Thursday, August 08, 2013

If You Seek A Pleasant Peninsula...

Michigan offers endless opportunities for summer activities in state.
By Brian Dumont

Summer is quickly waning. Kids will be back to school before you know it and with the little time we have left you may be thinking, “I need a vacation!” But before you pack you bags and head out of state for one last hurrah, I would encourage you to consider Michigan’s state motto: “Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice.” Or in the common tongue, “ If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.”

Staying in state not only saves you money on your fuel budget, but also boots the local economy, which is good for all of us. Those factors aside, there are a lot of cool things you can do right here in Michigan. There are too many to list in this article, but here are a few ideas worth considering. 


With the advent of smart phones and GPS navigation systems, geocaching provides a fun, free avenue to modern day treasure hunting anyone can try. The process involves some basic compass and map reading skills and often times will relay something of educational or historical significance. Other times it’s just fun. A quick internet search from my home computer turned up dozens of caches within a few miles of my house including some titled “R2-D2 Is Lost.” How cool is it that somewhere out there is a lost little Star Wars action figure who needs my help. And he’s been right under my nose this whole time! I’m ready to go find him right now. Start Geocaching

 A lot of consumer products are made right here in Michigan, from cars to food to hundreds of other items we use everyday. But what you may not know is that many Michigan producers offer tours of their facilities so you can actually see how it’s made. Again, there are too many list, but a few I found interesting include Morley Candy Makers in Clinton Township, Michigan’s largest candy maker. They create Sanders Candy Pecan Torties and Coconut Clusters among other treats. The tour explains how chocolate is made and how the company got their start in Detroit. And of course there are free samples!

Chelsea Teddy Bear Co. offers free tours of their 35,000 sq./ft. warehouse/production facility and Toy Museum located in the historic Clock Tower Complex in downtown Chelsea. The display features over 100,000 teddy bears, including the World’s largest Teddy Bear. For more information visit

And while you’re in Chelsea, you can also check out Chelsea Milling Company, home of Jiffy Mix. They’ve been in operation for over 120 years. Tours include a video presentation, a walk through the packaging plant and product samples. Can you say, “blueberry muffins?” Tours are free but reservations are required.

It’s no secret that Michigan has its share of agriculture bragging rights. But we also have a few farms you may not be familiar with. Centennial Cranberry Farm in Paradise is Michigan's only historic cranberry farm. . Groeb Farms in Onsted is the world’s largest processor of honey. . And Crosby Mint Farm in St. Johns is the oldest, continuously family operated mint farm in the United States. . And of course they all offer tours. One last tour suggestion I have to mention is Michigan State University Dairy Complex located in Anthony Hall on the campus of MSU in East Lansing. The Dairy Store is not only an educational and outreach center, they also make, package and sell delicious ice creams and cheeses. And if you go at the right time, you can pick up a container of ice cream that was made during the switch over of their product lines, resulting in some unique flavor combinations you won’t find anywhere else. For more information visit


Finally, any discussion of things to do in our state has to include Michigan’s water features. After all, the Great Lakes are the largest fresh water lakes in the world and no matter where you are in Michigan, you’re never more than 85 miles away from one of them. There are numerous beaches and lighthouses to explore. My suggestion, however, has to do with one of our inland bodies of water... the river! If you have not done so before, you absolutely must take a canoe or kayak trip down a Michigan river. There are several options to choose from. I have a certain affinity for the Au Sable River.

Growing up in Michigan we used to gather in Grayling for family reunions. Many of my extended relatives lived on or near the river and one of the big highlights of the weekend was hopping in a canoe and letting the current take us downstream. Often we would ditch the canoes in favor of inner tubes, splashing and playing for hours in the crisp, cold water. We haven’t had a reunion with extended relatives in those parts for some time, but occasionally I will make my way north to relive that part of the experience with my immediate family.

A canoe trip of that nature can be as brief or involved as you want with trips ranging from a couple of hours to several days. Many businesses rent canoes and kayaks and there are options for camping along the river as well. It’s a great opportunity to see wildlife like never before and enjoy a peace that only comes from knowing God’s grace through His creation. That is, if you don’t tip over! One of the best benefits of a canoe trip is the element of built-in marriage/family counseling. You might think I’m joking at this point, but I kid you not. Steering a canoe, while not difficult, does require some degree of effort and communication with the person at the other end of the boat. The first time my wife and I shared a canoe it was a good hour into the trip before we both stopped yelling and settled down. But once we figured out how to work together we enjoyed the rest of the trip and it has become one of our favorite shared experiences. Since then we have both agreed, a canoe trip should be a requirement of pre-marital counseling. If you can survive the river and each other, you can get married.

Like I said, there are a lot of cool things you can do in Michigan, too many to list here. But if you stick to the state motto and “look about you,” I’m sure you’ll find the pleasant peninsula you seek. Until then, I have an R2-D2 geocache to find, a dairy store to tour and Michigan river that begs me to float in its gentle current until summer’s end. Enjoy!

Brian Dumont is co-host of the Morning Espresso with Jenn & Brian on Smile FM. He lives in Lansing with his wife Jennifer and their three children Daniel, B’Elanna and David. Brian and his family are active at Mount Hope Church where they are involved in creative arts ministry. When not on the radio or at church, Brian enjoys collecting Transformers action figures and 45 vinyl records for his jukebox. 

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