Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spring Arrives Along Lake Michigan Shoreline

In West Michigan, the truest sign of spring is the blossoming of tulips in Holland – just in time for the annual Tulip Time Festival, May 7-14. In addition to the 4.4 million tulips, the area is home to acres of fragrant apple, cherry and peach orchards. Vineyards stretch out along the rolling hillsides and colorful wildflowers dot sugar-sand beaches along the Lake Michigan coastline. You can even find the flavors of spring – and summer – in the form of locally crafted wine and beer. You are invited to celebrate the arrival of spring and all its natural wonders at these seven shoreline attractions:

Crane’s Pie Pantry
Blossoms are blooming throughout the orchards at Crane’s Pie Pantry (6054 124th Avenue (M89), Fennville). Stop out this month and pick up a map which identifies the trees, and walk the orchards which are full of fragrance this time of year. Be sure to bring your camera to capture the beauty of your visit (then consider entering the photos in the “Picture Yourself in Allegan County Photo Contest”). The walking tour is free but you must check in first at the Pie Pantry. Sorry, no pets. www.cranespiepantry.com |269-561-2297

Fenn Valley
Join Chef Christine Ferris for a Girls Afternoon out, May 14, as she demonstrates “Cutting the Cheese.” Everything you need to know about selecting, storing and cooking with cheese will be covered. Following the demonstration, participants will enjoy a brunch paired with assorted wines – including the new 2010 releases. Cost is $30 per person. Reservations are required. Winemaker cellar tours are offered at 3pm every Saturday (excluding 6/25) – providing a chance for you to taste from the barrels and tanks as you learn what makes Fenn Valley wines unique. Cost is $8 per person and includes a logo wine glass and $5 coupon. Reservations encouraged. Also, save the date for the Fenn Valley Wine Fest, June 25 (1-5pm), with great wines, tasty ethnic foods, a barrel aging demonstration and music by Natches Trace. Cost is $8 for adults. No reservations required. www.fennvalley.com | 269-561-2396

Dutch Village
Spring rings back a new bunch of animals at Nelis’ Dutch Village. The petting area has featured goats, rabbits, baby chicks and a llama named “Mr. T.” for the past few years, but 2011 brings mini animals to Dutch Village! “Taking a Goat for a Walk” has been one o the most popular attractions for the past two years, and should be again this year. This year’s new animal assortment includes mini pigs (under 12 inches tall), a mini cow, a mini mama horse and her baby and eight mini goats. All the miniature animals are brought in from a special hobby farm in Illinois called the Ahrens Hobby Farm. www.dutchvillage.com | 616-396-1475

New Holland Brewing
Tis the Saison! Or “season” as it translates, tne Holland Brewing Co.’s spring/summer brew, Golden Cap Saison, is currently available at the pub and on retailer shelves throughout the state. A modern interpretation of a traditional farmhouse ale, Golden cap is a soft, pale beer that embodies the flavors and aromas of summer fields. This brew was just awarded a Silver medal at the World Expo of Beer competition in Frankenmuth. In time for Cinco de may, it’s the el Mole Ocho: Mole’ inspired Ale – the spiciest addition to New Holland’s High Gravity family. This beer encompasses the brewer’s exploration into the flavors of mole – the legendary sauce of Central Mexico. El Mole Ocho features malty aroma and a rich, cocoa-laden body, laced with an invigorating tinge of dried chilies and coffee. It’s available in 22-ounce bottles or on tap at the pub. Of course, Tulip Time Festival wouldn’t be complete without New Holland’s Red Tulip Ale and Black Tulip Ale. Red Tulip Ale is brewed in homage to the festival, evoking spring’s renewing spirit. It’s available exclusively at the pub this year. While at the pub, be sure to ask your server or bartender about the selection of Library Beers, including vintage 2005 and 2006 Black Tulip. www.newhollandbrew.com | 616-335-6422

Star of Saugatuck Boat Cruises
Explore the Kalamazoo River aboard an authentic sternwheel paddleboat, and view the arrival of spring along the riverbank. Bring your binoculars and camera to observe the birds, water fowl and other animals in their natural environment. The shoreline is peppered with color as the spring wildflowers make their appearance for the season. Trips will be offered at 1pm and 3pm on May 18 and 19. Then, coming up Thursday, May 26 take part in the “Marga-Relay-Ville” Relay for Life fundraiser from 7-9pm. Cost is $30 per person or 2 for $50. The evening will include games, snacks and a cash bar. Then, on Friday, June 24, make reservations for the extended cruise from 7-10pm with live music, a picnic lunch and cash bar. Seating is limited and reservations are required. www.saugatuckboatcruises.com | 269-857-4261

Saugatuck Dune Rides
Explore the Lake Michigan shore sand dunes like never before, with Saugatuck Dune Rides – in celebration of their 30th anniversary! Feel the wind in your hair as you travel out near the site of the former town of Singapore – dubbed Michigan’s Pompeii, as it is buried under the sands. Along the foredunes (the first ridge behind the beach) you’ll see beautiful clusters of yellow harry puccoon, the common milkweed, beach pea, sand cress, smooth rose, bearberry, wild grape, sand cherry and Pitcher’s Thistle (a Federally-threatened wildflower) growing proudly. Migratory birds, such as the Prairie Warbler (Michigan endangered), Eastern Kingbird, Brown Thrasher, Field Sparrow and the Northern Harrier (a migratory raptor listed on the Michigan special concern list), are often seen. Be sure to bring your camera to capture the beauty of the dunes and all its natural residents! www.saugatuckduneride.com | 269-857-2253

Windmill Island
The focal point of this beautiful oasis on the edge of downtown is the 249 year old working Dutch windmill "De Zwaan" (meaning graceful bird). The windmill, which reaches 125 feet from the ground to the top of the blades, towers over 36 acres of manicured gardens, dikes, canals and picnic areas. Spring has exploded on Windmill Island, as more than 150,000 tulips have come into bloom. In the summer, annual plants and flowers decorate the grounds in a sea of color. A visit this premier destination includes old-time Klompen dance performed by girls dressed in folk costumes and wooden shoes; an antique Dutch carousel, featuring hand-carved and painted wooden horses; and the miniature Netherlands Village made by the early settlers. While you’re here, listen to the antique Amsterdam street organ and learn how it works, sample world-famous fudge made with real Dutch cocoa and stop by the souvenir shop for some mementos of your visit, including stone-ground flour from the windmill. www.cityofholland.com/windmillislandgardens | 616-355-1030

Holland & Saugatuck Lakeshore Attractions Group

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