Most people tell me they don’t travel because of time and money. My gut tells me the real problem is defining what constitutes travel. What is it? What’s considered a vacation and where do you have to go to find a break from the routine? Not far as it turns out. I suspect most of you have gems in your own town and region that you’ve been taking for granted.
Let’s take Muskegon, Michigan for example.
The Muskegon Museum of Art. Yes, art is cool and smart and hip. Not every town has a knack to combine culture and catsup, but you can do just that in downtown Muskegon. Have a burger and fries at Hamburger Mikey on 3rdthen walk off your cholesterol to the MMA on Webster and soak in the impressive galleries. And, this May is the opening of the Curtis Exhibit, the North American Indian chronicled in original photos.
Two gold medals at the Best of Craft Beer Awards (Bend, Oregon) in 2016, is reason enough to drink local Muskegon suds. I concur with the judges, Walter Gets Buzzed and Your Mom on French Toast are worth a day trip or a drive across town. Downtown Muskegon is home to Muskegon Lake, cruise ships, music festivals at Heritage Landing, Lumberjacks hockey and now, award-winning craft beer.
Spanish Renaissance in small town America. Muskegon is home to an immaculately restored 1700-seat theater where you can soak in the sounds of performances from West Shore Symphony, take in a Civic Theater musical or national touring talent such as Second City Improv. No matter your entertainment genre, plant your butt in a comfy seat for a couple of hours.
Muskegon is full of sporting history as well. As a young beach volleyball player visiting from Traverse City, barely 19, I remember playing my first AA rated tournament at Pere Marquette beach and being incredibly nervous. I gawked at the impressive expanse of beach alongside my tall and talented opponents. Pere Marquette is still hosting competitive beach volleyball and a slew of other adventurous sports like kite boarding, stand-up paddle boarding and sunset staring.
Panko crusted perch, chicken milanese, avocado mousse and oh the soups…..French onion gratinee, Wisconsin cheddar with popcorn or butternut squash bisque with spiced pecans. Hearthstone has a deserved reputation and in my informal polls this bistro is a top choice for an upscale dinner, an important occasion but not too pretentious for a spontaneous night out.
The home to Muskegon County mountain bike single-track, newly built and groomed for the intermediate to advanced riders. 25 miles wind in and out of marshes, rolling hills, lakes, roots and forest. New to trail riding, try the green trail for a warm up on knobby tires. If you are a roadie rather than a muddie, there is plenty of pavement alongside Lake Michigan that will test your legs.
Thrill rides await in winter and in summer. Rollercoasters, a waterpark and an Olympic-length luge round out Muskegon’s burgeoning downtown district and three lakeside state parks. It’s the year round diversity that makes the area special. Scream like a teenage boy flying down the luge track or face your fears on the Thunderhawk suspended coaster.
There is a keg in the name. MusKEGon knows how to throw a party and put up a beer tent. Besides the beer, there’s art, food, marathons, fishing, music, color tours and loud motorcycles. As a festival organizer myself, listening to an Irish tune float across the water with views of Muskegon Lake is a fall must-do! And, the food and festivals have stolen my heart: my first date with husband Josh was at Taste of Muskegon. We did the get-to-know over Rosita’s Tacos, IceBox Ice Cream and local craft beer from Unruly and Pigeon Hill Brewing. Turns out we both like tacos, soccer, biking and Muskegon.