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Cycling Springs Into Northern Michigan

Today, featured blogger and avid cyclist Cody Sovis of Einstein Cycles and koloT.C. highlights some of the upcoming Spring biking events around Traverse City!

 It’s the only true immutable sign of spring; a bicycle ride. After a long and frigid winter, area cyclists are finally back on the roads and trails around Northern Michigan, with Traverse City serving as a hub for rides, races and fun.

Traverse City is a cycling destination during all four seasons.

Take a quick jaunt along the TART and you’ll see a steady stream of cyclists, runners, walkers and all sorts of folks simply out enjoying the spring air. Don’t be surprised if many are out getting their legs ready for the second annual Pumpkin Pedal, which falls on April 27. Old Mission’s Jolly Pumpkin restaurant hosts hundreds of cyclists for a fun, enjoyable spin around the peninsula. You’ll find all kinds of bikers on hand, from the fastest in the state to those out for their first ride of the year. Everyone is welcome, and the whole group is simply excited to welcome spring with a twenty mile or forty mile ride. Afterwards, stay for some well deserved food and drink.

The Old Mission Peninsula hosts the annual Pumpkin Pedal on April 27!

The Old Mission Peninsula hosts the annual Pumpkin Pedal on April 27!

For those looking for a dirtier time, it’s only another two weeks until the true marker of mountain bike season. Traverse City’s Mud, Sweat and Beers is not only a fundraiser for Mt. Holiday Ski Area, it’s the first big test for racers from all over the Midwest. The race fills up within weeks of opening registration, and with good reason. It’s a wonderful circuit of the Vasa trail system, challenging for its technical sections and lung-busting climbs. The presence of a well-stocked beer tent, hosted by Right Brain Brewery, is a decidedly important encouragement for racers, and a great place for spectators to take in the sights and sounds of a thriving, thrilling mountain bike race. The race has had a lucky run of great weather, and fingers are crossed for another year of sunny skies on May 3. 

Riders compete during the Mud, Sweat and Beers event at Mt. Holiday in Traverse City

Riders compete during the Mud, Sweat and Beers event at Mt. Holiday.

BIO: Cody Sovis is an avid cyclist that has lived in the Traverse City area for the last 15 years. When he’s not working at Einstein Cycles or conquering the endless trails of Northern Michigan, he is passionately writing about all things cycling (he writes for his own blog koloT.C. in addition to a number of other local and national cycling publications) Fun fact: Nutella is his weakness.

If you’re not up to tackle an event just yet, check out the miles of bike trails (paved and dirt!) that run through the Traverse City area!

Ready to Celebrate Easter? Here’s the Full Lineup of Activities and Restaurant Specials!

blossoms

Easter is this weekend and we’ve got the run down on all of the Easter activities and specialty meals being planned around the area!

Easter Fun (including egg hunts!):

Grand Traverse Conservation District Springtime Egg Hunt- Sat. April 19, 10 & 11:30am    $5 per child
Kid’s Creek Park (between Kohl’s and Great Wolf Lodge on US-31)
Get ready for the most unique egg hunt in town!  Grab your basket and head out to hunt for eggs that match the color of your scavenger hunt sheet – and learn about Michigan egg laying animals as you go! When the hunt is over, kids can redeem their eggs for prizes and treats!

Community Easter Egg Decorating Party, Sat. April 19, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Friendship Community Center, Inc., Suttons Bay. Free, but call ahead: 231-271-4630.

Elmwood Township Easter Egg Hunt, Sat. April 19, 11am
Elmwood Township Hall (on Lincoln road)
The Township Fire and Rescue Dept. will offer free engine rides and there will be a special visit from The Easter Bunny!

Visit with The Easter Bunny
Through April 19th you have the chance to sit with The Easter Bunny at Grand Traverse Mall!

Learn About the Art & Science of the Egg, Fri. April 18, 11am-3pm
Great Lakes Children’s Museum
Admission is included in the $6 museum admission. Children under 2 are free.

Easter Brunch: 2014

 Aerie- Grand Traverse Resort: 100 Grand Traverse Village Blvd, Acme 534-6800
Reservations are highly recommended.
Serving Brunch 10am-4pm, adults $29.95, kids 5-12yrs. $14.95, 5 yrs. & are free.

Amical: 229 E. Front St., 941-8888
Reservations are highly recommended
Serving menu style Brunch from 9am-3pm, price range $7-$14

Apache Trout Grill: 13671 SW Bayshore Dr., 947-7079
Serving Brunch 9am-3pm. No reservations. Adults $19.95, kids $10, 5 yrs. & under are free.

The Bluebird: Leland, 256-9081
Reservations are recommended.
Serving special plated dinners 11:30am-6:30pm, price range $18-$28.

The Boathouse: 14039 Peninsula Dr., 223-4030
Reservations are highly recommended
Serving Brunch 9:30am-3pm, adults $28, kids $15.

Firefly: 310 Cass St., 932-1310
Reservations are recommended.
Serving Brunch Buffet: 10:30am-3pm, adults $24.95, kids 12yrs. & under $9.95, 4yrs. & under are free.

Great Wolf Lodge: 3575 US 31 South, 941-3600
Serving Breakfast Buffet from 8am-noon, adults $12.99, kids 4-10yrs. $6.99, 3 yrs & under are free.

Harrington’s by the Bay: 13890 SW Bayshore Dr. 421-9393
Reservations are recommended.
Serving Brunch 9:00am-4:00pm, adults $19, kids $5.

West Bay Beach Resort: 615 E. Front St., 947-3700
Reservations are recommended.
Easter Brunch- Open 10am-4pm, adults $24.95, kids 12yrs. and under. $8.95, 5yrs. & under FREE

Maddy’s Tavern: 9205 US 31 South, Grawn  276-6244
Reservations are recommended.
Serving Brunch 10am-3pm, adults $16.95, kids 12yrs. & under are $8.95, 4 yrs. and under are free.

Jolly Pumpkin: 13512 Peninsula Dr., 223-4333
Special menu features from 10:30am-2pm. Regular menu from 2pm-9pm.

Minerva’s-Park Place Hotel: 300 E. Front St., 946-5093
Serving Brunch 10am-3:15pm, adults $23.95, kids 3-12 yrs. $9.99

Pearls: 264-0530
Serving plated dinner Brunch menu 10am-3pm.  Plated dinner served from 4pm-8pm.
Starting at $9.99-up.

Schelde’s Grill & Spirits: 714 Munson Ave., 946-0981
Serving Brunch 10am-4pm, adults $17.48, kids 12yrs. & under $9. Reservations are recommended.

Shanty Creek Resort- Lakeview Restaurant: 800-678-4111 XT 7100
Reservations are highly recommended.
Serving Brunch 11am-3pm, adults $25, seniors $23, kids 6-12yrs $13, kids 6yrs & under are free.

State Street Grille: 221 E. State St., 947-4263
Serving Brunch 10am-3pm, adults $12.95, kids 12yrs. & under $7.95

If you have more to add to the list, leave them in the comments below!

Is It Spring Yet? Well, Fishing Season Has Started, Anyway!

Spring fishing at Hannah Park

Spring fishing at Hannah Park

By MIKE NORTON

Man, the ice isn’t even off the Bay yet, and people are out fishing! Walking south on Union Street last week, I saw several guys fly-fishing in Hannah Park, casting their lines patiently into the swirling Boardman River, right here in downtown TC.

And not without good cause. On the same walk I wandered past the newly-restored west branch of Kid’s Creek that Munson Medical Center rerouted last fall (if you haven’t visited this beautiful little park by the hospital, you really should) and saw two monster trout wrestling their way upstream.

For years, veteran fly-fishing enthusiasts have kept the storied streams, lakes and deep waters of the Traverse Bay area to themselves, letting the rest of the world forget that northern Michigan – haunt of the young Ernest Hemingway and birthplace of the fabled Adams Fly — was once famed as an angler’s mecca.

TCCVB0068 - CopyBut a few years ago the spotlight returned to Traverse City. First, Field & Stream listed Traverse City as the third best fishing town in the U.S. and Fly Rod & Reel listed it as one of its “12 Top Fly-Fishing Retirement Towns.” Together with such spots as Key West, Durango and Park City, FR&R editor Jim Reilly chose Traverse City as one of a dozen “finest places for living out the dream.”

“Northwest Michigan may not have the “best” of a single type of fishing,” Reilly wrote, “but from steelhead to salmon, and smallmouth to pike they have a bit of everything, and Traverse City is located right in the heart of it. An angler would have to be pretty jaded to get bored up here with the Manistee, the Pere Marquette and the legendary Au Sable rivers all situated nearby (and don’t forget the nearly endless possibilities of Lake Michigan).”

Reilly’s source: local outfitter and guide Chuck Hawkins, who came to northern Michigan from Los Angeles 16 years ago after looking at better-known places like Jackson, Wyoming.

“The fishing, is incredible,” he says. “‘I don’t know how to describe it. We have, arguably, the best fly-fishing in the United States.’ ”DSC_5647 - Copy

It’s no slouch in the world of bass fishing, either. Down in the Deep South, it’s no secret that they pride themselves on their bass fishery, but Don Wirth of Bassmaster heads up from Nashville every summer to do a little fishing in Traverse City for his popular “Day on the Lake” column.

Don has fished all of America’s premier bass venues, and calls Traverse City the best place in the U.S. right now to catch a trophy smallmouth bass.

“Compared to most trophy fishing destinations, the waters near Traverse City receive relatively light bass fishing pressure, and the sheer number of big fish that populate the area’s lakes staggers the imagination,” he says. “Unlike other Great Lakes smallmouth venues that may be unfishable on windy days, Traverse City has an enormous number of nearby waters to choose from, so you can always find a great place close by to wet your line regardless of weather conditions.”

Grand Traverse Bay and the inland lakes near Traverse City are the favorite smallmouth waters of Kevin VanDam, who’s regarded as the best competitive bass fisherman on the planet. Legendary bass angler Hank Parker, host of the popular TV show Hank Parker’s Outdoor Magazine on the Versus network, filmed two shows here – one on the Bay, the other at a nearby inland lake.

“The fishing was beyond my wildest expectations,” Parker said. “Not only did we boat dozens of big smallmouth bass — I personally caught the biggest smallmouth of my fishing career, a whopper that topped seven pounds. I could actually see the fish hit my lure in the crystal-clear water, an experience I’ll never forget!”

Charterfishing9 - CopyLocal bass guide Capt. Chris Noffsinger, who has garnered a national reputation in the fishing media for putting his clients on big bass, said the bass fishing in Traverse City is “awesome” from the last Sunday in April, when Michigan’s catch and release season opens, through late fall.

“It’s also exciting to explore the area’s countless small inland lakes in a kayak or canoe,” he added. “Most of the bass in these pristine waters have never seen a lure.”

For really big fish, of course, anglers head to Traverse City for lake trout, brown trout, steelhead and salmon in Grand Traverse Bay.

The secret here is that although the Bay’s rich waters are deep — 600 feet in some spots — they’re close to shore and protected by land on three sides. That means boats can get to the fishing grounds within minutes, and are usually immune from the heavy seas that can make fishing the open waters of Lake Michigan an uncomfortable experience when the wind is up.

Michigan fishing licenses are available online at www.mdnr-elicense.com. And since Traverse City boasts over 80 motels and resorts, it’s easy to find comfortable and affordable lodging with ample parking room for your trailered boat. There are plenty of boat launches close to town, so you can get in and out of the water without too much fuss.

sunset fishing - Copy

 

 

 

The Sleeping Bear Birding Trail: An Online Resource for Birders

 

A group of birders in the coastal grasslands.

A group of birders in the coastal grasslands.

 

Guest blogger Dave Barrons explains how the new trail from Traverse City to Manistee makes it easier to find the area’s best birding sites.

By DAVE BARRONS

Let’s start with this interesting set of facts: Michigan is home to the seventh most sought-after bird in the continental U.S. –  the Kirtland’s Warbler – and is ranked seventh in the total number of reported birders.  On the other hand,  when it comes to the number of out-of-state birders our state attracts, we’re  fourth from the bottom: 46th out of all 50 states. It doesn’t make sense.

IndigoBunting2So last year a small committee of Northwest Michigan birders launched the Sleeping Bear Birding Trail, the first in Michigan. A birding trail is a travel route: a route that connects recommended, high quality birding locations where walking trails already await avid birders, year round.   Ours follows highway M-22: 123 miles of scenic roadway along the Lake Michigan shoreline from Traverse City to Manistee County.

At its northern end, M-22 wraps both sides of the Leelanau Peninsula, running along the open waters of Lake Michigan and West Grand Traverse Bay, ending  at the intersection of M-22 and M-72. Just north of that intersection, near Carter Road is Fulton Park, one of the trail’s least know sites, but one that offers fine birding possibilities very close to downtown Traverse City.  The park’s single trail passes over secluded, open water in the middle of the property, connects with the paved Leelanau Trail (providing easy bicycle access from town) then swings back around through hardwood wetland to the parking lot.

Along its middle stretch, M-22 runs through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Green HeronLakeshore, whose famed beaches include the home of the Piping Plover, one of Michigan’s most endangered birds.  To the south are the prime birding locations of Benzie and Manistee counties, including the splendid Arcadia Marsh and Grasslands, a 300 acre prairie-grass complex that’s home to more than 20 ground nesting species, including Bobolinks. Both the marsh and grasslands are managed by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, one of the Trail’s major partners.

At the southern end of the Trail, on the north side of the city of Manistee, is Lake Bluff Sanctuary, a Michigan Audubon property. Michigan Audubon is also a major partner in the Trail initiative. Lake Bluff Sanctuary is open to the public and offers upland habitat trails for birding and exquisite picnic grounds on the high bluff above Lake Michigan, as well as a bed and breakfast lodging.

GrosbeakThe Trail website, www.sleepingbearbirdingtrail.org, is the most important tool for birders wishing to get out to any of the recommended Trail locations. A customized BirdTrax widget is located right on the home page for a quick look at all recent sightings along the trail.  Click on the Bird Search tab at the top of the home page to find complete descriptions of the 321 species of birds seen along the trail; click on the Birding Sites tab to find descriptions of each of the recommended birding locations.  Under that same tab you’ll find a map and site descriptions for the Benzie Bonus loop: an additional 13 birding locations located on a separate route leading into eastern Benzie County and back to M-22.  Additional Bonus Loops are under development, to be launched soon.

For serious field birders who wish to keep a list of all the sightings along M-22, a paper checklist covering 321 species is available at the Trail Headquarters office in Glen Arbor, at Lake Bluff Sanctuary in Manistee, and at the Traverse City Visitors Center.

Dave photo-1Best known to Traverse City residents as chief meteorologist for TV 9&10 News, a position he held for 19 years, Dave Barrons grew up in Midland and moved to northern Michigan in 1982. He holds degrees from Miami University of Ohio, Purdue and the University of North Carolina, and is one of the developers of the Sleeping Bear Birding Trail.

The Faces Behind the Places of Traverse City – Chef Anie Driscoll, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

Some might say it’s the cerulean blue waters that surround us that make Traverse City such a vibrant place to be. Or the miles of stunning shoreline that act as a constant reminder to take a step back and enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer. For some, it might be the endless opportunities for outdoor fun- whether that’s slashing through the waves in the summer or carving through the snow in the winter.Others might think that it’s the amazing wineries, microbreweries and restaurants that give the area a true cultural foodie experience. Not to mention the continuing growth of festivals and events.

We agree with them all. But there’s one underlying element that makes this area such a vibrant and lively place to be – the people. So, with a passion for true Midwestern hospitality, we’re going to start the introductions.

This week we’re talking to Chef Anie Driscoll, sous chef at Aerie Restaurant & Lounge, to hear her story on how she came to Traverse City and (more importantly) why she’s happy she did!

Aerie Restaurant & Lounge Sous Chef Anie Driscoll

Aerie Restaurant & Lounge Sous Chef Anie Driscoll

TCT: “You made your way to Traverse City but it wasn’t exactly on purpose. Is it true that you were driving up US-31 and your car died outside of Grand Traverse Resort and Spa?”

CHEF ANIE: “Yes! I ran out of gas. After one semester at University of Michigan as an English major I decided it wasn’t what I wanted. My father had passed away two days before I was supposed to start college and I was put into a single dorm room and obviously didn’t know anyone there. I’m a pretty shy person anyway, and at that time in my life I didn’t necessarily feel overly “social” and wasn’t too interested in making friends. So I packed up and headed North. My family didn’t understand. I had given up an enormous opportunity at a major university and according to my grades I was thriving. I felt I couldn’t stay at home so I packed up my jeep. I ran out of gas on the corner of US-31 and M-72  and didn’t have enough money to fill up, so I ended up at GTR asking for a job and I landed a spot as a barista at the coffee shop.”

TCT: “From a barista to a sous chef is an impressive accomplishment. What do you love most about being a part of the culinary scene here in Traverse City?”

CHEF ANIE: “I think one of the things I love best is the local appreciation of food and creativity. Most people believe chefs cook because they love food or love to eat. To me, that’s not what its about at all. Sure, I love food and cooking and everything about it, but nothing makes you feel better or more accomplished than a compliment from a guest. I pour everything I have into what I create, it’s like painting a portrait or sculpting a sculpture; its just a different form of art. To have other people appreciate something that means so much to you is the greatest feeling! I can’t even describe it, but that’s what makes me want to come into work and do what I do every day.  I could never get tired of it.”

Chef Anie in the kitchen at Aerie creating her culinary masterpieces!

Chef Anie in the kitchen at Aerie creating her culinary masterpieces!

TCT: “How do you funnel that passion and your passion for the area into your cooking?”

CHEF ANIE: “I’m not so much sure my passion for the area is what inspires me as much as it is my Dad. I grew up cooking with my father from the time I could walk. During my early teen years my father was diagnosed with cancer and I suffered a sports injury that triggered a nerve disorder and kept me from going to school. All of our days together, aside from doctor appointments, were spent cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. We had so much fun cooking together and it kept our minds off of the things we were struggling with.  My Dad inspires so much of what I do, whether it’s thinking about the things he used to love to make or eat, or even using some of the recipes we made together on some of my menus.”

TCT: “It sounds like your father was a very integral part of who you’ve become. What else makes up Chef Anie – what are some of your interests outside of the kitchen?

CHEF ANIE: “I love going hiking at Hickory Hills and up around the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. It’s beautiful there, especially in the spring and fall. Not to mention great places to find morels and wild ramps for some great cookin’!”

TCT: “And do you take someone specific with you (we heard you’re the proud owner of an English Bulldog named Kevin?)”

Chef Anie's loyal companion, Kevin.

Chef Anie’s loyal companion, Kevin.

CHEF ANIE: “I am super excited you asked this question! My life outside of work completely revolves around Kevin. He is an awesome dog that acts like a human (probably because I treat him like one). He goes everywhere with me and we are so blessed to have such a pet friendly city. We always make a point of going to the Traverse City Dog Park on my days off as well as making regular visits to The Dog Bakery and some of the stores Downtown.

TCT: “What’s something many people don’t know about you?”

CHEF ANIE: “My Grandma was a music teacher and started me off playing a variety of instruments when I was three. I excelled very quickly and turned into a pretty good musician. By the time I was 7, I was in the high school honors band and studying privately with a music professor at the University of Michigan.

Also, I can eat a lot. I may or may not have eaten two five-pound “Big Juan” Burritos from La Senorita in less than a half hour – it was a competition, though. I also ate 19 hot dogs once, and then a gallon of milk with a box of Oreos.”

TCT: “What do you love most about Traverse City?”

CHEF ANIE: “There is so much I love about this city. The people, the water, the beaches, the abundance of activities and fun places to go, the creativity (especially in the culinary industry). It seems like there are opportunities here for anyone. I love this place.”

Thank you, Chef Anie. We second that opinion!

Traverse City’s Craft Breweries: A Quick Guide

Happy Hour at The Workshop

By MIKE NORTON

For a community with slightly more than 15,000 residents, Traverse City certainly makes a lot of beer!

At last count, this area had 12 craft breweries and brewpubs – with number 13 due to come on line any day now – and has suddenly emerged as a major center of craft brewing. (Draft magazine named it one of Americas’ three “emerging beer towns” — along with St. Louis and Oklahoma City – and The Travel Channel  listed it among the Top Seven  Beer Destinations in North America.

Here’s our most up-to-date listing of the area’s craft brewing scene:

Mackinaw Brewing_9846 - CopyMackinaw Brewing Company 161 East Front St.

(231) 933-1100 www.mackinawbrewing.com

At the corner of Cass and Front streets, in an elegant 19th century brick building, this is Traverse City’s original brewpub – dating all the way back to 1996 – with an extensive menu of smoked meats and fresh seafood to complement their beers. Their best seller is a malty brew called Red 8 Ale, but they also brew two fine pale ales  (West Bay IPA  and Peninsula Pale Ale), and a Belgian-style wheat ale called Whitecap – and are one of the reliable places to find a Traverse City seasonal favorite: a cold-brewed lager flavored with local tart cherries.

Short’s Brewing Company 121 N. Bridge St. BellaireShort's - Copy

(231) 498-2300 www.shortsbrewing.com

At the foot of the Shanty Creek resort, in the village of Bellaire, Short’s has some of the most imaginative and adventurous brews on the market. Some of the brewery’s more down-to-earth beers include Locals Light, Pontius Road Pilsner, Bellaire Brown and an intensely hopped brew called Huma Lupa Licious. Beer lovers who can’t make the trip out to Bellaire will be happy to know that several Short’s brews can be purchased in bottled form throughout the Traverse City area.

RightBrain-9538 - CopyRight Brain Brewery 225 E. 16th St.

(231) 942-1239 www.rightbrainbrewery.com

Tucked into a sprawling warehouse in the city’s SoFo (South of 14th) District, this innovative microbrewery is paired with a hair salon next door. (Their motto is, You sip, we snip.) The huge industrial-style space at Right Brain features at least a dozen handcrafted ales, beers, stouts and porters at a time – the selection changes regularly — and they’re famous for putting all manner of things into their recipes: from chocolate and heather to coffee and raspberries.

Jolly Pumpkin Restaurant, Brewery & Distillery 13512 Peninsula Drive012_MG_4669 - Copy

(231) 223-4333 www.jollypumpkin.com

This laid-back brewpub (known for years as The Bowery) is located behind the venerable Bowers Harbor Inn on the Old Mission Peninsula. Featuring traditional rustic country style beers (open fermented, oak barrel conditioned) created by the famous Jolly Pumpkin brewery of Dexter, the restaurant also stocks beers and ales from the North Peak Brewing Company.  Favorites here are Bam Bière, Oro de Calabaza, and La Roja.

North Peak Brewing Company 400 W Front St.

(231) 941-7325 www.northpeak.net

Located in a century-old brick building that was once home to a candy factory, NorthPeak is one of Traverse City’s three brew pubs, where beer is brewed on the premises and served up fresh with the food. Steelhead Red and Northern Light are popular options, but NorthPeak also puts together a regular menu of imaginative seasonal brews and cask-conditioned ales that change from month to month. NorthPeak also markets a series of bottled beers – available here and elsewhere – with names like Siren Amber Ale, Diabolical IPA, Majestic American Wheat, and Vicious IPA.

kilkenny's irish - CopyKilkenny’s Irish Public House 400 1/2 W Front St.

(231) 941-7527 www.kilkennyspub.com

Just downstairs from NorthPeak this basement pub specializes in handcrafted Irish ales, porters and stouts (try the St. Canice Pale Ale, the Leinster Irish Lager, the malty nitrogenized Marble City Red, or the refreshingly bitter River Nore Porter). The venue is spacious and private, with lots of nooks and crannies for conversation.

The Filling Station 642 Railroad PlaceDSC_4099 - Copy

231) 946-8168 www.thefillingstationmicrobrewery.com

Traverse City’s elegant Italianate railroad station is the home for this brand new microbrewery and pub, operated by former Vermont baker David Cannizzaro and his family. The Filling Station features 10 microbrews on tap, ranging from a Scotch Ale and several IPAs to a mellow/mild brown ale. The former station and its outdoor railway platform (with a view of Boardman Lake) also feature salads and wood-fired pizzas.

Ferment2 - CopyBrewery Ferment 511 S. Union St.

(231) 735-8113 www.breweryferment.com

This artsy little micobrewery just south of 8th Street is in a former bookstore, and its bright, clean design makes it feel more like a neighborhood café than a tavern. That’s exactly what the five young owners of Ferment were aiming at: a light-filled quiet space where people could enjoy a good beer and some conversation. Their beer menu includes a cream ale called Worker’s Daily, an Old Town Brown and a Bookstore Bitter.

Brewery Terra Firma 2959 Hartman Rd.DSC_3502 - Copy

(231) 929-1600 www.breweryterrafirma.com

Traverse City’s first “farm-to-mug” brewery is located on the historic 10-acre Dracka Farm just south of the Grand Traverse Mall, offering a variety of well balanced styles with such names as Wicked Garden Honey Rye Beet Wheat, Tai Chi Seven Spice Stout, Copper Grasshopper ESB,  One Upon Tyne Brown Ale and Ancho Chili Dutch Double Porter and the classic Manitou Amber Ale. Brewmaster John Niedermaier plans to grow most of the hops, herbs, fruits, vegetables and honey that will flavor his beers and ales.

Workshop Brewing Company 221 Garland St.

(231) 421-8977 www.traversecityworkshop.com

Brewer Pete Kirkwood started a successful craft brewery in Pennsylvania before moving to Traverse City to open Workshop Brewing Company in the Warehouse District storefront where Right Brain Brewery got its start. Decorated in a sort of “proletarian chic” motif, Workshop’s lineup includes seven “journeyman beers” like American Blonde Ale and Session IPA. a rotating menu of seasonal and specialty brews, and a menu of deli-style “one hander” sandwiches and snacks.

Big Toe Brewery 205 Lake Ave.

(231) 941-4422 www.bigtoebrewery.com

Located inside the Om Café in Traverse City’s Midtown District, Big Toe specializes in small batch, hand crafted, bottle conditioned beers including  Lyght Ale,  a quinoa-based beer called Q, a dandelion-infused bew called 3D and an overhopped high-gravity IPA called Big TIPA.

Bravo Zulu 2 - CopyBravo Zulu Brewing 6060 US-31 North, Acme

(231)943-1459 www.bravozulubrewing.com

In military parlance Bravo Zulu means “job well done,” and brewmaster Jeff Brooks, a veteran of both the Army and the Navy, opened this craft brewery at the end of 2013 to pay tribute to military veterans, police officers, firefighters and first responders. His beers, all displayed with labels crafted in the style of WWII bomber nose artwork, have names like Dirty Blonde, Law Dog IPA, Ember Amber and Blue Collar Porter.

And here’s that  “Lucky 13,”  scheduled to open in the next week or two:

Rare Bird Brew Pub 229 Lake Ave.

(231) 943-2053  www.rarebirdbrewpub.com

Former insurance man and passionate birder Nate Crane teamed up with brewer Tina Schuett to create this pub/taproom/microbrewery in a former fruit cannery in the city’s Midtown District. Rare Bird plans to offer several dozen beers, including 6-10 brewed on-site with names like Afternoon Delight Cream Ale, Beard of Zeus IPA and Schadenfreude Chocolate Milk Stout, as well as imaginative fusion-style food.

Traverse City as a Craft Beer Destination? Absolutely.

Today, featured blogger Kevin Farron of TC Cycle Pub and TC Ale Trail gives us plenty of reasons why the Traverse City beer scene stands apart from the rest. 

A microbrew "mugshot" at The Workshop Brewing Company in Downtown Traverse City

A microbrew “mugshot” at The Workshop Brewing Company in Downtown Traverse City

By KEVIN FARRON

You can imagine my delight upon returning to Traverse City as a young adult and self-proclaimed beer snob, to find it just as charming as I left it some 10 years earlier – with the same pristine beaches, breathtakingly-beautiful wineries, and delightfully-delish downtown. But something had changed. There were breweries. Good breweries! And they were everywhere.

Craft breweries are popping up all over the state of Michigan, yes, but there’s something especially unique about Traverse City as a beer destination - something that brings it all together and raises Traverse City above other beer towns.

According to the TC Ale Trail – a little brochure program co-founded by Troy Daily that gives you a free prize for (get this!) drinking delicious craft beer – there are 10 microbreweries you can visit, all in little Traverse City. There are even more breweries* just outside of town that offer their beers on draft at local restaurants and pour houses, like 7 Monks (whom Draft Magazine recently named one of the country’s “100 Best Beer Bars”). *Stay tuned for an in-depth look into all of our local microbreweries in our next blog post!

Daily, whose unbiased opinion on the brewery scene is not taken lightly, thinks that it’s “the variety of styles that sets Traverse City apart,” adding that “every brewery has something different to offer.” He’s got a point.

Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City, Michigan

Folks gather inside Right Brain Brewery – one of TC’s local favorites!

Look no further than Right Brain’s award-winning Mangalitsa Pig Porter, certainly one of a kind. The Workshop Brewing Company has bragging rights too, as it’s the closest of any brewery to any of the Great Lakes. Terra Firma’s claim to fame is that it’s the state’s only agricultural brewery, where the local farm-to-table mentality is alive and well. But Terra Firma isn’t alone in one regard – many of Traverse City’s breweries use hops grown right here in northern Michigan.

What else? Well, there aren’t many towns with a 14-passenger beer bike that you can pedal around from one brewery to the next. When asked about the beer bike, Daily, who manages the TC Cycle Pub and owns TC Brew Bus, says simply, “It’s an awesome spectacle. You have to try it.” When you’re in beautiful northern Michigan, getting to your beer destination is half the fun.

A group pedals around Downtown Traverse City on the TC Cycle Pub.

What better way to get around Downtown Traverse City than on the 14-passenger TC Cycle Pub?

And then there are the beer events.

Sam Porter’s Porterhouse Productions has done a phenomenal job at creating both a Winter Microbrew & Music Festival and Summer Microbrew & Music Festival in Traverse City, combining local and state brewery offerings and attracting outstanding musical talent (Michael Franti, O.A.R. and Dierks Bentley to name a few).

In 2013, Traverse City Beer Week had its inaugural debut. The week-long celebration of all things craft beer filled local breweries and restaurants and gave the community opportunities to meet, chat and learn from the masterminds behind many of Michigan’s favorite brews.

Michael Franti performs at the 2013 Traverse City Summer Microbrew & Music Festival

Michael Franti rocks the crowd at the 2013 Traverse City Summer Microbrew & Music Festival! (photo courtesy of John Stocki Photography)

There’s also a popular organized river float (Paddle for Pints) where beer lovers paddle the Boardman Lake and Boardman River, sampling brews along the way from a half dozen microbreweries, all accessible from a water route. Paddling not your strong suit? Not to worry because there are plenty of events incorporating other physical activities such as Mud, Sweat & BeersSuds & Snow and Shanty Creek’s Beer + Boards Brewfest.  Add all this to the simple fact that the beautiful and already-desirable destination of Traverse City simply has phenomenal craft beer and now you’re starting to see the picture.

Paddle for Pints in Traverse City

Paddlers launch into Boardman Lake during the 2013 Paddle for Pints.

But don’t take my word for it. TC was recently named one of Travel Channel’s list of “Top 7 Beer Destinations”. Back in 2012, Draft Magazine, the leading publication the craft beer world, deemed Traverse City one of three Emerging Beer Towns to keep tabs on.

Well, let me give Draft Magazine and anyone else who hasn’t been to Traverse City in a few years an update: TC has emerged, and is still boasting the same beauty, charm and local eats, but now is overflowing with delicious pints of locally-brewed craft beer.

Come back for a taste; what you’ll find may surprise you.

 

BIO: Kevin Farron is the co-founder of the TC Ale Trail and co-owner of the TC Cycle Pub. Born-and-raised in Traverse City, Kevin now splits his time between Bend, OR and TC, two towns of “remarkable similarity.” Kevin’s favorite activities and beers, by the seasons, are as follows: Catching Long Lake walleye through the ice with a 10lb Sledge IPA growler from The Workshop Brewing Company; finding morel mushrooms near…(ha no way he’s telling!) with a bottle of North Peak’s Nut Brown Ale; disc golfing Hickory Hills and making the loser buy a round at Right Brain; enjoying the fall colors on the Peninsula while sipping Jolly Pumpkin’s seasonal treat, the La Parcela #1 Pumpkin Ale.

Spring Break in Traverse City? Hey, Why Not!

Splashing around in the indoor waterpark at Traverse City's Great Wolf Lodge

Splashing around in the indoor waterpark at Traverse City’s Great Wolf Lodge

By MIKE NORTON

Who knows what spring will bring to Traverse City? Remember when we saw March temperatures in the Eighties? That sure isn’t happening this year!

Nevertheless, it IS spring, and TC is gearing up for its annual influx of Spring Break vacationers.

That’s right — while the overwhelming majority of Spring Breakers head to Florida, Mexico and other southern spots in search of warm weather, a small but growing faction will head stubbornly in the opposite direction. Even though our beaches and golf courses are still buried under snow this year, they know they’ll find a quieter, less congested holiday experience. Springtime here is relaxed and easygoing; accommodations are plentiful, and the locals appear genuinely glad to see some fresh new faces.

Traverse City’s Spring Break tourists are a distinctly different crowd than the ones you’re likely to see at Daytona or Cancun. There are a few college students (mainly young women who come as a group, get a couple of rooms, do some shopping and a little nightlife) but this crowd is primarily families with young children. For kids, a good hotel pool is every bit as much fun as a Florida beach — and there’s no sand in the swimsuits at the end of the day.

Until recently, early spring has been a fairly sleepy time of year in Traverse City. As you may have noticed, the weather in late March and early April is notoriously fickle around here, bringing anything from howling blizzards to postcard-perfect beach days. That started to change in 2003 with the opening of the 280-room Great Wolf Lodge, which introduced a new element into the traditional “shoulder season” cycle. Suddenly, vacationers learned that they didn’t have to spend two or three days on the road to find a place where their kids could splash around in some warm water.

Of course, these shoulder season visitors aren’t to be compared to the crowds who converge on Traverse City during the height of summer, nor do they have the massive impact on the local economy that the annual spring migration brings to the beach towns of Florida. But they do provide a welcome shot in the arm to many local hotels and restaurants.

Just 'cause we're a "foodie town," that doesn't mean kids won't have fun eating here!

Just ’cause we’re a “foodie town,” that doesn’t mean kids won’t have fun eating here!

The community’s museums, performance venues, shopping districts and other attractions provide some added diversion – particularly if the weather turns chancy. But only a few of Traverse City’s Spring Break vacationers seem drawn to adults-only pastimes like casino gambling or excursions to our award-winning wineries. Instead, they appear to be focused on each other.

People might do a little shopping, maybe see a movie, but mainly they’re here doing family-type things. The lure is simple: a little change in their environment and a chance to get out of the house and take a little family vacation without breaking their pocketbooks.

Budget-balancing is no small consideration these days. Since spring is the off season in Northern Michigan, vacationers not only can save themselves the expense of a long drive or a fistful of airline tickets – they can also take advantage of the seasonal rates offered by northern hotel and resort properties.

Some places even have special Spring Break packages designed to appeal to families. I know already, for instance, that the  Traverse City Econo Lodge is offering visitors a “Savanna’s Spring Break Special” of $49.95 + tax, valid through April 30. The Grand Beach/Sugar Beach resort hotels have a spring break special (10% off for a one-night stay, 15% off for a two-night stay and 20% off for a three-night stay) between now and May 1. The Bayshore Resort is running a Spring Break “On-the-Go Special” (stay two nights, midweek, and receive a super low rate of $63/night +tax).  And the Cherry Tree Inn & Suites has a deal where if you stay one night during Spring Break, you get the second night half-off. 

Let us know who else might be offering special deals this Spring Break!

Here at Traverse City Tourism, we have our own spring deal: the Traverse City Escape”. Good until May 15, it combines special rates at over 19 participating hotels and resorts with a wide range of discounts on recreation, shopping, dining and entertainment.

 

Spring is the Season for Shows & Expos in Traverse City!

The Traverse City area is home to hundreds of miles of rivers for kayaking.

Kayaking is just one of the many water sports the area has become known for.

No one can deny the fact that when Spring rolls around and the warmer weather is upon us, people want to get out and get going! It’s almost as if we come alive with new ideas, new aspirations and new goals for the warmer months.  Which is why Spring is officially trade show season – and Traverse City hosts quite a few of them during the month of April.

Traverse City Boat & Outdoor Show

If there’s one thing we know up in Traverse City: it’s playing in the water.  Whether that’s sailing, kayaking, tubing, canoeing or just taking it all in while laying on a raft floating in the waves, water recreation isn’t an afterthought for us; it’s what we do. So it makes sense that after a long winter of frozen lakes people are itching to see what’s new in the world of boating and watercraft and the Traverse City Boat & Outdoor Show does just that.

Held this year on April 4,5 & 6, the TC Boat & Outdoor Show hosts dozens of vendors exhibiting the latest and greatest in the boating world with the newest 2014 models on display. The show floor will fill up with everything from pontoons and ski boats to water toys and boating accessories, so if you’re in the market or simply ready for warmer weather, the show is a perfect kick off for Spring.

Traverse City Boat & Outdoor Show Dates & Times:

  • Friday April 4: 12pm-8pm
  • Saturday April 5: 10am-8pm
  • Sunday April 6: 10am-4pm

Admission: Adults $6, Kids 4-12 $2, Kids 0-3 FREE

Show Location: Grand Traverse County Civic Center – Howe Arena

The Traverse City Boat & Outdoor Show features everything for a water sports enthusiast.

Boating Magazine named Traverse City as one of the “10 Best Places to Live & Boat”. June 2011

‘UP NORTH’ LAKE & COTTAGE SHOW

There’s a certain feeling you get when you’re in Traverse City. The air is fresh, the water is clear and the wind blows along at a speed that rivals the pace of our laid-back lifestyle. When you’re ‘up north’ – you know it, and the ‘Up North’ Lake & Cottage Show exhibits everything that encompasses that true northern feeling.

In it’s fifth year and now hosting over 100 exhibitors, the show takes place on April 11, 12 & 13. Attendees will find everything they need to absorb the style and comforts of being ‘Up North’ – including indoor and outdoor home decor, landscaping, home services and more.

‘Up North’ Lake & Cottage Show Dates & Times:

  • Friday April 11: 12pm-8pm
  • Saturday April 12: 9am-6pm
  • Sunday April 13: 10am-4pm

Admission: Adults $6, Kids 4-12 $2, Kids 0-3 FREE

Show Location: Grand Traverse County Civic Center – Howe Arena

Peaceful and calm lake life on the shores of West Grand Traverse bay.

The Northern Michigan way of life has a distinct feeling all its own.

TRAVERSE CITY WOMENS’ EXPO

When you combine over 30 wineries, a variety of restaurants that can feed any craving, and dozens of boutique shops, you get what some would think of as a perfect girls weekend. Now, add all of that to the weekend of April 26-27 and you’ve got more than just the perfect girls weekend, you’ve got the perfect excuse to make it happen!

The Traverse City Women’s Expo takes much of what encompasses the lifestyle of today’s woman and conveniently puts it under one roof.  Over 100 exhibitors will be on hand with the latest in health and fitness, beauty and fashion, home and family, and more.

Traverse City Women’s Expo Show Dates & Times:

  • Saturday April 26: 10am-7pm
  • Sunday April 27: 10am-5pm

Admission: Adults $6, Kids 4-12 $2, Kids 0-3 FREE

Show Location: Grand Traverse County Civic Center – Howe Arena

Traverse City is the perfect place for a girls getaway weekend

Wondering why you haven’t planned that girls getaway weekend yet?

 

Bringing Fido on Vacation: TC is a Pretty Pooch-Friendly Town

A patient doggie in downtown Traverse City

A patient doggie in downtown Traverse City

By MIKE NORTON

For some people, a family trip to Traverse City just wouldn’t be the same without the family dog. Fortunately, this is a pretty pooch-friendly town.

The same natural attractions that make TC such a popular place for outdoor recreation – miles of forest trails, wide open spaces and long beaches, make it a popular destination for canine adventurers. Many local hotels and resorts (and even a few restaurants) are dog-friendly – although there are often conditions and sometimes fees attached. But all in all, it’s not an unreasonable place to be a dog on holiday.

At the Winter Comedy Arts Festival

At the Winter Comedy Arts Festival

Even many events are pretty dog-friendly. (Heck, if you bring your dog to the National Cherry Festival or the Winter Comedy Arts Festival, they’re liable to end up in entered in a contest or a parade!)

Pet-friendly travel is a growing trend in the tourism industry. Over 36 million families travel with their pets, spending an estimated $91 million per year. According to DogFriendly.com, a national clearinghouse for pet-owning travelers, about 35 percent of hotels in the U.S. and Canada now allow pets to stay in rooms with their owners.

In Traverse City, as elsewhere in the U.S., pet-friendly hoteliers have traditionally been found among the more budget-conscious properties, but in recent years a few high-end resorts are also joining the movement.

Here’s a list of Traverse City hotels and resorts that accept dogs as guests – there are probably more, so if you know of any, feel free to chime in.  (It’s also wise to check about size restrictions, conditions and/or deposits.)

The Grand Traverse Resort & Spa took a different approach. Realizing that bringing pets into their main facilities simply wasn’t going to work, they created a separate “dog resort” called the Dog Dreams Inn. For $35 per night, guests at Dog Dreams Inn can enjoy a cage-free environment, 24-hour care and supervision, daily walks, toys, cozy beds, frequent outdoor potty breaks, supervised outdoor recess, filtered water and treats – and lots of TLC from the Inn’s trained dog care providers.

To ensure the health and safety of their canine guests, the Inn staff conducts a careful pre-screening process on all incoming dogs. (The basics: all dogs must be spayed or neutered, be at least six months old, have all current vaccinations including Bortadella, and must have a topical flea preventative. It’s also important that they socialize well with other dogs.)

Federal health regulations don’t  allow restaurants to have dogs in indoor eating areas, but some local spots let diners eat with their pets on their outdoor patios – I can think of the Dish Café, Pangea’s Pizza and Don’s Drive-In, and Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor. And there’s no arguing with the generally pro-dog attitudes about most downtown businesses in TC – many of them set out drinking bowls and treat dispensers for dogs.

And of course, there are some places made entirely with pooches in mind – like the D.O.G. Bakery on West Front, which bakes fresh organic doggie treats.

Hiking at Hickory Meadows

Hiking at Hickory Meadows

As far as outdoor fun goes, dogs can easily enjoy the area’s many woodland trails. Even within the city, most parks and trails are open to leashed dogs, and there’s a nice off-leash Dog Park at the corner of Division St. and Bay St, near Grandview Parkway. The park is equipped with two fenced areas, one for large dogs, the other for small ones. There are several doggie bags and trash cans available as well as benches.

The big exception to this open-door policy is city beaches; they’re not open to four-legged beachcombers, and you can get a ticket for bringing your dog to the beach. On the other hand, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is pretty welcoming to dogs. Pets are not allowed in certain areas of the park (the Manitou Islands, Dune Climb, backcountry campsites) or inside buildings — and they are absolutely forbidden in piping plover nesting areas during nesting season.

A well-behaved dog at the Sleeping Bear Dunes

A well-behaved dog at the Sleeping Bear Dunes

Still, they are allowed on some trails, campgrounds and on the following beaches: the south side of the beach at Esch Road (south of Empire), on the south side of Peterson Beach, and on Empire Beach. Dogs must be leashed at all times and cleaned up after.