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Traverse City: An Amazing Blend of Award-Winning Wines & Foodie Delights

Feast Through Traverse City

Dig a little deeper though, and you’ll discover that you’re just as likely to find a vintage glass of one-of-a-kind wine as you are to enjoy a bottle of pale wheat ale or imperial stout. The up-and-coming Traverse Wine Coast is home to nearly 40 wineries, thanks to a stroke of geological luck that it shares with some famous wine regions of Europe. Not to mention an expert group of innovative farmers, cultivators, and producers who love creating prestigious wines that add a singular culinary ‘spark’ to this food-friendly region.

A Unique Twist on Classic Winemaking

Midwest Magazine has named Traverse City among the Top Five Food Towns for two years running, and this genuine love of creating spectacular food and drink is part of the reason why the region has produced such a wide variety of internationally-acclaimed wines for pairing. The unique geographical conditions are another factor in the region’s success. Many of the vineyards front to the 100 miles of coastline that make up Traverse Wine Country’s two main peninsulas: The Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail. Lake Michigan and the bay both offer a protected environment for the grapes to grow, and cool air and nutrient-rich soil add to the high-quality yields.
In fact, The Traverse Wine Coast is situated on the 45th parallel, which is exactly the latitude at which the world-renowned Bordeaux and Piedmont districts of France and Italy sit. This ideal locale has created a thriving center of viticulture, with nearly 13,000 acres of grapes and proud bragging rights as the 5th leading grape producer in the United States. The area’s top selections include Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, as well as Cabernet Franc, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Grigio. These premier Northern Michigan wines can be easily recognized by their well-balanced, fruit-driven flavors that are crisp and clean, allowing for the perfect pairings with a diverse range of culinary dishes.

The Vineyards of Traverse City

‘Must See’ Vineyards of the Old Mission Peninsula

Chateau Grand Traverse

Just eight miles north of Traverse City sits a world of its the Chateau Grand Traverse Estate. It is Northern Michigan’s oldest winery, having opened its doors in 1974. Sitting on 122 prime acres of land, the winery has its own contemporary wine tasting room and production facility. Visitors here are among the lucky ones to taste the superbly-blended MichMash line that’s only available in-state. You can also enjoy the O’Keefe family’s generosity with a free wine tour of the vineyards and winemaking facility, including a presentation of the growing and production process from ‘vine to glass.’ Their mouthwatering house-made delicacies include smoked paprika almonds and hand-crafted crackers with fresh fig jam.
The vineyard also boasts a 6-room Inn where you can take in amazing views of the rolling vineyards, Traverse Bay sunsets, and the beautiful Bowers Harbor Park. The vineyard’s generosity continues with a complimentary bottle of their finest signature wine for overnight guests on a private balcony surrounded by serene woodland landscapes.

Mari Vineyards

Michigan native, engineer, and Oak Island star Marty Lagina was determined to plant “grapes that wouldn’t grow” in the region to create wines that honor his Italian heritage. Successfully cultivating the Old World varieties of Sangiovese and Nebbiolo grapes took lots of hard work, some innovative technology, and a bit of a rebel spirit, but today you can literally enjoy the ‘fruits’ of his labor with his award-winning lines of Pinot Bianco and Merlots blends.
Mari Vineyards offers you the chance to take a tour of the 3,000 square-foot wine cave that’s buried 10 feet underground as you hear the inspiring true story of the vineyard’s signature ‘Row 7’ origins. They also offer a newly completed, two-tiered tasting room that provides three unique seating options including an outdoor patio. Here you can savor an incredible selection of their citrus, berry, apple, peach, nut, and chocolate-infused selections. The vineyard sits on 60-acres of breathtakingly scenic land and is conveniently located just off of the main thoroughfare of Center Road.

‘Must See’ Vineyards of Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail

Laurentinde Winery

The husband-and-wife team, Susan & Bill Braymer, have taken a lifelong passion for visiting some of the country’s most epic vineyards and turned it into a world-class boutique winery on the shores of Lake Leelanau. Named after the glacier that helped form this grape-loving landscape over 10,000 years ago, Laurentide Winery focuses on fabulous food pairings with its distinct selection of 14 varietal wines, including the region’s first estate-grown, award-winning Sauvignon Blanc.
Here you’ll find amazing culinary creations paired together with Gold Winning blends such as the 2018 Harvest Stompede Sausage, Peppers, & Onions with 2016 Emergence White. Besides their family-style fireside or outdoor patio tastings at their on-site facility, the dynamic duo also gives educational tours of the vineyard and have an attached public wine library that’s open to everyone. Visitors can also take in the captivating artistic displays spread throughout the winery that help supports the local artistic community. Laurentide is part of the ‘Sleeping Bear’ Wine Loop that starts at southern Lake Leelanau and runs north across the namesake Bay.

Tandem Ciders

You can enjoy a taste of Michigan’s ‘other’ prize-winning fruit-forward artisanal drink at this unique stop along the North Wine Loop that showcases some of the region’s most acclaimed hard ciders. Tandem Ciders was born out of a cycling trip across England taken by another husband and wife team, Dan Young and Nikki Rothwell. The couple fell in love with the country’s amazing apple concoctions. With a focus on supporting regional growers, all their fruit is locally sourced, and the rustic-style tasting room is housed in a big white barn that encourages community socializing.
Tandem’s signature ciders feature a diverse array of top regional apples including Red Delicious, Cortland, Rome, McIntosh, Granny Smith, and Winesaps. Ciders such as the ever popular ‘Smakintosh’ and British-inspired ‘Scrumpy Little Woody’ are served up fresh with a tasty menu of eclectic area favorites, including the Black Truffle Fromage Blanc, Raclette Cheese Fruit Plate, and the ever-popular Pickled Eggs with a side of Great Lakes potato chips. Tandem’s fun community vibe encourages camaraderie and helped win it a spot on this renowned Midwestern wine trail.

Most Popular Wine Tastings & Festivals

The wineries of Old Mission Peninsula and nearby Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail each feature many popular tastings that showcase fresh and fabulous regional and international food and wine pairings along with fun social scenes. Winter Warm Up takes place each January along the Old Mission Peninsula and features unique wine and comfort food pairings from 9 vineyards, plus a commemorative souvenir mug. Leelanau Peninsula answers back in February with its winter wine tasting extravaganza, Taste the Passion, which includes 40 tastings for just $40. In June, Old Mission helps kick off summer with Rosé Between the Bays showcasing a diverse range of delicious pink wines.
One of the best things about the region is the fun wine-centered festivals that occur throughout the year. The most famous of these is the month-long Traverse City Uncorked that includes an incredible array of special tastings, tours, and springtime celebrations in May. Late June sees the launch of the Traverse City Wine & Cider Festival at the historic Village at Grand Traverse Commons, where great music, spirits, and artistry mix in a vibrant celebration of the creative arts. September’s ‘Harvest Stompede’ features a fun-filled vineyard race followed by wine and food tastings at 22 Leelanau Peninsula wineries, where owners have been known to throw in a few extra complimentary tastings! True to its reputation as a foodie paradise, Traverse City has created a celebration that features a friendly competition for the best wines and most beloved comfort foods at November’s Great Mac N’Cheese Bakeoff.
With most wineries open year round, The Traverse Wine Coast makes a spectacular destination for wine, food, and cider lovers alike. Whether you’re looking for a romantic wintertime getaway or a singular summertime sojourn, consider a journey into the land where the lakes conspire to create some of the most exceptional wines on the planet.

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6 Spectacular American Cities to Spend the Holidays

The enchanting sights, sounds, and aromatic smells of the holiday season come alive at these six cities across the United States that provide you with a fun and fabulous wintertime adventure that you’re sure to remember for a lifetime. Take a look at the breathtaking displays, spectacular shopping, and unique cultural events that make these locations a mecca for those who love to experience the season’s best celebrations.

‘Christmas town USA’: Best City for Holiday Lights

McAdenville, North Carolina epitomizes the giving spirit of the holidays with its spectacular month-long holiday lights display that showcases 160 festive homes, a fabulous downtown commons display, 265 evergreens featuring 500,000 lights, and spectacular lakeside scenery surrounded by beautifully-brightened spruce trees. The entire month-long extravaganza is free to the public, and the official lighting ceremony takes place on November 30th. The town is lit up every Monday through Friday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. and weekends from 5:30 to 11:00 p.m. through December 26th.
This small village just outside of Charlotte doesn’t stop there. Townsfolk also gifts the first 1,000 visitors to the Annual Christmas Town Festival with free cider and kettle corn to help usher in some holiday cheer. This fun family event takes place on December 13th and features a charming holiday parade, a stopover by Santa, a traditional yule log ceremony, and musical entertainment that captures the magic of the season.

New York City, New York: Best Center for Magical Ice Skating

New York’s Rockefeller Square is a cultural icon that stays true to its reputation for excellence with a whole host of holiday activities for yuletide-lovers who are both young and young-at-heart. The lighting of the iconic 75-foot tree takes place on the evening of November 28th and brightens the square every evening through January 7th with its 30,000 lights and Swarovski crystal star. The gigantic live spruce overlooks an intimate ice rink that gives skaters the impression of sliding through a mythical urban landscape dotted with giant forests, celebrated artwork, and twinkling lights. Visitors can also enjoy magical horse and buggy rides that take you on a tour of the area’s most famous attractions, such as Radio City Music Hall. Here you can enjoy all the pomp and spectacle of the Radio City Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular. 

Branson, Missouri: Best Place to Catch the Polar Express Train

Best known as the Live Music Capital of the World, this quaint mountain town of about 10,000 people sits against the spectacular backdrop of the pine-covered Ozark Mountains. Every holiday season it lights up the region with a wide array of events that have collectively come to be known as the Ozark Mountain Christmas Festival. By far the unique and eagerly anticipated of these experiences is the Branson Scenic Railway’s Polar Express Ride that showcases the natural wonders along the area’s snow-capped peaks. Just outside the train’s windows visitors can witness amazing scenes recreated from the enchanting film ‘The Polar Express.’
For more great seasonal entertainment, check out the city’s world-renowned live holiday shows featuring many talented musical legends. You can also enjoy some antique and holiday gift shopping in the historic downtown district, or take a driving tour of the holiday lights at the Promised Land Zoo and Gift of Lights Trail. The fun-filled Silver Dollar City Amusement Park’s Old Time Christmas festival runs from November 3rd through December 30th. It has an astounding 6.5 million sparkling lights–and some of the season’s best children’s plays and sing-a-longs.

Frankenmuth, Michigan: Best Town for an Authentic European Christkindlmarkt

Popularly known as “Little Bavaria” because of its historic German heritage, this town of 5,000 residents in central Michigan boasts 2 million annual visitors, a breathtaking Christmas Lane filled with 100,000 lights, and the quaint Old Christmas Station Restaurant that sits on sight of a former 1920’s train station. Perhaps its most beloved tradition is the European-style ‘Christkindlmarkt‘ featuring mouthwatering delights such as their fresh, locally sourced apple cider, open-fire roasted chestnuts, and delectable holiday pastries.
This enticing European-style market isn’t the only big draw for holiday lovers. Frankenmuth holds bragging rights to the world’s largest store dedicated exclusively to all things Christmas. The family owned and operated Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland was opened in 1945 and features 100,000 twinkling lights, 2.2 acres of indoor displays, 27 acres of outdoor landscapes, and 50,000 unique gifts and trims. It even has a replica of Salzburg, Austria’s Silent Night Memorial Chapel complete with a breathtaking walking path and quaint educational signposts. For dedicated Christmas fans who like to start the season early and extend the holiday spirit into the warmer months, you’re in luck. The store is open 365 days a year!

Taos, New Mexico: Best Locale to Experience Cultural Unity

This vibrant desert city offers a unique holiday experience that blends different cultural practices to showcase a beautiful pageantry of unity. On Christmas Eve, the Christian and Native American communities come together at the 1,000-year-old Taos Pueblos adobe settlement for the Procession of the Virgin. This unique event is open to the public and includes the lighting of ‘farolitos’ or paper lanterns, massive bonfires that are part of a blended Catholic and Native ceremony, and celebratory gunfire salutes along the parade route at this UNESCO World Heritage site.
Within the architecturally unique city limits, you’ll find a vibrant artistic community that plays host to the annual Yuletide Arts and Crafts Fair from November 23rd through the 25th. There is also a one-of-a-kind ‘pop-up, pop-down’ Taos Folk Store which appears at the Stables Gallery every November 25th through December 24th, and includes an incredible array of locally crafted items, from jewelry and journals to tea sets and totem poles. Here you’ll find unforgettable gifts for even the most discerning people on your holiday list, and beautiful items for yourself as well!

Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii: Best City for an Eco-Holiday in Paradise

The small island hamlet of Lihue hosts an awe-inspiring December-long Festival of Lights that takes place at the Historic 1913 County Building located on Hawaii’s ‘Garden Isle.’ Its grand scope belies its humble beginnings as a recycling project by a local artist who decided to turn other people’s trash into gifted treasures at her home, which came to be known as ‘The Christmas House.’
In 1997 her treasured creations came into the hands of her niece, also an artist, who chose to donate them to the county. The mayor asked her to create a fun-filled holiday display from them that has since transformed into a colorful celebration which draws international visitors and community members alike. Here you’ll find magical indoor and outdoor light displays, interactive installations featuring out-of-this-world artist-designed recyclables, and fun photos with Santa set against a panorama of eco-inspired design.
If you’re ready to raise a glass of cheer to a new adventure filled with time-honored traditions, head on out to one of these lively yuletide destinations this holiday season!
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The Best Halloween Events in The U.S.

From haunted hikes to terrifying hay-rides, here are some of the best halloween events across the U.S. sure to give you a scare.

Sleepy Hollow, New York

Sleepy Hollow commemorates Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow with scary events occurring year round. But during October, the legend rises to its spookiest heights. Hear a dramatic reading of the tale of the Headless Horseman accompanied by eerie organ music in the Old Dutch Church or grab a seat on the “hair raising” Haunted Hayride. The wagon rolls through forests filled with spooky sights and a frighteningly close encounter with the Headless Horseman. A block party lets revelers gear up to be spooked or wind down from being terrified. The premiere haunted town and house attraction is so realistically portrayed that you may want to leave the kids at home. Costumes are encouraged, and screams are heard nonstop all over town.

 The Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze, New York

Billed as the tristate’s largest Halloween event, the Blaze features 7,000 intricately hand-carved pumpkins in amazing configurations that form incredible displays in an 18th Century landscape. The grandfather clock and windmill actually work, and T-Rex is poised to attack.
Wander around new medieval castle guarded by jack o’ lantern owls, see the pumpkin carousel twirl, thrill at the sight of a giant sea serpent. With synchronized lighting and soundtrack, the color-changing star show and the all-pumpkin Statue of Liberty come alive.
There’s plenty of snacks and drinks including seasonal favorites such as pumpkin beer, cider, candy apples, and pumpkin spice treats.

Terror on Tillson Street, Michigan

Romeo is a small, quaint village of historic homes dating back to the mid-1800s in and around Tillson street. Homeowners decorate for Halloween as if their frightening decorations and elaborate graveyard displays will keep their demons away.
The trick or treating takes place Halloween evening from 6 to 8 is so popular that the 30 participating homes usually distribute 60,000 pieces of candy in two hours. It is safe with the Romeo High School football team patrolling the streets with flashlights and on the lookout for troublemakers and lost little witches and vampires. But Tillson Street becomes frightening on Halloween night with elaborately decorated homes trying to outdo each other on the scary scale. Many people avoid the Halloween crowds by viewing the decorations after dark before the big night.

Erebus, Michigan

This half-mile horror hike goes up and down a four-story parking garage and is in the Guinness World Records as the largest walk-through haunted attraction. In Erebus, walls move in to crush you, lasers and mirrors disorient you, demonic monkeys and a T-Rex attempt to make you their dinner. The bottomless pit, spike spindle, and buried-alive rooms may make your life flash before your eyes. The screams are real and the creatures know how to evoke them. The 100 actors on fright duty each night have all graduated from boo school. But who knows where the corpse of Uncle Freddy learned to lurch.
The experience takes under an hour and may shave a decade off your life, but be assured no human will touch you. Erebus’s policy demands that visitors can be touched only with props. Roaming spooks that may be in the area cannot be made to honor the policy.

Screams Halloween Theme Park, Texas

Just 30 miles south of Dallas in the town of Waxahachie, the world’s largest Halloween theme park is a delightful, frightful place with five seriously haunted houses. The witches of Terra Mythica Castle lead you on a terrifying trip through the scariest medieval myths. A cursed pirate village spills gallons of blood during looting, murder, and magic. At Hotel D’Feers, meet the creepy creatures who are sticking around for eternity and want you to know it. The Zombie Apocalypse will test your ability to muffle your screams. Creepy people only will want this circus to dance through children’s dreams.
Roaming characters frighten at random and face painters will give you the most gruesome look you can imagine. Shiver through horror movies and sing your worst at the Scary-oke. The main stage hosts live music and entertainment, and the food court serves traditional trade fair food with slices of worry: do the zombies eat here, too?

The House of The Occult at Lemp Brewery, Missouri

The basement of the 1864 Lemp Brewery becomes a terrifying abyss for the Halloween season. With just a candle, find your way through tunnels that are five stories underground and filled with mutilated bodies and real-life spirits.
Paranormal investigators have discovered authentic signs of hauntings by members of the disturbed Lemp family and even Indians cursed these caves centuries ago. The spook you encounter may not be rehearsed. Will you be in the tunnel on the one night in the history of the Abyss when not one person screams the safe word?

C – K Autumn Fest, West Virginia

If pumpkins are more your style than ghosts, don’t miss the Ultimate Pumpkin Experience in the quaint West Virginia communities of Ceredo and Kenova. The Pumpkin House is a Victorian mansion displaying 3,000 hand-carved pumpkins for what is known as the Ultimate Pumpkin Experience. The Great Scarecrow hunt is fun for kids without being too scary, and the tractor show draws a crowd. An arts and crafts show, bake-offs, canning competitions, and food vendors make this a full day of seasonal fun and discovery. The festival’s “Introduction to the Paranormal” will pique your Halloween spirit.

Cool Patch Pumpkins Corn Maze, California

The Cool Patch corn maze is the world’s largest according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Each year the maze design is unique and it just keeps growing. After dark maze explorers are welcome (as rescued as needed), and a smaller maze is just the right size for kids. Hayrides and pumpkin splatting opportunities add to the fun. Concession stands open October 6 on Friday nights and weekends.
While you are there, pick out your pumpkins and decorative gourds.
However you plan to celebrate Halloween, there are several frightening events that take place each year throughout the country. Just look up your city and see what events tickle your interest.