Crossing the US-Canada Land Border with a Dog: Our Experience

Our recent journey led us to cross the Canadian border by land, marking a memorable experience, especially since my last land border crossing was into Mexico many years ago. What made this excursion unique was the addition of our furry companion, a dog, which piqued my curiosity about the entire process.

Thankfully, our border crossing went smoothly, but if you’re contemplating a border-crossing adventure with a four-legged friend in tow, I’m here to provide you with all the essential insights you need. Stay tuned, as I unravel everything you need to know about traveling with pets across international borders.

Canada-US land borders overview

It might come as a surprise, but the international border between Canada and the United States holds the distinction of being the world’s longest, spanning a staggering 5,525 miles.

Given the sheer expanse of this border, it’s no wonder that it boasts over 100 land crossings.

However, here’s the catch – not all of these crossings operate on a 24/7 basis throughout the year.

In some cases, the border on one side might be open 24 hours to let you through to the other country but the other side of the border may not be open. The hours could also change based on the season with more limited hours during the winter.

You can use this Wikipedia article to help you locate the hours they are open although you may want to try to verify the hours to make sure they are still accurate.

Navigating the various border crossings between Canada and the USA can be quite the mixed bag, with some being notably smoother and hassle-free than others.

Unfortunately, this also means that you might find yourself in the midst of long, patience-testing queues. In the most unfortunate scenarios, you could be looking at a wait time of two to three hours or more but if traffic is minimal, it could only take 10 minutes or so.

If you’re curious about the current wait times you can check them out here.

Ambassador Bridge US-Canada Land Border

Now, here’s where a game-changer comes into play: the NEXUS program. This pre-clearance initiative offers a shortcut to expedited entry at select border crossings. It’s the golden ticket that can help you breeze through the border and avoid those agonizing delays.

The border crossings with NEXUS include:

  • Alexandria Bay, New York
  • Blaine, Washington (Pacific Highway)
  • Blaine, Washington (Peace Arch)
  • Buffalo, New York (Peace Bridge)
  • Calais, Maine
  • Champlain, New York
  • Detroit, Michigan (Ambassador Bridge)
  • Detroit, Michigan (Detroit-Windsor Tunnel)
  • Highgate Springs, Vermont
  • Houlton, Maine
  • Niagara Falls, New York (Lewiston Bridge)
  • Niagara Falls, New York (Whirlpool Bridge)
  • Pembina, North Dakota
  • Point Roberts, Washington
  • Port Huron, Michigan (Blue Water Bridge)
  • Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (International Bridge)
  • Sumas, Washington

To enroll in the NEXUS program, you can start by submitting an online application through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website or the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) website.

Applicants will be required to provide personal information, travel history, and answer questions about their eligibility. After submitting the online application and paying the non-refundable $50 fee, applicants will need to schedule an in-person interview at a NEXUS Enrollment Center.

During the interview, they will undergo a security check, fingerprinting, and have their documents verified.

Upon successful completion of the interview and background check, approved applicants will receive their NEXUS card, which grants access to expedited border crossings between the United States and Canada. It also grants you access to Global Entry airport kiosks.

US-Canada Land Border

Some of the states in the US will have a lot of different border crossings but if you are curious about the most used crossings, here is a list of some of the most popular crossings for each state.

Washington State:

  • Peace Arch
  • Blaine Surrey
  • Lynden Aldengrove
  • Sumas Huntingdon


  • Porthill Rykerts
  • Eastport Kingsgate


  • Roosville Grasmere
  • Piegan Carway
  • Sweetgrass Coutts

North Dakota:

  • Portal North Portal
  • Peace Garden
  • Neche Gretna
  • Pembina Emerson


  • Warroad Sprague
  • Baudette Rainy River
  • International Falls Fort Frances
  • Grand Portage Pigeon River


  • Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge
  • Blue Water Bridge
  • Detroit Windsor Tunnel
  • Ambassador Bridge

New York:

  • Buffalo Niagara Falls area (Peace Bridge, Rainbow Bridge, Whirlpool Rapids Bridge, Lewiston-Queenston Bridge)
  • Thousand Islands Bridge
  • Seaway Bridge (Massena Cornwall)
  • Blackpool Champlain


  • Highgate Springs Saint Amand
  • Derby Line Stanstead

New Hampshire:

  • Pittsburg Chartierville Border Crossing


  • Madawaska Edmundston
  • Houlton Woodstock
  • Calais St. Stephen
  • Many others (total of 24 crossings)

Our experience crossing the US/Canada border with a dog

Our Canadian adventure where we experienced the Roger’s Center hotel began at the border between Detroit and Windsor, just after we crossed the Ambassador Bridge. It’s essential to remember that when crossing these bridges, toll payments are often required. So, it’s a good idea to have your payment method ready, whether it’s a credit card or cash, depending on the bridge you choose.

As we approached the border, we encountered a busy scene with many large 18-wheelers, causing a minor traffic delay. However, with some patience, we successfully navigated through and reached the border station.

There, a friendly agent asked for our IDs (passports) and greeted us and conducted a routine interview about our plans in the country.

They asked typical questions, such as where we were staying, the purpose of our trip, and our occupations. This is standard procedure when crossing into Canada.

One aspect that often adds a bit of complexity for us is the fact that we’re digital nomads. Once we mention our nomadic lifestyle, it tends to trigger a series of additional questions.

However, we had our documentation ready to go, which made it relatively straightforward to substantiate our story. Our Airbnb reservations and hotel bookings were readily available on our smartphones, helping to validate our travel plans.

Once we had established the basics of our situation, the agent proceeded with a set of standard questions that they are required to ask.

These inquiries covered a range of topics, including whether we were carrying any drugs, including marijuana or THC products, if we had firearms, knives, pepper spray, or any camping equipment that might have been exposed to the outdoors, and so on. It’s all part of the standard protocol at the border. And of course, it’s a good idea to declare any items like these so that you don’t run into legal trouble.

Once the agent appeared satisfied with our answers, he kindly requested that we roll down the back window of our Jeep to inspect the vehicle’s interior. It was during this inspection that he spotted our furry companion and inquired about our documentation for the dog. Fortunately, we were well-prepared.

We promptly presented proof of our dog’s rabies vaccination, which we had in the form of an email exchange and a rabies vaccination certificate from our veterinarian. Our four-legged friend was also in excellent health, so we had no concerns on that front.

While it’s possible to access this information on your phone, I would strongly recommend having physical copies of the required documents on hand. The Canadian website explicitly advises travelers to carry “a physical original copy of all required documentation.”

Once we handed over our documents, the agent swiftly examined them before delivering the good news that we were all set. With that, we were able to proceed without any issues, making our border crossing a smooth and hassle-free experience.

It’s worth noting that there may be different requirements based on the type of pet you are bringing in, its age, and your intentions, but you can always use this helpful online form to figure out what you need.

In some instances such as when bringing a young 2-month kitten you may only need to bring proof of age. But for other pets such as birds you might have to sign a declaration. And keep in mind that some types of “pets” won’t be allowed. For example, they will not consider a pigeon a “pet bird.”

So again, just go through that form and take note of every mentioned requirement so that you are prepared to get through without a problem.

Final word

All in all, our journey from the US to Canada via a land border crossing proved to be quite manageable. Armed with answers to the expected questions and all the required documentation, the entire process unfolded smoothly, sparing us any undue stress.

It’s worth noting that when traveling with a pet, it’s prudent to be ready for the possibility of a more thorough inspection, should an agent’s curiosity be piqued. However, with all the paperwork in proper order, the experience is unlikely to pose any significant hurdles. Preparedness, it seems, is the key to a hassle-free border crossing adventure.

Dining at The Cherry Hut: From Turkey to Cherries – A Review

When I stumbled upon the cherry connection to northern Michigan’s Traverse City region, my curiosity was piqued.

I’d never known to associate Michigan with cherries and yet they were home to the “cherry capital of the world.”

Eager to savor these delightful fruits, I embarked on a quest to discover the best places to experience their magnificence. Among the gems that surfaced on my radar was famous The Cherry Hut.

Background on The Cherry Hut

You won’t find The Cherry Hut in Traverse City. It’s located about 40 minutes southwest of town. In fact, it’s closer to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which makes it a great place to visit after a morning of exploring the dunes.

Located in the charming town of Beulah, Michigan, The Cherry Hut has been a beloved family-owned restaurant since its establishment in 1922.

Initially, it started as a humble roadside pie stand, serving delectable homemade cherry pies crafted from the fresh cherries grown in the Kraker family orchard. The year 1937 marked a significant milestone when The Cherry Hut found its permanent home at its current location.

In 1946, a young Leonard Case, Jr., a sophomore at Benzonia High School, was welcomed into the Cherry Hut family as the “Jam Kitchen Boy.”

Starting in 1948, and with the exception of a brief hiatus for two years while serving in the army, Leonard took on the responsibility of crafting the scrumptious jams and jellies that became a hallmark of The Cherry Hut.

But Leonard Case’s journey went far beyond his role as the Jam Kitchen artisan. In 1959, he took a significant step by purchasing The Cherry Hut. This move followed his two years as the restaurant’s manager, succeeding the founding Kraker family.

During his tenure as the owner, Leonard Case undertook a remarkable transformation of The Cherry Hut.

What was once a modest outdoor food stop with a restricted menu, open solely for 12 weeks during the summer, evolved into a contemporary establishment boasting three dining rooms and a comprehensive menu featuring a wide array of entrees.

Leonard’s dedication to The Cherry Hut knew no bounds, as he committed his entire life to the restaurant’s growth and success. This unwavering commitment extended through The Cherry Hut’s impressive 93rd season in 2015, leaving an enduring legacy for generations of patrons to savor.

After reading about his life, I couldn’t help but notice many similarities between him and myself.

He was a world traveler who loved the Grand Canyon, and he was “most passionate about WWII, The Civil War, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition, as well as the discovery of the American Western Frontier.” He definitely seems like a person I would have found fascinating to speak with.

The Cherry Hut pies

Experiencing the Cherry Hut

To truly relish the Cherry Hut experience, timing is key. This charming eatery follows a seasonal schedule, typically closing its doors sometime in the fall and reopening as summer approaches.

As it’s not a year-round establishment, those craving a cherry-infused treat when the restaurant is closed can take advantage of their convenient mail order system or head to the Cherry Hut Products location.

Moreover, it’s worth noting that The Cherry Hut’s operating hours are somewhat limited, with doors swinging open at 11 AM and closing at 4 PM. To ensure your visit aligns with their schedule, a well-planned excursion is certainly in order.

Upon your arrival, it’s impossible to miss the presence of the quirky Cherry Hut mascot affectionately known as “Cherry Jerry.” Initially, you might find Cherry Jerry comically eerie at first glance, but there’s a certain charm to his eccentricity.

The Cherry Hut

Stepping inside, we managed to secure one of the last available tables. The Cherry Hut is undeniably a popular spot, often bustling with patrons.

The ambiance is a delightful trip down memory lane, with everything from the servers’ attire to the cherry-patterned wallpaper exuding a charming, nostalgic vibe that envelops the entire restaurant.

The Cherry Hut interior

When it comes to deciding what to order, I highly recommend indulging in one of their timeless classics – the turkey and gravy dishes. My choice was the comforting Hot Turkey Sandwich served with a side of Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, while Brad opted for the equally satisfying Turkey Plate.

If you’re a devotee of Thanksgiving dinners or adore the post-holiday delights like a sumptuous turkey sandwich, The Cherry Hut has a menu that will certainly tantalize your taste buds. But fret not if turkey isn’t your preference; they also offer a selection of burgers, salads, and chicken strips.

To complement our meal, we stuck to our usual sparkling water but couldn’t resist adding a touch of extra flavor with a refreshing Cherry Ade.

The Cherry Hut Ade

Our meals arrived promptly, and as we savored every bite of our turkey dishes, it felt like a delightful sneak peek into the upcoming Thanksgiving feast we’d be enjoying in a couple of months.

The Cherry Hut turkey sandwich

And, as tradition would have it, we couldn’t resist the allure of one of their renowned cherry pies for dessert. This delectable creation is a cherry lover’s dream, generously filled with cherries on the inside and featuring a delicate, flaky pie crust.

Each slice comes overflowing with cherries, making for an incredibly delicious treat that we thoroughly enjoyed (though I think we should’ve gone for the cherry pie a la mode).

The Cherry Hut cherry pie

Once you’ve savored every last bite of dessert, don’t forget to explore the charming store, where you’ll discover an array of many cherry-inspired products. Inside, you’ll find a delightful assortment that includes among many products, cherry soap, cherry jam, cherry popcorn, and even a tasteful selection of apparel.

It’s a treasure trove of cherry-themed goodies that adds a cherry on top to your memorable visit. And you can always order online.

The Cherry Hut jams

Final word

If your travels lead you to the Traverse City, Michigan area and you’re eager to immerse yourself in the rich cherry history of the region, The Cherry Hut is an absolute must-visit destination. With its delectable offerings catering to both turkey enthusiasts and cherry aficionados, it presents the perfect blend of flavors and heritage that should unquestionably find its way onto your itinerary. Don’t miss out on this delightful experience!

Discover 8 Must-Do Activities in the Keweenaw Peninsula

Located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Keweenaw Peninsula offers a range of exciting experiences, from discovering enchanting waterfalls to hunting for Yooperlites.

You can dive into history by exploring lighthouses, savor the delicious tastes of Finnish cuisine, and partake in outdoor escapades in Copper Harbor. Witness the Northern Lights and embark on picturesque drives that reveal the peninsula’s natural beauty.

Below, I’ll provide you with insights into various places to explore and highlight some enticing shops and restaurants, ensuring that your visit is as enjoyable as possible!

Explore the many waterfalls, including one of the best in Michigan

The Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is graced with a multitude of enchanting waterfalls that offer a serene and picturesque escape for nature enthusiasts. You really can’t venture to the Keweenaw Peninsula without exploring at least a couple of these, especially those that are easy to access.

Some notable waterfalls in the Keweenaw Peninsula include Hungarian Falls, Jacobs Falls, and Eagle River Falls.

Jacobs Falls, located near Eagle Harbor, offers a stunning view right off the road as water gently cascades down a rocky face into a pristine pool below.

Jacobs Falls

Eagle River Falls, situated in the quaint town of Eagle River, is easily accessible and boasts a captivating double waterfall that is particularly beautiful during the colorful foliage of the fall season. You can view it from the beautiful Eagle River Timber Arch Bridge, which itself is a treat to view.

Eagle River Falls
Eagle River Falls

But my personal favorite is Douglas Houghton Falls. If you are feeling adventurous you can scramble down a steep cliff side for a magnificent view of what I believe to be one of Michigan’s most scenic waterfalls.

Whether you’re an avid hiker, a photographer, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat into nature, the Keweenaw Peninsula’s waterfalls offer a delightful and refreshing experience.

Spend a night looking for Yooperlite

Yooperlite is a unique type of rock found in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan, known for its striking fluorescent properties.

These rocks primarily consist of a mineral called sodalite, which emits a bright orange or yellow glow when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light (you just need to make sure that you use the right kind of black light which you can read more about here).

Rock enthusiasts often search for Yooperlites along the shores of Lake Superior in the Keweenaw Peninsula. There are lots of beaches where you can find them but some places to look include Agate Beach and McLain State Park.

The discovery of these glowing rocks has gained popularity in recent years, attracting both locals and tourists who enjoy the thrill of finding and collecting these fascinating geological specimens during nighttime excursions with UV lights along the picturesque Lake Superior shoreline.

Of course, even if you’re not searching for Yooperlite, the beaches of the Keweenaw Peninsula are full of other interesting rocks like agates. It’s truly a rockhound’s paradise.

Test out the many Jams and jellies

Exploring the Jam Pot in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula is another must when in the area. Nestled close to Eagle Harbor, this delightful establishment is celebrated for its handcrafted jams, jellies, and freshly baked treats, including treats like peanut butter jelly brownies and habanero caramels.

Managed by monks from a Catholic Monastery of the Byzantine Rite, the Jam Pot offers a jack pot of mouthwatering preserves, carefully concocted using locally sourced ingredients, including the bountiful berries and fruits indigenous to the Keweenaw Peninsula.

During your visit, you’ll have the opportunity to savor a diverse selection of flavors but be sure to try the thimbleberry jam.

Also, don’t miss the chance to explore the equally captivating Jam Lady’s establishment, also situated near Eagle Harbor.

Revered for its homemade jams and jellies (along with its chow chow relish) this unique shop operates on an honor system basis.

Inside, you’ll find an intriguing assortment that extends beyond jams and jellies, including vintage postcards and even horseshoes, adding an extra layer of charm to your visit.

Explore the history and culinary seen around Houghton

Houghton and its neighboring city Hancock offer a delightful blend of activities for all interests.

Explore the area’s rich mining history with a captivating tour of the Quincy Mine, taking you deep underground to experience the copper mining heritage. You can expect to be transported back in time as you descend into the mine’s dark and labyrinthine tunnels, guided by knowledgeable interpreters who bring the stories of miners and their struggles to life.

For those intrigued by culture and heritage, Houghton hosts a range of museums, including the Carnegie Museum and the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum.

Don’t miss the iconic Portage Lake Lift Bridge, a striking engineering marvel that connects Houghton and Hancock, offering sweet views of the Keweenaw Waterway.

Satisfy your taste buds at a charming Finnish restaurant, Suomi Home Bakery & Restaurant, where you can order traditional Finnish dishes that pay homage to the area’s rich Finnish heritage. Indulge in classics like pasties, pulla (Finnish sweet bread), Finnish pancakes, and Finnish French toast.

If you are a fan of white fish you can relish the delightful flavors at Four Sons Fish and Chips.

Houghton also boasts a rich history in professional hockey, with a connections to the sport’s legacy. In fact, its said that the first recognized professional hockey team was born in Houghton.

The downtown area is full of charm in historic buildings and it’s definitely worth the walk around.

Explore lighthouses

The Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan is home to several enchanting lighthouses, each with its own unique history and architectural charm.

One standout is the Copper Harbor Lighthouse, perched near the tip of the peninsula. Built in 1866, this iconic lighthouse guided ships safely through the treacherous waters of Lake Superior during the height of the copper mining era.

Another notable beacon is the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse, established in 1851 and rebuilt in 1871. Its iconic design and red brick, along with the adjacent maritime museum, offer visitors a glimpse into the maritime heritage of the region. It’s also located right by an observation platform that has amazing views of the lake. I definitely recommend a stop.

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse
Eagle Harbor Lighthouse

The Eagle River Lighthouse also merits a visit, as its now a vacation rental.

The Sand Point Lighthouse is located at the base of the peninsula and is another worthwhile lighthouse to check out.

These lighthouses not only provide a visual treat but also offer a fascinating window into the maritime history and navigational significance of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Copper Harbor

Copper Harbor, located at the northernmost tip of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, is a haven for outdoor adventurers and nature enthusiasts.

The area is renowned for its pristine natural beauty and offers a wide range of activities. Visitors can start by exploring the scenic Brockway Mountain Drive, which offers panoramic views of Lake Superior and the surrounding wilderness.

Outdoor enthusiasts can hike or bike along miles of picturesque trails in the Copper Harbor Trail System, including the renowned Estivant Pines, home to some of the oldest and tallest trees in the Midwest. Kayaking and boating on Lake Superior, as well as fishing in nearby inland lakes, provide aquatic adventures.

History buffs can delve into the Keweenaw’s mining heritage at the Central Mine Historic Site or Fort Wilkins State Park. Fort Wilkins is an interesting site because it not only preserves the rich military history of the mid-19th century but also provides a glimpse into the daily life of soldiers stationed here during that era.

The well-preserved fort includes historic buildings, exhibits, and interpretive programs that allow visitors to step back in time and learn about the challenges and triumphs of those who served on the remote Keweenaw Peninsula.

Furthermore, the park’s picturesque setting along the Lake Superior shoreline provides breathtaking vistas and recreational options, appealing to history enthusiasts and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

Northern lights

The Keweenaw Peninsula is a prime location for witnessing the mesmerizing natural spectacle of the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. Thanks to its northern latitude and relatively low light pollution, the Peninsula offers an ideal vantage point for observing this dazzling celestial display.

Visitors often find themselves awestruck by the vibrant curtains of green, pink, and purple lights dancing across the northern skies during clear, dark nights, particularly during the fall and winter months.

To enhance your Northern Lights experience, venture to remote areas like the Brockway Mountain Drive or the shores of Lake Superior, where you’ll have an unobstructed view of the night sky, creating unforgettable memories of this awe-inspiring natural wonder.

Scenic drives

The Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan is a haven for scenic drives, offering breathtaking vistas and a chance to immerse yourself in the region’s natural beauty.

One must-visit route is the iconic Brockway Mountain Drive, which winds its way along the spine of Brockway Mountain, providing sweeping panoramic views of Lake Superior and the surrounding wilderness.

M-26, the highway that traverses the peninsula, also offers spectacular sights, from dense forests and sparkling waterfalls to charming small towns. Along the way, you can explore the historic towns of Houghton and Hancock, stop at picturesque roadside parks, and relish the tranquility of the Peninsula’s serene lakes and forests.

Before you leave, make sure you check out the end of US Highway 41, which terminates in Copper Harbor, not far from Houghton. This iconic highway, stretching over 1,900 miles from Miami, Florida, to the northern reaches of Michigan, offers a symbolic journey from the tropical south to the picturesque north.

Final word

The Keweenaw Peninsula abounds with stunning landscapes and captivating attractions. Whether you’re strolling along the beaches at night, searching for Yooperlite, or descending cliffs to admire mesmerizing waterfalls, adventure and awe-inspiring vistas await. This region is also a haven for culinary enthusiasts, offering delectable jams, sweets, and ethnic cuisine to savor.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Overlook No 9: A Balancing Act of Risks and Adventure

Perched along the serene Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive in Michigan lies the Sleeping Bear Dunes Overlook, a majestic 450-foot sand dune that offers visitors breathtaking panoramas of Lake Michigan.

While most tourists flock to the designated overlook area with informative interpretive panels to marvel at the captivating view, an adjacent rugged path along a steep dune beckons to the adventurous.

However, this path carries with it a reputation for numerous emergency rescue attempts. In this article, will take a look at this interesting spot and give some insight into the dangers and adventures that it offers.

What is the Sleeping Bear Dunes Overlook?

The Sleeping Bear Dunes Overlook, also referred to as No. 9 Overlook, is a towering 450-foot sand dune located along the picturesque Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. From this vantage point, visitors are treated to awe-inspiring vistas of Lake Michigan.

Most visitors gather at the designated overlook platform, complete with informative interpretive panels, to soak in the breathtaking view.

However, adjacent to this spot, there exists a rugged path along a steep dune that adventurous souls sometimes venture down. This path has garnered a reputation for the numerous rescue attempts it has necessitated over the years.

Don’t get this overlook confused with the “dune climb” which is a popular tourist spot allowing visitors to climb up a large dune and proceed on a hike to the lakeshore if desired. That’s located at a different part of the park. If you want to find the No. 9 Overlook, you’ll run into it towards then end of the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.

Related: Pictured Rocks Kayaking Tour Review (Tips For Your Visit)

Sleeping Bear Dunes Overlook

Sleeping Bear Dunes Overlook history

Over the years, this overlook, known as No. 9 Overlook, has garnered quite a reputation as a hotspot for emergency rescues. It has been a site where numerous 911 calls have been made, resulting in some tourists facing substantial expenses when they found themselves unable to make a safe return.

Just how challenging the rescue is, depends on the water levels.

When lake levels are lower, rescue operations involve the use of an ATV to traverse the beach, reaching individuals and bringing them back to safety. This approach is not only more practical but also significantly more cost-effective than what is needed in high water level years. During these times, a rescue of this kind might incur a cost of approximately $700.

But in years with higher water levels, rescue operations become more expensive, requiring a team of 8 to 10 highly trained personnel to employ rope techniques for lifting victims to safety, sometimes hundreds of feet up the steep sides of the dune. This intricate and labor-intensive method can cost upwards of $2,000 to $3,000.

The responsibility for covering these rescue expenses falls upon the individuals who are rescued, although it’s reported that only approximately half of them actually fulfill this obligation.

Consequently, the fire department is left to shoulder the remaining costs, making it a challenging situation for both the individuals involved and the local authorities.

Related: Dining at The Cherry Hut: From Turkey to Cherries – A Review

Sleeping Bear Dunes Overlook

Why exactly is this considered so dangerous?

The biggest problem is probably visitors being unprepared for the strenuous climb back up.

Trekking uphill on loose sand is not an easy task and can be much more exhausting than a lot of people anticipate.

It’s also common to see people head down without any water supplies, even during warm summer months. After 20 to 30 minutes of strenuous exertion, it’s really easy to get dehydrated and that can be a major problem.

There’s also the issue of potentially getting injured going down.

While sand can be very forgiving, a bad tumble could send you down without being able to stop. Also, if you take a look at the sand you’ll notice that there are quite a few rocks within the sand that could easily cut somebody up.

These risks have been highly publicized and as a result the amount of rescue attempts have decreased.

This has a lot to do with getting the message out about the dangers of heading down to the water via volunteers. A few years back they started a program that brought out volunteers who would try to dissuade people from making the trip down the dune.

There’s also a sign at the top that warns about the dangers and about having to pay $3,000 for being rescued.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Overlook No 9

Some people criticize the policy and warnings requiring people to pay for their rescue.

The argument is that this could incentivize people to not request for help and potentially put themselves in fatal danger. As someone who is big on personal responsibility, I don’t mind requiring people to cover their emergency fees. However, there is always that potential for it to backfire (though that doesn’t seem to be a problem here).

Regardless of some of the criticism, the success of these deterrents has been evident by the number of rescue calls which in some summers has been as slow as only 2 to 3 compared to previous years where in peak season they could receive as many as four rescue calls per day!

Sleeping Bear Dunes Overlook No 9

Should you make the trek?

Ultimately, the decision to undertake this type of climb rests with the visitor, and it’s important to assess your own capabilities and physical condition. Depending on your fitness level, it could take you anywhere from 30 minutes to close to two hours to get back up.

Regrettably, I found myself in a situation where I had thrown my back out a couple of days prior to my visit, making the temptation of attempting this climb out of the question for me.

Nevertheless, as someone who has tackled numerous hikes, including very strenuous ones like descending to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back in a single day, I can offer some valuable tips.

First and foremost, pay close attention to the temperature, especially if you’re attempting this climb during the summer months. It’s advisable to start early in the morning when temperatures are lower. This approach will greatly aid in preventing dehydration and ensure that the sand isn’t scorching hot under your feet if you choose to go barefoot.

Personally, I would recommend wearing some form of footwear due to the concealed rocks in the sand. Nothing would be more unfortunate than injuring your foot while making your way down there.

I observed various approaches to descending the dune. Some adventurous souls opted for the thrilling sprint straight down the slope, almost seeming to glide on the sand – undoubtedly a lot of fun.

Others chose a more cautious zigzag pattern, a prudent strategy to avoid a potential disastrous tumble.

Then, there were those who took a measured and methodical walk down the dune’s flank, arguably the most sensible approach.

If you’re planning this adventure, I recommend having a CamelBak or a similar hydration system with a generous water supply, possibly around two liters. This ensures you stay well-hydrated for the ascent and allows you to easily sip water during your breaks. Having some electrolytes with you like liquid IV or tablets is also a good idea.

Now, onto the journey back up.

I strongly advise pacing yourself when ascending. While a 450-foot elevation gain may not sound daunting to seasoned hikers familiar with elevation changes, the challenge here lies in the loose sand underfoot. Climbing uphill through loose sand requires considerably more effort than scaling solid ground.

Therefore, don’t attempt to power through it on the way up.

Instead, take ample breaks and relish the breathtaking scenery below, including the shimmering turquoise waters. It might also be wise to have some extra supplies on hand, such as a light snacks, a hat, and sunglasses.

Final word

Sleeping Bear Dunes Overlook No 9 has been a place where lots of people have gotten into a scary situation and there have been many rescues over the years. But with the public more educated about the risks, it seems that those rescues have declined. For many people, it’s worth just admiring the views from the observation platform which might be some of the best you’ll find in Michigan.

Michigan’s Culinary Delights: Top 10 Must-Try Foods for a Delicious Experience

Michigan is a land of culinary wonders, each dish telling a unique story of the state’s history and culture. From the vibrant swirls of Superman Ice Cream to the hearty pasties of the Upper Peninsula, the Great Lakes State offers a diverse array of flavors to tantalize your taste buds.

In this article, we’ll embark on a delectable journey through Michigan’s culinary world, exploring the origins, tastes, and renowned locations for each of these iconic Michigan foods.

Whether you’re a local looking to celebrate your state’s flavors or a curious traveler eager to explore new tastes, get ready to discover the mouthwatering delights that make Michigan’s cuisine truly one of a kind.

Superman Ice Cream

Superman Ice Cream is a colorful treat that captures the essence of Michigan’s fun-loving spirit. This iconic ice cream is known for its vibrant swirls of red, blue, and yellow, reminiscent of the superhero’s costume (although the ice cream came before Superman’s character).

The taste? Almost impossible to describe.

But think of a delightful blend of lemon, cherry/red pop, and blue moon (itself a bit of a mystery flavor).

Due to potential copyright issues, the ice cream often goes by different names than Superman (e.g., “super rainbow”) and different brands also use different flavors you don’t always get the same flavor profile. For example, instead of lemon you might get vanilla.

When in Michigan, head to any number of ice cream parlors to savor this nostalgic dessert that’s been a staple at summertime gatherings for generations. However, if you want to get local go with Moomer’s or Stroh’s Ice Cream.

Superman Ice Cream


Hailing from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, pasties are the ultimate comfort food and also just kind of fun to eat.

These hearty hand pies were brought to the UP region by Cornish miners in the 19th century and have existed in England for at least 800 years. In fact, those from Cornwall have protected status just like champagne.

One thing you might notice is that they have a unique shape. The practice of crimping the edges not only made them easy to handle (even with dirty hands) but it also allowed miners to identify their pasties, etching their initials into this humble meal.

Pasties typically consist of a flaky pastry filled with a savory mixture of ground meat, potatoes, onions, and rutabagas, seasoned to perfection. The result? A warm, satisfying meal that’s perfect for cold Michigan winters or post-hike meals.

To sample some of the best pasties in the state, visit Lawry’s Pasty Shop in Marquette, Roy’s Pasties and Bakery in Houghton, or Muldoons Pasties in Munising, and you’ll understand why this dish has stood the test of time. Some of the shops like Muldoons also serve dessert pasties such as pumpkin or apple pasties which can be equally satisfying.

pasty michigan

Detroit-Style Pizza

If you thought the best pizza only came from New York or Italy, think again!

Originating in the Motor City in the 1940s, this pizza is known for its deep, square-shaped crust, which is crispy on the outside and wonderfully soft on the inside. It’s topped with generous layers of Wisconsin brick cheese and tomato sauce, often ladled on top in streaks.

Visit Buddy’s Pizza, which claims to be the birthplace of this delectable dish, or check out Loui’s Pizza, Green Lantern, Cloverleaf, or Michigan and Trumbull for a taste of authentic Detroit-style pizza.

We tried out Buddy’s Pizza and I came out thoroughly impressed.

The Detroit-style pizza strikes the ideal balance of thickness, offering heartiness but without too much density — its slices are surprisingly light. But it also maintains just the right amount of crispiness on the edges.

It’s my top choice among all pizza styles I’ve tried so far. When visiting Michigan, indulging in this culinary gem is an absolute necessity.

Detroit-Style Pizza buddys

Thimbleberry Jam

Thimbleberries are a rare and very delicate berry native to Michigan’s forests and other surrounding regions.

Their jam, known as thimbleberry jam, is a true delicacy. With a sweet yet tart flavor, this jam is a real treat for the taste buds. The jam’s vibrant red color and distinctive flavor make it a sought-after local delight.

While it can be challenging to find due to the scarcity of thimbleberries, you might discover jars of this unique jam at local farmers’ markets or specialty stores throughout the state.

However, if you are in the Keweenaw Peninsula you can easily find this jam at the Jam Lady or at the Jampot, which are both interesting places to visit even if you don’t want to buy jam.

The Jam Lady’s approach is refreshingly unique, allowing you to select jams and a wide range of assorted products based entirely on an honor system, adding a touch of trust to your culinary adventure. From vintage postcards to horse shoes, you can find a little bit of everything in the shop which is housed in a former post office.

On the other hand, the Jampot is an establishment lovingly managed by monks from the Catholic Monastery of the Byzantine Rite. Here, you not only have the chance to savor thimbleberry jam but also indulge in a variety of exquisite sweet treats, including irresistible creations like peanut butter and jelly brownies.

We enjoyed thimbleberry jam on toast and it’s easily one of my favorite jams.

Thimbleberry Jam

Coney Dog

The Coney dog is Detroit’s answer to the classic hot dog, and it’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Originating from Coney Island, New York, it found its unique identity in the heart of Detroit. A Coney dog typically consists of a steamed hot dog topped with a flavorful meaty chili sauce, chopped onions, and a drizzle of mustard.

Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island, both located in downtown Detroit, are legendary destinations where you can savor this iconic Michigan dish. The friendly rivalry between these two establishments adds an extra layer of charm to your culinary adventure.

But you can also enjoy a Flint-style coney dog, although I have to say it was not my favorite dish to try when in Michigan. We visited one of the recommended places in Flint and I just didn’t find the chili used on the hotdog appetizing at all and the casing on the hotdog was not right.

Coney Dog

Mackinac Island Fudge

Mackinac Island, a picturesque gem in Lake Huron, is famous for its delectable fudge, which dates back to over 100 years.

Crafted in the tradition of old-world confectionery, Mackinac Island fudge boasts a rich, creamy texture and an array of flavors, from classic chocolate to modern combinations like sea salt caramel and cookies ‘n cream.

You’ll find over a dozen fudge shops along the charming streets of Mackinac Island, such as Murdick’s Fudge and Ryba’s Fudge Shops, where you can witness the art of fudge-making and indulge in a sweet treat that perfectly complements the island’s nostalgic ambiance.

Personally, I’m not really a fudge person (or “fudgie”). I mean, don’t get me wrong I will eat some fudge but it’s never been my go-to dessert or anything like that. However, I struggled to put down the chocolate walnut fudge from Murdick’s Fudge, which I found to be pretty damn irresistible.

Mackinac Island Fudge

Boston Cooler

Despite its name, the Boston Cooler has nothing to do with Beantown.

The name’s origins are a bit of a mystery. Some attribute it to a neighborhood in Detroit with the name Boston in it while others point to a connection to Boston Boulevard.

After looking deeply into this history though it seems that these are probably myths and that the beverage has a long and varied history with Boston Coolers taking many different forms over the decades, dating back to the late 1800s.

Confusing history aside, this delightful beverage combines two main ingredients: vanilla ice cream and Vernors ginger ale. The result is a frothy, creamy, and subtly spicy concoction that’s perfect for quenching your thirst on a hot summer day.

Visit ice cream shops or burger joints like Mercury Burger to savor this nostalgic beverage.

Boston Cooler


Michigan’s Traverse City is often dubbed the “Cherry Capital of the World,” and for good reason. The area’s climate is ideal for cultivating both sweet and tart cherries, and you’ll find them in various forms, from fresh-picked fruit to preserves and pies.

Michigan cherries are perfect for snacking, baking, or enjoying in a classic cherry pie. Traverse City, in particular, is renowned for its cherry orchards, and the National Cherry Festival is a must-visit event for cherry enthusiasts.

When in “TC” you will find places like Cherry Republic, the Cherry Stop, Grand Traverse Pie Company, and a bit further out you’ll find the famous Cherry Hut, all of which offer endless cherry products. Whether it’s cherry soap or cherry coffee, you’ll find a vast array of options that will intrigue and perhaps even confuse you.

cherry pie


When it comes to freshwater fish, Michigan’s whitefish is a prized catch. With its mild, delicate flavor and flaky texture, whitefish is a versatile fish that can be prepared in various ways, from grilling to smoking.

The Great Lakes, especially Lake Superior, are teeming with this delicious fish. For a taste of fresh whitefish, head to a lakeside restaurant like. We really enjoyed Four Suns Fish & Chips, located on the Keweenaw Peninsula. But there are endless restaurants in Michigan where you can find a good whitefish like The Cove in Leland or Legs Inn in Cross Village.



Hailing from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, cudighi is a spicy Italian sausage sandwich that’s become a local favorite. The sausage is made from a blend of ground beef and pork, seasoned with a fiery mix of spices, which gives it a distinct taste.

Cudighi is often served on a soft roll with marinara sauce and melted cheese, creating a spicy, savory, and satisfying sandwich. But you can also enjoy this “classic style” which consists of the sausage with onions, ketchup, and mustard.

To try this UP classic, visit Ralph’s Italian Deli in Ishpeming or Vango’s Pizza & Cocktail Lounge in Marquette, both renowned for their delicious cudighi sandwiches that pack a flavorful punch.


Final word

Upon arriving in Michigan, I was pleasantly surprised to encounter a diverse array of unique foods to sample. While some of these dishes may have their roots in other parts of the country or even the world, Michigan has added its own distinctive twist to each one. No matter your palate preferences, you’re bound to find a culinary delight that will leave your taste buds thoroughly satisfied.

Exploring Fort Mackinac’s Rich History & Firing the Canon!

Mackinac Island in Michigan is a treasure trove of captivating history.

From its distinction as one of the earliest national parks in the United States to its transformation into a sought-after destination for travelers, it is steeped in historical significance.

Yet, one of the most intriguing and compelling narratives on the island unfolds within the walls of Fort Mackinac.

What is Fort Mackinac?

Fort Mackinac, situated on Mackinac Island in Michigan, is a historic military fort offering visitors a glimpse into the military history of the region and the role the fort played during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, including its involvement in the War of 1812.

Fort Mackinac: a brief history

Fort Mackinac has roots dating back to the late 1700s.

Before 1763, the French utilized Fort Michilimackinac, located on the mainland’s south shore of the Straits of Mackinac, to assert control over the region.

Following the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the British took control of the French fort but found it challenging to defend.

In response to these challenges, in 1780 Lieutenant Governor Patrick Sinclair took charge of the construction of a new fort made of limestone on the 150-foot limestone bluffs of Mackinac Island.

To create this new fort, various buildings were relocated from the mainland post of Michilimackinac, including the barracks, guardhouse, and provision storehouse.

The fort was strategically positioned to oversee the Straits of Mackinac, connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and played a pivotal role in regulating the lucrative fur trade. But it had its shortcomings as you’ll see.

Fort Mackinac

Eventually, in 1796, several years after the American victory in the Revolutionary War, the United States assumed control of the fort and it went on to play a substantial role in the region’s history, notably during the War of 1812.

In June 1812, as the War of 1812 commenced, Fort Mackinac was defended by a modest United States garrison consisting of roughly sixty men, led by Lieutenant Porter Hanks.

Unfortunately, Hanks and his men were unaware of the outbreak of the war due to a lack of communication.

In the early hours of July 17, 1812, a joint British and Native American expedition, led by British Captain Charles Roberts, launched a surprise assault on Fort Mackinac.

This force comprised 40 British soldiers along with 500 French Canadian and Native American allies, significantly outnumbering the US troops.

They disembarked on the northern tip of Mackinac Island, a location still accessible today and recognized as “British Landing.”

Fort Mackinac British Landing
British Landing

They then ascended to the island’s highest point, which afforded a commanding view of Fort Mackinac.

This area was eventually reclaimed by the United States and named Fort Holmes. And today, there is a recreated fort at this location that offers a fascinating historical experience well worth exploring.

Fort Mackinac Fort Holmes
Fort Holmes

But back to the invasion by the British….

Once the British were on the island’s high point they strategically positioned their cannons directly aimed at the fort, compelling its surrender in what marked the first land engagement of the War of 1812.

A couple of years later in August of 1814, there was another significant battle for the island that ended unfavorably for the Americans. Similar to the British approach, the American forces landed on the island’s northern side.

However, as they advanced toward the fort, they faced strong resistance and were ambushed by Native American allies, leading to the loss of 13 American soldiers, including their second-in-command, Major Andrew Holmes.

This battlefield is yet another location that you can visit when on the island.

Fort Mackinac

Fort Mackinac remained under the control of the British Empire for a significant period until the conclusion of the war when it was returned to the United States as part of the Treaty of Ghent in 1815.

Throughout the 19th century, Fort Mackinac continued to operate as a military post. However, by the late 1800s, its defensive role had become obsolete.

Instead, it found new purposes, such as serving as the headquarters for managing the national park established on Mackinac Island. Eventually, it was decommissioned in 1895, and the fort became a part of Michigan’s first State Park, as the focus on the island shifted to tourism.

In the late 1950s, after restoration work that went on through the decades, Fort Mackinac opened as a living history museum.

Fort Mackinac view

How to get to Fort Mackinac

To visit Fort Mackinac, you must first make your way to Mackinac Island.

If you’re not familiar with the island, it’s important to note that automobiles are not permitted there. Instead, you’ll need to access the island by taking a ferry, boat, or flying in. It’s just a brief uphill walk from the downtown area to reach the fort’s south entrance. Alternatively, you can come from the north entrance.

An adult ticket is about $15 and comes with admission to other sites on the island. For more on pricing and admission you can go here.

Fort Mackinac exterior

Experiencing Fort Mackinac

Indeed, there is much to explore and experience at Fort Mackinac. When planning your visit, it’s advisable to allocate ample time to fully appreciate all that it has to offer.

Throughout the day, visitors have the opportunity to witness engaging historical demonstrations that transport them back in time.

These demonstrations often include captivating reenactments featuring period rifles like the Springfield model 1873.

Fort Mackinac

he firing of the renowned cannon, a 1841 model six-pounder is not to be missed!

Fort Mackinac canon demonstration

There is also a guided tour which will give you a great background into the evolution of the fort.

For the most part, you’re standing in the parade grounds so the tour doesn’t take you in and out of the buildings (which is probably a good thing because those are best explore in small groups).

Fort Mackinac tour

Visitors can plan ahead by calling to inquire about the scheduled times for these demonstrations.

Alternatively, while exploring the fort, keep an ear out for the uniformed workers dressed in 1880s Prussian-inspired uniforms, as they often make announcements regarding the timing of these events.

Furthermore, if you encounter these knowledgeable workers during their free moments, don’t hesitate to approach them with any questions you may have about the fort’s history. They are usually eager to share fascinating insights and historical tidbits.

Fort Mackinac tour

In addition to the scheduled demonstrations and shows, you have the freedom to embark on self-guided exploration throughout the fort.

As you explore, you’ll encounter a plethora of intriguing structures to enter and explore. Many of these sites feature interpretive panels and artifacts that provide valuable insights into the fort’s rich history, enhancing your learning experience.

Indeed, some of the structures within the fort are incredibly captivating, such as the Post Guardhouse, which once served as the detention area for prisoners. What makes it even more intriguing is the presence of graffiti dating back to the 1800s, left behind by the incarcerated individuals who were held in this room.

You’ll also have the opportunity to explore a variety of other historical buildings, each with its own unique significance. Some of these include the Soldiers Barracks, Post Schoolhouse, Officer’s Stone Quarters (which is Michigan’s oldest building, dating back to 1780), and the Commissary Building.

Fort Mackinac barracks

These structures offer a diverse range of insights into the fort’s history and the daily life of its inhabitants during different time periods.

Fort Mackinac tea room

One of the most intriguing and unforgettable experiences you can have at Fort Mackinac is the opportunity to be the one person who fires the cannon in the morning, for a little extra cost (~$60 extra).

As a history buff, this is an incredibly cool and memorable activity, well worth the investment. Plus, I’m pretty sure the money spent on this experience goes toward supporting the fort and its preservation, making it a win-win for history buffs and the fort’s continued maintenance.

Final word

For many people, Fort Mackinac stands as the highlight of their Mackinac Island experience.

Its rich history, well-preserved structures, and engaging historical demonstrations make it a must-visit destination for those exploring this unique and captivating island.

From its strategic location overlooking the straits to the intriguing artifacts and stories it houses, Fort Mackinac offers a glimpse into the past that truly enhances any visit to Mackinac Island.

The Boston Cooler Chronicles: Experiencing A Refreshing Detroit Tradition

When it comes to refreshing summer drinks, the Boston Cooler has to rank among the very best. Unknown to lots of people outside of the Midwest, it’s a Detroit staple for many.

But what’s the story behind this beverage, and how exactly does it relate to Detroit, Michigan?

In this article, we’ll delve into the intriguing origins of the Boston Cooler and even provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to craft this Midwest classic at home.

What is a Boston Cooler?

A Boston Cooler is a classic beverage that combines Vernors ginger ale and creamy vanilla ice cream, resulting in a delightful and refreshing treat. Its origins are somewhat disputed, but it’s now closely associated with Detroit, Michigan, where it gained popularity.

Boston Cooler mix

Boston Cooler History 

The origins of the Boston Cooler are a topic of some debate, particularly regarding who first coined the term.

However, one thing seems certain: this beverage has gone through several transformations before settling on the combination of Vernors and vanilla ice cream that we recognize today.

Many individuals attribute the creation of this delightful beverage to an establishment once situated along Boston Boulevard in Detroit, which, of course, would provide a logical explanation for its name, the “Boston Cooler.”

However, this connection appears to be more along the lines of a myth, and the term “Boston Cooler” has evolved over time with various interpretations and associations.

Boston Coolers may have been born in Massachusetts in the late 1800s as a cocktail of rum, lime, and soda water.

Around the same era, in 1889, an article on summer cocktails in New York mentioned a Boston Cooler recipe that combined ginger ale and sarsaparilla.

The article, with its tantalizingly long headline, enticed readers by describing the drinks as “Seductive Drinks that Come Like a Breeze from the Arctic—Cocktails that Are ‘Midsummer Poems’—A Recipe for a ‘Liquid Blizzard’ Suited to the Dog Days.”

Also, during the early 1900s when soda fountains were all of the rage, there were advertisements offering a “Boston Cooler,” which was a a scoop of ice cream in a half of a melon. Apparently, these treats were extremely popular.

Finally, when soda fountains were all of the rage, the term Boston Cooler became associated with various types of ice cream-soda concoctions that one could order at the soda fountains and ice cream shops.

So essentially, the Boston Cooler became the “generic term used in the early 20th century for any drink mixing ice cream and soda.” For instance, Hires, a root beer company, promoted their own version of the Boston Cooler.

Suffice it to say these drinks weren’t specific to Detroit or Michigan by any means.

But how then did they develop the D-town connection that is undeniable today? 

Well, a significant part of the answer lies with Vernors and a gentleman named Fred Sanders.

Fred Sanders was the visionary behind one of Detroit’s pioneering ice cream and confectionery shops. He’s been credited with introducing ice cream sodas to the Detroit scene during the 1800s.

What’s particularly noteworthy is his choice of a key ingredient: Detroit’s very own Vernors, a beverage concocted by local pharmacist James Vernor. To this day, Vernors is renowned for its potential stomach-soothing properties.

One version of history says that at this shop, the modern Boston Cooler’s precursor, the “Vernors Cream,” was invented.

Initially, this concoction would have consisted of a shot or two of sweet cream poured into a glass of Vernors Ginger Ale. Over time, its believed the cream was replaced with vanilla ice cream, giving rise to the creamy and refreshing Boston Cooler we know today.

Then fast forward to 1967. In that year, Vernors trademarked the Boston Cooler when they were introducing a Vernors Boston Cooler flavor ice cream bar, which apparently didn’t do so well.

However, it was likely at that point that the Boston Cooler-Detroit connection began to solidify and eventually outpace its association with other beverages and regions.

What’s in a Boston Cooler?

The beverage is made with two key ingredients: vanilla ice cream and ginger ale. 

To achieve an authentic Boston Cooler, it’s a must to use Vernors Ginger Ale.

Renowned for its mellow ginger profile complemented by a noticeable hint of vanilla, Vernors adds that extra layer of magic, bridging the gap between traditional ginger ale and the creamy goodness of cream soda.

As for the ice cream, some whip these up with generic vanilla or soft serve though some also strive for local ice cream brands like Stroh’s for their vanilla.

The ratio of ice cream to ginger ale may vary but it seems like the standard is something like 3 parts ice cream to one part ginger ale. This could be roughly 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream with one 8 oz Vernors.  

The last crucial step to making a Boston Cooler is to combine the ice cream with the ginger ale, but this isn’t your typical float where you simply plop ice cream scoops into a beverage.

Instead, you’ll want to blend these components into a smooth and creamy consistency that can be sipped through a straw, a distinct departure from the traditional float experience.

Some places make theirs more “shake like” than others but it’s usually different from a normal float even though you can find “Vernors floats” offered at some establishments. 

Boston Cooler

Where can you find Boston Coolers?

You can find Boston Coolers at ice cream shops and restaurants like burger joints around Detroit and other areas of Michigan.

We enjoyed a couple of fabulous Boston coolers from a burger place called Mercury Burgers, where they are served up in glasses and given the respect they deserve. 

But you can also find these at Detroit-area Dairy Queen’s and perhaps even McDonald’s. In fact, local McDonald’s stores once gave out free Boston Coolers on the city’s 315th anniversary in 2016.

Of course, you can also just make yours at home, as we did using Vernors and homemade vanilla ice cream from Kemp’s.

After blending all the ingredients together, we were left with a delightful concoction. The mellow ginger notes from the Vernors Ginger Ale harmoniously mingle with the luscious creaminess of the vanilla ice cream. It’s really the perfect beverage.

However, if your ice cream is straight out of the freezer, you might want to let it thaw for a little bit to ensure it’s wonderfully creamy. Some experts also suggest a special technique: pour about an inch of Vernors into the glass first, which helps create a fluffy foam.

Then, gently place two scoops of vanilla ice cream into the glass and carefully pour in the remaining Vernors. Stir the mixture until it reaches a smooth and harmonious consistency. This method guarantees a top-notch Boston Cooler experience!

Final word

The origin of the Boston Cooler is a complex and multifaceted tale, and its direct connection to Detroit is a matter of debate. However, it has undeniably cemented its status as a beloved Detroit staple over the years.

This delightful beverage, with its unique blend of Vernors Ginger Ale and creamy vanilla ice cream, shines brightest on scorching summer afternoons, offering a refreshing respite from the heat.

However, its appeal extends well beyond the summer months — the Boston Cooler is a versatile treat that can brighten your day year-round.

Frankenmuth, Michigan: Tourist Trap or Worth the Visit?

If you appreciate distinctive towns, particularly those infused with German culture, Frankenmuth is sure to captivate your interest. This quaint locale, rich in history, provides a taste of Germany right in the heart of Michigan.

But is it merely a tourist trap or a destination worth exploring? Our recent brief visit to Frankenmuth provided us with some insights.

What is Frankenmuth, Michigan?

Frankenmuth, often referred to as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” is a quaint and compact city celebrated for its strong German heritage and architectural style. It is renowned for its vibrant array of festivals and events, as well as for housing the world’s largest Christmas store.

Frankenmuth history: brief overview

The city derives its name from a fusion of the German terms “Franken” and “Muth,” which translate to “Franconia” and “courage” in English. Thus the name Frankenmuth actually means “courage of the Franconians.”

This nomenclature is tied to its history, which has its roots in the 1840s.

In 1840, a German missionary by the name of Frederick Wyneken was stationed in the upper Midwest.

He penned a letter addressed to Lutherans across Germany, seeking assistance while describing the challenges faced by German pioneers in his region. He emphasized their pressing needs, including a shortage of pastors, churches, and schools.

Wilhelm Loehe, pastor of the country church in Neuendettelsau, Mittelfranken, Kingdom of Bavaria, was moved by the letter and wanted to send a missionary congregation to give comfort to the German pioneers but to also show the Native Americans in the region “Wie gut und schön es ist bei Jesu zu sein” (How wonderful it is to live with Jesus).

So Loehe selected Pastor August Craemer to be the mission’s leader and he would lead a group of 15 German Lutherans consisting of mostly mostly farmers from around Neuendettelsau.

After a tumultuous 50-day sailing experience across the Atlantic where they dealt with terrible weather and illnesses, they reached New York Harbor on June 8, 1845.

Subsequently they embarked on a journey via steamboats and trains, ultimately reaching Bay City and then trekking miles through forest, thickets, and swamps to Frankenmuth.

The settlers were drawn to Frankenmuth by its rolling hills and lush forests, which reminded them of their native Mittelfranken.

After paying $1,700 to purchase 680 acres of Chippewa Indian Reservation land from the federal government, they began building their settlement, which involved lot of land clearing and some rough times with one person writing home, “The most miserable village in Bavaria has palaces by comparison.”

At the outset, their settlement had a mostly religious motive, aiming to establish a Lutheran mission for Native Americans. However, the Native American population in the area was subsequently displaced and moved away to better hunting grounds, leading to an early abandonment in their mission efforts.

Nevertheless, immigration from Germany continued to contribute to the region’s population through the decades and Pastor Loehe also organized three other colonies in Michigan in the nearby area like current-day Richville.

The settlers residing in this region remained steadfast in their allegiance to Germany and the Kingdom of Bavaria while living on American soil.

Frankenmuth achieved official city status in 1959, around the time when the tourism industry began to quickly rise, and today its known for being a tourist hot spot with waterparks and festive shops and restaurants.

Frankenmuth, Michigan

Our experience visiting Frankenmuth

Frankenmuth is a small city with most of its sites pretty close to each other making it an easy destination to explore even if you are just passing through.

The “hub” of Frankenmuth — at least for tourists — is on Main Street where you can find Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth, a place known for its family style fried chicken dinners.

We did not have the opportunity to test out their chicken but I have heard mixed reports. Some have talked about it as if it’s nothing special while others have raved about it, so I’d imagine it’s worth giving it a shot at least once.

They also have a market on the bottom level that’s definitely worth checking out, as you can find a lot of different tasty pastries, breads, and other fixings.

Just on the other side of the street you will find the Bavarian Inn Restaurant (not to be confused with the Bavarian Inn Lodge which is on the other side of the river). This is another well-established restaurant that also has a bakery and chocolate shop underneath it. If you’re looking for a delicious soft pretzel this is where you can find them.

You can take a stroll down the street where you will encounter the Frankenmuth Visitor & Welcome Center, which can help you plan out your visit. If you are a fan of cheeses then be sure to stop at the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus.

Frankenmuth Cheese Haus

If you’re interested in exploring more of the city’s history there is the Frankenmuth Historical Museum housed in a former hotel from 1905. Another museum worth investigating is the Military and Space Heroes Museum.

You’ll find several other restaurants and shops along Main Street and there is a parking lot that runs in the back of lots of these buildings so it’s easy to get from one end to the other even if you don’t prefer to walk.

The Cass River meanders through the city and you can even hop on a Bavarian Belle Riverboat tour if you’d like.

Frankenmuth, Michigan

A few bridges cross the river but make sure you take time to cross over the beautiful wooden covered bridge, which you can do in your vehicle or by foot. Mind the low speed limit of 7 mph!

Frankenmuth, Michigan covered bridge

On the south side of the river you’ll find the Frankenmuth River Place Shops. This is essentially an outdoor mall that is filled with Bavarian style architecture buildings.

In actuality, the Bavarian-inspired architecture found throughout the town offers a creative interpretation, somewhat reminiscent of a Disney-fied version of Bavaria. It’s a captivating and unique sight to behold, even though it may not be an exact replica of the original Bavarian architecture.

You’ll find over 40 shops and attractions in this area, including local family-owned businesses and national retail chains. Many of them are dog friendly which you will know by the red paw print on the outside of the store.

Frankenmuth, Michigan
Frankenmuth, Michigan

After you get done exploring this portion of the town, you can take a short drive a few minutes south to arrive at the famous Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. This place is known for being the “largest Christmas store in the world.” For anyone who is a fan of Christmas, it’s worth checking out.

Frankenmuth, Michigan christmas

The store is incredibly vast, overflowing with ornaments, lights, decorations, and an abundance of holiday items. It’s quite easy to find yourself navigating its expansive aisles.

Whether you’re looking for personalized ornaments and stockings or searching for practically any Christmas-related item you can envision, this store has you covered. It’s particularly appealing for those celebrating a traditional Christian-style Christmas, offering nativity sets and similar Biblical-themed items.

But even if you simply crave the festive spirit of Christmas, this is the ideal destination to immerse yourself year-round in all things merry and bright.

Frankenmuth, Michigan christmas

While the year-round attractions are interesting, Frankenmuth is also very well known for the special events that take place during holidays.

As you might imagine, Oktoberfest is a major event that starts here every September. And they also have big Christmas and winter events like Zehnder’s Snowfest and Dog Bowl, the largest Olympic-style event for dogs.

Basically, before heading up check your calendar and see what is potentially around the corner as it could really enhance your visit!

Final word

Overall, I thought Frankenmuth was a really interesting stop. Despite its evident touristy and theme park-like ambiance, I wouldn’t categorize it as a tourist trap. This is because it possesses genuine historical significance and offers real value to visitors with its unique sights, food, etc.

Some people make this a multi-night vacation spot which I could see being worth it for some (especially during festivals and special events) although I would probably opt for a day trip in most cases. And as mentioned, if you’re like us and just passing through it can be worthwhile stop.

A Taste of Mackinac Island: A History of Fudge on the Island

Mackinac Island is the self-proclaimed “fudge capital of the world” and for good reason.

With over a dozen fudge shops dotting the island, Mackinac boasts a rich tradition of fudge-making that spans over a century.

Our recent first-time visit to Mackinac Island offered us the chance to indulge in this delightful treat, and we were so deeply impressed by the exceptional fudge quality that couldn’t pass the opportunity to write an article about the experience.

Mackinac Island fudge, a brief history

Mackinac Island’s reputation for sweet treats goes back to the to the time when the island transitioned from being a hub for fur trading to a sought-after summer retreat during the Victorian era.

Native Americans like the Anishinaabeg had a long tradition of harvesting maple sugar on the island. And after wars were no longer being fought on the island and fur trading phased out, vacationers came here for the sweet delight of maple sugar.

During the 1880s, the Murdick family made their way to Mackinac Island and established the island’s inaugural candy store, Murdick’s Candy Kitchen.

Henry Murdick and his son, Jerome “Rome” Murdick, who were skilled sail makers, used the back of the candy store building to craft sails. Whenever sailors and other customers visited, Henry’s wife, Sara Murdick, astounded them with her remarkable confectionery creations.

In due course, she began to experiment with fudge-making, and her son Rome quickly learned the recipe, becoming skilled at crafting these delectable treats too.

Savoring sweets while vacationing soon became an integral aspect of the Mackinac Island tourist tradition as other fudge shops also opened up on the island.

Mackinac Island fudge making

Rome Murdick became the first on Mackinac Island to craft fudge using marble slabs, a technique that bestowed a distinctive creamy texture to the product while simultaneously serving as an entertaining spectacle for customers.

With the addition of music, these fudge-making performances became a bit of a show.

Onlookers were captivated as they witnessed the workers guide the fudge through its entire production process.

The process commenced with a blending of chocolate, sugar, cream, and butter in a copper kettle, skillfully maintained at the ideal temperature with the aid of an oak paddle.

Following this, the skilled artisans expertly molded and gently worked the cooling fudge into loaves before executing precise cuts to create individual, delectable pieces.

In an effort to attract more customers, Rome Murdick and his oldest son, Gould, utilized the cooling fans in their kitchen to disperse the irresistible aroma of freshly-made fudge out into the streets, effectively enticing passersby and helping to revitalize their business.

Mackinac Island fudge experienced both peaks and valleys throughout the first half of the 20th century, navigating the challenges posed by two world wars and the Great Depression.

As sugar became rationed and tourism dwindled, several fudge shops on the island were forced to shut their doors, including Gould who sold the business to Harold May in 1940. May would go on to create May’s, another beloved fudge shop on the island.

Meanwhile, Jerome Murdick, Gould’s half-brother, eventually opened Murdick’s Candy Kitchen, re-igniting the family’s fudge legacy on the island during the 1950s.

Mackinac Island fudge making

After World War II, the country’s economy took off and the expanding interstate highway system made it easier than ever for people to visit Mackinac Island.

Fudge shops proliferated, and by the 1960s the island’s visitors coming for the fudge were known as “fudgies.” Shops experimented with new flavors of fudge and worked to make Mackinac Island synonymous with the treat. 

Some shops in the area even attempted to branch out nationwide, which is how we encountered a random candy shop in Georgetown, Colorado, with past ties to Mackinac’s “fudge rush.” Others now have locations in places like Chicago and even Martha’s Vineyard.

Today, over a dozen fudge shops grace Main Street and surrounding area.

It’s said that the island imports 10 tons of sugar per week, handcrafts an average of ten thousand pounds of fudge daily, and that each shop can make up to five hundred pounds a day. The designation of the “fudge capital of the world” certainly appears well-deserved.

As you wander down Main Street, you’ll notice that certain brands have expanded to multiple locations (often within a short distance of each other), making them impossible to miss.

They run on different schedules so you’ll have to just poke around the shop to see fudge making in process but it’s not very difficult to find the workers in action.

Mackinac Island fudge

As far as the Murdick legacy goes, there are only a few stores that still have a direct lineage connection to the family but none of them are located on Mackinac Island.

That’s because Bob Benser, Sr. bought the Murdicks’ business in 1969 after opening an ice cream shop next to Murdick’s Candy Kitchen and learning how to make the delicious fudge.

So if you’re looking for fudge shops with the direct Murdick family tie, you’ll need to find them in other areas like Traverse City, Michigan.

On our visit to Mackinac Island, we ventured into several of the different fudge shops including Original Murdick’s Fudge, Joann’s Fudge, Ryba’s Fudge Shop, and a few others.

We picked up on some of the differences between the flavors and textures and enjoyed most of the different shops we tried but our ultimate favorite was Murdick’s.

It’s said that you don’t have to worry about the fudge melting which is a relief but you don’t want to refrigerate your fudge (apparently you can freeze it for a while without ruining it). Lots of the shops allow for online orders so you can always purchase gifts for people later on, after you’ve had your fair sampling.

Final word

While fudge making was not invented here (it likely was invented near Baltimore when someone accidentally “fudged” a batch of caramel) Mackinac Island certainly helped transform it into a cherished part of American culinary tradition, particularly when on vacation.

For someone like me, who is not a true fudge person, it says a lot that I could not get enough of the chocolate walnut fudge from Murdick’s. If you catch a fresh batch of that, it’s really hard to put down. By the way, if you’re headed to the airport after making your fudge purchase, be sure to read our guide so that you don’t trip off alarms!

Morgan Falls Guide (Marquette, MI)

If you’re looking for an easy Upper Peninsula waterfall hike that’s around 3 to 4 miles long, Morgan Falls is a terrific option. However, when trying to reach the falls, there are a couple of things to know about the trail, such as where to park and how to experience the most scenic hike. Check out the guide below, which will tell you everything you need to know about visiting Morgan Falls.

What is Morgan Falls?

Morgan Falls is a small waterfall situated in the South Vandenboom Recreation Area, within Marquette County, Michigan, approximately 2 miles to the south of Marquette. Formed by Morgan Creek and cascading 20 feet into the Carp River, it’s a popular destination for hiking and fishing, and you can easily access it via a short trail from Marquette Mountain Road.

Morgan Falls Michigan

Where is Morgan Falls?

The trailhead for Morgan Falls is found along M-553.

Something a little bit difficult about Morgan Falls is the parking situation. If you follow the directions to the trailhead you’ll likely arrive at a closed off road with no parking in the immediate area.

There is a campground nearby that could potentially be a parking option but we chose to park down the road on M-553. It’s about .2 miles south from the trailhead but there was a wide open parking lot for us to use.

You can then walk on the shoulder of the road which does mean walking alongside some pretty fast moving traffic (although there is another option to avoid that which I will talk about below).

Experiencing Morgan Falls

After figuring out the parking situation we made our way to the beginning of the trail which is basically a gravel road (SM 417) blocked off to vehicles.

Morgan Falls Michigan Trail

You can follow this trail all the way to the falls which is the easiest option.

It will take about 1.5 miles to arrive to the falls and you are only looking at a couple hundred feet in elevation so it’s definitely an easy “hike.” Along the way, several mountain bike trails intersect the path and you will see them on both sides of the trail.

Morgan Falls Michigan Trail

It’s a pretty scenic path taking you through a lush forest that I’m sure has some great color change in the fall. However, it’s not nearly as scenic as the other trails you can take that are shared with mountain bikers. For that reason, we ended up coming back on the Carp Eh Diem Trail, which I would highly recommend.

Morgan Falls Michigan Trail

Also, bugs can be an issue on this trail. We did the trail in the morning and dealt with a little bit of mosquitoes but nothing too bad and it helped that we had pants and long sleeves on.

Once we started to get close to Morgan Falls we jumped on the Carp Eh Diem Trail because we could not tell if the falls directly connected to the path we were on based on the map. However, whenever we got closer to the falls we saw that there was a wooden staircase coming down from the main path so I’m pretty sure that it connects right there.

Morgan Falls Michigan Trail

Once you make it to the falls area, you’ll head over a bridge that spans across the beautiful Morgan Creek.

Morgan Falls Michigan Trail

Then you need to make a short and a tad steep (but very doable) descent to the falls where you’ll need to get past a muddy spot but some logs are there that will help you get through without getting dirty.

Morgan Falls Michigan Trail

The falls were quite beautiful and the entire surrounding area is just a very peaceful spot with plenty of space to admire the falls and even a picnic bench to relax on. While only 20 feet tall, the falls are pretty loud which gives you a really immersive falls experience.

Morgan Falls Michigan

We had the whole thing to ourselves until we were ready to leave which was really nice but I do think that this trail gets busy on weekends, so be prepared for crowds if visiting at that time.

Morgan Falls Michigan

For the way back we decided to stick entirely to the Carp Eh Diem Trail.

Morgan Falls Michigan

This is what I would strongly recommend to do because the scenery is a lot better and you also get taken down to the Carp River for a portion of it, which is just beautiful.

Morgan Falls Michigan

The drawback is that you may have to deal with mountain bikers but we only saw three the entire way.

Morgan Falls Michigan

The trail is very windy though so just be prepared for a lot of twists and turns, not that they are difficult or technical when you’re not on a bike.

Additionally, should you encounter a mountain biker, it’s essential to be ready. Avoid making direct eye contact and aim to make yourself appear larger. My apologies, that advice was meant for mountain lions! Jokes aside, it’s important to be prepared because the trail can be quite narrow at times, and finding a convenient spot to step aside isn’t always easy. I once nearly slipped down the hillside while attempting to make way.

Morgan Falls Michigan Trail

On this path you will have to deal with a lot more tree roots and up and down so it gives you much more of an authentic hiking experience than the main path. The vegetation is also more interesting and diverse.

Morgan Falls Michigan Trail
Morgan Falls Michigan Trail

Whenever you are headed back you can choose to join the main path again and then come back the way you entered but we did not like walking on the side of the busy road so we took the Double Take Trail back to 553.

You’ll find a faint social trail just before the river crossing that you can use to jump back on the side of the road so that you only have a short journey on the side of the road to the parking lot. In total, this loop was 4.0 miles and the elevation gain was 383 feet. Not bad.

Final word

After doing the short trail to Warner Falls and experiencing our first Upper Peninsula waterfall, we instantly became addicted to these beautiful waterfall trails. Seriously, it’s great how many of them there are in this area and I just love how lush they are.

This one was even more enjoyable than Warner because it was much longer and offered some really beautiful forest scenery to take in for a couple of hours. I also liked that there’s a lot of space by the falls so you can enjoy it even if there were other people hanging around.

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