Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Resolution: Be Adventurous


A new year is underway, and the typical resolutions are making the rounds: Eat less! Exercise more! Visit all of the Lake Michigan lighthouses (no?)! Perhaps for 2013, it's time to throw caution to the wind and set your resolution to something a bit more exciting: be adventurous!
Luckily for the brave souls venturing down this path, West Michigan makes it easy to indulge in new and daring feats. Here's our top three to get you started.

Ride the Luge

You don't have to wait until 2014 to live out your Winter Olympic dreams. Muskegon is home to one of only four luge tracks in the United States, and it's open to the public. While our Olympic counterparts spend years in training to wrap around tight curves at 90 miles an hour, three-time Olympian Frank Masley designed the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex' track to give novices a safe luge experience.
Adventure-seekers as young as eight are outfitted and taught the skills needed to cruise at 30 MPH down the icy lane with six curves and two starting points. The $40 price will not only give you multiple runs (three to eight depending on session size), but also a fancy certificate and bragging rights for life.
Need a few months to work up the nerve? The luge is open year 'round with a warm-weather wheeled option - the only one in North America.

Drive the Dunes

There's nothing quite like hiking to the top of a towering mountain of sand... except flying down them via a motorized vehicle. Lake Michigan's shoreline is spotted with picturesque dunes from Berrien County's Warren Dunes to the famous Sleeping Bear Dunes which were just named the Most Beautiful Place in America by Good Morning America. True adrenaline junkies make the pilgrimage to the Silver Lake Sand Dunes, a sandy mecca that offers one very tempting perk: driving yourself.

The Silver Lake State Park is the only dune system east of Utah that allows the use of private motorized vehicles. In fact, the northern third of the park is reserved just for this extreme sport. That's a 450-acre playground built of shifting sands.  If you don't happen to own a sand-blasting ORV, fret not. There are several outfitters ready to set you up dune-style.

If the thought of driving through an ever-changing landscape is a bit too intimidating, guided services are available, both in Silver Lake and other West Michigan communities like Saugatuck. Whichever option you chose, you'd be wise to buckle up and hold on tight for the ride of your life.
We recommend:

Soar on a Zip Line

The final few moments before you step off a platform and are sent speeding through the air on a zip line are certainly heart-pounding. Yet once you've taken the plunge, the ever-so-addicting feeling of flying takes over and suddenly, you're hooked.

Northern West Michigan's Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain Resorts have criss-crossed their properties with a total of 18 lines, including one that stretches 1,350 feet, the longest zip line in Michigan. They offer tours all year, so you can fly over skiers in January, take in a sunny afternoon in July, or enjoy the color display in September -- all at 25 miles an hour and up to 50 feet in the air.

Want to climb even higher? Wildwood Rush Canopy Tours in nearby Boyne City specializes in giving breath-taking views that can't be achieved with two feet on the ground, and they go to heights of 80 feet to achieve this. Not only do their 5,000 feet of zip lines take you high into the canopies near Lake Charlevoix, but they give you a chance to challenge your friends with triple racing lines, the only one in the Midwest.

If you're not ready for a zip experience quite that extreme, Grand Rapids' John Ball Zoo is home to a 300-foot line that takes you 40 feet into the air so you can swing about like the neighboring monkeys.

Take a Ride in a Helicopter

2013 is the year to face your fear of heights! Go up up and away in a once in a lifetime helicopter tour of Grand Rapids or the Grand Haven Lakeshore with Easyrotor Helicopters. Grab a friend and enjoy this sky high experience first hand.

Bundle Up for Winter Rafting

is99-1358263362-87865.pngNothing says "I'm an adventurer" quite like winter rafting. That's right, snow, ice, and a nice cruise down the river. At Big Bear Adventures in Indian River, you can take a guided winter rafting tour down the Sturgeon River. Experience the breathtaking beauty and solitude of winter, while floating beneath a canopy of cedars and pines covered with freshly fallen snow. This is a fun and narrative 1½ hr trip, offering an excellent opportunity to see wildlife in their natural habitat.
Most importantly, they do not tip over- this is a dry trip! In the winter, our Raft trips are Guided Only, to ensure the highest safety standards. All equipment is U.S. Coast Guard approved and safety-inspected, and Type III Lifejackets are required to be worn by all participants. No experience is necessary, but participation is required (this involves TEAMWORK!). A truly unique trip with memories to last a lifetime!

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