By the end of 2021, we all will want to hit the pause button. Here are 12 Michigan spots that’ll let you do just that.
MICHIGAN—Have you been feeling the Zoom fatigue over the last 18 months? A Michigan getaway could be in order!
Michigan’s travel industry is finally reopening. After more than a year spent glued to screens, a recharge away from home is not only healthy for the body, but also the brain. We’re fortunate to have a handful of businesses that have innovated new ideas and projects over the quarantine period that offer ‘Ganders a welcome change of pace.
Getaway Barber Creek (Van Buren County)
117 55th St, Grand Junction, MI 49056
Could you lock your smartphone in a box for an entire weekend? What sounds like a nightmare to some is a sought-after respite for others, especially after being glued to screens for an entire pandemic.
Getaway is a company that seeks to create tiny house vacation rentals that emphasize free time and distance from the demands of modern day life. At the Getaway “Outposts,” uninterrupted free time is key. That’s why guests are encouraged to lock their phones in a provided box.
Getaway Barber Creek is the first Outpost in Michigan that opened just earlier this year. The Southwest Michigan site has a total of 41 cabins strewn across 79 acres—and, of course, all are perfectly socially distanced.
Mental health wellness is also important, and at their affiliated blog The Journal, you’ll find multiple “wellness tips” to help you recharge both at the cabin and at home.
The Getaway cabins are designed to allow you time to both reconnect with your inner peace and creativity, as well as reconnecting with your family or that special someone. All cabins include a Queen-sized bed or Queen bunks, running water and a private bathroom with shower, a kitchenette with a stove, and private fire pit.
For more information and to book a stay, consult the Getaway Barber Creek website.
Grand Hotel (Mackinac Island)
286 Grand Ave, Mackinac Island, MI 49757
One of the most famous hotels in Michigan likely needs no introduction, but in case you need one, the Grand Hotel is a historic institution on Mackinac Island known to have the world’s longest porch. It has been a landmark destination for over a century, and hosted a number of famous guests, including U.S. Presidents. With it’s trademark one-of-a-kind hotel rooms, the Grand Hotel makes a fantastic getaway for both couples and families. So what’s new?
Well, the Esther Williams pool area is all-new, named after the lead actress in the 1947 musical comedy This Time for Keeps, where the Grand Hotel served as the backdrop. In 2021, the Grand Hotel unveiled a $10 million makeover to its pool area.
The changes appeal to a wide audience. A new family-friendly area was added with gradual beach entry, water jet play area, and water slide. A private adults-only pool with breathtaking island views was also added, as well as a heated whirlpool. A new pool bar and kitchen is available, as well as 15 new reservable poolside cabanas with food and beverage service. The pool house has been expanded to add a fitness center. Overall, cosmetic updates were made to the terrace and lawn area, which includes new pool deck furniture, all of which give plenty of space for social distancing.
Gabriel Farms and Winery (Petoskey)
2800 E. Mitchell Rd, Petoskey MI 49770
A private room overlooking a vineyard, with wine made on-site? That’s worth a toast.
Duane Schuil purchased the farm property and its 20 acres in 1999. His vision was to bring Napa Valley to Northern Michigan. By summer of 2020, he made that a reality by finally opening a winery and brewery within the century-old barn. Duane’s wife Kristi and Kristi’s son, Keith Hansen, help to run the family business. In addition to their beer, wine, cider, and culinary offerings, the farm is also a U-Pick farm, with apples, raspberries, haskap berries, and wine grapes for visitors to pick.
One thing making this vineyard unique is the new ability to stay on the property! After substantial renovations, they are also able to offer five vacation rentals through Airbnb. Their offerings include four rooms upstairs in the renovated farmhouse, as well as a full apartment adjacent.
Visit the Gabriel Farms official website to learn more and book a stay.
Fresh Coast Cabins (Keweenaw Peninsula)
13051 M-26, Eagle River, MI 49950
Have you always wanted to book an affordable cabin in the UP? You might want to consider a brand new vacation rental right in the middle of Copper Country.
Married couple Lynn and Jason Makela have a special connection to the Keweenaw Peninsula, and they certainly poured that love for the area into their new property venture, Fresh Coast Cabins. These 9 cabins with breathtaking views of Lake Superior were renovated for vacation rentals within the last year.
Nature and history lovers alike will find plenty to do on the Keweenaw Peninsula itself. Catch a ferry in the nearby Copper Harbor if you’re keen to explore Isle Royale, Michigan’s most remote national park and the least-visited national park among the contiguous United States. But if you’re keen to socially distance yourself from society, Isle Royale is one of the best places to go.
Individual cabins are varied and support anywhere from 2 to 6 guests. Prices start at $145 per night. Visit the Fresh Coast Cabins website for more information and for booking options.
Tree House Ridge (Benzie County)
Thompsonville, Michigan 49683
Michigan already has multiple treehouses available as vacation rentals. What could be better? An upcoming treehouse resort, of course.
Tree House Ridge near Traverse City is slated to become the first resort of its kind in Michigan. Planning a fall 2021 opening, Tree House Ridge plans to offer 10 self-contained treehouses for rental. The full offering of treehouses is currently planned to be available by early 2023.
The site, which currently does not display an address online, is a wooded location with plenty of hills. It’s also a family business, run by father-son duo Fred and Jess Knoll, as well as their wives.
The treehouse rentals will include a washer and dryer, a rare addition to vacation rentals, but much needed in the northern Michigan wilderness. Each treehouse will sleep four and come with a fireplace, private balcony, and Wi-fi.
Boyne Mountain Resort (Charlevoix County)
1 Boyne Mountain Rd, Boyne Falls, MI 49713
If you are a fan of mountain biking, you might want to check out a new form of outdoor recreation—ski bikes.
The Boyne group of mountain resorts added the Sno-Go ski bikes to their many outdoor recreational offerings in winter of 2020. The bikes were a quick hit among guests, and currently, the Boyne Resorts are the only establishments in Michigan that can properly instruct you how to ride a Sno-Go.
According to the instructors, those who already know how to ride a bike can pick up a ski bike fairly quickly, and the introductory lesson will teach you ski techniques. Though you must be at least 5 feet tall to ride, the ski bikes are enjoyed by visitors of all ages.
Ski bikes are simply the newest addition to Boyne Mountain Resort’s many year-round offerings. It has a total of 60 downhill trails, 12 lifts, and over 20 miles of cross-country trails. If you’re not into skiing, the Boyne Mountain Resort has opportunities to partake in a wide variety of seasonal sports, including golfing, ziplining, swimming, fishing, paintball, ice skating, snowshoeing, tubing, and so much more. Boyne Mountain also has Michigan’s largest indoor water park and largest spa facility.
Boyne Highlands is also owned by the resort group and has similar offerings. Visit the official Boyne group website to plan your visit.
Let’s Roam App-Led Scavenger Hunt
Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Lansing
One outcome of quarantine is that we all found ways to live and function in our cities while still staying safe. The Let’s Roam app perfectly reflects that, with app-guided scavenger hunts for your quarantine bubble.
With Let’s Roam, you buy a ticket just like you would any city tour or event. Let’s Roam currently has five pre-loaded tours for five Michigan cities: Detroit, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Lansing, and Kalamazoo. The app guides an individual or a group to the best spots. Along the route, the team will answer trivia, learn fun facts, and participate in challenges. Everyone in the group has individualized roles and challenges, making sure everyone can participate, and the group can pause the tour at any time!
Not in one of those five cities? Want to stay close to home? No worries. Let’s Roam also has a Roam from Home scavenger hunt option. Using one device with your household, you can participate in a series of challenges and answer trivia questions.
Single-use tickets are $33.31 per player, but with the Explorer Pass, $44.42 per month covers a team of up to 6 people. You can also choose a $7 “Date Upgrade” to take the tour with a special someone. Promotional discount pricing may apply at discretion of the company. Let’s Roam also has group package rates for special birthday, team-building, and bachelorette events.
For further details and to purchase tickets, visit the Let’s Roam website.
Glenlore Trails (Oakland County)
3860 Newton Rd, Commerce Charter Twp, MI 48382
How does a colorful sensory walk in the woods sound?
Glenlore Trails is a special event adaptation that emerged during the pandemic. Bluewater Technologies, the company behind Glenlore Trails, is a Wixom-based event company with a primary focus on corporate events. When the pandemic hit, they had to get creative—so they decided to set up shop in the Multi Lakes Conservation Association and transformed the landscape into a truly ethereal experience.
The lore of Glenlore Trails includes mystical and mysterious original creatures and the “Webs of Light” they leave behind while avoiding detection. The trail is just over a mile long, but the colorful displays and interactive elements will encourage visitors to keep a leisurely pace. With paths averaging at least 8 feet width, there is plenty of room to socially distance.
About 150,000 visitors walked Glenlore Trails in 2020, and the momentum isn’t stopping there. The concept behind Glenlore Trails is that it’s like a movie theater. The forest stays the same for about two months, then it changes and new themes emerge. This encourages visitors to make return trips.
Glenlore Trails: Expedition runs through September 12, but the Haunted Forest and Aurora themes, for Halloween and the holiday season respectively, are expected to return.
Magic Shuttle Bus Tours (Traverse City and Grand Rapids)
8898 Wilderness Trail, Traverse City, MI 49684
311 44th St SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49548
If you pick your poison with libations of the alcoholic variety, booking a tour with Magic Shuttle Bus consistently tops the charts of fun things to do. Best part? You can be sure safety precautions are being taken.
The Traverse City bus tours offer two tours: one on the Leelanau Peninsula and one on the Old Mission Peninsula. The Leelanau Peninsula tour includes Leelanau Wine Cellars, 45 North Vineyard and Winery, Suttons Bay Ciders, and Rove Estate Tasting Room and Vineyard. The Old Mission Peninsula tour includes the Mari Vineyards, Bowers Harbor Vineyards, Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery, and Bonobo Winery. Alternate wineries are used as substitutes if the establishments are booked. Both tours start at $69.99 per person, not including tastings or gratuity.
The Grand Rapids bus tour is wine and beer and includes the St. Julian Winery, Stoney Ridge Vineyards, Founders Brewing Co, and Cedar Springs Brewing Company.
Both locations are observing COVID-19 safety protocols, requiring masks and strict sanitization. Not comfortable with a public join-in tour? You can also book a private tour for your group and choose the route’s locations yourself. Rates start at $125/hour.
Yates Cider Mill (Rochester Hills)
1990 E Avon Rd, Rochester Hills, MI 48307
Although apple orchards make up a large portion of Michigan’s agriculture economy, the first half of 2021 presented a challenge, as April frosts damaged crop capacity. The Michigan Apple Committee estimates about a 17% decrease in yield compared to last year, with 18.3 million bushels compared to 2020’s 22 million.
So that means orchards will be relying much more on autumn tourism to round out the end of 2021. Drinking apple cider and munching on donuts to help your local economy certainly sounds like a win-win!
Yates Cider Mill in Oakland County is one of your best bets for enjoying a traditional Michigan fall activity AND staying safe. Yates has a full COVID-19 safety plan that includes wearing masks in buildings, enforcing social distancing, providing hand sanitizer and additional cleaning, and requiring employee screening and PPE.
Yates is a solid piece of Michigan culture, starting in 1863 and persisting as one of the oldest and continually running businesses in Michigan. Aside from buying apples and drinking cider, a leisurely stroll down the river walk will expose visitors to all the fall colors. For the kids, there’s also a petting zoo and pony rides.
Fall hours at Yates Cider Mill are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Check out the Yates Cider Mill website or official Facebook page for more information.
Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum (Ann Arbor)
1800 N Dixboro Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48105 (Matthaei)
1610 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104 (Nichols)
School’s back in session and college students are getting back to campus. What better way to celebrate than by visiting the natural spaces maintained by the University of Michigan?
The Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum are two separate spaces within Ann Arbor that are highly visited by students, faculty, and locals alike. Matthaei and Nichols both finally reopened just earlier in the summer after spending 15 months closed due to the pandemic, and they’re taking precautions to make sure they don’t have to shutter their doors again.
The Matthaei Botanical Gardens has an expansive outdoor conservatory, as well as trails and gardens. Between the botanical gardens and Nichols Arboretum, the collective site has 720 combined acres. Nichols Arboretum, or “The Arb” as it’s called, has 3.5 miles of walking trails and plenty of natural space to spread out and enjoy nature. In the summer, you’ll see picnics. In the winter, there’s plenty of sledding. If you have a furry companion, you’re better off sticking to the Arb—no dogs are allowed at Matthaei.
In line with the University of Michigan’s COVID-19 safety plan, the Matthaei Botanical Gardens is strictly adhering to visitor safety. All visitors entering the visitor center or conservatory will complete a ResponsiBLUE screening for coronavirus symptoms and recent exposures. Face masks are required for indoor locations and recommended for outdoor ones.
Nichols Arboretum is also a popular field trip spot. For classrooms that either cannot travel or do not want to travel, the gardens are offering virtual field trips in addition to their normal in-person field trips. Virtual field trips last 45 minutes and cost $30 per classroom with an additional $1 per student.
The Matthaei Botanical Gardens visitor center, conservatory, and display gardens are open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday. Nichols Arboretum and all trails are open from sunrise to sunset daily. There is no admission charge for either location, but visitors may have to pay for parking. For visitors’ guides and more information, visit the official website.
Blandford Nature Center (Grand Rapids)
1715 Hillburn Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
If you’re a Michigander, you’re constantly surrounded by nature and agriculture. Blandford Nature Center is the opportunity to actually learn more about it.
The focus of Blandford Nature Center is to educate visitors of all ages about nature through hands-on and experiential learning. As both a non-profit organization and wildlife preserve, there’s plenty of things to see and do! Aside from the educational opportunities in the Visitor Center, the Blandford Farm has 2.5 acres of farmland teaching visitors about agriculture and allowing interactions with farm animals like goats and chickens. Heritage Village puts historical buildings on display for special events. Younger visitors will enjoy the Children’s Garden and The Nature Nook, a natural and enclosed playscape.
Through a partnership with Alabama non-profit KultureCity, Blandford Nature Center has taken steps to be inclusive toward guests with sensory needs, such as those with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The front desk will provide a sensory bag upon request which includes tools such as noise cancelling headphones, fidget toys, and cards to help non-verbal guests interact with others.
The Visitor Center and Farm are both subject to coronavirus safety restrictions, with masks required indoors for all visitors, and outdoors for unvaccinated visitors. The Visitor Center also has an enforced 30-person capacity limit.
The Blandford Nature Center has an extensive community calendar of exciting events, so be sure to check that out if you plan to visit!
Admission is $3 per person for non-members and is recommended even if visitors are only using the trails. The Visitor Center is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a half hour break at 12:30 p.m. to clean. Trails are open daily from dawn until dusk.
*Editor’s note: We encourage you to stay safe and follow all appropriate safety precautions. Always make sure to follow public guidance from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and local county health departments. Check the level of community transmission per the CDC before you go, and follow safety recommendations from trusted experts.