As our second season came into bloom, we were just in time to see the tulips blossom in the southwestern Michigan town of Holland. A panoply of color graced local streets, parks, and buildings as the annual Tulip Time Festival got underway.
|Wonderful coastal gems abound…|
Michigan is a state that many motorists or other travelers ignore or bypass, but it’s a treasure-trove of quaint communities, alluring festivals, and it touches four of the five Great Lakes. The Wolverine State is the 22nd largest in area but there’s plenty to see and do.
Our program begins at the tulip festival in early May. Some 200,000 people pack the city to view millions of flowers in bloom. They also come for the fireworks display which launches the event, three parades, and lots of good times. In addition to the downtown district, visit Windmill Island. It’s a bit of Holland in Holland. Its canals, dikes, bridges, and one hundred thousand tulips give the distinct feel of the Zuider Zee, rather than Lake Michigan. The centerpiece of the Island is the 12-story DeZwaan windmill, brought from the Old Country and assembled here.
Across town, Dutch Village is a reproduction of an authentic Dutch village and up the road from there, Veldheer’s Gardens is the springtime home of millions of tulips and other flowers, which visitors can buy and have them mailed home. It’s also headquarters of the only Delft factory in the United States.
|Crisp and clean fresh water is refreshing here …|
Michigan’s west coast is dotted with magnificent beaches, abutting fresh and cool water. In fact the state’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas have 3,288 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, which is longer than the East Coast of the U.S. There are terrific towns all along the water.
One of the most attractive parts of the left-handed mitten-shaped state is up by the tip of the index finger in Lake Huron, between the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) and the Lower Peninsula (L.P.). Mackinac Island was first inhabited by native tribes. The French, English, and Americans followed. This island remains pure in one sense: motorized vehicles are banned. Horse-drawn carriages transport people and freight from the docks to the homes, hotels, stores, and restaurants. High on a hill, Fort Mackinac was the second U.S. National Park (after Yellowstone) because of its importance in the American struggle for freedom in the Revolutionary War. It later became Michigan’s first state park. Several old and glorious hotels take visitors back to the time when ferries brought well-heeled city folk from Detroit and Chicago to the clean air and quiet of this utterly attractive island. Hiking and biking are wonderful pastimes here and try some fudge. At least half a dozen shops sell it. Fudge has a long tradition on the island.
You can stop off in Germany without leaving Michigan. Frankenmuth is a bit of Bavaria in the middle of America. It has the look and feel of the Franconia region and comes with a local brewery, two wonderful restaurants which serve delicious chicken dinners, with a mini-Mississippi river boat called the Bavarian Belle which plies the Cass River, and with Bronners–which bills itself the world’s largest Christmas Store.
|A magnificent honor to the Automotice Industry…|
West of Detroit are two of the neatest “museums” you’ll ever find. Dearborn is home of the Automotive Hall of Fame, which extols the brilliance of the people who created the automotive industry that we rely on today. And just next door is the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. It was founded by Henry Ford himself in 1929 and is today the largest indoor/outdoor museum in America. It’s magnificent and that’s why 1.5 million people pay a visit each year. The attractions include Thomas Alva Edison’s Menlo Park, N.J., laboratory and the Firestone family farm, brought to Dearborn from Ohio. It is a living, breathing history lesson, unlike any history book you read at school.
The U.P. is quiet and removed, with activities galore in both Summer and Winter.
I can’t tell you how much I enjoy visiting the Wolverine State. So, the next time you are motoring cross-country, pull over in Michigan. Relax and enjoy the view.