My Mitten List is my bucket list of all the places I want to visit, things I want to do, the food I want to eat, and, of course, all the beer I want to drink in Michigan.
You know, because Michigan is shaped like a mitten. And because winter takes up five months of the year, so I’m pretty much wearing mittens all the time.
In and Around Kalamazoo
I’ve seen most of the touristy stuff in Kalamazoo already. (Yes, we DO have touristy stuff here. Kind of.) But there are a few things I have yet to do/see/eat/drink in my new hometown. Here they are:
- Take a tour of Bell’s Brewery. Seriously, why have I not done this, already?
- Ride in the Banana Car. This is actually a thing that exists.
- Visit the Reindeer Ranch. Resist the urge to buy a reindeer.
- Go on a West Michigan Beer Tour. Again, why haven’t I done this already?
- Visit The Gilmore Car Museum and Midwest Miniatures Museum. Honestly, I only really care about the miniatures museum, but it’s inside the car museum, so I guess I should go to both. Cars I could take or leave, but all that teeny, tiny dollhouse furniture and those itty, bitty plates and stuff just KILL me.
- Take a day trip to historic Marshall, Michigan. See all the old-timey stuff. Drink at Dark Horse Brewing Company.
- See a show at the Barn Theatre. You guys, it’s a THEATER IN A BARN!
- Visit The Historic Adventist Village and Dr. John Harvey Kellogg Discovery Center. Not only was Dr. Kellogg the co-inventor of corn flakes (along with his brother), he was also a medical doctor and ran a sanitarium, where he tested out some really, umm, interesting health treatment ideas. I’ve been dying to go to the Discovery Center to find out more about them.
Grand Rapids & Environs
I only live an hour away from Grand Rapids, Michigan’s second largest city, and home to ALL THE BEER, which means it’s the perfect place for day trips. And beer runs.
- Visit the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park at least once every season. So far I’ve only been there in the winter, and it was SPECTACULAR. I bet it’s SUPER SPECTACULAR when you can actually feel your toes.
- Visit the Meyer May House, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. I’ve seen a few of Wright’s buildings in Buffalo, so I feel the need to compare and contrast.
- Check out the Grand Rapids Fish Ladder. You guys, it’s a LADDER THAT FISH CAN CLIMB. I really don’t understand this either.
- Attend an Opera Grand Rapids performance. Because I can be fancy-pants and cultural at times.
- Go to ALL THE BREWERIES in Grand Rapids. So far, I’ve only been to Founder’s and Brewery Vivant. I think there are like eleventy-jillion others in the city that I need to go to.
- Get up close and personal with Holland’s Lighthouse, The Big Red. I’ve seen it from afar, but I super-duper want to walk up to the lighthouse and/or take a tour of the inside.
Ann Arbor & Around
Everyone keeps telling me that I’ll love Ann Arbor, but I haven’t really spent any time there yet. I’m looking forward to hitting up these hotspots when I get around to going there:
- Visit the Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum. Preferably in the fall. Because there isn’t anything I love more than walking around on crunchy leaves.
- So, apparently, there are these little tiny fairy doors all over Ann Arbor. You guys, FAIRY DOORS!!!! DOORS FOR FAIRIES!!! GAHHHHHH!!!!
- Go to Zingerman’s. Eat all the food.
- Go to Jolly Pumpkin. Drink all the beer.
- Go to an old-timey drive-up fast food restaurant like Kluck’s Drive-in or Chick Inn Drive-in.
- Tour the Chelsea Milling Company, home of Jiffy Mix. I grew up making Jiffy Mix brownies and thinking I was a brownie-baking genius. When I found out they do tours of the factory, I knew I had to go for nostalgia’s sake. And because I hear they give out free samples.
Detroit & Dearborn
I visited Detroit in December of 2014 and LOVED it. Really. Here are all the places on my list to visit the next times I go back. Because there will definitely be a lot more next times!
- Go to the Motown Museum, and belt out some “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” in the recording both.
- Go to a professional sporting event, either with the Lions, the Tigers or the Red Wings. Preferably the Red Wings as hockey is the only sport I can kind of understand.
- Take a tour of the Fisher Building. Because PREEEEETTTTYY!
- Get my history on at the Detroit Historical Society.
- I love big food and vegetable markets like Eastern Market. I visited the market briefly on a Sunday the last time I was there, but I want to visit on a Saturday when the market is in full swing.
- Experience the Underground Railroad Living Museum, where you get to experience what it was like to be a runaway slave. They even put you in shackles!
- Go on an abandoned buildings tour. I know these tours are really controversial (and not particularly legal), but seeing photos like these really makes me want to go on one.
- Go on a Motor City Bike and Brew Tour. Their motto is: “Learn about Detroit history. Get rewarded with beer.” Sounds like my kind of tour!
- Eat at Buddy’s Pizza.
- Visit the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. Actually I went to Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village this past December and it was AMAAAZING, but I didn’t have any time to go into the Museum, and I only got to see a handful of the historic buildings in the Village, as I was too busy eating old-timey food and drinking old-timey beer. I need to go back and spend a lot more time exploring the museum and village… and, you know, eating more old-timey food and drinking more old-timey beer.
- Visit the Arab American Museum and go on a Culinary Walking Tour. Because I want ALL THE SHAWARMA IN MY FACE RIGHT NOW.
Here are a few other cities and places I want to visit in the Great Lakes State:
- Jackson. So I can check out the illuminated Cascades fountain at Sparks County Park and go on a Historic Prison Tour .
- Hell. So I can say I went to Hell.
- Bad Axe. I have absolutely no idea what there is to do in Bad Axe, or if there even is anything to do in Bad Axe, I just like the name.
- Bay City. So I can go to a traditional Japanese tea ceremony at the Japanese Cultural Center, check out the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum, and see a little bit of Lake Huron, which I feel is the underdog of the Great Lakes. I mean, seriously. When’s the last time you ever heard anything about Lake Huron?
- Old Mission Peninsula. Mostly so I can get really sloshed on wine.
- ALL THE PLACES in the Upper Peninsula. I’ve been a few places already, but I still need to hit Porcupine Mountains, Isle Royale National Park, Soo Locks, Keweenaw Peninsula, the city of Marquette. Also, I want to eat ALL THE PASTIES.
Festivals & Other Fun Stuff
Michigan has a lot of festivals. Like, A LOT. Seriously, you guys. This is just a small portion of the fifty-jillion festivals that exist in this state:
- The Red Flannel Festival in Cedar Springs. I have read the website for this festival at least a dozen times, and I still can’t figure out what it’s about. I think it’s just an excuse to walk around in public in red flannel footie pajamas. I can get behind that.
- The Battle Creek Cereal Festival, home of the World’s Longest Breakfast Table. Because I’m such a sucker for anything that’s world longest/biggest/most ridiculous.
- One of the several potato festivals in the state, like this one or this one.
- One of these three hot air balloon festivals: The Battle Creek Air Show and Balloon Festival, Jackson’s Hot Air Jubilee, or the Michigan Challenge Balloonfest in Howell.
- The Michigan ElvisFest in Ypsilanti. BECAUSE ELVIS!
- A lumberjack festival. BECAUSE LUMBERJACKS!
- The Michigan Pirate Festival. BECAUSE PIRATES!
- The Dickens Festival in Holly. I’ve already been practicing my “bah humbugs.”
- The Civil War battle reenactment in Jackson. I’ve never been to a war reenactment, and I’m really interested in going.
- A winter or snow festival, like Zehnder’s Snowfest in Frankenmuth, Grand Haven Winterfest or the North American Snow Festival in Cadillac. Hey, if I’m going to live through five months of winter every year, I might as well celebrate, right?
- The Summer, Winter or Fall Beer Festival. Or, you know, all three of them.
- A film festival, like The Traverse City Film Festival or the South Haven Waterfront Film Festival. I’m going to walk around in big sunglasses and pretend like I’m a famous actress.
- A tour of Manistee’s ghost ship. Everything about this TERRIFIES me, but I still really want to go.
- A storytelling festivals, like this one in Flint, or this one in Jackson, or this one right here in Kalamazoo. It’s like a real-live podcast, you guys!
- Maple Syrup Festival in Shepherd. I want to celebrate maple syrup SO BAD.
- Go on a fall color train tour. Fall and trains, you guys! Those are two of my favorite things!
- The Art and Apples Festival in Rochester. Art and apples, you guys! Those are two more of my favorite things!
- PastyFest in Calumet. A festival in honor of those delicious hand-pies? Sign me up!
- LaughFest in Grand Rapids. Because laughing is my favorite!
It’s Michigan. People are really outdoorsy here. I feel I should be the same way, even if it kills me. (It will probably kill me.)
- Snowshoeing. I’m not a huge fan of winter sports in general as they usually involve my strapping myself to some dangerously slippery surface. But snowshoeing is something I can get behind. I mean it’s just walking, right?
- Ice fishing. I kind of hate fishing and I really hate ice, so I suspect I’ll last all of five minutes doing this. But at least I can say I tried it!
- Go dog sledding. I’ve already started practicing saying “mush” really loudly.
- Stay in a yurt. Haven’t you always wanted to stay in a yurt? I know I have!
- Hike the Silver Lake Sand Dunes. Because, apparently, I have yet to learn that I hate hiking sand dunes even though I keep on doing it over and over again and hating it.
- Go backpack-camping. I took a couple solo camping trips last year, which may sound hardcore, but it was actually really easy-peasy. I car-camped, so I basically just filled up my car with anything and everything I might need, and then drove up to my site and unloaded it all. Plus, I stayed at state parks, where I had electricity and functioning restrooms. Honestly, the hardest thing I had to do was put up with with the crazy drunken partiers in the campsite next to me. I would like to try backpack-camping where I actually have to put all my gear on my back and walk somewhere with it. Don’t ask me where. Preferably some place that doesn’t have any bears that want to eat me.
- Go winter camping. Like in the snow in a tent and stuff. STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE I’M CRAZY.
- Do a couple long bike rides on one of the rails to trails paths. Two I really want to do: the Kal-Haven Trail from Kalamazoo to South Haven and the Pere Marquette from Midland to Clare.
- Go morel hunting. I never heard of a morel before I moved to Michigan, where they are all about these funny-looking mushrooms. They even have a National Morel Mushroom Festival, which I probably really need to go to.
- Volunteer as as an assistant lighthouse keeper. THIS IS ACTUALLY A THING YOU CAN DO!
- Stargaze at Headlands, an International Dark Sky Park. Oh, you guys, this sounds SO COOL!
Past Mitten List Adventures
Wondering what places/things/food/beer, I’ve already checked off my Mitten List? Here are links to the posts I’ve written about my past Michigan experiences. Enjoy!
- ArtPrize in Grand Rapids
- Survive a tornado
- South Haven Lighthouse
- Grand Rapids Public Museum
- Tulip Time Festival in Holland
- The National Asparagus Festival in Hart
- Sleeping Bear Dunes: Both that time I hiked the dunes and the time I wised up and drove the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
- The National Cherry Festival in Traverse City
- Saugatuck Dunes Ride
- The North Pole Express in Owosso
- Detroit: Guardian Building, Belle Isle State Park, D:Hive Walking Tour, Heidelberg Project & Detroit Institute of Arts
- Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek
- Pictured Rocks Boat Cruise
- Crisp Point Lighthouse & Whitefish Point Lighthouse & Shipwreck Museum
- Tahquamenon Falls
Do you have any suggestions for places, things, food or beer I should try in Michigan? Leave me a comment below, or send me an email at unbravegirl at gmail.com