Empire is a small village in Leelanau County in Michigan, located in the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. With the magnificent Empire Bluffs to the south and the world-famous sand dunes of the National Lakeshore to the north, the area is known for breathtaking views of the dunes, North and South Manitou islands, and the vast Lake Michigan. Empire is a perfect starting point for exploring the park and many hiking and biking trails start in the village. The best time to come for a visit is 1st Saturday in October during the annual Empire Hops Festival, or in mid-February, during the annual Empire Winterfest, which includes curling, ice skating and the polar bear dip into South Bar Lake. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.

1.Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a Northern Michigan park located along the northwest coast of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan near Empire, Michigan. The park includes a 35-mile-long stretch of Lake Michigan's coastline and North and South Manitou islands. The park was established to protect its exceptional natural features such as forests, beaches, dunes and ancient glacier-formed features. The lakeshore includes many historic and cultural features such as the 1871 South Manitou Island Lighthouse, three former Coast Guard stations and a large rural historic farm district. A part of the park was named the Sleeping Bear Dunes Wilderness. The lakeshore is one of Michigan's most popular camping destinations, with a number of campgrounds of all types, including D.H. Day Campground, Platte River Campground, camping areas on the Manitou Islands and many other sites.

Leelanau & Benzie counties, Michigan

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2.Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
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The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is a popular scenic route that runs through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in western Northern Michigan. The roadway is famous for its "scenic vistas and gentle curves". It runs for 7.4 miles between Empire and Glen Arbor, just off state highway M-109. It meanders its way through forest and dunes, offering breathtaking view of the Lake Michigan shoreline and the surrounding area. There are interpretive markers all along the roadway. The drive is used every year by more than 80,000 vehicles, bikers, hikers and skiers. The road was completed in 1967 by Pierce Stocking, a local lumberman who wanted to share the beauty of the area with other people. He continued to operate the road until his death in 1976.

Leelanau county, Michigan

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3.Black Horse Farm

Black Horse Farm
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BLACK HORSE LLC is a horse-drawn carriage company specializing in providing comfortable scenic drives in their carriages, offering sleigh rides, hay rides and logging services in Empire, northwest lower Michigan, about 20 miles west of Traverse City. Their various carriages are used for weddings, birthdays, family gatherings and just fun rides through the area. Black Horse Farm owns a small herd of up to 18 Percheron Horses that are used daily to pull the carriages, as well as show horses at various fairs and shows. They have several carriages, sleighs and other vehicles to respond to all their clients’ needs.

11177 S Plowman Rd, Empire, MI 49630, Phone: 231-334-4705

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4.Sleeping Bear Surf and Kayak

Sleeping Bear Surf and Kayak
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Sleeping Bear Surf and Kayak is the first full-service surf shop in Michigan. The family operation was opened in 2007 with the goal of bringing opportunity to the visitors to see the immense sand dunes from the water, and to offer fresh water surfing and surfing courses to those who would like to run the waves of the mighty Lake Michigan. Since then, Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak has become much more than just a surf shop selling the latest gear and apparel, it became a core of the surfing community in the area. In 2007, they introduced stand-up paddling, years before it became the mainstream sport that it is today, in addition to surf, kayak, skim, longboards, bikes or giant inflatable SUPS. They offer rentals, lessons, and camps to folks of any age and skill level.

10228 W Front St, Empire, MI 49630, Phone: 231-326-9283

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5.Empire Village Inn

Empire Village Inn
© Empire Village Inn

The Empire Village Inn is a family friendly restaurant in Empire, Michigan, established in 1959 under the name Village Inn. Always popular, the place changed owners, name, menu and décor until it became the Empire Village Inn in 1987. Today, it is the favorite spot for folks exploring the magnificent Sleeping Bear Dunes nearby. It is the place to stop after a day of hiking and exploring for one of their 14 Michigan craft beers on draft, delicious home-made pizzas, burgers, salads or sandwiches. There is also a Michigan cider, a pool table, a dance floor and fun family friendly atmosphere. It tends to get noisy but nobody minds.

11601 S Lacore Rd, Empire, MI 49630, Phone: 231-326-5101

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5 Best Things to Do in Empire, MI

More Ideas in Michigan: Munro House Bed & Breakfast & Spa

The Munro House Bed & Breakfast & Spa is a charming, family-friendly guest house in downtown Jonesville, Michigan. The award-winning bed and breakfast is renowned for being the oldest house in Hillsdale County and offers comfortable accommodations with classic décor and upscale finishes, private bathrooms and modern amenities.

Built in 1834 as a private residence, the mansion was constructed in the Greek Revival style and once used as a station on the Underground Railroad. One of Southern Michigan’s oldest guest houses, the Munro House Bed & Breakfast & Spa features seven individually decorated guest rooms and offers an array of amenities, including a complimentary breakfast, served every morning, snacks and beverages throughout the day, and on-site massage and spa services.

Ideally situated for leisure and business travelers, Munro House Bed & Breakfast & Spa offers a range of individual packages from corporate dinners and murder mystery weekends to wedding and elopement packages and fun-filled culinary parties.

Situated off Route 12, this comfortable, home-away-from-home Inn is within walking distance of the Grosvenor House Museum and a short walk from Carl Fast Park.

The Munro House Bed & Breakfast & Spa has seven beautifully appointed and individually decorated guest rooms with chic, contemporary décor and elegant finishes in warm, earthy tones. All guest rooms feature queen-size beds with imported linens, private bathrooms with showers and whirlpool tubs for two, plush towels and organic bath products, and sitting areas with gas fireplaces. Modern amenities include flat panel HD televisions with cable channels, work desks with direct dial telephones, alarm clock radios, hairdryers, and complimentary wireless Internet.

The Munro House Bed & Breakfast & Spa serves freshly prepared, made-to-order breakfast every morning in the sunny breakfast room at private tables. Breakfast includes freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee and tea, followed by fresh fruit platters, various egg dishes, omelets, several varieties of cereals, yogurt, and toast.

Munro House Bed & Breakfast & Spa amenities include on-site massage and spa services provided by professional therapists, a complimentary gourmet breakfast served every morning, free beverages and snacks on hand throughout the day, and free parking.

Munro House Bed & Breakfast offers exclusive spa services for guests, including massages, body treatments, facials, manicures, and pedicures, all of which are provided on-site by professional therapists. Signature spa services include Chocolate Fix Exfoliating Scrub, Warm Algae Wrap, Neroli Body Polish, Sayonara Cellulite Treatment, Oxygen Facial, Lavender Luxury Manicure, Pedicure with Spa Bath, Paraffin Dip, and Lip and Eyebrow Waxing. Spa Packages include Standard Pamper Packages, Couples' Pamper Packages, and The Works Pamper Packages.

The village of Jonesville and the nearby city of Hillsdale offer a variety of things to see and do from many shops and boutiques, restaurants, and cafés, a multiplex movie theater, sports complex and fun park, as well as a museum, arboretum and performing arts center.

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202 Maumee Street, Jonesville, Michigan, Phone: 517-849-9292 or 800-320-379

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More Ideas in Michigan: Inn at Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay

Set on the beautiful 160-acre Suttons Bay estate in the heart of Leelanau Peninsula wine country, the Inn at Black Star Farms is a distinctive retreat with luxurious accommodations and an exceptional package of services and amenities. Surrounded by rolling vineyards and boasting sweeping pastoral views, the Inn is set amongst a working winery and horse stables, and a network of scenic hiking trails.

The Inn at Black Star Farms serves a delicious gourmet breakfast every morning, a hospitality hour in the evenings with wine and hors d’oeuvres, a private sauna room for guests to enjoy and VIP tasting at the estate’s onsite Barrel Room.

Black Star Farms is an exclusive property with two working wineries and three tasting rooms, stables and event venues, a luxury Inn and casual café. Established in 1998 as the Sports Valley Farm, the 160-acre equestrian facility has become a luxurious wine lovers retreat with an award-winning winery and tasting room and a distillery. More Fun Things to Do in Michigan

The Inn at Black Star Farms features 10 beautifully appointed guest rooms that are named after various stars in the Northern galaxy. Each room is richly decorated in a contemporary style with refined décor and designer fabrics and offers comfortable beds with plush linens and cozy comforters, and private bathrooms with walk-in showers and spa tubs. Guest rooms have modern amenities such as terry robes, hairdryers, and Aveda toiletries in the bathrooms, cable television, direct dial telephones, irons and ironing boards and guests are treated to a complimentary bottle of wine on arrival.

The Atlas Room features a king-size bed with plush linens and cozy comforters, an en-suite bathroom with a walk-in shower, a two-person Kohler jetted tub, dual vanity and a wall of mirrors and beautiful views of the stables and pastures.

The Betelgueze Room is spacious with a king-size bed with plush linens and cozy comforters and a private bathroom with a glassed-in shower, dual vanity, plush terry robes and Aveda toiletries. A comfortable sitting area boasts spectacular views of the surrounding woods

The Vega Room features a queen-size bed with luxurious linens and cozy comforters and a private bathroom with a glassed-in shower, dual vanity, plush terry robes and Aveda toiletries. A comfortable sitting area boasts spectacular views of the horse pastures.

The Capella Room features a king-size bed with plush linens and cozy comforters, an en-suite bathroom with a walk-in shower, a two-person Kohler jetted tub, dual vanity, and plush terry robes. Two armchairs add a homey touch and modern amenities include cable television, a direct dial telephone, hairdryer and Aveda toiletries.

The Castor and Pollux Room features two bedrooms with king-size beds dressed in plush linens and cozy comforters, both of which can be separated for groups of friends traveling together. A private bathroom features a spacious tiled shower, dual vanity, terry robes and Aveda toiletries and a spacious sitting area features a brick fireplace and lovely views.

The Diadem Room is the original master suite of the Inn and features a beautiful king-size wrought iron bed with plush linens and cozy comforters, and an expansive en-suite bathroom with a large tiled shower, dual pedestal sinks, and a mirrored makeup table. A comfortable sitting area has plush armchairs, dormer window seats, and a massive white marble fireplace.

The Polaris Room is located on the ground floor with a private entrance and features a king-to-twin convert bed with plush linens and cozy comforters, and an en-suite bathroom with a walk-in shower, an aromatherapy jetted bathtub and plush terry robes. A lovely sitting area has a sofa/daybed which can accommodate an extra guest, and the bathroom has assistance bars for guests with limited mobility.

The Rigel Room features a queen-size bed with plush linens and cozy comforters and a private bathroom with a glassed-in shower, dual vanity, plush terry robes and Aveda toiletries. A comfortable sitting area boasts spectacular views of the perennial rock gardens and croquet lawn.

The Lyra Room offers all the conveniences for a self-sufficient stay ranging from a double bed with plush linens and cozy comforters and a private bathroom with shower/bath combination and single vanity to a small refrigerator, coffee maker, and microwave.

The Mira Room is ideal for extended stays and features a separate bedroom with a king-size bed with plush linens and cozy comforters, a white tiled bathroom with a shower/bath combination, and a spacious living room with a built-in fireplace, romantic love seat, and oversized armchairs. A fully-equipped kitchen has all the appliances and utensils needed for a self-sufficient stay and a private entrance and patio with bistro seating offers extra privacy and seclusion.

Black Star Farms provides a range of dining options around the farm, all of which serves fresh locally sourced food created and served by Executive Chef Cole Thornton and his talented culinary team. Menus feature seasonal fruits, vegetables, and proteins grown and reared on the farm and paired with the estate’s own award-winning wines. Culinary options range from casual farmstead cuisine served at the Hearth & Vine Café to formal monthly Harvest Dinners and the traditional Great Lakes Fish Boil held every year.

The Inn at Black Star Farms serves a delicious gourmet breakfast every morning, a hospitality hour in the evenings with wine and hors d’oeuvres, a private sauna room for guests to enjoy and VIP tasting at the estate’s onsite Barrel Room.

Black Star Farms is an exclusive estate with two working wineries and three tasting rooms, stables and event venues, a luxury Inn and casual café - the Hearth & Vine Café.

Black Star Farms offers beautiful settings for a variety of special events, weddings, receptions, corporate parties and special gatherings. The estate offers an array of services including an experienced food service and events team, award-winning cuisine and wine offerings, luxurious accommodations and an array of amenities.

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10844 E Revold Rd, Suttons Bay, MI 49682, Phone: 231-944-1251

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More Ideas in Michigan: Fox Hill

Fox Hill provides a unique setting for outdoor wedding ceremonies and receptions. At this wedding venue, only one event takes place at any given time, meaning that couples will have exclusive use of the venue on their wedding day. Wedding ceremonies take place outdoors, while receptions take place inside the venue’s event center that features large windows and glass doors. While up to 275 guests can be accommodated at Fox Hill, the event space is inviting and warm for smaller groups of around 75 guests.

Winter offers stunning scenery from the elegant patio at Fox Hill with fresh snow covered grounds. The spring season offers flower and blossoming trees throughout the grounds, offering a beautiful backdrop for any wedding. Summer brings warmer weather, allowing guests the chance to mingle on the landscaped lawn or in the courtyard that features a waterfall. Autumn at Fox Hill is a showcase of all the colors nature has to offer with the changing trees, perennials turning to fall hues, and hydrangeas.

Situated on a hilltop that overlooking the city of Cadillac to the west and beyond, the Fox Hill Event Center combines the indoors with the outdoors. The natural beauty of outside can be seen from inside the event center. Guests can watch the sun go down and then dance beneath the stars in the open courtyard, providing the perfect end to a memorable wedding.

Amenities and Facilities

Outdoor wedding ceremonies at Fox Hill usually take place in the elegantly landscaped patio courtyard. The stone courtyard includes a beautiful pergola that acts as the perfect backdrop for any wedding ceremony. Next to the pergola is a waterfall that offers great opportunities for wedding photos. The patio can accommodate up to 250 guests, and there is also a nearby private changing room for the bride.

Wedding receptions take place inside the open and spacious event center that can accommodate a maximum of 275 guests comfortably. The facility includes a coat room, a lobby, a bridal room, nice bathrooms, and an area for a bar. The Fox Hill property features several photo opportunities throughout the grounds.


Fox Hill provides catering for wedding receptions from the Blue Heron Cafe, which offers delicious food to match any budget. The wedding venue tries to keep food costs low and pass the savings on to those who choose to use Fox Hill as the venue for their wedding. Wedding ceremony packages include setup and tear down of chairs, as well as exclusive use of the facility.

The venue also provides a variety of the basics for wedding receptions, including round tables, set up and cleanup for tables and chairs, linens, table overlays, a head table, a cake table, and gift table. Fox Hill can also take care of setting up items like votive candles, table numbers, and place cards. An Event Coordinator is also available to help couples with all of their wedding planning.

General Information

Fox Hill is located at 7640 Mackinaw Trail in Cadillac, is wheelchair accessible, and provides on-site parking.

7640 Mackinaw Trail, Cadillac, MI 49682, Phone: 231-775-7650

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More Ideas in Michigan: Crooked River Weddings

Crooked River Weddings, a beautiful outdoor site for weddings along a river, is one of the largest barn wedding venues in Michigan. The site for wedding ceremonies is reached by crossing over the venue’s sixty-foot wooden bridge.The river beneath the quaint bridge flows around the ceremony spaces. The Barn at Crooked River Weddings offers a memorable experience for anyone looking for a rustic and beautiful venue for their wedding.

The one-of-a-kind wedding venue of Crooked River Weddings is situated at a bend in the Tobacco River. Owners of the barn venue, Kent and Karm Russell, have put both their hearts and souls into creating the ultimate unique wedding venue. They work hard to individually customize each wedding held at their site.

Amenities and Facilities

Crooked River Weddings provides a variety of options for wedding ceremonies. Ceremonies can take place on a hilltop that offers the Tobacco River as a beautiful backdrop. The venue’s most popular site for ceremonies is across the 60-foot covered bridge that leads to a grassy site. Here, guests can enjoy the view of the river on either side of the seating area as they watch the venue’s paddle wheel spin with the current of the river.

The 4,800 square foot barn at Crooked River Weddings is more than one hundred years old and sits on top of a bend in the river. The barn is 120 feet long and can accommodate more than 300 guests. It features old open beam trusses and a ceiling forty feet high. Large doors open in the front as an entrance, and the large doors at the back of the barn open out onto a deck space of 80 feet where guest can take in the view of 200 acres of beautiful scenery. From the deck, guests can see the Tobacco River and maybe even deer grazing in the meadow. At sunset, the view is breathtaking, with the sun setting over the farms in the distance.

The Crooked River Weddings barn also feature an old granary room that has been transformed in a bar area. Mobile buffet tables are used for buffet-style receptions. Strands of strewn white lights and the overhead lights of the barn’s interior create a magical effect for weddings. There is also an old stone guest house at the venue that can be used by the bridal party for getting ready, hanging out, or just relaxing before the start of the ceremony.


Crooked River Weddings provides tables and chairs with all wedding packages, as well as setup and clean up. A work station for caterers is provided with covered buffet tables and a cold table for dishes that need to be kept cold. There is also a full bar that features two taps, plenty of refrigeration, and galvanized bins. Other services include a cake table for desserts, an elevated platform for the wedding party, and a variety of antique decorations and props that can be used as decor.

General Information

Crooked River Weddings is located at 2376 South Grout Road in Gladwin, is wheelchair accessible, and offers parking onsite.

2376 South Grout Road, Gladwin, MI 49682, Phone: 989-426-3424

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