Two Northern Michigan Tourism Bureaus Unite for a Regional Approach to Marketing

Traverse City Tourism, northern Michigan’s largest destination marketing organization has formed a merger with the Benzie County Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Traverse Traveler has worked closely with both communities since our inception. So we’d like to give you some perspective on how this regional approach to marketing affects the hospitality industry in northern Michigan. We’ll talk about how the merger impacts hotels and travelers. And we’ll share some perspective from the local business members of both organizations.

Tourism Bureaus Unite

Let’s Start with a Regional Approach to Marketing

When we first went into business with our little card displays in 2001 one thing was certain. We knew our marketing was going to represent businesses all around Traverse City, including those in Benzie and Leelanau county. While Traverse City had the most hotels—an important factor since our distribution is based in the hotel lobby—some of the best restaurants and attractions to visit lie off the beaten path, in the small towns that surround the city. So we took a regional approach to marketing. We have displays in all three counties and promote businesses all across the area. I think we had the right idea.

Since 2001 we have worked with hotels, restaurants, and attractions across Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, and Antrim county. We’ve learned that travelers who stay in one community are here to enjoy and experience northern Michigan. That itinerary doesn’t stop at the county line. Guests that stay in one town are more than willing to drive 40 minutes to enjoy a fabulous meal, explore our parks and beaches, shop for souvenirs and wander through our historic towns. But when it comes to our destination marketing organizations (DMOs), whose job it is to market this region nationwide as a vacation destination, lines had to be drawn in the sand. Until now.

When 2 + 1 = 2

As of March 1, 2020 two of our region’s DMOs will become one. The Benzie County Area Convention and Visitors Bureau announced they will be merging with Traverse City Tourism. This merger not only impacts the Benzie CVB members but the Benzie Chamber as well. The Benzie Chamber and Benzie CVB shared staff, offices and a Visitor Center at the corner of M-115 and US-31 in Benzonia. This merger will bring two organizations together and leave one to stand alone.

In the fall of 2019 Mary Carroll, the Executive Director of the Benzie CVB and Benzie Chamber president announced she was leaving. This left the boards with big decisions to make about the future of their organizations. The Benzie Chamber selected Rick Coates to lead their organization starting in January 2020. In a letter to Benzie Chamber members announcing the merger, he shared their perspective,

“Tourism, along with agriculture are the largest economic drivers in Benzie County. Many of our businesses in Benzie are directly impacted by the tourism economy. This transition will serve as a great opportunity to strengthen our tourism industry which is vitally important to the economic health of Benzie County.”

At this time the Visitors Center in Beulah will remain open at the Chamber office in Benzonia. The Chamber will refocus its efforts on the economic development of Benzie county businesses. Lodging members of the Benzie CVB, who voted by referendum to support this union, will see some changes.

The room assessment percentage in Benzie county, a fee which is levied to lodging properties to fund the marketing organization, will increase from the current 2% to 5% to match that of Traverse City Tourism. All assessments and the responsibility for marketing the Benzie CVB members will shift to Traverse City Tourism in March.

In a press release from Traverse City Tourism, director Trevor Tkach shared some insight into the new marketing efforts.

“Collaborating with Benzie County allows us to tell bigger stories about our area’s greatest attractions, like skiing, fishing, golf, trails, watersports, and more.”

Affect on Local Business

We spoke with several of our Benzie County partners in hospitality to get their perspective on this regional approach to marketing and found overwhelming support for the merger.

Steve Campbell, owner of Harbor Lights Resort in Frankfort, is also a board member for the Benzie CVB. 

“As a lodging property in Benzie County, we are very excited about this partnership with Traverse City Tourism.  It allows our county to leverage the power and reach of TCT to help tell the story of Northwest Michigan not just on a state level, but more regionally, nationally and internationally.  This is now more important than ever given the uncertainly of Pure Michigan funding.  I am confident that the entire area will benefit from the increased exposure, not only from a tourism standpoint, but the potential long term impact on the economy.  Job creation in the tourism industry is one aspect, but long term, the more people that are exposed to this region, the greater the potential to attract more home buyers, entrepreneurs to start or move businesses here, etc.  I think this is all very positive.”

There are more than just the lodging properties who will be impacted by creating a larger regional CVB. Restaurants, retailers and attractions also stand to benefit from the increase in marketing that comes with greater resources. Riverside Canoes is located on the Platte River in Benzie county, inside the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Owner Kyle Orr sees the upside potential for Benzie county businesses.

“I think it’s an excellent opportunity for Benzie county businesses to scale our marketing. By partnering with TCT we gain a larger audience. And the additional dollars collected by the room tax should benefit the Benzie economy greatly, just as the Pure Michigan dollars do for all businesses. We know first hand how many people come from Traverse City to visit us for day trips. This is a win-win for all local economies.”

Impact on the Traveler

Travelers staying in Benzie county will notice the fee assessment increase this season, rising to 5%. That’s the cost of a large ice cream cone on a typical room rate, but for weekly vacation rentals, the hike will be more noticeable. The benefits to both travelers and businesses in the region comes in the form of access to information. Traverse City Tourism will be a broader resource for lodging choices and attraction information. And member properties will have a much larger marketing machine in their corner selling the benefits of Benzie county to travelers from across the globe.

How Can We Help

Traverse Traveler has a variety of marketing opportunities for local businesses to reach travelers staying in hotels. Since Traverse City Tourism will have more buying power to bring visitors to the region, we’re here to make sure they can find out about all this region has to offer.

  • Restaurants, wineries and breweries can feature their menu in our Dining Guide.
  • Our little card displays located in the hotel lobby are the first choice for guests wanting grab-and-go inspiration. And maps. They love the maps.
  • Our visitor channel that plays in-room engages guests through storytelling videos that entertain and inform.
  • The Traverse Traveler app includes all you need to know to navigate the region. It’s all-inclusive so every business has a chance to be seen.

As we mentioned at the start, Traverse Traveler has always had a regional approach to marketing. We represent businesses across Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau and Antrim county on ALL of our marketing platforms. We look forward to working with more Benzie county businesses who would like to reach travelers staying in Traverse City. And vice versa, we will continue to expand our distribution of content in Benzie county. We want to ensure their guests can learn about the amazing businesses that make up our little tip of the Mitten state.


By |2020-02-06T15:10:45-05:00February 5th, 2020|Benzie, News, Traverse City, Traverse Traveler|0 Comments

25 Ways to Entertain Out-of-Town Guests in Traverse City this Winter

It’s easy to plan activities in the summer, but what are the best things to do in Traverse City in the winter? When out-of-town guests come to visit it can be challenging to think of new ways to entertain them, especially in the winter. Let Traverse Traveler be your guide. We put together 25 winter activities in Traverse City for guests of all ages. With these ideas, you’re sure to get the kids outdoors, send the in-laws out of your kitchen, and keep the peace this holiday season.

Winter activities graphic

1– Take a History Tour at The Village
Book a tour at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons and spend 2 hours learning about the history of the buildings that once housed an asylum for the mentally insane. Explore the underground steam tunnel, go inside untouched buildings and discover how an abandoned asylum was transformed into a modern community. Try the Taste the Village tour which includes wine tasting at Left Foot Charley and beer flight at Earthen Ales. Reservations required. Online booking available here.

2— Hit the Ice for a Twilight Skate
Turn the music up, the lights down, and ice skate under the disco lights at a Twilight Skate at Howe Arena. Traverse City brings back the rockin’ rink to create memories for the next generation. This family-friendly winter activity is only $5/person with $3 skate rental available on-site. Evening skates on Fridays/Saturdays and extra hours during holiday vacations. Check Twilight Skate schedule here.

3— Experience a Theater Performance
Traverse City is home to several theaters with fabulous performances throughout the year. Check out the calendars for the City Opera House, Interlochen Center for the Arts, and Old Town Playhouse to see if there’s a concert, play or music performance while your guests are in town. Pair that with a dinner out and that’s a full evening of great entertainment.

4— Drink Beer in an Igloo
We can’t hide the fact that it is winter, so why not embrace it? Hoplot in Suttons Bay was the first to employ igloo seating in the winter and the idea took off. It’s so popular in fact that you’ll want to book your igloo in advance! If you prefer to take your chances you’ll also find the geodesic domes at St Ambrose Cellars in Benzonia.

5— Go Sledding on the Dune Climb
You’ve probably taken your guests to see the Sleeping Bear Dunes in the summer. But if you want a real adventure grab some sleds and head to the Dune Climb this winter. There’s plenty of parking and one giant hill that won’t disappoint. A word of advice: if it’s windy, don’t let go of the sled. You won’t be able to run fast enough to catch it. And don’t park too close to the bottom of the hill. It’s not uncommon for sledders to end up in the parking lot! National Park Pass required.

6— Snowshoe at a Winery
Turn wine tasting into an active adventure. The 45 North Vineyard Trail is a 3-mile groomed recreational trail for biking, skiing or walking located at Forty-Five North Vineyard and Winery on the Leelanau Peninsula. Take your guests for a hike followed by wine and cider tasting at the winery. Check their Facebook page for trail conditions.

7— Hike in an Art Park
At Crystal Mountain Resort you can explore an outdoor sculpture garden known as Michigan Legacy Art Park. More than forty larger-than-life sculptures are nestled along the trail which loops through a 30-acre forest. The park is open every day year-round. Donations accepted for park access. Snowshoe rentals available through Crystal Mountain.

8— Catch a Movie at The State or Bijou
When the wind chill drives the kids indoors, head to the movies. Downtown Traverse City is home to two beautifully restored theaters. The State Theatre and Bijou are non-profits operated by volunteers. Which means you can buy a ticket, popcorn, and a drink for less than $20! They host a kids 25 cent matinee every Saturday at 10am, and a calendar of special events that take movie fun to a whole new level. Visit their website for showtimes.

9— Instagram an Art Walk Downtown
Within the Downtown district, you’ll discover outdoor art throughout the city. Why not make it an Instgrammable adventure. Pose with the statue of Perry Hannah, Traverse City’s founding father on Union Street. Make heart hands in front of the heart wall on Park Street. Witness our native heritage as you walk through the Cass street tunnel. Find your wings on East Front Street and a mosaic mural on West Front. It’s a fun way to enjoy a winter activity in downtown Traverse City.

10— Shop for a New Winter Hat
When you live in Michigan we need hats for skiing, headbands for hiking, hats we wear outdoors to cover our ears, and hats we wear indoors just to be stylish. So naturally, a trip to Traverse City in the winter should include hat shopping at Diversions. Check out the Michigan-made Stormy Kromer for a fashionable yet functional hat, or the Yooper Chook to cover everything but your eyeballs in polar fleece!

11— Get Some Homework or Detention
There’s a one-room schoolhouse on Old Mission Peninsula that made homework and detention tasteful. In fact, these wines by Peninsula Cellars are downright delicious. Stop by the century-old schoolhouse on M-37 for wine and cider tasting. You’ll find playful blends like Pop Quiz and Exchange Student, as well as estate varietals like Riesling and Pinot Noir. Take your guests to school and bring home a little class.

12— Take the Toddlers for a Bounce
When your guests have kids it’s nice to know there’s a place to go where it’s safe to run around and burn off some energy. The Busy Bodies Bounce Town in the Cherryland Center will pull the kids away from the screen time for some physical fun. Wristband entry means you can come and go all day, and parents play for free. Just remember to bring your socks. (PERMANENTLY CLOSED in 2020)

13— Eat Giant S’mores Indoors
The Filling Station Microbrewery has something for everyone in the family, including the kids. Try the s’mores pizza for a sweet and gooey unexpected treat. Chocolate, marshmallow and a crispy crust are baked in their wood-fired oven. You’ll also find savory flatbreads, tasty salads and of course, the Filling Station’s own craft beers brewed on-site. Enjoy a meal, a drink or dessert on their new enclosed outdoor patio for a fun winter activity in Traverse City.

14— Play Old School Arcade Games
Who’s ready to take on the pinball king? The Coin Slot in downtown Traverse City is home to dozens of ‘80s and ‘90s classic arcade games just waiting for a new high score. From Donkey Kong and Galaga to Frogger and Centipede, there’s a blast from the past on every wall. Think arcades are just for kids? Well there’s beer in here, so don’t count on it. Pinball still takes quarters, or you can buy a package by the hour.

15— Try to Escape at Incredible Mo’s
Looking for things to do with teens? How about an activity that challenges their minds. At Escapology, you have one hour to try and solve the puzzles and free your team from one of three escape rooms. Book the room for two to eight players, ages 12 and up. When you’re done grab a meal at Sauce or break out the bowling shoes. Incredible Mo’s has you covered for a whole day of fun.

16— Experience Inuit Art at The Dennos
The Dennos Museum on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College has one of the largest collections of Inuit Art in the Nation. Exhibitions change throughout the year in the other gallery spaces in this beautiful museum. Kids of all ages will enjoy the hands-on exhibits in the Discovery Gallery where they can play a musical sound wall and laser harp, and interact with the light wall. Admission is just $6/Adults $4/children.

17— Tour a Distillery and Warm Up from the Inside Out
Sip a custom cocktail from one of a dozen spirits made on-site at the Iron Fish Distillery in Thompsonville near Crystal Mountain. Sign up for a tour to learn how they make small-batch craft spirits like vodka, bourbon, and gin from the grains grown on this century-old farm. Then grab a seat at the bar for a Salted Maple Old Fashioned or a Manistee Mule. Tours $12/person, includes tasting for 21+.

18— Take a Snowy Sleigh Ride
For an up north experience your out-of-town guests will remember, take a sleigh ride through the snowy hillside. At Black Horse Farm in Empire, you’ll hear those sleigh bells jingling as a team of Percheron horses pulls the 12-person sleigh through the Leelanau woods. Visit a warming station overlooking Glen Lake for some hot cocoa and an unforgettable Michigan memory.

19— Shop an Indoor Farmers Market
What do Michigan farmers do when the cold wind blows the farm stand closed? They bring the harvest indoors. Every Saturday throughout the winter you can shop the indoor farmers market in the halls of The Village Mercado. Merchants set up booths with winter greens, eggs, honey, mushrooms, homemade treats, fish, milk, meats and more. Open 10am–2pm on Saturdays November–April.

20— Test Your Golf Skills
The greens may be under a blanket of snow, but you can still hit the virtual links at X-Golf Traverse City. Rent a simulator by the hour for up to 6 people per bay. Practice and get feedback on your skills or play a simulated round. Plan on one hour per person to play 18-holes. Simulators can be reserved for up to four hours. So when your competitive relatives come for a visit, why not challenge them to a round of golf. Plan on $35-$55/hour.

21— Learn to Curl
There’s a restaurant in Maple City where you can eat, drink and learn to curl. That’s right, Broomstack Kitchen & Taphouse is also home to the Leelanau Curling Club. They have a designated curling rink on-site. Bring your out-of-town guests and learn to toss the rock and sweep your way to victory. It’s a fun winter activity for kids and adults of all ages. Learn to curl classes include 45 minutes of instruction and one hour playtime. $25/person

22— Go Snow Tubing
With Mt Holiday on the east and Timberlee Hills to the west, we have your snow tubing winter activities covered in Traverse City. Both resorts offer warming stations, tube rental and towing to get you up the hill, so you can enjoy the ride down. Timberlee Hills is open Fri–Sun, tickets $14/hr. Mt Holiday is open Tues–Sun, tickets $11-$13/hr.

23— Make a Kid-Friendly Tasting Tour
Plan a day trip around town and introduce your guests to the flavors of Traverse City with your very own tasting tour. Many shops encourage you to try before you buy. Sample cherries at Cherry Republic, taste olive oils and flavored vinegars at Fustinis, try gelato flavors at Espresso Bay, and you can even sip the seven soups made fresh daily at The Soup Cup.

24— Take a Musical Walk Through Time
Located just north of Traverse City in Acme, the Music House Museum is filled with treasures of another era. Docent-led tours will guide you through the museum. From simple music boxes and early radios to the grand 1922 Mortier dance hall organ, you’ll see and hear our musical past come to life. The Music House is open weekends November and December, and by reservation for groups of 10+ in January–March. Tickets $15/adults, $5/kids. Special pricing available for families, veterans, AAA. Active military are FREE.

25— Eat and Drink a Massive Mary
The Massive Mary is an attraction all its own. This giant Bloody Mary from Boone’s Prime Time Pub in Suttons Bay is a meal in a glass. And it’s definitely Instagram-worthy. With a Buffalo chicken slider, a burger slider, onion rings, pickle chips, green olives, celery, lemon, lime and a snit of beer… your friends won’t believe you ate and drank the entire thing.

winter skier graphic

25 things to do, and one app to find them all

There you have it: 25 ways to keep your out-of-town guests busy with winter activities in Traverse City. And just to make life a little easier we put them all in one place. You’ll find all of these locations on the Traverse Traveler app, your handy guide to the Traverse Area. Be sure to share that tip with your guests too! Now get out there and enjoy the winter.

Garth Trek Video Shares a Dog’s Perspective on Frankfort

The film Garth Trek | A Lost Dog’s Adventure in Frankfort is the story of what happens when a dog gets lost in Frankfort and spends the day searching for his owner. This is the revised rendition of the film that took home our Traverse Traveler Choice Award at the 2018 Frankfort48 Film Contest.

We thought you might enjoy the story of how a dog named Garth wandered his way onto the Traverse Traveler visitor channel.

The Frankfort48 Film Contest

Each year the Garden Theater hosts a contest for young filmmakers. They have 48 hours to write, shoot, edit and submit a 3-5 minute film, with a few surprise elements chosen by organizers. Since we love working with young talent–and we love Frankfort–this seemed like the perfect project to support.

We were honored to join the judging committee and select a winner for the Traverse Traveler Choice Award. Along with a prize package, our winner was offered the opportunity to create and edit a commercial promoting the Frankfort48 Film Contest. The commercial will air on the Traverse Traveler Visitor Channel to promote the 2019 Frankfort48 Film Contest.

Garth Trek turned out to be a crowd favorite, judging by the applause. We loved the concept of the video, and who wouldn’t love Garth. So we gave T.J. the chance to direct a revised version, and put Garth in spotlight again. Check out the original film on YouTube.

Revising Garth Trek for the Traverse Traveler Audience

The Traverse Traveler visitor channel plays in over 3,000 hotel rooms throughout the Traverse City region. Our programming is designed to educate and entertain hotel guests, as well as provide guidance to area businesses and attractions. We recently added properties in Benzie County to our network, and thought this would be a great way to introduce viewers to Frankfort.

To tell this story for our network we had three challenges for the filmmaker:

  1. Retain the original storyline
  2. Showcase businesses and locations that would attract travelers to Frankfort
  3. Shorten the length to under 3 minutes

To retain the original storyline T.J. kept key shots from the original Garth Trek that we fell in love with. Then we added many new locations and adventures to local hotspots. Finally, we gave Garth a voice. The narration helps travelers watching on our in-room visitor channel follow along with his journey.

TJ and Garth meet Traverse Traveler

To showcase businesses and locations of interest to travelers we sent Garth to some of our favorite spots in Frankfort including:

  • The gateway arch
  • Frankfort lighthouse & pier
  • Lake Michigan beach
  • Downtown shopping
  • Garden Theater
  • Frankfort marina
  • Mineral Springs Park
  • A&W
  • Stormcloud Brewing Company
  • Highway M-22
  • Point Betsie lighthouse

We think our award-winning director T.J. Taylor, and his team, have earned another round of applause. And a special thanks to their canine star, Garth.

Mealtickets Top 10 Moments from 2011

As a local travel expert I spend most of my time promoting other Traverse Area businesses. With the close of 2011 I thought I’d recap what a busy year it’s been for my business. So I thought a year-end review in classic Top 10 fashion would be fun. Here goes:

Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas Top 10 Moments of 2011


Traverse Traveler iPhone app10. Traverse Traveler hits 1000 downloads. We kick-started the New Year by reaching a goal we hadn’t imagined. After launching the Traverse Traveler iPhone App at the end of 2010 the local community and area visitors showed overwhelming support. Our app downloads hit 1000 in the first 25 days.


9. Mealtickets Family Grows. I refer to our advertisers as the Mealtickets Family. This year our family grew to welcome the Cherryland Antique Mall, Dennos Museum Center, Elk Rapids Chamber, Becky Thatcher Designs, Great Lakes Children’s Museum and Mana to our little card gang. We’re proud to offer information on such great businesses in Traverse City and the surrounding area. It makes my job easy when I represent great clients! So thanks everyone.


8. All a Twitter. It’s hard to believe I have been on Twitter for less than a year. But it took me a while to make the commitment to another social media platform. And yet, I think it’s one of the best decisions I made all year. The people I’ve met on Twitter have been fantastic. It has broadened my knowledge base, and sparked networking opportunities I never imagined. If you have a small business I highly recommend joining Twitter. In fact, I wrote a blog post here about just that. If you’re in Northern Michigan might I suggest you follow the hashtags #nwmi #TCMI and #mittenlove to find some likeminded friends. And by all means, follow me @TraverseTravelr!


10 Places I've Never Been7. 10 Places I’ve Never Been. It all started with an article in Grand Traverse Woman Magazine. Looking to encourage locals to get out in their own backyard and open doors they’ve never opened, I wrote a list of 10 Places I’ve Never Been and set out to visit each one. My list took me across Benzie, Leelanau and Traverse City, into restaurants, wineries, jewelry, furniture and retails stores.

I met great people, and I spent my dollars with local businesses. It was a great experience. In fact, don’t be surprised if my explorations return in 2012. When I stop and think about it there are so many more than 10 places that I have yet to visit. I reported on my travels once a week throughout the summer, here on the Mealtickets blog. If you haven’t read them, I hope you will. You’ll discover some of the magic that makes Northern Michigan so unique.


Traverse City Lip Dub6. Rockin’ with the Traverse City Lip Dub. When I heard about plans to make a Traverse City Lip Dub I thought it would be fun to work behind-the-scenes to make it happen. But when I appeared at the first meeting I threw my hat in the ring and auditioned to be one of the “singers”. Who knew I’d make the cut! So after one month of planning, rehearsing, and one beastly hot day in downtown Traverse City, our community came together to pull off a creative rendition of “You Can Call Me Al,” and “Jump” lip-synced throughout town.

The performers were dedicated. The social media engine buzzed about the big debut at the Traverse City Film Festival. And thousands of people gathered at the Open Space to watch the premiere before an outdoor showing of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Finally the TC Lip Dub went on YouTube for all the masses. And then they pulled the plug. At the end of the day, it was still a highlight of my year, and I’m proud to say, “You Can Call Me Al.”


5. Sleeping Bear Dunes Named America’s Most Beautiful Place. You couldn’t have missed this story unless you were out of State — perhaps out of the Country. That just goes to show how proud we Michiganders are of our beautiful location. This summer, a small community in the heart of Leelanau County created a nation-wide buzz about the Sleeping Bear Dunes by voting on Good Morning America’s contest.

Some were shocked that we beat out places like Hawaii and California, but not us locals. This win showcased not only the power of social media, but the strength we have when we, as a community, come together to show our support for this region. If you voted for this win, you helped make it happen. And this win has already brought thousands of New visitors to Northern Michigan. And that’s something I’m passionate about indeed.


Visual Marketing Book4. Visual Marketing Book Includes Traverse Traveler. My first publication! Traverse Traveler app was selected from a pool of over 500 applicants to be included in a new book by David Langdon and Anita Campbell. Visual Marketing: 99 Proven Ways for Small Businesses to Market with Images & Design debuted in September with a spread on the Traverse Traveler app.

I was thrilled to be selected for this book which recognized our success in taking a print-based business (Mealtickets) and expanding into a mobile version that works (Traverse Traveler). The book includes 99 great stories of marketing strategies that have been successful, along with a Takeaway Tip for each one so you can apply it to your own business.


3. A Mention on Forbes.com! This one was exciting enough to warrant some local news coverage, so I think it deserves its own listing in our Top 10. The author of the Visual Marketing book was interviewed on Forbes.com about the new release. In her interview, she sited three examples from the book, including Traverse Traveler. Read the article here. It’s a great overview of the Visual Marketing book, and it gave me a reason to smile when I discovered the interview on Twitter.


2. Traverse Traveler Hits 5000 Downloads. I had high hopes for how the Traverse City community and local visitors would respond to our app, but I couldn’t imagine 5000 downloads in less than a year. I’m thrilled to say we will finish 2011 with over 6100 downloads and counting. I have big goals for 2012 including the much awaited launch of an Android version of the app, a BIG fundraising event from Traverse Traveler, and hopefully lots of new businesses adding their listings to our categories. Is your business on the app? If not, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say, Sign Up Here!


Mealtickets Celebrates 10 Years1. Mealtickets Celebrates 10 Years in Business. Saving the best for last, I’m proud to say I’ve been an momtrepreneur for 10 years! I started Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas on November 1, 2001 after losing my graphic design job in the wake of 9/11. It’s been a challenge to learn new skills — like sales — and a pleasure to work with this regions wonderful hospitality industry and small business owners. In 10 years Mealtickets has distributed millions of little cards to help area visitors discover unique, off-the-beaten-path restaurants, attractions and wineries. And for that I couldn’t be more proud. It is my Top moment in 2011.


If you made it through that list of horn tooting, I thank you! It’s amazing to me that all fit in one calendar year. But if you’re wondering what I could possibly have left to do in 2012, have no fear. I’m a busy body, who is always looking for the next challenge. And I’ve got some great ideas for 2012. So I hope you’ll stay with us.


Happy New Year everyone! I hope your 2012 is a great success. And if there’s any way Mealtickets or Traverse Traveler can help make that happen, please let me know.

By |2019-12-19T15:20:21-05:00December 30th, 2011|Benzie, Leelanau, Mealtickets News, Traverse City|0 Comments

Shop Local Michigan Holiday Gift Guide

Every year I scour the region for new ideas for the holiday gift giving season. This year’s theme is: Shop Local. We’re lucky to be surrounded by local retailers who work hard to fill their stores, galleries and pantries with unique finds from Michigan and across the nation. Let’s keep our neighbors in business and see what they have to offer before we fill our online carts and pull out the VISA.

Now I’ll hop off my soapbox and share this year’s categories:

Smitten with the Mitten

From Barrel to Glass

Handmade & Heartfelt

Foodie Finds

Host with the Most

Fun & Festive

Holiday Gift Guide 11 Mitten image

Smitten with the Mitten

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this year seems to be the year of the Mitten. Michigan themed companies, gifts and accessories are everywhere! And for us proud Michiganders that’s a great thing. Here are a few suggestions for the Michigan loyalist in your family.

Michigan Mittens | Benjamin Twiggs

Everyone in Michigan knows we show our hometown by holding up our trusty hand map. When the weather turns cold you can hold your hand high and as their slogan says, “Always wear a map on your hands.” Available locally at Benjamin Twiggs. Michigan mittens are made in Clarkston, Michigan.

Michigan Ice Cube Trays | High Five Threads

I discovered these on Facebook, and was glad to see a local company carrying them. What a simple and clever way to share your love of the state. Two trays per package. And the yoopers in your family will be glad to see the design includes the upper and lower peninsula. Jell-O shots anyone? Available at High Five Threads in the Village mercato.

baabaazuzu Mittens

When a Michigan-based company makes mittens from recycled wool we can’t help but be smitten. Baabaazuzu, a Lake Leelanau company designs and creates unique wearables and ships them all around the world. Lucky for us they are available locally as well. Find their mittens in Traverse City at Cali’s and Golden Shoes and in Suttons Bay at The Painted Bird. You can also order online at baabaazuzu.com.

Michigan Soap | Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures

Handmade by The Sudsy Mitten Soap Co. in scents like Maple Syrup, Lake Effect and Michigan Honey, these little gems are the perfect stocking stuffer for the mitten lover in your house. Available at Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures in Interlochen.

Keep it Fresh Tee | High Five Threads

It wouldn’t be a Michigan themed gift list without one of the creative designs from High Five Threads in the Village in Traverse City. They pride themselves on Made in MI merchandise, designing several of their own T-shirt lines including the Keep it Fresh Tee. A portion of the proceeds go toward protecting the great lakes.

 Holiday Gift Guide 11 Spirits

From Barrel to Glass

Spirit of Pear | Black Star Farms

Looking for an impressive gift for the wine lover in your family? How about the Spirit of Pear from Black Star Farms featuring a real pear in the bottle. Everyone will ask, how’d they do that! You can tell them while wine starts in the vineyard, the bottle starts in the orchard. Available at all three Black Star Farms tasting room locations.

Redneck Wine Glass | Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures

Not every wine drinker boasts the sophistication of an oenophile. If your friend’s taste runs toward the box rather than the bottle — or if they just appreciate a clever gift — how about the redneck wine glass. It’s hard to get snooty when you’re drinking from a Ball jar. Especially when it’s sporting a hot pink boa. Available at Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures in Interlochen.

Corn Whiskey | Grand Traverse Distillery

The latest creation from our favorite local distiller, Grand Traverse Distillery, is their corn whiskey. Made from Northern Michigan corn, locally grown, and distilled into a fine spirit in Traverse City, this clear whiskey is unlike anything you’ve tasted. And it’s only available from the Distillery, so stop by and pick up a bottle.

Leelanau Brillante | Bel Lago Vineyard & Winery

Every holiday wine list needs a bubbly. So here’s my pick for the year, Leelanau Brillante from Bel Lago. Bursting with flavors of tropical fruit and peach, and made from Cayuga, Seyval and Vignoles — one of my favorite varietals— this is a great wine to give, or to save. Drink it while trimming the tree, wrapping presents, making cookies…

 Holiday Gift Guide 11 Handmade

Handmade & Heartfelt

Letter Necklaces | Gallery Fifty

Gallery Fifty customers love these sterling silver pendants and charms. Available in upper or lower-case letters and sold with or without the ball-chain necklace, these simple stamped pieces make great gifts. Perfect for teens, a neighbor, and your BFF. Created by Pellston artist Hanni Yothers and available at Gallery Fifty in the Village mercato.

Unity Collection | Korner Gem

I just love these. Shaped from Michigan beach stones like Leland Blue, Petoskey, granite and chain corral, these necklaces are one of a kind. The beads are sold separately or in pairs, and available in large and small sizes, they can be combined to create beautiful necklaces. Very affordable on their own, or add gemstones and accessory pieces for a truly magnificent gift. Designed and crafted on site at Korner Gem in Traverse City.

Glass Fortune Cookies | Gallery Fifty

Hand-blown boroscilicate glass (known for it’s durability, like Pyrex) each fortune cookie reveals a special message for your friend or loved one. Sold in a tiny take-out container they’re an adorable way to share the love this holiday season. Buy them for girlfriends, teachers, or anyone who needs some good fortune. Designed by Nancy Nagel of Colorado, and sold locally at Gallery Fifty.

Stone Cairn Earrings | Becky Thatcher Designs

This summer I noticed an increasing number of balanced stone sculptures on the beaches of Northern Michigan. These stone “cairns” inspired the work of Becky Thatcher who creates earrings from Lake Michigan beach stones gathered near her gallery in Glen Arbor. What a nice idea for the beach comber in your circle of friends. Available from Becky Thacher Designs in Traverse City, Glen Arbor, Leland and Harbor Springs.

Pretty Stinkin’ Cute Skirts | Pretty Stinkin’ Green

Without exaggeration, I cannot wear one of my Pretty Stinkin’ Green skirts without being stopped on the street by strangers admiring it and asking where it came from. So I would be remiss not to include my friends Deb & Hannah who design these amazing skirts. They are available at Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures and on Etsy, or you can visit their Facebook page to see how to get a custom made skirt from our own T-shirts.

Holiday Gift Guide 11 Foodie

Foodie Finds

Flavor Trio Oil & Vinegar with Cookbook | Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars

This year I’m excited to share new products from Fustinis: flavor trio bottle and their brand new cookbook. Available in three flavor combos (bread & vegetable, salad dressing, desserts) this stacked bottle design is a great way to present these unique products. And the cookbook will make sure your gift comes with plenty of instructions for use. Available at Fustini’s in Traverse City, Petoskey, Ann Arbor or Holland and online.

Coco Mojo | Sweet Asylum

If you like to pack gift baskets with Michigan treats you’ll want to make a stop at Sweet Asylum in the Village Mercato and pick up some Coco Mojos. These crunchy almonds are coated with a unique blend of cacao (not cocoa), spices and a little sugar for sweetness. The cacao is organic so you know you are enjoying a healthy snack. Sold with or without dried cherries.

Specialty Salts | Suttons Bay Trading Co.

If you have a chef on your shopping list you know it can be challenging to come up with a kitchen accessory they don’t already have. So why not add something unusual to their arsenal of flavors. Suttons Bay Trading Co., a new spice shop in Suttons Bay, has many options. But I found myself drawn to the colorful salts from around the world. Himalayan Pink, Black Hawaiian, Red Hawaiian and Smoked Course Sea Salt were just a few of the options available in store and online.

Slabtown Coffee Caramel Corn

Beware, this stuff is addictive. I ran into the owner, a friend from years back, in Oleson’s grocery store this summer and was introduced to her new product. Who knew that coffee and caramel corn would be such a perfect combination. And it’s made right here in Traverse City, which I love. You can find it in local grocery stores like Oleson’s or specialty shops like Suttons Bay Trading Co.

 Holiday Gift Guide 11 Hostess

Host with the Most

Jeri Mateus Mitten Plate | At Home

I love the creative painted designs of local ceramic artist Jeri Mateus of Lime Lake. This little mitten dish is only about 4″ square, but imagine it piled with a stack of homemade cookies and wrapped in celephane. Just a little something for your boss, a teacher or the holiday party host. Available at the little store with the lime green awning: At Home in Suttons Bay.

Magnetic Note Holder | Gallery Fifty

No more searching through drawers for a pen and notebook. This simple gift idea puts a standard 3×5″ notebook right where you need it: on the fridge, in a locker, file cabinet or other metallic surface. Embellished with colorful glass beads and created by artist Cherie Haney of Ann Arbor, these magnetic holders include a notebook and are also sold as a set including a magnetic pen holder. Available at Gallery Fifty in the Village mercato.

Handmade Mug | Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures

Whether they prefer coffee or tea your gift recipient is sure to love a handmade ceramic mug from artist Anne Marie. Designed especially for Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures in Interlochen these mugs are handpainted and stamped with the word Michigan or Interlochen. Package that with some coffee from Bud’s or a gift card and you’re good to go.

Glass Business Card Holder | Gallery Fifty

Need a gift that’s professional? Maybe something for your boss or a colleague? How about a handblown glass business card holder from Gallery Fifty. They have a large stock of colors to suit any style. And they’re affordable too. Classy, elegant and functional. What more do you need?

Holiday Gift Guide 11 Festive

Festive, Fun & Fantastic

Santa Gourd | Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures

Designed by artist Deb Mazur these santa sculptures are painted, antiqued and embellished. Made from dried gourds and hand-painted clay. Each design is original and unique. Available at Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures in Interlochen.

Winter Sports Ornaments | Woodland Creek Furniture

On my adventures this summer I discovered Woodland Creek Furniture is a treasure trove of holiday ornaments for the up-north outdoor enthusiast. They have hunting, fishing, hiking, snow sports, bears and a bevy of woodland creatures all waiting to hang on your tree. Stop by their showroom on US 31 North in Traverse City.

Mulling Spices | Suttons Bay Trading Co.

There’s no better smell at Christmas than cinnamon and cloves simmering away blending a cherry wine into a warm holiday treat. I discovered Suttons Bay Trading Co. makes their mulling spices available in single servings or a 3 oz. package. It’s great with Michigan wine, or apple cider for the non-alcoholic version. Yum!

Keith Smith Handpainted Ornaments | Country Christmas

I couldn’t possibly have a holiday gift guide without mentioning Country Christmas now that I know what their store is like after my visit this summer. There are too many things to mention, so I picked one that really caught my eye — the hand-painted wood ornaments from Traverse City artist Keith Smith. There are many designs available, but when they’re handpainted you know they’re all unique. Just promise me you’ll stop by Country Christmas on M-72 for a visit this season.

Leland & Fishtown Ornaments | Two Fish Gallery

If you have friends and family who summer in this area I’m sure they’d love a momento from one of everyone’s favorite local destinations: Fishtown in Leland. The Two Fish Gallery sells many different ornaments by artist Nancy Deyoung representing Leland, Fishtown and Leelanau County. Stop by and tell Jennifer I said Hi.

That’s a wrap for my holiday gift guide this season. But let me leave you with one final wish.

Shop at Small Businesses,

Shop Local,

and if you can’t make it into a Northern Michigan storefront, Shop Local Online!

By |2019-12-19T15:28:42-05:00November 22nd, 2011|Benzie, Hometown Highlights, Leelanau, Traverse City|0 Comments

Video | Fall Canoeing on the Platte River

Looking for a way to enjoy this beautiful fall weather? I highly recommend a canoe trip on the lower Platte River.

Riverside Canoes on the Platte

Canoeing the Platte is one of my 22 Reasons for a Fall M-22 Roadtrip, and a must-do for our family each fall. This past weekend we teamed up with the staff and friends of Riverside Canoes for an end-of-season paddle down the lower Platte River to enjoy the fall colors, watch the salmon swim upstream and pick up any trash we could find along the way.

Here’s a quick video of from our trip. Check out the amazing scene at the Platte River weir where salmon are counted, passed for spawning or harvested by the DNR.



A canoe trip on the lower Platte River begins at Riverside Canoes on M-22 and ends at the mouth where the Platte River empties into Lake Michigan. This is the southern end of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, recently voted America’s Most Beautiful Place. It is indeed one of our favorite spots.


If you’re thinking about checking out the scenery this year you have one more week to rent a canoe or kayak from Riverside Canoes before they close for the season. Riverside is located on M-22 south of Empire and north of Crystal Lake. Call 231.325.5622 or visit their website at www.canoemichigan.com for more details.


By |2019-12-19T15:49:06-05:00October 10th, 2011|Benzie, Day Trips|0 Comments

10 Places I’ve Never Been: The Cherry Hut

10 Places I've Never Been

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been. Next on my list: The Cherry Hut

Cherry Hut entrance image

The Cherry Hut is somewhat of a local legend, especially in Benzie County. And the truth is, when I was a child I came to The Cherry Hut with my grandmother who grew up in Thompsonville and summered on Crystal Lake. So technically, it’s not a place I’ve never been. The reason it makes my list of 10 Places I’ve Never Been is because my husband — a Benzie Central graduate — has never been. That seems like an injustice that calls for correction. And this is the perfect opportunity.

Cherry Hut interior image

I stopped in early in the afternoon to chat with the owner, Andrew Case, and get a bit of The Cherry Hut history. It has been many years since I visited with my grandmother so I was surprised at how different it looked from what I rememebered. There’s a small souvenir shop offering jams, jellies, and cherry themed merchandise up front where diners search for something to take home to share. Behind the counter the owner was busy helping guests interested in purchasing a pie to go.

Cherry Hut chalkboard

After introducing myself and explaining the story behind my 10 Places I’ve Never Been series Andy offered to show me around and share his family’s recipe for restaurant success.

Cherry Hut painting image

The Cherry Hut opened in 1922 as a roadside pie stand at the base of Warren road on the shores of Crystal Lake. There’s a large painting on the wall above the windows in the front room that illustrates their humble beginnings. In 1937 the Kraker family moved their pie stand into the town of Beulah on US-31, where it remains. At that time The Cherry Hut offered only outdoor dining at umbrella-topped tables where guests could enjoy picnic-style fare with their cherry pie.

Over the years the size of the patio has become smaller and smaller as requests for indoor dining and air conditioning have become more prevalent. Now a few umbrella tables remain behind the white picket fence, but the majority of guests choose their 150-seat indoor restaurant.

Cherry Hut owners image

Leonard Case began working for the Krakers in 1946. His role as “Jam Boy” left him in charge of their growing product line, a role he fulfills to this day. Leonard bought The Cherry Hut in 1959 and it’s been a family business ever since. His son Andy now handles day-to-day operations, but Leonard is on-site everyday and still a vital part of the The Cherry Hut restaurant.

Cherry Hut tables imageThere were a few things that I noticed the moment I walked into the restaurant, and the one that really caught my eye was how clean, neat and organized it looked. Every empty table was perfectly set with Cherry Hut placemats, silverware and napkins. The floors were immaculate, chairs pushed in, neat as a pin. So it came as no surprise that attention to detail is something The Cherry Hut strives for in every way.

The Cherry Hut places guest service at the top of their priorities. Their staff is trained in the proper and traditional forms of service. Women are served first, the silverware is replaced with each dish, and the tables are properly set. “It’s the little things that add up to make the difference,” Andy said. The customers appreciate the details too. Including the fresh flowers and cherry handsoap in the the bathrooms.

After chatting with Andy in the afternoon, I returned later that evening with my family for dinner. I was anxious to try some of the dishes that had been suggested by our Traverse Traveler fans on Facebook and Twitter including the Cherry-Chicken Salad and the Cherry-ade.

Cherry Hut image

My five-year-old loved the giant smily-faced logo that greets each guest on their placesetting. In fact, his name is Cherry Jerry the Smiling Faced Pie Boy. And he’s just as old as the restaurant.

Cherry Hut cherry chicken salad

Cherry-Chicken Salad is what I ordered. According to Andy Case, he can’t say for certain, but he believes The Cherry Hut to be the originator of Cherry-Chicken Salad as it’s been on the menu here longer than anywhere else. As an entree it arrived with two huge slices of cantaloupe a pineapple garnish and a moist homemade cherry muffin on the side.

Cherry Hut burger image

My husband ordered the Plevalean burger and side of fries. Plevalean is also a cherry-product, made by the Pleva family in Cedar. The Cherry Hut is one of few restaurants that serve Plevalean burgers as they have to make the trip up to Cedar in person to buy it. When topped with cheese, bacon and all the fixins you’re missing some of the healthy benefits of Plevalean. Still, my husband said it one of the best burgers he’s had.

The kids and I had to have their famous Cherry-ade. The secret to this popular drink is that it’s made from the juice of pie cherries. Mixed with water and lemon juice this pink drink tastes like cherry pie in a glass. Very sweet, but delicious.

Cherry Hut cherry-ade imageCherry Hut pie image

A trip to The Cherry Hut wouldn’t be complete without purchasing a cherry pie to-go. You might be surprised to know on an average summer Saturday they will sell 500 pies a day! During the week that drops to around 300 pies. Not too shabby. They’re small pies, maybe 8″, but they sell for only $8.25. And you better come in person, because they do not ship their pies. But you can pick-up a frozen one if you’re headed on the road.

Cherry Hut pie slice image

We brought our pie home to enjoy. I remember only a few trips to The Cherry Hut with my grandmother. She always ordered the Chicken Pot Pie for dinner, and we took our pie to-go. A trip to The Cherry Hut has become a tradition for many families who visit Benzie County. In fact, that’s their slogan, “A Northern Michigan Tradition Since 1922.”

Cherry Hut sign imageIf you haven’t been to The Cherry Hut I’d say it’s about time to check it out. Their prices are fair, portions are generous and the staff has been trained in excellence. We had fantastic service there. It’s non-smoking (as is every restaurant in Michigan) and alcohol free. The Cherry Hut is open seasonally from Mother’s Day through the third weekend in October.

Visit The Cherry Hut at 211 N Michigan Avenue in Beulah, Michigan (that’s on US-31 in case you were searching for street signs). You won’t need reservations, but if you need to call dial 231.882.4431. While they don’t sell pies online or ship them they do have a large mail order business for their jams and preserves, so visit their website at www.cherryhut.com. Stop by and say hi on Facebook too. As with all my 10 Places locations, The Cherry Hut will be listed on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.

That makes 9 Places I’ve Never Been. If you’ve been following along this summer my 10th place is a Mystery. On September 6th I’ll announce that location, so stay tuned…

By |2019-12-19T16:14:09-05:00September 5th, 2011|Adventure, Benzie, Place's I've Never Been|0 Comments

10 Places I’ve Never Been: Rock Shop

10 Places I've Never Been

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been. Next on my list: Rock Shop

Rockshop street view image

I know you’ve seen it. If you’ve driven along US 31 between Interlochen and Honor you’ve driven past it. The question is, have you ever been inside the C & M Rock Shop? I hadn’t until this week.

That’s not to say I haven’t noticed their little enterprise on the side of the road. In fact, I’ve always wondered, “Does anybody shop there?” Turns out, more than a few people shop there. That’s why it’s been open for more than forty years!

Rock Shop image

When I walked in to the shop on Tuesday and asked for Bruce Mueller, the owner, I was met with some reservation. Why was I writting an article? Was it going to cost anything? But I assured them it was my own curiosity that put their Rock Shop on my list of 10 Places I’ve Never Been, and I’d be happy to share their story because I believe it just might interest some other folks out there who have passed by for years. With that, I was welcomed into Bruce & Shirley’s little slice of geologic capitalism.

Bruce Mueller lead an interesting life before he settled down to sell rocks. He was in the Korean War, where his actions and responsibilities were considered top secret. So secret he’s not even sure what they were. After the war he used the GI bill to get a college degree in geology, a subject that’s been of interest to him since the age of eight. He proceeded to get a masters degree and taught high school in Rockford, Illinois for 35 years.

Rock Shop cases imageRock Shop polished stones image

I could’t resist the obvious question: why a rock shop, on the side of the road in Northern Michigan? “I started this so I’d have something to do when I retired,” said Bruce.

Bruce and Shirley found a 1904 barn that had collapsed because the roofline was so steep no one would go up to reshingle it. They worked with the basement structure, adding a simple roof to create the shop, even cut a doorway into the stone silo so it could be used as an office. In 1967 they opened the C & M Rock Shop for business. They sold $260 in rocks that year. “I’d rather not say how many we sell now,” they smiled. But let’s just say Shirley’s family isn’t laughing at them any more.

Rock Shop meteorite imageRock Shop agate image

The Rock Shop sells polished and unpolished stones from around the world. There are several display cases showcasing fossils that date back before the age of dinosaurs. Trilobites, cephalopods, ammonites and even metorites line the shelves. You can sort through gemostones like peridot or Michigan greenstone, or pick up a beautifully polished Lake Superior agate.

Rockshop nautilus imageRockshop chain coral imageRockshop Michigan greenstone image

It may have been years since Bruce taught school, but he hasn’t lost his passion for geology or his desire to share his knowledge. We chatted for nearly an hour about the geologic origin of Michigan, the make-up of our local rockbed, and stories behind the fossils found throughout the store. He also shared many secrets of the popular Petoskey stone that beach combers search for with passion and nostalgia. It’s probably the Petoskey stone that has kept the Rock Shop in business for so many years.

Rock Shop Petoskey stones

Rock shop petoskey stones

Inside the Rock Shop there are Petoskey stones everywhere. A long table showcases polished stones of all sized. They sell some Petoskey stone jewelry as well. Outside shoppers can sort through piles of Petoskeys that have been dug up from the rockbed. These raw stones bear a much closer resemblance to the coral from which they were formed, since they excavated directly from the ground rather than tumbled in the waves which naturally smooth out their edges.

Rockshop Puddingstone image

Outside, visitors browse through the larger stones, including one of Bruce’s favorites: the Pudding Stone. This conglomerate rock is a mixture of several other stones held together by quartz. These stones would have formed over 2 billion years ago, transported here by glaciers.

With all the stones on site I wondered if Bruce was an avid rock hound or if he purchased the stones he sells. It turns out he’s willing to buy, if the timing is right. In fact, just that morning a man stopped by with 500 lbs. of Petoskeys—an unwanted inheritance from a lifelong collector. So Bruce bought them. “I especially try to buy from children,” he added, paying $0.50 to $1.00 depending on the size and quality of the stone.

Rock shop Bruce Mueller

Bruce is a great story-teller, and seeks to share the unexpected or unique facts about his subject. Here’s one of his Did You Know stories, that I just had to share.

If you want to buy a gravestone that will last:

  • Choose a marble stone and it will last 100 years, but the effects of acid rain will destroy it;
  • Choose a granite headstone and water erosion will begin the degrade the inscription after 500 years;
  • But if you choose a Quartz headstone, in 7 billion years, when the sun expands into a red giant and vaporizes the earth you will STILL be able to read what it says on the tombstone…assuming there will be anyone left to read it!

I asked Bruce the question I was dying to have answered: how does a business that sells rocks stay in business for so long?

“We picked, by sheer accident, the right location,” he answered. Simple as that.

Rockshop book image

Before I left I picked up a copy of one of Bruce’s books, The Complete Guide to Petoskey Stones, which he kindly autographed for me. After the third stop on my tour I discovered that Bruce is co-Author of the series of Rock Picker’s Guides with Kevin Gallagher of Korner Gem. It’s a small world.

Generations of families have been stopping by this tiny Rock Shop on the side of the road in Benzie County for nearly 45 years. If you haven’t made a point to pull the car over and check it out, I encourage you to do so. Especially if you have any young rock hounds in the backseat just itching to get their hands on a petoskey, or see some amazing fossils.

C & M Rock Shop is located along US 31 between Interlochen & Honor. 13236 Honor Hwy, Beulah, MI 49617 to be precise. They are open seasonally. For more information reach them by phone at 231.325.2309. They also own a jewelry showroom in Rockton, IL. Check out their website here:  www.gemshoponline.com. As with all my 10 Places locations, you can find them on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.

If there’s a place in northern Michigan you’ve been dying to visit, but you’ve never made the time, I’d like to hear about it. Join the conversation on the Traverse Traveler Facebook page, and let me know where you’re going.

And stay tuned, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  22 Vines & Wines.

By |2019-12-26T15:10:06-05:00August 4th, 2011|Benzie, Place's I've Never Been|0 Comments

10 Places I’ve Never Been: Hodge Podge Lodge

10 Places I've Never Been composite


This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.


The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been. First on my list: The Hodge Podge Lodge

 Hodge Podge Lodge exterior

The Hodge Podge Lodge

I’ve browsed the stores in Beulah for years, but I’d never noticed the sign for the Hodge Podge Lodge. Technically that’s because they’ve only been open just over a year. But that’s beside the point. What matters is how easy it is to stroll the same path without really paying attention to what’s new.

Truth be told, I first heard about the Hodge Podge Lodge when they signed up for a listing on the Traverse Traveler app. But it was their clever name, and the photo of a wooden lampshade that drew me to Beulah to check it out.

Located on main street in downtown Beulah, the Hodge Podge Lodge is somewhat hidden behind the elevated ramp enterance that leads visitors past a welcoming window display. An ever changing array of antiques, clothing and lamps line the large windows — an attempt to lure in visitors with a peek at the treasures that await inside.

 Hodge Podge Lodge interior

Store manager Jennifer Kolinske greets all guests from behind the front counter, offering assistance if any is needed. I introduced myself and explained my mission to visit 10 Places I’ve Never Been, and admitted that the Hodge Podge Lodge was on that list. Her enthusiasm for the idea and the prospect of being included let me know I’d made a great choice for my first stop. So I got to work exploring the store and learning more about their history.

Hodge Podge Lodge imageHodge Podge Lodge vault

If you’ve never noticed the Hodge Podge Lodge in Beulah, but consider yourself a local, it may be because the store is just over a year old. But the building is not. In fact, the store is housed in the old Central State Bank building, circa 1912. Whether you recognize the exterior or not, you can’t miss the giant vault on the main floor that serves as an office.

 Hodge Podge Lodge image

The name of the business is no random assignment. The collection of goods for sale clearly falls into the category of Hodge Podge, with an ecclectic mix of antiques, vintage collectibles, new and resale clothing, arts and crafts. They added the word Lodge to incorporate the store’s primary artisisan focus: homemade lamps with a uniquely rustic lodge look. The lamps are a story on their own.

 Hodge Podge Lodge lampHodge Podge Lodge lamp

Store owner, Larry Revnell began making these unique lamps and selling them at arts & crafts fairs. Each lampshade is created from a single piece of wood, with no glue or veneer. Larry, and his brother Joe, have developed a technique for turning white pine logs into lampshades. The nature of the material is shown in every piece, including knot holes, and often revealing a raw and irregular bark edge and a soft golden glow through the thin wood. The brothers search for a base that suits each shade, thus creating one-of-a-kind lamps every time.

Most lamp bases are a collection of found materials, from antiques to driftwood, to towers built of beach stones. Some are quite rustic, but they’ve expanded to include classic shaply lamps for a more contemporary setting. The lamps are now exclusively sold at the Hodge Podge Lodge in downtown Beulah. So you’ll have to stop in to see their unique elegance.

 Hodge Podge Lodge image

The decision to open a store in downtown Beulah also reflects the creativity of the rest of Larry’s family. There are adorable crocheted hats and prayer purses made by his sister Teresa, and his daughter Chris is responsible for their popular tie-dye collection that lines the walls at the back of the store.

 Hodge Podge Lodge

The Hodge Podge Lodge is one of those places where you have to look at everything, because the perfect item might be hidden in one of the nooks and crannies, next to a bowl of pipes or behind a vintage lunchbox. And I love the way Jennifer has mixed and matched all of the displays. There’s vintage glassware and tablesettings on an antique table, with a colorful handmade teddy bear waiting to dine. From hippie art, to handmade jewelry made from bottle caps and fabric scraps, you never know what’s around the corner.

 Hodge Podge LodgeHodge Podge LodgeHodge Podge Lodge

Hodge Podge LodgeHodge Podge LodgeHodge Podge Lodge

I found my perfect purchase on the floor. In a small collection of resale shoes I discovered an adorable pair of heels. Lo and behold they were just my size. And best of all, the resale price:  $10. How could I resist.

 Hodge Podge Lodge image

So I left with my $10 shoes, and plans to come back whenever I’m in Beulah. Because in a place like the Hodge Podge Lodge, the inventory changes almost daily. And I know the next time I stop by I’ll fall in love with something else.

The Hodge Podge Lodge is located in downtown Beulah a 254 S Benzie Blvd. For more information reach them by phone at 231.882.7010 or visit them online at hodgepodgelodgemi.com. Show them some love by becoming a fan of their new Facebook page. You can also find them on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.


If there’s a place in northern Michigan you’ve been dying to visit, but you’ve never made the time, I’d like to hear about it. Join the conversation on the Traverse Traveler Facebook page, and let me know where you’re going. And stay tuned, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  Chateau de Leelanau Winery.

By |2019-12-26T15:28:54-05:00July 7th, 2011|Benzie, Place's I've Never Been|0 Comments

10 Northern Michigan Places I’ve Never Been

Places I've Never Been graphic

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been.


Close your eyes and think about this for a moment. Wait…that makes reading rather difficult. Scratch that.

Better yet imagine, if you will, your morning commute. If you’re lucky enough to call northern Michigan home that drive probably takes you through quaint shopping districts, or perhaps a bayside cruise past restaurants, marinas and resorts. When you live in a tourist town, like Traverse City, you’re surrounded by unique destinations. But just like those beautiful bay views, you seldom stop the car to appreciate them.

When I’m running displays for Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas my route takes me across Grand Traverse, Benzie and Leelanau county every month, canvassing the same highways area travelers flock to for a taste of Northern Michigan. Along these drives I pass dozens of storefronts I’ve never been in. And that got me thinking, why not? What is so difficult about taking 15 minutes out of my trip to satisfy my curiosity, and hopefully find something I like. That’s when I decided to pick 10 new places and pay them a visit.

What’s the big deal about choosing some place new?

One of the best parts of being a tourist is exploring uncharted territory. You never know what you’re going to discover. When you’re on vacation, especially in a place you’ve never been, every site you see, every food you taste, every door unopened is the beginning of a new adventure. If you look at your own community from the eyes of a visitor you’ll see a whole new world.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing shameful about having a favorite restaurant, or shopping at the same grocery store because it’s convenient. Every business needs ‘regulars,’ and that’s what the locals often are. But new customers are the key to business growth.


Did you know, in 2010 the Michigan tourism industry generated $17.2 billion— that’s a 14% increase from 2009. And, for the first time, out-of-state visitors spent more than Michigan residents on travel*.

Regions like Northern Michigan depend on those tourism dollars. And why do you think that is? Because we count on area visitors to do what we aren’t doing enough of: going out to eat, shopping at local stores and staying in area hotels. So I say, become a tourist in your hometown. And see what that does for Michigan’s economic recovery.
In honor of following my own advice I’m sharing my list of 10 New Places right here on the Mealtickets blog. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s in store:

Hodge Podge Lodge graphic1.  Hodge Podge Lodge
– After seeing their listing in the Traverse Traveler app, and walking past the store in downtown Beulah, I had to check it out. And I must say, I’m loving my new $10 shoes! Click here to read more…



Chateau de Leelanau graphic2.  Chateau de Leelanau – Located on M-22 near Suttons Bay, this winery has new owners and some great wines…I’ll be back this summer for their cherry sangria, I can tell you that. Click here to read more…




Korner Gem graphic3.  Korner Gem – I’ve been dying to explore this hidden treasure just off M-22 on the west side of Traverse City, and I’m so glad I did. I can’t wait to show off the new jewelry they’re making—from my own beach stones. Click here to read more…



Woodland Creek graphic4.  Woodland Creek Furniture – My friends from Virginia stop here every time they drive through Traverse City but I have never made a point to go in. Until now. It’s huge, and it’s amazing! Click here to read more…


Rock Shop graphic5.  The Rock Shop – If you’ve driven the corridor between Interlochen and Honor on US-31 you’ve passed it a million times. And so have I. But not this summer. I’m dying to find out how a place that sells rocks has been in business for so long! Click here to read more…



22 Vines and Wines graphic6.  22 Vines & Wines – I’ve heard nothing but good things about what’s coming from the kitchen in this tiny restaurant, with a Philippine chef, that lies along on the road to Suttons Bay. Click here to read more…



Country Christmas graphic7.  Country Christmas – Every local has passed this quaint cottage at 55 mph and yet I wonder how many have slowed down enough to read the sign. Looks like I’m gonna celebrate Christmas in July this year. Click here to read more…


Two Fish Gallery graphic8.  Two Fish Gallery – There’s a huge tree near the corner of River & Main Street in Leland as you look down the boardwalk toward Fishtown. It casts a shadow on this lovely gallery. But the treasures inside are worth a visit. Click here to read more…


The Cherry Hut graphic9. The Cherry Hut – Can you believe my husband graduated from Benzie Central, but he’s never been to this Beulah landmark? We’re going to check this one out together. Click here to read more…




Mystery graphic10. Mystery Visit – I think I’m going to see what our Facebook & Twitter fans suggest, and base my 10th stop on their recommendations. Click here to reveal the Mystery…


You can keep up with my discoveries here on Mealtickets.com, and make suggestions of your own on Facebook and Twitter. And, as an added bonus, I’m going to make sure these new places get listed on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app. That way you can check them out too!
Why don’t you join me? Become a tourist in your hometown with these three simple steps:

  • Get Ready: Take a moment and think about the places you drive past every week, but have never been in.
  • Get Set:  Pick ten, and make a list. The list is critical. There’s something about the simple act of writing it down that will help make you accountable.
  • Go:  You have 99 days of summer to explore your own backyard. Make it memorable.


Share your 10 Places with us!

We want to hear about the adventures in your hometown. I’ve set up a Discussion Board on the Traverse Traveler Facebook Page. I’d love to hear what you’ve discovered. Happy backyard travels everyone!


*Detroit Free Press | State Tourism Spending Soars

NPS Rangers Host Star-Gazing on June 18th

Sleeping Bear Dunes Star-GazingStar Party at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore


Visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Saturday, June 18 at 9:00 p.m. for an evening with the stars. Join a Park Ranger and the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society at the mouth of the Platte River on Lake Michigan Drive in Benzie County to learn about and celebrate the night sky.  Watch the sun set into Lake Michigan, view the starry constellations, and spot the rings of Saturn through huge telescopes.  If you are lucky, you may even get to see the elusive green flash as the sun sinks below the horizon!


The Grand Traverse Astronomical Society is partnering with the National Lakeshore for this event.  The Society has been in existence for 29 years and its members regularly share their knowledge and enthusiasm with the public at the Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory in Traverse City.  More recently, the Society has branched out to locations from street corners to national parks, sharing the wonders of the universe with the public.  Our first joint star party was this past October on the 40th anniversary of the National Lakeshore. Four more evenings are scheduled through October 2011. (Photo from October 2010)


The dark skies of the National Lakeshore were recently hailed as one of the ten best in the entire National Park System. “Just as the parks are dedicated to preserving landscapes, cultural sites, and habitat for wildlife, so are they concerned about overhead resources – particularly the kind of dark skies that reveal the beauty of the nighttime firmament,” declares National Geographic’s newly released Ten Best of Everything National Parks.


Superintendent Dusty Shultz noted, “Many of our visitors come from cities where they rarely, if ever, get to see the Milky Way. Looking out over Lake Michigan, they are awestruck by the density of the constellations in view.” Shultz added, “We are pleased and honored to be working with the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society on this series of star
parties and know the public will marvel at what they can see through the lenses of those fabulous telescopes.”


The public is invited to join us on this fun and educational night. Meet the Park Ranger at the end of Lake Michigan Road at the mouth of the Platte River on Saturday, June 18. The event, which begins at 9:00 p.m., will be offered just in time to also watch the sunset. Society members will have their telescopes out until 10:30 p.m. Dress for the weather and bring a flashlight for the walk back to your car.


All Park Ranger-led programs are free. Participants need only purchase the park entrance pass or have an annual pass displayed on their vehicle to join in the fun.  Please call 231-326-5134, ext. 328, for details or log onto www.nps.gov/slbe. Also, check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sbdnl.


By |2019-12-26T15:42:55-05:00June 15th, 2011|Benzie, Events|0 Comments

Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hometown Highlights holiday graphic
Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide 2010

When the holidays roll around it’s no surprise that I like to spend time searching for unique regional gifts to share with friends and relatives who appreciate the Traverse City area from afar. Since I’m often a last minute shopper I thought I’d share a few local finds that will make last minute shopping a breeze. From food & beverages, to books and fashion, there’s plenty of ways to suprise your loved ones with a gift from Northern Michigan.

This year I’ve broken the gift guide into the followiong categories:

  • Foodie Favs
  • For Him
  • For Her
  • Recycled
  • Kid Friendly
  • Hostess Gifts

So if you’re still shopping, let’s get started. I’ve listed the item and the store where I discovered it, when possible.


Foodie Favs

Northern Michigan is a great place to live if you need to pick up a last minute gift for a foodie. Here are a couple of items I discovered that make great gifts for the foodie on your list.

Murdicks Santa bag imageSanta Bags | Murdicks Fudge Shoppe

These cute drawstring bags come in several sizes. Forget the stockings and fill a santa bag. Stop by the Murdick’s Fudge Shop in Suttons Bay to stock up right in the store with their great selection of sweet treats and locally made foods. I’m partial to the carmel corn and peanut butter fudge, but that’s the beauty of this gift: you make it your own. $4.50 – $8.50


Great Lakes Potato Chips | Olesons Market

I am in love with these chips. They come in three flavors: BBQ, Salt & Vinegar and Regular, but in my mind there’s only one way to describe them. YUMMY. Great Lakes Potato Chips are produced locally, by the owners of another great local business, Pangea’s Pizza. I’m not sure how one goes from making fabulous creative pizzas to delicious potato chips, but frankly I don’t mind. The chips are available at local grocery chains like Olesons. 2 bags for $7.00


Cherry Stop cherry jamCherry Jam | The Cherry Stop

Cherry products are always a great gift. And I like the jam from The Cherry Stop for a couple of reasons. Number one, they make it in house, right there in the kitchen in Downtown Traverse City. Can’t beat that for freshness. And two, they’ve come up with a recipe that’s sweet enough, but is actually considered low in sugar by jam standards. So you can feel good about your gift. If you aren’t a fan of jam, I’m sure you’ll find something to love at The Cherry Stop.


what's new cupcake bookWhat’s New Cupcake book

If there’s a creative mom on your list, or perhaps a baker, this book is one of my favorites. I picked it up this fall before my son’s birthday party. I needed to make Darth Vader cupcakes and the ideas I pulled from this book helped me accomplish that monumental task. And when we were snowed in this past weekend I pulled it out and made snowmen cupcakes for a holiday Christmas party. The ideas are simple, and the ingredients aren’t hard to find. While it’s not a local author, you can support a local bookstore like Horizon Books by picking it up there. $16.95


Fustini's Sampler Pack imageOil & Vinegar Sampler Packs | Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars

Anyone who has been to my house notices the large collection of Fustini’s bottles on my kitchen counter. And they’re not just there for decoration. I’m a big fan of their flavor infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars. I use them for everything from cooking vegetables, to salad dressings, marinades and even desserts. A bottle or two of Fustini’s, and some pour spouts also makes a great hostess gift. But I’ve listed them with the foodie gifts because of their new Sampler Packs. They have 5 different combinations, each including four 6.8oz bottles; 2 balsamics, 2 oils. They’ve done the pairings, so you don’t have to. $47.95


History of MI wines bookHistory of Michigan Wine | Local Bookstores, Some Wineries

From the authors of From the Vine comes another great read about the History of Michigan Wines. Lorri Hathaway and Sharon Kegerreis share their research into the interesting stories of how the Michigan wine industry began, the impact of prohibition, and the development of this agricultural success story. It’s a quick read, full of fun facts for foodies and oenophiles.



For Him

Growler Collar Right Brain Brewery imageGrowler Collar | Right Brain Brewery, Left Foot Charley

The must have gift of the season for the beer lover in your household. The Growler Collar is the invention of Staton Lorenz, Mealtickets founder. It’s the solution to the tricky problem of getting your growlers clean and dry. When your growler is empty, rinse it with hot water, then spin a Growler Collar on the neck, turn it upside down and rest on the counter to dry. This simple disk keeps it elevated so air can get in and water can get out. Customized Growler Collars are available at Left Foot Charley and Right Brain Brewery. It makes a great stocking stuffer as it’s under $10!


Sh*t my Dad Says bookSh*t my Dad Says book | Brilliant Books and other local bookstores

Ok, this might seem like an odd gift, but if the recipient has a sense of humor and they don’t mind a little cursing…ok, a LOT of cursing, then this book is worth checking out. I picked it up in the store and randomly flipped to a page in the middle, as I always do when evaluating the writing of a new author. I laughed outloud to the point of embarrasment. And everytime I glance at it I still can’t help cracking up to the witty, and sometimes vulgar, advice given from one crass father to his son.


binoculars from EnerdyneAdlerblick “Eyes of an Eagle” Binoculars | Enerdyne

For the sports enthusiast or bird watcher, or the casual lakeshore viewer, there’s nothing better than a good pair of binoculars. And on a recent trip to Suttons Bay I discovered a fabulous pair on sale. These Adlerblick “Eyes of an Eagle” binoculars come in 7×50 or 10×50 magnifications. Binoculars this nice are rarely on sale, much less available at 25% off retail price. So if there’s a man on your list who could use an upgrade, these are the specs to get. $281-$295


For Her

Cherry themed walletsCherry wallet | The Cherry Stop

This is cherry country, but not everyone loves the delicious sweet fruit as much as we do. So if you’re looking for a TC themed gift for a girlfriend how about a wallet or change purse with cherries on it. These great Lavishy products are made vegan friendly, immitation leather. So you can feel good, and look good carrying them. Available in a range of styles and colors for passport covers, wallets, change purses and cosmetic pouches. $5.99 – $18.99


Marilyn Gum necklaces at Gallery FiftyGraphic Pendant necklaces | Gallery Fifty

I loved these the moment I saw them. Graphic is my middle name, but the variety is what make them such a great gift. These necklaces, by artist Marilyn Gum, come in dozens of designs. The pendant is colorful glass infused with color and imagery. And you get to choose your cord as well. Talk about a custom gift for the women on your list. It’s arty, it’s fun, and it’s affordable. Cords or ribbon are $5 and pendants are $16. Gallery Fifty is the perfect place to expand your jewelry collection. (Fordite…need I say more?). Love them!


Grand Traverse Distillery chocolate vodkaChocolate Vodka | Grand Traverse Distillery

Usually I’m touting local wines as the perfect Michigan gift, but this time it’s vodka’s turn. Grand Traverse Distillery has been turning heads with their True North vodkas in competitions around the world. And lucky us, their production facility is tucked away in an industrial park right here in Traverse City. And that’s the only place that I’ve found their newest concoction: chocolate vodka! Can you say Chocolate martini anyone? Happy hour time. If you’ve never been to the Distillery check out our map on the Attractions page and we’ll get you to the door.


lipstick imageLipstick | Venus

I’m a sucker for a new shade of lipstick. What girl isn’t always on the hunt for that perfect new shade. On Ladies Night I stopped by Venus and noticed these selections from Paul & Joe. A little sparkle, a little bit sheer, great for the holidays. Their shades are numbered instead of named, so make sure you pick up the right box. With New Years Eve on the holiday horizon there’s bound to be a girl who needs a little something new to ring in the New Year.



Pouchee purse insert imagePouchee | Venus

I’m loving the convenience of the purse insert they sell at Venus in Traverse City called Pouchee. If someone on your list has a purse for every outfit, they’ll love this idea. It’s a purse insert that acts as a wallet, but also holds everything else. Slip it in and out of whatever bag you’ve got. It will hold your cell phone, lipstick, checkbooks, tissues or whatever you like to tote around. One of the hottest gifts in the store this season.



Pretty Stinkin' Green scarfFlower Scarf | Pretty Stinkin’ Green

I can’t go anywhere, honestly, without someone coming up to me and complimenting my scarf from Pretty Stinkin’ Green. If you haven’t heard of these girls yet, you will. They’re making skirts, scarfs and bags from recycled clothing. You can have custom skirts made from your old college t-shirts or your favorite colors. But from the moment I saw them, I loved the flowered scarfs made of recycled wool and other soft, non-shedding fabrics. No two are alike, which makes them even better gifts. Check out their website as they aren’t available in too many local stores.


PriorLIFE Bags | Britten Banner

This is a great concept, from start to finish. Take a used banner that’s been hanging at a NASCAR race, or temporarily promoting an event somewhere in the US, and turn it into a functional piece of art, instead of trash. A few years ago Britten Banner launched this idea, and it’s been growing ever since. Now you can pick up laptop cases, tote bags, messenger bags and wallets under the PriorLIFE product line. Available online and in several downtown Traverse City stores. $13.00 – $35.00


Real Simple book869 New Uses For Old Things book | Brilliant Books or local bookstores

If there’s a junk junky in your family, or someone who appreciates a good tip for finding old things new again, this book is sure to inspire. By the authors of Real Simple magazine this book is filled with suggestions for new uses to household items. Did you know you can use aluminum foil to help get wrinkles out of delicate fabrics? Or that antacid tablets will help you clean a vase or ease a bug bite? Stop by your favorite book nook and take a look. $27.95



Kid Friendly

chem sets imagesChemistry Set | Enerdyne

I love Enerdyne for kids gifts in general because they have a great selection of educational gifts, crafty projects and gifts for the hard-to-buy-for children on your list. Sometimes you just don’t want to add another video game under the tree. These chemestry sets from Thames & Kosmos are great tools for getting kids excited about science. And they come in a range of age-appropriate options. $13 – $89


Harry Potter Film Wizardry book | Local Bookstores

Yes, I like to shop for books. They make a great gift for anyone on your list. Even kids. But this Harry Potter book is geared for the movie buff on your shopping list, kid or not. It’s a beautiful guide to the Harry Potter movie series, with details on scenes, characters and movie techniques that have all entranced us for years. $39.99


Dylans Candy BarSweet Treats | Dylan’s Candy Bar

There’s a new shop in town that specializes in candy. It’s Dylan’s Candy Bar and it’s at the Grand Traverse Resort. You can’t help but be drawn in by the colorful displays that span the walls and lure you in through the windows. I stopped by after the Traverse City Chamber Business Expo and picked up a few treats for myself, and for the kids. If you’re planning to make a gingerbread house this season and are looking for unique decorations, this is the place to go. Amazing.



Hostess Gifts

Black Star Farms holiday bubbly imageMini bottles of Bubbly | Black Star Farms

Sparkling wine is a great gift to bring along to a holiday party. Presented as a hostess gift it can be opened at the party, or saved for later. These split bottles of Black Star Farms Be Dazzled sparkling wine are wrapped with festive labels which means you don’t even need the gift wrap. Very eco-conscious I think, don’t you? Pick them up at all three of their tasting rooms. $8.50


wine candleabraWine bottle candleabra | Left Foot Charley

Holiday parties need ambiance. And what’s better than candles for setting the mood? On a trip to Left Foot Charley in The Village at Grand Traverse Commons I discovered this candleabra that sits atop an empty wine bottle. It holds 5 tea lights for a glowing presentation. Pair it with a nice bottle of riesling and you’re good to go. $16.00 (15% off all LFC merchandise through the end of December!)


Happy shopping everyone!

By |2019-12-26T16:24:03-05:00December 14th, 2010|Benzie, Hometown Highlights, Leelanau, Traverse City|0 Comments

Mealtickets on Pure Michigan blog

In case you missed it, yesterday I was the guest blogger on the Pure Michigan blog. The post promotes one of my favorite fall activities: An M-22 Color Tour.

Check out the Pure Michigan post, Top 10 Reasons for a Fall M-22 Roadtrip.


And for a more details, and a dozen other favorites along Michigan’s scenic highway, read my original article: 22 Reasons for a Fall M-22 Roadtrip.

By |2019-12-26T16:51:46-05:00September 15th, 2010|Benzie, Mealtickets News|0 Comments

Free Fishing Weekend 6/12 – 6/13

Salmon fishing in Lake Michigan photo Get Your ‘Fish On’ this Weekend


Fishing is a great way to enjoy the beautiful lakes and rivers up North. And this weekend, June 12-13,  there’s no fee to fish. Michigan residents and out-of-town visitors can enjoy 2 days of fee-free fishing for all species. Fishing regulations still apply, but there is no license required thanks to the Department of Natural Resources Free Fishing Weekend. Twice a year the DNR offers free fishing weekends to encourage everyone to pick up a rod and cast for the “big one”.


So whether you’re camping and want to cast a line with the kids, or you prefer to hop aboard a charter for some big lake action, this is the perfect weekend to get the fishing bug. I say, “Fish On!”



By |2019-12-30T10:22:34-05:00June 11th, 2010|Benzie, Events, Leelanau, Traverse City|0 Comments

Sleeping Bear Dunes Cruise opens for season

Sleeping Bear Dunes Cruise imageSummer season begins June 1st for Frankfort boat cruise company

For those of you who’ve been waiting since last fall for a trip along the Lake Michigan shore, the wait is over. Sleeping Bear Dunes Boat Cruises is open for the season. Daily tours along the shoreline from Frankfort to the National Lakeshore in Empire began today for the cruise company in it’s second season.


Over the winter a new boat, “Lady Michigan,” has been under construction in Alabama. With a delay in the arrival of the new boat, the Upper Peninsula company sent another beautiful ship, “Pictured Rocks” to start off the season.


For the early part of June the daily schedule includes one trip at 11am. The beautiful sunset cruises will be added to the schedule on June 18th.


If you’re looking for a new way to enjoy the Dunes this year I hope you’ll check out Sleeping Bear Dunes Boat Cruise. For a map to their location in Frankfort view their listing on our Attractions page. To reserve your spot on one of their daily sails call 888.469.4696. Visit their website at www.sleepingbeardunescruise.com for more schedule information and pricing details.

Photo by Jay Burt, Walk Softly Photos.

By |2019-12-30T10:35:13-05:00June 1st, 2010|Attractions, Benzie|0 Comments

Interlochen 2010 Summer Arts Festival Line-up

Interlochen Arts Festival Mealtickets cardDo You Have Your Ticket to Summer Entertainment Fun Yet?


Hot off the presses, and in Mealtickets displays this week, are the new cards for the Interlochen Summer Arts Festival. You’ve probably already seen their large program, but you can’t beat the convenience of our little cards. They’re a perfect pocket-sized schedule of Interlochen’s concert lineup.

Pick up an Interlochen card today at area hotels other display locations. And order your tickets to one of the Traverse area’s oldest and most creative arts institutions. Order tickets online at www.tickets.interlochen.org


2010 Summer Arts Festival

  • June 14:    Sheryl Crow w/Colbie Caillat
  • June 26:    The Moody Blues
  • June 30:    Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain & Edgar Meyer
  • July 1-4:    Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”
  • July 3:    The Capitol Steps
  • July 4:    World Youth Symphony Orchestra
  • July 8-11:    Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”
  • July 8:    Taj Mahal w/Shemekia Copeland
  • July 9:    Playhouse Disney’s Choo-Choo Soul
  • July 11:    WYSO w/David Shifrin
  • July 13:    Interlochen “Collage”
  • July 14:    POST Comedy Theater
  • July 17:    Punch Brothers w/Loudon Wainwright III
  • July 18:    JoAnn Falletta conducts WYSO
  • July 21:    Peter & Paul: A Tribute to Mary & 50 Years of Music & Friendship
  • July 22:    The Oak Ridge Boys
  • July 23:    Paul Taylor Dance Company
  • July 24:    Leanne Morgan, comedienne
  • July 25:    WYSO w/Philippe Quint
  • July 26:    Parker String Quartet
  • July 27:    Cloud Cult
  • Aug 1:    Erik Nielsen conducts WYSO
  • Aug 5- 8:    “Aida”
  • Aug 9:    Lyle Lovett
  • Aug 10:    Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home
  • Companion
  • Aug 13:    David Sanborn
  • Aug 16, 18 & 21:  Enso String Quartet
  • Aug 19:    Foreigner
  • Aug 20:    Josh Turner
  • Aug 24:     Brandi Carlile
  • Aug 26-28:      Interlochen Guitar Festival

Smoking Ban in Michigan Bars and Restaurants Begins May 1st

no smoking symbolMichigan goes Smoke-Free

May 1st marks the beginning of the new law banning smoking in Michigan bars, restaurants and most workplaces. Govenor Jennifer Granholm signed this bill into law earlier this year, making Michigan the 38th State to ban smoking in public spaces.


Businesses are required to post No Smoking signs and eliminate ashtrays.

Violations of the new ban will be based on complaints and enforced by the Health Department.


For more information on the Smoking Ban in Michigan please visit: http://www.michigan.gov/smokefreelaw

By |2019-12-30T11:04:59-05:00April 30th, 2010|Benzie, Leelanau, Restaurants, Traverse City|0 Comments

Crystal Mountain Opens Slopes Friday 12-11

crystal mountain opening graphic


Local slopes ready for Skiers

Snow is a welcome sight at area ski slopes. Last week Crystal Mountain had bare ground. But with over 12″ of natural snow, plus 24-hour snowmaking, Crystal Mountain will open for skiers on Friday, December 11th.


Here’s the scoop:

Operating Hours & Rate Information
Here are the operating hours and lift ticket rates for this week:

Friday, December 11th: 12 to 8 pm
Saturday, December 12th: 9 am to 8 pm
Sunday, December 13th: 9 am to 6 pm
Monday-Thursday, December 14-17: 12 to 6 pm

Lift ticket rates are $25 (adults 16+) and $15 (juniors 9-15) through Thursday, December 17th. Children 8 & under FREE.

Friday, December 18th (5 for $50 Friday): 9 am to 9 pm
Friday, December 19th: Open for the season. Midweek rates apply. See lift ticket rates.

5 Lift Tickets for $50! Friday, December 18th
Bring a group of up to five skiers & riders to Crystal Mountain on Friday, December 18th and you all ski and ride for only $50!


Check out the snow report at crystalmountain.com/snow for the latest updates.

By |2019-12-30T11:49:41-05:00December 10th, 2009|Attractions, Benzie|0 Comments

Hometown Highlights: 2009 Holiday Gift Guide

Hometown Highlights holiday graphic
Hometown Guide for Holiday Gifts

When the holidays roll around it’s no surprise that I like to spend time searching for unique regional gifts to share with friends and relatives who appreciate the Traverse City area from afar. This year I’ve canvased the area, looking for fun and interesting items that won’t break the bank. From food & beverages, to art and fashion, there’s plenty of ways to suprise your loved ones with a gift from Northern Michigan.


Foodie Delights

Northern Michigan is home to dozens of fabulous food companies, too many to mention here. Instead I’ve picked a few of my personal favorites, and asked my customers and friends what they would recommend.

Cherry Stop gift basketCherry Gifts and Goodies

Looking for a quick and easy gift thats ready to ship? The Cherry Stop is one of my favorite shops because they have such a wide selection of cherry products and other northern Michigan favorites. Pick up a pre-packaged gift set, labeled with images of the bays, for as little as $12. Dried fruits, salsas, BBQ sauce, candies, you name it. Great for summer “lakies” who are missing their cabin this time of year.


Naturally Nutty sunflower butter imageNaturally Nutty Nut Butters

I was lucky enough to tour Naturally Nutty‘s production facility in Acme last fall and see how hand-crafted these nut butters really are. Since then my husband and I are hooked. My personal favorite is the Cinnamon Vanilla Sunflower butter. I can’t believe there’s no sugar added. They’re full of Omega-3 with flaxseed and hempseed, so there’s simply no guilt. A little pricy, but I think some things are worth it. Available at The Cherry Stop, and Olesons food stores, as well as online.


fustinis cinnamon pear vinegar graphicFustini’s Oil & Vinegar Holiday Packs

Jim and Lane are always coming up with amazing infusions for their balsamics and extra virgin olive oils. This holiday season create a custom holiday 4-pack or pick up one of their recommended combinations. My current favorites are the Sage & Mushroom EVOO and the Cinnamon Pear Balsamic vinegar.

Check out our recent post on Holiday Recipes for a suggestion on using the Cinnamon Pear.


For the Home


Judy Izard with maple cutting board photoMichigan Cutting Boards

Here’s a great idea for the Michigan foodie, a hardwood cutting board in the shape of our great state. Made in Petoskey from Michigan maple it’s a beautiful addition to gift baskets. Recommended by Peppercorn owner, Judy Izard. Available at Peppercorn in Downtown Traverse City.

Looking for a great hostess gift? How about a cutting board with some raclette by Leelanau Cheese Company. Pick up a wedge at local grocery stores or stop in at the winery at Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay, home to Leelanau Cheese makers John and Anne Hoyt.


santa decoration imageCeramic Home Decor

One of my new favorite shops is At Home in downtown Suttons Bay. I always find unique and beautiful home decor in their store. Top on my list are the whimsical ceramic creations by artist Geri Mateus, of Aida, MI. This summer I fell in love with her creative marshmellow skewers, long enough for the most inexperienced roaster to stay safe. The decorative handles are ceramic, colorful and include clever phrases like “Roast ’em and Toast ’em”. For the holidays she’s made santa and snowmen decorative stakes for brightening up that poinsettia plant. Or pick out a plaque or large ceramic star. So next time you’re in Suttons Bay, look north for the lime green awning and you’ll find yourself At Home.


peek-a-boo pillow imagePeek-A-Boo Pillows

You probably have a few children on your shopping list so I had to share a perennial favorite gift for the wee ones. Michigan Artists Gallery, also in downtown Suttons Bay, has a selection of clever Peek-A-Boo Pillows that make excellent baby and toddler gifts. Each design is handmade by a mother/daughter team. Patterns vary from ballerina princess, to the ever popular northwoods moose. Each pillow has a center flap with velcro enclosure that hides the stuffed animal inside. Large, medium and wee sizes available.



Girlfriends Gifts


miche bags imageMiche Bags

OK, these may not be exclusively local, but they are still HOT! Last spring I treated myself to a Miche Bag and have had a steady stream of compliments ever since. If you haven’t seen these purses there’s some explanation required. Start with one basic purse, black or brown, and then customize your look in seconds with different colorful wraps. The trick is…the covers are magnetic. And while they may not be made locally, you can still support a local business with a purchase. I picked mine up at Interquilten, a cute fabric store on M-137 in Interlochen. They have dozens of designs to choose from. And just like other collectables the cover designs are eventually “retired” so your purse is more unique.


tea cup and teas imageTea-riffic Cup and Great Lakes Teas

Teas are becoming ever more popular. Here’s my favorite combo for the tea-lover in your family. The Tea-riffic thermal tea cup is perfect for those who love loose tea and only brew a cup or two at a time. It includes a removable mesh canister for holding loose tea. And the thermal sides and tight sealing lid keep tea hot. Available in pink or clear, at Peppercorn in downtown Traverse City.

I also love the unique flavors of Great Lakes Tea and Spice teas. Their tiny shop is located in Glen Arbor, where you can smell and sample some of their teas. You can also pick them up in many local stores as well as by mail order or on their website.


handmade mittens at Gallery 50 imageBea’s Dog Walking Mittens

These mittens are not just beautiful and warm, but they’re recycled and just plain clever. Take an 80 year old woman in Frankfort, give her some old sweaters, scarves and such and she’ll turn them into one-of-a-kind mittens. Each pair is colorful and unique. And some of them have the added benefit of a pocket on top of the hand; perfect for hiding a few dog-bones and a baggie for those cold morning walks. So creative. Available at Gallery 50 in the mercado inside The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.



Guys, Gals or Geeks

massage gift certificate imageOne-Hour Massage

Massage is a great gift for anyone, but those of us Moms could especially use the treat. I discovered Susan Campeau massage and have found great relief for my recurring headaches. If you, or someone you know is suffering from chronic pain, or just needs to relieve tension from everyday life, I’d highly recommend a massage from Susan. Her combination of simple aromatherapy, a soothing location and theraputic massage is the perfect way to relax this holiday season. And a gift certificate is good all year long. Call Susan at 231.714.2879



mario batali signed cook booksAutographed Books

You may not get a chance to meet Mario Batali, but you could still have his autograph. Brilliant Books in Suttons Bay carries several of his cookbooks, many of which include the John Hancock of this local celebrity. Not into autographed cookbooks? Well as long as you’re there, check out the amazing selection of other local authors and Best Sellers as well. What I love about Brilliant Books is that if Peter can’t find what you need in the store, he’ll order it and ship it at no extra cost. You’ve got to love local ownership.

If you’re looking for something “out of this world” how about an autographed copy of Off the Planet, by US astronaut, and Suttons Bay resident, Jerry Linenger. Order a copy from Murdicks Fudge Shoppe and they’ll get it personalized for you. Now that’s a unique gift.


pirates cove ziplinPirates Cove Gift Certificates

Have kids that are hard to buy for? Teens and tweens that want nothing more than video games or clothes? Why not surprise them with gift certificates to Pirates Cove. From mini-golf, to waterslides and now the amazing zipline and ropes course there’s a reason for all the kids to get outside for some hands-on fun. Don’t get me wrong, Pirates Cove isn’t just for the kids. In fact, it could be a great place for a company retreat. Of course, you’ll have to wait ’till spring, but pick up your gift certificates for the holidays. Call 231.883.7374 for all the details.


from frank to betsie screensaver image‘Just Between Frank & Betsie’ Screensaver

If you know someone who loves the Frankfort area, or is a fan of Lighthouses, then this is the perfect gift. Jay Burt, a Benzie amateur photographer, has created a fantastic screensaver entitled “Just Between Frank & Betsie”. It includes over 135 photos taken throughout the year that showcase the beauty of the lakeshore from Frankfort to Point Betsie Lighthouse. You can pick up the CD at The Book Store in downtown Frankfort, or on Jay’s website, walksoftlyphotos.com.



For the Wine Lover

cork purse at Gallery 50Cork Purse

Ladies, let’s face it, we love purses. And many of us love wine. So why not a purse for the wine lover. These handmade cork purses are available in several sizes at Gallery 50 in The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. You’ll recognize corks from local wineries like Left Foot Charley, Willow, Black Star Farms and Boskydel, and other well known vintners as well. I’ve made wine cork wreaths, corkboards and I’ve even seen a bathroom wall covered in corks (check out Chateau Fontaine if you don’t believe me), but I’ve never seen a cork purse, before now.


Black Star Farms bubbly nouveau imageSparkling Wines for the Holidays

Drive, sprint or race to your nearest Black Star Farms tasting room and pick up the last of the 2009 Bubbly Nouveau before it’s gone. It reminds me of green apple with just the right sweetness and spritz to liven up the party.

If you arrive too late, fear not. There are other local sparklers that will leave your guests wanting more. Also check out 2 Lads Winery for their Sparkling Pinot Grigio. This will also sell out, so don’t wait for the ball to drop on this one either.


cherry wines from the Cherry Stop imageCherry Wine from the Cherry Stop

I asked Jamie, owner of The Cherry Stop, for her top picks for Cherry Wines. It was a tough call, and they all have their own merits, but Jamie’s top three include Chateau Fontaine, Bel Lago, and the Cherry Stop cherry wine produced by Peninsula Cellars. If you’ve never had cherry wine, you can give them all a try at the new wine bar in the back of the Cherry Stop called Uncorked. Compare several and decide for yourself. The Cherry Stop offers selections from all the local wineries so it’s a great one-stop local wine shop.



That wraps it up for my 2009 Holiday Gift Guide. I hope you find what you’re looking for this holiday season. Happy shopping, and Happy Holidays!

Celebrate the Snowflakes at Buds 12/5

It’s a Snowflake Christmas at Bud’s in Interlochen


Winter is coming, along with snowflakes and Santa. Celebrate this Saturday, December 5th with fun activities for the family at Bud’s in Interlochen.

  • Breakfast with Santa 9am-1pm
  • Meet two of Santa’s reindeer
  • Live music from Barbara Jordan 12pm-3pm
  • Snowflake crafts
  • Sample treats and specialty foods all day
  • Free gift wrapping


Stop in and start celebrating the magical season. Buds is located on M-137 in Interlochen. For more information on Buds upcoming events check out their website: www.budsisback.com.

By |2019-12-30T12:05:39-05:00December 1st, 2009|Benzie, Check This Out, Events, Restaurants|0 Comments