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    What does it mean to go Up North in 2019?

    Outside of Michigan, “up north” is a vague way to describe things above your location on a map, but within our state’s borders, the phrase comes with a very specific context. We go Up North for summer vacations. The best sand dunes on Lake Michigan are Up North. We buy our cherries from farms Up North. We’re all familiar with the collection of towns and destinations considered a part of Up North, but this summer there are two attractions that are bringing new visitors to the area.

    The Up-Northern Lights

    The northern lights (aka aurora), scientifically speaking, are a naturally occurring light display caused by solar winds disturbing the Earth’s magnetosphere. This disturbance causes dark skies to light up with streaks of green, red, and orange. While this spectacle is traditionally associated with the polar regions of the globe, it can also be seen in northern Michigan.

    According to a recent article published by the Detroit Free Press, this has become an attraction for tourists visiting our state from China, which has led to the aurora being featured in a recent Pure Michigan commercial.

    Carol Cain, the author of the Free Press piece, says that the big draw for international visitors is the natural beauty found Up North and in the UP. In these parts of the state, there are fewer city lights to interfere with views of the northern lights.

    Brian Gao, president of The Detroit Chinese Business Association, commented about his experience showing international travelers the various attractions Up North:

    “We had a group in from Jiangsu province last year travel to Torch Lake and were so impressed by the natural beauty and clear lake water they had never seen before.”

    Because of reactions like this to destinations in northern Michigan, Pure Michigan’s commercial has aired in movie theaters across the Midwest as well as on a Chinese television network in hopes of inviting more people form near and far to explore the natural splendor Up North has to offer.

    Sleeping Bear Dunes Up North

    Sleeping Bear Dunes // Image by Jim Sorbie via Flickr

    The Newest Miniature Wine Trail Up North

    Meanwhile, in Glen Arbor, there’s another attraction that’s bringing travelers Up North. The town has just created a new wine trail for its visitors, and it’s completely walkable.

    Katy Wiesen first proposed the idea. She and her husband run the M22 Tasting Room in Glen Arbor, and after enjoying a pedestrian wine trail in Santa Barbara, CA, decided to pitch a similar idea to the people running Glen Arbor Wines and Cherry Republic Winery. The three wineries are all just off of the “M22” W Harbor Pkwy in Glen Arbor, at most a block-and-a-half from each other.

    The wine trail links the three venues together and is only a few miles from the Sleeping Bear Dunes and a couple hundred yards from the Sleeping Bear Bay of Lake Michigan. With multiple wineries and plenty of natural destinations to visit, the Glen Arbor community will likely see even more tourists visiting the area.

    What does all this mean for the word of signs?

    While tourism Up North doesn’t seem to have a direct impact on our city, it does have an impact on Michigan’s small business communities.

    It’s likely there will be signage created to help pedestrians find the three wineries in Glen Arbor. The towns where the northern lights are most visible will likely be able to upgrade their businesses with vinyl decals to draw in more customers as well. Who knows – maybe food trucks will make their way from Detroit to the cities Up North? Either way, boosts in tourism will likely lead to increased revenue for local businesses, which we think is excellent.

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