Keith King; Thaddius Bedford; Elly Johnson.
Astronomy, music, chocolate and storytelling, wine, fall foliage. Not a bad lineup for the themed weekend excursions on the Tall Ship Manitou that run September 5 through October 5. The two-masted, 114-foot Manitou is a replica of an 1800's coasting cargo schooner and one of the Great Lakes' largest sailing ships. Packages, which include all meals and overnight accommodations, range from $500 to $675 per person. Day excursions can accommodate 62 people; the ship can sleep 24 in 12 double cabins. 800-678-0383, tallshipsailing.com.
Have an adventurous streak? Consider a day of snorkeling. Scuba North provides wet suits, gear and instruction, which includes morning in the pool and afternoon out on the bay. Shallow shipwrecks, big fish and that big, beautiful liquid blue provide the highlights. Classes are in Traverse City and Charlevoix. 231-947-2520, scubanorth.com.
After watching Brad Pitt cast away in A River Runs Through It, who doesn't want to learn how to fly-fish? The legendary Au Sable River is a fine place to start, and Gates Au Sable Lodge, on the main stream east of Grayling, is similarly famous for its angler-owner-author-conservationist, Rusty Gates. Lodging is centrally located with 14 double-bed rooms and a suite with four twin beds and a stone fireplace. There's Wi-Fi throughout, dining at the popular Hungry Fisherman (Julie Gates makes dynamite desserts and soups), a pro shop and guide service April through October. 989-348-8462, gateslodge.com.
Manistee Area Charterboats (MAC), an association of fishing-charter captains and river guides, can fire up your team for big-game fishing three miles out on Lake Michigan, where a sharp dropoff means trophy catches. Take a tour of the MAC website, which hooks you up with captains and their crafts - 21- to 36-foot boats that can handle up to six passengers. Most boats are equipped with rods and reels, bait, fishing electronics and safety gear. Captains also offer free fish filleting and bagging. Your captain and mate do all the navigating - all you need is a fishing license, warm clothes and your food and beverage. Cost is about $650 per day, more for private fishing tournaments with multiple boats. MAC also can connect you with river guides for the nearby Pere Marquette, Big Manistee and Little Manistee. fishmanistee.com.
While you're in Manistee, find good food at the Mediterranean-inspired Tuscan Grille (231-723-4200) and lodging at Ramsdell Inn - a neo-Romanesque bank turned boutique hotel that was built in 1891 and remodeled in 2003. 888-823-8310 or 231-398-7901, ramsdellinn.net.
The fast-moving Pine River can be leisurely or challenging, depending on the watercraft, and Mark and Val Miltner's Pine River Paddlesports Center in Wellston rents all sorts - rafts, canoes and kayaks, as well as mountain bikes. They also rent campsites (most with water but no electricity) for up to 50 people, with central restrooms, pay showers and an Amish-built log cabin for smaller groups. The wooded sites are just a quarter-mile from the Pine River in the Huron-Manistee National Forest. The Miltners offer similar services on the less-intense Manistee River, where 166 miles of natural beauty lets you tailor a trip to your group's capabilities—two-hour canoeing or several nights of camping. 231-862-3471, thepineriver.com.
In its massive, $15 million, five-year remodeling, Acme's Grand Traverse Resort & Spa didn't leave out the fun factor. It just added $400,000 in water park perks to its 15,000-square-foot indoor pool area. Several lanes of the 25-yard lap pool are now converted to an aquatic activity zone featuring a 16-foot-tall, 70-foot-long spiraling waterslide with a splash-down area, waterwalk with a challenge course and a set of basketball hoops. The waterfall makes way for a kiddie "sprayground" with floor geysers and bubblers. While the recreation pool and two indoor and two outdoor whirlpools remain, the new stuff, geared to families, looks like a riot for any-age group.
In spring and summer, you can gather outdoors on the resort's private East Bay beach and rent jet skis, jet boats, pontoons, kayaks and pedal boats, or bounce away the afternoon on a water trampoline. Or you can book a guided stream-fishing trip or a charter-boat fishing excursion nearby. 800-236-1577, grandtraverseresort.com.
Boyne Mountain, in Boyne Falls, boasts the Swiss-Austrian cityscape known as Avalanche Bay, Michigan's largest indoor water park. You have your choice of 11 different experiences, among them the thunder of the 800-gallon Splasherhorn, surfing on a wave simulator, scaling a wet climbing wall or floating on a river. At Boyne Highlands, in Harbor Springs, you can take a scenic springtime chairlift ride to a barbecue at the mountaintop. After the ride back down, go paddle boating on the pond outside the Main Lodge. Or you can do the paddleboat first, then take in the Young Americans Dinner Theatre, still drawing crowds at the Highlands after more than three decades. 800-GO-BOYNE, boyne.com.
Patty LaNoue Stearns is a regular contributor to Meetings North.
Note: This article was originally published in March 2008.