Cherry Festival: Traverse City, Michigan

If you’re aching to get away just for the hell of it, Traverse City, Michigan is as good a destination as any other. Michigan’s coastline is often times discounted by travelers, but the state has actually racked up more beachfront mileage than any other state in the continental USA, even including California. Traverse City’s waters belong to Lake Michigan, but because of the peninsula in the area, you’ll find the waters are actually warm—unlike the blistering cold waters found in other Michigan beaches. If you’d like to get away for a reason, not just for the hell of it, and if you happen to like cherries, then allow me to put Traverse City’s Annual Cherry Festival on your radar.

The festival isn’t a place you go to get away from everyone else, but if you like cherries, it’s where you go to meet every single one of your fruit fantasies—to meet them and bring them home with you, too. Cherry wine. Cherry and Cinnamon Peanut Butter. Cherry Licorice. Cherry pie. Cherries by the carton. Cherry tea. You can explore the depths of cherry-anything at Cherry Festival all while indulging in the simple pleasures that ride on the coattails of your standard carnival: elephant ears and Ferris Wheels, glow sticks and evangelizing sign-holding Christians. Best of all? You can stay at a Cherry-themed waterfront hotel.

While open year-round, the Cherry Tree Inn, I imagine, is at its peak during Cherry Festival. With cherry print carpeting through out and fresh cherries for the taking at the front desk, it’s difficult to imagine this hotel during any other season. As kitschy as it may seem, there’s something undeniably awesome about Cherry Tree Inn: gigantic rooms.

Most hotels try to avoid giving you space (have you been to London?), but Cherry Tree Inn does the opposite. They give you a two person jacuzzi beside your king size bed. They give you a kitchenette. They give you a balcony from which you can gaze onto the calming still waters of Lake Michigan at sunset. They even give you a tv in the bathroom.

So whether you’re in Traverse City for the cherries or the not, this is a hotel you don’t want to accidentally overlook. You’ll get more for your money than you’re used to and complimentary cherry-topped waffles in the morning as part of the breakfast included.

By: Elizabeth Seward, Photos By: Ben Britz

Ann Arbor Massage: Relaxstation

There’s a place in Ann Arbor, Michigan you can go to relax. And it’s aptly titled Relaxstation, a standalone massage fort set up in the middle of downtown. It welcomes walk-in folks in need of healing to come get their muscles kneaded in a shared room where everyone is massaged at once: Perfect strangers are sprawled out in massage chairs next to each other, each fully clothed and holding separate conversations with their respective therapist. This place is cool and good for a casual massage-on-the-go or a lunchtime break when you’re hungry for zen.

What some people may not know is this: Relaxstation actually consists of two stations, and the second is just down the street. For those seeking fancier, undressed, and intimate treatments–this is the place to go.

Ben Britz and I slowly made our way down to the second location after having mistakenly arrived at the first location. A friendly guy behind the counter at the main quarters of Relaxstation offered to walk us down the street to the other building. Ben was on crutches, limping from a recent dirt bike accident.

As we walked down the stairs and through the blandly corporate Office Space-esque corridor leading to the door of Relaxstation II, we couldn’t help but notice the strange setting. Down the corridor, between glass doors, was a room–completely empty except for, mystifyingly, a lone microwave. It was hard to know if we were even in the right place. We were relieved when we finally entered the spa itself and found it to be as  serene and peaceful as the hallway was stale and sterile.

I had asked for a Hot Stone Massage, but my masseuse, a Senegal native, insisted I try her Hot Sand Massage instead, a treatment native to Senegal. I’m glad she insisted. She told me stories of treating muscle pains back home with hot sand and I was enticed. This is like Hot Stone…but more powerful, I thought to myself as she dug deep into my muscles. I loved it. I’ll officially be figuring out how to give Hot Sand treatments for my own in-home spa once I move to Austin.

Ben loved his treatment, too. I think he was even walking better as he strolled out of Relaxstation II. Or maybe I was too blissed out from my massage to notice one way or the other. Either way, this place is awesome. You should drop in or make an appointment the next time you’re in Ann Arbor.

Holding the hot sand bag, happily.

By: Elizabeth Seward, Photos By: Ben Britz

Arbor Brewing Company: Local Beer and Good Food in Ann Arbor, MI

If a place you’re visiting has local breweries or wineries, you should visit them. You should try the local stuff a place has to offer before busting open another PBR or calling the hotel’s front desk, breathlessly, asking for a corkscrew for your Yellowtail. Ann Arbor, Michigan has local breweries. With limited time to kill, I only could visit one while in town. Arbor Brewing Company.

Standing tall downtown in the college city, ABC stretches along Washington Avenue, right near Main Street. A small door unlocks the giant wood-trimmed space, equipped with high ceilings, a mid-room bar, a game room, grade school-esque bathrooms downstairs, and plenty of dining table and booths. I slid onto the smooth wood of a booth and ordered the Arbor Brewery Beer Sampler as soon as I could, exactly as I’d been instructed to by others. Eleven beers were lined up onto the table (usually the sampler is only ten, but the bar’s newest beer, the Devil Lock Dunkelweiss, was thrown in the mix at no extra cost. And that beer was my favorite).

I ordered the food, ignoring my collection of experiences with brewpubs who can brew and pub but not cook. To my surprise, there were some things on the menu that really looked good. A tomato/feta salad and a Sloppy Jill (made with tempeh instead of beef) caught my eye and all in all, they were both very good. The friendly waitress managed to (easily) talk me into an Apple Bake, topped with local vanilla ice cream which was some of the creamiest ice cream I think I’ve ever had.

I can’t say Arbor Brewery is soooo much better or soooo much worse than other breweries in Ann Arbor. I didn’t go to any others. I don’t know how it ranks. But I do know this: the beer was good and the food was good. That’s enough to make me like a brewpub.

By:  Elizabeth Seward, Photos By:  Ben Britz