Hotels & Motels

Earl Young’s Charlevoix Cottages

Charlevoix - Mushroom House by ktylerconk
Charlevoix – Mushroom House by ktylerconk

In the “things I found while looking at other things” category comes Quirky cottages in Charlevoix are winter delights from the Detroit Free Press.

Earl Young tourism is a Charlevoix specialty. The quirky builder erected 30 stone homes in town between 1918 and the 1950s, all so unusual they are often compared to works of art. Some look like mushroom houses, with undulating roofs capping boulder walls. Some are tiny. Some are enormous. Most have incredible detail — doorways of stone, window frames made of boulders, chimneys that look frosted by a giddy cake decorator. The early houses are arts and crafts or chalet style, but the later homes are rounded and organic, part Tolkien, part Keebler elf.

More about Earl Young’s cottages at the Freep including a number of Earl Young houses that are available as vacation rentals including Charlevoix’s fixture The Weathervane. View more Earl Young House photos from the Charlevoix Historical Society, check out the Earl Young Guidebook and take a video tour of the Earl Young Hobbit Houses in Charlevoix with MyNorth.

Postcard: Weathervane Terrrace Inn & Suites, Charlevoix, MIchigan by fantomaster
Postcard: Weathervane Terrrace Inn & Suites,
Charlevoix, MIchigan by fantomaster

The best resource is the Earl Young Collection at the Charlevoix Library. With everything from the ad for Earl’s first development, Boulder Park and the opening of the Weathervane to an article on his book Charlevoix the Beautiful, there’s some great stuff to be explored! Let’s close with a bit from another  article from the Freep on Young, this one from July 29, 1973 that begins:

Stone houses seem to sprout as naturally as dandelions from the soil of this pleasant Lake Michigan resort community.

And they do because of an already legendary 84-year-old man named Earl A. Young, who built them all.

For more than half a century Young has combed lonesome fields and dusty quarries searching for the odds and ends of nature. He blends stones and timber with an architect’s skill and a geologist’s respect for his raw material, and so far he has fitted more than 40 local landscapes with his art.

“l have a very strong feeling for stone,” Young explained recently as he sat in his wood-paneled office on the lower level of one of his most flamboyant creations, the Weathervane Inn, a local restaurant.

“Stones have their own personalities. People say I’m crazy when I say so, but they really do. Why I found a stone that weighed 160 tons. It was formed 350 million years ago at the bottom of a warm sea and was carried here 10,000 years ago by glaciers.”

Taste the Passion: Wine, Chocolate & Love

Taste the Passion 2011The annual Taste the Passion weekend wine tour celebrates wine, chocolate and love on Saturday, February 5 & Sunday, February 6, 2011 at the wineries of the Leelanau Peninsula wine trail!  The tour features special wine pours combined with tasty chocolate or savory pairings at Leelanau wine trail wineries between the hours of 11am and 5pm on Saturday, and Noon and 5pm on Sunday. Tickets for “Taste the Passion” are just $30 each and available online. There are many packages available as well!

February is a great time to visit Leelanau County and Traverse City – the tasting rooms are less full, affording you a chance to slow down and enjoy the wine and conversation with winemakers and winery staff. Many of the wineries also offer opportunities to enjoy winter’s beauty through cross-country and snowshoe trails.  There is also a special Glen Arbor Art Association “Art from Wine Country” event at the Homestead Resort on Friday night (February 4th). This event is open to anyone – click the link for details.

Here’s a video that will give you a taste of Taste the Passion!

Live at the Michigan Culinary Tourism Conference

Click here for a video from the conference!

Michigan Culinary TourismAll day today the Absolute Michigan team is at Creating Michigan Culinary Destinations, Michigan’s first conference on Culinary Tourism. The conference was a hot ticket, and nearly 200 tourism industry stakeholders are getting ready to learn about Michigan’s new initiative to increase tourism. You can learn all about the Michigan Culinary Tourism Inititative at that link and read on for updates as we have them!

Zingerman's Delicatessen
Zingerman’s Delicatessen by Ashley Dinges

1:30 pm The lunch keynote speaker is Ari Weinzweig of one of the giants of Michigan ‘s food scene, Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor. Ari is definitely a fast talker, and related that he got started washing dishes at Maude’s, and at that time, Tang and Space Sticks were his culinary adventures. He met co-founder Paul Saginaw at Maude’s and –  5 years after opening a deli in a town that wouldn’t support delis  at a location with no parking that people couldn’t find – was hailed as a genius. Today the Zingerman’s empire does $38 million in annual sales.

Ari says that (for him at least) all tourism is culinary. He relates  some “natural laws” from his book A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business that he thinks relate to building an authentic culinary destination. Natural law #1 is that an inspiring, strategically sound vision leads to greatness. He cautions that although  great visions come  from the heart, you need to develop your vision with enough richness and depth that people can understand what you’re talking about. He shared a bit of the vision for the West Side Farmer’s Market. With lines like “All these products have a story and none of them have traveled very far to get here,” it’s really clear that vision is a big part of what drives Zingerman’s.

His 2nd law is “You need to give your customers some really compelling reasons to buy from you.” He quotes Jim Hightower “Ain’t nothing in the middle of the road but 2 yellow lines and a whole lot of dead armadillos.” He  recommends that we seek to create offerings that have appeal for tourists AND residents to create a more resilient and dynamic customer base.

He closes with his belief that the customer experience is the most important thing. He breaks a recent study regarding employee attitudes toward their workplace into football terms: of the 11 players on a football team, only 4 know where the goal is, just two care who wins the game and all but 2 are just as likely to be  rooting for the other team as their own! Does this sound like your business? If it does, what can you do to change it? Ari suggests that maybe Michigan could steal a page from Hawaii and adopt the Ojibway word for welcome and become “The Aaniin State” … because someone has to be the most welcoming place in country!

Cheers,  ©n.walmsley
Cheers, ©n.wamsley

11:45 am – At the Building Lodging & Tour Packages session, Heather Price of Sandhill Crane Vineyards talked about the “Big Grape Bus” wine event they offer through the Pioneer Wine Trail in SE Michigan and all the pieces   – wine & food pairings, transportation, lodging and entertainment – that come together to create a compelling event. Steve Timmer of the Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City echoed the importance of providing an all-inclusive experience and listed some of the things that his resort does including focusing on bringing local wines into their wine shop and even working with attendees on a cooking show.

One attendee (whose location shall remain nameless) wondered what to do when your area has little to offer in terms of culinary tourism. Steve suggested focusing on PR to invite food writers and the media and of course to leverage social media wherever possible. I asked him about if he had a sense whether today’s traveler is more or less interested in packages. He said that while packaging remains an important part of travel marketing, he’s finding that people are less interested in packages, preferring to design their own experiences. To me, that suggests that it’s really important for all players in the culinary travel industry to make their services and offerings clearly available across a wide spectrum of media, including that most old-fashioned of media: making your friends and neighbors aware of what you do!

The Bar @ Hopcat
The Bar @ Hopcat by stevedontsurf

11 am The “Marketing Your Culinary Destination” featured Dianna Stamfler of Promote Michigan, Sam Porter of Porterhouse Productions and Paul Stermer of Fair Food Matters. An audience member asked Sam how he got his nearly 300 volunteers. He answered “It’s all about fun. We take care of them pre and post event and engage them as partners to market and develop the events.” He also suggested engaging your fans to help you grow your social media network. The audience seemed to agree that social media is a vital component of an overall strategy.

Dianna mentioned that it’s the first-ever  Michigan Beer Week in Kalamazoo.  It’s been developed  in conjunction with the Winter Beer Conference and bars, restaurants and retailers will be teaming up to offer beer tastings, tap takeovers, brewer meet-and-greets and other special events.

Charlevoix Michigan Peppers
Charlevoix Michigan Peppers by DTWpuck

10  am Melody Johnson of the International Culinary Tourism Association was next up. She shared examples from all over the world of how everyone from third world nations on up the economic ladder are turning to culinary tourism as an economic driver. She cited rocketing technological advancements and our exploding interest in food as two prime drivers and talked about FLOSS (Fresh Local Organic Sustainable and Self-absorbed food). With  your average meal travelling 1500 miles, FLOSS is a concept that can  help keep food local.    Melody also gave a shoutout the the new “Boyne Appetit” marketing effort for Boyne City.

She showed three pictures – a museum, roller coaster and nice plate of food, and reminded attendees that food & drink IS an attraction as well, illustrating it with her discovery of Founder’s apricot wheat – a beer that she had last night with dinner and very much enjoyed. It’s not something you’re likely to find outside of Michigan, so to have it again, she’ll have to return. “The Michigan Experience” is what visitors are seeking – unique and memorable experiences that a tourist can brag about when he or she returns home.

9:40 am Steve Loftis of the Michigan Restaurant Association offered some thoughts about where Michigan’s restaurants are and what will be on their radar in 2011. One of his recommendations is that restaurants look to younger/technologically savvy members of  their staff for  ideas on more effectively using technology to acquire new patrons, but also to work more with existing customers.  He also stated that “the L word” should be on everyone’s mind as they work with their menu, trying to add more local offerings.

grits & bits (pre-syrup)
grits & bits (pre-syrup)
by jenny murray

9:15 am Linda Jones of the Michigan Wine & Grape Council opened the conference with an introduction to culinary tourism. One new resource for culinary tourists that she pointed out are the Michigan Foodie Tours.
The foodie tours feature local food and unique experiences from the whitefish and pasties of the western UP to the 200 restaurants of Ann Arbor.

7 am Last night I had a chance to talk with Melody Johnson, a founding member  of the International Culinary Tourism Association. Melody is the organization’s Community Manager and helps partners develop collaborations and inititiatives to capitalize on their culinary tourism assets. She gave me a simple thought to frame the day: “You always need to keep in mind what your customers  want to be successful. When people are coming to Michigan, they are wanting Michigan. They want authentic culinary experiences, the flavors and experiences that they can only get here.”

Although saying “It’s the food, silly” may seem a little simplistic, as the nation’s second most agriculturally diverse state, Michigan is in a unique position to tout itself as an unparalleled food destination. The local food movement has already started many on the path to promoting the strength and quality of Michigan food & drink and this effort will hopefully encourage many more to  “make it a Michigan wine/beer/fill in the blank.”

Leelanau Peninsula’s Toast the Season Event Kicks Off the Holiday Season

GIVEAWAY ALERT! There’s two chances to win free tickets to this event this week. One is to tune into our friends at Michigan By the Bottle for their giveaway, and over at they’ll be giving away a couple’s ticket to one person on their mailing list tomorrow.

Michigan Uncorked is a regular column by Lorri Hathaway and Sharon Kegerreis, authors of the award-winning From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries and The History of Michigan Wines. Learn more and get autographed copies of their books at

Don’t let the warm, sunny weather fool you! The brisk holiday season is fast approaching. And, one of the best ways to kick off the holidays is on Leelanau Peninsula during the Toast the Season celebration the first two weekends of November.

Toast the Season by farlane
Toast the Season by farlane

The spectacular northern Michigan tradition is a great excuse for a getaway before the hustle and bustle of the upcoming months. You’ll bump right into the holiday spirit when you’re handed a gift bag featuring local food & drink and an ornament upon your arrival. Then, enjoy the leisurely trek along the peninsula with a special wine pour, in your souvenir glass, paired with delicious food at 18 Leelanau wineries.

The timing of the event couldn’t be better for stocking up on wines for holiday gifts, Thanksgiving dinner and seasonal get-togethers with family and friends. Our tip: be sure to visit L. Mawby Vineyards to get your bubblies for New Year’s Eve, though as vintner Larry Mawby says, “You can enjoy bubbly any time, any day.”

Grab your significant other for a romantic getaway, or gather some friends for a mini-vacation. Two weekend options, November 6 and 7 or November 13 and 14, make getting there more feasible; and lodging packages by area B&Bs, resorts and hotels make planning super easy. Get tickets or more details about the event by visiting

Absolute Michigan Holiday Shopping Giveaway


The contest is now complete and our winner has been notified. Even if you were not a winner we encourage you to support Michigan business and check out their Ultimate Holiday Shopping Packages.

hotel-baronette-noviThe Baronette Hotel & Novi’s Twelve Oaks Mall are offering a unique holiday shopping experience with their Ultimate Holiday Shopping Package. The package is available Thursday – Sunday through December, 2010 and includes overnight hotel accommodations, breakfast, drinks and appetizers at the Baronette’s nightly cocktail reception as well as a VIP shopping card and special welcome gift from Twelve Oaks. The shopping card offers various discounts ranging from buy one get one free to 10 percent savings at more than 50 stores.

Packages start at $109 per night. Call 800-395-9009 and mention the Ultimate Shopping Package for more information.

The Baronette and Absolute Michigan have teamed up to offer one lucky winner a FREE Ultimate Holiday Shopping Package and entering couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is send an email to with the subject “Ultimate Holiday Shopping Package” with your name and city & state. We’ll select the winner next Monday!

Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition Gold Medal Wine Reception 2009

Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition
Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition

Be among the first to try winning wines from the 2009 Michigan Wine and Spirits Competition and taste the breadth of quality from Michigan’s vineyards. Sip a glass of wine while chatting with winning winemakers to learn more about their wines.

The Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center will host the 32nd Annual Michigan Wine and Spirits Competition, and a public Gold Medal Reception unveiling Michigan’s top wines, on Thursday, August 6 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. This year marks Kellogg’s ninth year hosting the competition, which will bring together wine experts to judge their way through nearly 400 Michigan wine entries. Best of Class wines will be perfectly paired with delicious foods prepared by the Kellogg Center’s chefs. Other double gold, gold and silver medal wines will be available for sampling, along with a generous array of culinary treats. The Gold Medal Reception is expected to bring out an audience of 350 supportive consumers, industry members and industry associates. Tickets for the Michigan Wine and Spirits Competition Gold Medal Reception are $40 per person and are available through the Kellogg Center at 517-432-4000.

Absolute Michigan’s Mondo Valentine’s Day Rundown

Ginny, You Are My Shining Star by docksidepress

We have compiled an extensive list of Valentine’s Day Events, Gift Ideas, Getaways & Dating Ideas, Giveaways and Parties for Singles, Couples & Kids. With Absolute Michigan’s Mondo Valentine’s Day Rundown you have no excuse in not charting out a stellar V-Day. Just scroll through this seemingly endless page of options and I think you will find something that tickles your fancy and hopefully that your significant other for this year and for those to come. On to the list….

Wintry Wednesday: Get ready to ski, Michigan!

Load Here by btwphotography
Load Here by btwphotography

The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) reports that thanks to our current bout of wintry weather, most ski areas across Michigan have fired up their snow guns. Some will open this weekend and more will be open by Thanksgiving. Ski areas planning to open on or before Friday, November 28 include: Boyne Mountain, Boyne Highlands, Marquette Mountain, Ski Brule, Crystal Mountain, Nubs Nob, Alpine Valley, Mt. Holly, Mt. Brighton, Pine Knob, Indianhead Mountain, Pine Mountain, Caberfae Peaks, Cannonsburg, Norway Mountain and Shanty Creek.

The MSIA also reminds you that Michigan 4th graders can ski for free! Click that link for details on how to get their tickets and also information about the White Gold Card – a pass that gives skiers of all ages a chance to ski at each of 29 ski areas!

If you’re looking for more deals on Michigan skiing, be sure to check out the Michigan Ski & Snowboarding blog. In addition to deals on lift tickets and lodging from all across the state, they have snow reports, webcams and ski & snowboarding video.

Did somebody say video? Skiers know that it’s not ski season until Warren Miller’s latest film hits the screen. You can watch a trailer below and visit the Warren Miller web site find dates and locations for any of the many screenings in Michigan in the next few weeks! (go big with the 5 minute trailer and thanks for the pointer!)

May is Travel Month

Oval Beach 2 by shqipo / Ledio

Anyone who has been following the news will know that with high gas prices, a lagging national economy and a still-depressed local economy, Michigan’s summer travel forecast isn’t the best.

We could advocate hiding in the backyard with a couple of cans of gas, nervously listening for Mel Gibson and gangs of gas-hungry Aussies, but that’s already been done. Instead, we at Absolute Michigan have opted to see what we can do to help encourage folks from in and out of Michigan to help fight depression, boredom and having to cut the grass this summer with a Michigan vacation.

We’ll feature stories, photos, videos and links of as much travel and touring in the Great Lakes State as we think you can stand. To win over some wallets, we’re also putting out a call for Michigan lodging, travel and related businesses & organizations to offer packages, giveaways or whatever through Absolute Michigan. If you have ideas, send us an email.

And as always, we’d love to hear your ideas about great Michigan getaways, day trips and places to experience in the comments!

Michigan Ski Tour: Cross Country Skiing

Last week, our Michigan Ski Tour took you to downhill skiing resorts from one end of the state to the other. You don’t need a lift to have fun with skis though – read on for all kinds of nordic skiing fun!