Ask just about any planner why they chose Mount Pleasant as a meeting site and you’ll hear three reasons—location, location, location.
There are plenty of good reasons to be shouting “Fire Up Chips!”—the motto for Central Michigan University’s Chippewa sports teams—to bring your next event here, says Chris Rowley, CMP, executive director of the Mount Pleasant Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Topping the list is Mount Pleasant’s central location. “You can grow your attendance because nearly everyone will be driving an equal distance,” Rowley says.
Mount Pleasant is just about smack in the middle of the mitten, making it an easy drive for attendees from across the Lower Peninsula, and the U.P., too, reached from there by driving south on U.S. 127, which slips right by this town of 27,000 residents.
Because it’s a university town, it offers a special atmosphere that only a major college provides. The city’s population nearly doubles each fall when students return to the CMU campus, founded as a teaching and business-focused college that’s integral to the entire community.
Whether your group plans for 15 or 500 participants, there’s a spot that fits, Rowley says.
One of the area’s largest venues is the Comfort Inn and Suites Hotel and Conference Center, with meeting space for about 550 attendees.
The newest is the Courtyard by Marriott Mt. Pleasant at Central Michigan University, on the CMU campus and about a one-minute walk from the fall football action at Kelly/ Shorts Stadium. The hotel’s first floor is decked out in Chippewa décor, and students run part of the hotel through CMU’s hospitality services program.
Just opened this summer is the 130-room Holiday Inn & Suites, with meeting space for up to 180, also close to the campus.
If golf is on the list of breakout activities, try this twofer: Riverwood Resort has an 27-hole course that offers regulation play as well as foot golf, a 24-lane bowling center, restaurant and lodging, with meeting space for up to 200.
“Riverwood has it all,” says GM Jeremy Lawless. Among the groups the resort recently hosted was a Wal-Mart district manager’s conference. “We have the amenities, the space, food and beverage, and beautiful views of the golf course and the Chippewa River. We are truly a unique spot in Mount Pleasant, so planners can work with us, or the convention and visitors bureau,” he adds.
For a more intimate setting, stay at the Ginkgo Tree Inn, which also includes Adelaide’s Bistro, offering breakfast, lunch or dinner.
The Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort features a variety of top-drawer entertainment, a 33,000-square-foot indoor water park, beautiful rooms (several upgrade projects were going on this summer), and a conference center with more than 70,000 square feet of meeting space. All of that is complemented by more than 200,000 square feet of gaming excitement.
In addition to individual resort packages, meeting-goers can tee up the bureau’s Michigan Central Swing’s play-and-stay packages at 11 different courses and lodging facilities. The local CVB can coordinate all the tee times and other group details.
Fall football weekends in a university town are magical at the 31,000-seat Kelly/ Shorts Stadium. The atmosphere is college traditional, electric and nostalgic all at once. Mount Pleasant adds that special small-town feel with a big-time Division 1 football team that almost every year scores an upset against bigger schools. CMU has made it to a college football bowl game each season since 2014.
For another “only in Mount Pleasant” experience, plan a tour to the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways. This must-see, nationally rated museum explores the history and contributions of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan. Every July, Native Fest is a six-day celebration of American Indian culture.
Downtown Mount Pleasant is one of the most walkable in the state, with shopping and restaurants where you can sample everything from sushi at Midori Sushi and Martini Lounge on Broadway, to upscale dining at Camille’s On The River.
For casual fare, head to one of Michigan’s popular brewpubs that opened in 1996—the Mountain Town Station Brewing Co. in the community’s former train station. It’s also featured in the town’s annual craft beer festival each June.
FIELD TRIPS GALORE
Adventures to towns a short drive or bus ride from downtown Mount Pleasant offer fun options.
>> The area’s connection to the Amish community, for example, takes center stage during Yoder’s Quilt Auction and Flea Market. Farm families sell the quilts they’ve been making all year, and 15,000 visitors come to see and buy the handiwork. Along with the quilts are 500 other booths with all manner of items for sale at the Yoder Farm just east of Clare, which is about 15 miles north of Mount Pleasant. The Clare Area Chamber of Commerce also developed an Amish tour to farm homes selling everything from quality Amish-made furniture and baskets to baked goods.
>> Bus tours now stop at downtown Clare’s Cops & Doughnuts, which has grown from an idea by several area police officers who purchased an underperforming bakery years ago into an international phenomenon with a fun themed interior and several satellite “precinct bakeries.”
>> Kelli Nicholas, member services specialist at the Clare County CVB, says her office works with the Mount Pleasant CVB to book groups for a tour of Clare’s walkable downtown. “We’re ready to help with anything people who want to come here need,” Nicholas says, including group day outings or evening events.
>> For a look at local history, book a stop at the landmark 157-room downtown Doherty Hotel and ask owners Dean or Ann Doherty about arranging a tour through the Ideal Theater, which includes a viewing of a film focusing on the city’s connection to Detroit’s notorious 1930s-era Purple Gang. After hearing old-time stories, groups can enjoy a tasty lunch or dinner at the hotel.
>> A 20-minute charter bus ride from Mount Pleasant, Loafers Glory—a collection of shops with knick-knacks, kitsch and other stuff of which gifts are made—reopened in June in the tiny town of Blanchard. It’s definitely a must-browse experience. There’s also a tearoom that serves lunch for up to 54, as well as an Amish bakery. “We’ve always called ourselves a village of yesteryear,” says owner JoAnne Camp.
MOUNT PLEASANT AT A GLANCE
Population: 27,000, which nearly doubles when Central Michigan University classes are in session. CMU is one of the nation’s 100 largest public universities, with its roots dating back to 1892.
History: The Isabella Indian Reservation is home of the Native American Ojibway (Saginaw Chippewa Tribe), who operate Soaring Eagle Resort and Casino, Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways and other American Indian cultural aspects, including the annual Saginaw Chippewa Tribal National Pow Wow in July.
Golf: Nearly a dozen golf courses are within a 30-minute drive.
Fun Fact: The annual late-April Maple Syrup Festival in nearby Shepherd produced a record 2,120 gallons of deliciousness in 2009.
Famous People: Mount Pleasant is the home of the first person to canoe all of the Great Lakes, and former Gov. John Engler.