10 Lesser-Known Cider Mills and Orchards across Michigan

Michigan orchards and cider mills bring back nostalgia of playing in leaves and haystacks, eating doughnuts or spending the day with family. Bring those feelings back by visiting a nearby cider mill, while also supporting local farmers! We hope you can use this list of lesser-known cider mills to start your own fall tradition or just try somewhere new! To find even more orchards near you, click here

Diehl’s Orchard & Cider Mill
Holly, MI

Family-owned and operated, Diehl’s Orchard & Cider Mill opened in 1954 to help families have lasting memories together. The mill is open daily through October and on the weekends in November. Located off a dirt road, it gives off an up north vibe in Southeast Michigan. The orchard is the perfect place to create autumn traditions and enjoy time together while viewing beautiful fall foliage. With a corn maze, petting farm, playground, an orchard and a hayride, there are so many activities to keep you and your family or friends busy. Not to mention between all of the apples, cider, doughnuts, jams and honey, it’ll be hard to choose just one item. You might end up bringing them all home!

Anderson & Girls Orchards/Gifts
Stanton, MI

Located in Mid-Michigan, this orchard is complete with a farm market, bakery, ice cream parlor and gift loft. The cider mill operates through Dec. 1. What’s incredibly interesting about this orchard is that there are barnyard animals like reindeer, camels, zebras, lemurs and more! This alone is worth the trip as kids will love to see and interact with these incredibly diverse animals that are rarely seen in Michigan, outside of zoos. Don’t miss Great Pumpkin Day on Oct. 22 where you can pick your own pumpkins, ride in a wagon or on a camel and participate in Kid’s Town.

Hayes Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch
Rock, MI

Have a great time in the U.P. with your family and friends through Oct. 30 at Hayes Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch, only open on the weekends. There is no shortage of activities here so you won’t ever get bored! Of course, hit the corn or hay maze, take a hay ride, participate in the photo contest, visit the pumpkin tree house with kids or sit around a campfire and relax. Come home with a huge pumpkin as a souvenir from your visit.

Photo Courtesy of Rowin Mulder

Photo Courtesy of Rowin Mulder

Erie Orchards & Cider Mill
Erie, MI

This orchard is located in the very southeastern corner of Michigan, near Ohio. This is a great place for a family outing. Don’t miss Kids Weekend on Oct. 8 and 9 where there will be child entertainment and magic shows, corn mazes, bonfires, a craft show and pony rides. Approximately 15,000 bushels of apples are harvested annually off 30 acres of apple trees. The varieties include Ida Red, Granny Smith, Northern Spy, Golden and Red Delicious and more. Be sure to check the website for information on each themed weekend in October. And set up a tour today!

Knaebe’s Mmmunchy Krunchy Apple Farm
Rogers City, MI

With a very interesting name, this Northern Michigan orchard is open Thursday through Sunday until Nov. 6. There are a ton of food and drink options, but be aware the bakery tends to sell out! Call ahead and place an order if there is something specific you’re looking to buy on your visit. A few for-sale items include homemade pies, doughnuts with bacon, apple and maple flavorings, apple crisp, apple cream cheese cake and a doughnut sundae! For first-timers, take a self-guided tour of the farm or get on a horse-drawn carriage ride or, for the kids, a pony ride. Don’t miss the tasting room featuring Twisted Roots Cider. Local hot dogs, brats and pizza are served as well.

Photo Courtesy of Amy Lijewski

Photo Courtesy of Amy Lijewski

The Jollay Orchards Farms
Coloma, MI

Jollay Orchards is open daily in Southwest Michigan. The Jollay family has been perfecting the craft of growing fruit since 1857! Jump on a hayride heading to the U-pick orchards which are well-maintained and manicured making it easy to choose your favorite apples among the many varieties grown. You can also visit the Farm Market for apple pies baked in brown paper bags and lots of other Michigan-made treats like jams, BBQ sauces and dumplings. Enjoy a stroll through the Animal Farm or Cornfield Maze, cast your line in the Fishing Pond or let the kids enjoy the playground area. The possibilities are endless!

Sietsema Orchards & Cider Mill
Ada, MI

Based in West Michigan, Sietsema Orchards was founded on the outskirts of Grand Rapids in 1934. Occasionally this location provides Farm to Table dinners, so be sure to regularly check the website to participate in those. They also create four different types of hard cider and just released a new one called Maggie’s Reserve. Proceeds from sales of Maggie’s Reserve will benefit Mercy Health Birth Center at Saint Mary’s. Contribute to a great cause while also having fun! Another reason to visit is to gather an amazing variety of apples and pumpkins.

Friske Orchards Farm Market
Ellsworth, MI

Since 1962, Friske Orchards Farm Market has been a family tradition in Northwest Michigan. The orchard grows and harvests approximately 5.5 million pounds of fresh Michigan fruit and produce annually and about 50,000 gallons of premium apple cider blends. It is open year around, bringing you their high-quality fruit and handcrafted specialty food products. Be sure to check out the Fruit Stand, Orchard Cafe, Old World Bakery, General Store, Country Haus Gift Shop, the seasonal children’s Orchard Playland and Barnyard Animal Petting Zoo, presenting options for everyone. Apple Fest Days are occurring Oct. 8 and 15 and are full of fun activities.

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Uncle John’s Cider Mill
St. Johns, MI

Located in Mid-Michigan, Uncle John’s is a local favorite. Back in the 1900’s the mill was used as a cattle barn, but now has been converted into a cider press and doughnut shop. Uncle John’s has won awards for their fresh cider and hard apple cider. Go visit and explore the five-acre corn maze, take a free wagon ride, visit the pumpkin patch or walk the nature trail. There are a ton of fun festivities happening this fall including Food Truck Friday, live music, inflatables and young children amusement rides. Don’t forget about their Cidery and Winery Tasting Room where you can try hard ciders, fruit wines and apple-flavored spirits. Note that they do not offer pick-your-own apples. A visit to this cider mill will be the trip of the season for your family or friends.

The Fruitful Orchard and Cider Mill
Gladwin, MI

This Mid-Michigan orchard will make for a perfect day trip. Open Monday through Saturday, the location offers cider slushies, made-from-scratch baked goods like cinnamon rolls, salsa and sauces as well as candles and gifts. Visit the observation area to see cider pressing in action. Be sure to call ahead to see what time the next press will occur. There are hay ride tours on Saturdays and a pumpkin patch where you can choose your next jack-o-lantern or to make pumpkin pie at home!

Where is your favorite cider mill or orchard? Let us know in the comments!

11 Michigan Attractions and Destinations Included in FamilyFun Magazine’s 2013 Travel Awards

What are some of the best vacation spots for families in America? FamilyFun magazine recently found out in their 2013 FamilyFun Travel Awards. By surveying 2,000 moms with children ages 3 to 12, they determined the top destinations, nature escapes, amusement parks, family-friendly resorts and more. We’re proud to see 11 Michigan spots listed and wanted to share a roundup below.

Did your favorite Pure Michigan destination make the list? Share with us in the comments section!

Favorite Family Destinations

Listed as one of the top 10 favorite family destinations by FamilyFun, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Empire, Michigan offers a breathtaking symphony of water, sky and towering sand dunes on our Lake Michigan shoreline. Its 64-mile curve of stunning beaches, forests, meadows and lakes is a sight to see any time of the year. Whether you’re looking to dune climb, hike one of the park’s many trails or just relax and take in the view, Sleeping Bear offers something for the whole family.

It’s no surprise that the area was also listed as one of the top 10 nature escapes.

Sleeping Bear Dunes was also named “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America in 2011.

Top Tourist Attractions

Not one, but four Michigan favorites made FamilyFun’s list of the top tourist attractions around the country.

Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City made the list at number four. At this 1770s-era fort and fur trading village, every day is kids’ day.

Coming in at number nine, The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn is often referred to as “America’s greatest history attraction.” From exploring rich culture at the museum to walking through the village or seeing something onscreen at the IMAX Theatre, there’s a multitude of history to uncover.

Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island rounds out the top 10. At Fort Mackinac, history is alive and every visitor is a part of it. Step inside and hear bugle music, rifle fire, and a cannon blast or dance to a 19th century tune, drill with soldiers and play Victorian children’s games. At Fort Mackinac you’re sure to step back in time to the 1880s.

Listed as a regional favorite by FamilyFun readers, Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie have been referred to as one of the great wonders of the world and are still the largest (and one of the busiest!) waterway traffic systems on earth. Watching huge vessels pass through the Locks is a unique experience that cannot be seen anywhere else in the United States.

Top Tourist Towns

Mackinaw City, Michigan is listed as the number one tourist town in the country by readers for its charm, history and many family-friendly attractions. Located in Cheboygan County at the very top of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, Mackinaw City is known as the gateway to the Upper Peninsula. While visiting, there’s no shortage of things for families to do and see – from taking in history at Colonial Michilimackinac, the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse and Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park, seeing stunning views from the Straits of Mackinac and enjoying famous Mackinac fudge.

Traverse City and Frankenmuth were also listed as regional favorites.

Top Nature Escapes

Sleeping Bear Dunes wasn’t the only Michigan-based destination listed as a top nature escape. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore also made the list as a regional favorite.

From multicolored sandstone cliffs, beaches, sand dunes, waterfalls, inland lakes, streams, forests and wildlife, the scenic area on Lake Superior that is Picture Rocks is certainly a sight to see. Activities include sightseeing, camping, kayaking, backpacking, hiking, fishing, hunting, picnicking, boating, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, a maritime museum, a lighthouse and a visitor’s center.

Family Resorts and Amusement Parks

The Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City was listed among regional favorite family resorts. The Lodge is a full-service, log cabin style Michigan resort with 281 northwoods-themed rooms that features a 38,000 square-foot indoor water park with 8 waterslides, 5 pools and a 4-story Tree House Water Fort. What more could your family ask for?

Another regional favorite is Michigan’s Adventure in Muskegon. As Michigan’s largest amusement and water park, Michigan’s Adventure offers more than 60 attractions including seven rollercoasters and over 20 water rides. Whatever level of excitement you’re looking for, it’s offered here for all ages.

Thank you to FamilyFun for including these Michigan attractions and destinations in your awards this year! For more things to do and see around Pure Michigan, please visit michigan.org.

Will your family be visiting one of these destinations this year?

I’m Goin’ to Jackson

Jennifer Bowman is a southwest Virginia native who moved to Michigan just over a year ago. Fascinated by travel and discovering new places, Jennifer spends her free time exploring Michigan towns and writing about her experiences on her blog, Wading in Big Shoes. Today, she fills us in on a recent day trip that she and her husband took to Jackson, Michigan.

When my husband and I planned a day trip to Jackson, we weren’t sure what was in store for us. In all honesty, we were out to explore, and considering the fact that the city was new to us and just on the outskirts of Metro Detroit, it seemed like the perfect solution to our last-minute agenda dilemma. So, with jackets and umbrellas in tow, we set out on a rainy Saturday morning to learn a little more about the city named for our seventh president.

We got to Jackson around lunch time, so we read some online restaurant reviews and settled on a little “dive” restaurant called the West Texas Barbeque Company. Knowing that the best food is often found in the humblest of places, we followed our GPS down a few back roads until we reached the bare-bones building, livened with a brightly-painted façade and a cozy, indoor atmosphere. Being from Virginia, I found myself very comfortable among the southern-style setup, and was happy to see that the other restaurant patrons were largely comprised of baseball cap-wearing, old pickup truck-driving people who also appreciated good food without the frills. Add to that a huge pulled pork sandwich so juicy that it must derive from a line of French dips, and you’ve got an afternoon in southern-inspired Heaven.

After stuffing ourselves to capacity, I would’ve been content with taking a nap until it was time to wake up for “Pulled Pork, Round Two,” but my husband and I had places to be. And so, it was off to Jackson’s historical pivot point, the old state prison.

Jackson’s first state prison, historically known as the hub of the city, produced a thriving labor force during the Industrial Revolution. Today, a large barrier wall still surrounds the campus while indoor jail cells and common areas have been transformed into a residence hall and artist workshop community. Intrigued by the notion of people living and creating masterpieces in a place originally intended to house criminals, I wandered the halls of the present-day armory, both fascinated by its history and creeped out by its eerily quiet hallways and iron-barred windows. The visit was made much more enjoyable, however, by colorful murals that sprawled across every wall and handcrafted mobiles that adorned well-lit corners. There was even a wedding reception setup going on in part of the building, complete with orange flower bunches and masses of origami cranes. If that isn’t proof of creatively utilizing space and making the most of places with dark pasts, I don’t know what is.

The rest of our afternoon entailed gawking at historic buildings in downtown Jackson, visiting the Sandhill Crane Vineyards and Winery (a beautiful, relaxed place run by self-proclaimed “Non-wine snobs”), and a jaunt through the Ella Sharp park and museum. Inside the museum, my husband and I evaluated rooms filled with modern artwork and historical artifacts from the city of Jackson, ranging from the jaw bone of a prehistoric mastodon through clothing and commercial products from the Civil War, Industrial Era, and recent years. My biggest discovery of the day? Jackson was the birthplace of the Republican Party. I never expected a quiet, little city to be so influential, but it goes to show that there’s history to be explored everywhere you go—even if it’s just a stone’s throw from home.

Jennifer Bowman is a southwest Virginia native who moved to Michigan just over a year ago. Fascinated by travel and discovering new places, Jennifer spends her free time exploring Michigan towns and writing about her experiences on her blog, Wading in Big Shoes. You can follow her on Twitter @JHBowman.