• Michigan M+E Best of 2018 Readers' Choice Award Winners

     It’s time for the winners of our readers’ choice awards to take a bow. Congratulations to all!  

     
    FROM THE Summer 2018 ISSUE
     

    Blumz by JRDesigns

Marvels & Mavens: 
THESE CVBS & PLANNERS ROCK

From chicken to cherries, Christmas emporiums to fruit-pie sweets shops, and small to large convention and visitors bureaus, the state’s offerings continue to amaze meeting planners and attendees alike.

What a View 

Jenny Jenness, public relations manager for Traverse City Tourism, notes that the surrounding scenery combined with cultural options in this northwest Michigan area may be its No. 1 draw.

“This region is a place where culture and landscape shout their dichotomous nature, where lush vineyards roll into striking blue waters, where forested trails meet vibrant downtown districts—that’s a pretty great place. And that’s where you’ll find yourself in Traverse City,” says Jenness, who represents this year’s Best Convention & Visitors Bureau (over 50,000 in Population).

This year, visitors may note a newly designed logo for the city and see big changes in marketing efforts, both in print and digitally. Plus, the city looks forward to hosting the 2019 Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism.


Traverse City Tourism

Little Bavaria

While Frankenmuth—Michigan’s Little Bavaria—has historically been known for renowned chicken dinners and the world’s largest Christmas store, there’s a lot more to this mid-Michigan mecca, reports Christie Bierlein, sales and marketing director of the Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau, winner of the Best Convention & Visitors Bureau (under 50,000 in Population) category.

From a five-level ropes/zip line course through trees and wine and chocolate tours to kayak rentals on the scenic Cass River, plenty of diversions await. In addition, more than 20 major festivals and events turn this small town into a thriving destination.

“Our town becomes alive with thousands of visitors from all over the world enjoying small town moments,” says Bierlein, who adds that while Frankenmuth is one of the smaller CVBs in the state, it has a sophisticated marketing plan that rivals larger cities.

Cheers to Excitement

When David C. McKnight of Farmington Hills-based Emerald City Designs, Best Event Planner/Event Planning Company, wants to inject fun into his events, it’s all about offering participative options.

“We love providing unique activities for guests to partake in,” McKnight says. At any given event, guests might enjoy everything from an on-site caricature artist and photo backdrops with unique props to silent discos, martini lounges and craft beer stations.

“For 2018 we’re continuing to plan, design and execute a wide variety of events all over the state of Michigan and beyond,” McKnight says. “These include charity fundraisers, corporate events, award dinners and graduation parties, to name just a few!”

Partakers of Fun

“Over the last few years, we’ve expanded to serve clients throughout the country and we’re excited to see where this growth takes us for the next decade,” says Events North owner Allison Beers, this year’s Best Meeting Planning Company.

The 10-year-old Traverse City company is constantly incorporating elements to engage attendees and get them “out of their seats” to interact with each other, “like getting into a photobooth and updating head shots on-site during breaks, or engaging attendees in a trivia game based on the food and beverage, venue or city that we’re in,” Beers says.

She says her team stays up to date on trends and offerings by “carving out time to read every industry publication that we can, and to visit new venues and meet new suppliers in person.” 

How May We Help You?: 
SUPER SERVICES

Ta-da! It’s all about great music, memorable fare and committed teams that cap a wonderful meeting-and-event experience. These winners—from noteworthy bands to culinary wizards to fantastic florists—put the accent on fabulous!

Action!

Bluewater of Southfield lives for a good event. From meetings to conferences to multistop tours, there are few things Bluewater enjoys more than setting the stage so meeting planners can succeed. On top of having one of the largest rental and staging inventories in the country, with new equipment added yearly, Bluewater has some of the best technicians in the business—earning it Best Audio-Visual/ Visual Presentation Provider. 

“I’m consistently impressed by our team’s ability to deliver unique solutions to customer problems, come up with new and unique concepts for experiences, and bring smiles to an audience,” says Scott Schoeneberger, managing partner.

“For 2018 we’ve picked up a number of fantastic new customers, expanded our team with some insanely talented contributors and invested into some new elements for our platform,” he adds.  

On a High Note

Trying to explain the music and sounds of the three-member band, The Accidentals of Traverse City, is like trying to portray how artist Vincent van Gogh created his renowned sunflower paintings—a little of this and a little of that with no attention to current trends, plus lots of emotion, turns out as, well, a masterpiece. 

“We are not the easiest band to define,” says band member Sav (Savannah) Buist, “and it’s difficult to put a finger on a ‘sounds like’ without combining a couple of different groups. An accidental is a note that doesn’t fit the key signature, but sounds alright anyway—that is pretty much how we roll. We are not too concerned about genre or style.”

New these days for this year’s Best Band, whose original two members are from the Traverse City area, while its third member is from Northville, is what Buist refers to as a “killer light show.”


Zingerman’s Catering & Events

Divine Dining

“At Zingerman’s Catering & Events, we don’t cut corners,” says Event Manager Terra Brock, representing this year’s Best Caterer (On- or Off-Site). “We create traditional dishes using extraordinary ingredients. Zingerman’s team members have traveled the world to find the best artisan cheesemakers, olive oil producers and farmers to grow the produce Zingerman’s uses. Zingerman’s also uses the best local meat producers.”

The Ann Arbor-based caterer has the great advantage, of course, of calling on Zingerman’s Bakehouse (also a Best of 2018 winner), Coffee Company, Creamery and Candy Manufactury to bring world-class foods to the table.

As for food offerings, Brock explains that although the classic, traditional events and fare are always flawless, there are new touches on the horizon. “Food knowledge has broadened clients’ expectations and desires,” she says. “We’ve added many vegan dishes, gluten-free options and events that are fully locally sourced.”

All You Need

Art Craft Display, Inc. of Lansing is positioned as a vital resource to event organizers and exhibitors alike. It won two Best of awards this year (Best Décor Provider and Best Event Rental Company). “With our 50-plus years of experience and connections in the special-event industry, we can offer services and insights that are a real asset to our clients,” says Barry Freed, president. 

He notes that fabric and modular displays are among the hottest new trends in the trade show display industry right now.

“We’ve seen and are meeting the increased demand for these versatile new displays,” he says. “Structures can be custom built to suit our clients’ spaces and can be ‘skinned’ with vibrant, printed fabric graphics.”

Art Craft Display, Inc. offers both the traditional “pipe and drape” style and modular hard-wall booth configurations. “Additionally, we have resources at our disposal for assisting clients with more custom-built requirements,” Freed shares. “We are constantly researching and implementing new ideas and products that we feel will be of interest to our clients.”

“With offices in Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Detroit, experience, reliability, flexibility and consistency have been key to our success,” Freed says. “But it is our employees—and their unending commitment to ‘customer-first’ values—who make the real difference.” 

Kapow!

What sets Flint-based Black Tie Productions, this year’s Best Entertainment Provider, apart? “Our staff,” reports owner Craig Center. “Staff members are so super that we call them ‘event heroes,’” he adds. “We may even wear capes every now and then. Up ... up ... and to the rescue!”

Center says that Black Tie Productions has expanded its “super powers” with new Magic Mirror photobooths and a Retro Wagon, which is a former 1960 traveling trailer converted into a portable retro style-looking photobooth.

He’s not about to give away any future additions at this point, but suffice it to say that they’ll be super-power cool. Stay tuned, he says, and check out the company’s website—“it’s beyond memorable, and even a little bit odd to some and you guessed it, we think it’s super!”

Coming up Roses

It’s 100 percent about the clients for the staff at Blumz by JRDesigns, an event planning and floral design company with three full-service locations in Ferndale, Holly and Detroit that takes Best Florist. “We listen to our clients and go out of our way to make sure that we are bringing their vision to life,” says Marketing Director Sadie Quagliotto.

Co-owners Jerome Raska and Robbin Yelverton opened their first store in Detroit 17 years ago and have watched their business bloom. Together the owners bring a fun perspective to floral, event planning and design. The two are also internationally respected educators and presenters within their field.

“From the initial planning stages to curtain call and strike, Blumz is beside the client every step of the way,” Quagliotto says. Not to mention, it’s a one-stop shop. “We can assist clients with everything from florals, linens and rentals to invitations, lighting, tenting and more.” 

Lens Lover

When Abby Rose of Ann Arbor-based Abby Rose Photo—this year’s Best Photographer— is asked what makes her work outstanding, she says “I’m able to see and create light in a way that many can’t.”

Rose, who shoots 30-40 high-end events annually, shares she’s attached to both new trends and classic looks. “I look for a little bit of both. Timeless is always the goal, but of course, you also want to be on-trend,” she says. “There’s a way to achieve both, taking cues from what’s current and stylish without going overboard. I’m always thinking about how I want my images to stand the test of time and look as beautiful in 50 years as they do today.”

Takes the Cake

“We are true artisan bakers, which means that we use traditional methods and flavorful ingredients to bake our hand-made bread and sweet stuff,” says Sara Whipple, marketing manager of Ann Arbor-based Zingerman’s Bakehouse, this year’s Best Sweets Provider. “We don’t follow trends; we strive to connect to the history of the food we’re making, local ingredient producers and our loyal customers.”

It’s known for its chewy-sweet brownies and gingersnaps, famous sour cream coffee cakes, and lovely loaves of Jewish rye, challah, and sourdough. Zingerman’s Bakehouse managing partners Amy Emberling and Frank Carollo recently created the Zingerman’s Bakehouse cookbook (Chronicle Books, named one of Michigan’s Notable Books for 2018) and launched an on-site teaching bakery where recipes are shared, as well as the love of baking, five days a week. 

A remodeled retail shop to better serve their guests opened in late March. Meanwhile, research continues on local grains and partnering with Michigan and Midwest farmers to grow more grains and wheat for use in baking.

Let’s Roll

Taylor-based Metro Cars has been synonymous with safe, reliable, quality transportation since 1990. Its strict standards allow for extreme efficiency, including the fact that it’s likely the only company that can offer “one call for all your transportation needs.” 

Metro Cars’ selection of vehicles includes sedans, stretch limousines and limousine coaches, executive vans, shuttles and luxury motor coaches. With an excellent reputation for safety, style and reliability, this year’s Best Transportation Company also offers uniformed, security-screened and drug-tested chauffeurs, insured vehicles and more. Now that’s riding in style! 

Location, Location, Location:
THESE SMALL VENUES ARE THE TICKET

Oh, to be sipping a small-batch brew with refreshing raspberry flavors, a locally distilled scintillating rum or a fine varietal stemming from regional vineyards! These are the tip of the iceberg in a state whose meeting and event locales make the most of the surrounding Great Lakes beauty, local heritage and an undeniable sense of fun.


Short’s Brewing Company

Seriously Sip Savvy

What’s wowing patrons these days at Short’s Brewing Company in Bellaire? “Hot Loins, our recent release of an aphrodisiac beer, went well,” reports Joe Short, CEO and creative engineer of this year’s Best Craft Brewery/ Brewpub. “Also, our recent collaboration brew with Lagunitas, Not Unofficial, went over really well. And Bucket, our new cider with black currants and oak, has been blowing up. People are loving it.

“The brewery also released a 22-ounce bomber—Batch 8000, which is a quadruple raspberry IPA that is having some ‘serious wow factor,’” Short says. 

Anytime people visit the pub, Short says, “there’s a wow factor there in itself. Amazing food and beer, our new merchandise store and recent seating expansions are big highlights.” 

From land preservation and clean-water initiatives to trail building and  community development, Short is involved. “But I’m a brewer first and foremost,” Short says.

In 2018, Short’s expects to produce 48,000 barrels of beer and 5,000 barrels of hard cider. 

In Good Taste

Grand Traverse Distillery, this year’s Best Distillery, is Michigan’s oldest “grain to bottle” craft distillery. It began selling its handcrafted vodkas in 2007.

“We’re the first distillery to earn the Pure Michigan designation based on our commitment to use local agriculture and pure Michigan water to produce artisan smallbatch spirits, including whiskey, vodka, gin and rum,” explains the distillery’s founder and owner Kent Rabish. “Our products have earned numerous awards and recognition within the craft-distilling industry.”

“We source locally from Send Brothers Farms in nearby Williamsburg,” he says. “We mill, distill, barrel, and bottle right here at our distillery.”

The facility, which offers tours and tastings, has also been awarded a grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture. “With their help, we’ll purchase a second still,” Rabish says. “Meanwhile, our distribution has expanded and our products are now available online.”

A Real Star

You can’t help but be drawn to the 20-year-old Black Star Farms’ winery, inn and equestrian estate—one of the most bucolic and prettiest destinations in all of northwest Michigan.

Located in the heart of Traverse City’s wine country, this year’s Best Intimate Venue features two winery production facilities with tasting rooms on both the Old Mission and Leelanau Wine Trails. Just 12 miles north along scenic M-22, the largest, and flagship property near Suttons Bay, also includes a luxury inn, event spaces and more. The inn hosts special events and culinary offerings include elegant monthly  harvest dinners or casual farmstead fare at the Cafe.

New at the facility is a growing culinary team that prepares fare for a variety of events and gathering spots, whether at the inn’s new private patio or atop the vineyard. “Our culinary program is so important to us,” says Sherri Campbell Fenton, communications and PR manager, “because the right food complements our wines, and our wines are what first put us on the map.”

Bay Bliss

Pull up a chair in the new RG Studio, a private event space at the 10-year-old Red Ginger, and you’re sure to be impressed. “That space is our newest private event space that boasts a private balcony overlooking the beautiful Grand Traverse Bay,” says Gwen Stokes, private events coordinator for the popular Traverse City restaurant.

Beyond the cool space, Stokes explains that Red Ginger, this year’s Best Restaurant with Private Dining Space, excels in its attention to detail. “We provide the finest enlightened hospitality for each guest from the moment they enter our restaurant, where they’ll enjoy fare that features seasonal and local products that provide exciting flavors and textures.” 

Set Your Sights

The Hotel Indigo Traverse City staff will tell you that their facility rocks with cool everything, but the rooftop views are what people talk about the most.

“H&L Social, the open-air rooftop venue atop the hotel, offers breathtaking views of Grand Traverse Bay,” says Sales and Marketing Director Margaret Morse of this year’s Best Rooftop. “Relaxed and inviting, H&L Social is the ideal place to sip, savor, relax and be social,” she says of the locale, which is open daily during warmer months with full-service bar and small-plate offerings.

Beyond rooftop goings-on, Morse reports that the hotel’s menu fare is always fresh. “You get a true taste of the area,” she says. “Our offerings are made from scratch and we feature a wide array of local microbrews, wine and spirits.”

Standing among shops, microbreweries and more, the venue reflects the vibrant spirit of the city’s Warehouse District neighborhood near the city’s best beachfront park.

Cheers to Choice Wine

Black Star Farms near Traverse City is located on some of the most fertile ground for grape growing in the world. In fact, it’s on the same 45th Parallel that runs through some of the great wine regions of the world. Small, but mighty, could be its motto as the relatively petite parcel of land turns out high-quality varieties. 

Taking a hand-crafted approach to wine-making  that produces  classic varietal wines and fruit brandies of high character and balance, this year’s Best Winery showcases how cool-climate grape varieties can be successfully grown to produce world-class wines. Fruit is sourced from the proprietor’s vineyards and those of local grower partners on the Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas.  

A perfect addition to any meeting or conference, a stop at the facility’s original tasting room, 14 miles north of Traverse City on Leelanau Peninsula, is a must-do. 


Black Star Farms

Colossal Choices:
THESE LARGE VENUES SERVE UP EXTRAORDINARY EVERYTHING

Whether it’s a post-meeting slopeside afternoon, a let’s-try-our-casino-luck diversion, chilling amid breathtaking views, or teeing up at a masterpiece course (with business discussions sprinkled in periodically, of course), these go-big venues present whatever may be your heart’s desire.

Pass the Chips

MGM Grand Detroit—this year’s Best Casino—is a part of the luxury collection of MGM Resorts International.  “We’re part of a global entertainment company that delivers Pure Michigan hospitality and worldclass, experience-driven, amenities,” says Lisa Williams, executive director of sales. “We exist to wow and entertain. We are the SHOW.”

New is its Topgolf Swing Suite, an indoor venue that features lounge seating, HDTVs, food and drinks, arcade games, and three golf simulators that can be rented for interactive social gatherings. “The experience is designed for both golfers and nongolfers alike,” Williams says.

In addition to its fine aesthetics, many entertaining offerings and service awards, MGM Grand Detroit is super proud of its sustainability efforts. All guest rooms, for example, have LED lighting. The company also gives back to Detroit and the state of Michigan in various ways. For example, more than 70 percent of the team members participated in the 2017 MGM Resorts Foundation giving program. That’s winning stuff! 

Go Green

“Our daily motto is ‘Deliver Outstanding Spartan Experiences!’” says Kristina Reitler, director of sales at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center at Michigan State University. And that they do at this green-andwhite East Lansing facility that boasts 35,000- plus square feet of meeting space, making it this year’s Best College/University Venue.

The facility, which originally opened its doors in 1951 and which trains and educates about 350 students per year, helps empower future leaders in the hospitality industry. It’s part of the Spartan Hospitality Group at MSU.

“From our Forest Akers Golf Courses to the MSU Tennis Center to basketball games at the Breslin Center and fine dining in the State Room Restaurant (at the Kellogg Center), we have it all covered,” Reitler says.

The center hosts more than 400,000 visitors a year for seminars, conferences, meetings and other events.

Conference Central

Did you know that Cobo Center is the 17th largest convention center in the nation and boasts 1.4 million attendees a year? Yes, with 723,000 square feet of contiguous exhibition space and a 40,000-square-foot ballroom overlooking the captivating Detroit River and Windsor, Ontario, it’s a behemoth of a venue and this year’s Best Convention Center. 

General Manager Claude Molinari reports that the new 30,000-square-foot three-story glass atrium, with its grand staircase that leads to the newly remodeled concourse, impresses guests, as does the art collection, which has recently been curated and expanded. Plus, there are 200,000 square feet of newly remodeled flex space, including 24,000 square feet of outdoor terrace space overlooking the river. For those interested in marketing their event, a 160-foot-by-30-foot marquee digital sign overlooking main thoroughfare Jefferson Avenue and downtown Detroit is available

The facility recently added two lactation stations and plans to expand its sustainability program with a hydroponic greenhouse.

Tee Time

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, this year’s Best Golf Resort, has a seasoned staff that provides unmatched service to its guests, reports Tom McGee, the Acme-based resort’s general manager.  “Combine that with our fantastic course conditions and dedicated golf maintenance crew, and we’re able to create an exceptional golf experience. Plus, all three of our courses start from The Clubhouse, which is located only 400 yards from the resort’s front door, so it’s convenient for golfing, shopping or dining.”

Event attendees who like to mix a little tech with their tee time will enjoy the complimentary Bushnell laser rangefinder to help golfers determine distances to hole locations, hazards and landing areas. Last year, the resort added a dual USB port in our golf carts so golfers can charge their devices while playing.

Jewel of the West 

At the gleaming Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, “it always comes back to our service,” says Mike Donnelly, the hotel’s general manager. “We have an incredibly dedicated staff that has been serving our customers loyally for so many years. They have a following—diners ask what section they are working and if they can be seated there.”

The Amway Grand, a member of Historic Hotels of America, goes back to 1913 when the Pantlind Hotel, now the Amway, was built. Guests can still marvel at original Pantlind appeal on the Pantlind side of the hotel, including its gorgeous historic ambiance. There are 626 rooms ranging from contemporary to traditional in styling.

Donnelly says this year’s Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (More than 200 Guest Rooms) is poised for growth in 2018. “We’ve won bids for national groups looking for value and convenience. By hosting in Grand Rapids, they’re able to reinvest savings to put back into the convention.” 


The Inn at St. John’s

Plymouth (Inn) Rocks

The Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth—this year’s Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (Less than 200 Guest Rooms)—recently partnered with Forbes Travel Guide to assist with staff training. “We have a really great asset in our associates; it’s important to continue to invest in their futures as hospitality professionals,” explains Managing Director Paul Wegert.

Later this year the inn’s guest rooms will undergo a complete renovation involving furniture, carpeting, wall vinyl, drapery and artwork. “We’re fortunate that our rooms do not look dated or appear to be in need of a renovation; however, it’s time to breathe new life into our rooms to continue elevating our guest experience.”

The inn, which also has 27 holes of golf winding amid a challenging and accessible course layout, was the first facility to host this magazine’s Best of party. “And we’ve received an award every year since,” Wegert says. “This is something that we hold very dear and feel proud to be part of such a wonderful community.”

Fixed on the Fox

The jewel in Detroit’s entertainment crown, Fox Theatre is this year’s Best Meeting/Event Venue in the Detroit Metro Area. The historic theater, which opened in 1928, is a reminder of Detroit’s rich past while the venue’s turnkey nature demonstrates its modern versatility. The theater hosts hundreds of events, both public and private, each year.

After a $12 million restoration of the building took place, the theater was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1989 and in 2006 a tower sign on the theater’s roof, which includes a computer-controlled LED light system, was dedicated. 

Recent updates to the theater include a renovation to the marquee, which now has LED lights and video screens, providing planners with additional digital branding options. 

Art, Naturally

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids Township features a 158-acre main campus, showcasing internationally acclaimed sculptures and themed gardens. It’s a Pure Michigan meeting nirvana and is this year’s Best Meeting/Event Venue outside Detroit Metro Area.

“Our team of award-winning event planners helps guide an event from conception to booking to making sure that everything is handled on the day of the event while attendees are surrounded by a world-class sculpture collection and horticulture display gardens,” says John VanderHaagen, the facility’s public relations manager.

The complex, which has 137,545 square feet of meeting and event space and can accommodate up to 1,800 people, offers quality catering and bar services, wireless internet, A/V equipment with in-house certified tech specialists, on-site dedicated event coordinators and free parking.

Currently, the facility is undergoing a $115 million expansion project that’s sure to elevate the guest experience to new heights. Work is ongoing and expected to be completed in 2021.


Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Fired Up

The Detroit Foundation Hotel, across from Cobo Center, was built in 1929 and was the original Detroit Fire Department headquarters. Today after a total of about $25 million in renovations, it’s a beautifully restored boutique hotel with stunning elements and intriguing décor from floor to ceiling—making it this year’s Best New Venue. 

“This hotel has been an incredibly rewarding project for our entire team. The city of Detroit is so ready for more venues like ours and we are thrilled that we have played such an integral part of the revitalization of the city. We have collaborated with many amazing local individuals to fill our retail shelves, stock our bar, outfit our staff and decorate our walls, and that has been one of the most exciting parts of this project,” says Emily Childers, director of sales for the hotel.

As for dining, guests are in good hands at The Apparatus Room, which is home to executive chef Thomas Lents, the first Michelinstarred chef in Detroit.

Grand Times

“One of the best benefits of being closed for the winter is that there is an opportunity to make improvements without inconveniencing guests,” says hotel guru Ken Hayward, referring to work the Grand Hotel does continually during its off-season months, helping it win Best Renovation.

Hayward, the renowned Mackinac Island hotel’s managing director, reports that for the 2018 season, guests will be pleasantly surprised by the new wallpaper that has been added to the guest room hallways below the chair rail. 

“The lattice wallpaper adds a lot to the hotel experience and makes guests realize they are someplace special,” says Hayward.

In the past several months, construction crews also worked on renovating the iconic front porch of the hotel (the porch is original to the hotel, built in 1887), built a new restaurant (Grand Sushi, the hotel’s first sushi restaurant) updated guest bathrooms, restored furniture and more. And the reports are in on the new Cupola Suites, located at the east end of the fourth floor. The verdict? Tops!

A Guest in Your Own Home

The late George Petritz, among the original founders of Buck Hills and owner/president of Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville, used to say: “Each guest should be treated as though they were a guest in your own home.” That sentiment endures, and is validated in the resort’s win of the Best Service (Meeting/Event Venue) category.

“Our staff and management go to great lengths to best tailor an experience to guests’ needs, whether it’s a simple request regarding their room or something more complex, such as the logistics of a conference for 200-300 people,” says Brian Lawson, public relations manager. 

An $11 million expansion to the Inn at the Mountain was finished this past December.

“The resort has approximately 1,500 acres, only around half has been developed and that is by design,” Lawson says. “When drawing up the master plan in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, the Petritz and MacInnes families, who own the resort, wanted to build a pedestrian-friendly village and scaled so as not to draw away from the natural beauty of the landscape.” 

Powder Power

When you stand at the top of Buck at night looking at the twinkling lights of the village, in a way it feels like you’ve been transported to a ski town out west, says Lawson of Crystal Mountain. And it’s not just downhill skiing and snowboarding that draw folks to this year’s Best Ski Resort during winter months, but also surrey rides, ice skating, bonfires and snowshoeing.

And here’s a fun tidbit to use at your next The Inn at St. John’s meeting icebreaker. “Under ideal conditions, Crystal Mountain’s snowmaking system can cover the entire mountain in one foot of snow in 45 hours,” Lawson shares.

Crystal Mountain was originally established in 1956 as Buck Hills Ski Area featuring three downhill trails, a rope tow fashioned from an old pick-up truck engine and a warming hut. Today, it has 58 downhill trails, three terrain parks, six chairlifts and two magic carpet lifts.

All Hail this King

Little Caesars Arena in the rapidly expanding District Detroit area downtown, this year’s Best Sports Venue, is reinventing the traditional arena model.  

The arena, which is designed so that its concourses and associated guest amenities are an active participant in the day-to-day experience, includes storefronts facing its interior concourse as well as the exterior district fabric. It’s one of the hottest venues in the Motor City.

The complex features a first-of-its-kind, deconstructed design to bring traditional concourse amenities outdoors through the Via.

The Via, an ETFE-covered concourse, acts as a retail galleria, but also houses offices, restaurants, retail stores and amenities that are available to the public. 

The Via is also an ideal space for hosting private events. In the Via’s Heritage Hall, stories of NHL Detroit Red Wings, NBA Pistons and local entertainment icons are celebrated through artifact and interactive exhibits. Heritage Hall is not yet open to the public, but will provide another optimal space for private event groups.

These awesome winners should take a bow—not once, but many times! Congrats!