2021 Year in Review: Our 21 Most Popular Posts
One of my favorite things to do at the end of each year is to look back at which of our posts got the most page views. While we usually have a pretty good idea which of our posts are going to do well there are always a few that surprise us. In 2019 our most popular posts were the news of the White Shoal Lighthouse opening to the public, our Upper Peninsula Brewery Guide, and a look at the second year of Vernors Ginger Ale cans featuring Michigan lighthouses. Last year our top three posts were a look at the Manistique Boardwalk Trail, our Guide to finding Petoskey Stones, and our list of 28 Great Michigan Kayak Trips. Knowing all of this it should be little surprise that lighthouses and kayaking also proved popular in 2021. Quite a few roadside attractions appear on this list too, so we will continue our efforts to visit as many quirky and unique sites as we can on our future travels! Enjoy this look back at the 21 most popular posts our readers enjoyed the most in 2021!
Be sure to check out the rest of our year end coverage as well, with our 100 Favorite Photos of 2021, 21 Michigan Places we visited for the First Time in 2021, and our 2022 Michigan Travel Goals!
21. Mason County Lumber Heritage Trail: Dive Into History at 10+ Sites in Ludington (December 8) – It’s pretty surprising to see a post that’s just three weeks old make an appearance on this list, but everyone seemed to love learning about the Mason County Lumber Heritage Trail. Most of this trail can be found in Ludington, as you visit the mansions built by lumber barons, see the large mausoleums where lumber barons are buried, and visit the lumbering museum at Historic White Pine Village. Fair warning – this isn’t the last time you’ll see content from Ludington on this list!
20. St. Ignace 350th Anniversary: 16 Things To Do in Michigan’s Second Oldest City (January 24) – “Founded by Father Jacques Marquette in 1671, St. Ignace trails only Sault Ste. Marie (1668) as Michigan’s oldest city. Marquette, a French fur trader and explorer, named the settlement after St. Ignatius of Loyola and sent a couple years in the area before joining Louis Joliet on an expedition down the Mississippi River. While it is no longer a center of commerce, St, Ignace is still a busy town in the summer months as it serves as a gateway to both Mackinac Island and the rest of the Upper Peninsula. In 2021, St. Ignace will celebrate its 350th anniversary (Aug. 20-22) and we thought we would help everyone plan their visit.”
19. Is Michigan’s Platte River Campground the Best Campground in America? (July 6) – “Just in time for the last two months of summer, a new set of Reader’s Choice polls are up at 10best.com. Current contests are focused on camping, as they look to find the Best RV Park, Best Campground, Best Glamping Spot, Best Roadside Motel, Best State Park for RVers, Best Trailer Hotel, and Best Luxury RV Resort. One Michigan campground is a finalist for the Best Campground Award, and we definitely agree with its inclusion on this list. The Platte River Campground at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has long been one of our favorites, and now with this vote it has the chance to get even more attention nationally.” Platte River Campground finished 4th in the poll.
18. Michigan Roadside Attractions: Pine Island Drive Bridge (April 27) – We love finding new and unique bridges in Michigan! “The Pine Island Drive Bridge is a rare Michigan example of a reinforced concrete rainbow arch bridge. A type of through arch design. this bridge, built between 1922 and 1924, replaced a steel truss bridge. The low river banks at the crossing of the Rogue River required the supporting trusses to be raised above the bed of the one-hundred-foot span, giving the bridge its unusual form.”
17. Kent County Parks: Our Guide to 40+ Amazing Sites (May 7) – We made it a mission this year to finish visiting every single park in Kent County. Seeing everything these fantastic sites had to offer was amazing! If you’re looking for playgrounds, trails, outdoor recreation, team sports, or even equestrian trails then the Kent County Parks system has you covered. We put a lot of time into this piece and it was great to see it be so well-received.
16. Here are the Six Fee Free Days for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in 2021 (January 2) – We were happy to let everyone know that they could visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore without needing to pay entrance fees on six different days this year. Hopefully some of you took advantage of this and were able to see why Sleeping Bear remains popular. We’ll be back in a month or two to take a look at 2022’s fee free days.
15. Michigan Roadside Attractions: The Russell Snowplow, Calumet (August 2) – “Calumet is home to the headquarters of the Keweenaw National Historic Park and a downtown full of beautiful buildings that date back to the copper mining boom of the late 1800s and early 1900s. There are many landmarks in Calumet that are Keweenaw National Historic Park heritage sites, such as the Calumet Theatre, the Upper Peninsula Firefighters Memorial Museum, the Keweenaw Heritage Center (Ste. Anne’s Church), and the Coppertown USA Mining Museum. In the yard next to Coppertown USA is one of the more interesting pieces of copper mining history – the Calumet and Hecla Russell Snowplow. This orange and black train car is hard to miss and immediately draws the curious passerby in for a closer look.”
14. Lansing Shoal Lighthouse, Lake Michigan (June 27) – We had a blast seeing some hard to get to Michigan lighthouses on a June Shepler’s cruise out of Mackinaw City. One of the two lighthouses we got to see for the first time was the Lansing Shoal Lighthouse. “Lansing Shoal Lighthouse is built on a concrete crib that is 20 feet high and 74 feet square. The house area that was home to a kitchen, dining room, and some crew quarters sits on top of the crib. Centered on top of that is a three story tower topped with a lantern room, giving the lighthouse a total height of 59 feet. A basement under the house that is 69 feet on each side was split in half to make rooms for machinery and crew quarters.”
13. Michigan Roadside Attractions: The US-127 Rest Area in Clare Might Be The Coolest Rest Area in the State (July 17) – “The Michigan Department of Transportation maintains more than 70 rest areas through the state, as well as 14 welcome centers. Rest areas are located on major highways and interstates, while welcome centers are typically located by state borders or near major tourist areas. The Michigan Welcome Center on U.S.-127 in Clare is located in the middle of the Lower Peninsula and is unique for several reasons. It can be accessed from either northbound or southbound U.S.-127/U.S. 10, it is home to a replica Mackinac Bridge, and it is home to the Michigan Transportation Employees Memorial.”
12. Michigan Kayak Trips: Fun on the Flat River (Belding to Fallasburg Park) (March 2) – For the second year in a row, our kayaking posts seemed to attract readers. This post looked at a 15 mile paddle on the Flat River from Belding to Fallasburg Park in Lowell. This is a fairly easy trip on a scenic river, and one dam portage is the only major obstacle.
11. Michigan Kayak Trips: A Relaxing Afternoon Paddle on the Flat River (Fallasburg Park to Lowell) (January 16) – “The Flat River is quite possibly the best river in West Michigan for beginner paddlers to test their kayak skills. We were able to kayak somewhere between 80-100 miles on the Flat last year, and while our favorite stretch of the river was the one featuring two covered bridges we also did longer paddles like Belding to Fallasburg Park and Fallasburg Park to Lowell. Today we focus on the latter, a seven mile trip that is relaxing and scenic. We will share some pictures from this route, a map, and other helpful information. This route features more than a mile of wide open backwater (requiring some harder paddling depending on conditions) that more closely resembles a lake than a river, and there is one dam portage.”
10. A Deeper Look at a Record Breaking 2020 at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (February 27) – “2020 was a year of constant change and constant surprises due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of our national parks saw a decline in attendance. Three National Park Service sites in Michigan, however, saw record visitor numbers as people grew tired of being stuck at home and needed somewhere to go with plenty of space for safe recreation. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore saw a record breaking 2020 as well with number more than 1.7 million visits, and set records in 6 out of 12 months last year. Today we’ll look at those numbers and try and figure out the reasons behind them, while also highlighting some reasons why we think Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a great place for safe recreation as we continue to battle COVID-19.”
9. Pictured Rocks First Timer Guide: 10 Things to See and Do (July 12) – “One of the common questions we get from friends and relatives traveling to the Upper Peninsula centers around what to see and do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We absolutely love this national park and have had many opportunities to explore it. That often makes it hard to give an answer until we know more details like length of trip, mobility concerns, hiking ability, and other preferences. We are always happy to help and I thought it would be a good time to put together a Pictured Rocks First Timers Guide highlighting what we consider to be the 10 “can’t-miss” attractions. This list covers waterfalls, natural formations, beaches, historical attractions, and more. We also tried to make sure that everything on this list is easily accessible (with notes for any stairs or other possible concerns) for visitors of all ages while doing a good job on including a mix of highlights that give the full Pictured Rocks experience.”
8. North Pier Brewing: Michigan Brewer Launches Bored Ape IPA in Celebration of Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT (July 27) – It was impossible to not hear about NFTs this year, and Chris had the chance to interview Jay Fetting of North Pier Brewing in Benton Harbor to find out more about a new beer they launched that highlights Bored Ape NFTs.
7. Michigan Roadside Attractions: Mini Mac Bridge in St. Louis (July 11) – Our absolute favorite roadside attraction we visited this year was the Mini Mac replica bridge in St. Louis. “Much like the Little Mac Bridge in Reed City, this is a Mackinac Bridge replica that is easy to visit and walk across. The pond that serves as a replica Lake Michigan and Lake Huron here is full of fish and turtles, and the land on the other side of the bridge is shaped like the Lower Peninsula. There’s even a replica toll booth! When it comes to roadside attractions that are worth a slight detour, this bridge definitely makes the list!”
6. 12 Great Kent County Parks for Winter Recreation (January 10) – We started the year off by taking some winter hikes through Kent County Parks and put together a guide that highlights winter recreation opportunities in and around the Grand Rapids area. Hiking, sledding, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and more are options at these fantastic parks!
5. Two Munising Waterfalls Will Be Closed for the 2021 Season (May 8) – “At the end of April, The Michigan Nature Association announced it was closing the Twin Waterfalls Memorial Plant Preserve beginning May 5th. Tannery Falls and Memorial Falls are both found in this preserve, which has access points off of Nestor St. and H-58. While it is a bummer that we won’t be able to visit these two waterfalls during a second summer of people looking for ways to socially distance outdoors (and with Tannery Falls getting some love on TikTok), we understand the need for improvements to the trail here and can’t wait to see what it looks like once it re-opens!”
4. The Mason County Sculpture Trail: 20 Works of Art in Ludington and Beyond (April 18) – “Ludington is a popular all-seasons destination on Michigan’s Lake Michigan shoreline, with visitors coming to see the lighthouses, hike the trails, enjoy downtown’s shopping and dining, and more. The city hosts parts of six different cultural trails that cover Mason County, including the Mason County Sculpture Trail. Ludington’s Waterfront Park hosts nine of the sculptures on this trail, and of the 20-plus total pieces that are currently part of the trail all but four of them are located in the downtown area.”
3. Awakon Park in Onaway is a Sculpture Park That’s Worth the Detour (June 26) – “Onaway is a small city (less than 1,000 residents) in northeast Michigan that is home to one of the coolest roadside attractions we’ve found in the Lower Peninsula. Awakon Park is home to the sculptures of Tom Moran and a walking trail that winds through the ruins of the American Wood Rim Company. This wonderful park is free to everyone and offers a look back into Onaway’s history. We had the chance to visit recently while staying in the Cheboygan area, and loved everything about this park. It may not have quite as many sculptures as Lakenenland in the Upper Peninsula, but the combination of sculpture art, history, and accessible old ruins made this an instant favorite.” We were glad to have the chance to visit Awakon Park when we did, as we saw rumors later in the summer that the artwork has been removed by Mr. Moran due to consistent vandalism.
2. Michigan Roadside Attractions: The Three Oaks Dewey Cannon (July 25) – We were surprised with how popular this post ended up being, but were happy that many people were interested in this piece of American war history in Southwest Michigan. “The Michigan historical marker in the park reads: “This cannon, captured in the Spanish-American War by Admiral Dewey, was presented to Three Oaks when its citizens raised $1,400 for a memorial to the men of the battleship Maine. This was the largest contribution, per capita, of any community in the nation. “Three Oaks Against the World,” a local paper proudly boasted. This park was dedicated October 17, 1899, by President William McKinley, and others.”
1. Ludington North Breakwater Lighthouse, Lake Michigan (March 4) – The top post of the year passed the Three Oaks Dewey Cannon by the slimmest of margins. We love sharing our knowledge and photos of Michigan lighthouses, as the passion for them was the catalyst for all Michigan exploring we have done in the past 20 years. We spent a lot of time in Ludington this year, and everyone seemed to love reading about the Ludington North Breakwater Lighthouse. “The lighthouse is a square pyramidal steel-plated tower. It is painted white with a black base and black lantern room, and it stands 57 feet tall. It now houses a fog signal and an acrylic optic light, but you can see its original Fourth Order Fresnel lens at the Historic White Pine Village Museum. One unique feature of this light is the prow-like structure underneath it, which helps break waves. Ludington was once a big lumber-producing town, and while the type of vessel visiting the harbor these days has changed it still stays busy with fishing boats and recreational vessels.”