Explore 'The Mitten'

Editor’s note: Click here for a map of Michigan fishing areas.  And be sure to visit OWAA’s Web page convention section for all you need to know about OWAA’s 82nd Annual Conference June 13-16, 2009, in Grand Rapids, Mich.
By Travel Michigan
Detroit dominates the region, but it far from defines southeast Michigan. Since its founding in 1701, the city on the Detroit River has had many identities, including fur trading post, shipping center, automotive capital and home of the Motown Sound. Thousands of visitors and residents take in professional sports events, major music and arts festivals, Cultural Center museums, three casinos, Greektown and Mexican Village and visit the newly redeveloped GM Renaissance Center overlooking the city’s international waterfront and Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
The sprawling metro area now stretches across multiple counties and encompasses many communities and town centers. Birmingham, monarch-pine-hartwick-pinesRochester and Troy offer exceptional shopping experiences, fine restaurants, plus arts and science events at Cranbrook Institute. Royal Oak is known for trendy shops, coffee houses, a variety of eateries and the Detroit Zoo. Charming Plymouth and Northville host a variety of special events, from a fabulous ice sculpture show to a Victorian festival. The mansions of Grosse Pointe are worth a shoreline drive along Lake St. Clair; a visit to the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House offers a glimpse of how the auto barons lived. The home of Edsel’s father Henry Ford, Fair Lane Estate, is across town in Dearborn near the world famous indoor/outdoor museum complex called The Henry Ford.
The region includes the University of Michigan town of Ann Arbor, the Michigan International Speedway’s car races and Lansing, the state capitol, which is adjacent to East Lansing and Michigan State University.
East Central
Port Huron is the beginning of a chain of logging-era port cities along the Lake Huron shore, and rich agricultural land in the center of the giant “thumb” of Michigan’s mitt. Every summer Port Huron welcomes thousands for the annual start of the Port Huron to Mackinac Island Sailboat Race.
The former forestland is filled with fields of sugar beets and beans, while county fairs and festivals celebrate the crops of the agricultural communities throughout the thumb.
The Tri-Cities of Midland, Saginaw and Bay City offer experiences as varied as the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum, Dow Gardens, impressive examples of the Victorian homes of lumber barons, Tall Ship sailing excursions and the 18,000-acre Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. The historic town of Frankenmuth serves up the flavor of Bavaria as well as platters of famous chicken dinners. It is also the home of Bronner’s, the “World’s Largest Christmas Store,” as well as other unique stores and import shops.
Michigan’s Sunrise Side is as different from the west side of the state as, well, sunrise is from sunset. The pace is slower, and without a multitude of chain hotels and condos, lodging leans toward small motels and cabins. Homey restaurants serve good food without a hint of pretension. Fishing, boating, canoeing, camping, snowmobiling and water sports are popular with the downstaters who migrate up north to their cabins in the woods and cottages at Houghton and Higgins lakes.
detroit-skyline-winterGrayling is headquarters for many fly-fishers and canoeists who favor the Au Sable River for their recreation. Michigan’s lumbering history is told at Harwick Pines State Park, a peaceful place to see a stand of white pines, the state tree, that are more than 200 years old. Birders flock to the area around the villages of Roscommon and Mio – the only breeding grounds of the rare Kirtland’s warbler. Golfers, too, appreciate the rolling hills of the Gaylord Golf Mecca, a collection of 22 highly regarded courses, including five impressive golf resorts.
With its treacherous Lake Huron waters and eight lights along “Michigan’s Advenshore,” Alpena has become the center of activity for lighthouse lovers and shipwreck divers. Alpena annually hosts the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival in October, and is the home of the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center and “shipwreck alley,” the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve.
Beaches and berries, sand dunes and sunsets, town and country. Southwest Michigan is a mix of agriculture, recreation, city lights and lighthouses. This corner of the Lower Peninsula benefits from Lake Michigan-moderated coastal temperatures and sandy soil, which have made it a productive fruit belt. Ribbons of roads through gently rolling terrain connect orchards and vineyards, roadside stands and wineries, small-town antique stores and laid-back resort areas. Learn about America’s fabulous, historic aircraft at the dynamic Air Zoo in Kalamazoo.
West Central
The Lake Michigan beach towns that continue up the shore are uniquely different beyond the sand and sunsets they share. Holland’s Dutch heritage is obvious in the authentic windmills, wooden shoe factory, acres of tulip fields and the annual Tulip Time Festival. The thrill rides at Muskegon’s Michigan Adventure are in sharp contrast to the quiet beauty of the dunewalks and Gillette Sand Dune Visitor Center at the nearby Hoffmaster State Park. Grand Haven’s boardwalk, Musical Fountain, charter fishing services, specialty shops and colorful stunt kites sailing over crowded beaches are hallmarks of a lively tourist town.
Michigan’s “little finger” area and the northwest region constitute a year-round recreational wonderland, boasting resorts that offer world-class golf in the summer and skiing in the winter. Where logging operations once flourished, recreational fishing, snowmobiling, boating and other four-season sports now thrive – including famed fly-fishing rivers and streams. Traverse City is the hub of the Grand Traverse region, which is known for its cherry orchards and vineyards, resort towns, beaches, fishing villages, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Interlochen Center for the Arts.
Fine dining and shops appear from the Traverse area north to the Victorian-era resort towns of Charlevoix, Petoskey and Harbor Springs, which benefit from beautiful inland lakes and “million dollar sunsets.” This is where Ernest Hemingway spent the summers of his youth. In 1875, the Methodist Church founded Bay View, a summer colony featuring guest lecturers and concerts that are open to the public. The winding “Tunnel of Trees” scenic drive along Lake Michigan is especially beautiful during fall color season. At the tip of the Lower Peninsula the tourist town of Mackinaw City serves as the gateway to Mackinac Island and the Mackinac Bridge and the Upper Peninsula.
Photo, above right: Monarch pines tower over Hartwick Pines State Park. Photo courtesy of Travel Michigan.
Photo above, left: The Detroit skyline in winter. Photo courtesy of Travel Michigan.

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