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    Ludington,

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    Ludington ( LUH-ding-tən) is the largest city and county seat of Mason County in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 8,076. Ludington is a harbor town located on Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Pere Marquette River. Many people come to Ludington year round for recreation, including boating and swimming on Lake Michigan, Hamlin Lake, and other smaller inland lakes, as well as hunting, fishing, and camping. Nearby are Ludington State Park (which includes the Big Sable Point Light), Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness, and Manistee National Forest. Ludington is also the home port of the SS Badger, a vehicle and passenger ferry with daily service in the summer across Lake Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Watching the Badger come into port in the evening from the end of the north breakwall by the Ludington lighthouse is a favorite local pastime. Ludington has multiple golf and disc golf courses. In summer, the city hosts one of the largest Gus Macker basketball tournaments (with 35,500 spectators), the Ludington Area Jaycees Freedom Festival (July 4), the Lakestride Half Marathon in June, and the West Shore Art League's Art Fair. In 2005, as ranked by AAA, Ludington was the fifth-most-popular tourist city in Michigan, behind Mackinaw City, Traverse City, Muskegon, and Sault Ste. Marie.
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    Ludington Articles

    10 Endangered State Parks

    California's Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve has made big news twice in the past two years. The first time came in December 2010, when scientists thought they'd discovered an unusual form of bacteria that devoured arsenic while it lurked in the mud around the lake's knobby limestone spires. But it was the second headline, five months later, that was really scary. That was when California's state parks department announced that Mono Lake itself was about to be wiped out—though by a far more mundane force. SEE THE STATE PARKS NOW! Mono was one of 70 parks targeted by the state in an effort to cut $22 million from California's budget gap, which totaled $9.2 billion at the time. Also on the list: Jack London's former home and writing studio in Sonoma County and a handful of old-growth redwood forests along the northern coast. All told, California was talking about mothballing about 25 percent of its 278 parks. The news hasn't been much better elsewhere. New York, Illinois, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Virginia, and Idaho have contemplated closing parks in recent years; Ohio has considered leasing some state park lands for oil and gas drilling to help raise money; and Virginia has explored corporate partnerships to keep park gates open. What gets lost in this game of budgetary Russian roulette is how precious these lands can be. State parks, such as the ones you'll see here, often rival their national-park cousins in sheer beauty: Did you know that Niagara Falls is actually a New York state park? Last year, the nation's 6,624 state parks attracted 720 million visitors, more than twice what the national parks see, and they do it with almost $1 billion less in annual operating revenue. "Some states have had cuts of 30, 40, 50 percent or more in their operating budgets, and some budgets have been cut twice in one year," says Rich Dolesh, the vice president for conservation and parks at the National Recreation and Park Association. Yet, true to their more-with-less ethos, state parks are finding imaginative ways to hang on. Michigan has seen some success selling annual passes to its parks system, and other states have made arrangements with communities and nonprofits to share the financial burden—at least for a while. In April 2012, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pledged $89 million for repairs and improvements to his state's parks. As for California: As of press time, 65 of the 70 endangered parks had been temporarily spared—including Mono Lake—thanks to help from the communities that depend on them. They've cobbled together private donations, volunteer staffing, and funding by city and county governments and nonprofits to try to bridge the gaps. We may not be out of the woods yet, but we're certainly sniffing out the trail. 1. MONO LAKE TUFA STATE NATURAL RESERVE  California This park's namesake tufa towers, limestone formations that rise from its 65-square-mile lake, are impressive from wherever you're standing. But to fully apprecate them, you've got to approach like an osprey might: coming in low over the water. Can't fly? Then bring a canoe. Up close, the spires resemble white-chalk skyscrapers, a kind of surreal city that's visited by more than a million migratory birds each year. Just don't get too close to the ospreys themselves. From April through August, the birds nest on the towers, and it's forbidden to come within 200 yards. Like anything else this old—the lake has been around for anywhere from 760,000 to 3 million years—Mono Lake endured its share of woe long before the latest California budget struggle. Between 1941 and 1981, Mono lost half its volume and doubled in salinity after four of its five tributaries were diverted to supplement Los Angeles's water supply. Even now, it's almost three times as salty as the ocean. Yet, thanks to the Mono Lake Committee, which rallied to reclaim those lost streams in 1978, the lake is slowly filling up again. And now that the nonprofit Bodie Foundation has stepped in to help keep Mono Lake open to the public, you'll be able to witness the lake's gradual climb back to a healthy level—however long that takes. Let's hope we can say the same for the rest of California's parks. Where to Stay: There's no camping at Mono Lake, but you'll find a range of accommodations in Mammoth Lakes, a ski town 40 miles south. The pet-friendly Mammoth Creek Inn Hotel and Spa has a new spa and fitness center and 26 renovated rooms (themammothcreek.com, doubles from $109). While You're There: You can't very well travel to Mono Lake and not tack on a visit to Yosemite National Park, just 13 miles west. Although, with nearly 12,000 square miles to explore, you'll need more than a brief detour to tackle it all (nps.gov, admission $20 per car). How to Help: Make a donation to the Bodie Foundation, specifying that you'd like the money to go toward Mono Lake (bodiefoundation.org). Park Info: 1 Visitor Center Drive, Lee Vining, Calif., 760/647-6331, parks.ca.gov, hours vary (call the park in advance to check), admission free, parking $3. 2. NIAGARA FALLS STATE PARK  New York Niagara Falls has an image problem. Really. Start with the fact that almost no one knows that this crown jewel of the state park system is a state park—not to mention that, at 127 years old, it's also the nation's oldest. The American side has long played second fiddle to the casino-and-hotel-lined Canadian section, due in part to New York State's $1 billion park-repairs deficit, which has left its falls in desperate need of pedestrian bridges, railings, walkways, and upgraded water and electrical systems. Last year, the New York Times had one word to describe the 400 acres surrounding Niagara: "shabby." But even in reduced circumstances, Niagara is worth the trip. There's actual nature on the American side—it feels like a park, not a Vegas Strip knockoff. And that nature has a pedigree: The park was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the man behind New York's Central Park. In April, the state launched a $25 million project that will address the park's urgent infrastructure needs as well as restore elements—native plantings, intimate overlooks—outlined in Olmsted's plan. Today, prime viewpoints can be found on Goat Island, which sits between the American and Canadian falls. But the best bang for your buck is the $1 elevator ride up the Observation Tower at Prospect Point, which yields a priceless view from 220 feet. No raincoats necessary. Where to Stay: The 39-room Giacomo, in a 1929 Art Deco building, opened three years ago with modern furniture and abstract art; rooms also have free Wi-Fi, Keurig coffeemakers, and refrigerators (thegiacomo.com, doubles from $139). The Giacomo is two blocks from the park, and you can see the rapids from the hotel's 19th-floor Skyview Lounge. While You're There: If you've brought your passport, the Butterfly Conservatory at Canada's Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens is worth a border crossing. Its 2,000 airborne inhabitants (from 45 species) have been known to alight on certain lucky visitors (niagaraparks.com, admission $13, parking $5). How to Help: Donate to any New York state park via the Natural Heritage Trust (nysparks.com), the Alliance for New York State Parks (allnysparks.org), Parks & Trails New York (ptny.org), or any individual park's website. Park Info: First St. and Buffalo Ave., Niagara Falls, N.Y., 716/278-1796, nysparks.com, open 24 hours daily, admission free. 3. LUDINGTON STATE PARK  Michigan Michigan's Recreation Passport Program, a $10 annual park pass, has pumped $6 million into the state and local parks system since it launched in 2010. The bad news: Collectively, parks around the state still need more than $300 million in repairs. The roof at Ludington's nature center buckled under heavy snow in 2009, and it still hasn't been fixed. Now the entire building has to be torn down. Sadly, there's no money for that either. Ludington deserves better. Snug between Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake, the nearly 5,300-acre park has seven miles of sandy, dune-strewn beaches, a historic lighthouse you can climb, more than 20 miles of hiking trails (plus paths for biking and cross-country skiing), and the shallow, clear Big Sable River, which is perfect for drifting down in an inner tube. No wonder Ludington has been a Great Lakes-area favorite since it was established 76 years ago. Where to Stay: Ludington's four campgrounds fill up quickly; reserve campsites six months in advance or cabins and yurts one year out, when openings are posted (midnrreservations.com, camping from $16). You can also try the Lamplighter Bed & Breakfast, an 1892 home with an original oak banister, leaded-glass windows, and a porcelain-tiled fireplace (ludington-michigan.com, doubles from $115). While You're There: Explore downtown Ludington, a onetime logging-town-turned-beach-retreat, or go further back in time at Historic White Pine Village, two miles south. The site has a collection of 29 restored (or re-created) 19th-century buildings, enhanced with educational exhibits (historicwhitepinevillage.org, adults $9). How to Help: Make a tax-deductible donation to a specific park or purchase a gift certificate (for camping fees, mooring fees, and merchandise) at michigan.gov. Park Info: 8800 W. M-116, Ludington, Mich., 231/843-2423, michigan.gov, open daily 8 A.M.-10 P.M., admission $8. 4. CACHE RIVER STATE NATURAL AREA  Illinois There are more famous swamps than the one in Cache River State Natural Area, a nearly 15,000-acre Illinois state park 30 miles from the Kentucky border. The Everglades, say, or Okefenokee. But who wants a crowd along? One of the northernmost examples of a true Southern swamp, the delightfully under-the-radar Cache River park gets only about 200,000 annual visitors—that's about one visitor per acre per month. Other life forms aren't nearly so scarce here: The park's wetlands, floodplains, forests, and limestone barrens harbor more than 100 threatened or endangered species. It's best explored by canoe, along six miles of paddling trails that bring you face-to-face with massive tupelo and cypress trunks. There are also 20 miles of foot trails in the park and a floating boardwalk that leads to the center of Heron Pond, which is carpeted in summer with a bright-green layer of floating duckweed. BYO boat, or rent one from White Crane Canoe and Pirogue Rentals in Ullin, Ill., about 12 miles west (whitecranerentals.com, canoe rental $15 per person per day). Where to Stay: A half-hour drive west of the park, Anna, Ill., has a handful of antiques shops, a pottery museum, and the Davie School Inn, an 11-room, all-suite B&B in a converted 1910 schoolhouse (davieschoolinn.com, doubles from $100). While You're There: Work in a detour to Metropolis, Ill., a.k.a. Superman's hometown. The Super Museum has more than 20,000 TV and movie props and other collectibles amassed by owner Jim Hambrick (supermuseum.com, admission $5). How to Help: Join the Friends of the Cache River Watershed nonprofit (friendsofcache.org). Park Info: 930 Sunflower Lane, Belknap, Ill., 618/634-9678, dnr.state.il.us, visitors center hours Wed.-Sun. 9 A.M.-4 P.M., admission free. 5. RED ROCK STATE PARK  Arizona When the grandest of canyons is in your backyard, it's easy to take your lesser landmarks for granted. That seemed to be the case in Arizona, which targeted 13 of its 22 parks for closure in 2010, including Red Rock. Fortunately, not everyone was so quick to write off the little guys. Red Rock's lifeline arrived via the Yavapai County and City of Sedona governments and the Benefactors of Red Rock State Park, which jointly raised $240,000 to temporarily finance the park. That will keep this 286-acre nature preserve open at least until June 2013. Among the best ways to take in the rust-colored canyon are the park's five miles of hiking trails and one mile for biking and horseback riding. Birding is big here, too: Every Wednesday and Saturday at 8 A.M. (7 A.M. in summer), guides lead aviary walks along the banks of Oak Creek, and guests can follow along with the park's checklist of feathered regulars: black-chinned hummingbirds, great blue herons, and the occasional yellow-billed cuckoo. Everything in Red Rock is colorful! Where to Stay: Sedona's hotels can be pricey, so try an apartment or casita rental on vrbo.com, with over 150 local listings—some under $100 per night. While You're There: Get your massage fix. Sedona regulars favor Stillpoint...Living in Balance, naming its massage the "Best of Sedona" in a local poll the past four years (stillpointbalance.com, 70-minute massage $90). How to Help: Visit benefactorsrrsp.org to make a donation, or sign up for a subscription to Arizona Highways magazine: $5 of the $24 cost will be directed to the park of your choice (arizonahighways.com). Park Info: 4050 Red Rock Loop Rd., Sedona, Ariz., 928/282-6907, azstateparks.com, open daily 8 A.M.-5 P.M., admission $10 per car or $3 for individuals. 6. BLACKWATER FALLS STATE PARK West Virginia Blackwater Falls's namesake cascade isn't just the most picturesque spot in this 2,456-acre park—it's also one of the most photographed places in the state. The area is equally eye-catching when it's dressed in the bright greens of spring, the Crayola-box colors of autumn, or silvery winter, when parts of the falls freeze into man-size icicles. The falls themselves—more brown than black—get their distinctive hue from tannic acid that leaches into the river from hemlock and red spruce needles upstream. But there's something potentially more serious darkening the future of West Virginia's state parks: hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) wells that could be built on ecologically significant public lands. Surface rights don't always include the mineral rights when park land is acquired; in West Virginia, the mineral rights under approximately 40 percent of the state parks, including Blackwater, are privately held. It's those split-custody parks that experts say are at greatest risk. Chief Logan State Park, about 200 miles away, already lost a fracking battle when the state's Supreme Court, over the objection of the W. Va. Department of Environmental Protection, voted unanimously in 2010 to allow natural gas drilling in the park—a process that typically calls for not just drilling, but also the construction of roads and the clear-cutting of trees. Almost the entire state of West Virginia sits atop the Marcellus Shale, the natural-gas source targeted at Chief Logan, which means that a dozen or so other parks could soon find themselves fighting for their rights, too. Where to Stay: Outdoorsy types can pitch a tent at 65 campsites, or upgrade to one of 26 deluxe cabins with full kitchens, private bathrooms, and fireplaces—but not A/C. For that creature comfort, you'll need to book a night in the 54-room lodge, which also has a game room and an indoor pool (blackwaterfalls.com, camping from $20, lodge rooms from $84). While You're There: Plan a day trip to the small yet lively town of Elkins, W. Va., taking the hour long scenic route through Blackwater and Canaan Valley State Park. In Elkins, the Randolph County Community Arts Center hosts free concerts, arts workshops, and traveling exhibitions year-round—its third Smithsonian exhibition just came through this summer (randolpharts.org). How to Help: Donate cash, stock, or even office supplies to Friends of Blackwater, a group focused on preserving the ecosystem of Blackwater Canyon (saveblackwater.org). Park Info: 1584 Blackwater Lodge Rd., Davis, W. Va., 304/259-5216, blackwaterfalls.com, open 6 A.M.-10 P.M., admission free. 7. HONEYMOON ISLAND STATE PARK Florida You'd expect a place called Honeymoon Island to be dreamy, and with four miles of white beaches and two more of nature trails (where osprey, terns, and bald eagles nest), Florida's most popular state park is tailor-made for romantic strolls. Even back when it was known as Hog Island—before a 1930s developer put up a string of beach cottages and renamed the spot to lure newlyweds—visitors to the tiny barrier island were all but guaranteed dolphin sightings and stunning sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico. The cottages are gone now, but more than a million people still cross the bridge to the island each year to spend the day swimming, surfing, kayaking, and collecting shells along the north shore. The only thing you can't do is sleep under the stars. Last year Florida proposed adding a privately run RV campground to Honeymoon Island State Park, citing high demand for more camping opportunities in state parks. However, area residents protested the campground and its potential disruption of the park's ecosystem, and the plans were dropped. For now, at least, the beaches close at sunset, with only those osprey, terns, and eagles to look after them. Where to Stay: Hotels and vacation rentals abound in the adjacent towns of Dunedin and Clearwater. Frenchy's Oasis Motel, 11 miles south of the park, gives the old-fashioned motor lodge a Mid-Century Modern spin with starburst clocks, a bright, citrusy palette, and free Wi-Fi (frenchysoasismotel.com, doubles from $119). While You're There: Before a hurricane divided them in the 1920s, Honeymoon Island and neighboring Caladesi Island were a single land mass. Today, you can only reach car-free Caladesi by boat (or Jet Ski). The only public ferries leave from Honeymoon Island; rides take 20 minutes and run every half hour starting at 10 A.M. (caladesiferry.org, $14 round-trip). How to Help: Make a tax-deductible donation through Florida's Help Our State Parks (HOSP) program (mailed to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Recreation and Parks, 3900 Commonwealth Blvd., MS 540, Tallahassee, FL 32399). Park Info: 1 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin, Fla., 727/469-5942, floridastateparks.org, open daily 8 A.M. to sundown, admission $8 per vehicle ($4 for solo drivers) or $2 for pedestrians and cyclists. 8. KATY TRAIL STATE PARK  Missouri The largest rails-to-trails conversion in America, the 240-mile Katy Trail spans Missouri's midsection, from Clinton in the west to Machens in the east, along the former track of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad (a.k.a. the Katy). The mostly flat path is open to hikers and cyclists—and in some sections, horseback riders—and traverses historic railroad bridges, tunnels, forests, valleys, and open fields. In spots, it skirts the edge of the Missouri River. Some hardy souls tackle the whole trail (a roughly five-day undertaking for an experienced cyclist). Those who prefer a more leisurely trek should consider a daytrip between Rocheport and Boonville, two early-19th-century towns (the latter established by Daniel Boone's offspring) separated by 12 miles of nature preserves, vineyards, and river views. Of course, all those miles of pathway—including 500 bridges and 60 buildings—don't just tend themselves, and it is estimated that the Katy Trail has $47.5 million in deferred maintenance projects, accounting for nearly a quarter of the total $200 million backlog of repairs needed in Missouri's parks. Where to stay: There are no campgrounds in the park, but you can have your pick of small-town inns along the route. Some cater to cyclists with extras such as free laundry service, double-size whirlpool tubs, and free bike storage and tune-up tools. Rocheport's School House Bed & Breakfast, in a three-story brick schoolhouse from 1914, sweetens the deal with fresh-baked cookies at check-in (schoolhousebb.com, doubles from $149). While you're there: Missouri's 100-plus wineries produce nearly half a million cases of wine each year. Les Bourgeois Vineyards and Winery, the state's third-largest, is just outside downtown Rocheport on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River (missouriwine.com, open daily 11 A.M.-6 P.M.). Bonus: The School House Bed and Breakfast gives rides to guests who are too tired to make the uphill trek. How to help: Donation boxes are posted at all trailheads; you can also "adopt" a section of trail or a bike rack or make a tax-deductible donation at katytrailstatepark.com. Park Info: Clinton, Mo., to Machens, Mo., 800/334-6946, katytrailstatepark.com, open sunrise to sunset, admission free. 9. VALLEY OF FIRE STATE PARK  Nevada In the past four years, general funding for Nevada's state parks has been reduced by roughly 60 percent, with almost $3 million cut in 2011 alone. While no closures are planned, the parks are suffering from reduced maintenance, and staffing levels have been cut by 19 percent, even as attendance has grown. One of the state's best-loved parks is the Valley of Fire, 42,000 arid acres about an hour's drive northeast from Las Vegas. The park delivers its own kind of high-stakes drama, trading neon and nightclubs for 150-million-year-old sandstone formations and 3,000-year-old petroglyphs (images carved in rock). You could even say it has star quality: The surreal, burnt-sienna landscape stood in for Mars in the 1990 movie Total Recall. If you're embarking on your own photo safari or DIY sci-fi flick in Nevada's largest state park, don't miss Arch Rock, Elephant Rock, or the Beehives, all of which are essentially solid-stone versions of exactly what they sound like. And be sure to take snapshots with and without people in the frame—the structures are even more outstanding when you can get a sense of their scale. Most important of all: Bring lots of water with you. There are few facilities within the park, and the sandy stretches of some hikes make them more strenuous than you'd think, particularly in the summer, when Mojave Desert temperatures top 120 degrees. Best to come in spring or fall for a more comfortable trip. Where to Stay: The park contains 72 campsites, including RV spots with water and electrical hookups (campsites $20 per night plus $10 for hookups; $2 discount for Nevada residents). If that's not your speed, the family-run North Shore Inn has a pool, in-room fridges, and powerful air conditioning (northshoreinnatlakemead.com, doubles from $85). While You're There: When you've had your fill of heat, the waters of Lake Mead are about six miles away. Boat rentals for fishing and water skiing are plentiful; the nearest outfitter is Echo Bay Marina, on the lake's northern reach (echobaylakemead.com, five-seat fishing boats $60 for a half-day rental). How to Help: There's a donation jar in the visitors center where you can deposit a contribution. Park Info: Interstate 15 at Highway 169, Exit 75, Overton, Nev., 702/397-2088, parks.nv.gov, open daily sunrise to sunset (except for campers), admission $10 per vehicle (or $8 for Nevada residents). 10. OHIOPYLE STATE PARK  Pennsylvania If ever there were an all-purpose park, southwestern Pennsylvania's Ohiopyle State Park is it. Looking for waterfalls? It has four (including the one in our slide show, which seems as if it must have inspired Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater house, just five miles away). Trails? Hikers get 79 miles of them—plus 27 miles for cyclists, 11 for folks on horseback, and nearly 40 for cross-country skiers. And why not throw in a natural water slide or two? The lifeblood of the 20,000-acre park, however, is the Youghiogheny River Gorge-a.k.a. the Yough. The Middle Yough, which flows to Ohiopyle from Confluence, Pa., is the gentler section, with Class I and II rapids for rafters and kayakers; the Lower Yough, downstream, gets up to Class IV whitewater. Combined, they attract a good chunk of the 1 million people who visit the park every year. But if Ohiopyle has a little something for everyone, there's a lot more to the park than meets the eye—and that's just the problem. Like some 60 other Pennsylvania state parks (as well as West Virginia's Blackwater Falls, on page 60), Ohiopyle is situated atop the natural-gas-rich Marcellus Shale-and the state doesn't own the mineral rights underneath the park. In fact, the mineral rights to about 80 percent of Pennsylvania's state park lands are privately owned (or available for lease), and under current legal precedent, mineral rights are given precedence over surface rights. Parks advocates fear that it won't be long before a drilling rig is erected in a state park. Sound alarmist? Well, Pennsylvania issued its first lease for oil and gas extraction on state forest lands back in 1947 and drilling continues today. Where to Stay: The quietest campsites in Ohiopyle's Kentuck campground are the walk-in sites numbered 51-64 and 103-115; however, some folks have found the camp's firm 9 P.M. quiet hours a little too restrictive. If your brood tends to get livelier as the night wears on, consider a vacation rental in Hidden Valley, Pa., or Seven Springs, Pa., both less than 30 miles to the northeast; these two ski towns have solid selections of rental condos and homes that can be deeply discounted in the off-season (vrbo.com). While You're There: Two Frank Lloyd Wright homes are within a 10-minute drive of the park: world-famous Fallingwater, designed in 1935 (fallingwater.org, admission $8), and the lesser-known Kentuck Knob, built in 1956 (kentuckknob.com, tours from $20). How to Help: Send a donation through paparksandforests.org, or pick up a 16-month (Sept. 2012-Dec. 2013) Civilian Conservation Corps wall calendar, the profits from which are reinvested in parks (888/727-2757, $8.50). Park Info: 124 Main Street, Ohiopyle, Pa., 724/329-8591, dcnr.state.pa.us, open from dawn to dusk, admission free.

    Budget Travel Lists

    10 "Hidden Gems" You'll Love This Summer!

    Psst. Can you keep a secret? If you're looking for a world-class vacation minus the crowds, Budget Travel has got a hot tip. Well, actually we've got 10 of them. Over the past year we've visited some of America's most amazing parklands and unique small towns. Stretching across the U.S., our list of beautiful hidden gems includes ocean spray, lapping lakeshores, forests, mountains, and some of the nicest hosts you'll ever meet. What all these places have in common is that you might have never heard of them without BT's spilling the beans. Enjoy! SEE 10 BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN PARKS! 1. VALLEY OF FIRE STATE PARK  Nevada One of the state's best-loved parks is the Valley of Fire, 42,000 arid acres about an hour's drive northeast from Las Vegas. The park delivers its own kind of high-stakes drama, trading neon and nightclubs for 150-million-year-old sandstone formations and 3,000-year-old petroglyphs (images carved in rock). You could even say it has star quality: The surreal, burnt-sienna landscape stood in for Mars in the 1990 movie Total Recall. If you're embarking on your own photo safari or DIY sci-fi flick in Nevada's largest state park, don't miss Arch Rock, Elephant Rock, or the Beehives, all of which are essentially solid-stone versions of exactly what they sound like. And be sure to take snapshots with and without people in the frame—the structures are even more outstanding when you can get a sense of their scale. Most important of all: Bring lots of water with you. There are few facilities within the park, and the sandy stretches of some hikes make them more strenuous than you'd think, particularly in the summer, when Mojave Desert temperatures top 120 degrees. Best to come in spring or fall for a more comfortable trip. Where to stay: The park contains 72 campsites, including RV spots with water and electrical hookups (campsites cost $20 per night plus $10 for hookups; There is a $2 discount for Nevada residents). If that's not your speed, the family-run North Shore Inn has a pool, in-room fridges, and powerful air conditioning (northshoreinnatlakemead.com, doubles from $85). 2. BEAUFORT  North Carolina Captain Horatio Sinbad is what you might call a friendly pirate. He's got six cannons on his 54-foot brigantine, the Meka II, but he's also got Wi-Fi. He's got a gold tooth and a gold hoop in his left ear, but his mate lovingly wears the matching earring on a chain around her neck (and brings him coffee on deck). He makes his living as a pirate, sailing the East Coast to lead mock invasions—"historical entertainments," as he calls them—then dutifully returns to Beaufort, N.C., every chance he gets. "The water is clean, the fishing is great, and the people are friendly," he says. "This is home port for me." If you'd just dropped into Beaufort, you might be surprised to find that a pirate has weighed anchor there. Perched on an especially serene stretch of the North Carolina coast, the town has an air of Southern gentility about it, with restored 17th- and 18th-century buildings that flank the local historical society. Feeling a shiver in your timbers? A cup of rich gumbo and a slice of salty, pillow-soft French bread at the Beaufort Grocery restaurant and bakery will warm you up nicely (117 Queen St., beaufortgrocery.com, cup of gumbo $4.25). There's even a thriving health-food store, the Coastal Community Market (606 Broad St., coastalcommunitymarket.com, locally made hummus $4). And yet Beaufort's got a wild side, starting with the undomesticated horses you'll see roaming just across Taylors Creek. Blackbeard himself sailed those waters, and his spirit pops up at the North Carolina Maritime Museum (315 Front St., ncmaritimemuseums.com, admission free), the Queen Anne's Revenge restaurant (510 Front St., qarbeaufort.com, crab-stuffed shrimp $15), and beyond. If he were alive, you'd almost certainly find him on a stool at the Backstreet Pub, a dive-bar-like joint that also serves as a live-music venue and a lending library for sailors. Owner Liz Kopf likes to call her place the funkiest bar from Maine to Venezuela: "I always say there are more characters per capita in here than anywhere in the state" (124 Middle Lane, historicbeaufort.com, beer $2 on Mondays and Tuesdays). Where to stay: Confederate jasmine and animal topiaries frame the Langdon House B&B (135 Craven St., langdonhouse.com, doubles from $108).  3. LUDINGTON STATE PARK  Michigan Snug between Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake, this nearly 5,300-acre park has seven miles of sandy, dune-strewn beaches, a historic lighthouse you can climb, more than 20 miles of hiking trails (plus paths for biking and cross-country skiing), and the shallow, clear Big Sable River, which is perfect for drifting down in an inner tube. No wonder Ludington has been a Great Lakes-area favorite since it was established 76 years ago. Where to stay: Ludington's four campgrounds fill up quickly; reserve campsites six months in advance or cabins and yurts one year out, when openings are posted (midnrreservations.com, camping from $16). You can also try the Lamplighter Bed & Breakfast, an 1892 home with an original oak banister, leaded-glass windows, and a porcelain-tiled fireplace (ludington-michigan.com, doubles from $115). 4. HAMMONDSPORT New York Hammondsport, N.Y., may well be the recycling capital of America. Not garbage recycling (though they do that, too). We're talking about the vintage seaplanes restored and flown by the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum (8419 State Rte. 54, glennhcurtissmuseum.org, admission $8.50). The birdhouses made of scrap wood in front of the Aroma Coffee Art Gallery (60 Shethar St., 607/569-3047, birdhouses from $40). Even the cypress paneling in the Bully Hill Vineyard's lower dining room came from old wine barrels (8843 Greyton H. Taylor Memorial Dr., bullyhill.com, smoked pulled pork sandwich $13). "When my husband and I came back to live here, the first thing he did was start restoring old boats," says Nancy Wightman, whose husband, Ed, grew up in the Finger Lakes region. "It's not just about loving history. You get the sense that's who the people here are." It's tempting to say that there's something in the water, but Hammondsport's passion for the past really comes via the wine. The Pleasant Valley Wine Company, opened in 1860, was the first in the Finger Lakes region (8260 Pleasant Valley Rd., pleasantvalleywine.com, bottles from $6). In 1962, a Ukrainian viticulturist further transformed the local wine industry at his Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars by successfully planting European grapes in the colder New York climate (9749 Middle Rd., drfrankwines.com, bottles from $9). Today, both those wineries—and several more—are mainstays of the landscape. That's literally true of Dr. Frank's, which sits on an impossibly green piece of land overlooking its vineyards and sparkling, Y-shaped Keuka Lake. The vineyard is run by Fred Frank, Konstantin's grandson. "I enjoy hearing stories about children sitting on my grandfather's knee 40 years ago," says Fred. "That's very rewarding." Also rewarding: After all these years, tastings at Dr. Frank's are still free. In fact, many of the best things in Hammondsport are. Sunbathing on condo-less Keuka Lake, kicking back on the town square for outdoor summer concerts on Thursday nights, jam sessions in the basement of the Union Block Italian Bistro—spring for one of the plus-size meals, such as linguini and clam sauce (31 Shethar St., unionblockitalian.com, linguini with clam sauce $19). "We're pretty darn proud of what we've built here," says Mayor Emery Cummings, who has lived in Hammondsport for every one of his 54 years, "and we're hoping to keep it the way it's always been." Where to stay: You'll find a spiral staircase, crown moldings, and bits of vintage wallpaper in the octagonal 1859 home that has been converted into the Black Sheep Inn (8329 Pleasant Valley Rd., stayblacksheepinn.com, doubles from $149).  5. CACHE RIVER STATE NATURAL AREA  Illinois There are more famous swamps than the one in Cache River State Natural Area, a nearly 15,000-acre Illinois state park 30 miles from the Kentucky border. The Everglades, say, or Okefenokee. But who wants a crowd along? One of the northernmost examples of a true Southern swamp, the delightfully under-the-radar Cache River park gets only about 200,000 annual visitors—that's about one visitor per acre per month. Other life forms aren't nearly so scarce here: The park's wetlands, floodplains, forests, and limestone barrens harbor more than 100 threatened or endangered species. It's best explored by canoe, along six miles of paddling trails that bring you face-to-face with massive tupelo and cypress trunks. There are also 20 miles of foot trails in the park and a floating boardwalk that leads to the center of Heron Pond, which is carpeted in summer with a bright-green layer of floating duckweed. BYO boat, or rent one from White Crane Canoe and Pirogue Rentals in Ullin, Ill., about 12 miles west (whitecranerentals.com, canoe rental $15 per person per day). Where to stay: A half-hour drive west of the park, Anna, Ill., has a handful of antiques shops, a pottery museum, and the Davie School Inn, an 11-room, all-suite B&B in a converted 1910 schoolhouse (davieschoolinn.com, doubles from $100). 6. WEAVERVILLE  California You expect certain trappings in any Gold Rush town. A saloon, a main street, maybe a hitching post. Also a 138-year-old working Chinese temple. No? You'll find one in Weaverville, where the Joss House State Historic Park is a testament to the town's unsung history of tolerance (630 Main St., parks.ca.gov, admission $4). Chinese immigrants, facing discrimination in ports such as San Francisco, were welcomed here and ultimately accounted for up to 25 percent of the Rush-era population. "Some of our staff looks at this place as a museum piece you just have to keep clean and take care of," says guide Jack Frost. "But Chinese people who work in the parks system say it's a national treasure." Maybe it's the mining connection, but Weaverville is a place where you often strike it rich in unexpected places. The 1854 drugstore and bank are now home to the La Grange Cafe, which features a wildly creative menu of boar, rabbit, and buffalo-as well as an impressive wine cellar in the old bank vault (520 Main St., 530/623-5325, buffalo burger $11). Mamma Llama Eatery & Cafe hosts a surprisingly funky roster of live musicians: Gypsy jazz, junkyard percussion, even didgeridoo (490 Main St., mammallama.com, hoagie $5.75). Where to stay: One place that hews to a more period Old West experience is the 132-year-old Weaverville Hotel, which features four-poster beds, clawfoot tubs, and a peaceful Victorian library (481 Main St., weavervillehotel.com, doubles from $99). 7. BLACKWATER FALLS STATE PARK  West Virginia Blackwater Falls's namesake cascade isn't just the most picturesque spot in this 2,456-acre park—it's also one of the most photographed places in the state. The area is equally eye-catching when it's dressed in the bright greens of spring, the Crayola-box colors of autumn, or silvery winter, when parts of the falls freeze into man-size icicles. The falls themselves—more brown than black—get their distinctive hue from tannic acid that leaches into the river from hemlock and red spruce needles upstream. Where to stay: Outdoorsy types can pitch a tent at 65 campsites, or upgrade to one of 26 deluxe cabins with full kitchens, private bathrooms, and fireplaces—but not A/C. For that creature comfort, you'll need to book a night in the 54-room lodge, which also has a game room and an indoor pool (blackwaterfalls.com, camping from $20, lodge rooms from $84). 8. DAMASCUS  Virginia If you decide to drive to Damascus, you'll likely be in the minority. This is hiking and cycling heaven, where seven major trails intersect, including the undulating Virginia Creeper and the granddaddy of them all: the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail. In a nifty bit of irony, six of the seven trails converge in a parking lot, at Mojoes Trailside Coffee House (331 Douglas Dr., mojoestrailsidecoffee.com, lattes from $3.50), where most mornings you'll find a clutch of locals and through-hikers chatting about travel plans. Breakfast is the big meal in town, and the more energy-boosting calories the better. Yet the carbo-loading, hard-core trekkers you'll find in Damascus don't always look as you'd expect. "Mamaw B." (her adopted trail name) was in town beginning her usual 15- to 18-mile hike. She's 71 and has been backpacking for 31 years. "The secret to good health is to remain active and to always have something to look forward to," she says, as she sets off from Mojoes toward-where, exactly? She just smiles and points north. Where to stay: The Lazy Fox Inn is famous less for its trailside location than for its legendary country breakfast that includes cheese grits, scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, biscuits and gravy, and sausage (133 Imboden St., lazyfoxinn.com, doubles with private bath from $85).     9. KATY TRAIL STATE PARK  Missouri The largest rails-to-trails conversion in America, the 240-mile Katy Trail spans Missouri's midsection, from Clinton in the west to Machens in the east, along the former track of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad (a.k.a. the Katy). The mostly flat path is open to hikers and cyclists—and in some sections, horseback riders—and traverses historic railroad bridges, tunnels, forests, valleys, and open fields. In spots, it skirts the edge of the Missouri River. Some hardy souls tackle the whole trail (a roughly five-day undertaking for an experienced cyclist). Those who prefer a more leisurely trek should consider a day-trip between Rocheport and Boonville, two early-19th-century towns (the latter established by Daniel Boone's offspring) separated by 12 miles of nature preserves, vineyards, and river views. Where to stay: There are no campgrounds in the park, but you can have your pick of small-town inns along the route. Some cater to cyclists with extras such as free laundry service, double-size whirlpool tubs, and free bike storage and tune-up tools. Rocheport's School House Bed & Breakfast, in a three-story brick schoolhouse from 1914, sweetens the deal with fresh-baked cookies at check-in (schoolhousebb.com, doubles from $149). 10. OHIOPYLE STATE PARK Pennsylvania If ever there were an all-purpose park, southwestern Pennsylvania's Ohiopyle State Park is it. Looking for waterfalls? It has four (including the one in our slide show above, which seems as if it must have inspired Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater house, just five miles away). Trails? Hikers get 79 miles of them—plus 27 miles for cyclists, 11 for folks on horseback, and nearly 40 for cross-country skiers. And why not throw in a natural water slide or two? The lifeblood of the 20,000-acre park, however, is the Youghiogheny River Gorge—a.k.a. the Yough. The Middle Yough, which flows to Ohiopyle from Confluence, Pa., is the gentler section, with Class I and II rapids for rafters and kayakers; the Lower Yough, downstream, gets up to Class IV whitewater. Combined, they attract a good chunk of the 1 million people who visit the park every year. Where to stay: The quietest campsites in Ohiopyle's Kentuck campground are the walk-in sites numbered 51-64 and 103-115; however, some folks have found the camp's firm 9 p.m. quiet hours a little too restrictive. If your brood tends to get livelier as the night wears on, consider a vacation rental in Hidden Valley, Pa., or Seven Springs, Pa., both less than 30 miles to the northeast; these two ski towns have solid selections of rental condos and homes that can be deeply discounted in the off-season (vrbo.com).

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    Great Getaways: Detroit & Western Michigan

    Detroit may be called America's Comeback City, but there are other words to describe its recent revitalization: cultural, culinary, and community. The Motor City has welcomed in some new additions alongside long-time favorites to further bring back its vitality. Here's how to make the most of your trip. Learn from the locals Detroit natives know their city best, so of course they should show you around. Started by a long-time resident to give visitors an insider's perspective, The Detroit Experience Factory holds guided walking and bus tours to areas from downtown to midtown that cover everything from architecture to food tastings. View colorful murals on each floor of "The Z" City parking garages are usually not very visually appealing, but "The Z" certainly has a lot of color. Opened in early 2014, this 10-floor garage near the corner of Library and Gratiot actually doubles as a gallery space—walls on each level have been turned into canvases featuring murals or street art that have been designed by 27 artists from around the world. Discover Michigan's great outdoors Opened in the summer of 2015 near the Detroit Riverfront, the DNR Outdoor Nature Center features replicas of natural settings, hands-on exhibits, and educational displays designed to show local families all that Michigan's outdoor recreation scene has to offer. Visitors will encounter everything from a giant oak tree to a waterfall area and even a yurt where youngsters can play while their parents learn where to go camping. See what's made in Michigan By turning a foreclosed warehouse in Detroit's Corktown into an inexpensive rental property, Ponyride has become a co-working space for a mix of organizations, businesses, and entrepreneurs—it's open to the public Wednesday afternoons at 2 p.m. and you can quietly observe the tenants at work. In the Midtown area, the Cass Corridor Design District has stores with localyl or regionally handcrafted merchandise that any shopper would crave. City Bird, a brother and sister owned shop, also carries their own line of Detroit and Great Lakes-themed pieces. And though Shinola is more on the high end, you'll marvel at watches, bikes, and leather goods—plus moderately priced journals. Eat your way around Detroit's culinary scene As with manufacturing, I'm happy to report that Detroit's restaurants are also thriving. Newcomer Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails supports local farmers with seasonal menus and serves its namesake botanical liquor straight or in cocktails. Fellow newbie Selden Standard is a hot spot with its small plates and craft cocktails. Long-timer Traffic Jam and Snug has an onsite dairy and a rooftop garden with fun interior décor made up of antique shop treasures and other pieces donated by customers. At the historic Eastern Market, find vegetable, fruit, and specialty vendors and grab breakfast or lunch at Russell Street Deli. Back Downtown, try a Coney Island dog, a local favorite, and weigh in on which place serves it up better: American Coney Island or Lafayette Coney Island. Go for a stroll in Belle Isle Park Designed by Frederick Olmstead, known for his work with NYC's Central Park, Belle Isle Park is a 985-acred island park with a number of attractions along the Detroit River. It contains the oldest aquarium in the United States, a conservatory, a fountain, athletic fields, and Dossin Great Lakes Museum, where you can learn all about the area's nautical history. You'll also find nice views of neighboring Ontario. Do a day trip to Dearborn About 15 minutes from Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Dearborn is home to a number of sites linked to the Detroit's motor legacy. The Henry Ford Museum and accompanying Greenfield Village offer insights into the man who modernized the auto industry. The museum contains significant objects symbolizing American innovation and history, like Abraham Lincoln's chair from Ford's Theatre. Greenfield Village takes you back in time with places from Ford's youth mixed in with structures belonging to fellow innovators like Thomas Edison. Along with seeing Ford's past, learn more about his company at the nearby Ford Rouge Factory Tour—visitors can watch the assembly line for the Ford F-150 truck plus two videos on the plant's legacy. If you're seeking some time by the lake, head to Ludington and Grand Haven in Western Michigan for outdoor exploration and small-town finds. Visit the lighthouses in Ludington Once home to a major lumber industry, Ludington keeps vacationers coming back with natural attractions. Take a ride on the Silver Lakes Sand Dunes—let Mac Wood's Dune Rides do the driving and take a spin on one of their 40-minute excursions. Do your own exploring in the massive Ludington State Park by boating, hiking, or relazing on the beach. Michigan has the most lighthouses in the U.S. Pay a visit to Big Sable Point Lighthouse within the park and nearby Little Sable Point Lighthouse, which opened to the public in 2006. For a small admission fee, you can climb up the staircase and spend some time on the lookout area. At House of Flavors, expect a line out the door at this diner and ice cream institution with classic flavors and in-house creations like the Blue Moon. The Jamesport Brewing Company offers good meal options with beer choices extending to German lagers and American ales. Go to Grand Haven, Coast Guard City USA Called Coast Guard City USA due to lengthy ties to this military branch, Grand Haven is based at the mouth of the Grand River and graced with beaches, bike trails, and a boardwalk. Though summertime brings out attractions like a majestic Musical Fountain, Grand Haven offers activities year-round. Plus, there's more to do beyond the water. For a nice nature walk, head to Rosy Mound, a system of dunes with wooded hiking trails and a beach area. Shoppers will find a lot of choices in the downtown area and you can hop on a historic trolley tours to see more of Grand Haven. Don't miss the annual Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival, a 10-day celebration that honors these U.S. servicemen and women with various family-friendly events. Get a meal at Kirby Grill, an American restaurant with nice deck views and a selection of salads, sandwiches, and pizzas. Beer connoisseurs should head to Odd Side Ales, a brewery inside a former piano factory with an inventive list ranging from light Citra Pale Ale to dark Mayan Mocha Stout.  This article was written by Michele Herrmann, a travel and lifestyle writer/editor who contributes destination features and travel advice pieces to various media outlets. To date, the farthest she's ventured to is Fiji, along with much of Europe and a good deal within the U.S. For more travel stories, check out her blog, She Is Going Places.

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    DESTINATION IN Michigan

    Sarawak

    The Raj of Sarawak, also State of Sarawak, located in the northwestern part of the island of Borneo, was an independent state that later became a British Protectorate. It was established as an independent state from a series of land concessions acquired by an Englishman, James Brooke, from the sultan of Brunei. Sarawak received recognition as an independent state from the United States in 1850, and from the United Kingdom in 1864. Following recognition, Brooke expanded the Raj's territory at the expense of Brunei. Several major rebellions occurred against his rule, causing him to be plagued by debt incurred in countering the rebellions, and the sluggish economic situation at the time. His nephew, Charles Brooke, succeeded James and normalised the situation by improving the economy, reducing government debts and establishing public infrastructure. In 1888, the Raj acquired protectorate status from the British Government whilst avoiding annexation. To gear up economic growth, the second Rajah encouraged the migration of Chinese workers from China and Singapore to work in the agricultural fields. With proper economic planning and stability, Sarawak prospered and emerged as one of the world's major producers of black pepper, in addition to oil and the introduction of rubber plantations. He was succeeded by his son Charles Vyner Brooke but World War II and the arrival of Japanese forces ultimately brought an end to the Raj and the Protectorate administration, with the territory placed under a military administration on the Japanese capitulation in 1945, and ceded to Britain as its last acquisition as Crown Colony in 1946, against the Atlantic Charter. The area now forms the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

    DESTINATION IN Michigan

    Southwest Michigan

    Michigan ( (listen)) is a state in the Great Lakes region of the upper Midwestern United States. Its name derives from a gallicized variant of the original Ojibwe word ᒥᓯᑲᒥ (mishigami), meaning 'large water' or 'large lake'. With a population of nearly 10.1 million and a total area of nearly 97,000 sq mi (250,000 km2), Michigan is the 10th-largest state by population, the 11th-largest by area, and the largest east of the Mississippi River. Its capital is Lansing, and its largest city is Detroit. Metro Detroit is among the nation's most populous and largest metropolitan economies. Michigan is the only state to consist of two peninsulas. The Lower Peninsula is shaped like a mitten. The Upper Peninsula (often called "the U.P.") is separated from the Lower Peninsula by the Straits of Mackinac, a five-mile (8 km) channel that joins Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. The Mackinac Bridge connects the peninsulas. Michigan has the longest freshwater coastline of any political subdivision in the world, being bordered by four of the five Great Lakes, plus Lake St. Clair. It also has 64,980 inland lakes and ponds.The area was first occupied by a succession of Native American tribes over thousands of years. Inhabited by natives, Métis, and French explorers in the 17th century, it was claimed as part of the New France colony. After France's defeat in the French and Indian War in 1762, the region came under British rule. Britain ceded the territory to the newly independent United States after Britain's defeat in the American Revolutionary War. The area was part of the larger Northwest Territory until 1800, when western Michigan became part of the Indiana Territory. Michigan Territory was formed in 1805, but some of the northern border with Canada was not agreed upon until after the War of 1812. Michigan was admitted into the Union in 1837 as the 26th state, a free one. It soon became an important center of industry and trade in the Great Lakes region and a popular émigré destination in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; immigration from many European countries to Michigan was also the busiest at that time, especially for those who emigrated from Finland, Macedonia and the Netherlands.Although Michigan developed a diverse economy, it is widely known as the center of the U.S. automotive industry, which developed as a major economic force in the early 20th century. It is home to the country's three major automobile companies (whose headquarters are all in Metro Detroit). While sparsely populated, the Upper Peninsula is important for tourism due to its abundance of natural resources, while the Lower Peninsula is a center of manufacturing, forestry, agriculture, services, and high-tech industry.

    DESTINATION IN Michigan

    West Michigan

    Michigan ( (listen)) is a state in the Great Lakes region of the upper Midwestern United States. Its name derives from a gallicized variant of the original Ojibwe word ᒥᓯᑲᒥ (mishigami), meaning 'large water' or 'large lake'. With a population of nearly 10.1 million and a total area of nearly 97,000 sq mi (250,000 km2), Michigan is the 10th-largest state by population, the 11th-largest by area, and the largest east of the Mississippi River. Its capital is Lansing, and its largest city is Detroit. Metro Detroit is among the nation's most populous and largest metropolitan economies. Michigan is the only state to consist of two peninsulas. The Lower Peninsula is shaped like a mitten. The Upper Peninsula (often called "the U.P.") is separated from the Lower Peninsula by the Straits of Mackinac, a five-mile (8 km) channel that joins Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. The Mackinac Bridge connects the peninsulas. Michigan has the longest freshwater coastline of any political subdivision in the world, being bordered by four of the five Great Lakes, plus Lake St. Clair. It also has 64,980 inland lakes and ponds.The area was first occupied by a succession of Native American tribes over thousands of years. Inhabited by natives, Métis, and French explorers in the 17th century, it was claimed as part of the New France colony. After France's defeat in the French and Indian War in 1762, the region came under British rule. Britain ceded the territory to the newly independent United States after Britain's defeat in the American Revolutionary War. The area was part of the larger Northwest Territory until 1800, when western Michigan became part of the Indiana Territory. Michigan Territory was formed in 1805, but some of the northern border with Canada was not agreed upon until after the War of 1812. Michigan was admitted into the Union in 1837 as the 26th state, a free one. It soon became an important center of industry and trade in the Great Lakes region and a popular émigré destination in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; immigration from many European countries to Michigan was also the busiest at that time, especially for those who emigrated from Finland, Macedonia and the Netherlands.Although Michigan developed a diverse economy, it is widely known as the center of the U.S. automotive industry, which developed as a major economic force in the early 20th century. It is home to the country's three major automobile companies (whose headquarters are all in Metro Detroit). While sparsely populated, the Upper Peninsula is important for tourism due to its abundance of natural resources, while the Lower Peninsula is a center of manufacturing, forestry, agriculture, services, and high-tech industry.