Got the winter blues? Make like a Michigan lumberjack and get cozy with an axe … for fun!
MICHIGAN—One of America’s best folklore images is the Michigan lumberjack, a relic of Michigan’s logging era. And today, you can embody this everyman hero with the trending lumber sport of axe-throwing.
Back in the 1800s, Michigan was the nation’s biggest producer of lumber. The lumberjacks were the men who braved the Michigan winter to chop down and collect Michigan’s premium timber, the white pine. Michigan’s wood laid the foundations, figuratively and literally, for thousands of buildings across America and especially the Midwest.
While it’s unclear if Michigan’s lumberjacks entertained themselves with the sport of axe-throwing, a similar sport known as tomahawk throwing was quite popular with American settlers around the time. The Algonquian people, which includes the Annishinabe, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi tribes of Michigan, traded and gifted tomahawks to American settlements as far back as the colonial era.
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Today, axe-throwing is a vital component of “lumberjack competitions,” and professional axe-throwers often wear plaid flannel shirts in the spirit of the lumberjack. Axe-throwing as a modern sport originated from the Great Lakes. The origin story involves Backyard Axe Throwing League (BATL) CEO Matt Wilson, who reinvented the sport in 2006. Wilson and a group of friends were bored one day at a Toronto-area cottage. They threw an axe at a stump out of boredom, and instantly discovered how fun it was. Once he got home to Toronto, Wilson set up a throwing target in his backyard. Wilson moved his backyard league indoors in 2011 and the axe-throwing craze spread like wildfire.
Despite how dangerous it may seem, axe-throwing is done with a trained professional guiding attendees through the experience safely. If you’re ready to connect with your inner lumberjack, here are some of Michigan’s best offerings.
BATL Axe Throwing (Novi)
44175 W 12 Mile Rd, Novi, MI 48377
Prices Starting At: $28/person
The national chain started by Matt Wilson claims to be the world’s first urban venue experience for indoor axe throwing. The Michigan location is in Novi at the outdoor entertainment complex Twelve Mile Crossing at Fountain Walk.
BATL Axe Throwing offers walk-in and same-day sessions on Friday evenings, Saturday afternoons, and Sunday afternoons. These sessions share lanes and coaches. Private sessions and groups of 6+ people must be reserved in advance.
Lumberjax Urban Axe Throwing (St. Joseph)
2808 Niles Ave, St Joseph, MI 49085
404 State St, St Joseph, MI 49085
Prices Starting At: $18/person
In the southwest Michigan town of St. Joseph, Lumberjax Urban Axe Throwing is on a mission to “rid the world of 2×10 cottonwood boards.” Open seven days a week in the afternoon and evenings, Lumberjax allows walk-ins, advanced booking, and large groups. Multiple leagues are also available.
Lumberjax also offers other sports to try, including “Daggerjax,” the knife-throwing experience ($25/person), “Ninjax,” the ninja star-throwing experience ($15/person), and “Jax Smash,” the Rage Room with plenty of things to smash ($40/person).
Axe Play (Jackson)
133 W Michigan Ave, Jackson, MI 49201
Prices Starting At: $25/person
Although the concept of an “Axe Throwing Bar” may make you nervous, Axe Play makes you wonder how downtown Jackson ever lived without it. Walk-ins are welcome with up to 6 players per lane, with private lanes available in advance. After a hearty session of axe-throwing, Axe Play’s bar serves up signature cocktails and is chock full of craft beers and ciders. For those looking for something non-alcoholic, the fair-style fresh-squeezed lemonade is a treat for all ages.
Northern Michigan Axe Company (Petoskey)
436 E Mitchell St, Petoskey, MI 49770
Prices Starting At: $22/person
Petoskey’s first axe-throwing venue has a few unique traits. First, the ranges are named after cities in northern Michigan, including Charlevoix and Boyne City. Second, it’s sensitive to the needs of those who work late, operating until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Make sure to check out Glow Night, when targets are lit with black lights and neon paint!
Axe Ventura (Ann Arbor)
332 Maynard St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Prices Starting At: $35/person
Ann Arbor’s axe-throwing bar boasts itself to have the “cheapest drinks in Ann Arbor.” Located just across the street from Nickels Arcade, Axe Ventura may serve beer, wine, seltzers, and mixed drinks in the heart of Ann Arbor, but the real attraction is the axe-throwing. Book up to 20 throwers in advance, with larger group rates available and walk-ins welcome. Keep an eye out for the Ann Arbor Classic, an annual tournament with a handsome prize pool for the taking.
Bull’s Eye Axe Throwing (Lansing)
3232 S Washington Ave, Lansing, MI 48910
Prices Starting At: $20/person
Lansing’s first indoor axe-throwing venue is so cool that it includes a custom art and blacksmith supply shop where you can buy “Lord of the Rings” inspired metal helmets. Open six days a week, Bull’s Eye Axe Throwing allows groups both big and small, with special options for team building and corporate events. Their league meets on Thursdays and includes both axe and knife-throwing.
Wood-Splitters Axe Throwing (Grand Rapids)
3170 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525
Prices Starting At: $12.50/person
This Grand Rapids facility claims to be the largest axe-throwing facility in the country. That’s huge. Located in Heffron Farms Market, Wood-Splitters features 28 targets bookable in 30-minute blocks overseen by seven different instructors. Games can be played with a variety of rules, including Cornhole, Horse, and Cricket.
Total Axe (Clinton Township)
44159 N Groesbeck Hwy, Clinton Twp, MI 48036
Prices Starting At: $24/person
This axe-throwing facility in the northern Detroit Metro has a little bit of everything. In addition to axe-throwing, reservations allow the additional options of throwing stars, knives, playing cards, and shovels. Group reservations of up to 55 people are allowed and walk-ins are allowed Friday through Sunday. Four leagues are offered and tournaments allow competitors to earn cash prizes. If you’re throwing on your birthday, be sure to ask about the $25 discount.
Detroit Axe (Multiple Locations)
Detroit Location (Corktown): 1375 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48226
Ferndale Location: 344 W Nine Mile Rd, Ferndale, MI 48220
Clinton Township Location (Partridge Creek): 17420 Hall Rd, Clinton Twp, MI 48038
Prices Starting At: $20/person
Detroit Axe has three locations, and one particularly unique experience—they also serve food! Get your axe-throwing on in downtown Ferndale, The Yard at Corktown, or Partridge Creek Mall, each of which have unique menus. Alcohol is also served, but only before or after axe-throwing. Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are recommended. Up to 12 people can be in an arena at any time. Each location also features its own league.
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