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Great state escapes Venture Into Michigan

What Couples Want An Experience To Remember


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State Escapes Great

Get away without going away: Michigan is home base to destinations and excursions that won’t disappoint — or break the bank. By Lisa M. Jensen

hile travel agents agree most brides and grooms want to flee the familiar to unwind after the big event, couples seeking a memorable escape don’t need to venture beyond their own state’s backyard to find it. Consider tying these adventures into an “in-house” honeymoon.

Freshwater Escapes Rather than embark on an Alaskan cruise, venture six-and-a-half hours out into oceanic Lake Superior’s deep, vast blue to Isle Royale National Park for an undiluted wilderness adventure that includes hiking, kayaking, canoeing, fishing and wildlife.

While accommodations don’t extend beyond camping on the island, lodging back in Copper Harbor ranges from picturesque B&Bs and motels to roomy log lodges and private cabins. Beyond Mackinac Island, couples can also opt to make a romantic break for Beaver or Drummond, which offer ample wooded trails to explore, bike and hike, and plenty of inland lakes and islets in and around which to fish, paddle and sail. From resorts to private rentals, a wide variety of lodging choices await at both islands as well, and getting to either is half the fun, too: Ferries and twin-engine flights add an air of nostalgic romance after a quiet,

Couples seeking a memorable escape don’t need to venture beyond their own state’s backyard to find it.

istockphoto.com/stevegeer

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Fenn Valley

Photography Courtesy Fenn Valley (Top): istockphoto.com/loooby

scenic drive to Charlevoix (from which trips to Beaver, Michigan’s largest island, can be booked) and either DeTour Village (past the Les Cheneaux Islands) or St. Ignance, where couples can catch rides to Drummond. Newlyweds drawn to a horizon of blue minus moose, bear and mountain bikes may otherwise wish to board Grand Traverse Gourmet Cruises, five to seven-day sailing charters manned by those who run Old Mission Peninsula’s inviting Grey Hare Inn and Vineyard B&B. These freshwater voyages venture into ports including Sutton’s Bay, Northport, Mackinaw City and Wisconsin’s Door County, among others. The 42-foot sailing vessel offers three cabins and gourmet fare.

And — if just a taste of sweetwater sea is preferred — couples can catch shorter day or just hours-long jaunts aboard grand schooner sails on Traverse Tall Ship Company’s Manitou; Bay City’s Appledore IV or Appledore V; or South Haven’s Friends Goodwill. Each tall ship’s harbor community in itself offers myriad ways to complement sun, surf and sand, from luxe accommodations and fine dining to boutique shops and picturesque downtowns.

Culinary Excursions Instead of venturing to Napa Valley, newlyweds who love to wine and dine can toast new beginnings along Michigan’s three award-winning wine trails, and savor experiences that go above and beyond traditional tasting room visits. In Southwest Michigan – quickly reached from a variety of inviting bed and breakfast inns — Fenn Valley pairs up Europeanstyle and perfected fruit wines with events ranging from performing arts recitals to specialty wine dinners. At nearby Tabor Hill, the first winery in Michigan to offer a fine-dining experience, couples can savor culinary creations, sunsets glowing over the vineyards and a toast from two elegant, highceilinged dining rooms. Many vintners throughout the state are similarly marrying their own fine wines with fresh finds from local growers in engaging ways. On Old Mission Peninsula, Old Worldinspired Chateau Chantal offers hands-on cooking classes with a personal chef, as well as wine pairing dinner packages and


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services offered at distinctive resort retreats. Focused on mind, body and spirit, these eco-conscious spas embrace guests in serene surroundings and top-notch care. As does Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, Grand Traverse Resort & Spa offers holistic classes and fitness facilities as well as rejuvenating spa treatments. GTR augments a stay with an array of dining, championship golf, tennis and countless activities inspired by Grand Traverse Bay.

Brides and grooms looking for more than a little pampering can indulge in soothing services offered by distinctive resort retreats.

luxurious, romantic accommodations. To the west in Suttons Bay, the Inn at Blackstar Farms delivers equally elegant overnight lodging overlooking rolling vineyards, along with massages, sparkling wines and gourmet picnics. Beyond destination wineries such as

these, there also are plenty of wine festivals across the state that couples can factor into their honeymoon escape.

Spa Resorts Brides and grooms seeking more than a little pampering can indulge in soothing

At Boyne’s Mountain Grand Lodge, Solace Spa also invites couples to expand their spa experience by sampling a new activity, from Pilates to trapeze. And while this all-seasons resort is renowned for its golf, skiing, indoor water park and dining, the elegant Inn at Bay Harbor offers its own world-class brand of luxury spa care, romantic accommodations and resort activities.

Photography courtesy Crystal Mountain resort

Crystal Mountain Resort


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Crystal Mountain Resort

Meanwhile, up on a high, wooded bluff in Glen Arbor, The Homestead’s Spa Amira treats couples to relaxing and renewing therapies — but it may be a dip in this tranquil retreat’s outdoor pool overlooking the Manitou Islands that they most remember. And though the JW Mariott is situated within the urban beat of downtown Grand Rapids, refuge awaits inside this lavish, sophisticated hotel. Located adjacent to JW’s lap pool, Vasaio Spa offers an exotic array of services, from Swedish massage and aromatherapy to herbal body wraps and grapefruit body polishes. Spa therapies can be enjoyed in-room, too.

at Bay Harbor and Boyne Highlands — are popular for this reason. Beyond challenging championship courses, couples will find themselves surrounded by grand natural beauty, myriad lodging options, a diversity of dining venues and realm of other amenities and activities, both on-site and near the resorts. Like them, Crystal Mountain Resort beckons with much of the same. Nestled into the destination’s rolling terrain, couples who come here can check into a choice of hotel rooms, suites, condominiums, townhomes or resort residences. Shanty Creek in Bellaire

– lending dramatic vistas of woods, water and mountain peaks – also boasts a bevy of accommodations and amenities. Treetops Resort is another that won’t disappoint: Beyond premier golf, couples can enjoy yearround activities like fly fishing, canoeing, hiking, snowshoeing and spa services. And, after a day on pristine greens, St. Ives and Tullymore offer serene, upscale respite. Newlyweds can also take advantage of luxury golf packages including memorable lodging at destinations including Hawk’s Eye Golf Resort, Trout Tree Condominium Resort and Hamlin Village Resort Condominiums.

Golf Getaways Couples who revel in unwinding on the greens can choose from seemingly endless, smartly-designed courses throughout Michigan — and more than a few come packaged in top-notch resort destinations. Grand Traverse Resort and Boyne — including Mountain Grand Lodge, the Inn

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Photography courtesy Crystal Mountain resort (top); Grand Traverse Resort (bottom)

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Off-Road Adventures Couples seeking more action may venture to Silver Lake State Park in Mears. Here, fringing Lake Michigan and Silver Lake, nearly 2,000 acres of dramatic sand dunes almost two miles wide and three miles long create desert-like mountains. The southern and northern portions of this natural spectacle are reserved for one of life’s most unforgettable rides. In the south, the Mac Woods family takes park visitors out on rolling, rippling sand waves in custommade, four-wheel drive Dune Scooters that seat up to 20 — something early Silver Lake resort founder Woods first did with guests back during the ’30s in beefed-up ModelA-Fords. Newlyweds can also explore these open expanses of sand and dip down the dunes themselves in their own off-road vehicle, or by renting one from a Mears-based business like Parrot’s Landing. Or, those looking for a heartier fourwheel excursion can embark on a multipleday, guided tour offered through Sandy Korners. This October, for example, the company’s Upper Peninsula Color Tour takes participants two-tracking in self-driven Jeeps through the regal autumn hues of the Tahquamenon Falls and Whitefish Point region, breaking for meals and lodging at picturesque places along the way. Venturing from lighthouses and beaver dams through deep forest and deep mud, couples can begin their life’s journey together on less-traveled paths — and beneath the grandeur of open skies. n

Photography courtesy Crystal Mountain resort

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couples want What

After the grand event, newlyweds are looking for romance, relaxation and an experience to remember. By Lisa M. Jensen

here’s no place like home. But when it comes to tying the knot, certified West Michigan travel consultants specializing in honeymoons say more couples are being drawn to exchanging their “I-dos” in places far from it. “The most popular industry trend right now is to consider getting married at a destination,” shares Peggy Riley, a certified travel consultant at Dolphin Vacations in Grand Rapids. “When the bride and groom look at the overall cost of a major wedding locally, and they begin to compare it to a destination wedding, they’re often surprised to find the cost isn’t that different.”

Presently top destinations for wedding/ honeymoons include Playa del Carmen (Mayan Riveria), Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, as well as Jamaica, Riley finds. “In the United States, the three biggest are Las Vegas, Hawaii and Disney World,” she says. “With really discounted off-season rates to some of the prime destinations, some couples are able to make two trips out of it so they can see exactly what they can expect at the resort during their event.” If that isn’t to their liking, Riley adds, some tropical resorts offer a free return anniversary stay.

Photography CourtesY Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Tor Johnson

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Istockphoto.com/vitalytitov (top Left); spfoto (top right); isitsharp (bottom left); Nikada (bottom right)

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“No destination is out of the question,” she assures. “If a couple wants to get married at a castle in England or Ireland or France, it’s possible to arrange.” Certified destination wedding travel consultants like Riley can also ensure a couple has the correct documentation needed for a legal ceremony in their place of choice, as well as suggesting other options they hadn’t imagined they could fit in. “We know the ins and outs of finding the best values and most goodies for the couple,” Riley notes. “Many resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean will offer free weddings based on how many nights the couple and/or their guests stay.” In addition, there are specialized wedding planners for many of the resorts who can ensure wishes are met, and tour companies who will give the bride and groom credit towards their trip every time someone else joins their party to share in their event. “When couples combine their wedding and honeymoon,” Riley says, “the opportunities to really take a more luxurious trip become possible.”

Experience Is Key Whether honeymooning for the first time, renewing their vows or celebrating a second marriage, today’s couples are influenced more by experience than price, says Melissa Feenstra, a certified travel consultant for Witte Travel & Tours on 28th Street. “Spas, 24-hour food service and being pampered are important elements today. So are state-of-the-art fitness facilities,” she notes. “Everybody is also after a romantic atmosphere — they look forward to getting away from all the planning and activities that led up to their big event.” Upgraded accommodations and amenities often are even more important than the destination itself, Feenstra says. “Couples are looking for an oceanfront suite, or an over-water bungalow, or that swim-out suite overlooking the ocean. They’ve seen a picture on a brochure, and they want to be

“When couples combine their wedding and honeymoon, the opportunities to really take a more luxurious trip become possible.” — Peggy Riley, Dolphin Vacations


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that couple getting that fabulous massage on the beach.” But while newlyweds aren’t as price conscious as they used to be, she adds, working with a seasoned travel agent can help them make the most of their budget. “Using Africa as an example, the price point for a decent safari with airfare starts at $15,000,” Feenstra illustrated. “That can be disappointing, but if a couple is only plugging ‘African honeymoon’ into the Internet, they won’t discover that there are exotic animals in Mexico’s jungles — or that Mexico even has jungles, along with one of the top five snorkeling spots in the world, just off the island of Cozumel. “And it’s only a three-and-a-half hour plane ride from West Michigan.” Frequently, all-inclusive vacations are the ticket. While the one-price-pays-all concept began in Jamaica, couples can find these packages throughout Mexico and the Caribbean, in addition to other top getaway spots. Everything from transportation and activities to meals and tips is included, leaving newlyweds free to concentrate on matters more fun than cost. Travel agents say couples also are looking to explore and immerse themselves in a new culture; older honeymooners particularly often choose Europe over a tropical beach, though they can enjoy the best of both worlds by pairing the romance of a city like Paris or Rome with the resort allure of Italy’s Amalfi coast or Normandy. Destinations such as Turkey, Portugal and Greece are also gaining popularity. “Hawaii is always a favorite because it’s an island experience and the Polynesian culture is so rich,” Feenstra observes. “And many couples also like the comfort and familiarity of staying in the U.S.” Couples, too, lean toward adventureoriented trips, whether these include more rugged excursions like river rafting and cattle drives or more relaxing experiences, like snorkeling and culinary classes. “A travel professional can not only educate you about destinations that may be better suited to your budget,” Feenstra says, “but more importantly, really learns about you to to direct you to an experience you would most enjoy. “And that can be to a place you didn’t know existed.” To learn more, visit www.wittetravel.com and www.dolphinvacations.net. n


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Grand Event August 2010