The travel writers also toured the Hackley and Hume homes, the LST 393, while seeing the USS Silversides Museum and Pere Marquette Beach before heading north.
Staying in the waterfront Shoreline Inn & Conference Center, the group had dinner Wednesday night in the Lakeshore Museum Center, according to trip planner Kirsten Brogstrom, a public relations manager with the Michigan Beachtowns – a collaboration of communities along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Kirstin Bienert is an editor for the popular regional magazine Midwest Living, published out of Des Moines, Iowa. She’d been to South Haven and Holland on prior trips to Michigan but never as far north as Muskegon.
“It has been good to connect all of the pieces together along the West Michigan Pike,” Bienert said of the historic tourist route celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
The West Michigan Pike stretches from the Indiana line to Ludington.
“You have such wonderful water here with Lake Michigan,” Bienert said of what others in the Midwest find the most appealing about vacations in West Michigan. “These are fabulous beachtowns and each has its own personality. I can see the differences now.”
Bienert said she and fellow writers from Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa found the Hackley and Hume home tour and the unique features of the luge facility unexpected treasurers.
Muskegon County Community Development Director Bob Lukens told the visiting travel writers that the luge sled is a huge hit when county tourism promoters tell Muskegon's story at travel shows throughout the Midwest.
“It is all about what you have that is unique,” she said. “There are some hidden gems here in Muskegon.”
The travel writers raved about the facilities and views of Muskegon Lake from the Shoreline Inn. That was music to General Manager Doug Pollock’s ears.
“These kinds of tours through Muskegon County are important to our community and especially to the Shoreline Inn,” Pollock said. “These are the people that will be out telling our story. And there is not a better time of the year to show off Muskegon than now with the beaches and all.”
“Familiarization tours” of travel writers are a way to get the Muskegon and Beachtown message out to the free media. The writers produce travel content for newspapers, magazines and websites, Borgstrom said.
“For us, it is an essential piece of our public relations with a limited budget,” Muskegon Winter Sports Complex Executive Director Jim Rudicil said before showing off the facility to the travel writers. “We have excelled due to the stories written about the luge in Muskegon. You can’t buy the kind of coverage that we have had over the years in newspapers like the Detroit Free Press and Chicago Sun-Times.”
Muskegon County Community Development Director Bob Lukens said the travel writers' visit gave community promoters the opportunity to talk about the historic importance of the West Michigan Pike but also the unique tourist destinations found in Muskegon County. He said local tourism promoters hope that message now gets out to a wider audience through the travel writers' work.
The travel writers left Muskegon State Park later in the morning Thursday to continue their tour to Hart for a barbeque lunch and then on to Silver Lake for a Mac Woods Dune Ride, time at Craig’s Cruisers and a visit to the Little Sable Lighthouse. The final stop on the trip was to be Ludington.
The tour began Monday in Benton Harbor and included stops in St. Joseph, South Haven, Saugatuck, Holland and Grand Haven before they arrived in Muskegon. In Grand Haven, the group took a trolley tour of the Tri-Cities, lunched at the Kirby House, walked the famed Grand River Boardwalk and had a cruise on the sailboat Winddancer.