Nomad by Trade

A travel blog for the kid at heart.

Category: Michigan Love

Blake's Cider Mill in Armada, Michigan

8 Reasons to visit Michigan This Fall

Maybe it’s a bit cliché, but I love the fall. Or the autumn if you’re fancy like that. It combines great weather, beautiful foliage, some of my favorite holidays, and a lot of great events, so it’s easy to see why so many people enjoy this season. It’s also the perfect time to explore Michigan. Read on to find out all about the best reasons to visit Michigan in the fall.

College football

As the home of two very proud Big Ten universities, college football is naturally a big deal. Plus, Detroiters have suffered through the Lions’ failures for so many decades that college football is really the only way that many Michiganians (Michigander is used more commonly, but it just reminds me of male geese) have been able to experience actual success on the gridiron.

Michigan Stadium, home of the Wolverines

As a Wolverine, I’m partial to the games at the University of Michigan. The Big House aka Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor is an experience in and of itself. The stadium doesn’t look particularly large as you approach from street level, but as you emerge into the bowl and realize the massive expanse in front of you, it’s incredible. The Michigan State Spartans also have a stadium in East Lansing where they play football, but it’s just not the same. If you want the full experience, show up on the Saturday of the annual Michigan-Michigan State game and watch families be torn apart based on rooting interest and friendly wagers. Check these links for schedules for Michigan and Michigan State.

Cider mills

Blake's Cider Mill in Armada, Michigan

I didn’t realize how much of a Michigan thing visiting cider mills in the fall was until I lived elsewhere for a while. When I was living in Florida, I couldn’t even find real cider, which was pretty distressing in the fall when I most want it. Locals will queue up in long lines for single cups of cider or gallons to take back home with them. (The cider mill references here are specifically related to the non-alcoholic version of cider, though some of the local ones are starting to brew their own alcoholic versions as well.) It never really feels like fall until I’ve had a cider mill donut (traditionally covered in cinnamon sugar) and washed it down with an icy cold glass of locally brewed cider. It’s incredible, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t even really enjoy apple juice. The cider can be served cold or hot, and I recently sampled a cider slushie as well. The best cider mills have other autumn-y activities to do while snacking, like pumpkin patches or trails to enjoy the fall colors.

My two favorites are both located in the southeast Michigan area, a little bit north of Detroit. Yates, in Rochester Hills, is the most iconic, with its red barn and wooded trails. The lines are long on fall weekends, and it creates its own local traffic jam on the busiest days as visitors hunt for parking spaces. Blake’s, located in Armada has a huge variety of different seasonal activities like berry picking. It’s also home to perhaps my favorite cider mill donuts. It’s a bit further from the city, but well worth the trip.

Renfest

Axe throwing at the Michigan Renaissance Festival

The Michigan Renaissance Festival, held in Holly, actually kicks off in August, but it’s always felt like more of a fall thing to me. It begins in late August and runs through the end of September. Even if you’re not into dressing up in period costume (if you are, you can rent them there), it’s a lot of fun to wander around and enjoy the atmosphere. There are medieval games that you can play like axe throwing (I STILL can’t figure out how to get the axe to stick in anything, let alone the target) and target archery. There’s also a spot where you can pay to lob tomatoes at some hecklers in stocks. The periodic jousting shows draw big crowds, and you can watch knights perform different skill tests on horseback. Find all of the info you need about Renfest here.

Oktoberfest at Frankenmuth

Frankenmuth is a small town located between Flint and Saginaw that is designed to look like a little Bavarian village. It’s known for its amazing chicken dinners, a mind-blowingly large Christmas store, and lots of kids’ activities. During September, Frankenmuth throws a traditional Oktoberfest party – the only one that’s officially sanctioned by the original Oktoberfest in Munich.

For one weekend in September (corresponding to the actual Oktoberfest in Munich), Frankenmuth comes alive with traditional entertainment, food, and – of course – beer. If a plane ticket to Germany isn’t in your budget, don’t miss a chance to wander among the Bavarian style buildings and soak up the closest thing to the real festival. More info can be found at this link.

Zoo Boo

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, which plays heavily into my love of the fall. The Zoo Boo event at the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak is a family friendly event held after hours. Kids and adults can dress up in costumes and trick or treat along a route through the zoo. Most of the animals aren’t visible in the dark, though the reptile house usually remains open for exploration.

Painted pumpkins at the Zoo Boo at the Detroit Zoo

The walkway is lined with a seemingly impossible number of carved pumpkins. Entertainment varies, but the last time I attended, there was a lot of pumpkin smashing in the name of science as well. Plus, did I mention that you get to leave with a load of candy? Find out more about the Zoo Boo here.

Hallowe’en at Greenfield Village

Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn throws another awesome Halloween event on select nights in October. The village, a collection of historic buildings that were relocated to the site, takes you back in time to Halloweens of old. More than 1000 carved pumpkins line the path through the park, and characters in period costume wander through the crowd. Special shows and live music provide additional entertainment, and if you keep your eyes open, you might just spot the legendary Headless Horseman. Find out more about the event here.

The leaves

Fall foliage colors in Michigan

Hiking is nice any time of year, but it’s at its best in the fall when the leaves start turning. Taking drives to view the foliage is a big deal out on the East Coast, but you can have the same experience without driving cross-country (and paying for more expensive everything out there) right here in Michigan. Because the state spans such a great distance from north-south (sorry, Connecticut), you have a bigger window to hit peak colors. The leaves in the UP (that’s the Upper Peninsula for you non-locals) turn first, and then the colors creep southward until they brighten up the whole state.

America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Forget Macy’s in New York. The America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade right here in Detroit is my favorite annual parade. Every Thanksgiving Day, people line the streets to watch a seemingly endless array of floats, high school bands, and gigantic balloons. Though my favorite part of the parade – the Briefcase Drill Team – had its last performance a few years ago, the parade is still a fantastic event. Every year, kids get to submit designs for a new float and balloon and the top choices are built in real life. The parade wraps up with the mayor presenting Santa Claus himself the key to the city. If you’re more into running than stuffing your face at dinner (or both), don’t miss the Turkey Trot, a series of races before the parade with distances of 1 mile, 5k, and 10k. Get more info on the parade and Turkey Trot here.

Not planning to visit Michigan in the fall? Maybe one of these other seasons will suit your tastes better:

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There are tons of great things to do in Michigan in the fall. Detroit | Thanksgiving parade | Oktoberfest | Frankenmuth | Michigan football | Fall foliage | Zoo Boo | Greenfield Village | Cider Mills

There are tons of great things to do in Michigan in the fall. Detroit | Thanksgiving parade | Oktoberfest | Frankenmuth | Michigan football | Fall foliage | Zoo Boo | Greenfield Village | Cider Mills
Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

I love spontaneous adventures. So, when my boyfriend mentioned that he’d never seen Tahquamenon Falls when we were packing up to leave St. Ignace, I immediately suggested that we stop there before heading home. Sure, it was a couple hours in the opposite direction from where we needed to go, but we had all day to kill and it had been a long time since I’d been there too.

What’s generally referred to as Tahquamenon Falls is actually a series of waterfalls on the Tahquamenon River. The larger Upper Falls is more spectacular and is one of the most well-known spots in the state. The Lower Falls area consists of multiple smaller cascades that require some more effort to view, but offer a chance to play in the water a bit.

Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

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Mackinac Island from Fort Mackinac

Summer on Mackinac Island

It just so worked out that my birthday fell on a Saturday last summer, and as soon as I realized this, I decided to take a weekend trip somewhere. I picked Mackinac Island, one of my favorite places in my home state. I went there regularly with my family when I was growing up, but I had somehow managed to go eight whole years without visiting, and I was super excited to see it again. Summer on Mackinac Island is perfect and there’s something for all ages and interests.

Mackinac is a little island in Lake Huron between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. No cars (except emergency vehicles) are allowed on the island, and it gives it a charming, old-fashioned atmosphere. Fun fact: it was the US’ second National Park, after Yellowstone, though it is no longer part of the National Park system. Bikes and horses are the preferred methods of transportation during the summer, so we borrowed my parents’ SUV and bike rack to haul our gear Up North (yes, that’s a proper noun in these parts) and hit the road for the weekend.

Hotels on the island and in the closest cities (Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula and St. Ignace in the Upper) are crazy expensive for summer weekends. The Holiday Inn Express in St. Ignace (I’ve found that the hotels on the UP side are slightly cheaper) was going for almost $500/night when I was trying to make reservations six months in advance. Instead, I opted to stay at Straits State Park, a gorgeous campground right at the base of the Mackinac Bridge and we took a ferry over first thing in the morning.

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Lake Michigan from the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Lakeshore

Nine Reasons to Visit Michigan This Summer

Summer in Michigan is when the state really comes to life. Traffic jams fill northbound I-75 on Friday evenings as metro-Detroiters head Up North for a weekend of fun. Lazy summer days stretch into long nights and campfires. Nothing beats a Michigan summer. Here are 9 reasons to add it to your vacation list this year.

The Great Lakes

Beach on Lake Huron in Oscoda, MIchigan

The beach in Oscoda, Michigan

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Six Reasons to Visit Michigan This Spring

Spring in Michigan is a wonderful time when the gray of winter melts away and blue skies, green grass, and colorful flowers return to the state. As temperatures reach the 50s, you’ll see residents – like me! – sporting shorts and flip flops and flocking to local parks to enjoy the outdoors. There’s a lot going on as the state comes back to life. Here are six reasons to visit Michigan this spring.

Marche du Nain Rouge in Detroit, Michigan

Photo by Stephen Pham

Marche du Nain Rouge

The Nain Rouge, French for “red dwarf,” is a legendary creature that has been described in local Detroit lore for centuries. Reported sightings typically precede disasters like the 19th century fire that destroyed much of the city, the surrender during the War of 1812 that handed the city over to the British temporarily, and the 1967 riot.

Marche du Nain Rouge in Detroit, Michigan

Photo by Kate Sassak

In recent years on a weekend day in late March, residents have banded together to banish the Nain Rouge from the city to prevent disasters from striking in the upcoming year. Participants often dress in costumes  – some in a Mardi Gras style – so that if the Nain Rouge returns the following year, he won’t be able to recognize them to take revenge. There is a lively parade down Cass Avenue in the Midtown area, followed by a ceremonial burning of the dwarf in effigy. And who knows? Maybe it’s working. Since the first Marche du Nain Rouge in 2010, the city has seen steady improvements, new businesses, and a rebounding population. It’s fun. It’s quirky. It’s unlike anything else. Read about this year’s event schedule here.

Detroit Tigers game at Comerica Park

Tigers Opening Day

There’s something magical about the start of a new baseball season. Combined with the gradually warming weather and lengthening days, Opening Day in early April brings a sense of reawakening to the city after a long, cold winter. The Tigers haven’t won the World Series since 1984, but that doesn’t stop their faithful fans from throwing a party before the first game of the season. Many co-workers and classmates will be suspiciously absent from offices and schools as playing hooky to attend the game is a time-honored tradition for many.

Bars around Comerica Park pull out all of the stops with live music, parties, and outdoor barbeques. Don’t have a ticket to the game? Don’t let that stop you from joining in the fun. Grand Circus Park hosts a block party sponsored by the local sports radio station which features a projection of the game on a large screen for those fans unable to make it into the stadium. More info about the block party here.

Tulips in Holland, Michigan

Photo by Ken Westveld

Tulip Time

Holland, a small town on the western side of the state, is famous for its Dutch heritage. For two weekends each May, the city comes to life for the Tulip Time festival celebrating its Dutch heritage and famous tulips. Events and attractions are scattered throughout the city and visitors can experience everything from parades and Dutch folk dances to concerts carnival rides. Food is plentiful and sure to satisfy all diners. You can even tour a working Dutch windmill. Amidst all of the fun, don’t forget to take time to enjoy the magnificent tulip gardens the festival is named for. More information about the festival can be found here.

Flower Day at Eastern Market in Detroit, Michigan

Photo courtesy of the Eastern Market Corporation

Eastern Market Flower Day

If you haven’t had enough flowers at Tulip Time, make sure to attend Flower Day at Eastern Market, a large public market area in Detroit. The area is fantastic year round, but it especially shines on Flower Day. Each year on the Sunday after Mother’s Day growers of flowers pack the market area with beautiful flowers for shoppers to peruse. This annual tradition, dating back to the 1960s, allows buyers to browse through a large selection and interact with the growers for tips to keep them blooming. Food trucks and live music will also be featured during the event. More info here.

View from Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island Lilac Festival

Mackinac Island is a small island located between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas in Lake Huron. It’s a spectacular tourist destination that allows visitors to step back in time to an age without motorized vehicles and enjoy the scenery on bikes or in horse drawn carriages. For ten days in early June, the island celebrates the beautiful lilac trees that bloom during the spring.

Festival highlights include a 10k run/walk as well as a kids’ race, concerts, a parade, wine tastings, and a dog and pony show. Enjoy a carriage tour or explore the island’s natural beauty on your own. Don’t forget to pick up some of the island’s famous fudge while you’re there. Learn more about the Lilac Festival here.

Fountain at the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak, Michigan

Springtime at the Detroit Zoo

The Detroit Zoo, located in the suburb of Royal Oak, offers great animal encounters year-round. It really shines during the spring, as I’ve found that the animal are most active during this time of year. While many of the animals prefer to rest during the hot summer days, cooler spring weather offers the perfect opportunity to see them actively exploring their habitats.

The zoo offers several events and lectures throughout the spring as well. There is an Earth Day celebration called GreenFest, which features crafts, zookeeper talks, and a community art project. The zoo also offers guests discounted admission if they bring a cell phone to recycle that day. Adults will also enjoy the Zoo Brew event in May, which gives guests over the age of 21 access to the zoo until twilight hours, as well as live music and samples of beer from Michigan craft breweries.

What are your favorite things about springtime in Michigan? Did I miss something that should be on the list? Let me know in the comments.

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6 Reasons to visit Michigan this spring

6 Reasons to visit Michigan this spring

Six reasons to visit Michigan in Spring

10 Reasons to Visit Joe Louis Arena Before it Closes Forever

If you’re a hockey fan, you’ve probably heard that the Red Wings are playing their final season at Joe Louis Arena, their home since 1979. While the building has never been known as a model of luxury, it’s well-worth a trip to say goodbye. There aren’t many games left, so if you haven’t already bought tickets to one, here’s a list that is sure to convince you to pay The Joe a visit before you miss out forever.

Pavel Datsyuk takes a faceoff at center ice in Joe Louis Arena

Only one of the three Wings pictured is still with the team, but it brings back fond memories of happier times.

1. You’re a hockey fan.

Many of the game’s greatest players from the last four decades have played here. This is the ice Steve Yzerman called home for his entire career. Nicklas Lidstrom. Pavel Datsyuk. The list goes on and on. The Wings have spent most of their tenure at the Joe in the upper echelon of the league, and the Joe’s history shows it.

Banners at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan

2. The banners.

There are a lot of them. I’ve been to NHL games in Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Buffalo, and Ottawa over the last few years and I find their lack of banners disorienting. Especially St. Louis. They’ve been in the league since 1967 and at one point had a 25-year playoff streak, yet don’t have a single Stanley Cup to show for it. (For reference, the Wings won four Cups just in their Joe-based years.) In contrast to the Blues’ naked rafters, the Joe is covered with so many banners for retired numbers, Stanley Cups, conference championships, Presidents’ trophies, and division championships that it’s almost impossible to photograph them all.

Stanley Cup at Joe Louis Arena

A lot of trophies have been awarded to the home team.

3. The history.

The Wings broke their 42-year Cup drought on this ice. This is where Nick Lidstrom scored his first hat trick at the ripe old age of 40. Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe took the ice together here. Sergei Fedorov scored five goals in one game here (it was the first game after I received his jersey as a Christmas gift and I may or may not have been convinced that that caused his success). This was the site of the unforgettable Fight Night that fans still smile about to this day. Steve Yzerman scored his iconic Game 7 goal to finish off the Blues (This is really not a Blues-bashing post, I swear.) The 2002 team with its collection of future Hall of Famers skated the Stanley Cup around this ice. These things may mean nothing to you if reason #1 doesn’t apply to you, but I assure you that they’re a big deal.

Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan

Those stairs

4. You’re a thrill-seeker.

Adventurous visitors will get to try their luck on the Joe’s iconic outdoor staircases. If you’ve ever wanted to try navigating very narrow, steep stairs that are frequently covered in ice with a few thousand people who’ve been drinking beer, you only have a few chances left. I’ve always been baffled by this architectural choice, especially given Detroit’s climate for most of the hockey season. Why not just make the staircases indoors? Or less steep? The world may never know. Don’t worry – if you’re handicapped or have difficulty with stairs, there’s a ground-level entrance with an elevator that you can use to enter the arena.

Concourse at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan

5. They finally fixed the bathroom situation.

It only took them about 35 years after the building opened to figure out how to alleviate the notoriously horrendous bathroom lines. (Seriously, just a few years ago, making it from your seat to the women’s bathroom and back during an intermission was a rare feat worth celebrating with a beer. Except that there was no way you were going to find time to fit a concession stand visit in too before puckdrop.) The Joe’s problem is that it only has one concourse level – the upper and lower bowls empty into the same area with limited food and bathroom space. A few years ago, someone got the fantastic idea to go vertical and two enormous restrooms were installed above the concourse. Now you can breeze up a flight of stairs, and while I can’t speak for the men’s rooms, the women’s ones are an endless sea of stalls in which I’ve never waited even one second. For some reason, people still wait in line for the older original bathrooms, but the savvy visitor can easily save themselves a 10-minute wait by just walking a couple sections over to find the upstairs bathrooms.

Joe Louis Arena

The Joe is guaranteed to be packed for the remaining games.

6. You want to hang out with the best fans in hockey.

This is a science-backed, totally unbiased fact. Probably. The Wings faithful have long been one of the most enthusiastic crowds in the NHL. Hockey is a big deal here and an entire generation of fans has grown up knowing nothing but excellence (seriously, two of my adult siblings have never seen the team miss the playoffs). Even through the struggles of the last couple of years – sadly, that playoff streak doesn’t seem likely to continue – the Joe has remained packed with slightly disheartened, but still diehard fans.

Scoreboard at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan

7. You want to marvel at its vintage charm.

Check out that old-fashioned scoreboard. It’s so…un-digital. The smaller scoreboards are even more old-school – only one color! Seriously though, one of my favorite aspects of the Joe is it’s lack of flashing LED screens everywhere. I really don’t like the modern buildings with LED rings encircling the whole building with bright lights and ads. I’m probably in the minority, but I find them distracting and a little annoying. The Joe pre-dates all of that sleek stuff so you can focus more on the game than the flashing lights.

8. You like good views.

The Joe was built for hockey fans. My dad was recently mourning how close to the action the upper bowl was at the old Olympia building (the Wings’ home before the Joe), but since that ceased to exist before I was born, I have no frame of reference for that. I can say, that after visiting four other NHL buildings (and sitting in the upper bowl in all of them – I’m not rich, ok?), the Joe offers fans the best views from up above. I’m a fan of the upper corner seats because they give the best angles, but those views have been somewhat hampered by the safety nets that were installed several years ago. My ideal seats would be in the lower bowl near center ice, about 8-10 rows back so you have a good view of the whole action, but if someone wanted to toss some front row tickets my way, I wouldn’t complain one bit.

View from a suite at Joe Louis Arena

The view from a suite

9.You want to know how not to build a hockey arena.

I love the Joe. I really do. But, um, it has a lot of flaws. (See item #5 above.) For starters, the builders forgot to include a press box and had to install it later by removing seats. Whoops. Despite the fact that it occupies prime riverfront space, it was designed as a concrete bunker with no windows. I’ve long joked that I’d choose to ride out a nuclear apocalypse in the Joe’s musty confines on the theory that it’s probably the most well-insulated place in Detroit.

The suites are also way up in the rafters. I’m pretty sure that if I were a few inches taller, I’d be able to touch the banners from one of them. I secretly kind of like this because it means that seats I can afford are closer to the action, but I recognize that it’s not a great selling point.

It’s also thoroughly aggravating to get to. It’s super close to a couple downtown freeways…and yet it’s also totally cut off from the rest of downtown. On my most recent trip, we parked at a meter on the street and then had to backtrack a few blocks to cross an entrance ramp to The Lodge, and then climb a winding ramp that circles through a tower that most casual observers would probably assume was a nuclear missile silo, and then walk through a tube that takes you over the highway before finally emerging onto the second level of the entrance area – but hey, you don’t have to navigate the stairs that way. Good luck driving up to it if you’ve never found the place before. I’d visited a dozen times before I made an ill-fated attempt to drop a friend off at the box office one day and had to actually try to navigate up to the building. It’s truly an icon of poor urban planning.

10. You don’t like corporate sponsors.

When the Joe closes, there will only be one NHL building left without a corporate sponsored name. I know that’s the way things are these days, but I’ll honestly miss it. I love saying “The Joe.” It’s classic. I’m at peace with the decision to name the new building Little Caesars Arena because at least it’s a Detroit business and owned by the same family, but in a world of silly names like Jobing.com Arena (now the Gila Rivers Arena, which isn’t much better) and PPG Paints Arena, the Joe always stood out as special.

What to do before the game

Detroit has really been rebounding over the last few years and sometimes it seems like there’s a new restaurant opening every week. There aren’t many places by the Joe (see point #9), but many of the bars and restaurants around town have game shuttles.

Hockeytown Cafe

Hockeytown Cafe is sort of the official Wings restaurant as it’s owned by the team owners. It’s a pretty classic bar and grill type place, and it offers shuttles to and from the Joe. You can get yourself pumped for the game while dining in a multi-story restaurant decked out with team memorabilia. And if the weather warms up toward the end of the season, you might even get to visit the roof deck. You’ll also likely be able to catch a glimpse of the Wings’ future home, as it’s being built just up the road.

Cheli’s Chili Bar

Located close to the Hockeytown Cafe, Cheli’s Chili is owned by former Wings defenseman Chris Chelios. It’s also a great place to hang out before Tigers games if you don’t quite make it to Detroit in time to visit The Joe.

Greektown

You really can’t go wrong in the Greektown area. The casino has a variety of restaurants, although I’ve never personally sampled anything but their rooftop bar. Pizzapapalis makes some delicious Chicago-style deep dish pizza, though you’ll have to order early if you want to eat before the game. New Parthenon and The Golden Fleece both offer some delicious Greek food. Greektown is also home to the new Detroit home of Wahlburgers, in addition to a variety of trendy chain restaurants. The best part of Greektown is that you can park in the casino garage and hop the People Mover, Detroit’s one-way monorail system around downtown, over to The Joe for only $1.50 round trip.

So have I convinced you to come pay your respects to The Joe before it’s demolished? Did I miss a good pre-game hangout spot? I have tickets to a couple more home games this season, so I’ll have a chance to check them out.

Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, MI

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