Some may call it a strange coincidence that Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is mitten-shaped; others call it a sign. While many Michigan students flock to sunny locales such as Acapulco or Cancun for the week, and still others opt for Alternative Spring Break to help out the needy, a great majority will probably have boots and snow on the mind and in sight. Staying in Michigan doesn’t have to be a drag, however.
Hitting the slopes
For skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts, Michigan is a veritable playground. Mount Brighton is a popular destination, offering 26 runs, 7 chairlifts, 10 tows and an impressive 250-foot vertical. It also boasts one of the longest runs in the area, measuring in at 1,350 feet. Visitors have the opportunity to ski or snowboard; lift tickets are always under $30 per day, though the cheapest tickets are for night skiing between midnight and 2 a.m. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have your own equipment, either. Brighton, along with other Michigan ski areas Mount Holly and Pine Knob, have skis, boards, boots and helmets for rent. Ski equipment is less than $25, snowboarding gear less than $30.
For a quieter, perhaps more romantic outdoor adventure, Sleeper and Port Crescent State Parks (in Michigan’s thumb) and Hartwick Pines near Grayling (near Houghton Lake in the center of the state) offer candlelit cross country ski evenings. Some nights at Sleeper feature gourmet meals from local chefs, sleigh rides and bonfires. Snowshoeing is also offered at Hartwick Pines, though be warned, it’s more of a workout than one might imagine. Park historian Rob Burg said that “a one-mile hike on snowshoes feels like three miles of a normal hike.” To preregister, call (989) 348-2537.
If an ice luge sounds more appealing, look no further than Muskegon State Park, where participants riding a sled travel feet-first down a track make of ice. Before sledders can hit the 79-foot-high track, they must do a training run on a lower-level course and even that hits 15 mph over 500 feet. It’s the upper luge track that makes the trip worthwhile: a 720-foot run on which riders can hit up to 35 mph. Sleds and helmets are provided, but riders are required to wear lightweight shoes or boots and elbow pads and old clothes are advised. Similarly, The Freeze in Waterford has an icy toboggan run to check out.
It doesn’t take a trip to Alaska to dogsled, which is fortunate for those spending spring break in Michigan. The Buck Sporting Lodge and Triple Creek Kennels in Rapid River (located in the Upper Peninsula) have packages including a two-hour, one-day and up to five-day guided trips. Participants have the option of riding or driving their own sled. For a fun group trip, Kennels can accommodate parties of up to 12. Nature’s Kennel in McMillan (located east of Rapid River) has two-day beginner and five-day extreme dog sledding ventures. There, one can learn to “mush” (drive one’s own dog team), set up a winter camp, cook over an open fire and spend a night with the dogs. No experience is necessary for either location. Check out http://travel.michigan.org for more information. At Double JJ Resorts in Rothbury (located near Muskegon on the west side of the state), trained Alaskan Huskies will pull riders along miles of breathtaking scenery. Even if snow is lacking, it’s not a problem for these pooches; Double JJ has sleds on wheels. Call (800) DOUBLE-JJ or visit www.doublejj.com for details.
Carving out a good time
For those who missed the ice carving extravaganza in Ann Arbor, do not fret. The City of St. Joseph is hosting its first annual “Magical Ice Carving Festival.” Visitors can watch carvers transform blocks of ice into shapes and characters in front of their eyes, while enjoying magicians, music, food and shopping. Their website, www.sjtoday.org has more details regarding the weekend event.
Culture and cinema
The Detroit Institute of Arts is featuring a new exhibit now through Feb. 27 of Murano glass. Over 300 pieces of Venetian blown glass from the island of Murano is on exhibit; adult tickets are $10 and may be ordered online at www.dia.org. February is Black History Month and the DIA is celebrating with a month of special events. Storytelling, jazz concerts, song sessions and discussion forums are only a few of the wide range of features. Tickets are $25 per event.
Looking for a new twist on the typical movie night? Cruise into the IMAX Theater at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. Everest,” James Cameron’s “Aliens of the Deep,” a 3-D Nascar film and “Lewis and Clark: Great Journey West” are all playing during spring break for $10 per ticket. Screenings fill up fast, especially for “Polar Express,” so advance ticket purchases are advised. Tickets may be purchased online at www.imax.com.