Author: Becca

How a southwest Michigan event venue staged unique events through the pandemic

people watching a concert at a drive in movie theater

When the reality of COVID-19 hit, things came to a screeching halt in mid-March. For The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College, that meant the cancellation and postponement of more than 100 events and performances.

The Mendel Center, located in Benton Harbor, Michigan, features two performance stages and 12 meeting spaces. It hosts everything from weddings to business gatherings to national touring acts – but things are different this year.

“It was a good year we had to slam the brakes on,” said Mike Nadolski, executive director of The Mendel Center. “When it first started happening, there was a little disbelief. We had a kicking the can down the road mindset.”

But that mindset didn’t last long. As an event venue meant to bring in large amounts of people for a connected experience, The Mendel Center faced obvious hurdles in the midst of stay-at-home orders. Despite the difficult times, Nadolski and The Mendel Center set out to find new ways to serve its southwest Michigan communities.

“We moved from kicking the can to pivoting,” Nadolski said. “We moved to see what we could do online. We created the Remotely Interested program. We are still a community center; we are about connecting people.”

Remotely Interested is a series that features local and regional artists who will perform from the comfort of their homes or studios while the audience sits back and enjoys online. From musical performances to interviews, The Mendel Center was able to provide artists a platform.

Discover more: The Mendel Center Remotely Interested Online Events

The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College in Benton HarborAs time progressed, The Mendel Center continually sought ways to innovate and pivot as a means to stay active in the communities as restrictions remained. They started hosting micro-weddings, where attendance is limited to fewer than 10 people and is broadcasted to everyone else to view at home.

Recently, a drive-in concert series — aptly named Drive-In Live! — was also launched.

“With almost all of the usual summertime activities in the region cancelled due to the pandemic, the Drive-in Live! concerts fill a void and create a sense of connection in our community that has been missing during these challenging times,” Nadolski said.

At the concerts, each vehicle is issued two parking spaces, one for parking and one for tailgating. An FM radio signal provides the audio, while a large projection screens shows all the action occurring on stage. Additionally, each concert features trivia contests and prize giveaways. Beer, wine and soft drinks are also available for purchase via cell phone and delivered directly to each tailgate zone.

Nadolski said precautions are in place to protect the health and safety of the concertgoers.

There are two concerts left in The Mendel Center’s Drive-In Live! series. On Saturday, September 19, Siusan O’Rourke & Zig Zeitler, Sankofa and The Big Payback perform. On Sunday, September 27, Mike Talbot, John Latini and Alex & Erin take the stage. Tickets are $10 per person with up to six people per vehicle. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the music starts at 6 p.m.

Buy tickets for Drive-In Live!

Through all the challenges of putting events on this year, Nadolski said the southwest Michigan communities and sponsors have been incredibly supportive in making it all a reality.

“I’m emotional just thinking about it,” he said. “Some of these businesses are struggling as much as we are. It’s nice to know there is a community out there that’s appreciative of what we do. It can make us come back stronger than ever.”

Nadolski highlights southwest Michigan’s vibrant arts scene as a reason The Mendel Center managed to push through the difficult times this year.

“They trust us if we are bringing something new or different in,” he said. “They know our standards are high.”

With generous communities and supportive sponsors behind them, The Mendel Center managed to stage unique, creative events. The show goes on.

Learn more about the arts & culture scene in southwest Michigan.

How sugarbeets helped Michigan bounce back after the lumber industry vanished

sugar beets in front of a Michigan Sugar Company processing plant

The death of the lumbering industry in the late 1800s helped bring about the birth of the sugarbeet industry to the Saginaw Valley’s farming and food-processing economies.

After loggers had cleared the pine forests in the area, the land was virtually unusable due to the massive expanse of tree stumps left behind. State and local leaders were searching for a substitute for the jobs and money generated by now-departed lumber barons. A solution was needed that could be replenished each year, bringing a stabilizing influence to the economic base of the region.

Enter the sugarbeet.

piles of sugarbeets at a Michigan Sugar Company processing plantIn 1884, during a trip to Germany, Joseph Seemann, a Saginaw printer, observed how well the sugarbeet was doing in that country. He sent a sample of seeds to his partner, who forwarded them to Robert C. Kedzie, professor of chemistry at Michigan State Agricultural College. Kedzie’s enthusiasm for the beet’s potential earned him the title “Father of the Michigan Beet Sugar Industry.”

He imported 1,500 pounds of seeds from France and distributed them to farmers across Michigan. The success of the planting helped encourage people to clear the stumps and better utilize the once-again valuable acreage.

Michigan Sugar Company was founded in 1906 when six smaller sugar companies merged their operations. In 2002, Michigan Sugar Company became a grower-owned cooperative and in 2004, it merged with Monitor Sugar Company to form the company that exists today.

Headquartered in Bay City, Michigan Sugar Compay has sugarbeet processing facilities in Bay City, Caro, Croswell and Sebewaing. Its nearly 900 grower-owners plant and harvest about 160,000 acres of sugarbeets each year in 20 Michigan counties, as well as Ontario, Canada. Those beets are sliced at the factories and turned into about 1.1 billion pounds of sugar annually. That sugar is sold to industrial, commercial, and retail customers, primarily under the Pioneer Sugar brand.

bags of Pioneer SugarIn 2020, the company launched its new line of red retail bags for its white granulated, Golden Light Brown, Dark Brown and Confectioners Powdered sugars. The company sells white granulated sugar in retail sizes of 2 pounds, 4 pounds, 10 pounds and 25 pounds. The brown and powdered sugars are sold in retail sizes of 2 pounds and 7 pounds.

Michigan Sugar has 930 year-round employees and an additional 1,100 seasonal workers. The company’s annual payroll is more than $65 million and its annual local economic impact is about $500 million.

Michigan Sugar Company runs robust Young Farmer and Youth Project programs, offers internships, and provides a variety of scholarships, including the annual Michigan Sugar Queen Scholarship. The company annually donates upward of 100,000 pounds of sugar to food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters across the state and supports countless community events and festivals throughout its growing region.

Of the nine sugarbeet processing companies in the United States, Michigan Sugar is the third largest and Michigan is one of 11 states where sugarbeets are grown in the country.

Read more at michigansugar.com.

 

5 top sites for Michigan’s best fall color

A forest of trees turning autumn colors

There are trees near where you live, maybe even as close as the backyard. And they’re probably very pretty when the leaves change color.

But there are some places where fall color is just, well, more colorful. Where it’s bigger and brighter. Where you can see entire forests of crimson maples and yellow birches. Where golden leaves contrast with the deep blue hues of the mother of all lakes.

Where you can combine the sight of fall colors with the sound of rushing waterfalls, and where you can literally climb a mountain to an incredible scenic overlook that will take your breath away.

people standing at an overlook, viewing water and autumn trees

Sugarloaf Mountain in Marquette offers a stunning vantage point for the season’s fall colors. (Photo credit: Pure Michigan)

As beautiful as this looks, fall color in Marquette is so spectacular that pictures don’t do it justice. You have to come see for yourself!

There are countless places in Marquette County with incredible views, and lots of ways to find them – driving, hiking, biking, paddling and more. To get you started with a plan, here are five top sites to see Michigan’s best fall color this year:

  • Marquette – Not to be confused with the Marquette Mountain ski area, Mt. Marquette offers a sweet vista overlooking the entire cityscape alongside the Lake Superior shore. It’s a steep drive up the 1,200-foot-high mountain, so a 4-wheel drive vehicle is advised. You can also park down below and hike or mountain bike up to the top.
    person walking on a wooden trail through a forest

    The Iron Ore Heritage Trail that winds through Marquette County is perfect for a walk or bike ride through the heart of Michigan’s best fall color.

  • Iron Ore Heritage Trail – A 47-mile multi-use trail that runs (bikes, hikes or walks) mostly east and west across Marquette County along U.S. 41, the Iron Ore Heritage Trail has it all – from the dense forests of the Marquette Iron Range through historic towns to the Lake Superior shoreline. While there’s gorgeous fall color the whole way, you could start at the Jackson Miners Park Trailhead in Negaunee where there’s about 2.5 miles of asphalt path ideal for a color tour on foot, bike or inline skates.
  • CR 510 bridge – An old bridge makes great pictures. So does fall color. Combine the two and you have the makings of something really special. The CR 510 Bridge west of Marquette toward Negaunee presents a quaint scene over the Dead River. The historic truss span is the longest of its kind in Michigan and is now open only to pedestrian traffic. A modern bridge just to the west offers a great spot for viewing and photographs.
  • Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook – About 25 miles north of Marquette on an impressive drive through cut rock on CR 550, or 25 miles north of the CR 510 Bridge on a gravel road through the Huron Mountains and tunnels of fall color, you’ll find a trail to the underrated Thomas Rock View near Lake Independence in Big Bay. It’s a relatively easy hike along a dog-friendly, wheelchair-accessible path to a rock outcropping that’s a natural lookout. Nearby, about six miles south of the CR 550 junction on CR 510, there’s a parking area near the bridge over the Yellow Dog River where you can hike a trail to Yellow Dog Falls. A large boulder splits the water as it flows over the impressive 20-foot drop on its way to Lake Superior.
  • Harlow Lake Recreation Area – From the shore of Lake Superior to one of the highest
    Harlow Lake view, Marquette MI

    Harlow Lake Recreation Area offers a wide variety of trails for hiking and biking with panoramic scenic overlooks.

    points in the Upper Peninsula, Harlow Lake Recreation Area has a diverse geography with a variety of fall color experiences. There are nearly 40 miles of trails for hiking and biking including some of Michigan’s best single-track mountain bike trails. Avid hikers can try to summit Hogback Mountain, from where you can see all the way to the Keweenaw Peninsula on a clear day. Other visitors might prefer relaxing by the peaceful, serene Harlow Lake.

RELATED: 4 fall color tours by car in Marquette

person carrying a kayak at Preque Isle in Marquette, MI

From driving through tunnels of trees to biking along a trail through the woods to paddling across a lake, there are many ways to take in Marquette’s beautiful fall colors. (Photo credit: Pure Michigan)

The warm sunny days and cool, clear nights of autumn in the Marquette area are perfect for turning out the best fall colors. And with a heavily forested landscape that features many miles of rivers and waterfalls, too, Marquette has a beautiful canvas from which those striking colors emerge. It’s no wonder USA Today readers voted Michigan’s Upper Peninsula the best place in the country for fall foliage.

Plus, Marquette County offers your first opportunity to see fall colors this year. While trees in most parts of Michigan stay green well into October, you can find leaves starting to change around Marquette by the end of September. And you can find peak color somewhere in Marquette County pretty much throughout all of October.

“If you go inland out to the west end of the county, the colors tend to change a little sooner there than in Marquette where it takes a little longer along the shore of Lake Superior,” said Susan Estler, executive director of Travel Marquette.

waves crashing against the shore

Lake Superior makes a magical setting for fall colors in Marquette County. (Photo credit: Pure Michigan)

“There’s so much more dense forest than anywhere else in the country, and to get all those colors to turn with the lakes, rivers, waterfalls and Lake Superior as a backdrop, it’s absolutely breathtaking.”

Find a place to stay in Marquette and start planning your ultimate fall color tour this year!

Endless color awaits in these Keweenaw Peninsula fall hot spots

There are numerous ways to experience fall’s colorful brilliance in the Keweenaw Peninsula – and that even includes from up above by chairlift.

Known as Michigan’s Copper Country, the Keweenaw Peninsula is the northernmost part of the Upper Peninsula and comprises seemingly endless trails, acres and acres of remote wilderness, rugged lakeshore, secluded beaches, numerous historic sites and much more.

And all of it undergoes a vibrant morph of color that hits its peak in late September through early October, spurred by the micro-climate caused by Lake Superior and the peninsula’s northern location.

a autumn leaf held up in front of a fall tree lined roadAs an area galvanized by outdoor activities, there are several ways to immerse yourself in the array of orange, red and yellow. As for the best way and spot to observe the transformation, there’s no right answer even for Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Brad Barnett.

“It’s hard to pick because honestly there are so many favorites,” he said. “I love to get out and hike at Pilgrim Community Forest. Or jump in a canoe and take the Sturgeon River down to Portage Lake.”

For fall color visitors it really comes down to a choose-your-own-adventure type of excursion. The simplest way, which also allows you to cover a lot of ground in a short time, is by car. The area features miles of scenic roads to explore.

A recommended cruise is the Brockway Mountain Drive, between Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor. This road winds up 720 feet of elevation where you can witness fall color, rugged shorelines and vistas all in one swoop.

Discover more: Scenic Drives in Keweenaw Peninsula

Accentuating Keweenaw’s unique fall color experience is the chance for a bird’s eye view via a chairlift. Chairlift rides are available at Mont Ripley, where guests can soar above dazzling colors and see spectacular views.

Those who don’t want to only remain seated and like to mix in activity with their fall color palette will find plenty of opportunity by foot, paddle or pedal.

“If you want to experience the fall color on a more personal level, there are miles and miles of trail,” Barnett said. “So bring your mountain bike. We’re a mountain biking mecca with 90 miles of single-track trail between four different systems. You can ride through an abandoned copper mine, take the Tech Trails on Michigan Tech’s campus, and trails for beginners to experts. Just tons of trails.”

Discover more: Mountain Biking in the Keweenaw

Bond Falls in Keweenaw Peninsula, MIAlong with color, the fall months also provide rejuvenation to the area waterfalls thanks to extra precipitation in September and October. Exploring the area waterfalls with stunning fall color as its backdrop is a must.

“When you come in the fall it’s usually wetter, so the waterfalls are really flowing,” Barnett said. “There are a dozen different waterfalls to check out and they are just spectacular this time of year.”

Discover more: Waterfalls in Keweenaw

Autumn’s artist brush paints endless color in the Keweenaw Peninsula to go with all the adventure awaiting. All types can be captivated by the yellow, orange and red tints that takeover the area’s sweeping landscapes. And because of its unique climate, Barnett said peak colors in the area hit at different times depending where you are. So, if you miss it in one spot, chances are another area is bursting with color.

There’s a reason USA TODAY 10Best named the Upper Peninsula the number one destination for fall foliage in the country – and a trip to Keweenaw showcases it beautifully. Put on your favorite fall flannel, grab your favorite hiking boots, bike or kayak and wander Keweenaw this fall.

Use the Keweenaw Adventure Guide to plan your fall visit to Copper Country.

Breathe fresh air into your kids’ remote learning

kids running in the woods

One of the challenges with the remote learning happening across Michigan this fall is that it can be difficult to replicate some things that happen in the classroom. Take a science lab, for example. Not every family has the tools to build electrical circuits or a variety of live animals to study.

Fortunately, places such as COGnition Science & Discovery Center offer a classroom away from the classroom. Among its interactive, hands-on exhibits, the Traverse City-area attraction has KEVA planks for kids to explore architecture and a generator bike where they can learn about and actually produce electricity. COGnition even has live animals to meet and hold including two hedgehogs, a handful of tortoises and a kindly ball python named Severus Snake.

“He’s very sweet and curious, which is the atmosphere we’re trying to encourage,” said Kimmee Wenkel, co-founder and executive director of the 4,000-square-foot facility on U.S. 31 in Beulah, west of Traverse City.

“COGnition is like a science playground. Families come and spend time with us, and we usually hear the most feedback from the moms who are trying to get out the door and their kids don’t want to leave.”

woman and child in the woods looking at the treesFewer than one of every six schools in Michigan is teaching every student in person every day of the week this fall, according to a Michigan State University study. That means many of the state’s 1.6 million students in kindergarten through 12th grade are spending at least some of their school week learning remotely, outside the classroom.

Of course, not all remote learning has to happen from home. If your family has children home from school full-time or even just a couple days a week, think about making their remote learning truly remote by taking a family field trip to supplement their learning.

Why not get away for a visit to COGnition, then make a weekend of it in the Traverse City area? It’s not like you’d be missing any football games and tailgate parties this fall, so come on up north. The Traverse City area is offering Fab Fall packages with discounted lodging and money-saving offers on things to do.

You don’t have to look hard to find family activities in Traverse City that are both fun and educational. You could practically create an entire lesson plan for every school subject!

Then, when the kids are done with school for the day, have a blast swimming in the hotel pool or crossing something special off your family’s bucket list, like cruising down a mountain on Michigan’s only Alpine slide!

Here are just a few of the places in the Traverse City area where your kids (and you, too!) can experience hands-on, active learning while they’re away from the classroom:

  • Let’s start the school day with some music! The Music House Museum in Williamsburg features a unique assortment of antique instruments including music applesboxes, player pianos, phonographs, jukeboxes and the Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ. With the collection going back to the 1700s, you’ll get a sense of the history of automated music and have fun seeing and hearing the rare, unfamiliar instruments. The museum offers guided one-hour tours daily through October, then only on weekends starting in November.
  • If apples cost $2 per pound at a U-pick farm and you find a dozen of the juiciest looking varieties that weigh a combined four pounds, what will be the total price of your harvest? What is the price per apple? Visiting a U-pick farm or farmers market in the Traverse City area is the perfect fall activity for your family. It can also be a math lesson in disguise! How many quarts of sweet cherries at a roadside market in the Traverse City area make a full pound? How much is a peck of apples? How about a bushel? However you measure it, the fresh fruits and vegetables in the Traverse City area are a delicious mid-day snack!
  • Of course, every school day has recess, right? What better way to enjoy fall in
    3 women looking at a piece of paper

    Jacob’s Farm has lots of fall recreation to enjoy including a corn maze that’s the size of 10 football fields!

    Michigan than to get lost in a corn maze and try to find your way out! Jacob’s Farm offers miles of twisting paths in a 10-acre maze that has a Michigan shipwrecks theme this fall. The farm also includes a U-pick fruit orchard and pumpkin patch. For lunch you can enjoy some farm fresh, kid-friendly food, and maybe an adult beverage, too.

  • For a fun geography lesson, drive up the Old Mission Peninsula to the 45th parallel, which is exactly halfway between the equator and the North Pole. Along the way, add some history to your day by checking out the log schoolhouse and old-fashioned general store in Old Mission Village and the 150-year-old Mission Point Lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula.
  • On the campus of Northwestern Michigan College, the Dennos Museum Center features one of the world’s largest collections of Inuit and Canadian Arctic art. There’s lots of great ideas to get kids engaged with the pieces on display. For an outdoor art experience, visit the Michigan Legacy Art Park. The park within Crystal Mountain Resort includes almost 50 contemporary sculptures along trails that run through a 30-acre forest preserve.
  • With remote learning requiring so much time behind a computer screen, physical education is as important as ever. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of recreational activities in the Traverse City area. The Grass River Natural Area, for example, offers 3.5 miles of easy hiking through a 1,500-acre preserve of forests, swamps, bogs and river shoreline. Keep an eye out for eagles and other wildlife! The Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area in Bellaire has over 30 miles of trails for hiking or biking through 10 distinct habitats that feature more than 20 species of trees and 100 different kinds of birds and flowers. Those are just two of the beautiful and unique places to go for a hike in the Traverse City area.
  • For a science experience by day, visit COGnition Science & Discovery Center in Beulah. COGnition is open by appointment Wednesdays through Saturdays this fall woman carries child on her shoulderswhen families can sign up for 2-hour visits. After dark, get your science fix by visiting the Joseph H. Rogers Observatory. During public viewing nights this fall you’ll be able to get a closeup look of not just the moon but also Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and, come November, the Orion Nebula some 1,800 light years away!

 

That’s just a sampling of the many fun, educational things to do for kids and families in the Traverse City area. The Traverse City Kids’ Guide has much more to explore this fall.

You could do the Dune Climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, pick up some sweets at Whirligig’s Candy & More at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, go for a bike ride on the TART Trail, take a scenic chairlift ride to the top of Schuss Mountain, go on a hayride or saddle up for a horseback ride, play disc golf on some of Michigan’s best courses, paddle through peaceful northern Michigan waters, ride the Crystal Coaster Alpine Slide and so much more.

Find a place to stay and start planning a family field trip for the ages!

MI Best Stories: Michigan Sugar and Pioneer Sugar

farmer showing sugar beets to his sons

It’s easy to take those sweet treats in your pantry for granted, who thinks about the story behind that big, red bag of Pioneer Sugar.  We do! MLive and Michigan Best’s Amy Sherman was curious to know more about the sugar she uses so often, especially when she learned that Pioneer Sugar comes from a Michigan-based company, Michigan Sugar Company. Her curiosity was piqued when she read Michigan Sugar Company’s purpose statement,

“Michigan Sugar Company aims to make life sweeter, both literally and figuratively, for our grower-owners, employees, customers, partners, and communities. Whether it’s a bag of our pure, all-natural sugar helping you bake your favorite family recipe, sponsorship of an important community event, providing a quality and stable work environment, delivering an order on time and as expected, or helping maximize profits for our grower-owners, Michigan Sugar Company has been Making Life Sweeter since 1906.”

Check out the videos below to learn more about Michigan Sugar and how you go from a sugar beet (or 7) to a bag of sugar.

We’ll be posting new videos exploring Michigan Sugar Company each week, be sure to come back to learn more!

Episode 1, in this first episode exploring Michigan Sugar, Amy Sherman talks with Rob Clark about how the company came to be and what makes Michigan Sugar so special.

 

Michigan Sugar Company fun facts:

  • Michigan Sugar Company has been operating since 1906 and has been farmer-grower owned since 2002
  • There are 900 farmer-growner owners
  • 18% of a sugar beet is sugar
  • Michigan Sugar company growers plant and harvest 160,000 acres of sugar beets annually
  • That means 1.1 billion pounds of sugar are produced per year
  • It takes about 7 sugar beets to make 1 bag of sugar
  • Michigan Sugar operates 4 sugar beet slicing factories, including the oldest sugar beet slicing factory in the USA, located in Caro, Michigan.

For more sweet goodness from Michigan Sugar, check out our Michigan’s Best, Sweet Treat of the Week on mlive.com/michigansbest or visit the Michigan Sugar Company website, michigasugar.com.

Historic Michigan burger chain embraces past to move forward

Halo burger meal

The Halo Burger legend was built on three things: Fresh ingredients, treating people with respect and having a community-centered spirit that was created under the decades-long ownership by Bill Thomas and his family members.

Those founding principles have returned to the seven drive-through and dine-in restaurants since the leaders of Halo Country LLC took ownership of Halo Burger restaurants in 2016.

“It’s obvious to me that they’ve tried to go back to the similar stuff that we had,” said Terry Thomas, who took over from his dad and now serves as an ambassador for Halo Country.

Terry Thomas sat down with MLive’s John Gonzales recently to talk about traditions and the importance of being a leader in the community.

Watch as Terry talks about how he started working for his father at the age of 13 and what his first responsibilities were at the restaurant that has been a Flint area icon for 97 years.

 

Take Your Pick of Fruitful Fall Activities in Southwest Michigan

Jollay Orchards

The end of summer isn’t a conclusion to good times: it’s the beginning of fruitful fall fun – and that’s especially the case in Southwest Michigan.

Comfortable days and crisp evenings create an environment suited for plucking life’s simple joys. Southwest Michigan’s Lake Michigan backdrop sets the scene for a region rich in scenic outdoor recreation, quaint downtowns, and orchards full of people picking apples in an orchardtasty delights that are ripe for exploration. The season transforms the area, both in appearance and in what kind of fun you can get yourself into.

While there’s a lot to like about the region come autumn, it’s the area farms that really anchor the season’s activities – and they’ve been a staple of the area for a long time. Highlighting this is Jollay Orchards, a family farm founded in 1857, headed now by 7th generation growers Jay and Sarah Jollay.

“One hundred and sixty years ago it was straight production,” Jay Jollay said. “But now we’ve been inviting people onto the farm to enjoy the harvest for quite some time.”

And it’s not solely the harvest guests can enjoy at Jollay Orchards. Along with its harvest and farm market, Jollay Orchards boasts a cornfield maze, haunted house, viewing animals, playground, bounce houses, and other family friendly activities.

Of course, things will be a little different this year.  pumpkins at Jollay Orchards

“We’re full steam ahead in these weird times,” Jollay said. “There’s plenty of room and people will have their own space on hay-rides for U-pick apples and pumpkins. We’re Corona-free since 1857 – let’s keep it that way.”

Jollay Orchards, like all the other Southwest Michigan family farms, will have the proper precautions implemented for visitors. Following guidelines is important as Jollay stresses how people deserve to go out and spend time with family doing fun activities.

“We want to make sure people are comfortable at the orchards,” Jollay said.

Jollay Orchards opens for its season August 28 and runs through November 1 with Friday, Saturday and Sunday hours of operation. Admission is segmented into Good, Better, Best U-pick tiers, with each level including access to all the orchard’s activities.

And while plenty of fun this season centers on U-picking from apple trees, the trees that dot the landscapes all over Southwest Michigan also beget plenty of attention with their bursts of fall color. Splashes of ruby reds, citrine yellows, garnet oranges and emerald greens sweep over the dunes, forests, orchards and fields throughout the area, which create striking photo ops destined to appear on your go-to social media account.

There are many popular routes in the area that families can fully enjoy from their car. For example, starting in St. Joseph, you can follow Main Street south to Lakeshore Dr to Red Arrow Highway. This coastal road winds you south through numerous charming communities. Or you can head north along M-63 to Blue Start Highway. Either way, Lake Michigan and fall color is a tandem to behold.

There are also many reasons to get out of the car to experience the color in the area. Golf, biking, hiking, paddleboarding, kayaking and canoeing all remain prominent activities in Southwest Michigan well into fall. From scenic rivers to wooded trails, there’s plenty of landscape to explore. Fred Russ Forest Park is a popular 13-acre park for everything from bird watching to canoeing and is perfect for really engaging the resplendent fall color.

Fall color in the area starts revealing itself in Mid-September and typically peaks in Mid-October.

ciders available at Jollay OrchardsSouthwest Michigan is ready for these times and an ideal fall getaway for those seeking a change in scenery. Area businesses from hotels to restaurants to retail are open and safely operating for guests.

“It’s a phenomenal area in Michigan,” Jollay said. “There are great wineries, breweries and lake towns. We all want as normal a fall, as normal an experience, for visitors.”

Whether observing beautiful fall colors, picking apples or getting lost on a trail, find life’s simple joys in Southwest Michigan this fall.