As the trees take on the fiery hues of autumn, the pilots at Grand Traverse Balloons help guests watch the transformation from the best seat in the house—a basket. For the last 25 years, the Fall Color tour soars above the tree line, awarding hot air balloon passengers a view of the forest at heights between 2,000 and about 3,000 feet. The tours aren't limited to the season, either, as the Federal Aviation Administration–certified staff flies its inflatable fleet year-round.
Group rides take up to 10 people for one-hour jaunts over Traverse City and the surrounding countryside of northern Michigan. The seven-story balloons float over scenic stretches of lakes, bays, vineyards, and woodland.
In addition to group flights, the pilots also host private charters and tethered rides, for which a balloon is tied to the ground and soars up to 150 feet and down again on a vertical path. But no matter what, every aerial errand ends the same way—with the captain celebrating a successful landing by sharing champagne and razzing the nearest flightless bird.
Drawing on the latest work in sports psychology, the coaches at Zonifi clinic enrich the three main components of a high-school athlete's mental performance: energy, attitude, and focus. During drills and exercises, they present strategies for generating and conserving stamina, maintaining a positive outlook, limiting distractions, and staying clearheaded under pressure.
The revs of go-kart engines, the delighted shrieks of putt-putters, and the cracks of batting-cage chops have banded together in joyous harmony for more than 20 years at AJ's Family Fun Center. Each of the three locations caters to the entire family with a wide range of exciting attractions. Though activities differ slightly at each outpost, thrill seekers of all ages can participate in age-appropriate activities, such as Sprint Karts for ages 16 and up, mini golf for adults and kids, and arcade games for those old enough to have received the value of a token lecture from a wise elder.
Pine River Paddlesports Center provides equipment and a private campground to give city dwellers and nature lovers a chance to breathe the fresh air of the Manistee National Forest. The Pine River campground charms tootsies with natural grass and soothes fussy eardrums with birdsong, burbling river water, and smooth-jazz-playing squirrels. A fire ring and an adjustable grill allow for a hot-dog roast in the evening and an egg fry in the morning. Perfect for sunlight-soaked family thrills, a host of activities—including a climbing wall and a Frisbee golf course—abut the placid campground.
The Central Michigan Skydivers experience begins with a basic safety training and the delivery of chicken scratch on a few important waivers. Once you're outfitted in safety gear and a requisite Motörhead T-shirt, you'll climb up to 11,000 feet in one of the company's skyclimbing machines. Securely strapped to one of Central Michigan Skydivers' human-eagle Tandem Masters—who have a combined experience of 20,000+ jumps and 50+ years—you'll plunge and free fall for 35–45 seconds before opening the safety blanket to float the rest of the way back to landlubbing life. Depending on your adrenaline-seeking style, your human backpack will happily help you descend in crazy spins and flips or uncomplicated serenity. Any airy route you choose will finish with a landing in front of any friends, family, and as-yet-unwooed potential prom dates gathered in the spectators' area.
Founded by Traverse City natives Sam Porter and Abby Walton Porter, Porterhouse Productions operates several festivals and special events in the northern Michigan region. The company has run the annual Traverse City Microbrew & Music Festival, an Evening with Mario Batali, and other recreational events, from concerts to culinary events.