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Charter a Bus to Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region


HerbAs the Motorcoach & Group Sales Manager for Michigan's Great Lakes Bay Regional CVB, Herb Zeilinger is your go-to when looking to charter a bus to the Great Lakes Bay Region.

By Herb Zeilinger

Charter a bus to Michigan's Great Lakes Bay Region and you won’t be disappointed. This area comprises the counties of Bay, Midland and Saginaw and is home to the communities of Bay City, Birch Run, Chesaning, Frankenmuth, Midland, and Saginaw. 

Here’s a quick overview of each of these communities:

Bay City
BayCity AppledoreSail the open waters, reach for the stars, and return to a simpler time. All this awaits your visit to Bay City. Originally surrounded by marshlands and forest, water was the main source of transport and travel. This is evidenced today by the number of cargo and personal watercraft that travel the Saginaw River running through Bay City. Bay City is home to a variety of tourism options, a taste of which include the Delta College 360-Degree-Experience Planetarium, Michigan's largest antique center, tours aboard the tall ship Appledore, or motor ships Princess Wenonah or the Islander, a tour of the U.S.S. Edson floating naval battleship museum and beautiful architecture reminiscent of the glory days of Bay City's lumbering and shipbuilding boom.

The Village of Birch Run
Birch Run"Shop, Stay and Play" are the words to best describe this rural community conveniently located at I-75 exit #136. The Birch Run Premium Outlets offer more than 140 stores featuring everything from clothes to china and is home to Michigan's only Pottery Barn outlet. After your shopping adventure, take a walk through Wilderness Trails Animal Park and come face to face with wild and exotic animals. The Birch Run Expo Center offers indoor and outdoor entertainment events including Shipshewana on the Road. If this is still not enough to thrill you, get over to the Dixie Motor Speedway where you can experience exciting motorsport racing. Hungry? Featured on "Diners, Dives, & Drive-in's", Tony's I-75 restaurant literally serves one pound of bacon on its B.L.T. Sandwich. 

Chesaning"Michigan's Victorian Community" began as a lumbering town, which is evidenced by the beautifully restored lumber baron mansions. For the antique hunter, Chesaning offers hometown opportunities for you to experience at taste of American midwest hospitality.







Frankenmuth"Michigan's Little Bavaria" is home to many unique shops, attractions, Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland - the world's largest Christmas store, and two of America's largest and best loved restaurants, the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn and Zehnder's of Frankenmuth. Combined, these two restaurants can seat over 2,700 and each serve over a million meals annually. Be transported to a European atmosphere and enjoy the loveliness of this quaint, German-themed community. Make a stop at St. Lorenz Lutheran Church to see the history of this Lutheran mission colony founded in 1845 as told through the massive stained glass windows.

Midland"A Million Brilliant Possibilities" is the only way to describe this city of modern explorers. Home to both the Dow Chemical and the Dow Corning companies, Midland is a must-stop during your visit to the region. Tour the 20,000 square foot home and studio of Midland's famed architect Alden B. Dow (who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright), the 110-acre Dow Gardens showcasing nature's beauty during each of the four seasons, the Doan Historical Center & Heritage Park to learn of Herbert Dow and his success at founding the Dow Chemical Company, a stop at the Chippewa Nature Center, a visit to the world-class Midland Center for the Arts, and a visit to Midland's own Great Lakes Loons minor league baseball team at Dow Diamond. Come to Midland and discover your own list of a million brilliant possibilities.

Saginaw"Strong Roots, Strong Future" boasts a rich history highlighted by the lumber industry that made this city a thriving commercial center since the turn of the 19th century. Gracious Georgian mansions, acres of spacious parks and cultural attractions are available to enjoy during your time in Saginaw. Experience a show at the fully-restored, Vaudeville-era Temple Theatre, the incredible work of sculptor Marshall M. Fredericks, the beauty of art at the Saginaw Art Museum, our history on display at the French chateau-style Castle Museum, a trip to the Saginaw Children's Zoo and the mid-Michigan Children's Museum, and our cultural treasure found within the Japanese Tea House and Cultural Center. All these attractions are within minutes of one another. 

All this provides only a glimpse at what awaits you on your visit to Michigan's Great Lakes Bay Region!

Photo credit: Great Lakes Bay Regional CVB

Charter a Bus to Saugatuck/Douglas!


Marilyn StarringAs the owner of Star of Saugatuck Boat Cruises, Marilyn Starring is your go-to when looking to charter a bus to Saugatuck/Douglas.

By Marilyn Starring

Group travel to Saugatuck/Douglas can hold a day of fun and adventure for your group, or make it an overnight trip to experience more of what these picturesque towns have to offer.

A variety of opportunities await your group throughout every season in Saugatuck/Douglas. You can plan your itinerary according to your client’s budget, no matter how big or small.

SPRING – With flowers peeking out of their wintery beds, when the sun shines longer and we shake off that winter chill, everyone is anxious to get out.

St resized 600St. Patrick’s Day is when “everyone” finds a wee bit of Irish in their heritage! Arrive in town mid-morning to explore the shops and have lunch together as a group or on your own. At 2:00 p.m. is the Annual 'Erin Go Bark! Pets and their People’ Parade.  Afterwards, consider doing a brewery tour at Saugatuck Brewing Company or wine tasting at Fenn Valley Winery.

Fenn Valley Vineyards
6130 122nd Avenue
Fennville, MI 49408
Phone:  269-561-2396/800-432-6265

Fenn Valley Vinyards is a family owned vineyard and winery that is located on rolling sand dunes four miles from the shores of Lake Michigan. Since opening their doors in 1973, their premium wines have earned over 300 awards and medals.  

At the tasting bar, you may taste from their selection of over 30 still and sparkling wines. During your visit, you may want to enjoy a glass of wine in our picnic area located in front of the winery tasting room. Or join us for one of our fun and informative cellar or vineyard tours, and they also have new release wine and food pairing dinners.

Hungry Village Tours
P.O. Box 131
Douglas, MI 49406
Phone: 269-857-1700

Hungry Village Tours resized 600Take a Culinary Walk or a Delicious Drive and discover the culinary secrets behind the storefronts of Saugatuck and Douglas. Taste, sip, and learn what makes the shops in Saugatuck and Douglas a food lover's dream. Each tour is limited in size so that the experience is small and intimate. There will be several stops with tastes that may include smoky meats, area award-winning wines, hints of spice, delightful oils, richly roasted coffee, local fruit spreads and bakery breads, plus a local farm market. Our Delicious Drive will include niche farms in operation, including organic fruits and vegetables, artisan cheese producers, wineries, and a bakery. Hungry Village Tours offers food tours all year round.

Saugatuck Dune Rides
6495 Blue Star Highway 
Saugatuck, MI 49453
Phone: 269-857-2253 

Saugatuck Dune Rides resized 600In the last week of April Saugatuck Dune Rides opens for the season. Fun for all ages, the ride takes you into Lake Michigan’s majestic sand dunes for a 35-40 minute ride. The Saugatuck Dune Rides give you some insight into the history of how the dunes developed and evolved over time. Your ride will consist of traveling through the dunes in open aired-buggies that hold up to 18 passengers. Remember to bring your camera, as many picture-taking opportunities are available during your trip. You’ll make a rest stop near the top of the dunes where you can get out and walk around if you like. This is an experience unique to Saugatuck, so don't miss it if you visit the area! The Dune Rides are open until mid-October.

Star of Saugatuck Boat Cruises
716 Water Street
Saugatuck, MI 49453
Phone: 269-857-4261

Star of Saugatuck 2008 001The first Saturday in May, Star of Saugatuck Boat Cruises opens for the season. This authentic sternwheel paddleboat offers a scenic tour on the Kalamazoo River and enters Lake Michigan with permitting conditions. The captain provides a live narration, pointing out local landmarks, telling you about the local and maritime history of the area.  A different perspective from seeing Saugatuck from the water, view small weekend cottages to large homes, boats of every shape and size, and a variety of wild life. The Star of Saugatuck is a U.S. Coast Guard certified vessel, with an open upper deck and an enclosed/climate controlled lower deck. Box lunches can be arranged for your group; with restroom facilities located on the lower deck, and snack areas on both decks. The Star operates until mid-October.

Harbor Duck Adventures
528 Water Street
Saugatuck, MI 49453
Phone: 269-857-3825

Tour picturesque Saugatuck and Douglas on land and water! Harbor Duck Adventures Co. has transformed a World War II Army amphibious vessel into one big water taxi 31-feet long, seating approximately 20 people. Tours wind through downtown Saugatuck and across the bridge to Douglas. Hop off the Duck in Douglas and enjoy the village, then ride the Duck back to Saugatuck as it splashes into the waters of the Kalamazoo River and Saugatuck Harbor. Harbor Duck ends their season in mid-October. Their ticket office is located at 121 Griffith Street in Saugatuck.

Felt Mansion Estate and Gardens
6597 138th Avenue
Holland, MI 49423
Phone: 616-335-8982

The Felt Mansion Estate and Gardens offers tours of this charming estate.  Tour the Felt Mansion Estate and Gardens, for a moment back in time, a journey to an era of tasteful refinement. Dorr Felt invented the first office processing machine, the Comptometer, which was able to perform four math functions quickly and accurately. Dramatically increasing bookkeeping skills and speed, the Comptometer was an instant success and made Dorr Felt a millionaire.  Felt built this beautiful estate for his wife and family, but – well, if you want to know the rest of the story, you’ll just have to tour the estate.  Tours are offered May thru October, Sunday – Tuesday from 1 to 5 p.m. – holiday tours are also available.


Have history buffs? Visit the Saugatuck/Douglas Historical Museum (open Memorial Day thru late October) or The Old School House in Douglas. The Saugatuck/Douglas Historical Society can help you arrange step-on guides for your group for a historical tour of the area.

Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society
P.O. Box 617
Douglas, MI 49406
Phone: 269-857-5751

History Center Museum
130 Center Street
Douglas, MI 49406

Historical Museum
735 Park Street
Saugatuck, MI 49453
Phone: 269-857-7900

The Old Schoolhouse
130 Center Street
Douglas, MI 49406
Phone: 269-857-7901

Arts and Theatre

Mason Street Warehouse
400 Culver Street
Saugatuck, MI 49453
Phone: 269-857-4898

How about an evening of “live summer theatre” for your group? Saugatuck Center for the Arts is the home of Mason Street Warehouse“an uptown theatre in downtown Saugatuck”.  Three productions each season - a variety of production adorn the stage of exceptional quality.

Saugatuck Center For The Arts 2 resized 600Saugatuck Center for the Arts
400 Culver Street, P.O. Box 940
Saugatuck, MI 49453
Phone: 269-857-2399

Saugatuck Center for the Arts brings a variety of arts for your groups to enjoy – “On Stage” – “Reel to Reel” series – “Intriguing Conversations” – Farmers Market during the summer and fall – Exhibits – Workshops.  You have a variety of subjects for your group to experience and enjoy.

Douglas Dutchers Base Ball Club
P.O. Box 885
Douglas, MI 49406
Phone: 269-857-7055

Batter up! The William Dutcher Vintage Base Ball Club plays old fashioned base ball in downtown Douglas at Berry Field.  Enjoy a game of vintage base ball – fun for all!  There are scheduled games with teams from adjoining states throughout the summer and early fall.  Huzzah!

Holiday Events

As summer dwindles, temperatures cool, and trees turn bright red, orange and yellow mid-October offers Gallery Stroll – celebrating various forms of art in all types of media. Halloween brings a family costume parade in Saugatuck, and at night the adults have their own parade in Douglas.

Holiday shopping – why fight the mall crowds.  Shop small business, and support local shop owners and artists to find the perfect gift for all those special people on your holiday shopping list. 

On the first Saturday of December enjoy the annual Christmas parade in downtown Saugatuck – it’s the ladies’ Peppermint Stick Brigade vs. the men’s Snow Shovel Drill team – it’s small town charm and  holiday magic all rolled into one.  “The Cookie Tour of Inns” – Enjoy the legendary hospitality of many Saugatuck/Douglas Inns, Hotels and Cottage Rentals this December. Join us for an area wide holiday open house where you will be welcomed into many festively decorated lodging facilities to share their family's most treasured Christmas cookie recipes. There is also the annual tree lighting ceremony that evening. For information contact the Saugatuck/Douglas Visitors Bureau at 269-857-1701.

Faous Oval Beach resized 600Your group will get into the Christmas spirit viewing the annual holiday production of “A Christmas Carol” – bringing the true magic of the holiday season for your enjoyment.

Whatever time of year you decide to bring your group, no matter how big or small; we’re sure they’ll enjoy their stay and want to come back for more!

Please note: tour operators must call in advance to check on availability and reservations. Visit for additional information on the Saugatuck/Douglas area.

Photo credit: Felicia Fairchild

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The Best Educational Group Tours in Michigan


It’s field trip season in Michigan—time for those educational group tours that kids anticipate with joy … and that teachers anticipate with something more like angst.  Great field trips can engage students, open the door to new discoveries, and improve critical thinking skills.

So, why do some teachers dread them? 

We took an unscientific survey (and by “unscientific” we mean we asked one or two of our teacher friends) and discovered it’s the logistics that cause the most consternation:  the paperwork, permission slips, lunch, chaperones, transportation … not to mention what to do with the group once you arrive at the destination.  To alleviate some of the stress of planning, take a tip from the trenches:  Let someone else do some of the work!    Choose a field trip that has a built-in structure—one that was designed with student groups in mind. 

Take a tour.

Here are three of our favorite educational tours in Michigan, each specializing in school groups.

ford rouge factory tour resized 600Ford Rouge Factory Tour
The Henry Ford—home of the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village—offers a self-guided tour of the Rouge Factory.  The original Ford River Rouge Complex (the “Rouge”), was built from 1917 through 1928 in Dearborn, and became Henry Ford’s biggest and most ambitious enterprise.  At its peak in the 1930s, the Rouge employed 100,000 workers, operated more than 15 million feet of factory space in 93 buildings, and rolled out one new vehicle every 49 seconds.

Today the Rouge makes Ford F-150 pickup trucks.  The self-guided factory tour is a five-part experience that includes:

  • A short historical film in the Legacy Theatre
  • A multi-sensory, virtual reality theater experience including a 360-degree look at how automobiles are made
  • The observation deck tour, offering an 80-foot-high view of the 454,000 square foot “living roof” now growing on top of the Dearborn Truck Plant
  • A walking tour of the assembly line, where you can watch the final assembly of new Ford F-150s from an elevated walkway
  • The Legacy Gallery, where visitors can see examples of five Ford vehicles that changed automotive history: the 1929 Model A, the ’49 Coupe, the 1955 Thunderbird, a 1965 Mustang, and the new Ford F-150

To enhance the learning experience, the Henry Ford offers a downloadable learning tool for teachers to use before and after field trip, including a timeline, glossary, review questions, and post-visit activities.

• • •

Michigan state capitol resized 600Michigan State Capitol Tour
Last year, more than 125,000 people (mostly students) toured the Michigan State Capitol – one of the state’s all time favorite field trip destinations. Dedicated in 1879, Michigan’s statehouse was modeled after the U.S. capitol building—in the neoclassical architectural style—and soon became the model for many other state capitols.  One of the nation’s most important (and most beautiful) buildings, the Michigan State Capitol was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992, after a three-year renovation that restored it to its original Victorian grandeur.

One-hour guided tours are offered Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., free of charge, and must be booked in advance.  The tour is very popular and fills up quickly, so be sure to reserve early.  It’s suitable for all ages—even little ones—with the following chaperone requirements:

  • Preschool through second grade:  one chaperone for every two students
  • Third through twelfth grade:  one chaperone for every five students

This is an entertaining and informative tour.  The kid-friendly tour guides have their patter down to a science as they point out the 976 pieces of glass on the rotunda floor, the fossil-encrusted limestone tiles, the fake marble and walnut architectural features, and the spittoons that still stand in the governor’s ceremonial chambers.  One of the best parts of the tour is when the students get to lie on the glass rotunda floor and look up at the ornately decorated capitol dome, 160 feet above them, painted to represent a starry night sky.  If you go on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, you may get to see the House of Representatives or the Senate in session from the third floor public viewing galleries.  Buses park for free.

jiffy resized 600Jiffy Mix Plant Tour
Chelsea Milling Company—maker of Jiffy Mix products—has been a Chelsea, Michigan landmark since 1901.  It’s hard to miss the towering 50-foot box of Jiffy corn muffin mix emblazoned on the side of the company’s bright white grain elevator.  Not to mention the silos that store the grain, that makes the flour, that goes into mixes, that fills the blue boxes, that homemakers buy … at the rate of 1.6 million boxes per day.

The family-owned company’s CEO, Howdy Holmes, likes to tell how his grandma Mabel invented the world’s first boxed mix in 1930 after seeing a single dad’s sorry attempt at a homemade biscuit.  Mabel decided, then and there, to create “a product that could save time in the kitchen and be so easy a man could do it.” 

Today JIFFY makes mixes for biscuits, muffins, brownies, cake, pizza dough, pie crust, and pancakes.  And school groups, first grade and up, can learn all about it on a free, one-hour guided tour offered Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  The first thing you see on your tour is a short video hosted by a talking box of corn muffin mix named “Corny”—which tells you the company has a sense of humor).  (To be fair, he’s pretty cute.)

Next, visitors spit out their gum, turn off their phones, and put on hairnets to walk through the factory floor, where they watch actual workers package actual boxes of Jiffy mix.  At the end of the tour, everyone gets a gift bag with a recipe book, a little blue JIFFY guy, boxes of product, and an activity book.

• • •

With educational group trips, the world is your classroom.  Studies have shown that when learning is relevant, engaging, and fun, kids really want to learn.  Real world, hands-on learning is the kind of learning that lasts.

Charter a Bus to Detroit!


MHK 4940As a Marketing Specialist for the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, Danielle Sharp is your go-to when looking to charter a bus to Detroit.

By Danielle Sharp

Selecting a vacation destination is tough. Why not go with a place you know won’t disappoint? Detroit is one of those places. From cars and culture to music, gaming and sports, "The D" offers fun for all ages and budgets during all seasons.

Detroit has been coined America’s great comeback city for its recent major downtown developments, such as the renovation of Cobo Center, the city’s convention center; the M-1 RAIL, a 3.3-mile streetcar project; and plans for The District, a mixed-use facility with dining, housing and a new hockey arena for the Detroit Red Wings. But Detroit has always shone as a city to keep on a culturist’s bucket list.

If you’re thinking of planning a trip to Detroit — either for the first time or again — we have a few suggestions for can’t-miss hot spots.

DetroitPhoto Credit: Vito Palmisano

Automotive Attractions

Detroit is known for cars. We’re the birthplace of Henry Ford and home to the Big Three, so unsurprisingly Detroit’s cultural institutions, tours and marquee events are heavily focused on the automobile.

  • Tour the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House and Meadow Brook Hall (former residence of Matilda Dodge Wilson) and Gardens to see how auto royalty lived once upon a time.

  • Check out the recently re-branded America’s Motor City exhibit and Automotive Showplace at the Detroit Historical Museum

  • Marvel at Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry fresco cycle, inspired by the grind and grit of the city's manufacturing glory days of the 1930s at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

  • The Henry Ford is a family attraction that offers Model T rides in Greenfield Village, a Rouge Factory Tour and the Driving America exhibition in Henry Ford Museum.

  • Explore the birthplace of the Model T at the Piquette Model T Museum.

Detroit Industry muralPhoto Credit: Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau

Major Auto Events
North American International Auto Show
Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix
Concours D'Elegance
The Woodward Dream Cruise


11 MSHDA 658 Idlewild Web Ad   294x294Photo Credit: Olympia Entertainment

Detroit is also known for music. We’re the home of Motown and have made an impact on blues, techno, gospel, hip-hop and rock ‘n’ roll, too, with major artists, such Kid Rock, Eminem, Madonna, Bob Segar and many others born in Detroit and still singing the city’s tune. You can experience Detroit’s music scene at any of these venues or shows:

Downtown Detroit

The DistrictPhoto Credit: Olympia Development of Michigan

Aside from cars and music, Detroit boasts architectural wonders. Take a downtown tour and see them up close and personal. Another can’t-miss spot to add to your list is the Detroit International RiverWalk, where you can bike, jog and look south to Canada. 

Some other top picks to consider:

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Dossin Great Lakes Museum
Michigan Science Center
Gabriel Richard ParkPewabic Pottery
Polish Art Center
Solanus Casey Center

Greektown Casino
MGM Grand Detroit
MotorCity Casino

Sporting Facilities
Comerica Park
Ford Field
Joe Louis Arena

While you’re here, you’ll need a cozy place to stay and a few good meals to keep your energy up, so check out our hotel and dining listings. For more to see and do, keep posted to


Top Destinations for Art in Chicago


Chicago -- one of the Midwest’s great cultural destinations -- is “second city” to none when it comes to the art scene.  From classical to avant-garde, here are some of Chicago’s must-see’s for art lovers.

Art Museums in Chicago 

The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
(312) 443-3600
Daily: 10:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Open Thursdays until 8:00 p.m.

Art Institute of Chicago from south resized 600When Ferris Bueller took the day off in Chicago, one of his destinations (after his stops at the Sears Tower, Chicago Board of Trade, and Wrigley Field) was the Art Institute of Chicago—one of the largest, most comprehensive, and best loved art museums in the world.  (It ranked #1 -- above the Louvre -- in the 2014 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards for top museums.) With five centuries of global art in over one million square feet of exhibit space, the Art Institute calls its collection  “encyclopedic”—meaning it strives to offer examples of every category of world art; but it’s probably best known for Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, American, and modern art.  It’s worth the trip just to gaze at Georges Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte (the one Ferris’ friend, Cameron Frye, obsessed over) or Monet’s Water Lilies.  Other visitor favorites: Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, Vincent van Gogh’s The Bedroom, Grant Wood’s American Gothic, and Pablo Picasso’s The Old Guitarist.  Groups of 15 or more qualify for discounts, guided tours, and special dining options (choose from lunch, afternoon coffee, or wine and cheese served in the Millennium Park Room). 

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
220 East Chicago Avenue
(312) 280-2660
Tuesday: 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Wednesday - Sunday: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
(Extended hours during special exhibitions)
Closed Monday

contemporary art resized 600Since its founding in 1967 by a group of Chicago collectors and patrons, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) has aspired to showcase the most thought-provoking art of our time.  One of the nation’s largest museums of its kind, the MCA is dedicated to visual art created since 1945, striving to “boldly interweave” painting, sculpture, film, video, and performance. The mobiles of Alexander Calder, the surrealist art of René Magritte, the pop art of Andy Warhol, and the neo-Dadaist paintings of Jasper Johns are among the museum’s permanent collection, which contains some 5,700 works.  Through its nearly 50 years, the MCA has earned an international reputation for presenting ground-breaking exhibitions—including a Robert Irwin installation in 1975, the first American exhibition of Frida Kahlo paintings in 1978, and a retrospective for Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz in 1982.  Along with its permanent collection, the MCA brings in touring exhibitions, like its current offering, David Bowie Is: a multi-media “immersive journey” into Bowie’s artistic life.  For a treat, grab lunch or a snack at Puck’s Café—a collaboration of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and the MCA.  Your order is made fresh and delivered to your table, where you can savor the food, the colorful art, and views of Lake Michigan in equal measure.  Groups are invited to book a private guided tour, led by museum educators and adapted to the interests and knowledge base of your group.  

The National Museum of Mexican Art
1852 West 19th Street
(312) 738-1503 
Tuesday - Sunday: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Closed Monday

Mexican Art MuseumThe National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA) houses the largest collection of Latino art in the nation, and is the only Latino museum to receive accreditation from the American Association of Museums.  Located in the Pilsen/Little Village neighborhood (also known as the Mexico of the Midwest), NMMA defines Mexican culture as sin fronteras (without borders), and seeks to showcase the diversity and quality of Mexican art from ancient times to the present. With more than 7,000 objects, the NMMA’s collection features photography, ephemera, folk art, ancient artifacts, prints and drawings, paintings, and sculptures.  Groups are welcome year round, and can reserve a 45-minute tour of the museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions (offered in English, Spanish, or bi-lingual)—a great way to learn about Mexican culture through the artwork on display. 

• • •

Outsider Art in Chicago

Outsider art—sometimes called intuitive, visionary, or folk art—can be loosely defined as work created by self-taught artists and/or artists who are not part of the mainstream artistic establishment.  Chicago is teeming with it.  You’ll find outsider art in galleries, studios, coffee shops, and book stores; it’s also on viaduct walls, the sides of buildings, under overpasses, and on the street.  It’s no wonder that Chicago has gained an international reputation for attracting and supporting this unique category of visual art.  Here are a few top venues.

Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art
756 North Milwaukee Avenue
(312) 243-9088
Tuesday - Saturday: 11:00 am - 6:00 pm
Open Thursdays until 7:30 pm
Closed Sunday and Monday

This 12,000 square foot space, in the Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood, houses 1,100 works, and is the only non-profit organization in the United States solely dedicated to exhibiting self-taught and outsider art.  Established in 1991, Intuit serves as an exhibit space, a resource for scholars and students, and a provider of educational programming.  Of particular interest to aficionados is the Henry Darger Room Collection, a permanent installation replicating the living quarters of the most celebrated outsider artist of all time – a reclusive hospital custodian from Chicago whose death in 1973 unearthed a 15,000-page original fantasy manuscript along with hundreds of drawings and watercolor illustrations.  Groups can book a customized tour, complete with an introduction to Intuit, an overview of self-taught and outsider art, and a tour of current exhibitions. 

The Flat Iron Arts Building
1579 N. Milwaukee Avenue

The Flat Iron Arts Building (a unique wedge-shaped structure at the intersections of Milwaukee, Damen, and North Avenues in the heart of Wicker Park) houses a community of working artists specializing in visual arts, music, and performance.  The building is open to the public, so you’re welcome to wander the three floors of studios and galleries, where you can watch artists at work or buy a one-of-a-kind piece of art.  The best time to go is on the first Friday of the month (“First Fridays”), when resident and guest artists greet the public, display their work, put on spontaneous performances, and serve refreshments from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m.

Several commercial galleries are dedicated, at least in part, to showcasing the work of outsiders and/or lesser-known and emerging artists, including those from Chicago.

Judy Saslow Gallery
300 West Superior
(312) 943-0530
Tuesday-Friday: 11:00 a.m. - 6 pm
Saturday:  11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday

Established in 1995 to showcase the art of European outsiders, the Judy A. Saslow Gallery now exhibits contemporary art by established, emerging, and outsider artists along with a stunning collection of tribal artifacts and jewelry from around the world.

Carl Hammer Gallery
740 North Wells
(312) 266-8512
Tuesday - Friday:  11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Opening receptions from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. on first date of scheduled exhibitions
Closed Sunday and Monday

The Carl Hammer Gallery specializes in contemporary, outsider, and non-mainstream art by American and European artists, including pieces by Lee Godie and Henry Darger.

Packer Schopf Gallery
942 West Lake Street
(312) 226-8984
Tuesday - Saturday:  11:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday

Before teaming up with Chicago attorney and investor William Schopf in 2006, Aron Packer collected and sold folk art, and has always been drawn to such ephemera as hand-carved canes, original tattoo drawings, sideshow banners, and handmade quilts.  This sensibility is evident at the Packer Schopf Gallery, where Packer describes the collection he curates as “obscure, idiosyncratic, and the road not obviously taken.”

Project Onward
Bridgeport Art Center
1200 West 35th Street, 4th Floor
(312) 940-2992
Tuesday - Saturday, 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

When art critic Roger Cardinal coined the term “outsider art” in 1972 (as an English equivalent of the French “art brut,” which literally means “rough art” or “raw art”), he may have been imagining something like Project Onward, a nonprofit studio and art gallery for professional artists with mental illness and developmental disabilities.  Project Onward occupies 13,000 square feet of studio and gallery space, where 45 member artists create, exhibit, and sell their art.

• • •

Public Art in Chicago

If you visit Chicago to see art, don’t overlook the world-class collection of public art on display throughout the city, especially in the downtown city center known as the Loop.  In fact, the Loop has been compared to an “open air museum of sculpture,” featuring the works of Picasso, Calder, and Miro alongside many lesser-known treasures -- all adding to Chicago’s distinctive character. 

A walking tour can be completed in around two hours and will take you past the Chicago Board of Trade, the Sears Tower, and Millennium Park.

Navigate North: Charter a Bus to Marquette County!


Barry picAs the Director of Marketing & Public Relations for the Marquette County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Barry Winslow is your go-to when looking to charter a bus to Marquette County.

By Barry Winslow

It seems so often the first image that pops into our minds when thinking of getting away to vacation is sitting on the beach in a swimsuit, rum punch in hand, relaxing in the hot sun’s rays. Granted, this would be a nice vacation, but there’s a whole different sense of serenity when you navigate north. That’s right; I’m talking about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and more specifically, Marquette County.

A comforting sense of being at peace is the most immediate buzz one experiences even before arriving to Marquette. This sense of satisfaction occurs when driving through the pristine Upper Peninsula. Away from the pressures of everyday life and far removed from the hustle and bustle, it is up north that one can truly relax and enjoy the serene beauty of nature.

FCR 17236(1)The business nucleus of Marquette County is that of its largest city, Marquette. With a population of 22,000 people, Marquette is the most populated city in the Upper Peninsula. Don’t let the word populated deter you, as most anything from surfing to shopping to skiing is just moments away. In fact, that’s the real beauty of Marquette. Outside of the city’s absolutely gorgeous setting; nestled on the shores of Lake Superior and backed by the Huron Mountains, Marquette is a small city with a huge personality that has most  anything to offer to every age group.

By far and away Michigan’s best kept secret, Marquette is a north coast playground. Well worth every second of the three hour drive from the Mackinaw Bridge, Marquette is home to some of the best restaurants and events the state has to offer. Sure, chain restaurants like Red Lobster, Culver's and Applebee’s are available, but Marquette takes pride in its wide array of excellent local dining. A popular choice is the Vierling, an original eatery that places emphasis on fresh and homemade lunch and dinner options. A go-to option is most definitely the Lake Superior Whitefish, fresh from the lake just a block away, as well as their delicious homemade soups and salads. Doubling as a brewery too, the Vierling became one of the state’s first brew houses, opening a 5-barrel brewing system in 1995. The brewery, called the Marquette Harbor Brewery, specializes in producing delicious ales and lagers.

Speaking of beer, Marquette County is home to five microbreweries. Blackrocks Brewery, Ore Dock Brewing Company, and the Vierling/Marquette Harbor Brewery all reside in Marquette’s city limits and all produce unique beer options, but smaller towns in the county also boast a brewing presence. Jasper Ridge Brewery & Restaurant is located in Ishpeming and their food and beer is well worth the twenty-minute commute from Marquette. Harvey, a small town due just south of Marquette is also home to their own brew pub, Chocolay River Brewing Company, which opened its doors in September.

FCR 13460There’s plenty to do in the county outside of food and drink too. There’s always something going on to take part in, especially large festivals throughout the year. Summer brings residents and travelers together at Mattson Lower Harbor Park in Marquette. This harbor-side park in downtown hosts multiple festivals like the International Food Fest in July, Harbor Fest in August, and the U.P. Fall Beer Fest and the Marquette Area Blues Fest in September. Winter is also a popular season, as the city hosts the Noquemanon Ski Marathon in January and the UP 200 Sled Dog Race, an Iditarod qualifier, in February.

It’s hard to leave out historic landmarks in the county, such as Presque Isle Park, the National Ski Hall of Fame in Ishpeming, the Landmark Inn in downtown Marquette, Northern Michigan University, Marquette Mountain Ski Area, the Vista Theatre in Negaunee, and the U.S. Olympic Training Site on NMU’s campus, but it just goes to show that there’s a true northern retreat awaiting in Marquette County, Michigan; you just have to navigate north.

*Photo credit: Aaron Peterson


How Campus Shuttles, Bike Lanes, and ZipCars Are Helping Colleges Save the Planet


zipcar resized 600When it comes to transportation at America’s colleges and universities, lets just say:  Cars were then, campus shuttles, bike lanes, and ZipCars are now.  When it comes to saving the planet, these and other initiatives mean that college campuses may be the greenest of them all.

For the last two decades, U.S. colleges and universities have been leading the green movement with sustainability initiatives like organic gardens and farms, “living machines” to manage wastewater, LEED- (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified buildings, and policies that promote renewable energy and carbon neutrality.  There have also been widespread efforts to decrease student, faculty, and staff reliance on personal vehicles.  According to a recent report from the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG)—“A New Course: How Innovative University Programs Are Reducing Driving on Campus and Creating New Models for Transportation”—the effort to reduce driving on campus does more than just cut down on carbon emissions.  It’s also “saving money for universities, improving the quality of life in college towns, and giving today’s students experience in living life without depending on a personal car.”

What’s in it for colleges to reduce driving?

It helps the environment.  One of the main reasons to cut down on driving is to reduce the environmental impact of cars.  Less driving means fewer emissions and a smaller carbon footprint.

It alleviates congestion.  Having a lot of cars on campus results in traffic congestion; fewer cars means less congestion.

It makes colleges better neighbors.  In a college town, the seasonal influx of thousands of students with cars can strain relations with the neighboring community.  For universities that want to be good neighbors, cutting down on traffic, noise, and emissions is a step in the right direction.

It reduces the demand for parking.  Parking lots and garages are expensive, and they consume a lot of land that could be used for other purposes … like green buildings or open spaces.  Plus, on-street parking is notoriously awful in college towns; reduced demand would open up more space for sidewalk cafés and bike lanes and ameliorate the agony of searching for a parking spot.

It keeps campuses safe and pedestrian-friendly.  Walking and biking are healthy, safe, and inexpensive alternatives to driving; and, according to Walkable Princeton, less reliance on personal cars improves the quality of life in college towns. 

It responds to student preferences.  Young Americans are leading the trend toward less reliance on driving.  The PIRG report found that “young people often prefer communities that are served by multiple transportation options rather than depending solely on a personal car.”  And everyone knows it’s a lot cheaper to go to college without a car.

Universities that are serious about reducing driving are taking steps to help students and faculty get around without cars.

What Can Universities Do to Reduce Driving?

bike2Promote biking.  Biking is booming at American colleges and universities.  The League of American Bicyclists designates institutions of higher education as “Bicycle Friendly Universities”—awarding platinum, gold, silver, or bronze status to schools that promote cycling by providing bike lanes, bike paths, bike racks, and bike sharing services.  Schools get extra credit for offering bicycle safety classes, bicycle repair and maintenance facilities, showers and lockers for commuters, summer bike storage, and special riding events.

Promote walking.  Colleges and college towns are, by their nature, supposed to be pedestrian friendly.  Walkscore (which ranks cities and college towns in terms of bike friendliness, transit friendliness, and walkability) points out that “cars are expensive; walking is not.”  Walking is healthy for walkers and the environment; driving is not.  Walkable campuses combine accessible transit with safe, pleasant walkways and proximity to residence, dining, academic, and social venues.

Encourage car sharing and ride sharing.  Membership-based car sharing services (like Zipcar) are cropping up at hundreds of universities.  In the case of Zipcar (which is owned by Avis), the company rents cars to college kids as needed (by the hour or the day), thereby virtually eliminating the need to have a car on campus.  Ride sharing initiatives like Zimride match riders with drivers—whether it’s for a one-time trip out of town or a daily commute.  Some universities offer incentives to carpoolers and vanpoolers, such as free or reduced parking, reserved spots, and other rewards.

Offer free or reduced access to public transportation.  Public and private universities (like the University of Michigan and Duke University, for example) have partnered with their area transportation authorities to provide transit options for their students and faculty—either free of charge or at reduced rates.  Students at Duke get a free GoPass, allowing them to use Durham Area Transit Authority (DATA) and Triangle Transit buses (covering the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area) free of charge with a swipe of a card.  An agreement between the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority (AAATA), allows students, faculty, and staff to ride fixed public transportation routes free of charge.

campus shuttleProvide shuttle buses.  Many institutions provide free, university-run shuttle buses for students, faculty, and staff.  The best shuttle services offer frequent trips, plenty of pick-up and drop-off locations, and a schedule that runs from early in the morning to late at night.  State-of-the-art campus shuttle buses are handicap accessible, equipped with GPS for real time tracking (online and via smartphones), and have bike racks.  Many of them run on biodiesel fuel blends.

At Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Bronco Transit (operated by Indian Trails) shuttles students to and from residence halls, academic and administrative buildings, campus events, and off-campus apartments starting as early as 7:05 a.m. and running as late as 12:32 a.m. daily. Students also ride Kalamazoo’s Metro Transit buses for free, a perk that gives them access to off-campus dining, shopping, entertainment, Bronson Hospital, and the downtown transit station.  With GPS tracking onboard Bronco buses, the same free smartphone app that lets students check football scores and dining hall menus also lets them track the whereabouts and arrival time of the next shuttle bus.  All buses are outfitted with exterior “buscycle” racks for riders with bikes. 

In upstate New York, students at the University at Buffalo-SUNY (UB) can ride the UB Stampede (operated by First Transit) 24 hours a day.  The bright blue shuttle buses make many stops throughout the two sprawling campuses (North and South) and surrounding community, with pick-ups every five to ten minutes.  Although 68% of UB’s 29,850 students have their own cars, most drivers park in a commuter lot and ride the Stampede for the rest of the day.  Buses run on a blend of standard diesel and biodiesel, have sport exterior racks for up to three bicycles, and are equipped with GPS systems for real-time tracking. 

Princeton University’s free shuttle service, TigerTransit (operated by First Transit) runs on a fixed schedule throughout the campus and surrounding community with routes from early morning to late at night.  The Saturday Shopper bus—also free—goes to various popular shopping centers and grocery stores like Target, the MarketFair Mall, and Trader Joe’s.  TigerTransit also connects with Princeton, New Jersey’s local “freeB” bus service and New Jersey Transit, where students qualify for discounted train, bus, and light rail passes.

Thanks to campus shuttles—and other initiatives aimed at saving the planet—American colleges and universities may very well be “the greenest of them all.”

Charter a Bus to Ann Arbor!


Maricat EggenbergerMaricat Eggenberger is the Communications Manager with the Ann Arbor Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. She’s a proud Michigander that has lived in Ann Arbor for three years.  She loves to travel, anything eco-friendly and the little adventures in life.

By Maricat Eggenberger

The home of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is a city with small-town charm and the excitement of a big city. With something for everyone, you can take your taste-buds on a flavorful adventure, satisfy your cultural cravings or explore the outdoors of ‘Tree Town.’

The University of Michigan Football StadiumEach season in Ann Arbor is packed with fun events and activities to enjoy. In the fall, don’t miss the once-in-a-lifetime experience of catching a game at the University of Michigan Football Stadium.  Fondly referred to as ‘The Big House,’ the stadium seats 109,901 fans.  Not visiting in the fall? You can book a tour of ‘The Big House’; you’ll be able to walk on the field, walk through the locker rooms and even tour the suites!

Summers in Ann Arbor are a wonderful time to experience outdoor festivals; the Ann Arbor Art Fair and the Ann Arbor Summer Festival are popular events taking place right in downtown.  Dine al fresco at one of Ann Arbor’s downtown restaurants. Check out the campus of the Wolverines and duck into the U-M Museum of Art, Kelsey Museum of Archeology, the Natural History Museum and the Gerald R. Ford Library. Don’t forget to walk through the Law Quad; you’ll feel like you are on the set of the Harry Potter movies at Hogwarts.

Planning a visit in late May will ensure you’ll be able to see hundreds of peonies in bloom at the University of Michigan Arboretum. A year-round 123-acre park at the edge of the Huron River and just blocks from downtown Ann Arbor, the ‘Arb’ as locals call it is a perfect place to hike beautiful trails.

Ice skate Ann Arbor’s outdoor ice rinks or cross-country ski the trails of nearby metro parks during the winter. Or, check out one of the Ann Arbor area’s world-class performances from the University Musical Society, whose performances take place at the historic Hill Auditorium. Catch a show at the intimate Purple Rose Theatre, in nearby Chelsea, founded by actor Jeff Daniels.

Main Street   LenaA few other tips for visiting Ann Arbor….

  1. Visit Zingerman’s Delicatessen, located in historic Kerrytown. Take your pick from their extensive sandwich menu and taste specialty meats and cheeses at the Deli!
  2. Stroll one of America’s Best Main Streets, full of outstanding restaurants and unique boutiques.
  3. Wander around the ‘Diag’ of the University of Michigan campus, located at State Street and North University.
  4. Kayak the cascades of the Huron River! Rent kayaks or canoes from Argo Canoe Livery, just blocks from downtown Ann Arbor.
  5. Keep your eyes open for fairy doors! They can be found all over downtown on the outsides of shops and restaurants.
  6. Check out Ann Arbor’s breweries! With four located right downtown, stop by for dinner and some great local beer.
  7. Eat your way through Ann Arbor. We guarantee you won’t regret it.

Top Child-Friendly Educational Destinations by Charter Bus: Chicago


Looking for child-friendly educational destinations?  Chicago is accessible by charter bus and offers world-class learning opportunities for student groups of all ages.

Every day in Chicago, children of all ages marvel at the mysteries of the universe, immerse themselves in four billion years of life on Earth, and witness 200,000 years of human ingenuity, imagination, and innovation first-hand.  Here, kids can explore a Caribbean reef, descend a mineshaft, and travel a billion light years through space – sometimes all on the same day. 

And no, they’re not playing video games.

They are experiencing the magic that happens in four world-class museums—all located along a 10-mile stretch of the Lake Michigan shoreline in Chicago, all dedicated to science, and all, as you may have guessed, exceedingly child-friendly.  Three of the institutions—the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, and the Field Museum of Natural History—are nestled together on a 57-acre plot of green space in Grant Park, officially known as the Museum Campus.  The fourth—the Museum of Science and Industry—is a few miles south on Lake Shore Drive. 

Adler Planetarium
1300 S Lake Shore Drive
(312) 922-7827
Monday - Friday: 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Saturday - Sunday:  9:30 a.m. - 4:30 pm. 

Adler Planetarium Front resized 600Founded in 1930, the Adler Planetarium is the oldest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere, offering interactive high tech exhibitions, a world-renowned collection of astronomy artifacts, and facilitated educational programs.  But kids say the sky shows—six in all, in the world’s most technologically advanced theaters—are the best part of the Adler Planetarium experience.  “Cosmic Wonder” (30 minutes) describes how humankind, over time, pieced together an understanding of the cosmos. “Undiscovered Worlds” (30 minutes) explores the search for life in other galaxies.  “Night Sky Now!” familiarizes students with the constellations, planets, and other objects they can find in the actual night sky.  The newest sky show, “Welcome to the Universe,” simulates the thrilling sensation of space travel and accompanies the newest permanent exhibition, “The Universe: A Walk Through Space and Time.” Another popular exhibit, “Planet Explorers,” lets kids experience how it feels to climb, crawl, and fly through space. 

The Adler Planetarium can accommodate K-12 field trips, Scout badge programs, and adult groups.

Shedd Aquarium
1200 South Lakeshore Drive
(312) 939-2438
Open daily 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Shedd Aquarium Chicago August 2005The largest indoor aquarium in the world, Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium is home to more than 1,500 species living in diverse salt water and fresh water habitats (15 million gallons of water in all).  There are beluga whales, sharks, dolphins, stingrays, piranhas, penguins, sea otters, jellyfish, turtles, iguanas, and pretty much any sea mammal, amphibian, or fish you can think of.  Shedd’s main purpose is to educate, and it offers many hands-on learning labs (complete with downloadable teachers’ guides) for student groups of all ages—for example, Camouflaging Critters, Amazon Survival, and Lakeshore Ecology.  One of the most exciting and memorable options for groups (ages five and up) is overnight.  Here’s a typical itinerary (from the Shedd Aquarium website):

6:30-8 p.m.     Check-in, dinner, and time to explore the Abbott Oceanarium
7:30 p.m.        Event orientation and aquatic show
8-9:30 p.m.     Planned activities in the aquarium galleries, exploration of Wild Reef
9:30 p.m.        Caribbean Reef dive presentation
10 p.m.           Set up sleeping space, late-night snack, movie and game room open
11 p.m.            Lights out! 
6:30 a.m.         Rise and shine, explore aquarium galleries
7 a.m.              Breakfast
7:30 a.m.         Explore Abbott Oceanarium
8 a.m.              Explore Wild Reef
8:30 a.m.         Depart

If you plan right, your morning departure would allow you to visit another museum before heading home.

The Field Museum
1400 South Lake Shore Drive
(312) 922-9410
Open daily 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

FieldMuseum“The Field Museum inspires curiosity about life.”  These are the first words of the 120-year-old museum’s mission statement and it pretty much says it all.

Since it would be impossible to cover the whole 400,000-square-foot Field Museum in a day, here are a few of the most important things for kids to see.

The museum’s most celebrated resident is 65 million-year-old “Sue,” the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever found.  Evolving Planet is the dinosaur exhibit—a journey through four billion years of life on Earth.  Underground Adventure “shrinks” visitors to the size of a bug to let them explore what goes on beneath the soil.  Three of the most popular permanent exhibitions are Inside Ancient Egypt, Africa, and The Tsavo Lions; current special exhibits include The Machine Inside: Biomechanics, which investigates the marvels of natural engineering, and Extinct Madagascar: Exploring the Island’s Past, which imagines the fantastical creatures that used to roam the island.

The Field Museum’s Student Programs offer teachers and students a way to explore a specific topic and practice scientific practice skills on-site. 

The Museum of Science and Industry
5700 South Lake Shore Drive
(773) 684-1414
Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas

Museum of Science and IndustryRight across the street from Lake Michigan, with nearly 2,000 hands-on exhibits and live science experiences, the sprawling, three-story Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) is one of Chicago’s most visited and best loved museums.  Among its 1.4 million annual visitors, 340,000 are school kids, making MSI the area’s top field trip destination.  Groups of 15 or more qualify for discounts, special itineraries, group activities, tours, and lunch options.  With a goal of providing school groups with hands-on, real-world exposure to science, MSI offers on-site Learning Labs—facilitated, multi-disciplinary learning experiences that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards for science and technical subjects. 

Not-to-be-missed exhibits:  Coal Mine takes visitors on a guided tour into the depths of a simulated coal mine.  Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle is a giant dollhouse filled with intricate hand-crafted miniatures (like tiny chandeliers with real diamonds and the world’s smallest bible).  Visitors to the U-5 Submarine (a real German submarine captured during World War II) get to climb through the hatch to explore the sights, sounds, and strategies of war at sea.

There’s also the Idea Factory (limited to ages 10 and under) where kids can play with water cannons, blocks and cranks, and the five-story, domed, wrap-around Omnimax Theater—the only one like it in Chicago.

Chicago offers countless iconic experiences for children:  the view from the John Hancock Building, a ride on the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier, a game at Wrigley Field, Millennium Park, Lake Michigan, and the giant pandas at the Brookfield Zoo, to name a few.  But before they grow up, every kid should witness the magic of the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, and the Museum of Science and Industry at least once.


Charter a Bus to Holland!


Sally LaukitisAs a native of Holland, Michigan and Executive Director of the Holland Area Visitors Bureau, Sally Laukitis is your go-to when looking to charter a bus to Holland.

By Sally Laukitis

When people think of Holland, Michigan, they usually think of our annual Tulip Time Festival, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to Holland each May, and gives us the chance to share our Dutch heritage with people from all over the world.  With the blooming of millions of tulips, three parades, headline entertainment, klompen dancing, and much, much more, there truly is something for everyone! (The Festival always begins the first Saturday in May; in 2015 it runs from May 2 - 9). But there is more to Holland than tulips….We’re a year-round destination as well!

Holland is home to Windmill Island Gardens, featuring DeZwaan, a 260-year-old authentic windmill that was brought over from the Netherlands fifty years ago.  You can tour the mill from late April through mid-October. Our female miller, who trained in the Netherlands, grinds the area’s winter wheat into whole wheat flour. You can even purchase a bag to take home with you! Over 100,000 tulips bloom on the Island each spring; in the summer and fall Windmill Island Gardens is overflowing with stunning annual and perennial gardens.

HollandNelis’ Dutch Village, another popular attraction, is a recreation of an 1800’s Dutch town; “kid-friendly”, it boasts a petting zoo, imported Dutch carousel, pedal pumper cars, and a street organ that used to be pulled through the narrow streets of downtown Amsterdam. For adults, the Thirsty Dutchman Pub offers imported Dutch beers and cheeses, and for those who like to shop, the import shops are a real treat! (The park is open late April through mid-October; the import shops are open year ‘round.)

Beyond the “Dutch stuff”, downtown Holland is an award-winning shopping and dining destination, with over 100 shops, galleries and eateries, and features two micro-breweries, a beer bar with 70 craft brews on tap, and a wine-tasting room. (Holland is also home to two artisan distilleries.)

Holland Farmers Market resized 600In summer, downtown Holland comes alive with the Thursday Night Street Performers Series, featuring over 30 genres of buskers – from musicians to magicians and aerial acrobats; Tuesday night brings free American Legion Band concerts in the beautiful waterfront Kollen Park, while the Friday night free concert series, also in Kollen Park, features a different type of music each week.

Fall brings Live Mannequin Night – the downtown storefronts literally come alive with “real people” posing as mannequins; GrooveWalk, in the fall and spring, brings live music downtown, with 10 genres of music in 10 different locations.  The Groove Express, complete with musicians, takes folks from venue to venue should they decide they don’t want to walk!

When winter arrives, you can “shop till you drop”, thanks to our ‘snow-free’ downtown! Holland’s unique snowmelt system pumps warm water through more than 125 miles of plastic tubing that is coiled beneath downtown’s streets and sidewalks, keeping downtown virtually snow-free! The snowmelt system extends to our Farmers Market, so the Market remains open through mid-December.  With over 90 vendors, the Holland Farmers Market is one of the best in the State! (In the summer, a Marketplace Chef Series occurs every Saturday at 10, with local chefs showcasing their culinary skills using the market’s fresh produce, while Wednesday brings the ever-popular Children’s Market activity.)

Holland is also host to an annual Dutch Winterfest celebration, a fun-filled downtown event featuring Sinterklaas, the Dutch St Nicholas, an open-air European Christmas Market called the Kerstmarkt, a lighted Santa Claus Parade, and an “Up on the Rooftops” homes tour, giving folks a peek at the living spaces above the shops lining downtown’s bustling main street.

sunsetOf course we can’t talk about Holland without mentioning Lake Michigan!  Holland is home to beautiful white sand beaches, with Holland State Park being one of Michigan’s most visited state parks; you can walk out onto the pier and watch the boats going through the channel, and if you’re lucky, you may even spy an ocean-going freighter or a cruise ship coming into port.   If you’re up to the challenge, you can climb 272 stairs to the top of Mt. Pisgah, a dune adjacent to the State Park, for spectacular views of Lakes Michigan and Macatawa, as well as “Big Red”, Holland’s bright red lighthouse. Tunnel Park, a smaller county park, is two miles to the north, and boasts a great beach with a dune climb and playground. A concrete tunnel built through a sand dune leads you to Lake Michigan’s sparkling waters.   

No matter what the season, you’ll find plenty to do in Holland, and with over 1,500 hotel rooms, B & B’s, and other lodging properties, you’ll have plenty of reasons to extend your stay! For more information, log onto

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