Special Issues » Made in Michigan

Michigan's capital destinations all have something that sets them apart

Placemaking in Michigan


  • Courtesy photo
  • "Big Ernie."

Home of Michigan's Largest Rifle

In Ishpeming, road-trippers will find one of the most honest pitches and some of the most lighthearted attractions. It's home to Da Yoopers Tourist Trap, the brainchild of Jim "Hoolie" DeCaire. DeCaire, a key member of the comedy troupe disguised as a band Da Yoopers, bought the place in the mid-1990s and filled it with unusual attractions, such as "the world's largest working chainsaw" and the "world's largest working rifle" — aka "Big Ernie." Also inside is an exhibition of Yooper creations: something like the duct-tape inventions of Red Green, but with an Upper Peninsula sensibility — think doodlebug snowplows and crash helmets with antlers on them.

Sturgeon Capital of Michigan

In late winter every year, tiny Onaway becomes home to an unusual hunting season for which its status as "Sturgeon Capital" is bestowed. It's called the Sturgeon Shivaree, and it centers on the sturgeon season, which begins on the first Saturday of February and can last anywhere from an hour to five days. The threatened prehistoric fish calls nearby Black Lake home, and the shindig is a way to help raise funds for the lake sturgeon hatchery, habitat conservation, and outreach programs.

Elk Capital of Michigan

Much like Onaway, the residents of Atlanta (and much of surrounding Briley Township) celebrate a local animal each year, but it's elk, not sturgeon. The animal is honored annually at the Elk Festival, a hootenanny that takes place on the last full weekend in September. The family-oriented, four-day event features vendors, auctions, games, a petting zoo, a beer tent, live music, and more. But even if the event isn't going on, you can still enjoy an elk-related experience: See the "elk under glass": Right outside the town post office is a display featuring a taxidermy elk; press a button at the base of the display and a recording of a loud elk mating call will play.

Moose Capital of Michigan

Michiganders would seem to love moose — or at least they belong to Moose Lodges and eat "Moose Tracks" ice cream. Sightings are still rare, but most moose are seen in the Upper Peninsula's Luce County, where Newberry enjoys its identity as "Moose Capital." The majority of sightings take place north of Newberry, and those most interested in the animal may want to stop at nearby Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which keeps up-to-date information on the herd.

Michigan's Icebox

You can tell the village of Pellston earned this moniker a long time ago, because nobody has mentioned work "icebox" since the days of Archie Bunker. No, they don't make refrigerators in Pellston. What they do have is an unusual geography, right between two ranges, which invites cloud cover and low temperatures. While it's pleasant much of the summer, it still holds the record for cold it set in 1933: -53 degrees Fahrenheit. That's brisk, baby!

Tubing Capital of Michigan

There are two ways to go down a river in Michigan. You can kayak or canoe, slipping almost silently through the waters and enjoying up-close views of wildlife, basking in the sacred qualities of the wilderness. Or you can tube: Fitting your derriere into a flotation device, and dropping a case of ice-cold beer into a Tube Pro Cooler Carrier, one can get drunk as a lord, screeching and hollering, driving away wildlife, fishermen, and families with small children. That's the preferred way to float down the Muskegon River, which runs right through Big Rapids, the state's "Tubing Capital." Making matters more interesting, Big Rapids is home to Ferris State University, which has a long tradition as a rip-roaring party school.

Magic Capital of the World

What is it that makes the tiny town of Colon (population 1,100) a "world capital" when it comes to magic? For one thing, it's the former home and burial site of "The Great Blackstone." Second, it's home to two magic companies. Third, each August, it's home to a "magic get-together," a four-day convention that practically doubles the burg's population.

Home of the Humongous Fungus

Less than seven miles from the Wisconsin border, the U.P. town of Crystal Falls has a lot going for it: Surrounded by lakes, its tourism economy is significant; the Crystal Theater, a regional performing arts center, gives it cultural cachet; Fisheree, an annual ice-fishing tournament at the Michigamme reservoir attracts sportsmen each February. But, most unusual of all, it's near the Humongous Fungus, a giant Armillaria bulbosa in nearby forested Mastodon Township. The fungus covers an area of more than 30 acres and has a total mass estimated at 100 tons. It's believed to be among the oldest and largest living organisms on the planet. Every year, Crystal Falls celebrates the mammoth mushroom with a "Humongous Fungus Fest."

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