Flint Institute of Arts - winter
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48 Hours in Genesee County in Winter | Fantastic Experiences in This Michigan Downtown

We Michiganders are a hearty lot. A little snow can’t get in the way of us having a good time. And that’s why winter is no time to hunker down and hibernate! It’s a time to get out and explore, see a city in a new light, or have a new type of adventure!

We — Matt and Leah — decided to take our own advice and check out the great experiences on #MIAwesomeList for this winter. Two great downtowns in Genesee County in winter are featured in partnership with Flint & Genesee County Visitor’s Bureau. So a winter trip to the area was just the ticket.

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Flint Crepe Company | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

Day 0 | Genesee County in Winter

We arrived at bedtime so that we could have as much time as possible each day to soak in the area. And, we chose to stay in one of the downtowns because we wanted to be able to walk around and enjoy the downtown experience while we were there.

Day 1 | Winter in Downtown Flint & Flushing

We woke up the first morning to a light dusting of snow. It was like downtown Flint wanted to make sure we had a wonderful winter experience.

Flint Crepe Company

We set out on a walk to get some breakfast with our sights set on Flint Crepe Company. Crepes are some of our absolute favorites, so we were very excited to give them a try.

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Flint Crepe Company | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner
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Flint Crepe Company | photo via Matt & Leah Heffner

As professional crepe taste testers (man, if only that were my job, what a life!), we decided to order both a savory and a sweet crepe to get a full feel for the offerings and menu.

Matt ordered a savory crepe with scrambled eggs, meat, cheese, veggies, and creme fraiche. My savory crepe was scrambled eggs, cheese, and meat. Both came with seasoning sprinkled on the top.

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Flint Crepe Company | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

To share, we ordered a sweet crepe with raspberry preserves, white cheddar cheese, and a raspberry sauce drizzled on top. And, since we were feeling a little bright-eyed that morning, we also ordered some coffee.

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Flint Crepe Company | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

The entire atmosphere was very inviting and cozy. There were some vintage bikes and dark, warm walls. But my favorite part, of course, was the house plants. Any place that has house plants is an automatic delight.

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Flint Crepe Company | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

We enjoyed our breakfast very much, and it was with much satisfaction that we headed out on the almost 1-mile walk to the Flint Institute of Arts. Sure, we could have driven, but with the fresh snowfall and wanting that downtown feel, we decided that we wanted to walk.

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Flint Crepe Company | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

Flint Institute of Arts

The Flint Institute of Arts has an amazing collection of art, and we wanted to check it out. We arrived at the door, paid our entrance fee, and our coats were put into the coat check (thank goodness because it was warm in there, especially after our walk).

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Flint Institute of Arts | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

We were offered an audio device on which we could type in the numbers displayed by the pieces of art. This gave us the opportunity to learn more about the pieces as we looked at them.

Being information nerds, we really enjoyed this feature and used it throughout the museum. We also asked for recommendations.

We were there just before the photorealism exhibit left the museum. This is an art form where a photo is used to create a painting that’s equally realistic to the photograph itself.

This was our favorite part of the museum. The images were all very large, and the attention to detail to make them look like a photo was incredible. We even got to watch a 7-minute documentary on the artist himself.

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Flint Institute of Arts | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

Then, we set out to explore the rest of the museum. I don’t think we thought we’d see the entire thing, but we were having so much fun and the collections were so unique and varied.

There’s a paperweight collection. The attention to detail in the artistry and the tiny glass pieces are incredible.

There are also collections of blown glass and other glass pieces, Indigenous art, as well as American, European, and African art. One piece looks like a very large old man, which is one of the most recognizable pieces in the FIA because so many people take a picture with it while they visit.

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Flint Institute of Arts | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

We really enjoyed strolling and savoring all of the art. I don’t think we’ve ever taken the time to do an entire art museum before. Not every piece was our cup of tea but the skill and the artistry behind each piece were clear and evident.

Palette Cafe

Because a fairly pregnant me needs to eat often, we got a snack and lunch from Palette Cafe while we were at FIA. Our snack was an icebox bar, which I would eat every day.

For our lunch, we each had a sandwich. Mine came with bacon on it (bacon should really come on everything!). And Matt had the Italian wrap at the recommendation of the clerk.

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Palette Cafe | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

We were both quite pleased, and honestly, quite full from our lunch. We took one more casual stroll through the museum and saw some things we had missed the first time, which was delightful. On the second stroll through, we found a huge ship made of glass and metal, and it was amazing!

We set off back to our hotel for a little rest — another necessary part of a trip during pregnancy. We took a little nap but made sure to wake up in time to head to Almar Orchards.

Almar Orchards & Cidery

Almar Orchards & Cidery is one of our favorite places in Flint, but we don’t get to head there in person often. Instead, our brother-in-law often stops for us when he’s visiting his parents. So since we were in Flint, we had to take the chance to go for ourselves.

We’ve been loyal Almar cider drinkers for a while, but Matt was sure to taste a few that we haven’t had a chance to try. I wandered around the room grabbing jams, popcorn, apple slices, and all sorts of items.

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Sauce | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

Meanwhile, Matt got into a conversation about the apple trees, pruning, rootstock, and the whole process. He really loves learning and gardening, so he was quite happy.

One thing we were sure to grab before we left was some pork. They feed the leftover apples to the pigs, and honestly, the thick-cut bacon is some of the best I’ve ever had.

Sauce for Dinner

Then, quite hungry, we headed back to downtown Flint for dinner at Sauce Italian American Kitchen. The bartender was willing to try making a new drink for Matt, who got a taste for Painkillers (a cocktail made with rum) while we were in Puerto Rico a few years back.

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Sauce | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

We ordered an appetizer, dinner, and dessert. We wanted to make sure this article was well-researched for you, dear reader, so I was willing to sacrifice where sacrifices were needed.

We had calamari, lasagna rollato, salmon, tiramisu, and chocolate gelato. Every bite was delicious. I thought the portions were excellent to not feel overstuffed and still enjoy dessert. And the taste was excellent!

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Sauce | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner
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Sauce | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

On top of that, our bartender/waitress made the experience. She was awesome!

We really wanted to soak in the experience of downtown Flint, and we definitely soaked. Every stop of our day, we took time to savor and enjoy. And it was delightful! We headed to bed ready to rest up and head out on another adventure the next day.

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Sauce | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

Day 2 | Flint and Fenton Winter Fun

We couldn’t wait for our day-two excursion — The Flint Farmer’s Market. So we got up and had breakfast.

Breakfast at Sauce

We chose to eat at Sauce again. The breakfast reviews were raving, and we knew it would be quite a different experience than dinner the night before.

Breakfast was delicious — generous omelets with lots of veggies (Matt’s fave) and eggs over medium with fried potatoes (which I quite enjoyed).

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Sauce | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

I found the breakfast to be the perfect-sized portions for breakfast-loving people (ME!!). I don’t love leaving a breakfast wishing there had been more or filling up on toast just to feel satisfied. So this breakfast was fantastic!

Then, we headed to the Flint Farmers’ Market.

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Flint Farmers Market | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

Flint Farmers’ Market

We are farmers market lovers. Fresh produce. Baked goods. Supporting small businesses. The overall experience is fantastic and exciting.

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Flint Farmers Market | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

We were in search of hot beverages (because it was chilly) and fun finds. And we definitely found some great things!

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Flint Farmers Market | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

My personal favorite stall was the house plant stall. Oh man, so many gorgeous plants, both well-established and early starts. If my plant windows at home hadn’t already been bursting at the seams, I would have definitely brought home a few new buddies.

Really, the entire place was rather magical. Fresh produce stands in the middle of winter! Fish from the Great Lakes. Bakeries. Fresh meat. Herbs. Art and crafts. And so much more!

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Flint Farmers Market | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner
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Flint Farmers Market | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

We took home some fish from the Great Lakes, some herbs, and tooth powder. And some (ok, a lot) of bread from Crust. This was a great two-for for us. We didn’t think we’d make it to Crust in Fenton so the fact that we could visit the stall at the Flint Farmers’ Market was excellent.

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Flint Farmers Market | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

We finished off our stroll with some hot beverages from Penny’s. Then it was off to our next adventure in Fenton.

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Flint Farmers Market | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

Fenton’s Open Door

Typically, I have to actively choose to not go into a bookstore. It’s not that I don’t love books or bookstores — quite the contrary. Usually, I don’t have the time to linger like I would like to.

On this particular day, I was excited for the chance to linger — to run my finger down actual book spines and check out titles, plots, and reviews. We headed straight to Fenton’s Open Door bookstore, and I knew it was the place for me when I saw the sign out front.

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Fenton’s Open Door | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

Yes, I did need to get more books. The sign knew it, and so did I. In we went to start checking out the selection.

I bee-lined for the children’s section in a way that said our bursting-at-the-seams, floor-to-ceiling-bookshelf-on-a-cathedral-ceiling was clearly missing something. (I went through the bookshelf this week and cleared off plenty of room to head back to the bookstore.)

Matt headed for the Michigan information section — wildflowers, rocks, lighthouses, waterfalls.

The store is what I would call the perfect size for a bookstore. We could look over every shelf, every title, and really linger over anything. The front section of the store, which housed the books, gave way to a back section of the store that houses games and many Melissa and Doug toys.

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Fenton’s Open Door | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

Plus, the back is where the big freezer with the pasties is kept, which we all know is just as much gold as the books. Just saying.

The owner let us know that for anything we were looking for, she could get it in within two days — all while supporting small and local businesses. She also told us about Libro, an audiobook service that supports small bookstores like this one. I love learning about stuff like this to inform my shopping!

We stayed for some time. Lingering in a bookstore was just the recipe. And yes, I bought books. For the kids. We love reading long books to the kids, and with an upcoming road trip and a voraciously reading kid, I wanted to make sure we were well stocked.

When we finally decided it was time to pull ourselves away and have some lunch, we headed to The Barn.

The Barn

The Barn is THE place for winter sports and rec, as well as really good food!

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The Barn | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

We arrived at The Barn at lunchtime. There’s a really cool history of the building and where they got the wood posted on the wall as we walked in the door. I love seeing the really cool and unique histories of different places.

We sat in the outside-ish area. Lots of windows but all enclosed, it was the perfect place to enjoy a little sunlight on that particular day. Also, it made it easier for us to see the outdoor hockey rink and indoor/outdoor curling lanes.

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The Barn | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

While there were no leagues going on at lunchtime, they were prepping the ice for the evening ahead. We watched the Zamboni on the outdoor ice rink and watched someone spray a new layer of ice for the curling league.

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The Barn | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

Meanwhile, of course, we ordered lunch. Chips and queso. And a burger each.

Matt had been aching for a bleu burger, but his wife (spoiler alert: me) always starts singing “Bleu Cheese Has Mold in It” each time he mentioned it. I don’t think he really wanted to spend a whole meal listening to me sing that on repeat.

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The Barn | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

I also ordered a burger. Bleu cheese is not my thing, so I went with a classic bacon cheeseburger but with avocado for that little something extra.

The food was fantastic. And we take our role of sampling as much as possible on one of these trips very seriously indeed, so we were quite stuffed by the end of it.

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The Barn | photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

Experience Genesee County in Winter for Yourself

We had such a great time enjoying and savoring the best of Genesee County in winter and downtown Flint. It was a delightful winter getaway, and there were so many delightful indoor and outdoor activities for whatever struck our fancy.

I’m sure you’ll have a great time when you visit too!!

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| photo via Leah & Matt Heffner

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