50 Ways to Love Your Summer

June 23, 2010

Mealtickets hometown highlights graphic

Don’t waste a moment of your Up North summer


The 97 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day will fly by before we know it. So I decided to start early and make a list. A list of 50 ways to love my summer. These are some of my favorite ways to enjoy Traverse City and the surrounding area at it’s peak season.



1.  Get a barrel of popcorn drizzled in real butter, stretch out on a lawn chair and watch a drive-in movie at the Cherry Bowl in Honor.


2.  Enjoy a heaping scoop ice cream at Moomers, while watching the cows graze at sunset. Preferably Chocolate Cookie Monster in a chocolate dipped waffle cone to be exact. But Cherries Moobilee is good too.


3.  Attend a student performance at Interlochen Center for the Arts. Collage is a great way to see it all, but I love the high school musicals.


4.  Watch the marine traffic come and go while you sip a cocktail on the deck at Scott’s Harbor Grill. Cloaked in a cool breeze at sunset, or enjoying the sun on your shoulders at lunchtime, Scott’s deck is my favorite.


5.  Savor a simple homebaked snack. Pick-up a loaf of Pleasanton Bakery‘s parmesan olive bread and savor it in bite-sized pieces torn from the warm loaf. It’s great plain, but I like mine dipped in Fustini’s olive oils and balsamic vinegars.


6.  Wrap up the week with an evening at Friday Night Live in downtown Traverse City. Buy a balloon, enjoy live music, have your face painted. A perfect place to be a kid again…or bring one.


7.  Discover amazing artists as you tour a local art fair. I never miss the Frankfort art fair in August, but not just for the art. I’m in love with the chicken dinners they cook in the park. Best Chicken EVER!


8.  Visit a vineyard and sip the fruits of Old Mission or Leelanau peninsula on a wine tour. On Old Mission I like to start at 2 Lads Winery and work my way back. On Leelanau you better make two trips!


9.  Fill a basket with fresh picked fruit straight from the orchard. Stop at a U-Pick farm for a hands-on experience or pull up to a roadside stand and select from nature’s best.


10. Cast a line on the Boardman River for trout or reel in a Lake Michigan salmon on a charter fishing trip. Try Hammerhead in Frankfort or Outta Line in Traverse City.


11.  Walk the shores of Lake Michigan and search for petoskey stones and Leland blue stone.


12.  Hop on a boat or a jet ski and ride out to where the deep water lives, clear and blue green as far as the eyes can see…and dive in!


13. Eat your fill of fresh sweet corn. Nobody beats Hall’s farm on North Long Lake Road in Traverse City.


14. Ride the train at the old Clinch Park zoo. Let the whistle fill your ears as you absorb the smiles of young and old around you.


15. Visit a lighthouse for an historic trip back in time. Point Betsie near Frankfort is the most photographed, but I’m looking forward to a trip back to South Manitou Island. That is, if I can brave the spiral stairs again.


16.  Love fudge–watch it made, cooked in copper and turned on a cold marble slab, at Murdick’s Fudge Shoppe. Peanut butter, you’re calling my name.


17.  Take a behind-the-scenes tour. Whether you’re a foodie, a vodka lover or wine geek there’s a tour to be had if you ask. Learn Great Foods will organize one or stop in Grand Traverse Distillery or Bel Lago Winery and they’ll show you the sites.


18.  Spend a day at the beach wireless and free, with a book and your favorite beverage.


19.  Eat cherries everyday! OK, maybe not everyday, but come on this is cherry country people. Check out The Cherry Stop for dozens of ways to quench your cherry cravings.


20.  Make a day trip drive along M-22 from Elberta to Northport and back to Traverse City. Stop to eat, shop and take photos along the way.


21.  Grab an early bird dinner at The Manitou Restaurant. No skimping. Start with the skinny dippers and finish with blueberry raspberry pie.


22.  Watch the sunset sink below the horizon from a beach towel on the sand.


23.  Park and walk a mile to the beach for spectacular Fourth of July fireworks. Come early to dig a pit in the sand for reclined viewing, or bring a cozy chair.


24.  Spend a day at the festival. Which one? Readers choice. There’s Cherry Festival, Film Festival, Jazz Festival and a Microbrew and Music Festival, you can’t go wrong.


25.  Climb the Sleeping Bear Dunes and run down as fast as your feet can carry you. If you’re not scraping sand from your scalp before bed then you didn’t have enough fun.


26.  Dine al fresco on a downtown street and people watch. Umbrella tables at Hanna are popular. If you prefer a water view check out Apache Trout Grill or Knot Just a Bar.


27.  Dance in the rain like nobody’s watching – preferably with a child. They’ll wonder what’s got into you.


28.  Photograph the everyday special places, people and things in your life. It’s not the parties and holidays that spark nostalgia but the details of summer memories past.


29.  Build a bonfire on the beach and make s’mores. Eat until your fingers are sticky, the chocolate is gone and only broken graham crackers remain.


30.  Play a sport on the lawn. Badmitten, croquet, bocce or new favorites like ring toss and bean bag games make fun family competitions a must-do for summer.


31.  Thump your paddle like Hiawatha on the floor of a Riverside canoe as you navigate the Platte River. When you make it to the mouth spend an hour playing in the current.


32.  Make par on a golf course. Mine will have to be mini golf at Pirates Cove, but if you’re up to the challenge of the real deal try Mistwood in Lake Ann. Or help celebrate 25 years at The Bear at the Grand Traverse Resort.


33. Spend a hot day at a cool pool. My kids love the outdoor waterpark at Crystal Mountain. Or you could ride a slide at Fun Country or Pirates Cove.


34. Try a new restaurant – either new to you or new to town. Check out Soul Hole in downtown Traverse City or Mission Table on Old Mission Peninsula.


35.  Shop the farmer’s markets, snack from your purchase as you move vendor to vendor in support of local agriculture.


36.  Drink riesling. OK, it’s my favorite and I suppose you could choose another wine. But before you decide, try a flight at Uncorked and I know you’ll walk away with one you like. Or just buy the t-shirt at Left Foot Charley and support the riesling movement in theory.


37.  Explore the old state hospital grounds inside the Grand Traverse Commons, also known as The Village. Sip wine at Tastes of Black Star Farms, Have an Underground Cheescake on a stick and end up at Stellas for dinner.


38.  Watch a movie at The State Theatre in Traverse City or The Garden in Frankfort. Restored classic theatres where the movies are great, and so are the prices.


39.  Eat a boom chunka cookie on the patio at Cherry Republic on a trip to Glen Arbor. Stop by Art’s Tavern for a delicious burger. Discover the beautiful jewelry at Becky Thatcher Designs. And for a real treat, dinner at Blu. The best fine dining around.


40.  Drink where the locals drink. Grab at pint at Right Brain Brewery among their mug-toting members. Perhaps something with an unusual ingredient like basil or wasabi.


41.  Walk the pier to the Frankfort lighthouse, preferably on a foggy evening when the light streams out in rays, or early morning when the anglers are casting and waiting for the bite to begin.


42.  Take a slow boat ride along the shore. Get a new perspective of the cottages along the lakeshore. Sailboat, paddleboat or pontoon, whatever works. No boat? How about a ride on the Tall Ship or the Nauticat in Traverse City or a Dunes Cruise in Frankfort.


43.  Walk and shop your way through Fishtown in Leland. Pick up some smoked whitefish at Carlsons Fish Market or a pretzel bread sandwich from the Village Cheese Shanty. And for dinner, don’t miss The Bluebird–with my favorite pea & peanut salad.


44.  Spend a rainy day at the bowling alley. Wilderness Crossings is the perfect place to entertain the kiddos when the sun is hiding. Bowling, glow golf, arcades and a restaurant for mom and dad.


45.  Swim in a river. Let the current pull you along as you try to keep you bottom off the bottom. Relax and drift as the water sweeps your cares away.


46.  Bike or walk a beautiful trail. Check out the TART trail in Traverse City or the Betsie Valley Trail that winds from Elberta all the way to Crystal Mountain.


47.  Vintage treasures are waiting. Shop for flea market finds or antiques. From the Cherryland Antique Mall and Red Dresser in Traverse City to the Emporium in Beulah, your shabby chic find awaits.


48.  Leave footprints in the sand. Take off your shoes and feel the grainy wet sand massage your toes with every step.


49.  Read a book on the beach. I look forward to the new Janet Evanovich novel every summer. Need a good local read? Try The Bookstore in Frankfort, Brilliant Books in Suttons Bay or Horizon Books in Traverse City.


50.  Take a nap. Lie in a hammock until you drift off with the breeze, stretch out on a beach towel or nod off in an adorondack chair. Rest and relax. It’s summer.

What are the 5 Most Common Items Hotels Guests Leave Behind?

June 15, 2010

Mealtickets hotel survey imageDigging Around in the Lost and Found

How many times do you check your belongings, dig through suitcases and peruse the room before closing the hotel door on the final day of vacation? If you’re anything like me, about a dozen. And yet, we still leave important items behind.

When I was a child we traveled often on weekends for my father’s business as an event promoter. Late night check-ins and early morning dashes to the van to get back on the road meant we often left essential items behind in our hotel room. Not on purpose of course, but it’s bound to happen when you’re in a hurry, or if you travel often enough.

A recent trip with my dad brought back memories of those excursions. And I started to wonder. What are the most common items hotel guests leave behind when they visit Northern Michigan?

Since I just happen to work with over 60 hotels in the Traverse City area, I thought I’d take a little survey and report the results.



The 5 most common items Northern Michigan hotel guests leave behind

#5  Swim suits

#4  Toiletries (shampoo, toothpaste, razors, etc.)

#3  Pillows

#2  Clothes

#1  Cell phone chargers


I’m sure the number one answer comes as no surprise. In fact, cell phone chargers are the number one item left behind in hotels worldwide. A study last year by Holiday Inn and Holiday Express in the UK revealed 42,000 cell phone chargers left behind in their hotels in one year. What’s more surprising is their collective value: nearly $1 million!


What Else Did They Leave?

Forget the most common items, what’s more entertaining is discovering what area visitors forgot in the closet, stashed in the safe and inexplicably left behind. Our survey of Traverse City area hotels revealed several stories, ranging from the odd to the downright embarrassing. Here’s our list of the top five.


Top 5 Most Unusual Items Hotel Guests Left Behind

#5  Adult toys
As you might expect, underwear and lingerie are often discovered after check-out. And more than a few hotels reported adult toys among the mix. We’ll spare you the EEEW factor and other details. This is a family-friendly website after all.

#4  False teeth
OK, I understand that you have to remove them for cleaning, and could accidentally leave them behind in a glass on the sink or something. But honestly, how do you forget them? And how often do you leave them behind that you can’t remember the last time you had them??

#3  A walker
Discovering a walker accidently misplaced, or folded neatly in the closet may not be all that unexpected. But finding one sitting in the parking lot at the center of a handicapped space gives it a ranking on my strange-o-meter. As Alanis says, "isn’t it ironic?"

#2  A police-issue 9mm handgun
Placed in the safe for security it was left behind. Unfortunately for the officer, that’s a big no-no. The hotel reported it and the officer got in big trouble with the department.

#1  Cremated urn of ashes
This one I just can’t paraphrase. An anonymous hotel found, "An urn of cremated ashes, yes of a person. When contacted the son said ‘throw him in the dumpster’. We tracked down a daughter who was happy to accept." Strangely enough that same survey respondant also listed "human leg and hip bones from a doctor who does replacement surgeries." Truth is stranger than fiction.


How to Keep Your Items out of the Lost and Found

It seems to me, we have all need to spend a few extra minutes packing and double-checking before we leave behind something essential…or embarassing.

Mealtickets vacation checklist imageOn that note I’ve created this handy Mealtickets Vacation Checklist to aid in your travel packing.

Click here to download our packing checklist for your next trip.

Staple it inside your suitcase, tuck it in your purse or duct tape it to your tailgate if you have to. Whatever works for you.


Have a great Up North Michigan vacation this summer. And may you, and your belongings, make it home safely.



Free Fishing Weekend 6/12 – 6/13

June 11, 2010

Salmon fishing in Lake Michigan photo Get Your ‘Fish On’ this Weekend


Fishing is a great way to enjoy the beautiful lakes and rivers up North. And this weekend, June 12-13,  there’s no fee to fish. Michigan residents and out-of-town visitors can enjoy 2 days of fee-free fishing for all species. Fishing regulations still apply, but there is no license required thanks to the Department of Natural Resources Free Fishing Weekend. Twice a year the DNR offers free fishing weekends to encourage everyone to pick up a rod and cast for the "big one".


So whether you’re camping and want to cast a line with the kids, or you prefer to hop aboard a charter for some big lake action, this is the perfect weekend to get the fishing bug. I say, "Fish On!"



Colanta Walker Dairy Festival at The Village

June 11, 2010

Colantha Walker Dairy Festival logoA Day of Celebration for one Fabulous, Famous Cow


In the 1920s the star resident of the State Hospital in Traverse City was none other than a prize heifer named Colantha. At the time, the average milk production for a dairy cow was just under 4,000 lbs. And then along came a cow named Colantha whose record production in 1926 was 22,918 lbs in one year!

She was so revered by the residents and staff that upon her death a huge party was held in her honor and a special headstone carved in her memory. Now, with a new community developing at the Village, they want to bring that celebratory spirit back in her honor.


The first annual Colatha Walker Dairy Festival will take place on Sunday, June 13th in The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Celebrate the famous cow with fun, food and special events in her honor.


Festival Schedule
10am-Noon Pancake Breakfast
10am-3pm Farmers Market
10am-7pm Food, Art & Merch Vendors
Noon-1pm Public Parade to Colantha’s Headstone @ Barns
1pm-7pm Live Music (Sister Wilene et al)
2pm-3:30pm Great Grilled Cheese Grill-off
5pm-7pm Street Dance

There will also be Food Demonstrations, Wagon Rides, Kid’s Activities, Wine & Cheese Pairings along with Milk & Cookie Pairings for the kids, thoughout the day!


For more details, check out www.thevillagetc.com.

Fee-Free Dates at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park

June 2, 2010

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park climbEnjoy the Dunes Fee-Free on National Trails Day


Did you know there are several fee-free dates each year at over 100 National Parks? It just so happens this weekend is one of them. So there’s no better time to get out and explore the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

2010 Fee Free Days

  • April 17-25, 2010 (National Park Week)
  • June 5 & 6, 2010 (National Trails Day)
  • August 14 & 15, 2010 
  • September 25, 2010 (National Public Lands Day) 
  • November 11, 2010 (Veterans Day) 

Fee waiver includes: entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tour, concession, and fees collected by thrid parties are not included unless stated otherwise.


My son’s class took a field trip last week to see a beaver lodge located inside the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, near Otter Creek. We first stopped at the visitor’s center to learn about the Park and explore the exhibits. If you haven’t been to the Sleeping Bear Dunes visitor’s center in Empire I’d highly recommend it, whether you’re a first time park visitor or a regular. They have wonderful books for sale about northern Michigan wildlife, wildflowers and even tips on hunting morels. And their exhibits include examples of the trees, flowers and animals that call Sleeping Bear home. Take the time to watch their movie presentation if you have a chance. It’s full of stunning photography of this beautiful landscape in every season.


I hope you’ll take advantage of a fee-free day this year and explore the beauty in our backyard.

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