Flint in 48 Hours

 By Kim Skeltis

Step inside Table & Tap with its graffiti mural and communal table of reclaimed barn wood, and you could be in Chicago. A rack of hoodies with the phrase Hard as Flint reveals the restaurant’s locale – an apropos saying for a city that’s had more than its share of hard knocks.

Hard as Flint is the mantra of a reborn city. Its tragedies have shaped a community of creators and doers who work hard to make Flint a better place, shifting from producing cars to beer, bread and boots. They know where the city has been, salvaging the best of its history to move forward. And from that grit and perseverance emerged a softer side of Flint. A college town. A foodie mecca. A beer city. An historic gem. And it makes Flint worth visiting right now.

If you’ve got 48 hours free, you can cover many of the city’s highlights and hidden gems. We’ve suggested a weekend itinerary below – hit everything or slow down the pace and pick some standouts.

FRIDAY EVENING – Downtown Immersion

Accessible from I-69 and I-75, Flint is an easy drive from most Midwest cities. Check into your hotel around 5 p.m. to enjoy a full evening. For proximity, Holiday Inn Express downtown can’t be beat. Or book one of six literary-themed rooms at elegant Knob Hill B&B, also in the city.

Start in the heart of downtown with a cocktail or glass of wine at Cork on Saginaw (Happy Hour runs until 6 p.m.), featuring 150 wines from around the world. Or hit Café Rhema for a pick-me-up at this Great Gatsby-inspired café. Order a cold coffee brew or share a French press. Kids will love fruity bubble tea or Italian soda.

After a cocktail or coffee, either stay at Cork for an eclectic European dish, or visit Table & Tap for dinner. This hotspot specializes in locally sourced food and barbecued meats, along with 30 rotating beers on tap, top-shelf bourbon and cocktails. If you’re feeling social, sidle up to other diners at the communal table.

Tonight, try one of Flint’s cultural offerings. University of Michigan-Flint features theater and dance performances Friday and Saturday evenings (October to April). Or check out the Flint Cultural Center with eight institutes on the wooded campus, including The Whiting, a 2,000-seat professional performing arts venue with live performances ranging from local Flint Youth Theatre to national touring productions like Blue Man Group. Other options include the Flint Institute of Arts Theater showing independent and classic films (starts in September), Longway Planetarium (Michigan’s largest) with First Friday events and special programs, and the 100-year-old Flint Symphony Orchestra hosting chamber music and Music in the Parks (summer), and classical concerts (October to May).

Got a late-night food craving? Cast your vote for Flint’s best burger between two watering holes: Soggy Bottom and the Torch Bar & Grill, ranked by Thrillist as one of the “33 Best Dive Bars in America” and its Torch Burger as one of the “33 Best Burgers in America

SATURDAY – Flint Food and Culture

Shop and nibble through your morning at the Flint Farmers’ Market. In existence since 1905, this storied market moved into the Flint Journal’s former 32,000 square-foot printing facility in 2014 after a 70-year hiatus from downtown. The bright, airy space holds 50 year-round vendors (another 20 outside in summer), commercial and demonstration kitchens, and event space. Wander the stalls of fresh produce, pop-up restaurants and handmade gift items, sampling a cinnamon roll at CINNAMOM or pho soup at MaMang. Stock up on weekend snacks like imported cheeses at Hills Home Cured Cheese or wine at d’Vine Wines. Steady Eddy’s Café is an alternative if you prefer a sit-down brunch.

Fueled on market finds, drive to Applewood Estate, a 34-acre, three-story estate built by automotive pioneer Charles Stewart Mott in 1916. While the grounds have been open for years, the home is open to the public for the first time this centennial year, offering free guided house tours daily (reservations recommended). You can also join a free guided garden walk (daily at 1 p.m.) or explore the grounds and exhibits on your own – kids can even check out an activity backpack. For lunch, stop at Applewood Café, a student-run, upscale casual restaurant inside nearby Mott Community College (open during school session).

You’re a stone’s throw from the 85-year-old Flint Institute of Arts, the second largest art museum in Michigan. Need another reason to stop? Free Saturdays! Spin through the highlights using a free, self-guided audio tour that brings the collection to life, followed by the gift shop.

Hit happy hour at Tenacity Brewing, Flint’s first brewery whose name became a prophecy during the Flint Water Crisis. Opening in 2015 in a 1912 fire station, Tenacity features 10 beers, two hard ciders plus a root beer on draft, so there’s something for everyone. While Tenacity doesn’t have a kitchen, food truck fave Vehicle City Tacos parks outside regularly.

Enjoy dinner downtown at 501 Bar & Grill, a fresh, modernist restaurant known for small plates and martinis. From chicken and waffles to bone marrow, you’ll find an eclectic selection of sharable, bite-size entrees. Healthier appetites may prefer a flatbread pizza, burger or full entrée.

Take in a local sporting event tonight like a Flint Firebirds ice hockey game at the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center east of downtown. Games are Fridays and Saturdays (season starts in September). For another type of skating, watch the Flint City Derby Girls at Rollhaven Skating Center in Grand Blanc.

SUNDAY – Suburbs/Genesee County

A visit to Flint isn’t complete without visiting its surrounding environs of Genesee County, boasting Michigan’s largest county park system, dozens of fruit orchards, 17-mile asphalt Flint River Trail and 142-mile Flint River. The hardest part will be narrowing your options.

Option #1: Small-Town Shopping and Dining

Enjoy a leisurely morning, then drive 25 minutes to quaint Fenton with its circa-1830s downtown. Indulge in a pastry at CRUST, cranking out 2,000 cookies and 1,000 artisan-style bread loaves daily that are sold locally and across the country, including to DEAN & DELUCA and Williams-Sonoma. Linger over a pain au chocolat and latte in the café or grab a dozen chocolate chip and sea salt cookies to go. Inquire about pie, scone/biscuit and bread-making classes.

Next, shop Fenton’s unique downtown stores like La Petite Maison and The Iron Grate for home décor, Yesterday’s Treasures for antiques, Fenton’s Open Book for literary treasures, and Eclections for clothing and accessories. Walk to the Fenton Fire Hall, a 1938 fire station resurrected in 2013 by the owners of famed Clarkston Union and Vinsetta Garage in metro Detroit. Photographs of volunteer firefighters adorn the walls with old fire station ledgers, memos and other correspondence in homage to its roots. Share a legendary mac and cheese dish or slow-smoked pulled pork for a snack.  Be sure to scan the 48 beers on tap. Then drive to nearby Heavenly Scent Herb Farm, a 1910-era barn and gardens with gift items, flowers and plants for sale.

Your Flint weekend is winding down, but not before you indulge in one final culinary experience. Visit The Laundry Room, a private event space next door to The Laundry, in Fenton by 5 p.m. when Chef Jody prepares a four-course Sunday Supper once a month for the first 24 people who arrive. Menu items are unveiled tableside and served family style. If you miss Sunday Supper, don’t fret – The Laundry’s standing menu of European-inspired dishes gives plenty of options.

Option #2: Historic Village

Kids and history buffs alike will love Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad (May through September). Turning 40 this year, the park showcases 34 Genesee County buildings replicating an 1800s village. Also check out Halloween Ghosts and Goodies in October and Christmas at Crossroads Holiday Magic in December.

Take a 40-minute ride on the circa-1857 Huckleberry Railroad steam locomotive.  Legend says that it ran so slow that a person could jump off, pick huckleberries, and jump back on. Another park jewel is the Genesee Belle Paddlewheel Riverboat replicating riverboats that traveled the Mississippi a century ago. Catch a 45-minute cruise around Mott Lake (May through September).

Close your weekend with a local tradition – a Flint Original Coney Island at the 24-hour Starlite Diner that the owners have been cranking out since 1966. According to locals, the dry, loose meat makes it a Flint-style Coney. Add a side of Coney Cheese Fries, and you’re primed for the drive home.

NOTE: All Flint businesses mentioned here use a combination of certified water filters, bottled water and hydration stations to provide visitors with clean, safe water.

13 Stops to Visit during Flint’s 2nd Friday ArtWalk

Just over a dozen local businesses and organizations have signed on to host live performances and art exhibitions for this month’s 2nd Friday ArtWalk. The festivities officially kick off at 6 p.m. and run through 9 p.m. in downtown Flint, although some sites may opt to start earlier and/or end later.

For a full list of participating sites, check out the above map or pick up the official map from the Greater Flint Arts Council, at 816 S. Saginaw St.

Some of the exhibitions and events set to take place tomorrow (May 13) include:

Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole
On display through June 4, this show features Michael D Melet, Nancy Dash, Bob Mathews, and Richard C Wynn. (Location: Buckham Gallery: 132 ½ W. 2nd St.)

UM-Flint Annual Student Exhibition
The professionally juried show features pieces from a wide variety of mediums including drawing, painting, sculpture, design, photography, public art, and furniture pieces. On display through June 3. (Location: Greater Flint Arts Council, 816 S. Saginaw St.)

YouthQuest at ArtWalk
View the artwork of local high school students participating in the YouthQuest afterschool enrichment program. Special performances – including drumline, dance, step and spoken word – will be held at 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. (Location: Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, 519 S. Saginaw St.)

For more about on Artwalk and the Greater Flint Arts Council, call (810) 238-2787 or visit www.greaterflintartscouncil.org.

Engaging the 5 Senses at a ‘Taste of Culture’

Communities First

On Saturday, April 23, families and individuals of all ages are invited to attend Taste of Culture, which will several different countries, including Nigeria, Poland, Ethiopia, India, The Bahamas and Jamaica.

“Saturday will be a great learning experience,” says Dena Johnson, Program Associate at Communities First, Inc., which is hosting the event through its arts and cultural outreach program, Culture Shock. “We have a lot of diversity here in Flint – this is one way to showcase that.”

According to Johnson, the event will engage all five senses in an effort to create lasting memories and positive impressions of foreign cultures.

  • To engage taste/smell, participants can sample different cuisines, including Italian (provided by Italia Gardens), Ethiopian (Altu’s) and Middle Eastern (Bada West).
  • For sound/feel, the Zumba Diva Marquita Adams will teach guests how to Zumba, a dance fitness program incorporating all styles of choreography. Neelam Puri will also provide Bollywood dancing demonstrations.
  • And for sight, visitors can check out different information boards as well as interact with representatives of many of the featured countries.

Taste of Culture will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Greater Heights Academy, at 3196 W. Pasadena Avenue in Flint. Performances and demos will occur from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with lunch starting at 12:30 p.m.

Admission is free.

For more information about Communities First, visit www.communitiesfirstinc.org.

Art in April: 3 Exhibitions to See in Flint

Rome from the Vatican

Rome from the Vatican

Whether you’re interested in digital screen printing, steel engravings or the creativity of preschoolers, Flint’s art scene has something for everyone this April. For instance:

  • The Engraver and Mr. Turner will be on display at the Flint Institute of Arts from April 2 to June 12. The exhibition will explore how paintings by English artist J. M. W. Turner were reproduced through the medium of engraving. On display will be 25 steel engravings printed by  Appleton & Co.in the late 19th century, after Turner’s death. For details, visit flintarts.org or call (810) 234-1695.
  • The Human Abstract by Missouri artist Colby Jennings will be on display at the Mott Community College Fine Arts Gallery from April 4-10. In addition, Jennings will present a workshop on digital screen printing from noon to 2 p.m. April 5 in the Visual Arts and Design Center, Room 103. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more info, call (810) 762-0443.
  • The Alpha Montessori School Exhibition will open at the Greater Flint Arts Council on April 8, as part of 2nd Friday ArtWalk. To learn more, visit greaterflintartscouncil.org or call (810) 238-2787.

What else is going on in Flint and Genesee County? Click here to find out.

6 Genesee County Restaurants Serving Up Live Music

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Looking for a restaurant that has live music on the menu? Check out these Genesee County gems, which regularly host different musicians throughout the week.

Beale Street Smokehouse BBQ (2461 North Road, Fenton)
Listen to live blues music from 7-10 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. 810-750-0507

Brickstreet of Grand Blanc (1223 E. Grand Blanc Road, Grand Blanc)
Relax with Russell Wayne’s live lounge entertainment every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, from 7:30-11:30 p.m. Bob Adado takes the mic at 7 p.m. on Saturday. 810-603-2114

Cranberries Café (10250 Hegel Road, Goodrich)
Check out Live Music Thursdays, which run from 7-10 p.m. in this circa 1917 building. 810-636-3409

The Fenton Hotel Tavern & Grille (302 N. Leroy Street, Fenton)
Live piano bar entertainment begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 810-750-9463

The Rough Draught Coffee & Barroom (134 N. Leroy Street, Fenton)
Local artists play acoustic tunes every Saturday. 810-714-3005

Sherman’s Lounge (4211 Fenton Road, Flint)
Enjoy live, local bands on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. 810-233-7057

What else is going on in Flint & Genesee? Click here to find out. 

African American History Events, Exhibits at the Flint Cultural Center

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In honor of African American History Month, the Flint Cultural Center is hosting special exhibits and events throughout the month of February and beyond. Here are a few ways you can take part in the upcoming happenings:

  • Attend a reading of Dominique Morisseau’s “Detroit ‘67” at the Flint Youth Theatre on Feb. 7. The story follows Chelle and her brother Lank during the Detroit riots of 1967. For tickets, click here.
  • Check out “From Heart to Hand: African American Quilts from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts” at the Flint Institute of Arts. On display through April 10, the exhibit features 30 pieces made by African American quilt artists during the 20th century.
  • Get together with friends and relatives at the Flint Public Library for a Family Feud-style trivia night, centered around African American and local history. To register for the Feb. 27 event and receive a trivia training kit, call 810-249-2569.

This is just a sampling of the cultural center’s plans for February. For a full list of upcoming events, click here.

For more information on #flintandgenesee attractions and events, click here.

An Insider’s Guide to Karaoking at The Whiting

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On the third Thursday of every month, the Whiting opens its doors for After Dark, an event series offering entertainment in a variety of forms: trivia, dance, comedy and – as is the case on January 21 – karaoke.

Whether you’re new to mic or compete each year in the Karaoke World Championships, we’ve compiled a few tips for making the most of Thursday’s event.

  1. Get a head start by checking out the music selection on SongBooksLive. Just enter the songbook name – skin – and you can browse the nearly 50,000 available songs by artist or title.
  2. Take part in happy hour, which runs from 8 to 9 p.m. Not only are drinks half-off during this time, but it also gives you the chance to get your name on the karaoke list early.
  3. Build a good cheering section either by bringing friends or making new ones throughout the night.
  4. Show your enthusiasm! A high-energy performance (good or bad) is always better than one that’s perfectly pitched but halfhearted.

Don’t sing? No worries. There’s still plenty of room to mingle and enjoy the atmosphere.

The event, open to guests 18 and up, will run from 8-11:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Whiting, located at 1241 E. Kearsley St., Flint. Cover is $5.

To learn more about the Whiting’s After Dark event series, click here or call (810) 237-7337.

For more information on upcoming #flintandgenesee events, click here.