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.

The Palette Café: Yet Another Solid Reason to Visit the FIA

The Flint Institute of Arts is the second largest art museum in Michigan and one of the largest museum art schools in the country. Its collection exceeds 8,000 pieces and dates back 5,000 years. It also screens a variety of films each weekend, starting in September, from the comfort of its 330-seat theater.

The fact that the venue’s in-house cafe makes a mean turkey bacon gouda sandwich? Now that’s just the cherry on top. 

The Palette Café, located next to the museum’s gift shop, is led by Chef Antwain Trimble, who studied at the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute and previously worked in the kitchens of the Hilton Garden Inn in Ann Arbor and Westin Book Cadillac in Detroit.

“I’ve been to a lot of different places, but Flint is home” says Trimble, who attended Carman Ainsworth High School before moving to Pittsburgh in 2000. “I’m excited to be back.”

Since taking the reigns at the Palette in April, Trimble has been experimenting with different specials each week, paying close attention to what performs well and what doesn’t. He plans to release a new menu by the end of the summer that features customer favorites — based off of both the current menu as well as the weekly specials.

While the new menu has yet to be solidified, there are a few items that Trimble confirms will make the list. These include the Turkey Rachel, the Caprese Sandwich and the Cobb Salad. 

The FIA has also talked about launching open mic nights in the near future. When they do, Trimble plans to have a special bar menu that’s “short and sweet,” with items like chicken wings and homemade caramel corn.

Sweet treats are favorite of Trimble, who highlights different pastries and desserts throughout the week in the cafe’s glass display. “I make a very delicious salted caramel cheesecake that has a pretzel crust,” he says.

According to Trimble, the cafe is busiest on Wednesdays, when the museum hosts Art à la Carte — an free lunchtime program focusing on the arts. The event kicks off at 12:15 p.m., and participants are welcome to bring their lunch or grab something from The Palette. (The next three Art à la Carte events will show the three-part PBS series, The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements, which explores the discovery of the basic building blocks of matter. For details, click here.)

The Palette is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p..m. Saturday; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. 

Members of the FIA receive a 10 percent discount. To place a carry-out order, call 810-249-0593.  

To read the current menu, click here.

MAP Provides Free/Discounted Admission to Hundreds of Parks, Cultural Attractions

Poster%2024x36[1]Good news: The Michigan Activity Pass, or MAP, is back for its second year! As part of the program, cardholders at participating libraries (including the Genesee District Library) can explore hundreds of state parks, historic sites, cultural attractions, campgrounds and recreation areas – for free or at discounted rates.

Library cardholders can print out a one-day pass simply by visiting their local library or the program’s website. The passes can be used at any of Michigan’s 102 state parks or 138 state forest campgrounds. The program also offers free or discounted admission to 170 historical and cultural destinations in Michigan.

New this year: fourth graders can use the pass to score free admission into Michigan’s national parks and lakeshores, including Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Isle Royale National Park, Keweenaw National Historic Park, North County National Scenic Trails, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and River Raisin National Battlefield Park.

In Genesee County, participating locations include:

  • Applewood Estate
  • Buick Automotive Gallery
  • Flint Institute of Arts
  • Longway Planetarium
  • Montrose Historical and Telephone Pioneer Museum
  • Sloan Museum

When planning a visit to a venue through the MAP program, program officials recommend calling ahead to verify hours of operation.

For a full list of participating sites, click here and select “Brochure.”

5 Wine Tastings, Classes to Check Out in Genesee County

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Did you know that April is Wine Month in Michigan? Good thing there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate (in moderation) in Flint and Genesee!

In addition to being home to vintners including the Fenton Winery & Brewery and Spicers Orchards & Winery, the region also lays claim to several vino-loving restaurants and establishments. Take, for instance, the following locations that offer wine tastings and classes throughout the year:

  • Cork on Saginaw in Flint regularly hosts wine tastings on and off premises. On April 19, the eatery will offer a class exploring wine’s “quality/price ratio.” Admission is $25 per person by reservation. For more information, call (810) 422-9625 or click here.
  • Special to this month, the Flint Institute of Arts will hosts its 17th Annual From Vine to Wine tasting event on April 16. The event will feature a wide selection of wines, food provided by local restaurants and live entertainment from the Mott Community College Jazz Combo. Tickets start at $100 per person. For details, click here.
  • In addition to the beer and wine tastings held each Saturday, Oliver T’s in Grand Blanc also offers monthly wine classes, priced at $25 per person. Upcoming themes include Modern Portugal (April 21) and Main Street vs. Wall Street (May 19), a blind tasting where you’re the judge. To learn more, call 810-695-6550 or click here.
  • Redwood Steakhouse & Brewery in Flint Township hosts wine tastings the fourth Monday of each Monday. Admission is $25 per person and includes four wines paired with food courses. The April tasting will meet early this month (April 18) and will features pairings such as Mahi Mahi with shrimp and vanilla sauce with Murrieta’s Well The Whip. For more info, call 810-233-8000 or click here.
  • Signature Chop House in Flushing offers wine tastings on the last Thursday of each month. Tickets are $50 per person and include five wines paired with five courses. To learn more, call 810-867-4319 or click here.

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

Art in April: 3 Exhibitions to See in Flint

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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.

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.

Flint Cultural Center to Host 32nd Annual Holiday Walk

Holiday WalkAs part of the 32nd Annual Holiday Walk, the community is invited to tour the Flint Cultural Center’s 33-acre campus on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

The free event will begin at 5:15 p.m., when City of Flint Police Chief James Tolbert and Santa Claus will lead the annual tree lighting ceremony. From there, Santa will make his way to The Whiting for family visits and free photos.

The Flint Institute of Arts will offer live music as well as the opportunities for kids to meet with PBS’ Sid the Science Kid. There will also be a holiday film shown in the FIA Theater as well as a children’s activity in the FIA Art School.

Applewood will host ice-carving demonstrations and carolers, and the Buick Gallery will have Santa’s classic car on display.

Visitors can also swing by the Flint Public Library, where they can make a holiday ornament, listen to the bell choir from Goodrich United Methodist Church or watch a Punch & Judy performance.

There will be a number of musical performances at the Flint Institute of Music (in both the atrium as well as MacArthur Recital Hall) as well as a holiday comedy show and staged reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas at the Flint Youth Theatre. 

Longway Planetarium will kick off its showings of Cosmic Christmas: The Light Show. Both the Sloan and Whaley Historic House museums will host holiday crafts.

The MTA will provide a free shuttle bus that runs from the Flint Farmers’ Market, at the corner of East 2nd and Wallenberg streets, to the Flint Cultural Center. The bus will run every 15 minutes, starting at 5:15 p.m. and ending at 7:45 p.m.

Admission is free, although donations of non-perishable food or personal care items are encouraged. Proceeds will benefit the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.

The Flint Cultural Center campus is located along Kearsley Street off I-475 at Longway Blvd. in Flint. For more information, call 810.237.7333 or visit www.FlintCulturalCenter.org/holidaywalk.