Mapping out Michigan fun

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published May 22, 2013

Michigan Week is in full swing, giving residents just one more excuse to revel in all the wonderful things there are to do and see in the Mitten State.

Whether you’re a beer buff or a beach babe, there’s a place for you in Michigan. But with so many regional specialties, it’s hard to choose which area of the state is best for the stay- or play-cation of your choice.

We decided to map out the state according to each region’s specialty. Some, you probably already know about — of course, there’s no better place for cherries than Traverse City, and the Motor City is the best place to get your classic-car fix. But Michigan Week is all about exploring the state and seeking out all the little wonders you never knew were right here.

And, yes, we know. There is a lot more available than what’s listed here. Just think of this as a “taste” of the Great Lakes State.

Northern Michigan
If you’re one of the many who uses your right hand as a personal map of the state, think of the tip of your ring finger all the way over to the tip of your index as golf country. According to Kevin Frisch, owner of Fusion Media Strategies and golf relations representative for Travel Michigan, Michigan is often ranked as one of the most beautiful places to golf in the entire country by Golf Digest and other publications.

“The land and the topography is very dramatic,” said Frisch. “There are courses that overlook Lake Michigan, views that stretch over 40 miles or more, and cool summer temperatures and long days. You can tee-off at 6:30 in the morning in the summer and play until 9:30 at night.”

Southeastern Michigan
Better known as metro Detroit, there’s plenty to do right here in C & G’s coverage area. Deanna Majchrzak is the manager of media relations with Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau. She said when you start in downtown Detroit and spread into the surrounding suburbs, you’ll find a huge range of cultural attractions, from the downtown theater district to the many cultural museums, including the Arab American National Museum (Dearborn), the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus (Farmington Hills) and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (Detroit).

Majchrzak added that metro Detroit is a hub for shopping, dining and all kinds of entertainment. And don’t forget that the Detroit Lions, Tigers, Pistons and Red Wings all call southeast Michigan home.

Northeast Michigan
While there are plenty of places to visit in this part of the state, Alpena is a draw for a lot of people looking to explore all things maritime. Mary Beth Stutzman of the Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau said the Thunder Bay Natural Marine Sanctuary attracts lots of visitors each year to see the approximately 200 shipwrecks that are protected in the waters just off the state’s coast.

If a land view is more your speed, she said that the area is also known for its beautiful lighthouses, which can be toured year-round or during the region’s annual Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival each fall.

Sunrise Coast
If you’re not sure where Sunrise Coast is, just think of it as the knuckle on your right index finger, or the eastern part of the state. It’s all about water in this area near Oscoda, which stretches from Lake Huron to Largo Springs, right near the Au Sable River.

According to Leisa Sutton, executive director of the Oscoda/Au Sable Chamber of Commerce, the Weather Channel voted Oscoda the best beach town in Michigan, with its heavy emphasis on clean, picturesque beaches and any kind of water sport you can imagine.

“You almost have to love the water to be here, with the inland lakes and Lake Huron and the river,” said Sutton. “The Au Sable River runs through the area, so there’s tubing, kayaking and four seasons’ worth of fun activities and adventures. You’ll find everything but heavy traffic.”

Grand Rapids
Over on the west side of the state, it’s a little less about Great Lakes and more about great beer. Dianna Stampfler is the president of Promote Michigan and publicist for Michigan Brewers Guild. She said that, with more than 130 breweries statewide, Michigan is something of a haven for beer-lovers.

“There’s been a growing interest, passion and pride in the craft beer industry — not only among the brewers but among enthusiasts, communities and businesses. I’ve seen nothing like it in any other industry,” said Stampfler.

Grand Rapids is quickly moving to the front of the Michigan brewery pack, since it was named Beer City USA in a national contest hosted by this year. Nearby Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor came in second- and fourth-place, respectively.

Upper Peninsula
There are almost too many things to list when it comes to the U.P. Whether you’re a pasty lover, an outdoor enthusiast or just a sucker for some good fudge, the upper most part of our state is where you want to be.

According to Debbie Beaumont with the Sault Ste. Marie Convention and Visitors Bureau, the area draws in throngs of outdoor sporting enthusiasts year-round for the ample hunting and fishing opportunities along Lake Superior.

Also located there are the famous Soo Locks, the largest waterway traffic system on earth. Beaumont said the best time to visit is on the last Friday in June, when each year the engineers allow visitors to cross the locks.

Traverse City
Traverse City is well known for its cherries and the annual National Cherry Festival, but it’s also known for its ample selection of wineries and wine-tasting trails.

Cortney Casey, co-owner of the Michigan by the Bottle Tasting Room in Sterling Heights said two of Michigan’s four most popular wine trails are in the Traverse City area: the Old Mission Peninsula wine trail, which includes eight wineries, and the Leelanau Peninsula wine trail, which has more than two dozen.

But according to Casey, there are top-notch wineries all over the state, including the middle to southwest part of the state, such as Chateau Aeronautique, in Jackson, or Cherry Creek Winery, in Brooklyn, Mich.