Monday, December 30, 2013

104 Weekend Days in Michigan, Part III

I already have listed weekend activities 1 through 26 and 27 through 52 that I would try to do with 104 weekend days in Michigan. Today, I give you 26 more days of Michigan fun. As with the previous posts, this list is in no particular order, and I have tried to include at least one activity from every corner of the state. 

Weekend Days 53-78

53. See the Animals at the Detroit Zoo

Detroit Zoo Polar Bear Photo by A. Burtka
The Detroit Zoo is a must see for anyone visiting the Metro Detroit area. Located on Woodward Avenue and 10 Mile Road in Royal Oak, the zoo's 125 acres are home to more than 2,800 animals of 265 species. The zoo boasts the largest polar bear exhibit in North America, which is worth a visit alone. Kid friendly attractions include a carousel and a train that circles the zoo. In 2015, the zoo will open a state of the art penguin exhibit that looks like it will be breathtaking.

54. Enjoy the Cherry Festival

The biggest event of the year in Traverse City is the National Cherry Festival held each July. Dating back to 1925, the festival draws more than 500,000 visitors to the Grand Traverse area each year. The weeklong festival features more than 150 events including cherry-themed contests, like cherry pie eating, parades and music.

55. Remember Lake Erie

Of the four Great Lakes that touch Michigan, Lake Erie has the shortest Michigan shoreline and does not have the number of beaches that Lake Huron or Lake Michigan offer. However, Sterling State Park, Michigan's only state park on Lake Erie, does offer outdoor recreation for visitors to the Southeast corner of Michigan. The city of Luna Pier also offers fishing charters and boat rentals.

56. Explore Isle Royale

Isle Royale Photo via National Park Service
Isle Royale is the largest island in Lake Superior. It is one of the least visited spots in Michigan due to its location in the northern reaches of the lake and the fact that it is only accessible by sea plane or boat. This national park does not allow motorized vehicles, so visitors must hike through wilderness trails to get around. The advantage this park has over other national parks is the lack of throngs of tourists interrupting your enjoyment of nature.

Read this feature by Louise Knott-Ahern of the Lansing State Journal for an amazing narrative about the island and its wolf population. The photos by Rod Sanford are magnificent.

57. Eat a Polish Meal in Hamtramck

If you can pronounce Hamtramck, you definitely are from Michigan. The city of Hamtramck is completely surrounded by the city of Detroit. In the early 1900s, it became an enclave for Polish immigrants who moved to the city to work at the Dodge plant. Today, the city is more diverse with recent immigrants from the Middle East and other countries moving into the old Polish neighborhoods. However, the Polish culture still lives on in a number of Polish restaurants, bakeries and festivals.

If you have only eaten store-bought pierogi from a supermarket, then you will be amazed by how good real Polish food is. Visit Hamtramck and try some excellent food like my Polish grandmas used to make.

58. Watch a Non-Revenue College Sporting Event

Although football, basketball and hockey games in East Lansing or Ann Arbor are thrilling to watch, there are thousands of college athletes throughout Michigan who work hard every day for the love of the game with little or no glory. Rowers, gymnasts, swimmers, runners, volleyball players and other athletes love to hear fans cheer as much as the high-profile athletes, if not more.

These events tend to be free, or at least much cheaper, than a football or basketball game. Head out to your alma mater or local college and let these student-athletes feel a little of the glory that the football and basketball players receive.

59. Let Loose at LaughFest

Gilda's LaughFest is a comedy festival based in Grand Rapids with events throughout West Michigan. The Gilda's Club Grand Rapids created the event in 2011 to promote laughter as an important aspect of emotional and physical health. Proceeds from the festival support the Gilda's Club Grand Rapids, which provides a free community of emotional support to people with cancer and their family members.

The festival is held in March over a ten day period and has featured Bill Cosby, Betty White, Martin Short, Jim Gaffigan, Kevin Hart and many other comedians. Since part of the mission of LaughFest is to spread laughter to the community, a large majority of the comedy events on the smaller stages are free.

60. Visit Colonial Michilimackinac

Mackinaw City sits on the southern edge of the Mackinac Bridge and is the home of Colonial Michilimackinac. The National Historic Landmark includes the reconstructed Fort Michilimackinac on the grounds of a fort established by the French as an outpost for the fur trade. The British took control of the fort during the French-Indian War. They later created a new fort on Mackinac Island and burned the original Fort Michilimackinac to the ground.

Today, visitors can see what life was like during colonial times in the reconstructed fort with musket and cannon firing demonstrations, blacksmiths forging metal, and other reenactments of daily life from the Colonial Era. The fort also provides views of the Straights of Mackinac and the Mackinac Bridge.

61. Visit Campus Martius

Campus Martius Christmas Tree Photo by A. Burtka
Detroit's Campus Martius is a testament to the improvements Downtown during the last fifteen years and the positive vibes that are growing in the Motor City. In the late 1990s, there was no outdoor gathering place in this area of downtown, but now it is a bustling urban center on two square blocks. During the summer months, visitors can listen to music performances and stroll through green spaces including gardens and lawns. During the winter months, Campus Martius offers an ice rink for skaters.

62. Learn about Michigan's History

When in Lansing, stop by the Michigan Historical Museum to learn about the history of this great state. With three floors of exhibits, the museum tells Michigan's story from the days of its earliest people until modern times. Exhibits feature artifacts from the state's earliest eras and photographs, newspaper headlines, clothing, cars and more from more recent times.

63. Enjoy Rosy Mound Natural Area

The Sleeping Bear Dunes might be Michigan's most famous dunes, but Rosy Mound Natural Area on the edge of Grand Haven offers dunes as well. Rosy Mound is 180 miles south of Sleeping Bear and offers a hiking trail, scenic views of Lake Michigan, stairs up and down the dunes, a beach and a boardwalk trail.

64. Go Ghost Hunting in the U.P.

Iron Furnace from an abandoned house Photo by Trimalchio
Fayette Historic State Park offers visitors the opportunity to see a ghost town that was once a booming industrial community in the late 1800s. The park has a visitor center and provides walking tours of the town. Visitors can see 20 well-preserved buildings including a hotel and the town hall.

65. Listen at Orchestra Hall

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, or DSO, was founded in 1887 and is one of the oldest symphony orchestras in the United States. Midtown's Orchestra Hall dates back to 1919 and was the DSO's home until 1939. It luckily survived to this day after becoming a jazz theater for several years before sitting vacant for decades. After restoration efforts succeeded, the DSO returned home to Orchestra Hall in 1989. The hall is known for its excellent acoustic qualities.

66. Explore Tannery Falls

Tannery Creek Photo by Joel Dykstra
Tannery Falls is a lesser known waterfall located on the Tannery Creek near Munising in the U.P. The amount of water flowing over the falls depends on the time of the year and the amount of melting snow. The area surrounding the falls includes many trails to hike, and the MNA Memorial Falls are within walking distance. For a review of Tannery Falls with directions to find them, click here.

67. Visit Kitch-iti-kipi

Kitch-iti-kipi, located near Manistique in the U.P., is Michigan's largest spring at 200 feet across and 40 feet deep. The clear waters can be seen on an observation raft that is connected by a cable to the shore. Through observation windows on the raft, visitors can see the fast moving waters of the spring, swimming trout and submerged tree trunks. The spring is located in Palms Book State Park, which includes picnic areas and a concession stand.

68. View Classic Cars in Hickory Corners

Hickory Corners is a small town near Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. It is home to the 90 acre Gilmore Car Museum. The museum began as a hobby of Donald Gilmore who collected cars and later purchased the farm where the museum currently stands. The grounds include eight historic barns, a 1930s service station and more than 250 cars from the 1890s to the 1970s.

69. Eat and Drink Local

Support local businesses and food growers and producers. Michigan is full of smaller restaurants that serve locally grown produce and locally raised beef, breweries and brew pubs that produce Michigan brews, coffee shops that roast their own beans and farmers markets and grocers that sell locally made food. Eating local is good for the local economy and environment and is good for your health.

70. Attend a Concert at Hill Auditorium

The University of Michigan's Hill Auditorium turned 100 years old in 2013. The concert venue hosts a wide variety of music acts throughout the year. Orchestras, pianists, jazz bands, rock bands and more have graced its stage. Music experts praise the Ann Arbor auditorium for its perfect acoustics. For a schedule of upcoming shows, click here.

71. See the Lakenenland Junkyard Art

Tom Lakenen is a boilermaker in the U.P. who turns industrial scrap iron into sculptures. He charges no admission fees to enter his sculpture park, Lakenenland, which is located on M-28 between Munising and Marquette. The park contains 50 large iron sculptures of animals, dinosaurs and more. For Hunt's Guide to the Upper Peninsula's review of the sculpture park with pictures, click here.

72. Experience Torch Lake

Torch Lake Photo by H.G. Judd
Torch Lake is Michigan's longest inland lake at 19 miles long. It is located just inland of Grand Traverse Bay about 17 miles northeast of Traverse City. The lake is known for its turquoise blue waters and its 2 mile long sandbar which serves as the social center of the lake. Visitors can rent vacation homes on the lake which National Geographic called the third most beautiful lake in the world.

73. Visit the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House

The former estate of Henry Ford's son Edsel is located in Grosse Pointe Shores on Lake St. Clair. Just a few miles from the Detroit city limits, the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House was designed by Albert Kahn and built in the 1920s. The grounds are open throughout the year with guided tours of the house and gardens available. The house even has a restaurant that serves lunch and dinner. During the holidays, the grounds are lit up with Christmas lights.

74. Dine and Drink at the Founders Brewery

Founders Brewery of Grand Rapids is one of Michigan's most famous craft brewers. Its taproom serves sandwiches, sides and appetizers and allows customers to test new beers that are not available to the general market yet. The taproom overlooks the brewing facilities allowing customers to see where the brewing magic happens. The brewery also offers the Centennial Room which can be rented for private parties. The taproom also stages music events throughout the year.

75. Shop at a Former Psychiatric Hospital

The Village at Grand Traverse Commons is a sprawling community of shops, restaurants and living spaces that was once an insane asylum. Developers have since renovated the gorgeous buildings and grounds. Grand Traverse Commons also hosts special events like a farmers market on Saturday mornings and music performances.

76. Take a Ride on a Steam Train

The Little River Railroad is based in Coldwater and takes visitors on weekend excursions on a steam powered train. This nonprofit is dedicated to the preservation of historic railroad equipment. The route runs to Quincy and occasionally Hillsdale.

77. Watch a Movie at the Redford Theatre

Detroit's Redford Theatre was built in 1928 as a neighborhood movie house, and it still has the original organ built for the silent films of the 1920s. I went to a few shows as a teenager but have not been back in years. I loved watching classic movies from the 1940s and 50s and hanging out in the impressive three story grand foyer during intermissions. The theater still shows old movies and hosts other events throughout the year.

78. Attend a State Fair

From 1849 until 2010, the Michigan State Fair entertained Michiganders every summer. Although the longstanding event at the Detroit Fairgrounds is no longer in operation, the state fair tradition continues with two competing fairs. The Upper Peninsula State Fair bills itself as "Michigan's Only State Fair." It is held in August and includes music performances to go along with the animal and agriculture exhibits. The fair is held in Escanaba and has been in operation since 1928.

In 2012, the inaugural Fifth Third Bank Michigan State Fair opened with the hopes of carrying on the tradition of the original state fair in Detroit. The fair is held on Labor Day Weekend in Novi in Metro Detroit and offers agricultural and animal exhibits, a Michigan Beer Garden and other entertainment.

For days 79 to 104 click here.

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