Hot air balloons float into the air from Balloon Quest's idyllic launch location, taking guests on a bird's-eye tour of a stunning natural expanse studded with hills and lakes. Experienced pilots guide the rainbow-colored orbs on languorous tours, sweeping balloons' teardrop-shaped shadows over hills, dales, and the on-site mini-golf course. After their aerial tour, visitors can linger at Balloon Quest for a picnic on the grounds or a thought-provoking discussion of their top 10 favorite gravity-defying experiences. While flights are made year-round, Balloon Quest has very specific weather guidelines for flying, and rescheduling may be common.
At Pine River Stables, experienced equestrians and instructors pair guests with patient, well-trained horses for lessons or scenic rides through more than 100 acres of rustic expanse. For more than 40 years, expert instructors have been teaching horsemanship and proper riding techniques. Trails weave throughout the land, leading riders over peaceful hills and meadows and alongside a seasonal creek that migrates south every winter to become a Florida beach rivulet.
Arcadia Stables stretches out across more than 70 acres of picturesque riding trails, rolling hills, and verdant woods. Formerly Tic-Tac-Toe Farms, the equestrian facility is now under the ownership of Marian Lohff and Danielle Weddle, who have managed to complete a laundry list of renovations in recent years. The equestrian experts’ hard work has helped to maintain the 100’x200’ indoor arena, where riders can master the art of English-style riding during private and group lessons. Adjacent to the indoor arena, a heated observation room—complete with a kitchenette—lets parents keep an eye on lessons, saving students from the hassles of additional pressure or the stench of a parent who hid inside the manure pile just to feel more involved.
The baseball and softball instructors at Great Lakes Baseball Academy share their passion for America's pastime with students as they draw upon accolades that include two national minor-league titles and a high-school state softball record for strikeouts in one year. Inside the year-round, 5,000-square-foot facility, coaches with experience at the major, minor, and high-school levels enrich players' skills during private lessons and team-training sessions. Line drives echo through three climate-controlled, 80-foot batting and pitching tunnels, which include Iron Mike pitching machines that hurtle balls from 40 to 90 mph and occasionally charge the plate. Along with their training grounds, the academy's shop stays stocked with such gear as the latest bats and gloves.
Gerald and Elisabeth Blake established Blake Farms in 1946 with the help of their 13 children. In the 60-plus years and several generations since, Blake's has spread their operation to three locations across the metro Detroit area. More than 500 acres of orchard and farmland compose the family business, and during certain seasons, that land allows average citizens a chance to give their robotic fruit harvesters a rest and come pick their own apples, strawberries, peaches, and pumpkins. Blake's becomes especially busy with the arrival of autumn, when it hosts an annual fall festival, and Christmastime, when its U-Cut tree program lets families team up to chop down their own tannenbaum.
Talladay Farms ushers in cool air and the smell of drying leaves with harvest-season festivities near an apple orchard. Each year, staff members chart out complex mazes that illustrate an annual theme—this year, it's pirates—across roughly 7.5 miles of twisting paths carved into 26 rolling acres of golden corn. When they're not meandering through the complex mazes, guests gather around bonfires and picnic tables or head next door to Wasem Fruit Farm's apple orchards and pumpkin patch. As Halloween nears, they convert the twisting and turning paths of one maze into a haunted labyrinth, where actors leap from the rustling dead stalks of corn wearing terrifying masks or shirts with facts about how often paper cuts happen. Conscientious staffers place several checkpoints throughout each maze and hand out maps to keep guests from getting lost.