One great way to beat the winter blues is to take small day trips and find hidden Michigan gems. Fenton, a wonderful small town 20 minutes south of Flint, is a perfect example of one of those gems to consider exploring.
If you happen to get an early start and need a bite to eat, you can pick up a quick breakfast at Crust, a bakery dedicated to artisanal principles and winner of the 2014 Detroit A-List Best Bakery. They produce over 120 different delights, all freshly baked and sourced locally. The same families that own Crust also own and operate The Laundry if you are in the mood for a memorable sit-down breakfast. In addition to sourcing locally, they grow organic vegetables and herbs behind their restaurant with a beehive that produces honey for their kitchen.
Looking for a unique accessory to cheer up your home when it’s gray outdoors? You might find that treasure inside The Iron Grate, a small boutique owned by a family from London that hopes to bring “big city chic to small town America.” Their eclectic assortment of jewelry, soaps, decorations, and dishware offers a little something special for yourself or to pass along as a winter cheer-up gift for a friend or family member.
You could stop into Fenton’s Open Book, a charming little bookshop offering an array of publications, works by local authors and Michigan products like jams, sauces, pretzels and more. Approaching this small, quaint little store, you might be surprised to see a sign for pasties hanging proudly from its facade. Fenton’s Open Book sells Uncle Peter’s frozen pasties, a business that began during difficult economic times in Clarkston and grew into a flourishing business. If you’ve never had a pasty, this would be a wonderful opportunity to try this delicious pastry filled with meat and vegetables. Finding a thrilling mystery novel set in Michigan, some hand-made woolen mittens and a few frozen pasties to bake when you’re snowed in would be the perfect souvenirs to collect from this neat little bookstore.
Another great gift shop is Sweet Variations, where you’ll find homemade chocolates, candies and gifts. Try the Tiger Paws, chocolate covered cherries or the double dark truffles. Have a special someone in your life who loves chocolate? Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and what better gift than unique, sweet delights from a local Michigan candy shop?
Need a little Vitamin D after being inside? You could take a short walk through Fenton Park, home to a gazebo, a decorated Christmas tree and a waterfall. You can even walk through the park instead of taking the sidewalk on the way to your lunch destination.
The old Fenton Firehouse has been an integral part of the community since 1938, and in 2013 it became repurposed as a novelty restaurant appropriately and lovingly named Fenton Fire Hall. It’s known for its 48 beers on tap, its craft of preparing chicken, beef and fish on their woodfire grill, and their Legendary Mac & Cheese. They have a full gluten-free menu, as well as vegetarian entrees (my recommendation is the farro stuffed poblano.) In addition to its regular menu featuring locally sourced and fresh ingredients, Fenton Fire Hall also has a changing seasonal menu.
If you are traveling to Fenton on a Sunday, get to know the small little town through artifacts and newspapers by visiting the A.J. Phillips Museum, set in a building from 1900. Learn the history of the town’s humble beginnings at the crossroads of five trails, and a card game that brought about the names of the streets and the town. For those looking for military history, the museum houses a unique collection of pieces belonging to Fenton citizens that fought in our nation’s wars: the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the World Wars and Vietnam War.
After thoroughly exploring the treasures of downtown Fenton, you can jump in your car and head down the road to Fenton Winery and Brewery (FWB). Opened in 2007 by two passionate Michiganders, the FWB produces a variety of over 20 wines and 13 beers on tap. This winery and microbrewery offers a casual and inviting place to relax and play the stack of games located in their lounge. You could order a sample of the wines ranging from sweet to dry, oaked and unoaked, reds, whites and varietals in a casual setting. At this time of year they have a House Port that has been enhanced with French barrel-aged Brandy, as well as their seasonal Mulled Red Wine. If you’re hungry, you might enjoy a cheese tray, freshly made pizza or sandwiches before heading back home.
Fenton, Michigan is a charming little town for a day trip this winter. Interested in visiting all or some of the places I recommend? Here are the addresses so that you can begin your adventure:
Crust 104 W Caroline St, Fenton, MI 48430
The Laundry 125 W Shiawassee Ave, Fenton, MI 48430
The Iron Grate 103 W. Shiawassee Ave, Fenton, MI 48430
Fenton’s Open Book 105 W Shiawassee Ave, Fenton, MI 48430
Sweet Variations 101 W Shiawassee Ave, Fenton, MI 48430
Fenton Fire Hall 201 South Leroy St. Fenton, Michigan 48430
A.J. Phillips Museum 310 Leroy St. Fenton, MI 48430
Fenton Winery and Brewery 1370 N. Long Lake Rd., Fenton, MI 48430
By Katie Nicpon, a WRA 491 – Travel Writing student at Michigan State University