Each season in Michigan holds its own magic but there is one season where that magic feels more fleeting than others – the fall. The fall colors in Michigan are a yearly reminder that change is both wonderful and colorful, this year is no different. Eric Hultgren spent 24hrs in Marquette to show you the 6 places to catch the colors before they are gone. On your way into town you can check out both the Iron Ore Heritage Trail and Mt. Marquette, from there head over to Sugar Loaf and the Cr-510 Bridge for some killer fall colors. Finally head 20 minutes out of town to climb Hogback Mountain and finish off near Big Bay at the Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook and you will get photos of some of the best fall colors in Michigan.
Hmm, what goes well with hiking and biking through the great outdoors of northern Michigan? Beer.
What pairs well with holiday shopping at boutiques full of unique, Michigan-made gifts? Beer.
What makes a great match for a romantic escape? A girlfriend getaway? A guy’s weekend? Yep. Beer.
Mmm, good thing Traverse City Beer Week is still happening this fall! Go ahead and take a break from the turmoil of 2020 and get #HoppyinTC from Nov. 13-20.
“2020 has certainly had its share of negativity, but when it comes to sipping beer in northern Michigan we know there’s potential to put people in their happy place,” said Coryn Briggs, director of digital marketing at TC Tourism and the coordinator for TC Beer Week.
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered much of our lives this year, and TC Beer Week is no exception. But even with a new look for the event, you can rest assured that the region’s craft breweries are still turning out a wide variety of unique, delicious flavors.
In fact, this year’s TC Beer Week even has some new participants including Stormcloud Brewing Co. The microbrewery in Frankfort will serve up its seasonal Oktoberfest and Pumpkin ales during TC Beer Week, and also expects to have on tap its new harvest ales brewed with freshly harvested, northern Michigan-grown hops!
Here’s how you can enjoy those flavors and many more during TC Beer Week 2020 and win a prize at the same time!
- This year’s event is entirely self-guided, so take a look at the special offers at participating breweries on the Beer Week Ale Trail and pick out places to visit. Note that reservations may be required at some places due to capacity limits. Short’s Brewing is taking reservations for its pub in Bellaire, for example. Check out social media or put in a quick call to see if reservations are needed for other breweries you’d like to visit.
- You can use a digital passport available via text or email starting Nov. 13 to take advantage of promotions and savings at participating breweries. And don’t forget that many restaurants are part of the fun, too. Just show your phone to redeem great deals!
- If you check in at five or more TC Beer Week businesses, you win a prize of your choice – either a TC Beer Week T-shirt or a Traverse City fanny pack! Remember to wash your hands, wear a facemask and maintain safe social distancing while enjoying great Traverse City beers.
- If you stay at a participating Traverse City-area hotel during your TC Beer Week visit, you’ll be entered to win the event’s grand prize: a beer lover’s vacation package with $200 of Traverse City Tourism gift certificates to spend on future lodging, a T-shirt from Short’s Brewing, a howler and gift certificate from Acoustic Mead, a gift certificate to TheLittleFleet.com featuring hard-to-find beers, natural wines and rotating craft cocktails and a gift card from Stormcloud Brewing. Many places to stay are offering Fab Fall discounts from now until early December.
- All participants should expect to wear masks, maintain 6 feet of distance and have an awesome time!
“There may not be big events or big crowds this year, but there will be big flavor and fun savings!” Briggs said. “This year’s event is entirely self-guided, so visitors can take their time finding those #HoppyPlace moments while safely sipping around TC.”
RELATED: What to expect on a beer tour
The Traverse City region is home to two dozen microbreweries and has been touted as one of 7 Small Beer Cities that Deserve National Attention. It’s also one of the Most Under-the-Radar Food Towns in America and home to incredible four-season outdoor recreation including one of the Best Hikes in the U.S. Of course, Traverse City is popular for couples as one of the 5 Most Romantic Getaways in Michigan and this year was recognized as one of the 10 Best Social Distancing Travel Destinations In The USA.
Whatever your reason to travel, you can’t go wrong in Traverse City – especially during TC Beer Week when you can complement your adventure with deals on Michigan’s most inventive craft beer. Here’s a sampling of some of the specials on tap during TC Beer Week at participating breweries:
· Rare Bird Brewpub – $1 off First Rare Bird Pint
· Storm Cloud Brewing Co. – ½ off First Beer
· The Little Fleet – TO GO OPTION – FREE local delivery from their online store
· Short’s Brewing Co. – BOGO beer flights and growler fills. Plus, check out the new Pull Barn tasting room at the brewery’s Elk Rapids production facility. It’s now open year-round with indoor seating for 50 people and a big, beautiful custom-built bar and restrooms, too!
· Right Brain Brewery – $3 off a sampler tray or $2 off a signature pint
· North Peak Brewing Co. – $5 Five Beer Samplers, 10% off merchandise and $2 off one pint of your choice
Find a place to stay during TC Beer Week and book a room so you don’t miss out. Then, keep an eye on the Beer Week Facebook page for the latest updates and check out all the offers and promotions along the Beer Week Ale Trail!
Remember to access your TC Beer Week passport here starting Nov. 13 and come find your “hoppy place” in Traverse City!
Football is a tough ticket this fall, with high school crowds in the southern half of Michigan limited to friends and family members and the Detroit Lions playing games in an empty stadium. Some fans already have gone to extraordinary heights just to catch a glimpse of the action.
But even though the fall football season is much different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, autumn in the Traverse City area is its usual beautiful self.
While you wait to root for the green and white Spartans or cheer the maize and blue Wolverines on TV later this year, you can come to Traverse City right now and celebrate the vibrant reds, yellows and oranges of a fall color tour. You can mimic a football tailgate by checking out some of the Traverse City area’s nearly 20 breweries and 40-plus wineries. You can grab a seat at the bar and enjoy some classic football food at one of the region’s many unique restaurants and watering holes.
And guess what? It’s easy to get a season pass to all the glories of fall, too. Money-saving Fab Fall packages are available in the Traverse City area from now into December with lodging deals as well as discounts on dining, shopping and attractions.
With the calendar cleared of football road trips to Ann Arbor, East Lansing or Ford Field, you have a fall full of weekends to visit Traverse City and enjoy everything else that’s great about Michigan’s best season of the year. Here’s a look at just some of the ways to get your fall fix in the Traverse City area:
Pre-game coin flip – Breweries or wineries…or both? You don’t need tickets to a football game to enjoy a great tailgate party! The Traverse City area long has been a delicious destination for wine lovers, its vineyards blessed with ideal grape-growing geography and climate. The region also is home to a burgeoning microbrewery scene featuring the popular Short’s Brewing Co. in Bellaire along with nearly two dozen other innovative craft beer makers each with their own unique fall flavors to taste.
Opening kickoff – Put on your favorite cozy sweatshirt and take a drive through the Traverse City area on a fall color tour that fans of all football teams can appreciate. Check out these ideas for some of the best places (and the best ways) to enjoy fall color in Traverse City.
On offense – Just like in a football game, you can keep the action on the ground with a fall hike through one of the Traverse City area’s gorgeous nature preserves or with a ride along some of the region’s many miles of bike trails. Or, you can take to the air with a scenic chairlift ride or a hot air balloon tour. You can even get into the water in a kayak for a new perspective on fall colors or do your best to stay out of the water and trees while playing a round on one of the Traverse City area’s championship golf courses while it’s cloaked in the season’s beauty. The region is full of outdoor recreation to enjoy in the fall, from quiet strolls along the beach and picturesque hikes through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to peaceful trout streams where you can cast a line and haul in the catch of the day.
On defense – Protect your pocketbook by getting a head start on holiday shopping with great fall deals at the unique shops, galleries and boutiques all over the Traverse City area. Whether browsing the tree-lined streets of downtown Traverse City, the one-of-a-kind Village at Grand Traverse Commons or one of the area’s quaint port towns, you’re sure to find some special treasures – and a tasty bite or two – as you enjoy a memorable fall day.
Special teams – Don’t punt away another opportunity to experience the beauty of fall in northern Michigan. Now is the time to see what makes autumn in the Traverse City area so special. Be sure to visit a U-pick farm where you can pluck apples right off the tree, pick out a pumpkin for the porch back home and allow yourself the simple pleasure of navigating an old-fashioned corn maze. And don’t forget to indulge in some donuts and cider, of course!
Halftime show – COVID-19 has done a number on live events this year, including cancellation of many events typically held in the fall. Fortunately, not everything is on hold. For example, you’ll find local musicians performing at restaurants, breweries and wineries throughout the Traverse City area all fall. Plus, the annual Traverse City Beer Week is still on tap for Nov. 13-20! You can plan your visit around Beer Week or any of these upcoming events.
Post-game festivities – At the end of each day’s fall adventure, retire to one of the Traverse City area’s many unique hotels, resorts and B&Bs where you can relax and recharge for more fall fun the following day. Save money by booking your place to stay with a Fab Fall package!
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
As 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
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.
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.
“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!
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.
As 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
Along 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.
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.”
Fewer 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 boxes, 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
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 when 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!
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 tasty 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.
“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.
Southwest 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.
In the spring, during a normal year, it’s nearly 6 million tulips that line city parks, gardens and private fields that draw thousands of visitors to Holland.
By summer, it’s time to hit one of the incredible Lake Michigan beaches, or cruise around Lake Macatawa.
Come fall, the attention stays on outdoor attractions and natural beauty, but turns to relaxing days centered around:
- Exploring the massive Holland Farmers Market
- Touring seasonal orchards and u-pick farms
- Hiking nature reserves and trails in county and state parks
- Biking the 150 miles of trails that offer paved pathways or dirt trails for off-road riding
- Shopping quaint downtowns filled with unique, one-of-a-kind merchants
- Dining at creative, farm-fresh restaurants
- Sipping craft beer and spirts along the lakeshore
“I think people are always surprised by how much there is to do, see and discover in and around Holland,” said Kara de Alvare, the farmers market marketing and promotions coordinator. “Our market fills a whole city block, and there’s far more than just produce. There’s a little bit of everything.”
That little bit of everything includes all Michigan-raised or Michigan-made products, from seasonal produce to meats, cheeses, baked goods and more. Those items round out a complete fall experience in which visitors can find farm fresh food ranging from orchard fruits and root vegetables to pumpkins, gourds, and corn shocks.
There are roughly 50 vendors at the market, which is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with the first hour reserved for seniors, the immunocompromised and pregnant women. The market is adhering to strict safety measures, including requiring mask use, following social distancing guidelines and limiting occupancy. Leaders have also installed hand-sanitizing stations.
“It’s all local and the selection is really amazing,” de Alvare said. “We are always excited to have new people come and enjoy the experience.”
The market has ample, free parking and is located near the Holland Civic Center, which recently underwent a $16.5 million renovation. The work included all new awnings that shelter shoppers as they explore the market.
After a market visit, the day opens up to outdoor recreation that fits any energy level. Here’s where to find a guide to plan your own adventure to build fun-filled, memory-making moments for families, friends and group getaways. Below are several suggestions to help start your vacation dreaming:
- Visit Crane Orchards & Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant for a one-stop adventure that can lead guests through u-pick fruit fields, successfully completing a 20-acre corn maze and grabbing warm baked goods or a crisp and refreshing cider or wine.
- Climb historic Mt. Pisgah for panoramic views of Lake Michigan. The 58-acre natural area has double shorelines, 750 feet on Lake Michigan and 2,400 feet on Lake Macatawa. The wooded dunes make a stunning fall vista for photos, selfies or just quiet solitude.
- If it’s an adrenaline rush that guests seek, mountain biking the paths at the Upper Macatawa Nature Trail and Riley and Pigeon Creek parks are up to the task with rolling terrain that wind through woods and along the Macatawa River. For a more leisurely ride, looped routes can show off Holland’s DeZwaan windmill and a variety of parks.
- Holland’s 200 downtown businesses can match any shopping desire, whether it’s looking for something to decorate a home, find something new to wear or find a gift for any holiday or celebration. There are art galleries, public sculptures and other nooks that guests won’t find anywhere else.
- All this activity creates quite a hunger, and that will only be challenged by trying to figure out where to eat among the Holland area’s 100+ restaurants that span all international tastes as well as everything from casual to upscale dining. A couple of hotspots: For waterfront dining, consider Boatwerks and its Lake Macatawa-side patio; for a local pizza joint, head to Fricano’s Too located in downtown Holland; the Alpen Rose is a long-time favorite of locals and guests seeking classic European fare.
- At the end of the day, it’s time to kick back with a craft beer or cocktail, and once again Holland’s makers come through with a variety of brews or handmade distilled liquors. Among the selections are New Holland Brewing, which was among the leading edge of brewers in Michigan; Big Lake Brewing, which debuted its expanded downtown location in 2017 and has built a statewide reputation for using locally grown hops and ingredients in its India Pale Ales and stouts; meanwhile, Coppercraft Distillery routinely wins state and national awards.
Like to go off-the-cuff and decide upon arrival? Check out these itineraries to piece together an adventure.
We just can’t get enough of Marquette, with options for whatever your day’s adventure-mood demands – climb above it all, to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain to take in the incredible views of the lake, miles of forest and even the Superior Dome; bring the family and explore hundreds of years of history, exhaust those kiddos with a bike ride, some water fun and exploring the 323 acres of Presque Isle Park; or spend the day shopping downtown and celebrate your amazing finds over a cold brew or a cocktail and a relaxing dinner.
Plan your trip to Marquette with Travel Marquette.