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The Best of Michigan party approaches. And since it’s in Traverse City, I’m definitely extending my stay to enjoy the area. I’ve read for years about the region’s wineries, and I’ve always wanted to take a tour. And because we’ll be there in May, I’m planning to do so by bike. There are few things more enjoyable to me than a relaxed bike ride through a beautiful landscape.

In fact, the Traverse City area is something of a bicyclist’s dream. And you don’t have to be the hard-core type: Just rent a cruiser and check out some of these trails.

The 10.5-mile Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) Trail is a paved “linear park.” It passes through downtown Traverse City and city neighborhoods, along the West Bay waterfront and past restaurants and shops. The TART connects with parks, beaches and preserves, along with several other trails, including the three-mile, heavily wooded Boardman Trail, along the shores of Boardman Lake. TART also crosses the 17-mile Leelanau Trail, which connects Traverse City with the village of Suttons Bay, following a former railroad corridor through a landscape of forests, farms, vineyards, lakes and ponds.

Just as scenic is the new Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, a paved 27-mile trail that runs most of the length of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, connecting major park attractions and the communities of Empire and Glen Arbor.

More experienced cyclists might want to hit the region’s numerous rural back roads, especially those of the Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas and the drumlin country of western Antrim County. (If you need some guidance on routes, check out the Cherry Capital Cycling Club). 

Mountain biking fans can explore the Vasa Pathway, located east of Traverse City in the Pere Marquette State Forest (and home to the annual North American Vasa ski race.) Or check out the 140-acre Grand Traverse Commons Nature Area, whose steep terrain is home to an extensive network of freeride mountain biking trails. The Sand Lakes Quiet Area offers 12 miles of trails, ranging from beginner to expert, starting at the same trailhead and circling around several picturesque forest lakes. And the area’s latest addition for mountain bikers is the 814-acre Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area near Bellaire, with 31.5 miles of dramatically steep and winding trails. (When you’re ready for a break, head to Short’s Brewing Co. in downtown Bellaire.)

See you on the trails! 

Smart. Artsy. Alive. The hallmarks of college towns—thriving downtowns, enviable cultural scenes, and the energy that comes with intellectual curiosity—make for some pretty livable places. Add mountain majesty to the mix and you’ve got some compelling destinations for meetings and events. The following trio of Western college towns fi ts the bill exactly along with several other communities worthy of consideration.

Fairbanks, Alaska

 

One highway exit away from Minnesota's largest city, there’s an oasis of free parking, great shopping and a bustling social scene. “We like to say that we’re so close to Minneapolis, we share a ZIP code,” says Becky Bakken, president and CEO of Discover St. Louis Park. “We’re convenient and near all the experiences and activities that meeting and event participants want.” 

 

Set against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Fort Collins is conveniently located 65 miles north of Denver and 45 miles south of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and clearly has its own style and niche. Downto-earth and energetic, the town has a vibe that seems to thread through towns with universities, continues to expand its capacity to host groups and knows all about beer, bikes and bands.