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.