Home/Mealtickets News

Celebrating 18 Years of Little Cards

We love sharing business stories. Since the Traverse Traveler story began eighteen years ago today I thought it would be fun to share some of the history behind this little card business and take a look at what has changed from 2001 to today.

Brandy Mealtickets little cards at Bayshore ResortBrandy the little card lady at Traverse Traveler office

How it All Began

In the wake of the tragedy of September 11, 2001 I lost my job as a graphic designer for a small ad firm in Traverse City. Getting a new one didn’t seem too likely as the market was struggling to recover. So why not start a business?

Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas was born on November 1, 2001 from a desire to help visitors see northern Michigan the way I do. It began with only six advertisers and 30 little card displays.

I set-up a corner office in my basement where I designed the little cards, managed the website and made sales calls. On the other side of the basement, with the washer/dryer behind me and towers of card boxes all around, I filled displays. When I wasn’t working from home I was delivering displays to hotels, motels and resorts across Grand Traverse, Benzie and Leelanau county.

Little card by little card the business grew. The hotels I worked with loved the little card displays because they fit on the front desk. Their guests liked how the cards fit in their pocket or purse. And I loved working with each advertiser to design a card that captured their business on a piece of paper no larger than a bookmark.

For over 13 years you’d find a dozen displays in the trunk of my car, a semi-permanent groove on my hip where I carried them, and a well worn path from my garage to my basement where I stored and filled over 70 displays each month.

Mealtickets website homepage 2003Traverse Traveler website screenshot

Little Cards with a Big Name

The DBA I registered when I started the business was Traverse Area Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas. Yep. That’s a mouthful. It was my dad’s idea actually. He was my entrepreneurial mentor, and he had some aspirations to take this idea “national” someday in the form of a franchise. Mealtickets was in the name to represent the restaurants, because every visitor wants to know where to eat. But how do you sum up all the amazing and unique attractions, retail shops, and other destinations we that wanted to represent? Unusual Ideas. So that’s the genesis of the name that debuted on the little card displays.

Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas is a name that is not easy to remember. And yet, those first customers I sold and hotel relationships I built, still refer to the cards as Mealtickets, brought to you by the little card lady.

In 2010 when I decided to create an app to grow our platform I knew it was time for a re-brand. That’s when Traverse Traveler was born. The logo has seen a few updates and Traverse Traveler is now the brand name for all of our traveler marketing products.

Mealtickets home officeTraverse Traveler office

Outgrowing the Basement

My corner office in the basement was home to the little card empire until we sold our house in Lake Ann. We were building a new home closer to Traverse City and this time I was moving on up. A first-floor office with a view was a top priority. And that’s when I met my partner Jay Gorter.

Jay launched Visitors Media with digital signage in the hotel lobbies, and an in-room visitor channel playing all original content. We started out testing one anothers products: I designed a card for his channel ExploreTC, and he put me on camera to produce a Wine Tasting Tips video which helped promote the Traverse Traveler app.

In 2015 after a year of collaboration and working out of the Visitors Media office while my house was being built, we decided to merge our companies. The little cards had a new home at Visitors Media.

Mealtickets card shipmentTraverse Traveler card inventory

Some Things Never Change

I’ve changed the business name. I’ve moved office locations. I’ve changed printers and processes for inventory. But so many things remain the same. I still design the cards (over 150 different designs in these 18 years). We still load up our car with displays and deliver them to hotels in three counties every month, year round. And in case you didn’t notice, purple is still my signature color.

After 18 years I’m proud to say these little cards still do a great job at educating travelers on restaurants and attractions to visit. And I’m still proud to be known as the little card lady.

By |2019-12-18T15:16:47-05:00November 1st, 2019|Mealtickets News, Traverse Traveler|2 Comments

Traverse Traveler Buys 13 iPads for Students with Autism

Scavenger Hunt for Autism LogoScavenger Hunt for Autism iPads

Brandy Wheeler, creator of the Traverse Traveler app and owner of Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas, purchased 13 iPads with the proceeds from the first-annual Traverse Traveler Scavenger Hunt for Autism. The iPads have been donated to Traverse City Area Public Schools for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders.


Last April, eighty-four teams took to the streets of downtown Traverse City for the inaugural Scavenger Hunt for Autism. Teams used the Traverse Traveler app and a QR code reader to discover downtown businesses, check-in and unlock a clue for an activity at each location. Volunteers stationed at every venue assisted with the on-site challenge, and handed out prize tickets. Participants encountered puzzles and games that challenged their brains, their sense of direction, and teamwork.

iPad image

The event was a fundraiser for the iPads for Autism program at Traverse City Area Public Schools, a pilot program started in 2011 which provided iPads for 9 students at TCAPS with Autism Spectrum Disorder. To grow this program and meet the needs of their 120 students with autism, Traverse Traveler joined TCAPS Partner in Education program.


The Scavenger Hunt drew participation from a diverse crowd of 337 participants including families, educators, children with autism and disabled adults as well as community members from as far as Petoskey.


The fundraiser generated donations from event sponsors, team registrations and private donors and raised over $14,700 for the iPads for Autism Program. More than $9000 was donated directly to TCAPS through the Partner in Education program. Over the summer TCAPS added 6 iPads and purchased app packages designed to meet the specific needs of students with Autism. The iPads will help grow a lending library to expedite student assessment, trial different applications and assign devices more quickly.


As part of the licensing agreement with retailers schools are required to purchase Apple products directly from Apple. But event founder Brandy Wheeler wanted to show support for the local businesses. “This event wouldn’t be possible without the support of our business community. I’m thrilled that we can purchase our iPads locally from CityMac and donate them to TCAPS to grow the iPads for Autism program.”


The positive response from event participants and venues, combined with the commitment from title sponsor Lucky Jack’s, has event organizers already planning for next year. For more information on the Traverse Traveler Scavenger Hunt for Autism and to find out how you can volunteer visit TraverseTraveler.com/Autism or find them on Facebook.


Photo:  Brandy Wheeler from Traverse Traveler and Jame McCall, Special Education Director at Traverse City Area Public Schools gathered today at CityMac for the iPad purchase. They were joined by members of the Scavenger Hunt for Autism committee including Jamie Roster, Kathy DiMercurio, Kate Daggett and Nick Nerbonne, and event sponsors Mike Mohrhardt of Lucky Jacks, Josh Russell of Jimmy Johns and Greg Nickerson from CityMac.


By |2019-12-19T14:10:52-05:00September 27th, 2012|Events, Mealtickets News, Traverse City, Traverse Traveler|0 Comments

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

From Unemployed to Entrepreneur — Mealtickets Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary

Mealtickets Celebrates 10 Years

10 Miles Down the Road Less Traveled

11-1-11 is the anniversary of the day I let go of the the 8-5, steady paycheck life and slapped on a new name tag:  Entrepreneur.
I had just lost my graphic design job, after 9/11 collapsed the travel industry, taking with it our ad agency’s biggest client. So there I stood in my Robert Frost moment, facing two roads diverged. I took the road less traveled by. It lead to the start of a little card company called Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas.
Now here we are, 10 years later. Still alive, still creating, and still working to promote the Traverse Area to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who travel to northern Michigan each year.
In honor of this milestone I decided to throw a party to thank my clients and friends in the hospitality industry, without whom my little business wouldn’t have grown.
On November 1, 2011 we’ll mark that moment in time when faced with two roads I took the one less traveled by…and that has made all the difference.


Mealtickets 10 Year Anniversary Celebration
Date:  11-1-11  from 5:30pm – 7:30pm
Food & Wine Pairings | Giveaways | Door-prizes | Drink Specials

We’re hosting a Happy Hour reception for our clients and guests to celebrate, with fabulous door prizes, Traverse Traveler swag and a throw-back to old fashioned social networking: face to face!
Want to join us?
Rate our app on iTunes and you’ll be entered to win a special Traverse Traveler prize pack including a guest invitation to our party!

Here’s how to enter:
1. Rate the app on iTunes
2. Email Brandy at info@mealtickets.com with a copy of your review!


We will draw names from the emails we receive and announce the winners on Friday, October 29th!


This event is by invitation only, so rate the app Today!

Traverse Traveler App Featured in New Visual Marketing Book

Visual Marketing by Anita Campbell & David LangtonI’m thrilled to announce the Traverse Traveler app will be included in a new creative idea book featuring 99 examples of successful marketing strategies.


Visual Marketing: 99 Proven Ways for Small Businesses to Marketing with Images and Design, by Anita Campbell & David Langton — To be released on September 29th



Here’s an excerpt from their publisher, Wiley:

 “This book is an idea starter. Expect this book to stimulate the senses, inspire and spark ideas,” says Langton. “The 99 handpicked examples in this book are from organizations that have successfully used visual elements in their marketing—with solid results.”

Visual Marketing displays creative marketing campaigns that brought attention to small businesses in unique, compelling, and unexpected ways.

“We explored every aspect of marketing – from traditional to high tech, “adds Campbell. “We show examples of how print ads and marketing materials are evolving, how social networking sites and the world of mobile apps have redefined how people communicate and how quickly new marketing technology, such as QR codes, come along as technology progresses.”

I’m anxiously awaiting a copy to see the creative ideas from other designers, artists, entrepreneurs and small businesses featured in this collection. I hope you’ll pay a visit to your local bookstore and pick up a copy. It is also available on Amazon and in eBook format for those who love their tablets!

By |2019-12-19T16:00:21-05:00September 20th, 2011|Mealtickets News, Traverse City, Traverse Traveler|0 Comments

Traverse Traveler Giveaway during TCFF

Traverse Traveler Giveaway image

Spot Traverse Traveler in the Lip Dub and You Could Win


In honor of the premiere of the Traverse City Lip Dub during the Traverse City Film Festival we are announcing a giveaway for a lucky Traverse Traveler fan.


Did you know, Traverse Traveler had the opportunity to take part in the Traverse City Lip Dub? Brandy Wheeler, owner of Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas —the Traverse Traveler — was one of the singers in the community production created by FishSoup Films and the Traverse City Film Festival?

In honor of the premiere of the Lip Dub on Tuesday July 26th at the open space, Traverse Traveler is holding a contest to giveaway one of the T-shirts specially created for the Traverse Traveler crew.


To enter to win “Like” our Traverse Traveler Facebook page, then send us a message with the lines Brandy sings on the Traverse City Lip Dub.

Not on Facebook? Email us here with the lines Brandy sings and you’ll be entered to win. Contest ends at the end of the TCFF on July 31st.

By |2019-12-26T15:20:16-05:00July 25th, 2011|Check This Out, Mealtickets News|0 Comments

Welcome Back, Dennos Museum Center

Dennos Museum Mealtickets cardMealtickets is Proud to Welcome Back, the Dennos Museum Center



The Dennos Museum Center, located on the campus Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, is a great local destination for cultural events. Their permanent exhibits include a renowned Inuit Art Gallery, complete with one of the largest and most historically complete collections of its kind in the United States. But what I always find inspiring are the revolving exhibits in the Museums main galleries. The Dennos is small enough to explore in an hour or two, but large enough to present some of the most well known artist’s and exhibits of our time.

Also located on site is the 400-seat Milliken Auditorium. Utilized by the community for theatrical performances and concerts, the auditorium is also home to the Dennos Concert Series. Performances here are focused on World Music —performances you won’t find at any other destination in the area.


Looking for info about current Dennos Museum exhibitions? Check out the EVENTS tab on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app for all the details. Download the app for FREE for iPhone and iPod Touch.


So next time you’re in Traverse City, stop by the Dennos Museum for a tour. They’re open daily. Until then, you can find more information, and a map to their location, on our Attractions page.

By |2019-12-26T16:03:07-05:00March 1st, 2011|Attractions, Mealtickets News, Traverse City|0 Comments

Plan Your Trip to Traverse with New iPhone App from Mealtickets

Traverse Traveler iPhone app screen imageMealtickets & Unusual Ideas is proud to present a brand new iPhone app called Traverse Traveler.

The Traverse Traveler iPhone app is a handy mobile guide for the Traverse area visitor designed to promote local restaurants, wineries, attractions, shopping, events, services and more. And best of all…it’s a FREE download for iPhone and iTouch users.

Whether you’re planning a trip to northwest Michigan, or are lucky enough to live here, this app makes it much easier to find local businesses.

Today’s smart phone user is accustomed to finding everything they need right there in the app store. And now they can find information about Traverse City there too.


Want to plan a wine tour that includes a nearby restaurant stop for lunch? Our app can do that.


Need to find the quickest route from your hotel to the ski lodge to meet friends? Our app can do that.


You just arrived in town and wondered if there are any events to check out? Our app can show you that too.


Can’t wait? Download the Traverse Traveler iPhone app here


Traverse Traveler app iconWhat makes Traverse Traveler unique?

There are thousands of apps out there, many of which promote restaurants, movie theaters or general information about an area. So what makes Traverse Traveler unique?

  • Listings are ordered by proximity to the iPhone user. So if you’re hanging out Benzie county, the listings nearest to you come up first. This is helpful for finding a hotel or the closest bar.
  • Maps & directions make it easy to navigate from one location to the next. Great for planning a wine tour or discovering that off-the-beaten-path restaurant.
  • Social sharing from the app means you can post to Facebook or Twitter, or email info to your friends without leaving the app.
  • Events by date let you know what’s going on while you’re in town.
  • Near Me feature pinpoints the 25 listings closest to you, from within all categories. See exactly how close your hotel is ski lodge to plan your drive time.

Free for All

Not only is Traverse Traveler a FREE download, it’s also free for local businesses to get a listing.

The Traverse Traveler app offers three types of listings to accommodate any business that’s interested in joining:

  • Basic Listings
  • Enhanced Listings
  • Event Listings

Submit information to us and you can receive a FREE basic listing in the Traverse Traveler app. Basic listings are free, and we’re glad to give them. The enhanced listings will give you a lot more interactive options and visual presence in the app—if you’re into that kind of thing. You can link to your website and email, add photos to your listing, promote events and specials, and utilize social media. So if you have an active online presence, you might want to consider this valuable addition. And we’re selling them for only $99/year, so why not?

Visit the all new Traverse Traveler website to learn more about the app. List Your Business today!


Why develop an iPhone app for Mealtickets?

The Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas mission has always been to provide Traverse area visitors with useful information and directions to local restaurants and attractions, in a colorful, convenient and portable way. The number one reason our little cards are so popular among visitors is their size. Travelers love them because they fit in their pocket or purse. Right next to their phone.

An iPhone app is a perfect expansion of the services we provide as it fits our mission to a tee. We work hard to keep up with technology, and the needs of our customers. The app is a great way to do just that. We hope you’ll agree.


Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas also believes in keeping it local. Our card displays feature only distinctive, locally-owned restaurants and attractions because that’s what makes our area unique. And our Mealtickets advertisers benefit most of all. Card advertisers receive a fully-enhanced listing in the Traverse Traveler iPhone app as part of the service, at no additional cost. Now is the best time to become a Mealtickets advertiser and take advantage of this great new feature.

To advertise with Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas contact us at info@mealtickets.com.

To list your business on the Traverse Traveler app, click here for our easy online forms.

To download the Traverse Traveler iPhone app, click here.


By |2019-12-26T16:20:34-05:00December 17th, 2010|Check This Out, Mealtickets News, Traverse City|0 Comments

Mealtickets October Newsletter

October enews graphic imageAre you receiving the Mealtickets email newsletter?

If not, you can click this link to view the October 2010 email newsletter online now.

Newsletter Highlights


Sign up to receive our free monthly newsletters featuring design and marketing tips, Did You Know facts and updates on local businesses and events in the Traverse Area.  Register today!

By |2019-12-26T16:40:21-05:00October 13th, 2010|Check This Out, Mealtickets News|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

Mealtickets September Newsletter

Mealtickets September eNews imageAre you receiving the Mealtickets email newsletter?

If not, you can click this link to view the September 2010 email newsletter online now.

Newsletter Highlights

  • Report on summer tourism
  • Sneek peek at our new fall advertisers
  • History of Michigan wine industry facts
  • Tips on keeping your mind focused and your thoughts on track


Sign up to receive our free monthly newsletters featuring design and marketing tips, Did You Know facts and updates on local businesses and events in the Traverse Area.  Register today!

By |2019-12-30T09:45:59-05:00September 14th, 2010|Mealtickets News, newsletters|0 Comments

A Front Desk Perspective on Summer Tourism

Hotels Report a Super Summer. Will it be a Fabulous Fall?sunset in Michigan

What better gage for summer tourism than the comments of staff at area hotels? I spend much of my time in and out of their lobbies refreshing our Mealtickets displays. This provides a great opportunity to chat with hotel staff about their impressions of the industry, the effectiveness of the Pure Michigan campaign, and their expectations for the upcoming fall season. I thought I’d share what they had to say about the state of Traverse City’s summer tourism.


Whether it’s Weather, or Not

Everyone agrees this summer was one of the warmest and most beautiful summers in recent memory. For some local resorts, it’s the best summer they’ve seen in 10 years, and they haven’t been in business that long. But what effect does the weather have on their occupancy rates? A dramatic effect.

Overall, resorts large and small saw record breaking numbers this summer, and most attribute it to the weather. The summer sun draws visitors to enjoy our beaches and outdoor activities, in part as a retreat from the brutal heat of the larger inland cities.

Rich Maxwell Jr., owner of the Restwood Motel in Traverse City agrees.


“We had one of the best July and August room sales in the last 20 years. We had a modest increase for July and a huge increase for August, (of coarse last August was one of our worst ever). Everyone wants to know WHY well in my humble opinion it was the weather. I think the economy is as bad or worse than last year, but the travelers just wanted to get away from the heat in the big city’s.”

What About the Pure Michigan Campaign?

Many of Michigan’s tourism-based organizations have been supportive of the continued funding of Travel Michigan’s Pure Michigan Campaign including the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association, The Grand Traverse Area Hotel Motel Association and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. After missing fall and winter ad promotions due to lack of funding the campaign received $20 Million just in time for the summer media buys. My question for local hotel managers was, “did it help?

According to Nick Trahair, general manager at the AmericInn in Traverse City, it did.

“The summer was a record year. Pure Michigan had a lot to do with driving out of state traffic into our hotel. We saw many more out of state plates compared to years past. We also had a lot of people talk about the area – not knowing what Michigan truly offered as many think of Michigan to be “Detroit” and not everything else it had. Many people who were here this summer talked about returning and our fall bookings are ahead of pace from history.”

And he’s not alone. Most hotel managers and staff I spoke with agreed that the Pure Michigan campaign does drive visitors from out of town into our part of the state. Jonathan Pack, general manager at the Cherry Tree Inn, and president of the GTAHMA looks at it this way,

“It’s hard to say the good numbers are from the Pure Michigan ads because we have had such fantastic weather. My honest opinion is that without the Pure Michigan ads, we would be much worse because we wouldn’t see those increases in the markets outside of Detroit.”

What’s interesting about this summer, more than year’s past, are reports from hotels entertaining so many first-time visitors. Some attribute this to the success of the campaign shedding a beautiful light on our region. Others gave credit to family and friends who recommended the Traverse City region as their favorite place to visit. Whether it’s word-of-mouth or advertising dollars at work everyone was glad for the boost in business.


Other Factors Affecting Summer Tourism

While the weather and advertising play a huge role in the number of rooms filled on a summer night, there are a few other interesting factors that came into play this season. Some were short term, and others could reflect a growning trend.

On the short term I was rather surprised to discover we may have inadvertently benefited from the tragedy in the Gulf. While oil spewed with seemingly no end into the waters of the Gulf Coast, visitors who typically spent some of their summer on oceanfront beaches opted for our freshwater coastlines instead. A few properties we work with began receiving calls early this summer looking for condo openings for long stays and cited the spill as their reason for traveling north instead of south this year. While they were pleased to accommodate new visitors, everyone feels for the gulf coast areas who are suffering a business loss from that tragic event, and wishes them a strong and quick recovery.


Forecasting Beyond the Weather

Forecasting is a necessary component of hotel management. And just like the weather it requires a strategic approach, but predictions are often inacurate. Hotels use forecasting to determine expected occupancy rates for the coming season. They translate this information into statistics to plan advertising campaigns, target discounts and to determine staffing.

The surprising trend, which I’ve heard about for the last couple seasons, is that visitors are making their travel plans at the last minute rather than weeks or months in advance. This makes forecasting much more difficult.

Mike Hall, general manager of the Days Inn in Traverse City explains,

“We really saw a shorter period of time from reservations made to actual arrival. Traverse City has historically been an area where advance reservations are the norm. However, this year, especially, we have seen 20-30 room reservations per night on Thursday and Friday nights for Saturday arrival. This has put our forecasting, such as it is, out the window.”

What’s the Outlook for Fall?

As Labor Day represents the unofficial end of summer we turn our heads to fall. Apparently we also turned our backs to the cool winds that have been blowing in low temps to make it feel like October. Which illustrates the point quite well. Fall is all about the weather. If it’s a beautiful indian summer hotels expect to continue to see solid bookings. Many speculate on an early turning of the leaves and thus an early push for fall visitors. But let’s face it, no one knows what’s coming around the corner as far as the weather is concerned.

What the hotels are is optimistic.

“Many people who were here this summer talked about returning and our fall bookings are ahead of pace from history. We expect to continue strong like we have the rest of the year and finish with one of the best years on the books,” said Nick Trahair.


And in case you’re wondering, Mealtickets & Unusal Ideas displays will be there at the front desk waiting for them to arrive.

“Travelers are asking a lot of questions these days – looking for family friendly places to see, do and eat. If we can put something in their hand with information – we have found more interest. When we tell them about someplace and can only show a location on the map – they immediately go back asking questions about what is in front of them,” Trahair added.


So I’ll continue my rounds refilling displays, talking to the hotel staff and providing visitors with great ways to enjoy their trip to Traverse City. Cards in hand.


By |2019-12-30T09:49:47-05:00September 9th, 2010|Mealtickets News, Traverse City|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

Uncorked Wine Bar, Mealtickets Latest Addition

Uncorked Wine Bar Mealtickets cardLove Michigan Wines, Then You’ll Love Uncorked!


Did you know that Downtown Traverse City has a wine bar dedicated to promoting Michigan wine, beer and spirits? Uncorked, a Northern Michigan Wine Bar is located on Front Street and you may not have known it was there. That’s because it’s inside The Cherry Stop. And it’s home to an amazing opportunity for you to unwind, unplug and sip on some fabulous cocktails.


There is no where else in Traverse City you can step up to the bar and order a flight of riesling for a side-by-side taste test, and be able to walk out the door with a bottle of your favorite label. Whether you want to order a wine sample, sip on a Michigan microbrew draft, or savor a cocktail made from local spirits, the options are endless at Uncorked.

The Cherry Stop has been with Mealtickets from the day we opened for business. And we’re very excited to welcome another great idea from Nick and Jamie Roster into Mealtickets service. Stop in for a glass, sign up for one of their Meet the Winemaker events or enjoy happy hour. And tell them we said hello!

Mealtickets Welcomes Soul Hole Restaurant

Soul Hole Mealtickets cardIn the Heart of Traverse City you’ll find the Soul of the South


The latest bright spot on Union Street is the opening of the Soul Hole restaurant in the former Radish location. Open for only a few days they’ve already had a steady stream of customers enjoying the sweet and savory flavors from the kitchen of chef Ralph Humes.


Eclectic southern cuisine is the specialty here. Favorites from the south like Chicken and Waffles, Shrimp and Grits and Po-boys are on the menu. They’re making the best of their cozy quarters with dine in and carry-out available for lunch and dinner. And this is one place you don’t want to skip dessert. Before opening Soul Hole, chef Ralph was known for his Sweet Alchemy desserts which will remain on the menu here.

Mealtickets is proud to Welcome Soul Hole to our advertising family. We hope you’ll stop in and enjoy their contemporary atmosphere, cool jazz music and sweet southern hospitality. It never hurts to tell them we sent you either!

Welcome Gallery Fifty

Gallery Fifty Mealtickets cardMealtickets Introduces Gallery Fifty to Traverse City Visitors


They started in a hallway at Building 50 in the Grand Traverse Commons, and have expanded to two beautiful art galleries in the heart of Traverse City. And now Gallery Fifty is one of the latest additions to the Mealtickets family of advertisers.


The art scene in thriving in Northern Michigan. So it’s no surprise that we have hundreds of local artisits and galleries to showcase their work. Gallery Fifty has managed to create two different collections — in two very unique locations — that represent not only local art but art from all fifty states. The original Gallery 50, housed in a 125 year old insane asylum, is fun, funky and eclectic. The new downtown location, formerly Belstone Gallery, rests along the Boardman river and could be described as contemporary and refined.

Both galleries carry the well-known Fordite jewelry by artist James Blanchard. These are one-of-a-kind pieces created from layers of automotive paint recycled from an old Ford plant in southern Michigan.


Each space is unique, as are the works of art you’ll find there. Stop in, say hi to Chrisitie and enjoy the beauty captured by artists from across the country. You can find more information, and a map to each of Gallery Fifty’s locations, on our Attractions page. Visit them online at www.galleryfifty.com.

Welcome Grand Traverse Distillery

Grand Traverse Distillery mealtickets cardLocal Distillery Opens their Doors to Visitors


You’ve probably heard of the award-winning True North Vodka, made right here in Traverse City. But did you know their production facility is open for tours? Mealtickets is proud to welcome Grand Traverse Distillery into our little card family. We’re here to let you know what they have in store for area visitors interested in learning about the vodka making process.

Tucked away in the Meadowlands Industrial Park on 3 mile road near Hammond is their production facility. Stop in for a tour and tasting on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Otherwise you’ll find them working hard to produce fantastic vodka, whiskey and custom blends for customers around the globe.


For a map to their location visit our Attractions page and look for Grand Traverse Distillery. And for more details on their products, visit their website at www.grandtraversedistillery.com.

By |2019-12-30T11:19:14-05:00March 19th, 2010|Attractions, Mealtickets News, Traverse City|0 Comments

Find us on Facebook

 Mealtickets Facebook screenshotYou can now find Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas on Facebook!


Yes, it’s true, we have a fledgling presence on Facebook, the popular social networking site. It’s been on my to-do list for a while now and I decided it was time to take the leap.

Our blog here on www.mealtickets.com has become a great place to post news and events, relating to our advertisers, and the area as a whole. On Facebook I hope to have the chance to interact a bit more with you, our readers. We’ll post photos, updates on events and gather information so we can make our service better for all our customers.


So Find us on Facebook and become a Fan of Traverse Area Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas. Better yet, send us some feedback, join a discussion and have fun! I’ll see you there!

By |2020-01-06T13:20:13-05:00May 27th, 2009|Check This Out, Mealtickets News|0 Comments

Congratulations Small Business of the Year Nominees

 Mealtickets Advertisers Vie for Small Business of the Year Award

Chamber Small Business Celebration logoEach year the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce hosts a Small Business Celebration and awards one local establishment the honor of Small Business of the Year. This year three Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas advertisers are among the nominees.


The Cherry Stop, owned and operated by Nick and Jamie Roster, is a specialty store in Downtown Traverse City featuring everything cherry. Located on Front Street, The Cherry Stop offers direct shipping and operates a unique wine bar in the back of the store overlooking Grand Traverse Bay.

Chateau Chantal, an Old Mission must-see, is a beautiful winery complete with rolling vineyards, a tasting room and a bed & breakfast. Guests enjoy fantastic views from the rooms which are named after famous artists.

Right Brain Brewery, located in the Warehouse district of Traverse City, is a local favorite. Owner Russell Springsteen has created a comfortable retreat for beer lovers to explore the many flavor possibilities of brewer John Niedermier. The brewery is located next to Salon Saloon, where guests can have their hair trimmed while they sip a stout.


Check out these three fantastic businesses, and all the other deserving nominees at this year’s Small Business Celebration at the Candidate’s Showcase held this Thursday, April 16, 2009 at the Hagerty Center in Traverse City from 5:30 – 7:30pm. There is no cost for the event. So come, meet the candidates and wish them good luck.