2017 Year In Review: 17 New Places We Visited This Year
One of our goals each year is to try and visit as many “new to us” places in Michigan as we possibly can. Despite this being one of the busiest years we’ve had in awhile (weddings, work, etc.) and having some unexpected weather setbacks on multiple vacations, we still made the best of our limited exploration time and managed to experience some great things in our state for the first time. As 2017 winds to a close, we’ve already started planning a few of our trips for 2018 and they are full of new places and old favorites. For now, here’s a look at 17 New Places We Visited This Year, the first installment in our 2017 Year In Review series.
Sturgeon Falls – We love waterfalls, and thankfully we were able to cross a handful of new ones off the list this year. The hike to Sturgeon Falls in the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness was both fun and challenging, but we were rewarded with seeing a powerful, wild waterfall in an untouched setting with few other people around. This 25 foot tall waterfall is located near Baraga in the Upper Peninsula.
Slate River Falls – Another new waterfall we visited in 2017 is Slate River Falls, a 25 foot drop near L’Anse in Baraga County. After several previous efforts had seen us turn back due to wet conditions or poor trails, we finally made our way to this secluded waterfalls back in June. There are several other drops on the river above Slate River Falls, and we hope to make it back soon to try and reach all of them too.
Lower Hungarian Falls – One of our favorite spots in the Keweenaw Peninsula is Hungarian Falls, a set of waterfalls near Hubbell. While it’s easy enough to make the short hike to the upper falls and both sets of middle falls, getting a view from below the lower falls had eluded us until this year. There is no formal trail, and downed trees and muddy slopes had turned us away before but in June we powered through the mud and brush to finally take in some views of this majestic 50 foot waterfall. Lower Hungarian Falls is definitely a place we will be returning to in drier conditions in coming years.
Old Nation Brewing Co. – The beer that took Michigan by storm in 2016 was M-43, a hazy, juicy, New England style IPA from Williamston’s Old Nation Brewing Co. In August, we made a trip to the brewery to pick up a case of Boss Tweed, a highly sought after double NEIPA released much less often than M-43. We were impressed with the attentive and knowledgable service at the bar despite how busy it was, and in addition to the IPAs (M-43, Boxer, Greenstone APA and Boss Tweed) we also loved the Sanders Chocolate Stout. This is a must-visit for any Michigan beer lover!
New Union Brewery – We made our first visit to Lowell’s New Union Brewery in February, roughly two months after they had opened. After sampling a flight of some pretty impressive beers, the standouts for us were the Midnight Blackberry Wheat, Dark Roast Coffee Porter, and the Flat River Red Imperial. The beer here continues to impress us as we’ve returned about once a month this year. New Union is a participating brewery in the Grand Rapids Beer City Brewsader Passport Program, and they frequently release barrel-aged versions of their flagship beers.
Rare Bird Brewpub – We made a few trips to Traverse City this year, continuing to work our way through the Traverse City Ale Trail. One of the standouts for us was Rare Bird Brewpub, an awesome establishment in the city’s “Old Town” district that brews their own beer and also carries popular brews from around the country. We enjoyed the Large Marge Belgian Special, Abuelitas Hot Coco, and VaJaHa Blonde Ale, and were pretty impressed with the food offerings as well.
Hop Lot Brewing Company – We finally made it to Hop Lot Brewing Company this summer, and found it incredibly busy. Home to what is without a doubt the best outdoor beer garden in Northern Michigan, Hop Lot offers up some tasty food and solid beers like the Leelanau Exchange (Russian Imperial Stout) and Norseman (IPA). If you’re in the Traverse City area to visit breweries, you’ll definitely want to make the short drive north to Suttons Bay to check this place out!
Detroit Fall Beer Festival – We’ve been fortunate enough to get to attend both the MBG Winter Beer Festival (Comstock Park) and Barry County Brewfest (Middleville, Freeport) the last two years, but this year we got to take in a new festival – the Michigan Brewers Guild Detroit Fall Beer Festival. Held at the Eastern Market, this great two-day event allowed us to sample brews from breweries on the east side of the state. The venue is perfect for the challenging conditions a fall event can present, and we look forward to making it back to this event in the coming years.
Ontonagon Lighthouse Tour – On several visits to the western Upper Peninsula, we had viewed the Ontonagon Lighthouse from across the river. In June, we were finally able to time a visit right so that we could join one of the lighthouse tours that departs from the Ontonagon County Historical Museum. There’s a lot to learn on this roughly two-hour guided tour of an 1867 “schoolhouse-style” lighthouse. It was great to finally be able to visit the lighthouse grounds and climb the tower, and we got much better photos than the distant ones we previously had!
Point Betsie Lighthouse Tour – While this is one of our most-visited Lake Michigan lighthouses, we had unfortunately never timed a visit right to have the museum and lighthouse open for tours. We got lucky and caught the Point Betsie Lighthouse open on a late fall weekend visit, and we were finally able to climb the tower, tour the lighthouse grounds, and learn more about this important maritime facility. Check out our Point Betsie Lighthouse Tour Photo Gallery to see some of our favorite pictures.
Copper Harbor Lighthouse – We had planned to take the Copper Harbor Lighthouse Tour boat out for a close-up view of this 1866 lighthouse on Lake Superior. After learning that tours are currently not offered due to the lack of a contractor, we took our own kayaks out to the lighthouse instead. Calm waters made for a quick and easy trip, and having the whole place to ourselves was a cool experience. The amount of information signage and well-preserved artifacts out here was impressive, and we remain hopeful that someone eventually steps up to resume operations. It is possible to get a distant view of this lighthouse from the shore near Fort Wilkins, as we had done many times before.
Soo Locks Boat Tours – It’s pretty amazing that in our 20+ years of visiting Sault Ste. Marie, we had never done the “tourist thing” and taken a Soo Locks Boat Tour until this year. In June, we hopped aboard for one of the extended lighthouse trips, which takes passengers through the Soo Locks and out to Point Iroquois Lighthouse. We loved getting to see freighters like the Manitoulin up close, and the narration during the cruise taught us a lot of things we didn’t know. Going through the locks is a pretty awesome experience, and one of these cruises is a great trip for anyone who is a fan of freighters and Great Lakes shipping.
USS Silversides Submarine Museum – Just last month we had the chance to tour the World War II submarine USS Silversides, which is located in Muskegon. Admission to the USS Silversides Submarine Museum includes a tour of the sub, access to the retired U.S. Coast Guard cutter McLane, and all of the exhibits located inside the museum building. This is an impressive museum for anyone interested in military history, and getting to see the inside of a submarine that sank 23 vessels during WWII is a memorable experience.
Michigan Iron Industry Museum – Another museum that we visited for the first time this year was the Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee. Located near the site of the first iron forge in the Lake Superior region, this museum offers displays and artifacts dealing with every aspect of mining in Michigan. We learned a lot about the life and working conditions of miners, as well as the major differences between mining in the 1900s and modern mining. Check out our Michigan Iron Industry Museum Photo Gallery for more pictures.
State Park Mini Cabins – We’ve been camping in Michigan state parks for nearly 30 years, and up until this year all of our visits had involved a tent. For a late fall trip to Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula we decided to try out the state park system’s mini-cabins (Otsego Lake State Park, Brimley State Park, Van Riper State Park) to make sure we didn’t have any weather-related setbacks. These cabins feature two bunk beds, a mini fridge, and more, and they helped us stay dry and warm. With a price point between a tent campsite and a cheaper motel, these mini-cabins are one of the best bargains we’ve come across.
20 Monroe Live – In early 2017 we got a new music venue here in Grand Rapids, 20 Monroe Live. Located across from Van Andel Arena in the heart of downtown, this venue has been able to bring shows on par with Detroit’s The Fillmore. We made it to a handful of events this year, and we’re pretty happy that we now have a venue of this size this close to home.
Otsego Lake State Park – On our late fall visit to Northern Michigan, we spent a night at one of the mini-cabins at Otsego Lake State Park near Gaylord. A morning walk through the park revealed why this is such a popular spot in the summer – multiple beaches, great water access, a disc golf course, playground and more. It was also interesting to learn that this was where in 1942, Dr. Arthur H. Compton and Dr. Robert Oppenheimer met at the present beach to discuss the atomic bomb they were developing