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 Microbrew & Music Festival, an Evening with Mario Batali, and other recreational events, from concerts to culinary events.
Black Bear Golf Club accommodates golfers of all levels with a lush, 19-hole spread. Golf outings equip green-wanderers with a golf cart to whisk them across the tree-lined course. Black Bear’s extra hole means a free par 3 warm-up shot that’s perfect for attempting Arnold Palmer’s famous victory prance. A choice of cold beer or a soft drink ensures carbonated comfort across the remaining 18 holes, which are set on a diverse terrain of rolling foliage and Scottish links–style holes. Linksters can choose an item from the Black Bear Grill's menu, and a large bucket of range balls warm up frosty games.
The Dirty Dog Dash challenges participants to take on 5 kilometers of rigorous outdoor obstacles, mountainous Michigan terrain, and friendly competition as a tribute to America’s servicemen and women. Gather a gaggle of Groupon-holding speedsters or fly solo to tackle the race’s endurance-testing hurdles, including fire pits, balance beams, barbed wire, sand hills, and muddy slopes. Mad dashers that cross the coveted finish line will be adorned with a Dirty Dog Dash commemorative T-shirt, a beer ticket (for those 21 and older), and refueling refreshments. Spectators and contestants alike can then enjoy a post-race party, which includes live music, beverages, and an awards ceremony that recognizes those with the fastest time in their category, as well as racers with the craziest costumes, which are enthusiastically encouraged but not required.
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.
The course at Crystal Lake Golf Club is filled with wide fairways and a blend of doglegs that move both right and left to give advantage to golfers who can shape their ball flight off the tee. Eight holes bring water hazards into play, including a particularly meddlesome pond on the par-five tenth hole, where long-hitters run the risk of rolling their ball into the water (clearing the pond would take a Herculean tee shot). From there, golfers have to play their second shot from a tricky downhill lie as the pond ripples ominously in the foreground. Elevated tees and multi-tiered greens add extra challenges to the course, which nestles in the shadows of mature trees. Before embarking on their par-hunting odyssey, golfers can warm up their swings or practice their earthworm impersonations from the grass hitting bays at the driving range.
T.C. Paintball gives wannabe warriors the opportunity to practice trigger pulling and ambushing with day-long paintballing passes. Armed with 500 colorful capsules and paint-spewing machinery, soldiers battle friends and enemies in the great indoors or traverse the natural elements in the flourishing outdoor battleground, which teems with sandbag walls, empty oil barrels, and motivational Patton lookalikes at every turn. Corporal casings can successfully shield themselves from incoming pellets with protective goggles and face masks that are included in the Groupon and should be worn throughout the day. Particularly trigger-happy gunners can visit the on-site store to restock ammunition, peruse guns, or hide from paint-splattered carpool moms.