With rolling hills traversing the 45th parallel between the insulating waters of Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay, the pinkie finger of Michigan is a natural site for thriving vineyards that dot the countryside.
But wine isn’t the only libation specialty in the Traverse City area. It’s also home to a growing collection of craft breweries, from the Leelanau Peninsula south along the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and inland to the heart of Traverse City itself.
Leelanau, Benzie and Grand Traverse counties all rank among the top five in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula for number of breweries per capita. Plus, neighboring Antrim County, home of Short’s Brewing in Bellaire, produces the most beer per capita of any county in Michigan.
While you can find great craft brews all over the state, the Traverse City area has emerged as a must-visit destination for beer lovers. And fall is a great time to experience the flavors of northern Michigan craft beer, especially during Traverse City Beer Week, Nov. 8-15.
“Beer Week is a really cool time of year where it’s transitioning from fall to winter and you get to be outside still and really experience an Up North feel, and the breweries just enhance that,” said Troy Daily, a beer entrepreneur who partners with the area’s burgeoning beer scene to run events and services including Paddle for Pints, TC Brew Bus, TC Cycle Pub, TC Ale Trail and the Kayak, Bike & Brew.
“It creates a winning combination.”
The Traverse City area is home to 20 microbreweries including Short’s Brewing, which is the largest microbrewer in Michigan. (Only Bell’s Brewing in Kalamazoo and Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids produce more beer, so much that they no longer qualify as microbrewers.)
The region also features Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City and Stormcloud Brewing in Frankfort, both among the 50 largest microbrewers in the state. There’s also Mitten Brewing in Northport, Hop Lot Brewing in Suttons Bay, Lake Ann Brewing in Lake Ann and North Peak Brewing, Monkey Fist Brewing and Mackinaw Brewing in Traverse City. The list goes on.
You can try to visit them all this fall or check a few off your list during an upcoming weekend. Traverse City Beer Week offers a great opportunity to get a broad sampling.
“Beer Week really showcases that Traverse City is a beer destination with a lot of good breweries, not just one,” Daily said. “A lot of the breweries up here aren’t in distribution, so you have to come here in order to get their beer.”
Traverse City Beer Week features several events. Here’s the full schedule, with several highlights:
- 6th Annual TC Ale Trail IPA Challenge – Who brews the best IPA in Traverse City? This blind taste test from 5:30-10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, at The Little Fleet will decide. The competition will be judged by 200 beer lovers, and you could be one of them!
- TCBW Kick Off Pub Crawl – Get Traverse City Beer Week off to a fast start from 6-10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, by visiting a bunch of breweries right off the bat in downtown Traverse City. Walk your way from one brewery to the next and earn an official Pub Crawl t-shirt by visiting at
least six of the participating locations.
- 6th Annual Great Beerd Run 5K – Grow a beard (or tie one on) and enjoy on-course beer tastings during an untimed fun run 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. After the race there will be live music and a Best Beard Costume.
- 2019 Flapjack & Flannel Festival – Wear your flannels and enjoy more than 30 beers from a dozen Traverse City breweries paired with live music, games and, of course, pancakes! Each ticket is good for a couple drinks, one pancake and live music from local bands from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at The Little Fleet.
When you go visit any of the Traverse City area’s breweries, go ahead and make a weekend out of it. Or sneak away in the middle of the week to enjoy the beauty of a northern Michigan fall before winter comes.
From scenic drives and roadside markets to incredible trails for hiking and biking, the Traverse City area has tons to do this time of year. Several places to stay are offering special Beer Week lodging packages with discounted rates, and they include a Traverse City logoed fanny pack stuffed with coupons, a Brew Tour Guide and package of pretzels to go with your beer.
Come taste for yourself why the Traverse City area is Michigan’s No. 1 region for craft brewing!
Nick Behling enjoys a meal with a fantastic view of the fall colors, hangs out with some elk and takes in some natural beauty at the state park, all in Gaylord, MI.
Any time of year, the stretch of Lakeshore Drive north of downtown Ludington that winds along the shore of Hamlin Lake is a gorgeous drive. This time of year, it’s absolutely striking.
In fact, it’s one of the most scenic driving routes in the state for fall color, according to the County Road Association of Michigan.
Yet, it might not even be one of the top three fall color routes in Ludington.
That’s because just a few minutes away in Ludington State Park are 20 miles of hiking trails through a forest ablaze with leaves of red, yellow and orange. At the Hamlin Lake Beach area of the state park, a four-mile canoe trail flows through lily pads along the tree-lined shore. And just a few minutes back toward town, in Cartier Park, there’s a single-track mountain bike trail that courses through the woods with views of Lincoln Lake.
Each of those routes offers a truly unique way to experience the bounty and beauty of Michigan’s fall color. And each one is better than the last.
The extraordinary mix of fall color and outdoor adventure is a big reason Michigan is one of the country’s Top 5 States to Visit in the Fall. And in no place is that combination more accessible than in Ludington, where you can take in fall colors by car, kayak, bike or hike – and still have time for dinner in town and a walk on the beach to soak in what makes perhaps the season’s best fall colors, a Lake Michigan sunset.
“Ludington offers a quintessential ‘Up North’ experience that is magical in the fall, whether enjoying it from your car on a color drive, your bicycle on a trail or your canoe on a river,” said Brandy Miller, executive director of the Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“Ludington and Mason County deliver the perfect combination of unspoiled natural resources and unrivaled outdoor recreation with quaint, small-town charm.”
Come see for yourself what makes Ludington so special in the fall. Here are six ways to experience the season like never before:
Lost Lake-Island Trail Loop – Of the 20 miles of hiking trails in Ludington State Park, the two-mile Lost Lake-Island Trail Loop that follows the western shore of Hamlin Lake and traverses a scenic boardwalk is a sure bet for a feast of fall color. It’s a favorite of Ludington-based photographers Todd and Brad Reed, who always make time for this trail in October to scope out the perfect fall photo op.
Cartier Park Mountain Bike Trail – There are picturesque bike paths and trails in Ludington State Park, including a gravel road out to the iconic black-and-white-striped Big Sable Point lighthouse right on Lake Michigan. But the four-mile single-track dirt mountain biking trail in the city’s Cartier Park on Lincoln Lake may be the best place to go on two wheels. It’s safe for beginners and intermediate bikers, yet offers the option of a more challenging stretch for experienced riders. The trail in Cartier Park also connects through brief street rides and Memorial Tree Park Trail to the Ludington School Forest, making for about 10 miles of urban single-track in all.
Hamlin Lake Canoe Trail – Hamlin Lake is one of the larger inland lakes in Michigan, yet the four-mile canoe trail along the west shore of the lake feels more like a river as you paddle through lily pads and reeds on a trip that can last one to three hours, depending on the wind. Ludington also is home to the magnificent Pere Marquette River, with many opportunities to put in a kayak or canoe for a water-level perspective on the stunning fall colors – and many chances to see wildlife.
Steelhead fishing – Speaking of the Pere Marquette River, there’s no better place to be this time of year for fishing. Not only is Ludington the top salmon port on Lake Michigan, but it’s also home to 40 inland lakes and 2,000 miles of trout streams. The Pere Marquette is a designated national scenic river that flows for 66 miles with legendary steelhead runs each fall. Come on over in your own boat or hire a charter captain to show you the ropes.
Mason County Agricultural Trail – If you don’t fancy fish, then how about fruit?
Christofferson Farms is one of several U-pick orchards and farms in the Ludington area where you can spend a couple hours taking part in the bounty of Michigan’s annual harvest. If you’re more into maple syrup, then check out Kistlercrest Farms. And if you like jam, be sure to visit the Jam Farm and try some of the 30-plus varieties of homemade fruit spreads from Ludington’s own “Jam Lady.” Those are just a few of the stops you can make along Ludington’s Agricultural Trail this fall.
Halloween Fun – Although it’s called the Haunted Village, the family-friendly trick-or-treating event at Historic White Pine Village isn’t really spooky. But there is a lot of costumes and candy! Ditto for the Haunted Hayride at Cartier Park Campground, which features apple cider, wagon rides and a scary movie. The October calendar of events in Ludington also includes the Spooky Slow Roll bike ride, downtown trick-or-treating and a West Shore Community College Theater presentation of “Frankenstein.” Plan your weekend around one or more of these unique events.
However you choose to experience fall in Ludington, be sure to take advantage of seasonal lodging specials. Many places to stay including hotels and B&Bs are offering half-off a second night’s stay Sunday through Thursday in October.
Nick Behling finds the best way to end a beautiful fall day of paddling the Grand River in Grand Rapids, MI is a pint of New Holland’s Ichabod Pumpkin Ale.
Gone are summer days at the beach, baseball games and camping trips.
Those seasonal traditions are traded for fall color tours, trips to apple orchards and pumpkin patches and fall football.
There’s no better place to experience the switch of the seasons than in Mt. Pleasant, the home of Central Michigan University and a city of 26,000 people that balances a small-town feel with a larger than imagined opportunity to continue or start new traditions.
Whether by foot, car, water or hayride, there’s something for everyone in the mid-Michigan region that finds a way to cater to families, college students and weekend travelers with a diverse recreation, dining, cocktail and adventure scene.
During the 100 days of fall, the possibilities open up to explore apple orchards, pumpkin patches and area parks that are ideal for daytime outings to spot all the hues of red, yellow and orange that unfold and provide a relaxing backdrop to an on-the-run lifestyle.
Here are some ideas and top tips for finding your next getaway:
Papa’s Pumpkin Patch: Papa’s is a longtime favorite of those in and around Isabella County. At any age, the patch can be the place to pick out your carving pumpkin, hop on a hayride around the farm and snap those fall pictures that will create memories for years to come. The owners have kept the prices low and structured affordable packages for groups of 10 or more, providing the full experience of a crisp day outdoors.
“This is a wonderful place to go,” said Stephanie Cortes in a review of the patch.
“Always amazing, we go every year,” Rene Peterson weighed in after her visit.
“Shepherd Cheer Team had a GREAT time at the patch! The staff was so accommodating and full of hospitality. We will definitely be back! Thank you!”
Did we mention the donuts?
Central Michigan Football: The return of the Chippewas to Kelly/Shorts Stadium offers a chance to spend a Pure Michigan classic day in Mt. Pleasant. Start tailgating, transition to cheering CMU touchdowns and then hit the road for a color tour or find a bite to eat. Plan your outing around the final four home games of the season on Oct. 5, Oct. 12, Nov. 2 or Nov. 29.
Dayhikes and paddling: Mt. Pleasant visitors and residents alike want to pack as much of the fall outdoor fun as they can in daylight hours. The opportunities to hike area parks, including the county’s highest point in Bundy Hill, or take one last leisurely float on the Chippewa River. Use the GKB Riverwalk Trail/Access Adventure Trail or Deerfield Park as other hiking launching points.
Culinary Delights: The fall harvest also gives local restaurants the chance to change menus to feature the flavors of the season. Locally owned shops use the freshest of ingredients on breakfast fare like specialty waffles and that continues into the nightlife with farm-raised beef and produce. For ideas and more information, read: Mt. Pleasant Area Fall Flavor (plus Fun!) Tour.
Make the Top 10: Get those cameras and phones ready for the annual Feels like fall photo contest run by the Mt. Pleasant Convention and Visitors Bureau. The agency kicks off the Instagram competition on Oct. 2 using the @MtPleasantCVB and #FeelsLikeFall tags to show off the best Mt. Pleasant has to offer. Take a look at the images that made the summer Top 10.
Visit meetmtp.com to learn more about Mt. Pleasant and plan your next trip.
Nick Behling heads to Ludington to go on one epic paddle ride from the ‘lost lake loop’ to the Big Sable Lake and on to Lake Michigan. With some help from Max, the dog, Nick finds that fall is a fantastic time to explore Pure Ludington.
As the fall color season begins to turn northern Michigan into a leafy wonderland, Michelle Norton notes the state’s weather extremes have created conditions for a prolonged explosion of reds, oranges and yellows.
The September warmth being felt across the state is coming at a perfect time for golfers, according to Norton, the director of sales and marketing at the Otsego Resort in Gaylord.
“The stage is set for an incredible blast of color and we’re getting a lot of interest in people trying to squeeze in as much golf as they can,” said Norton.
It also helps that the resort, with two championship level courses in The Tribute and The Classic, has teed up great deals to tee off with two packages that place players on the courses with amazing views over a 20-mile swath of the Sturgeon River Valley. The Tribute winds through the woods and water while The Classic’s wide fairways are as forgiving as the tree-lined courses are beautiful.
“The courses really showcase the valley and all of its beauty,” Norton said.
Otsego Resort leaders have crafted these two offers:
- Play the Rick Robbins-designed Tribute any day from Sept. 15 to the end of the golf season for $55, and then replay it for $30 on the same day.
- Travel to the resort for The Classic, designed by William H. Diddel, and get a room, an 18-hole round in after 2 p.m. on the day of your arrival and then unlimited play on your departure day for $89, based on double occupancy.
The Tribute deal allows golfers to get in two rounds for the price of one, and The Classic offer costs significantly less than the regular rate for a night in the summer season, Norton said. She also noted that weekday rounds allow for a faster pace of play and give lodging package golfers the ability to maximize the unlimited play.
“We want people to experience some of the best golf in the state under the best circumstances,” she said. “Fall golf gives you better temperatures, you can still play into the evening and it’s an opportunity to focus on your game.”
Lights are coming to Otsego Resort’s back bowl
While the golf season winds down, Norton revealed exciting news for the winter ski season: Resort owners Gary and Kathie Vollmar are continuing to invest in the property by adding lights to the back slopes.
This winter, which will be only the second year that the resort’s slopes are open to the public after being a private club for 78 years, all 29 runs, three terrain parks and five lifts will operate into the night.
“The lights are a wonderful addition to the property, and it’s going to make for tremendous night skiing,” Norton said. “The excitement is building for people who are ready to ski here again or ski us for the first time. It goes right with the saying that we are the state’s oldest new ski resort.”
The property, which is about 1 mile off I-75 and downtown Gaylord, features a natural topography that created Michigan’s best ski bowl. The features allow the resort to start making snow earlier in the season and then keep it longer into the year.
Norton said the plan is to have a soft opening in mid-December and then go into the full season around the holidays. The staff also plans to see how long they can stretch the season into spring.
“We make a lot of snow, we get a lot of snow and we can move it around,” Norton said. “Just like people try to get all the golf in that they can before snow comes, skiers want to stay on the hills until they can’t. We want to be the spot to go at the start and at the end of the season.
The design of the property and the number of lifts also makes for short lines to get to the top of the hill even during peak skiing times. The lodge and its historic Logmark bar, a great restaurant to grab a drink and a bite to eat, sit above the runs instead of the usual shape where guests stare up at a mountain from the bottom of the slopes.
Norton said that resort leaders have held the skiing rates the same as the 2018 despite others in the region raising their prices.
The resort has also added a third tubing lane due to what Norton called an overwhelming response to the activity that appeals to adults as much as it does to kids. The third run shows a commitment to guests, Norton said.
“We know it’s popular, and we want people to be having fun, not waiting in line,” she said.
“We have a constant focus on what we can do to make a visit here the best possible experience. The Vollmars want this to be a resort that guests will love coming to the same way they love coming here.”