We've long suspected that the vineyards of this region do a lot for the local economy. We see it every day here–people come to taste the wines at one of Leelanau County's 25 wineries and end up falling in love with the charming shops, restaurants, and landscape that make us so happy to call Sleeping Bear home. Now, we have proof that our suspicions were right– and more than that, some more precise information. Michigan State University scholars Dan McCole, Don Holecek, and Leanna Popp, working with the Northern Grapes Project, have completed a study of the behavior of wine tourists on the Leelanau Peninsula. It's worth taking a minute to review their findings if you're interested in wine tourism. They found that the average traveller visits four wineries and two towns, as well as frequently making stops at other natural or historical attractions during their time in Leelanau County. Visitors used many different sources of information to decide on their itineraries and, though many did a lot of research before arriving, almost everyone ended up making unplanned stops along the way. Which just about corresponds to our advice for getting the most out of your winery tours. We find that well-informed visitors to the region end up getting the most out of their stay, but a spirit of discovery can also be a big part of the joy of visiting Sleeping Bear. There are lots of ways to combine the two– here are a few of our favorites.
- Consider booking a winery tour. Some of our lodging partners offer tours. The Leelaunau Peninsula Wine Trail also offers comprehensive information on independent tour operators and lots of resources for planning your own trip.
- It's not just wine! We're famous for our wine here, but be sure to take the time to try a local beer, hard cider, or whiskey, too. Just like the vineyards, many of the local brewers and distillers offer tastings, tours, and a direct connection to the land we love so much. Need something to pair with all of those spirits? How about some artisanal chocolates from Grocer's Daughter in Empire, a hand-crafted cheese from the Leelanau Cheese Company, or some locally caught freshwater fish?
- Ask about local products at area shops and restaurants. The grocers and chefs of Leelanau county are incredibly proud of the agricultural diversity and the skilled craftsmen who provide this region with so much of its unique charm. Often times, the shelves and menus will be filled with products produced in the region, and staff are usually happy to tell you which products are local, and whether a visit can be arranged. Need suggestions on where to shop or eat? Check out our eating and shopping pages.
Most of all, relax, have fun, and enjoy the Dunes. The real secret? It's hard to go wrong around here.