live entertainment, DJ, a visit from the Coast Guard and the dropping of a giant lighted cherry to mark the end of 2013. Admission is $3 (or 3 cans of nonperishable food items) and proceeds go to Goodwill and other charities. Cherry-T, get it?

Farm to Table in West Michigan

Have you ever gone to a restaurant expecting a delicious meal, only to be disappointed by meat that was clearly frozen and has lost most of its flavor, and a helping of limp vegetables from a can? Well, you’re in luck, because the Farm to Table movement is here to help! The theory behind the farm to table movement is that the food takes the most direct route from the farm where it is grown, produced, or harvested to the table where it is cooked, prepared, and eaten.

Julie, the owner of Food Dance in Kalamazoo, says that she found that shopping at the Farmers Markets made the food she was cooking taste much better long before it became a trend in our society to eat locally. At Food Dance, they’ve found the same rings true. Julie knows it makes it more challenging for their chefs to prep all this fresh food and their wait staff to remember all the seasonal changes that show up on their menus, but you truly can taste the difference, so she feels it is worth it. They even offer links on their website to the farms that their various products come from so patrons can be aware of how local the dish they’re enjoying is.

Woodland Farm Market’s Bakery in Shelby offers award-winning pies, make from scratch with ingredients grown by local farmers. Their pie experts stay hard at work so you can enjoy the aroma of great pies when you visit, and even take a couple home for the holidays!

Grand Rapids Brewing Company is the Midwest's only organic brewery, and they have a farm to table menu with special dinner features that change a few times each week, so you can experience a great variety of West Michigan made dishes.

Earth to Table Dining: Artfully Crafted Cuisine Grove, an Essence Restaurant Group establishment, is their tribute to the bounty of the earth’s harvest and how they bring that to the table with impeccable service, natural ingredients and innovative cuisine. Their seasonal, frequently changing selections hint at the classics with natural sauces and a slant toward sustainable seafood. They responsibly source as many ingredients as possible from local, family and sustainable farms and prepare each dish to demonstrate their respect for how these farmers raise or grow their products. They carefully pair their daily, innovative menus with the best modern wines. Their beverage menu also includes eclectic and top-shelf liquors, their own housemade infused spirits, craft beers, pour-over coffee and espresso. They're located in the heart of East Hills at 919 Cherry Street.

Crane’s Pie Pantry in Fennville offers a delicious way to experience farm to table dining! Crane’s takes apples that are grown and picked right on their property, and turns them into homemade pies and apple cider!

Visit Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay the second Wednesday of every month to get a taste of what’s in season from the farm at Black Star Farms, as well as from other local area providers. You’ll enjoy a five course savory sampling of dishes, with a wine pairing from Black Star Farm’s wines with each course.

Country Dairy in New Era is another delicious stop when you’re looking for West Michigan farm to table options! From their herd of registered Holsteins, to their modern processing plant right on site, they work to bring you the freshest and best tasting milk, ice cream, and cheese in West Michigan.

Honest Fayre. Local Flair. At The Green Well, an Essence Restaurant Group establishment, they serve honest fayre with local flair in a neighborhood setting that keeps customers coming back. Their innovative gastro pub is green beyond its name: Their LEED® certified building is environmentally safe, ultra efficient and leaves behind the smallest possible carbon footprint. "Gastro pub" is British for a public house that specializes in high-quality food served in a relaxed atmosphere. Their creative menu features a global range of eclectic flavors prepared with ingredients from local farmers. Over 20 rotating taps focus on Michigan brews, as well as a vast selection of bottles, ranging from local and American craft to traditional European styles. The wine list features creative flights that encourage multiple wine flavors paired with food. Classic cocktails are also available. Their greenness also spills over to our guests who benefit from affordable prices and outstanding service by a fun, welcoming staff. Located at 924 Cherry Street in East Hills.

Tasty Morsel Tours: No matter which tour you choose, you will be provided with: Enthusiastic guides, eager to share local culinary gems with you. Delectable food and drink samples at many of our stops. Opportunities to get behind-the-scenes peeks at how these goodies are made. Ability to learn from the people responsible for these culinary creations. Discussion of other establishments worth visiting while you’re here. Information about all our stops, including a map, phone numbers, websites, etc. (You’ll want to find your way back!)

Grand Traverse Distillery in Traverse City is a unique addition to our list, as it is the oldest and largest stand-alone “Grain to Bottle” distillery in Michigan. Their focus has and always will be crafting artisan spirits from local agriculture. They buy all of their corn, wheat, and rye grains from the Send Brothers Farm, located in Williamsburg, Michigan, just nine miles from the distillery. You can tour the distillery every Thursday through Saturday, and be sure to take part in a sampling while you’re there!

Don’t have time to head out and visit a local farm to table dining option? This one will come to you! Arcadia Brewing Comapny, based out of Battle Creek, has the Twisted Tail BBQ Wagon that travels around to West Michigan festivals and events, as well as being available for catering! They use local produce & meat, and specialize in gourmet smoked meats and bbq offerings.

Fresh. Natural. Local. Mediterranean Countryside Cuisine. At Bistro Bella Vita, an Essence Restaurant Group establishment, they go above and beyond to deliver the ultimate dining experience with top-notch, personable service, whether it’s a simple pizza and beer with friends, or an elegant chef’s table meal perfectly paired with appropriate wines. Their vision is to be West Michigan’s most respected restaurant destination. Guests enjoy their unique downtown atmosphere and creative cuisine made exclusively from fresh, natural, ingredients purchased daily from local farmers in season. Their culinary team creates authentic, scratch-made recipes that blend the delicious flavors of the Mediterranean countryside with a perfectly paired beverage offering served by a devoted staff whose passion is to ensure your complete satisfaction. They’re located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, just west of the Van Andel Arena on Grandville and Weston.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Santa Sightings in West Michigan

With Christmas fast approaching, soon that Jolly Old Elf is going to be everywhere you look! Make sure you don't miss out on a Santa visit this year by using our "Santa Sightings" guide below!

  • December 7thWinter Wonderland at GVSU
    Visit the Grand Valley State University Fieldhouse Arena from 11am-1pm to take free pictures with Santa and Louie the Laker! You’ll be granted free admission to the basketball games (at 1pm & 3pm) with Winter Wonderland participation.
Big Rapids
  • November 6thFestival of Trees Reception
    The Festival of Trees is an annual event in which community members donate trees, wreaths, and holiday gift items. The items and trees - decorated in their most creative holiday style, are presented at a special reception in November and auctioned off to help support the Big Rapids Hospital Foundation. The exhibit is open to the public free of charge. Tickets to the reception are available from Hospital Trustees, the Foundation Board members, or from the Foundation office at (231) 592-4280.
  • November 23rdFestival of Lights Christmas Parade
    This popular parade features about 30 floats and groups of walkers loaded with Christmas lights, live reindeer, plus Santa & Mrs. Claus’ grand entrance!  A short program and tree lighting ceremony takes place after the parade in front of the downtown Chemical Bank branch.  Santa is available for visits after the ceremony at Big Rapids Furniture.  
Boyne City
  • November 29thHoliday Open House & Parade
    The Holiday Open House & Santa Parade, held the Friday after Thanksgiving, is a tradition in Boyne City and that tradition continues this year. The open houses begin at 5 p.m. with the Boyne Area Girl Scouts lighting the Community Christmas Tree at the west end of One Water Street, near Sunset Park. Following the tree lighting the Girl Scouts will lead holiday revelers in caroling. The evening's special guest is the Jolly Old Man from the North. Santa will arrive on his sleigh, joined by some of his elves, and some reindeer from the North Pole. The parade starts at 6 p.m. and the parade route will follow Lake Street to Water Street through the heart of downtown Boyne City. After the parade, there will be hay rides, and Santa will meet with children at the gazebo in Old City Park at the corner of River and Park Streets.
  • December 7thParade of Lights
    This parade includes lighted floats from all sorts of local organizations, clubs, businesses, etc.  Santa and his sleigh are the last “float,” and at the end of the parade Santa will get off his sleigh, light the community Christmas Tree, and pass out toys to all the little ones.
  • November 30th -December 22ndThe Santa Train
    The jolly old elf holds court from a special seat in each of the decorated, vintage train cars.  Some cars are almost 100 years old.  His Elves will escort the little ones to sit with Santa.  All children, even the shy ones,  will get a special gift, right from Santa’s big bag.  To put a figurative bow on this Christmas entertainment package, the Story Telling Princess will read “The Polar Express”, which was written by Grand Rapids native, Chris Van Allsburg. The 250 seat, heated train leaves the station in historic, downtown Coopersville every Saturday and Sunday from Thanksgiving until Christmas. All passenger cars have a restroom.  Light snacks may be brought aboard. Cameras are encouraged.
  • December 6thCoopersville Nighttime Christmas Parade at 7pm
  • December 7thFennville Christmas Celebration
    Christmas parade at 5 pm. Christmas tree lighting will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the Hutchinson Garden. The Fennville High School Band and the Holland Windmill Chorus will both perform. Photos can be taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus at 6 p.m. at the 220 Building. Horse-drawn carriage rides will be available from 6-8 p.m.
Grand Haven
  • December 14thGrant Community Annual Christmas Party
    Santa Claus will arrive aboard the Santa Express Train times to be announced.  He will then go to the Grant Community Center to meet good boys and girls and have a complimentary photograph taken with each child. Photos will be available for same day pick-up within 15-25 minutes of the time taken.  J.B. Sound will be here playing Christmas music, and the Grant Jazz Band will play around 1:30pm. Other activities include Decorate a Christmas Cookie, Christmas Crafts, Games, Horse-drawn Wagon Rides. 
  • December 21st & 22ndSki with Santa
    Timber Ridge Ski Area has two ski with Santa days: Saturday & Sunday Dec. 21 & 22.  Santa skis with the kids, takes their Christmas wishes on a chairlift ride to the top.  Santa has candy canes for everyone....Even visits the lodge for requests...You will see him here from Noon to 3PM each day, 12/21 & 12/22.
Grand Rapids
  • November 23rd: Art Van Santa Parade
    Featuring participants & floats including the West Michigan Whitecaps.
  • November 26th-January 5thChristmas & Holiday Traditions Around the World at Meijer Gardens
    Roof Top Reindeer, Saturdays, 1-4 pm. Location: English Perennial and Bulb Garden. As part of the Meijer Gardens’ Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World exhibition, live Reindeer will be visiting our English Perennial and Bulb Garden for pictures, petting, and fun!
    Santa Visits, Tuesdays, 6-8 pm. Bring the kids to visit Santa at Meijer Gardens. Santa and his sleigh will be in the Cook Entry Arbor to hear your kids’ Christmas wishes. Remember your camera to capture images of your child with Santa Claus!
  • December 8th-22ndSunday Brunches with Santa
    The Hilton Grand Rapids/Spinnaker Restaurant will be having Sunday Brunches with Santa in December. December 8, 15, 22 from 11am – 2pm.  Santa will be visiting to talk to the kids and take pictures. 
Harbor Springs
  • November 30thChristmas Tree Lighting
    The Harbor Springs Christmas Tree Lighting at 6:30pm is one of the most unforgettable ways to start off the holiday season with the lighting ceremony and a special evening of activity in the picturesque town of Harbor Springs! Music, shopping and Christmas entertainment in a nostalgic setting reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting that will create fond memories that will last a lifetime! Plus, there will be a very special Santa visit, at the Christmas tree and church, for family and kids. 
  • December 3rd: Parade of Lights
    Parade will include participants like the Holland DoubleTree Hotel.
  • December 6thSinterklaas
    This holiday celebration remembering Dutch tradition begins at the Holland Armory where holiday stories will be told along with a free holiday craft for young children. Then follow the procession of Sinterklaas through the streets to his arrival at the Museum for pictures, cookies, and hot chocolate.
  • November 23rdHudsonville Holiday Parade
  • The Hudsonville Holiday Parade will feature both Mrs. & Santa Claus as well as the reindeer!
  • December 5th-8th25th Annual Sleighbell Festival
    Enjoy roasted chestnuts and carolers as you take part in one of Michigan's most unique holiday celebrations. A whole weekend of excitement including the Sleighbell Parade on Saturday at 5:30 pm with horse drawn entries, historic building tours, special Christmas production at the historic Ramsdell Theatre, Festival of Trees, concerts, museum and art exhibits, and much more.  
  • December 4thXmas Tree Decorating
    Xmas Tree decorating in Downtown Newaygo – Santa will be present during the day to visit with the Newaygo’s Elementary Students
  • December 6thChristmas Walk
    This unique hometown experience is like no other with twinkling lights, horse drawn wagon rides, the smell of fresh roasted chestnuts and the sounds of Christmas Carols make this an experience you will not want to miss. The community is invited to come and sing Christmas carols in Brooks Park at 9 pm.  This is a candle light gathering around the Christmas Warming Fire.   Santa will be on hand at 6:00 pm for the tree lighting ceremony and also be available for photos at Independent Bank, Sportsman’s Bar & Restaurant & LaBelle de la Riviere until 9:00 pm.
  • December 7thSaint Nick Kick 5K/10K
    Ho Ho Ho, it’s The ChoiceOne Bank Saint Nick Kick you know. The 10k/5k race will begin at 10 am in front of Shopko near Plumbs. This is a fun race and the proceeds benefiting the Cross Country Team and Track Team of Newaygo Public Schools. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at the race under the warming tent and can’t wait to see the kids.  A free Santa hat and race shirt is provided to registered racers. Registration is available on line. Dress-up, come join the fun and cheer on the racers.
  • December 14thSanta Train
    Stops to include Grant, Newaygo & White Cloud – more information coming soon on times and locations please check www.newaygonaturally.com Christmas events
  • November 30thStafford’s Downtown Petosky Holiday Parade
    The parade winds through Downtown Petoskey starting at 10am with marching bands, floats, walking ensembles, reindeer, horses and of course, Santa, ending at the Perry Hotel where children can have those all-important conversations with Santa and see his reindeer as well. Join us for a time of family, friends, and fun! 
St. Joseph
  • December 7th15th Annual Reindog Parade
    The 15th annual Reindog Holiday Parade, sponsored by FuzzyButz, features dressed up pets and their owners in a variety of holiday garb. Be prepared to see all kinds of costumes from “Santa Bernards” to “Reindeer Rotweilers” -  this is definitely a must-see event. The parade will start at 4 p.m. and travel down State Street.  It will also feature Santa’s arrival to downtown St. Joseph.  In addition, enjoy free horse-drawn trolley rides from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. (weather permitting).
  • December 7th-22ndSanta’s House
    Picture-perfect holiday fun is available weekends in December in downtown St. Joseph.  Santa will be at his house following the Reindog Parade on December 7 and will be available for visits until 7:00 p.m. Santa’s House is open Thursdays through Sundays from December 8 – December 22 and located at the corner of State and Pleasant Streets.  Hours for Santa’s House can be found at www.stjoetoday.com. Thank you to The Herald-Palladium for sponsoring this event. 
Traverse City
  • December 6thSanta’s Arrival
    An outdoor extravaganza that involves carol-singing, the lighting of the community Christmas tree, and the arrival of Santa Claus on a bright red antique fire engine.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Culinary Tours: The Most Delicious Way to Visit West Michigan

You've heard of taking a fall color tour around West Michigan, driving around to look at all the beautiful colors that go on display around this time of year. You may have even been a tourist in your home town, traveling around to visit the museums and well-known landmarks near by. But have you ever considered going on a Culinary Tour

Whether exploring new culinary experiences in your hometown or taking a culinary tour to taste a new town’s offerings, culinary tours can be focused on whatever your preference is! Want to find the best pulled-pork sandwich in town? Looking to get to know an area by sampling all of its local brews? A culinary tour is the way to go! You can plan the trip yourself by picking out restaurants that look appealing to you, or you can sign up for an established tour, and walk or drive around a town to hit all of the culinary highlights!

We've picked some of the best ways to get out and explore the culinary richness of West Michigan below. Why not take an afternoon or a weekend and tempt your taste buds on a culinary tour?

Tasty Morsel Culinary Excursions

West Michigan Culinary Tour Ideas:

San Chez Bistro, located in the heart of Grand Rapids, is a great stop on your culinary tour of the area! Take a break from fast food with breakfast and lunch by San Chez CafĂ©, made with the finest local ingredients, and prepared to order fresh seven days a week. San Chez Bistro offers a blend of authentic European and Mediterranean cuisine in a fun, laid-back, and artful atmosphere. Along with consuming delicious food, San Chez is offering a few opportunities for you to learn more! Sign up for their “Perfect Pairings” class 11/14 to learn how to pair beer & wine with your dinner, a knife skills class on 11/20, or “Effortless Entertaining” on 11/18 to become the best chef for your holidays parties you’ll be hosting.

Hudsonville Ice Cream, based out of our very own Hudsonville, MI, has a few limited edition flavors to celebrate the deliciousness of fall! The new “Pure Michigan Double Berry Pie” flavor combines blueberries and strawberries with pie crust pieces in Original Vanilla ice cream, and was even created by a Michigan native, Linda Ann Stewart from Taylor, MI! They will also be bringing back “Pure Michigan Caramel Apple,” which is a lightly flavored apple ice cream with apple and caramel throughout, and tastes just like fall should!

Promote Michigan is excited to announce the 6th Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer, and Food Festival, taking place November 21-23 at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. The festival features over one hundred wineries from around the world, offering samples of an many as 1,200 assorted wines. Chefs from some of the area’s top restaurants will be preparing and serving small plates of their culinary specialties, as well as partnering with wineries and breweries for special pairing meals. You’ll be able to attend seminars, demonstrations, and workshops at the festival, as well as sampling many of the finest beer, wine, and food offerings from the region.

Hungry Village Tours

Looking for a bit of mystery to spice up your culinary tour of West Michigan? Stop by St. Julian Winery in Paw Paw on November 2nd and enjoy a five-course dinner paired with locally made wines, but keep your eye out for the murder in the winery! Who knows, you might even be the killer! 

There are two culinary tours available daily from May through December through Hungry Village Tours. One is a walking tour, exploring Saugatuck's and Douglas’ culinary secrets behind their Saugatuck storefronts with history, demonstrations, and tastings. The second option is a Delicious Drive, featuring a tour of the lakeshore’s producers including farms, orchards, blueberry patches, vintners, creameries, and smokehouses. Both tours depart from the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, and offer extraordinary culinary adventures exploring the lakeshore’s plate! 

If you’re in the Traverse City area, make sure you sign up for one of the Tasty Morsel Culinary Excursions! You can choose to participate in a walking tour down Front Street or take the Tasty Morsel van to enjoy the best of the Leelanau Peninsula. With stops along the way including places like an organic winery, hydroponic farm, chocolate shop, fish market, cheese production facility, specialty herb and spice shop, bakery, distillery and more, this is a delicious way to spend a day!

San Chez Bistro

When visiting the Petosky Area, they offer a culinary tour with a printable download (http://www.petoskeyarea.com/culinary-trail-131/) so you can keep track of the delicious area restaurants you have yet to visit! 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fall Camping (and Beyond!) in West Michigan

As summer fades into a few glorious weeks of fall here in West Michigan, it’s the perfect chance to take a weekend camping trip to get out and really experience all that fall encompasses. Pack up the tent or RV, some cozy sleeping bags to keep warm, & hit the road for one of the many campgrounds along the west side of the state. Whether you’re looking to camp right along the shores of Lake Michigan, deep in the woods far away from civilization, or as an easy access route into a nearby town, we’ve got you covered!

Campgrounds such as Twin Oaks Campground & Cabins are open year-round, for those of you brave enough for some cold-weather camping! Twin Oaks is located in the Manistee National Forest, and offers everything from rustic & group sites to full hook-up RV sites. They provide fun holiday activities, including hayrides and kids activities to help keep your kids entertained. Twin Oaks also caters to the snowmobiler crowd, with direct access to trails for lots of riding. With nearby activities including canoeing & fishing the Pine & Big Manistee Rivers, spring steelhead and fall salmon runs, the Big M Trail for mountain biking, morel mushrooming, and ORV/ATV trails, you could visit any time of year & not worry about running out of fun activities to do!

Take advantage of an Autumn Color Tour while you’re on the road by picking out one (or more!) of our 26 driving routes through West Michigan that we’ve designed with the best views of the color in mind. Make sure you check our weekly Fall Color Updates before you hit the road though; the fall colors can be here and gone before you know it, so we’re here to help you not miss any of it this season! If you’re looking for new places to get out and explore while camping, we’ve got you covered. With activities ranging from history to adventure sports, and culinary tours to “mancations,” you’re sure to create your perfect trip through West Michigan.

Where's your favorite camping spot in West Michigan? Let us know in the comments!

See below for a list of campgrounds & RV parks in West Michigan. Please check with the property for seasonal dates of operation.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Did you feel that last night? Crisp, clean, almost fall-like air! I don't know about you, but that is the best feeling in the world to me! By the beginning of September, hot, humid air, is one of the worst things I can think of! I am ready for changing leaves, boots, scarves, and fall festivals! Did you know that Fall is one of the busiest seasons in West Michigan. Our region booms with harvest festivals, hayrides, pumpkin patches, and apple picking. Each year we compile all the different festivals to attend, places to visit, and things to do in our All Things Autumn portal on our website. This crisp air has me in the mood for fall, so I have posted it early! Here you are folks, All Things Autumn!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Happy August!

Hard to believe we are already into August, and it is also hard to believe we are about to mutter these next words: Labor Day. Wasn't Memorial Day just last weekend? My how summer flies here in West Michigan. However, as the summer starts drawing to a close, we have to plan for one final shabang, right?  Since Labor Day is the unofficial end to summer, why not celebrate it in style? West Michigan offers a variety of ways to take in the last rays of summer, from triathlons to pot lucks and everything in between, and it is our duty to let you know everything that is happening. So, without further adieu, here are our top picks!


54th Labor Day Bridge Walk

September 2 • 7 am - 11 am
Mackinaw Area Visitors Bureau
Mackinaw City & Mackinac Bridge

Join thousands of pedestrians as they participate in a long standing tradition, the Labor Day Bridge Walk. This is the only day of the year that walking the "Mighty Mac" is allowed.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority, the St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Mackinaw Area Chamber of Commerce would like to make your BRIDGE WALK as pleasant as possible and offer the following information:
NO Fees or Registration
There is NO FEE or registration to participate in the walk. Bus transportation from Mackinaw City to St. Ignace is available at $5 per person (infants are free).

 Royal Craft Show

September 3 - 4
Castle Farms

Looking for the perfect chance for one last chance of guaranteed family fun before the new school year begins? Visit Castle Farms of Charlevoix, where self-guided tours are offered daily 10 am - 4 pm. Young and old alike thrill to tour the unique historic buildings, take a leisurely stroll through our magnificent gardens, visit the gnomes and fairies in the Enchanted Forest, or try their skill at a game of Giant Chess or Croquet. Royal family memorabilia, plus extensive castle, wedding, and antique toy collections are a must-see for avid enthusiasts.
Castle Farms is proud to host the annual Royal Craft Show in beautiful Charlevoix, Michigan on Labor Day Weekend. The grounds and buildings of Castle Farms will be the host to one of Michigan's most prestigious craft shows where thousands of visitors will attend this event. This craft show will feature only the finest arts and crafts that can be found and will be held in one of the most affluent areas in the state.
The Royal Craft Show hours are Saturday, 10 am - 5pm, and Sunday, 10 am - 4 pm. Free parking with a $3.00 per person admission fee. Children under 12 are admitted free. Food is available at a nominal charge. Pets are not allowed.

Muskegon Cars for Cancer

September 1-2
Muskegon County Convention & Visitor bureau

9th Annual Car & Bike Show September 1&2, 2013. To kick off event there will be an entertainment tent 5:00pm -11:00pm on Sunday September 1 with a "cruise" at 6:30pm. Monday September 2 begins with a pancake breakfast from 7:30am -10:00am. Lunch will be from 11:00am - 2:00pm. There will be kids games, poker walk, and door prizes to name a few things happening at the Lakeshore's Biggest Car Show! This is located at Mercy Health Partners Lakes Village just off US-31 @ Pontaluna Rd. exit.

Muskegon Labor Day Community Walk and Fun Run

September 3
Muskegon County Convention & Visitor bureau

Join 1 in 21 Healthy Muskegon County and the Cities of Muskegon and North Muskegon for a community walk that celebrates the beauty of our environment and promotes the health of our community!  The route follows the Lakeshore Trail to the nature preserve in North Muskegon, then turns back to Fisherman's Landing for a 4 mile walk.  New this year, is the 5K Fun Run, a scenic route along the Lakeshore Recreational Trail, looping through Edison landing and Terrace Point, then back to Fisherman's Landing.  Check-in and Onsite Registration begin at 8:00am.  The 5K begins at 8:30am and the Walk starts at 9"00am.  Online registration will be available starting June 1 at www.shorelinecity.com . . 

Labor Day Weekend in Newaygo

Newaygo's Logging Festival
is31-1311878061-65744.jpegAugust 30 - September 1 Newaygo Area Chamber of Commerce

Look forward to three full days of family fun in Newaygo on Labor Day weekend, highlighted by the Logging Festival in Brooks Park. For shoppers, Newaygo merchants will feature sidewalk sales while over 75 arts and craft vendors will have their products on display from Friday through Sunday. The Farm Market will be open from 2 to 7 pm on Friday.

Start the weekend with the Fireman’s pancake breakfast on Saturday morning and for lunch, plan on Chicken BBQ Saturday and Sunday afternoon. The daytime hours will also feature lumberjack events and chainsaw carving competition as well as a parade and the ever popular Firemen’s Water Battle. On Saturday night, adult visitors can quench their thirst at the beer tent and enjoy live music from 5 to 11 pm at the stage in Brooks Park.

”Grand Crossings” A Bridge Walk on Labor Day

September 2 8 am Experience Grand Rapids
Ah-Nab-Awen Park, Grand Rapids

You don’t have to go to the Mackinac Bridge to join the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. Join your neighbors, invite your friends. Participants can walk as many as five miles, the equivalent of the Mackinac Bridge, and cross as many as seven bridges. The route is wheelchair accessible and appropriate for all fitness levels. No sign-up is necessary. Please make sure you are physically able to participate. Mayor George K. Heartwell will lead the walk

Beaver Island Marathon

Beaver Island Chamber of Commerce

Saturday, 8am, join in on the Beaver Island walk. The marathon begins at 9am and the half marathon starts at 11am followed by the harbor run at 11:15am. 

Beaver Island Marathon
August 31 • 9 am

Beaver Island celebrates Labor Day weekend with the annual Harbor 3.5-mile Run, Half Marathon and Run Beaver Island – a Boston Marathon qualifying event – on Saturday,  August 31. Described as “a most memorable marathon” this race offers tranquility and natural beauty – including sand dunes and the views of Lake Michigan – on Michigan’s largest inhabited island. Large crowds are found at every turn of this route, with a combination of dirt, clay, gravel and pavement. After the race, runners can enjoy a "dip" in the cool, pristine waters of Lake Michigan.

Good Bye Summer, Hello Kalamazoo

Discover Kalamazoo

Make the "unoffical" last weekend of summer offically a memerable one with a trip to Kalamazoo.  We'll get you started with a couple of tried and true two-day itineraries like, Made in Kalamazoo or Enjoy our Good Nature.  Use theses themed itineraries or let us design one to fit your personal taste at www.discoverkalamazoo.com

Celebrate With Mackinac(w)

Mackinac Island
Music is in the air for the Labor Day Jazz weekend at the Grand Hotel. The Horn's Bar Labor Day Regatta sets sail at the Mackinac Island Yacht club on Saturday, September 1.

Mackinaw City
The event of the weekend is the Mackinac Bridge Walk on Labor Day. Busses transport walkers from Mackinaw City to St. Ignace where the walk begins. Walkers can begin at 7am  

Double JJ Resort
5900 Water Rd.
Rothbury, MI 49452
Phone: (231) 894-4444

Say farewell to summer with one last Rodeo! Join us the Saturday of Labor Day weekend to bid farewell to summer in true Western Style!
Pig Roast begins at 6pm
Join us at the Double JJ Resort on Saturday evenings for our Pig Roast with all the fixins'. Enjoy eating with old & new friends (and the cowboys you'll get to watch later in the Rodeo!) as you enjoy the Pig Roast with all the tasty fixin's you could want! When you've had your fill of vittles, mosey on over to the Rodeo Arena. The fun continues there with midway games, a play structure, hayrides, & a petting farm to keep everyone entertained until the Rodeo begins!

Rodeo begins at 7:30pm
The Double JJ Rodeo is perfect for real cowboys, and everyone who ever dreamt of heading out West! Watch the cowboys do their best to stay on the bucking bulls & broncs, rope cattle from the back of their horse, or race at top speed around the barrels. The rodeo is full ofaudience participation as well! You'll get the chance to participate in the rope race and chase down calves for the ribbons on their tails, along with lots of fun games for the kids! The silly antics of our rodeo clowns will keep you entertained all night long, whether you're a seasoned veteran or a first-time rodeo attendee!


Labor Day Weekend In St. Joseph

August 30 - September 1 St. Joseph Today


August 30
• “It’s Finally Friday” Sizzling Summer Nights at downtown merchants in St. Joseph.  Join shops and restaurants as they celebrate the summer season with later hours, hot sales, open houses, giveaways, demonstrations, entertainment and more!
• Friday Night Concert presented by The Boulevard Inn & Bistro at the John E. N. Howard Bandshell at 7:30 p.m., free.   That night’s performance will be by Sixth Generation.

August 31
• St. Joseph Farmers Market from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. in Lake Bluff Park.
• Craft Fair from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. in Lake Bluff Park
• Horse-drawn trolley rides sponsored by the Frederick S. Upton Foundation from Noon  – 3 p.m.  Trolley picks up at the corner of State and Elm Streets, weather permitting.
• Free movie in Whirlpool Centennial Park at 10 p.m., Turner & Hooch.

September 1
• Antiques on the Bluff from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. in Lake Bluff Park
• Horse-drawn trolley rides sponsored by the Frederick S. Upton Foundation from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.  Trolley picks up at the corner of State and Elm Streets, weather permitting.
• St. Joseph Municipal Band Concerts at 3:30 and 7:30 at the John E. N. Howard Bandshell, free.

September 2
• St. Joseph Municipal Band Concerts at 3:30 and 7:30 at the John E. N. Howard Bandshell, free.

Labor Day in Lansing

MSU Spartans v Western Michigan
August 30, 2013 - August 30, 2013
Venue:Spartan Stadium
Address: 300 Spartan Way, East Lansing, MI
Times: TBD
Admission: See website for ticket information

Are you ready for some Spartan football?! Come out and cheer on the Michigan State University Spartans as they take on Western Michigan!

August 28, 2013 - September 01, 2013
Venue: MSU Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education
Address: 4301 Farm Lane, East Lansing, MI 48824
Times: 8:00 AM
Admission: Varies

42nd Annual Dick Allen Lansing to MACkinaw Bike Camping Tour. Four routes wind northward from East Lansing and end in Mackinaw City or Sault Ste. Marie. Gorgeous scenery, varied terrain and amazing vistas on every route. This family-friendly, all ages tour is a must-do for any bicyclist in Michigan.
- See more at: http://www.lansing.org/includes/events/DALMAC-2013/6170/#sthash.Pp0ERslt.dpuf

Lansing Lugnuts Baseball vs. West Michigan Whitecaps
August 31, 2013 - August 31, 2013
Venue:Cooley Law School Stadium
Address: 505 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing, MI 48912
Times: 7:05 p.m.
Admission: Varies

Join us to Go Nuts downtown for a Lansing Lugnuts Baseball game! The classic American past time is alive and well in our community, so come be a part of the fun.

Lamafest and Alpaca Showcase
August 31, 2013 - September 01, 2013
Venue: MSU Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education
Address: 4301 Farm Ln., East Lansing, MI 48824
Times: 9:00 a.m. to approximately 5:00 p.m. each day
Admission: FREE

Llama and Alpaca Shows on Saturday, 8-31-2013; Llama Show on Sunday, 9-1-2013. Youth events including Costume class both days. Humphrey the Camel will be on display. Free admission and ample free parking. Concessions on site. Vendor area with fiber supplies for spinners and weavers and finished fiber goods.

Michigan Mosaic Music Festival
August 31, 2013 - September 01, 2013 (Recurring daily)
Venue:Adado Riverfront Park
Address: North Grand Avenue, Lansing, MI 48933
Times: 12-5PM and evening activities

Michigan Mosaic Music Festival is a FREE festival celebrating diversity and unity on Labor Day weekend in Michigan’s capital city. Activities include live bands, multicultural dance, ethnic cuisine, beverage tent, labor displays and much more.