Four Characteristics of a Pure Michigan Fall

Today, guest blogger Shannon Saksewski from The Awesome Mitten shares a few key ingredients of fall in Pure Michigan.

15reasonstolovefall1Seasons.  A stark difference between four distinct seasons.  This is one of the several reasons why, despite opportunities, I haven’t felt truly compelled to move to another state.  It’s always been difficult for me to imagine living in a place where I couldn’t, in a broad sense, measure time by looking at the leaves.

Fall’s my favorite.  Fall is a favorite for a lot of people.  You’ve likely noticed by now that large retailers agree, especially if you’ve ever walked through their aisles in August—and sometimes July—when they start offering Halloween goodies and autumn decor.  Let’s set the retail goods aside for now, though, and focus on what makes Michigan truly special in the fall.

Colors
Oh, the glorious colors!  People from around the country flock to the Mitten in the fall to witness the flaming reds, oranges, yellows, and even burgundies.  Peak color varies throughout the state, but generally falls between mid-September through the end of October.  As a general rule, the farther north one travels, the earlier colors will peak.

Color tours are a popular fall activity for many Michigan residents and visitors.  Residents need not travel far in order to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of Michigan’s technicolor forests.  Over half of the state is forested—that’s over 19 million acres—and most of that consists of northern hardwoods (the color-changers, like maples).  Want to get on the road to see what all the fuss is about?  Here’s a list of color driving tours.  Prefer to get out of the car and see the sights up close?  Try these hiking and biking tours.

Bangor apple festApples
With 9.2 million apple trees, Michigan is the second-largest apple producing state in the US—and we have serious love for our orchards!  It seems like almost everyone, especially people who grew up here, has a favorite orchard.  My personal favorite is Wasem’s in Milan, very near where I grew up.  I love that place for its crisp Michigan apples, sure.  If you talk to someone about their favorite orchard long enough, though, you’ll likely realize that they’re not in it for the apples alone.  Orchards offer a range of goods and experiences.  For example, I contend that Wasem’s has the best donuts, cider, and apple butter in the universe.  (That’s a strong statement, and I’d love to debate the point—and taste-test—with any of you!)

Orchards offer much more than edible goods.  In addition, they are often home to Halloween-themed activities like haunted houses, haunted hay rides, and nighttime corn mazes.  For those less inclined to be purposefully terrified, check out the decorative goods, historical surrounds, demonstrations, and much more.  A visit to the orchard could be a brief stop, or an all-day affair.  Check out an old favorite, or search for a future favorite.  Regardless, enjoy!

FordfieldFestivals
Clearly, there’s a lot to celebrate about fall in Michigan.  Colors! Apples! Pumpkins! Alpacas!  Oh, and beer.  Check out this calendar of Michigan’s fall festivals.  At least a few of these are on my must-see list.  Which will you visit?

Football
We tend to take football pretty seriously in Michigan—to the point where some of us use “fall” and “football season” interchangeably.  Whether you’re a die-hard fan of Michigan’s own Detroit Lions or a  particular university, or are just in it for tailgating fun (or both), it’s possible that you closely associate football and fall.  Not too interested in football?  That’s OK.  There are plenty of orchards to visit instead of tailgating, cramming into a stadium, and/or yelling at the television.

What do you think?  What other festivals, places, or traditions are characteristic of fall in Michigan?

shannon-293x300Shannon Saksewski is a life-long resident of Michigan. Professionally, she is a healthcare strategist focusing on consumer experience and marketing.  She was trained, and has experience in, psychology, social work, and business at the University of Michigan.  Outside of work, she enjoys cooking, traveling, writing, and experimenting with local beer and craft cocktails.  Connect with Shannon on Twitter (@ssaksews), or LinkedIn.

From Our Fans: 18 Favorite Fall Traditions in Pure Michigan

Happy first day of fall! Brisk autumn air and vibrant fall foliage have arrived in Pure Michigan. The changing of the seasons holds a special meaning to everyone, and many Michiganders have created unique traditions to help them welcome and celebrate fall. We asked our fans on Facebook and Twitter to share theirs.

Here’s a roundup of just some the fantastic fall traditions our fans hold near and dear. 

Making apple butter, eating hot foods like chili, stew, soup again, wearing hoodies, decorating inside and outside with autumn things, smelling and feeling the crisp fall air. - Cathleen Lechowicz
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Picking fresh Michigan apples, taking one last camping trip and eating hot soup. - Donna M. Tardiff

Going to the cider mill to get cinnamon doughnuts. Yummy! - Deborah Buoncompagno

A trip to the farmers market, a stay on Mackinac Island, bonfires with marshmallows and fall color drives on the back roads. - Kerri Tang

Cider and donuts, pumpkins, fall color tours, trips up north, bonfires, hikes, farm days at Greenfield Village, first pot of chili, apple pie with apples from the orchard. - Shelly Bahr

My husband and I go camping with our son, daughter in law and two grandsons. The whole family goes to the cider mill together. Cider, doughnuts, hiking. It’s great. I love fall! - Lori Sikora

Pumpkin and apple pies, orange pumpkins and yellow mums on the porch, soups, stews, flannel shirts, down vests, boots, jeans and the smell of fallen leaves in the cool dusky evenings. - Lisa Hadden

Opening duck season with family. - Kyle Ransom

Photo by Dine Clark near Verona Township

Photo by Dine Clark near Verona Township

Crunching leaves on the trails.  Thanksgiving with my family – When the turkey is finished, we all watch the Lions vs. Packers game. - CaSondra Maass

Going to Treetops in Gaylord and taking in almost 360 degree view of Autumns splendor. - Kathy Brisbin Wagner

Canoeing down the river and fishing while the leaves float by! - Phillip Olt

I can’t forget Historic Bowens Mills for caramel apples, hot apple dumplings, and other treats. A great place to relax and enjoy a peaceful afternoon. - Ken Blum

Taking a trip down the Dowagiac River to see the fall colors. - Steph Bliss

Apple picking at Crane Orchards with my grandchildren, then making applesauce for the freezer. - Cinde Heston

Photo courtesy of Johnson's Giant Pumpkin Farm

Photo courtesy of Johnson’s Giant Pumpkins

Bell’s Brewery’s Best Brown Ale, Johnson’s Giant Pumpkin Farm, and Southern Michigan Railroad’s Fall Color Tour! - Paul McKellip

Visiting BlakeFarms is a must. #Fall. – Twitter user @DonnaMargara84

Evening walks in the crisp fall air, bonfires, decorating for Halloween, Witches Brew wine from Leelanau cellars. – Twitter user @JaimieMae1222

Taking friends up to Tahquamenon Falls. Can’t wait to be up north! – Twitter user @JandiPrich

What are your favorite ways to celebrate the fall season in Pure Michigan? 

An Off the Beaten Path Fall Color Tour in the Central U.P.

Jesse Land, founder of Things to do in the U.P., a website dedicated to helping people discover the best of the Upper Peninsula, fills us in on his recommendations for taking a fall color tour around the central U.P.

Check out Jesse’s last post for tips on taking a fall color tour around one of the U.P.’s most cherished areas – the Keweenaw Peninsula. Stay tuned for additional fall color tour ideas from Jesse later this season!

When most people think of a fall color tour in the Upper Peninsula, the central U.P. (the Iron Mountain – Menominee – Escanaba area) is not what they have in mind.

Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s actually pretty cool if you know where to look!

Breakfast

Let’s start off with breakfast in Iron Mountain, shall we? The tourists eat at the Holiday Kitchen. I suggest you do like the locals do and pop into B’s County Café (629 S. Stephenson) for an authentic Upper Peninsula greasy spoon experience. The service is always friendly and the women bustling behind the retro countertop sure make a mean breakfast! Try the French toast on homemade bread. My stomach is growling just thinking about it.

The Morning Drive

Here’s where you leave the pack behind. Head east out of Iron Mountain on the ever popular U.S. 2, but make a right at the caution light in Vulcan (just past the Iron Mountain Iron Mine but before Northwood’s Adventures) and pick up county road 577. This smooth, curvy road is lined with hardwoods and birch and always makes for a beautiful fall drive.

Follow 577 all the way to Menominee, where I’d recommend exploring the historic downtown waterfront district for a while before heading north on M-35. This scenic route follows the coast of Lake Michigan’s Green Bay, and connects Menominee to Escanaba. There are plenty of beachside pit stop opportunities along M-35 and there’s sure to be plenty of color!

Lunch

All of that sightseeing is bound to make a person hungry. If you’re in the mood for a sit down, quality (though somewhat pricey) meal, The Stonehouse is tough to beat. They’ve got consistently excellent food and terrific service. Ferdinand’s Mexican Restaurant is a great place for a casual lunch, and if you’re looking to keep on trucking, grab a couple sub sandwiches from D&M subs and hit the road.

If you feel like stretching your legs a little while in town, drive down Ludington Street until you reach Lake Michigan, then park and walk around. The Sand Point Lighthouse is probably the most popular landmark in Escanaba, but the House of Ludington is also fun to check out.

Now it gets Interesting

Kitch-iti-Kippi (say that three times fast) in Palms Brook Sate Park, also known as “Big Spring”, is a standout attraction of this general region. And from Escanaba, you’re about fifty two miles away. Follow U.S. 2 east to county road 442 and then follow the signs from there. You’ll enjoy gazing down at huge trout as you float over Michigan’s largest natural spring. The water is crystal clear and the sand “erupting” below as water bursts upward through the ground is really something to see!

In my opinion, the Garden Peninsula is one of the most overlooked parts of the Upper Peninsula, and that’s where you’re headed next.

From Kitch-iti-Kippi, backtrack a couple miles on U.S. 2 then head south on county road 183, the road that heads to Fayette State Park. You’ll pass both the Garden Bay Winery and Threefold Vine Winery (wine tour, anyone?), as well as a couple art galleries. Of course, the standout feature here is Fayette Historic State Park, but one could just as easily spend the rest of the day exploring the Garden Peninsula’s other gems and beautiful fall colors.

County road 183 is a wonderful drive and the colors in this area are gorgeous in the fall. But best of all, since this is an off the beaten path fall color tour, you’ll have it all to yourself!

Jesse Land is the founder of Things to do in the U.P., a website dedicated to helping people discover the best of the Upper Peninsula. To learn about the best things to do in the U.P., follow Jesse on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thingstodointheup.