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100 Things to Do in Traverse City : Book Review

100 Things to Do in Traverse City BookRecommended Reading for Traverse City Travelers

Looking for an easy read to kick off your next adventure in northern Michigan? Support a local writer and pick up 100 Things to Do in Traverse City Before You Die. Author Kim Schneider draws upon her experience as a travel writer and long time resident to share 100 ways to navigate northern Michigan.

Our Book Review

As a fellow foodie, explorer and consumer of the “best of” this region I was anxious to dive into the pages. I wondered if we would share similar tastes, favorite familiar hangouts or if, by chance, I might learn something new from her recommendations.

We tout many of the same places to eat, drink and shop like a local. And we agree on dozens of must-see destinations like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, visiting area wineries and learning how to spot a Petoskey stone. But I was thrilled to discover that I too could pick-up something new in her pages of recommendations.

One of my favorite things about the book are the author’s tips shared from personal experiences. For instance, I didn’t know there’s a secret garden on Sixth street welcoming visitors when the sign says “Open”. I did appreciate the reminder that you had better bring cash to Art’s Tavern as they don’t accept credit cards. (I learned the hard way on that a time or two.) And who wouldn’t appreciate the handy reference lists of businesses associated with each suggestion. Like shops that rent fat tire bikes? You never know when you’ll want to try one of those.

100 Things to Do in Traverse City Before You Die would make a great coffee table book for the cottage, gift for the mitten lover in your life, or glove-box reference guide for locals looking to flip the pages and set off on an adventure.

You can pick-up a copy of 100 Things to Do in Traverse City Before You Die at local book stores including Brilliant Books, Horizon Books and Nifty Things in Traverse City, as well as Dog Ears Books in Northport (open seasonally).

To meet the author, pick her brain and get a signed copy, why not stop by one of the following launch parties and special events.

April 7, 2018  | Brilliant Books  |  Traverse City

Launch party and book signing

May 12, 2018  |  Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate  |  Empire

Book signing and chocolate tasting

May 20, 2018  |  Chateau Chantal Winery  |  Traverse City

Book signing with TC Bingo after Blessing of the Blossoms

For More Things to Do in Traverse City

For details on events and info from the author follow 100 Things to do in Traverse City Before You Die on Facebook

We love supporting local authors, artists and creators. They are a vibrant part of our community. If you enjoy the topic of this book review and are looking for more food for thought on Things to Do in Traverse City, explore our Dining, Shopping and Attractions pages for inspiration. And don’t forget to download our free Traverse Traveler app.

By |2018-12-12T08:53:46-05:00April 3rd, 2018|Arts & Culture, Travel Tips|0 Comments

9 Things to do with Kids on a Spring Staycation in Traverse City


Is a vacation or staycation in Traverse City on your mind this spring? The kids have been cooped up at home long enough. Spring Break is a popular time for the locals to get-away, which means it’s a little less crowded on the streets and in the hotels. So here’s my list of 9 things to do with kids on a Traverse City staycation. Watch the videos for more details on each destination!

 

Breakfast at Round’s

If you’re traveling for vacation odds are nobody has to cook. So, I think it’s fitting that a staycation includes going out for breakfast. If you’re an early-riser check out Round’s, a true local hang-out, where the raspberry french toast is out of this world. Look for their menu in our Dining Guide.

 

Free Movies at The State

The State Theatre and Bijou by the Bay have a once-annual free movie fest, which lines up with Traverse City’s spring break. That means free movie tickets, and lots of family-friendly films all week! If your break doesn’t match ours don’t despair! These arthouse volunteer-run theaters offer great kids programs including $.25 kids matinees EVERY Saturday. And you can’t beat the popcorn and candy prices either.

 

Bounce it Out at Busy Bodies

Sometimes you just need a place to let the kids run, skip and bounce out that energy they’ve been storing all winter. Busy Bodies Bounce Town is the solution. With wristband access you can spend an hour, go grab a bite to eat and come back later that day to wear them out before the car ride home.

 

Hike through the Art Park

The Michigan Legacy Art Park is a hidden gem, and worth a drive to Crystal Mountain in Benzie County. Discover larger than life sculptures tucked between the trees along a beautiful hiking trail. These permanent art installations are impressive any time of year. March and April can still be snowy in the woods, so wear your boots, or rent a pair of snowshoes.

 

Eat Lunch at Scalawags

Scalawags Fish & Chips in downtown Traverse City is the perfect lunch spot for the whole family. The restaurant is decorated tip to tail in fishing-themed memorabilia and artwork. The fish is incredibly fresh and prepared right after you order. Tell the kids to watch for Spongebob as he pops up every time the front door opens.

 

Bowling and Laser Tag at Lucky Jacks

If you’re entertaining teens or tweens and the weather isn’t cooperating, I’ve got just the place for you. Lucky Jacks has indoor fun for the whole family. From bowling and laser tag, to arcade games, bumper cars and did I mention they have a full restaurant and bar? Yep, this spot checks a lot of boxes for some good old fashioned family fun.

 

Explore History at The Village

One of the nation’s largest historical renovations is taking place just off the beaten path in Traverse City. The Village at Grand Traverse Commons is a former state asylum with stunning 19th century architecture, and a fascinating history. Sign-up for a guided historic tour of the buildings, or spend your time hiking the trails all around Traverse City’s central park. Ask for the path to the hippy tree for an instagrammable discovery.

 

Play at the Great Lakes Children’s Museum

Traverse City is blessed to be surrounded by water. As Michiganders we want to ensure the importance of the Great Lakes is not lost on our youngest adventurers. Kids can explore our watery resources in hands-on exhibits, playscapes and activities at the Great Lakes Children’s Museum.

 

Discover Sleeping Bear Dunes

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is always on our list of things to do with kids. On a sunny day the views of Lake Michigan are blue and beautiful no matter the season. Hiking the dunes or riding a bike along the Heritage trail are great springtime adventures. Start at the Visitors Center in Empire and ask about the Jr Ranger program for some activities that will entertain and educate the youngest visitors.

 

So when it’s too warm for snowmen, but too cold for swimming, there are still plenty of things to do with kids of all ages in Traverse City. If you live here, it’s a good reminder to get out and enjoy the reasons why. If you’re traveling to Traverse City…welcome! The trees might be leafless, and the pot holes large, but activities abound for you and your traveling band.

By |2018-12-12T09:14:57-05:00March 21st, 2018|Adventure, Family Fun, Travel Tips, Videos|0 Comments

Hotel Helps the Homeless, One Room at a Time

Choice Hotels Community Hero Recipient

Kathy Kelly, general manager of Traverse City’s Sleep Inn & Suites in Acme, was recognized for her commitment to help the homeless. L-R Rob Rodenroth (Owner Sleep Inn & Suites Acme), Kathy Kelly & John Malone (Area Director Franchise Services Choice Hotels)

 

What if the homeless no longer had to be without a warm bed on a cold night?

Just stop and think about that for a minute. Imagine you’re a mother with two young children and you’ve run out of options. Your car is nearly out of gas. The temperature is in the single digits. It’s New Years Eve and you have nowhere to go. Goodwill Inn is full, and the other shelters in town won’t allow children. You call a crisis center and the best advice they can give is to find a store that’s open 24-hours and keep moving. With two children? All night?

This is the call that Kathy Kelly answered one night while volunteering at a crisis center. It’s also the reason Kathy has been honored by Choice Hotels — recognition for the choice she made to help this mother, and many more, with a warm bed for the night.

That bitter evening Kathy made a decision. “I run a hotel and we have a room. I’m going to send them over there.” Working with the Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency, and Third Level Crisis Intervention Center, Kathy was able to house this family for the night through the use of the hotel voucher system. The vouchers are obtained by those in crisis and presented to hotels willing to participate in the program. Hotels are reimbursed at a reduced rate for the room. A room that would otherwise sit vacant.

Hotel occupancy in the coldest months can average 65% in Traverse City. That’s a lot of rooms. That option alone could give a warm bed to anyone who finds themselves desperate for shelter with nowhere else to go. In this economic climate the face of homelessness has changed. In many cases it’s families who have found themselves in a situation they never expected. “I think we all know that just a couple changes in circumstances and that could be any of us,” said Kathy.

In 2014 Sleep Inn & Suites Acme received roughly 100 vouchers to provide shelter for those in need. They also worked with Cherry Capital Cab owner Doug Dornbos, who offered transportation support. Thanks to Kathy’s commitment to grow the voucher program six more lodging properties have come on board.

Kathy acknowledges she couldn’t have joined this program without the support of the hotel ownership. At an event to honor Kathy’s efforts as a community hero, hotel owner Rob Rodenroth fully supported Kathy’s decision. “We just said yes. We can’t imagine that feeling – where do you go? What do you do? You’re helpless.”

This program is making a difference in Traverse City. Meanwhile Kathy is looking at the big picture. “I took it to Choice Hotels only to say, hey we’ve created a model here that could work – it is working. You have hotels in every city, in every state of this Country. You can take this on at a much bigger level.” Thanks to Kathy’s passion and persistence they are inclined to listen.

Service HeroChoice Hotels recognized Kathy Kelly with a 2014 Service Hero Award for her commitment to helping the homeless. Traverse Traveler is proud to share her story with the hope that it inspires more Traverse City hotels to join the effort to help the homeless in our community, one room at a time. Congratulations Kathy!

By |2018-12-12T09:25:49-05:00November 17th, 2014|Community Spotlight, Lodging|0 Comments

Buying Gemstones with Becky Thatcher

Becky Thatcher Designs Glen Arbor

A visit to Glen Arbor isn’t complete without a stop at Becky Thatcher’s studio.

I’ve been a fan of Becky Thatcher Designs since the first day I walked into her Glen Arbor studio and saw her jewelry displayed in cases filled with birch, sand and stones collected from the nearby Lake Michigan shoreline. A pale purple and blue landscape was painted on the walls, and I felt as though I’d never left the beach. From her petoskey stone watches, to freshwater pearls and signature rings that blend gold, silver and gemstones, Becky has a gift for crafting exceptional jewelry. She has a passion for sharing her knowledge as well. I thought it would be fun to share a piece of her world with you.

I asked Becky if I could get a behind-the-scenes look at the world of jewelry design for the Traverse Traveler blog, and Becky had the perfect solution.

Invitation to a Gemstone Roundtable

Earlier this summer I had the privilege of joining a gemstone roundtable hosted by Becky Thatcher and gemstone dealers from Mayer & Watt. Twice each year Becky Thatcher welcomes a handful of guests to join her in experiencing what it’s like to purchase gems directly from dealers who travel the world in search of beautiful stones. This was to be my glimpse behind the scenes of the gem buying process.

Our presenters, Simon & Laurie Watt, of Mayer & Watt, are accomplished gem dealers with whom Becky has worked for many years. Simon has served on the board of the American Gem Trade Association for more than 9 years, and Laurie was one of the first three women in the gem business.

Becky Thatcher Designs | Traverse City store

Becky Thatcher Designs, located on Front Street in downtown Traverse City. Becky also has stores in Glen Arbor, Leland and Harbor Springs.

We met at the Becky Thatcher Designs store in downtown Traverse City. A lovely light dinner and refreshments awaited while guests mingled and met our hosts. We sat at a long narrow table carefully prepared for the process of examining stones for purchase.

For over 30 years Mayer & Watt have developed relationships with a network of cutters and miners in every corner of the gem world, to bring stones to jewelers like Becky. Fair trade and fair labor are of utmost concern to be sure their products do not fund terror. They specialize in rare and unusual stones, many of which we had the chance to see and to hold.

Guests were seated around a long table with Simon at the head. He held a box with dozens of simple paper envelopes inside. We were asked to pass the envelopes around the table one by one. The outside was labeled with the name of the stone, the cut, the carat weight and the price. Since all stones were available for purchase we employed a special process for laying claim to a certain stone.

Becky Thatcher Designs | gemstone roundtable

At the roundtable event we viewed over 150 gemstones which ranged in price from $99 to over $100,000.

As the envelopes passed round the table each guest carefully opened the paper folds to reveal the loose stone(s) inside. Some were single stones and others were cut and sold as a pair. If one of the stones caught our eye and warranted a second look we called “dibs” along with our name and the number on the envelope, then passed it along. Dibs wasn’t a commitment to buy, “just a flirtation,” said Simon. A chance to see the stone again, handle it, and perhaps compare it to another stone that came along.

 

Becky Thatcher Designs | gemstone roundtable

Guests had an opportunity to view each stone up close as they were passed around the table. To see a stone a second time you call ‘dibs’ and they placed the stone on a tray in front of you.

 

Becky Thatcher Designs | gemstone roundable

Stones were packaged in a folded paper envelope, numbered and labeled. Each guest had the opportunity to see the stones unveiled for the first time upon opening the final fold. After viewing we passed them on folded inside just as they had been received.

I saw amazing gems that evening. Stones I’d never heard of. From Spinel, Chrysoberyl, Nephrite and Alexandrite to the familar Opal, Amethyst, Sapphire and Ruby. But the most unusual name and the most amazing story go hand-in-hand. We waited for the Rhodocrosite. Simon came across this award-winning stone 16 years ago. He offered to buy it and was told to “get in line.” Years went by and he never forgot the beauty of that stone. Just weeks before coming to Michigan he received a call about a special stone for sale. Lo and behold it was one in the same. The stunning Rhodocrosite (shown above) was finally his. You’d think this one would be marked “not for sale” but in the gem business that’s not how it works. The stones are always for sale. “It’s like getting to fall in love all over again,” said Simon. And he hopes someone will fall in love with this beauty.

Becky Thatcher Designs | gemstone roundable

Some stones were presented and sold as pairs.

It took hours to make our way through the entire box of stones. We all had fun calling “dibs” to see some of the stones up close. We marveled at the beauty of these treasures and imagined what Becky could do with them in her capable hands.

Becky Thatcher Designs | gemstone roundtable

This amazing gem is a green beryl. What a stunning cut, and surprisingly affordable.

Attending a gemstone roundtable was a fascinating experience. If you’d be interested in seeing this first hand I’d suggest you pay a visit to Becky Thatcher Designs in Glen Arbor, Leland, Harbor Springs or Traverse City and inquire. Becky will be hosting another roundtable yet this year. It could be a great place to start shopping for Christmas!

But wait, there’s more! Have you heard about Becky’s Tuesday Tea & Talk series? Throughout the summer she hosts a formal tea in her private garden behind the Glen Arbor store where Becky’s husband David shares a lecture on gemstones. The topic changes each week. Click here for the Tuesday Tea & Talk schedule and stop by for high tea in the garden and a glimpse into the world I found fascinating.

By |2018-12-12T09:31:14-05:00August 5th, 2014|Arts & Culture, Events, Made in Michigan|0 Comments

59 Ways to Love Summer in Traverse City

Summer, Traverse City, Cherry

An Up North summer begins and ends on a holiday. That’s 59 days to soak up the sun. So I put together a list of 59 ways to squeeze in every last drop of Pure Michigan fun. This year, let’s all Be a Traveler in Traverse City. On your mark… get set… go!

  1. Hunt for petoskey stones. Point Betsie is a good stony beach with miles of shoreline for walking. Not sure what you’re looking for? Pick up a rock hunting guide from Korner Gem. Kevin’s an expert!
  2. Watch a movie under the stars. Get a bucket of popcorn with real butter and experience a time warp at the Cherry Bowl Drive-in in Honor. Or check out the Bike-in TC movies in F&M park, and the week-long Traverse City Film Festival with free flicks at the Open Space in August.
  3. Sip a cold drink under the warm sun. I love to look out over the marina from the deck at Harbor 22, or better yet… cocktails on a boat, in the harbor will do just fine.
  4. Read a paperback on the beach. Ok, so this one makes my list every summer for nothing more than pure selfish relaxation. I’m usually giggling at Stephanie Plum in the latest Janet Evanovich book, but if you’re looking for a new read I’d suggest a stop by Brilliant Books in Traverse City.
  5. Buy a flight at a local brewery. Our little town is one of the beeriest cities in the U.S. You’ll find a dozen craft breweries in Traverse City and new ones popping up in small towns, like Stormcloud in Frankfort. So grab a flight and drink local.
  6. Bike the T.A.R.T. trail or Benzie trail. Follow this stretch of the T.A.R.T. that runs along Boardman Lake behind the Traverse Area District Library and look for the planetary signs. It’s great fun for the kids.
  7. Celebrate our independence with fireworks. We park and walk for miles to Lake Michigan beach in Frankfort with a bag of licorice, glow necklaces and dig our pit in the sand to watch a spectacular show every July 4th.
  8. Reel in a king salmon. Forget the worm, up North, the early bird gets the fish! The best bite is at dawn and dusk, but the thrill of the catch is worth it. On a good day you’ll bring home dinner. On a bad day it was a still a nice boat ride that followed the colors of the sun.
  9. Fill a basket with fresh picked fruit straight from the orchard. Stop at a U-Pick farm for a hands-on experience or pull up to a roadside stand and select from nature’s best.
  10. Count satellites and ponder the stars. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore holds ‘Star Parties’ several times each summer where you can explore the night sky through powerful telescopes. Or kick back next to a campfire and watch for meteors.
  11. Try a new restaurant. Our region is blessed with fantastic local eateries. Try one that’s new —or at least new to you— this summer. On my list: The Franklin on Front and Cass in downtown Traverse City and Tucker’s in Northport.
  12. Walk barefoot along our freshwater coast. Take some time to feel the sand between your toes on a beach walk. You’ll find busy beaches along the shores of West Bay, Frankfort and Empire, or seek solitude at the end of a quiet road in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
  13. People watch at a festival. From the National Cherry Festival to the Northwestern Michigan Fair to the Traverse City Film Festival there’s entertainment to be found in the crowd. You may catch a glimpse of celebrity locals including Michael Moore, Carter Oosterhouse and Mario Batali.
  14. Buy art from a local artist. Local art makes a unique souvenir from your trip up north. Check out Michigan Artists Gallery in Suttons Bay, Gallery 50 at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, and Art and Soul in downtown TC.
  15. Drink the fruits of our land. The wineries are one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Grand Traverse region. But as a local, I’m proud to say I love them too. Take a trip on Old Mission or Leelanau county and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Before you go, check out my tips for wine-tasting in Northern Michigan.
  16. Jump off a dock. Swing from a rope, dive in a pool, take flight over a body of water and land with a splash. That’s summer lovin’ at its watery best.
  17. Marvel at a Museum. From unexpected treasures at the Music House Museum, to fine art at the Dennos to hands-on fun at the Great Lakes Children’s Museum, there’s indoor fun to be had in Traverse City too.
  18. Run down the dunes. The Sleeping Bear Dunes is a must-visit every summer. From the dune climb that overlooks Big and Little Glen, to the quieter spots in the National Park, find your spot to run with the wind in your hair and legs out of control.
  19. Eat dessert from a cone. Is there a more perfect summer food than ice cream? We make regular trips to Moomer’s for homemade deliciousness complete with farm views. But if you want to feel like a local order the Cosmo cone from the Dairy Lodge.
  20. Roast s’mores over an open flame. My secret for a perfect s’more:  buy the giant marshmellos, roast until gooey, remove skewer and slip two squares of chocolate inside the marshmello. Squeeze between two grahams and enjoy. This will be the most delicious mess you eat all summer.
  21. Float down the Platte. Whether you like to bob on a tube, cruise in a kayak or navigate with a canoe, a trip down the Platte from Riverside Canoes is the best way to enjoy the river. Plan to spend some time at the mouth swimming in the warm current as it empties into Lake Michigan.
  22. Dinner at the Manitou. After spending my high school and college years as a waitress here I can’t let a summer go by without a trip to the Manitou Restaurant on M-22 near Crystal Lake. No skimping either. Start with the skinny dippers and finish with blueberry raspberry pie.
  23. Climb a lighthouse tower. Nothing beats the view from the top of a lighthouse in Michigan. We’re lucky to have several you can climb including the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum. Did you know you can see four islands from their tower?
  24. Ride the new Heritage Trail. Bikers will want to check out the brand new Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail that runs from the Dune Climb south to Empire. It’s a beautiful new addition to the park.
  25. Dine al fresco. I do a lot of grab-n-go dining as I’m on the road. But in the summer I try to slow down for a meal al fresco. Check out the seating at Morsels along the Boardman River for a coffee or snack. Or grab a bite from the food trucks that park at The Little Fleet.
  26. Buy fresh fruit from a roadside stand. Cruise up M-37 on Old Mission Peninsula and you’ll find lovely roadside stands all summer selling cherries, peaches, apricots and flowers. Some are washed and ready to eat.
  27. Play golf. This region is surrounded by world class golf courses so grab a tee time. My favorite course has waterfalls, pirates and a zipline that traverses over the go-carts. Yep, I’ll be working on my hole-in-one at Pirates Cove.
  28. Take the boat to South Manitou Island. If you want to experience true north, the way it was before settlements took hold, then take the Manitou Transit from Leland and visit South Manitou Island. Climb the lighthouse, walk the beach and look for shipwrecks off the coast.
  29. Shop around M-22. Some of my favorite summer shops are scattered among coastal towns along M-22. I always sneek up to Suttons Bay to visit The Happy Woman, and At Home, Haystacks has my favorite skirts, and check Wildflowers in Glen Arbor for great garden gifts and fun jewelry.
  30. Photograph a sunset at Point Betsie Lighthouse. The most photographed lighthouse in the state, Point Betsie is an iconic subject for so many reasons. Catch the light at sunset, with waves crashing along the sandy shore… it’s a moment worth capturing on film.
  31. Pick blueberries. It could be strawberries, or cherries, but every year I say I’m going to pick blueberries from one of the farms on Old Mission or in Benzie County but I never make it! This is going to be the year.
  32. Visit the Crystal Lake Alpaca farm. Along Grace Rd between Benzonia and Frankfort you’ll find the Crystal Lake Alpaca farm. Bring the kids to pet the animals, and bring your wallet to buy some of the amazing clothing and gifts they make on-site.
  33. Drink from Mineral Springs. I don’t know if this makes you a tourist or a traveler. But every year my family drinks from the Mineral Springs in downtown Frankfort. Drink for tradition, drink for good health, but hold your nose. I still don’t like the smell.
  34. Learn about our legends and lore. Our native American heritage fills this region with legends, artifacts and traditions. Spend a day at the History Center, or Eyaawing museum near Suttons Bay to learn about our native cultures, and the people who built these communities.
  35. Find a secluded beach. Most days I’m happy if I can squeeze my towel in between beach goers from all different states, and watch families enjoying the shoreline. But somedays I seek a quiet place to walk and think. Find a happy stretch along the shore and relax.
  36. Set sail on Grand Traverse Bay. Kids will love to help hoist the sails aboard the Traverse Tall Ship Manitou that cruises daily on the bay. Looking for dancing and cocktails? Check out the Nauti-cat. And if a romantic sunset is what you seek, set sail aboard Scout.
  37. Take a behind-the-scenes tour. Whether you’re a foodie, a history lover or wine geek there’s a tour to be had if you ask. Sign-up online for a tour at the Grand Traverse Distillery or take an historic tour of the old state hospital grounds at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.
  38. Listen to a concert at Interlochen Center for the Arts. We are so blessed to have a world renowned school for the arts in our woodland backyard. Once you’ve listened to an Interlochen concert at Kresge with the summer breeze on your shoulders and music in the air, you’ll make sure this is on your list every year.
  39. Catch up with old friends. From backyard BBQs to campfires to a night on the town summertime is my favorite time to schedule time with old friends. Each year I meet my college roommates for at least one weekend of out-of-town fun.
  40. Make new friends. When you sit down at the bar for a cup of coffee, or are waiting in line at a popular restaurant, strike up a conversation with the person next you. More often than not I’m amazed by our connections and what a small world this really is.
  41. Tour a local art fair. From craft fairs to fine art juried shows, there’s an artfair somewhere nearly every weekend in the summer. I never miss the Frankfort art fair in August, but not just for the art. I’m in love with the chicken dinners they cook in the park. Best Chicken EVER!
  42. Boat party at the sandbar. The party crowd heads to Torch Lake where the sandbar is legendary. But the locals? We hang at Power Island when the beaches get crowded. Don’t have a boat? No problem. Hitch a ride from Bowers Harbor over to Power Island on the new transit and you’ll find pop-up parties all summer long.
  43. Get soaked to the skin in the warm summer rain. Surprise your kids, and perhaps yourself, when you throw logic and reason out the window and dance in the rain. No umbrella, no shoes, just pure spontaneous fun. I promise this will bring a smile to your face on a rainy day.
  44. Pick a bouquet of wildflowers. Baby’s Breath, Queen Anne’s Lace, wild Thistle, there are dozens of lovely wildflowers growing along the roadside. Pick up a field guide to help identify flowers, rocks and animals found in northern Michigan. Just be sure you don’t pick anything protected.
  45. Watch a ball game. Traverse City has the Beach Bums to quench our thirst for America’s pastime. Their beautiful stadium just outside downtown Traverse City is fun for the whole family. And every game finishes with fireworks.
  46. Visit Fishtown. Browse the quaint shops that line the century-old fishing wharf, pick up some smoked whitefish from Carlson’s, have a Chubby Mary overlooking the falls or grab a pretzel bread sandwich from the Village Cheese Shanty. A day in Leland’s fishtown is a summer must-do.
  47. Tell stories around a campfire. Beach bonfires, campground fires surrounded by tents, patio hearths with potbelly stoves, pick your poison and enjoy one of summer’s iconic experiences. I like mine on the shores of a lake telling stories of summers past.
  48. Shop the farmers market. We are blessed to live in an agricultural paradise. And that’s never more apparent than on a trip to the farmer’s market. Every town has them.
  49. Eat cherries everyday! Well, maybe not that often. But when you live in cherry country why not enjoy it? Benjamin Twiggs has everything Cherry so you can shop to your heart’s content. And if you just want a sweet cherry treat: stop by Reflect Bistro inside the Cambria Suites for a cherry bread pudding that’s to die for!
  50. Party in the street. Wrap up the week with an evening at Friday Night Live in downtown Traverse City. Buy a balloon, enjoy live music, have your face painted. A perfect place to be a kid again…or bring one.
  51. Savor a simple homebaked snack. The smell of warm bread or cookies coming out of the oven is delicious any time of year. If I walk into Pleasanton Bakery I’m walking out with their Parmesan Olive bread and one of the fudgiest brownies I’ve ever tasted. So much yum!
  52. Get out on the water. Hop on a boat or a jet ski and ride out to where the deep water lives, clear and blue green as far as the eyes can see…and dive in! That is pure Michigan bliss.
  53. Eat your fill of fresh sweet corn. Nobody beats Hall’s farm on North Long Lake Road in Traverse City. For a fabulous summer salad try this corn and blueberry salad. It’s great served like a salsa with tortilla chips too. My secret potluck party weapon.
  54. Photograph the everyday moments. It’s not the parties and holidays that spark nostalgia but the details of summer memories past. Capture the special places, people and things in your life. You’ll thank me later.
  55. Play a sport on the lawn. Badmitten, croquet, bocce or new favorites like ring toss and bean bag games make fun family competitions a must-do for summer. For an entertaining contest try shooting ping-pong balls off of golf tees with rubber bands.
  56. Spend a hot day at a cool pool. My kids love the outdoor pool at Waters Edge at Crystal Mountain and can’t wait to try their new ropes course that lies above. Or you could stay and play at the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City, an indoor waterpark resort.
  57. Explore The Village. Wander the old state hospital grounds inside the Grand Traverse Commons, also known as The Village. Sip wine or cider at Left Foot Charley, pick up some Michigan gear at High Five Threads, or walk the trails that wind all around Traverse City’s version of Central Park.
  58. Watch a movie at an historic theater. Our community is lucky to have several renovated theaters back in action. The State Theatre in Traverse City,  The Garden in Frankfort and the Bijou by the Bay (formerly the Con Foster Museum). Restored classic theatres where the movies are great, and so are the prices.
  59. Eat, drink and shop local. Summer is the absolute best time to enjoy the bounty of northern Michigan and support the businesses that thrive on the extra traffic. So eat at a local hotspot, drink our wines and beers, and buy something that will forever remind you of this summer. The summer you spent enjoying EVERY DAY in this beautiful land of ours.
I’m Brandy from Traverse Traveler, and this is my list. I hope you’ll find something on it to add yours. If you have a favorite that I’ve forgotten, please add it in the comments. I love to discover new ways to enjoy this community. Happy Summer everyone!

Traverse Traveler Holiday Gift Guide 2013

Traverse Traveler Holiday Gift GuideI know it’s challenging to find the time to scour the stores hunting for the perfect gift. So each year I sneak out to our local retailers in search of eye catching items for someone special on your list. I hope these suggestions will get the holiday spirit flowing. Each item includes a price (or price range) and the northern Michigan store where it can be purchased. I encourage you to shop local and help boost the economy in our own backyard. (more…)

Wellington Inn at Christmastime

Antiquities Wellington Inn

Discover the beauty of the Wellington Inn at Christmastime

If you’ve ever wandered down historic 6th Street and Washington in Traverse City and wondered what it would be like to live in those huge Victorian homes then this is for you. The Wellington Inn is opening their doors to the community for the 11th season in a celebration of old fashioned Christmas spirit. I stopped by the Inn this week for a behind-the-scenes peek at what’s to come this weekend and next during their annual Inn at Christmastime extravaganza.

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By |2018-09-12T13:20:14-05:00December 4th, 2013|Events|0 Comments

Pirate's Cove Raises Money for Wounded Soldiers

“Putting for Patriots” Event at Pirates Cove Adventure Park in Traverse City

 

Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf, in Traverse City, Michigan will host the 7th Annual “Putting for Patriots” fundraiser over Memorial Day weekend. This national event will occur simultaneously at 33 Pirate’s Cove, Pirate’s Island and Jungle Golf miniature golf courses throughout the United States. 

 

Fundraising efforts began earlier in May and will culminate on Memorial Day weekend to support three charities, which serve our wounded, their families and survivors of the fallen.  These organizations include: “Hope For The Warriors”, “Homes for Our Troops” and “TAPS—Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.”  Pirate’s Cove, Jungle Golf and Pirate’s Island will donate a percentage of their total sales on Saturday May 25th & Sunday, May 26th.  Since its inception, this event has raised over $128,000.

“Memorial Day was specifically founded to remember those who died serving our nation,”
notes Brad Graft, Pirate’s Cove Partner and Regional Director.  “The Pirate’s Cove / Pirate’s Island family thought it appropriate to establish an annual event to serve charities that assist our living veterans and the survivors of fallen military members. These are men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedom.”

Pirate’s Cove and Pirate’s Island operate 33 miniature golf courses throughout the United States.  For more information, visit their Web sites at www.piratescove.com, www.piratesislandgolf.com, and www.junglegolfminigolf.com. Additional information on the above charities can be found by accessing their Web sites:  www.hopeforthewarriors.org, www.homesforourtroops.org and www.taps.org.

By |2013-05-24T07:09:43-05:00May 24th, 2013|Attractions, Events, Traverse City|0 Comments

How to Plan a Fall Color Wine Tour in Traverse City

Fall Color Wine Tour Traverse City image

Planning a fall color wine tour in Northern Michigan this year? We’ve gathered a few tips to make the most out of your next wine tasting trip from Traverse City to Leelanau or Old Mission Peninsula.

 

wine tour with Traverse Traveler app imageWhat to Bring

• Camera. The wineries are beautiful any time of year, but especially in the fall during harvest season. You’ll want a few pics to remember your trip.

 

• Money. Many of the wineries now have tasting fees. Bring cash to cover fees where you might not purchase a bottle of wine. Each winery’s policy is different.

 

• Bottled water. Here’s a tip from the Kathy at Bel Lago, "For a successful wine tour, drink as much water as you do in wine. And be sure to eat."

 

• Snacks. Cheese spreads, breads, crackers and fruit all pair well with wine and won’t spoil your palette for the wines you’ve yet to taste.

 

• Smartphone. The Traverse Traveler app was designed with the wine tourist in mind. This handy mobile guide will help you research, plan and navigate a wine tour in northern Michigan. And best of all, it’s a free download for iPhone and Android users.

 

 

Wine Tour imagesWhat to Leave at Home

"Don’t wear lipstick." This tip is from Caryn at 2 Lads Winery. It’s not just the marks on the glass that are left behind. Lipstick imparts flavors like petroleum and other chemicals when wine passes over your lips.

 

• No perfume. It ruins your tasting experience, and everyone elses. The scent of one person’s perfume can contaminate the air in a tasting room for hours.

 

• Cigarettes. Your sense of smell is a large part of the wine tasting experience. And smoke is a very stong scent. Like perfume it affects those around you. So please leave the smokes in your car.

 

• Gum. You can’t taste past it, especially mint. So stow the Altoids and TicTacs too.

 

• Dogs & Kids. A wine tour is meant for the 21+ crowd. While you may see a few wine dogs throughout your travels, several of the tasting rooms offer food pairings, which means it’s against their health code to have dogs in the winery. So as a general rule, take the kids and pets to the beach or the park, but not on a wine tour.

 

 

Wine Tour Planning imagePlanning Your Wine Tour

With nearly three dozen wineries in our tip of the mitten it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out where to start. Here are a few tips on planning a wine tasting route from Traverse City.

 

• You can’t see them all. Make a list of favorites, or recommended wineries you want to be sure to visit, and squeeze in others as time allows.

 

• Stick to one peninsula. There are two distinct AVAs in our region: Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission. Stick to one or the other for a one-day trip. The wineries are scattered throughout each peninsula making it difficult to jump back and forth.

 

• There’s an app for that! Use the Wineries category on the Traverse Traveler app to choose which stops you want to make. The maps are great for navigating between wineries via backroads for a more scenic tour, or finding the fastest route.

 

• Map it. Pick up the large map from the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau. If you’re not a smartphone user this will be a hands-on resource for finding your way around both peninsulas.

 

• Beware of high traffic times. If you’re wine tasting during peak fall season your best days are mid week. If you must come on a weekend be prepared for crowds. Most of our wineries have small tasting rooms with even smaller tasting bars. On a busy weekend you may have to wait to get a turn at the bar.

 

• Go off the beaten path. Most tasting rooms in Leelanau and Old Mission are lucky to be located near the vineyard. But that vineyard isn’t necessarily on a major highway. Part of the fun is exploring and discovering new locations. Start at the top of the peninsula and work your way south. Or make a plan to stay inland and visit some of the smaller boutique wineries.

 

 

Wine Tour Groups imageGroup Travel

There are some special considerations to planning a wine tour when you’re traveling with a group. Here are some tips to maximize the fun and minimize the hassle when planning a group wine tour.

 

• Size matters. Wine tasting with friends can be a wonderful experience. But if your group is too large it can cause problems which detract from your enjoyment. In our experience a group of 10 or less is the ideal size. Larger groups will have additional limitations on where you can go, how quickly you will move from place to place, and tasting room fees.

 

• Carpool. Part of the fun of a group wine tasting is comparing notes about each winery with your companions as your travel. Pile into one person’s vehicle, rent a van, or book a wine tour. And if at all possible, assign a designated driver. Listen to Ellie at Traverse City Tours who warns, "Don’t come on vacation and leave on probation."

 

• Large groups call ahead. For wine tours larger than 10 you should call ahead to each winery. Some tasting rooms are so small they do not allow buses or tours at all, and others have per person tasting fees for the entire party. These are not things you want to discover after you’ve driven across the peninsula to visit.

 

• Label wine purchases. Hopefully your group will discover many wines they like and purchasing bottles at each location. Pick up a box from the first stop. Using a Sharpie marker label each wine purchased with your initials, or used color coded garage sale stickers. Add additional boxes as needed. When the tour is complete it will be easy to determine which wine was purchased by whom.

 

• Pack a picnic. It’s important to eat and drink water throughout your wine tour. For a fun experience pack a cooler with cheese, fruit, crackers and bite-sized appetizers or sandwiches. Many of the wineries have picnic tables or areas outside where you can stop and enjoy your snack along the route. There are also markets and farm stands scattered throughout the peninsulas to pick-up snacks along the way.

 

• Be patient. "Be respectful of other tasters and wait patiently if there’s a crowd," says Chaning at Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery. When you’re traveling as a group this is especially important since you may have to break into smaller groups, or taste in shifts.

 

We’ve been on several group wine trips and completely agree with Kyle from Riverside Canoes who says, "My best wine tasting tip is to go tasting with your closest friends. The wine always tastes better!."

 

 

Wine Tour Tips imagesSip Tips from the Pros

Winemakers and tasting room staff are incredibly knowledgeable about their products and their craft. Here are a few of their tips for making the most of a northern Michigan wine tasting experience.

 

• It’s OK to spit. Ask Bel Lago winemaker Cristin Hosmer and she’ll tell you, "Spitting is OK. In fact it’s encouraged." It cuts down on your consumption of alcohol. So remember, "The dump bucket is your friend."

 

• Chew your sparkles. When tasting a sparkling wine, "You don’t want to drink bubbly like you kiss your grandmother." If you’ve been pursing your lips when you sip sparkling wine from a glass you’ve got it all wrong. Instead,"Chew, hold and slowly swallow," instructs Don at L. Mawby. By chewing the wine the bubbles explode in your mouth allowing the flavors to disperse. Try it. It’s a whole new experience.

 

• Eat mild not wild. "Don’t eat strong flavored foods  — onion, garlic and spicy dishes — before or during a wine tour," warns Coryn of Black Star Farms. While a bottle of wine may pair well with some of these dishes, the pungent flavors will linger throughout your wine tour affecting the rest of the wines you taste.

 

• Not a free drunk. Wine tasting is not a free ticket to inebriation. "Don’t treat a wine tour like happy hour at a bar," reminds Tom at Peninsula Cellars. Guests in a tasting room are there to learn about wine, and are offered tastes (sometimes free) to determine which wines they might like best. If you’re more interested in hanging out at a bar and chatting with your girlfriends, you’ve got the wrong kind of bar. Just be respectful of the staff’s time, and the product that they’re freely sharing so that you’ll discover something you’d like to buy.

 

 

A wine tour is a great way to explore Traverse City and the countryside in Northern Michigan. With these handy tips you’ll be sure to make the most of the adventure. For more fabulous day trips in northern Michigan this fall check out our post: 22 Reasons for a Fall M-22 Roadtrip.

By |2012-10-04T19:33:00-05:00October 4th, 2012|Day Trips, Traverse City, Traverse Traveler|0 Comments

Lakeland Boating Magazine Features A Taste of Traverse City

Lakeland Boating Traverse City article

Pick up the August Issue of Lakeland Boating Magazine, on newsstands now, and you’ll find a feature article on Traverse City, Michigan written by Brandy Wheeler, owner of Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas and the Traverse Traveler app.

 

Traverse City is the featured Port of Call in this month’s issue of a popular Great Lakes boating magazine. Each month Lakeland Boating, sister publication to Great Lakes Angler, includes an article highlighting destinations that Great Lakes boaters are interested in discovering. 

 

The 7-page article introduces readers to many aspects of the Traverse City area, offering a glimpse into the history of the ciy between the bays, our agricultural heritage from orchards to vines, and the development of a vibrant downtown community. There are feature sidebars on wine tasting, The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, where to stay and information about the Traverse Traveler app. The article is sprinkled with dozens of specific recommendations for businesses in the area that visitors will enjoy.

 

"It was a fun challenge to write a feature-length article on the region I love so much," said Brandy Wheeler. Brandy’s photographs accompany the narritive, as well as images from the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau, Mark Lindsey, Kathy Partin and local businesses and organizations represented in the story. "I hope the article will encourage Great Lakes boaters and their families to plan a trip to Traverse."

 

Lakeland Boating Magazine August coverThe August issue of Lakeland Boating is available on newsstands now. In Traverse City, look for a copy at Horizon Books. Visit the Lakeland Boating website to read full archived issues in PDF format online. The July issue includes a feature article on Manistee and information about the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The August issue will be available online on August 1st.

 

 

 

 

Brandy Wheeler profile pictureBrandy Wheeler is the owner of Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas®, a 10-year old marketing service for Traverse City area visitors. She launched the Traverse Traveler app, a free handy mobile guide featuring information on restaurants, wineries, lodging, attractions, events and more. She lives in Lake Ann, Michigan with her husband and two children. Brandy’s writing has been featured in Grand Traverse Woman Magazine, as a guest blogger on Pure Michigan, and most recently as a contributing author to Media Magnetism: How to Attract the Favorable Publicity You Want and Deserve. Email Brandy at info@mealtickets.com or follow her on Twitter @TraverseTravelr

Pirate's Cove Raises Money for Wounded Soldiers

“Putting for Patriots” Event at Pirates Cove Adventure Park in Traverse City

 

Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf, in Traverse City, Michigan will host the 6th Annual “Putting for Patriots” fundraiser from Saturday, May 26 through Monday, May 28.  This national event will occur simultaneously at 33 Pirate’s Cove, Pirate’s Island and Jungle Golf miniature golf courses throughout the United States. 

 

This May event will culminate on Memorial Day weekend and support three charities, which serve our wounded, their families and survivors of the fallen.  These organizations include: “Hope For The Warriors”, “Homes for Our Troops” and “TAPS—Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.”  Pirate’s Cove, Jungle Golf and Pirate’s Island will donate a percentage of their total sales on Saturday May 26th & Sunday, May 27th.  In addition, from May 11 through May 28, each golf course will accept donations to be turned over to the three charities.  Since its inception, this event has raised over $93,000.

“Memorial Day was specifically founded to remember those who died serving our nation,”
notes Brad Graft, Pirate’s Cove Partner and Regional Director.  “The Pirate’s Cove / Pirate’s Island family thought it appropriate to establish an annual event to serve charities that assist our living veterans and the survivors of fallen military members. These are men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedom.”

Pirate’s Cove and Pirate’s Island operate 36 miniature golf courses throughout the United States.  For more information, visit their Web sites at www.piratescove.com, www.piratesislandgolf.com, and www.junglegolfminigolf.com. Additional information on the above charities can be found by accessing their Web sites:  www.hopeforthewarriors.org, www.homesforourtroops.org and www.taps.org.

By |2012-05-25T11:08:37-05:00May 25th, 2012|Events, Traverse City|0 Comments

7 Ways to Enjoy a Spring Break Staycation in Traverse City

Spring Break Staycation in Traverse City

No travel plans for Spring Break this year? Chin up. Northern Michigan has plenty of family fun to keep everyone entertained on Spring Break. In fact, we’ve compiled 7 ways for 7 days of fun in Traverse City.

 

Elberta park image1. Take it Outside

In a typical winter I’d suggest a day of spring skiing. But this is no typical winter. With summer-like temps there’s no reason the kids can’t get outside and burn off some steam. The TART trails cover miles of terrain perfect for walking, biking, and inline skating. If you want a short trip stop at the Civic Center. Their paved track is great for runners and the children will be begging to play on the enormous structures at Kids Kove. If your backseat is full of little ones try taking them park hopping. Traverse City is has dozens of parks with play structures. Ask the kids to pick their favorite features of each one and draw an ideal playscape when they get home.

 

Dennos Museum image2. Explore an Exhibit

When is the last time you took a trip to a local musuem? This is the last week to enjoy the Regional Artists exhibit at the Dennos Museum Center. Museums are a great place to introduce your children to other cultures, so don’t be afraid to take them along. But if they really need to burn off some steam, The Great Lakes Children’s Museum is a perfect option. Or check out the Lego display at The History Center (formerly Grand Traverse Heritage Center) in Traverse City.

 

Cherry Stop image3. Take a Foodie Tour

Wander the streets of Downtown Traverse City and create your own Tasting Tour. Plan your route to include shops that offer flavorful but healthy treats. You’ll find great snacks and all things cherry at The Cherry Stop. Pop into Popkies and try ketchup flavored popcorn, or peanut butter and jelly! One of my favorite stops is Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars where you an create your own flavor combinations from their huge selection of balsamic vinegars and flavor infused olive oils. Challenge the kids to create an unusual combination. Their involvement in making decisions for your dinner table may intice them to try new foods. Our area is rich with locally made products. Find a new favorite and spread the word.

 

Lucky Jacks image4. Play Away a Rainy Day

On every vacation a little rain must fall. But don’t let that discourage you from having a fun with the family. One of the best places I know to keep kids happy is Lucky Jacks. They have bowling, lasertag, arcade games, and Northern Michigan’s only spy-like laser maze. I’ve been to several birthday parties at Lucky Jacks and can attest to the fact that their pizza is fabulous. And while the kids are busy challenging their friends at air hockey, mom and dad can relax in the billiards lounge.

 

Brengman Brothers image5. Wine Not Try Something New

Spring break isn’t just for the kids. Parents and teachers should get a chance to enjoy this time too. You don’t need to travel to California or Italy for a fabulous vacation in wine country. Our own backyard is bursting with wineries producing award winning products. Relatively new on the scene is Brengman Brothers on the Leelanau peninsula, but just a few miles north of Traverse City. This time of year is a great time to catch the winemaker’s on site. They’re in between the harvest season, and the growing season, so they’re often available to chat or provide a tour. Might I recommend using our Traverse Traveler app to take a wine tour with your iphone as the guide. It’s free!

 

TC State Theatre image6. Entertain Me

Goin’ to the movies is a classic staycation activity. And no one does movies in Traverse City better than The State Theatre. In fact, they’re geared up for Spring Break with a Free Movie Marathon everyday. Check out the full schedule here. If live entertainment is more your style, the Old Town Playhouse has weekend showings of Dr. Doolittle. Or head on over to the Dennos Museum where they’ll light up the stage with a fun performance from Honky Tonk Angels.

 

 Power Hour image7. Start a Spring Project

We’ve got a week home with the kids, why not start early on some of those spring projects. Here’s a few starters from my to-do list:

  • Clear out the clutter in the basement and donate items to Goodwill or the Women’s Resource Center. Or, consider donating to one of TC newest endeavors: TC Scraps. They’re a non-profit determined to repurpose, reuse and upcycle what would have ended up in landfills but could now be turned into art. Check out their brand new location in the Garfield Plaza (near Agave Mexican Grill).
  • Take my advice and discover your Power Hour. Use one hour every day to accomplish tasks that are otherwise left undone. Clean out the junk drawer, back-up your hard-drive, vaccuum the curtains. You’d be amazing what you can accomplish with a week of power hours.
  • Put away the last of the winter decorations (yes, I’m talking about the Christmas lights that still hang on your porch or the snowman next to the front door) and haul out the spring branches and Easter decorations.
  • Start sowing seeds for a summer herb garden. Get inspiration and shop early with a trip to Garden Goods or Northwoods Hardware in Glen Arbor. You’ll love their personalize service.

 

Well there you have it. My 7 Ways for 7 Days. Now get out there and enjoy the beauty in our own backyard on your spring break staycation. And if you’ve got some great staycation ideas to share, let us know.

 

Post your suggestions on our Facebook page. Or send us a tweet at @TraverseTravelr.

 

By |2012-03-22T10:02:21-05:00March 22nd, 2012|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 |2011-11-22T11:59:50-05:00November 22nd, 2011|Benzie, Hometown Highlights, Leelanau, Traverse City|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: Country Christmas

10 Places I've Never Been image

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: Country Christmas

 Country Christmas exterior image

 

This is another one of those places that every local has driven past at one time or another. Located on the uphill side of highway M-72 as you’re headed out of Traverse City towards Empire is Country Christmas. This cozy cottage-like place, painted red with green gingerbread trim is the perfect spot for a crafty couple like Bill and Lee Smith.

Country Christmas interior view 

 

It was Tuesday when I walked in, completely unannounced and was met with a smile by Tracy Smith. Standing behind a desk, and in front of a beautiful antique hotel key box, was his father, Bill. I was immediately impressed when the first question they had for me was, "Have you been in to visit us before, or is this your first time?"

 

I introduced myself and explained the concept for the 10 Places I’ve Never Been article series. With a nod of recognition, they quickly responded, "You’re going to want to talk to Lee." Around the corner she came.

 Country Christmas interior image

 

The story of Country Christmas always goes back to Lee, and her love of homemade holiday crafts. For years Lee sold her creative Christmas decorations at arts and crafts fairs. She recycled and repurposed every piece of material, paper or holiday-themed gift that she came across. Pipe-cleaners, old spools, candy boxes, corks, cards, bits of fabric and ribbon all became materials for Lee’s creations. She saw potential in everything, and nothing was wasted.

 

In 1983 the antique store on these grounds came up for sale, just as their dreams of living on the bay were dashed by the housing market. A move to the country was in store, and their house suddenly sold to make it possible. That’s when Lee, Bill and their three sons went into the Holiday business.

Country Christmas spool angel imageCountry Christmas cork ornament image

Country Christmas driftwood santas imageCountry Christmas handmade ornament image

Upon taking a tour to learn more about their products, Bill really came to life. As he guided me through the three main rooms he was so proud to show off each of his wife’s creative designs. We saw angels made with spools and tulle, simple clusters of corks loved by wine-tasting tourists, Santas painted on driftwood and little boxes designed from bits and pieces she collects. Each ornament brought a smile to his eye and a nod towards Lee.

Country Christmas manger

 

But the store isn’t just filled with Lee’s handiwork. Over the years they’ve built relationships with artists all over the Midwest. In fact I began noticing red tags hanging on nearly half their merchandise — a sign that the piece is handcrafted and locally made. They were approached by one of the first Bronners employees who asked if the Smiths might like sell his handmade mangers. Since then Bill has begun decorating some with stones he finds along Lake Michigan.

Country Christmas santa ornamentsCountry Christmas bird ornament

Country Christmas antique tinsCountry Christmas chalkware image

They also have handcarved Santas, bells on leather straps from Ohio, and some very colorful handpainted ornaments from Traverse City artist Keith Smith. If handmade Christmas ornaments are what you’re shopping for, this is the place to go.

 

Another unique item Lee began to make and sell is called Chalkware. They started collecting antique tin folding chocolate molds. Lee fills the molds with a chalky plaster and when set, she paints the figurine. Each piece is handmade and unique.

Country Christmas Buyer's Choice carrolersCountry Christmas baby blocks 

 

There are many well-known collections available at Country Christmas. They carry Buyer’s Choice Carrolers, Santas, nativities, German glass ornaments and vintage pieces. Trees throughout the store show off collections of ornaments that will suit any holiday decor. I even found some lime green trees and modern fused glass pieces that fit the theme in my house.

 

If you’re looking for a personalized gift, you’ll love the solid cherry baby blocks which are laser-cut and personalized with your choice of designs on each side. With Lee’s steady hand she will paint a personal message or family name on nearly any item you wish.

Country Christmas Waldo-ClauseCountry Christmas Waldo-Clause

 

One of my favorite features is actually something the Smith’s started doing to keep children busy while shopping with their parents. Pasted on the front door before you even enter the store, is a sign announcing that Waldo-Clause is hiding inside. The children spend their time searching all the nooks and crannys of the shop looking for Waldo-Clause. Once he is discovered and reported the kids get to select a small prize. But perhaps the bigger reward is the priviledge of hiding Waldo-Clause for the next eager hunter.

Country Christmas purchase

 

After wandering the store, in search of my purchase, I was immediately drawn to some whimsical lime green trees I could use for display. I sheepishly admitted, the holiday I’m really addicted to is Halloween. Sure enough I found a couple candy corn glass ornaments that will look great with my Halloween decorations. So I had my purchase. Now all I needed was a photo of the happy couple who started this quaint little store on the side of the road.

Country Christmas owners

 

"I always told the kids, ‘Don’t buy me something, make me something’," said Lee. And it’s that philosophy that keeps her creating every day.

 

With our crafty backgrounds, and ability to see creative opportunities everywhere we look, I knew Lee and I were kindred spirits. It was my pleasure to meet such a sweet couple. And I’m sure I’ll be back to the Country Christmas store.

Country Christmas interiorCountry Christmas entry

 

Country Christmas is open from Memorial Day to Christmas Eve, Monday – Saturday from 10-5pm, and 7 days a week starting on October 1st. You can find them at 9005 M-72 West, Traverse City, Michigan 49684. To place a special order call 231.946.6294. Visit their website at www.countrychristmastc.com. As with all my 10 Places locations, I’ll be adding them to 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, you have one more week to tell me about it on the Traverse Traveler Facebook page. I’ll be choosing my last place from your suggestions!

 

And stay tuned, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  Two Fish Gallery.

 

By |2011-08-19T09:01:39-05:00August 19th, 2011|Place's I've Never Been, Traverse City|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: Woodland Creek Furniture

10 Places I've Never Been image

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: Woodland Creek Furniture

Woodland Creek location image

 

If you’re thinking, "eh, Up North woodsy furniture…not my thing," don’t stop reading this post. At least until you scroll through the photos. Because if there’s one thing I learned visiting Woodland Creek Furniture, they’re more than just a rustic furniture store. But if that’s what you’re into, then boy are you in for a treat.

 

I’m willing to bet that if you’ve been to Traverse City in the last seven years, you’ve driven past Woodland Creek Furniture. Probably at about 55mph. Woodland Creek Furniture is located on US-31 North, across from beautiful East Grand Traverse Bay, on a large piece of property that used to be Traverse Bay Woolen. Despite the size of the complex, and fantastic roadside visibility, owner Rob Evina still fields calls regularly from locals who found him on the web instead of driving down the street.

Woodland Creek interior view

 

My first impression of Woodland Creek was one of total shock—at the size of their business, and the variety of goods they sell. Their primary business is hardwood furniture, the majority of which has a very natural, organic style. Clearly if you are decorating a home, cottage or business with a woodland theme this place should be on your list to visit. But there’s also a large collection of home decor, floral arrangements, and gift items that will interest shoppers looking for something you can’t get at a box-store in suburbia.

Woodland Creek bath imageWoodland Creek salt crystals image

 

They have one of the largest selections of Michigan or Up North themed bathroom accessories that I’ve ever seen in one store. I love the lighthouse collection shown here. But if you’re into hunting, or birding or fishing they’ve got you covered. And not just in bathroom decor. From books to lamps, children’s gifts and greeting cards, there’s more here than I can possibly show. Where else can you find a lamp made from Salt Crystals? These were seriously cool. And apparently they’ll ionize your room too!

Woodland Creek bear ornamentWoodland Creek hunt ornamentWoodland Creek ski ornament

 

Since I happen to have a die-hard fisherman at home, I’m always on the lookout for fishing-themed Christmas ornaments. Now I know where to look. There are trees scattered throughout the store each decorated in a different Up North theme. If you’re into hunting, fishing, skiing & snowboarding, camping or cottage life, they have a tree for that. I knew I’d find something I didn’t have.

 Woodland Creek furniture imageWoodland Creek bed image

 

But the basis for Woodland Creek Furniture is, well, furniture. And for the details on the history of Woodland Creek Furniture I had to talk to Ron Evina, the owner.

 

It was seven years ago that Woodland Creek took over the old Traverse Bay Woolen space and created a furniture store unlike any other across the Nation. Their pride in handmade furniture stems from Rob’s own love of unique woods and quality craftsmanship. What started out as a small handmade furniture business lead to 28,000 sq. ft. of space dedicated to their passion. And with customers flocking from all over the nation, it’s safe to say they’ve made a name for themselves in a very competitive business.

Woodland Creek furniture image

 

One of the secrets to Woodland Creek’s success is customization. Any piece you see in their showroom can be customized to suit your space, color palette, style or building dimensions. Fall in love with a dining table for 4 but your feeding a family of 8? No problem. Love the rustic bed on the showroom floor, but you’re more into cottage style? Pick a color and they’ll have it painted. "I love saying, Yes, Yes, Yes," said Rob, "especially when customers are so used to hearing No." Rob Evina is also proud of the fact that 30-40% of the furniture is made right here in MIchigan, much of it in Kalkaska just a few short miles away.

Woodland Creek furniture image

 

So most of my pictures paint a pretty woodsy theme, right? And I promised something beyond that. Well all you have to do is cross the parking lot to Woodland Creek’s new addition…UR Houzz. Say it out loud, and you’ll get it. If you like the idea of handmade furniture, but your style is classic or contemporary, UR Houzz is worth a look. You’ll find more colorful fabrics, cleaner lines and still a twist of the unexpected. They also expand your living space into the outdoors with a large collection of patio furniture, firepits and custom made pergolas.

Woodland Creek furnitureWoodland Creek imageWoodland Creek furniture image

Woodland Creek Furniture image

 

Located alongside the TART Trail, Woodland Creek has made an effort to provide a diversion for travelers young and old. There’s a giant playscape for the kids, a waterscape with a small bridge that leads directly to their ice cream shop. A unique partnership with Moomer’s Ice Cream allows guests to get premium ice cream without crossing town to visit the farm.

Woodland Creek Rob Evina imageWoodland Creek purchase

 

With a showroom this large, sitting alongside one of the busiest highways in Traverse City, it might surprise you to know Woodland Creek Furniture is more popular in New York, and LA than it is with locals. Their web presence and attendance at furniture shows has attracted the attention of interior designers, corporations and customers from across the country all looking for the quality they can produce—at a price that beats a Manhattan showroom anytime.

 

Alas my tour was complete. I couldn’t resist picking up a couple stocking stuffers for my husband…shhhh, don’t tell. I’m sure I’ll be back before Christmas, but I figured, no time like the present.

 

Woodland Creek Furniture is located at 4290 US 31 North in Traverse City, across from East Grand Traverse Bay. For more information reach them by phone at 231.938.8025 or visit them online at woodlandcreekfurniture.com. 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:  The Rock Shop.

By |2011-07-28T07:51:23-05:00July 28th, 2011|Place's I've Never Been, Traverse City|0 Comments

Traverse City Film Festival July 26-31

Traverse City Film Festival poster imageTraverse City welcomes visitors to 7th annual Film Festival

 

Whether you’re a film fanatic, or just looking for a fun activity while visiting Traverse City, the Traverse City Film Festival is a event for the whole family. This year’s fesitival is packed with movies from near and far, including a community-wide Lip Dub that premiere’s on opening night.

 

The festival features:

  • Indie Films, Foreign Films, Documentaries and Shorts in 7 different venues
  • Free movie screens at the Open Space each night
  • Kids Fest with $1 daily films
  • Panel discussions & Film School at NMC

 

Free Open Space begin at dusk:

July 26 – Star Wars V: Empire Strikes Back and the premiere of the Traverse City Lip Dub

July 27 – Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

July 28 – Mrs. Doubtfire

July 29 – People’s Choice: Batman, the Dark Knight

July 30 – Tangled

 

An event this popular often sells out, so if you haven’t purchased tickets yet what are you waiting for? Visit their website: www.traversecityfilmfest.org.

 

 

By |2011-07-25T11:14:49-05:00July 25th, 2011|Events, Traverse City|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: Korner Gem

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: Korner Gem

Korner Gem sign image

Ever since I received an unusual Fordite necklace from my husband I’ve wanted to stop in and meet the jeweler at Korner Gem. But I’d never found the time or opportunity.

 

Then I began my mission to explore 10 Places I’ve Never Been. And I realized…we don’t find time, we make it.

Brewery Creek entrance imageBrewery Creek sign

 

Korner Gem is located in a small plaza called Brewery Creek, across from the marina on the West side of M-22 as you head towards Suttons Bay. The best way to spot the entrance is to look for the big blue building that looks like a lighthouse (but houses a Subway). With a giant blue diamond sign on the white building it’s easy to find once you know where it is. This is the type of place you’ll be sharing with family and friends once you’ve seen what’s inside.

As soon as I opened the door I was greeted by the owner/designer, Kevin Gauthier. Although we’d never met, the jewelers glasses perched atop his head were a dead giveaway. Before I explained my mission I spent a few minutes absorbing the surroundings.

Korner Gem interior view imageKorner Gem mosaic image

 

Most shoppers would go straight for the jewelry cases to see what treasures await just behind the glass. But I couldn’t help looking at my feet. Just inside the front door, and sprawling across the tile floor was a beautiful stone mosaic river. The cut stone slices shone with a high polish and flowed across the floor in a rainbow of colors. But the story behind it was even more beautiful.

 

Kevin has honed his skills in gemology and rock collecting for decades as of the oldest—albiet youngest—members of the Grand Traverse Rock & Mineral Club. He’s met many friends along the way, some of whom have passed on. The stones in his river were collected and purchased from fellow rock hounds and vendors, only two of whom had the chance to see his creation before passing. The river remains a beautiful tribute to a lifelong journery collecting precious fossils and friends.

 

There are over 600 slabs of stone in Kevin’s river, represending some 70 varieties of rock from across the world. Having designed and laid a tile mosaic in my own home I have a special appreciation for the time, toil and back pain associated with a project like this! It’s worth a trip just to see it.

Korner Gem necklace display

The first impression that struck me in Korner Gem was the atmosphere. Perhaps the stone river carried me away, but there’s something very relaxed and comfortable about this store. I think it’s the rocks. They’re everywhere. From agates and petoskeys, to fossils and geodes exploding with amethyst.

 

Then Kevin said something that explained what I was feeling, "The jewelry profession supports the rock habit."

Korner Gem amethyst geodeKorner Gem display

 

Indeed, Kevin has created a fabulous jewelry collection by focusing on what he loves: rock collecting. Since the age of nine when he floated along the waters of Lake Leelanau on a surfboard wearing a dive mask and scanning the shallows for stone, Kevin has had a rock habit. At fourteen he started is entrepreneurial adventure selling polished petoskey stones at the Holiday Inn gift shop. Years later, he’s turned that childhood pastime into a 12-year-old jewelry business. After two moves, Korner Gem has found a home in Brewery Creek.

Korner Gem charms in hand

 

His work ranges from elegant to whimsical. Display cases throughout the store showcase custom necklaces, pendants, rings and charms. But what strikes me the most is Korner Gem’s use of Michigan beach stones in creative settings that reflect the area. Petoskey stones, Leland blue and even Fordite (or Paint, as he calls it) have been fashioned into creative charms in familiar shapes.

Korner Gem charms image

 

First known for his signature design, the ‘Beachcomber’ —a flip-flop sandal crafted from beach stones and sterling silver—Korner Gem now creates several charm designs with a Michigan theme. From the mitten state (upper and lower peninsulas) to sailboats and lighthouses, shells, frogs and turtles, each design is crafted from sterling silver and local stones, and polished to a beautiful sheen. What a perfect souvenir from a trip Up North.

What’s even more exciting to a rock scavenger like myself…is Kevin’s interest in creating custom designs. I love the idea of bringing in stones I’ve picked up along the shore and having them made into a charm, a ring or even a beaded watch band. And Kevin is more than willing to create a custom shape for his customers. If you’re into birding, how about a chickadee? Or maybe a fish ring for the angler in your life.

Korner Gem stone beadsKorner Gem necklace 

 

Some of the most popular items at Korner Gem are the Michigan stone beads designed to fit today’s charm bracelets like Pandora, Camille and Troll. Imagine creating a memory bracelet from stones you collected along the shore at grandma’s cottage? Or how about a necklace featuring the petoskey that took all afternoon to discover? I’m always on the look-out for unique gifts and this is a great place to find them.

I’ve spent many hours searching for petoskey stones on the shores of Lake Michigan, and I happen to have a pretty good eye. So I brought some of my stones in with me to see what Kevin could do. After looking at the beads I fell in love with his idea for a four-sided bead featuring four different stones. He’ll use my Petoskey, a Leland Blue, a Favosite fossil (which I didn’t know that I had) and Fordite—because I’m a huge fan.

 Korner Gem rock collecting books

Kevin identified my stones in no time at all, which should come as no surprise since he’s written three books on the subject. Rock Picker’s Guides to Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and Lake Huron. What a great cottage coffee table read, or gift for a child who needs something to do at the beach besides chasing seagulls and fighting with their siblings.

 

Korner Gem iron ore samples

Kevin also took the time to share some rock facts with me. I asked about the creation of Leland Blue and Frankfort Green, since these are "misfits" found only in this region. He pulled out samples of iron ore and the glass-like by-product that formed in the smelting process. This "slag" was deposited in Lake Michigan from several processing operations in the late 1800s. The source of the color (blue vs. green) is debatable, but most likely determined by the process used at each location.

Korner Gem Kevin Gauthier imageKorner Gem lapis image

I also learned that rocks smell. Didn’t know that, did you? There’s something called a stink stone that smells like rotten eggs when you break it open. When grinding the stones for shaping and polishing some produce a pleasant smell, like turquoise. Petoskey stones have an oily smell, and the aroma from a ground piece of amber is like pine. The grinding process is a dusty one, but sometimes it too yields an interesting result. Lapis creates blue dust, where most stones are white.

 

Korner Gem my purchase imageKorner Gem book and stones image

Part of the magic at Korner Gem is the knowledge you receive when talking with Kevin and the staff. Their passion for jewelry making, and rock collecting is infectious. I left my stones there for a make-over, and picked up the Lake Michigan Rock Picker’s Guide to share with my kids. Hopefully our next trip to the beach will yield many more colorful memories to treasure.

 

In the back of the book there’s a line I just love, "We don’t own rocks, we only borrow them…so enjoy them while you are their keepers."

 

The next time you’re cruising through your hometown on auto-pilot, thinking about the grocery list and searching for the dry cleaning ticket you thought was stuck to the bottom of your cup holder, put that thought on hold. Look around you, at the OPEN signs on doorways your pass every day. Find one that calls to you and take a mini detour. I’d highly recommend a stop at Korner Gem, in Traverse City.

 

Korner Gem is located just off M-22 in Traverse City, on the West side of town. 13031 S. Fisherman Cove, Traverse City to be exact. For more information reach them by phone at 231.929.9175 or visit them online at www.KornerGem.com. They are not yet on Facebook, but 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:  Woodland Creek Furniture.

By |2011-07-21T09:40:10-05:00July 21st, 2011|Place's I've Never Been, Traverse City|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!

 

Resources:
*Detroit Free Press | State Tourism Spending Soars
 

Traverse City, a Pure Michigan Destination

Pure Michigan debuts the new Traverse City "True North" ad today.

 

 

 

I’m excited to see my hometown featured on the Pure Michigan campaign, where millions of viewers can admire our beautiful community from a comfy cushion in their living room as Tim Allen’s voice lulls them into a state of utopia. With any luck they’ll be convinced that Traverse City is where they want to spend their next vacation.

 

And since planning the vacation is part of the fun, I hope the next step they take is to reach for their iPhone and download our handy mobile guide, the Traverse Traveler app. It’s a great resource for designing that trip to Traverse —whether you’re at home, abroad, at an airport or lying in bed watching TV.

 

Click here to download the app on your iPhone!

 Traverse Traveler iPhone app

By |2011-06-14T12:00:31-05:00June 14th, 2011|Check This Out, Traverse City|0 Comments

10 Tips to Enhance Your Easter Meal

Fustini's Traverse City imageAdd Flavor to your Easter Feast with Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars.

 

In honor of the opening of Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars expanded Traverse City location on Front Street, we’re sharing their Top 10 Tips for pumping up your Easter feast with a little Fustini’s flavor. Whether you’re a skilled chef or a fumbling amateur, the flavor infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars make kitchen creations come to life. So, stop in, pick up something new this season, and give your food some flavor!

 

 

 

10 Tips to Use Fustini’s this Easter

Fustinis Provencal Herbes image1. Brush pork tenderloin in Provencal Olive Oil, roll in bread crumbs, parmesan and Seasonello and bake.
 

 

 

 

Fustini's Pineapple Balsamic image2. Use Pineapple Balsamic to glaze ham.

 

 

fustini's blood orange oil image3. Add Blood Orange Olive Oil to candied yams.

 

 

 
 

Fustini's Sage and Mushroom image4. Substitute butter in mashed potatoes by using 1/2 Sage and Wild Mushroom Olive Oil and 1/2 chicken broth while mashing.

 

 

 

Fustini's Garlic oil image5. Saute  baby spinach in Garlic Olive Oil until soft, drain and fold spinach into sage and mushroom mashed potatoes.

 

 

 

Fustini's Lavendar Balsamic image6. Use Lavendar Balsamic and Tarragon Olive Oil on lamb.

 

 

 
 

Fustini's Ginger and Honey image7. Toss diced sweet potatoes in Blood Orange Olive Oil and roast at 350 degrees for 30 min. Carmelize onions in Ginger and Honey Balsamic. Toss with roasted potatoes and serve.

 

 

 

Fustini's Cinnamon Pear image8. Drizzle easter ham with Cinnamon Pear Balsamic and cook with apples.

 

 

 
 

Fustini's Lemon balsamic9. Egg salad sandwiches – dice up boiled eggs and green onions. Add Garlic Olive Oil, Lemon Balsamic and Seasonello and mix well.

 

 

 

Fustini's Cranberry Balsamic image10. Drizzle green beans with Porcini Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a splash of Cranberry Balsamic. Top with slivered almonds.

 

 

 

 

Have fun playing with combinations of your own, then share your recipes with us on our Facebook page. Fustini’s also features customer recipes on their website: www.fustinis.com.

By |2011-04-15T08:55:19-05:00April 15th, 2011|local recipes, Traverse City|0 Comments