Jackson - Ann Arbor - Monroe

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For a dose of Michigan history with your fall color tour, take this 195-mile trip through southeast Lower Peninsula and follow old Indian trails and territorial roads, an early tavern, a battlefield, the hometown of an infamous general, and even a winery or two. The colors along the mostly two-lane highway route are usually best from mid-to-late October.

Best Enjoyed: Mid to Late October
Approximate Length: 195 miles

Begin your tour in the city named for President Andrew Jackson. A state historical marker at Second and Franklin streets in Jackson declares that on July 6, 1854, "Under the Oaks" the first Republican Convention was held and a new political party was born.

Take Business US-127/M-50 northwest out of Jackson to I-94/US-127 east a short distance to M-106/Cooper Road and then Bunkerhill Road. Follow M-106/Cooper Road northeasterly path to Territorial Road. Turn right and travel east to Parks Road, where you may decide to turn right for a visit to the largest park in the Lower Peninsula. Pass the seasonal Waterloo Farm Museum and continue on to the Waterloo State Recreation Area. The 20,000 acre site contains 11 lakes, varying terrain crisscrossed by 47 miles of hiking trails and mountain biking trails. It is also home of the Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center, which offers nature programs and exhibits to do with the state's geologic history.

Continue on Territorial Road to M-52 and head south to charming Chelsea, which bakers will know as the home of the Jiffy Mix company (aka Chelsea Milling) and movie buffs and playgoers will recognize as the home of actor Jeff Daniels and his Purple Rose Theatre. Enjoy lunch at the Common Grill and browse the shops and art galleries before taking M-52, now Manchester Road, to Pleasant Lake Road. Travel eastwardly past Pleasant Lake, then jog north on Wagner Road briefly to the Ann Arbor-Saline Road. Cruise into Ann Arbor and stroll the University of Michigan campus. There's no charge to walk the trails of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and 123-acre Nichols Arboretum on Dixboro Road.

Continue the color tour by slipping briefly onto I-94 east toward Ypsilanti, home of Eastern Michigan University. At Exit #183 follow the signs to Merritt Road and Wiard's Orchards (since 1853) for fresh squeezed apple cider, or continue along Whittaker Road south to Bemis Road, then follow Bemis Road east to Sumpter Road south to Zink Road. Turn west to the tiny town of Maybee, named for an early 19th century settler and mill owner. Take Bluebush Road southeasterly to M-125/Monroe Road south to Monroe. If you'd like to see Michigan's Lake Erie shore, take a detour along Dixie Highway to Sterling State Park. Its located at the River Raisin and its marshes attract wildlife and many species of birds.

Monroe is one of the state's oldest settlements, thanks to Francois Navarre who left Detroit in 1780 and invited French families from Canada to join him along the banks of the River Raisin. Originally called Frenchtown, the city was named for President James Monroe in 1817. Visit the fine small museums and the battlefield to learn about the history of the hometown of General George Armstrong Custer, and the role that Monroe played in the War of 1812, including a bloody battle and massacre.

Follow M-50 west to Dundee and shop for outdoor supplies at Cabela's, a 225,000-square foot indoor playground for good sports. Continue westward to Tecumseh and visit the historical museum in a 1913 stone church, or pause along its main street shops and cozy places to stop for coffee or tea, tucked into historic buildings. Sample the local fruit of the vine at Pentamere Winery, then stay on M-50 westward to Hidden Lake Gardens. The 750-acre preserve, managed by Michigan State University, features a paved auto road and six miles of hiking trails through forests and open fields.

Continue west to Cambridge Junction, at the crossroads of M-50 and US-12, where Walker Tavern has stood since the early 19th century and was an important stopping point for stagecoaches traveling between Detroit and Chicago. The State Historic Park/Complex is open seasonally. 

This area of gently rolling hills, dotted with more than 50 lakes, was called the Irish Hills by its early settlers and has long been a resort and vacation area. A popular destination is Walter J. Hayes State Park on Wamplers Lake, off US-12 just four miles east of Cambridge Junction.

Head west on US-12 and pause at the Cherry Creek Cellars' Old Schoolhouse Winery tasting room. Sample the wine from the vineyard located near Albion, and pick up gourmet foods and fudge.

Continue a couple of miles west to US-127/Meridian Road north to Jackson, and cap your tour with a visit to another local winery located just northeast of Jackson. To reach the vineyard and tasting room take US-127 to I-94 east to Exit 145. Follow Sargent Road north to Brills Lake Road, turn right and at Walz Road turn left.

Over a sampling of wines in the tasting room at Sandhill Crane Vineyards, named for the birds that find refuge at the nearby Audubon sanctuary, relax and salute autumn, the harvest season, and a colorful, Pure Michigan, experience.
Watkins Lake State Park
1220 Wamplers Lake Road
Onsted, MI 49265
Phone: (517) 467-7401
Watkins Lake State Park become Michigan’s 103rd state park and will be the first state park in Michigan to be jointly managed with a county recreation agency. Adoption of a formal management plan to guide the development of the park will take place following a series of yet to be scheduled public input meetings. The park’s planned recreational offerings include hiking, bird watching, upland hunting, mountain biking and other activities.
Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center
17030 Bush Road
Chelsea, MI 48118
Phone: (734) 475-3170
The Eddy Discovery Center, at the Waterloo Recreation Area near Chelsea, introduces visitors to the fascinating world of geology and to the diverse natural habitats that are found today within Waterloo's 20,000-plus acres.
Chelsea Milling
201 West North Street
Chelsea, MI 48118
Phone: (734) 475-1361
We are the world headquarters of nationally known Jiffy Mix baking products. Enjoy a slide show highlighting the history of the mills. After a snack you'll tour the factory in operation. Don't forget your souvenir box of Jiffy Mix. Then walk around Chelsea's friendly downtown district. Tours are held by appointment only.
The Purple Rose Theatre Company
137 Park Street
Chelsea, MI 48118
Reservations: (734) 433-7673
Phone: (734) 433-7782
The Purple Rose Theatre Company (PRTC) is the home of world-class, original American theatre. The PRTC is a professional theatre company with roots in the Midwest that takes a handcrafted, artisanal approach to producing new and classic American plays that are nothing less than one-of-a-kind experiences. Founder: Jeff Daniels. Performances Wednesdays-Sundays. Ticket price is dependent on performance time. $15-$42 with discounts for Seniors (62+), Teachers, Members of the Military and 1/2 price tickets for Students.
The Common Grill
112 South Main Street
Chelsea, MI 48118
Phone: (734) 475-0470
Conveniently located in Downtown Chelsea, near the Purple Rose Theatre, this upscale casual venue, is a mix of modern and old-fashioned, housed in a gloriously restored 100-year old building. The menu serves up dishes to tempt your taste buds ranging from assorted pastas to grilled steak. Salads and lighter fare are also available. And, a must-have for chocolate lovers is their Chocolate Tower! Diners also enjoy friendly, professional service. Chef Craig is the author of The Common Grill Cookbook that features 150 of Chef's recipes. Jazz on Tuesday evening. A private dining room is available for parties of 24 or more. Due to its popularity, reservations are suggested. 

Matthaei Botanical Gardens - University of Michigan
1800 N. Dixboro Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
Phone: (734) 647-7600
Our 350 acres include four nature trails, mature woodlands, wetlands, ponds and a tall grass prairie. We have specialty gardens that feature a native Michigan woodland wildflower garden, a shade garden and a perennial and rose garden. The Herb Knot Garden features medicinal, fragrant, everlasting and culinary herbs. The conservatory contains tropical, warm temperature and desert plant species. We also have an Ethnobotanical Trail, a gateway garden of new world plants and a reconstructed wetland. Be sure to visit the Gardens Gift Shop that houses a variety of nature themed fine art items such as jewelry, blown glass and other items. Hours are open daily 10:00am-4:30pm.
University of Michigan Nichols Arboretum
1610 Washington Hts.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Phone: (734) 647-7600
Throughout Nichols Arboretum, called the "Arb" by locals and students and located near the University of Michigan''s central campus, you'll find many special places. The Arb has extensive but dispersed collections of native and exotic trees and shrubs masterfully crafted into a naturalistic landscape begun by O. C. Simonds in 1907. As you explore you'll find one of the richest landscapes in the region that presents vast panoramas, broad valleys, and intimate dales and glens. Special features of the Arb include the Peony Garden - the largest collection of heirloom peonies in North America - river settings, trails, a prairie, amphitheater, visitor center and more. Free admission.
Wiard's Orchards & Country Fair
5565 Merritt Road
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
Phone: (734) 390-9211
Wiard's Orchards, Cider Mill, Country Store and Country Fair opens mid September and runs through October 31, each year. Summer and Fall Wiard's hosts private picnic events. Wiard's has been custom designing company picnics for over 20 years. We specialize in providing events that are work-free for the client. The Country Store opens the Tuesday after Labor Day with hours Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm, closed on Monday. U-pick apples, pumpkins, cider mill, donut shop, bakery, pony rides, hayrides, birthday parties and corn maze on Fall Country Fair weekends mid September through October 31. Country Fair hours 10:00am - 6:00pm. Evening Hayrides available. Night Terrors - Michigan's Premier Haunted Thrill Park open Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings in October.
Wm. C. Sterling State Park
2800 State Park Road
I-75 Exit 15
Monroe, MI 48162
Reservations: (800) 447-2757
Phone: (734) 289-2715
The only state park on Lake Erie, conveniently located just off I-75 in Monroe, and an easy drive from many Midwestern destinations including Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Chicago and Windsor. Wm. C. Sterling State Park's 1,300 acres offer great recreational opportunities such as: over one mile of beach front for sunning and/or swimming; public boat launch with parking space for 250 vehicles; shore fishing on Lake Erie and the fishing lagoons; lakefront camping w/ 256 sites (79 offer full hook-up), 50 amp electric service, modern restrooms & picnic area; wildlife viewing and six miles of trails for cross country skiing and hiking.
Cabela's Outfitters Superstore
110 Cabela Blvd East
Dundee, MI 48131
Toll Free: (800) 237-4444
Phone: (734) 529-4700
The World's Foremost Outfitter is a destination store for all members of the family. Cabela's features a 48 ft mountain, 65,000 gallon aquarium, museum quality displays of wild animals and much more! We serve deli style items that feature sandwiches, soups, salads and more. Sample venison brats, ostrich and other exotic foods. If you are an outdoor enthusiast or just enjoy spending the day shopping in a warm and friendly environment, Cabela's is for you! Just minutes from Silver Bells Christmas Shoppe, Dundee Farm Market, Downtown Dundee restaurants, shops, museum and more. Hotels and Splash Universe on campus. Easy drive from Toledo, Ann Arbor, Detroit and Michigan International Speedway. Ten minutes from Downtown Monroe and Lake Erie! Visit Wm. C. Sterling State Park, Monroe County Historical Museum, River Raisin Battlefield and more. Enjoy events like the Mayfly Music Festival, River Raisin Jazz Festival and Monroe County Fair. For your FREE Authentic Monroe County visitor guide email [email protected] or visit www.monroeinfo.com
Pentamere Winery
131 E. Chicago Blvd.
Tecumseh, MI 49286
Phone: (517) 423-9000
Michigan's first urban winery. Pentamere Winery is an urban boutique winery, located in historical downtown Tecumseh, Michigan. Our passion is to explore the distinctive native characteristics and rich diversity of grapes and fruit grown in the Great Lakes Basin. We have hand crafted high quality wines, which will satisfy the most avid connoisseur and delight the inquisitive newcomer. Pentamere is known for our delightfully sweet and light fruit wines as well as our big dry reds.
Hidden Lake Gardens
6214 Monroe Road
Tipton, MI 49287
Phone: (517) 431-2060
755-acre botanical garden features include greenhouse complex, lake, picnic area, 6-mile paved scenic drive. Thousands of labeled trees, shrubs and flowers, appealing to a great variety of interests, are on display in indoor and outdoor collections. Featured indoor plants include: bamboo, banana, cocoa, coffee, sugarcane, tapioca and vanilla among many others. More than five miles of marked hiking trails. Visitor Center with informative exhibits.
Cambridge Junction Historic State Park / Walker Tavern Historic Site
13220 M-50
Brooklyn, MI 49230
Phone: (517) 467-4401
In the mid 19th century, a stagecoach ride from Detroit to Chicago was a grueling five-day trip. Today, Sylvester Walker's stagecoach stop along that historic route offers stories of Michigan's agricultural and travel heritage. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day.
W.J. Hayes State Park
1220 Wamplers Lake Road
Onsted, MI 49265
Reservations: (800) 447-2757
Phone: (517) 467-7401
Established in 1920 the park covers approximately 654 acres. In a scenic setting, 185 modern campsites and two mini-cabins are nestled in wooded, rolling hills next to Round Lake (a no wake lake). Campers have access to Wamplers Lake, an all sports lake. Features include sand beaches, shaded picnic areas, boat launch, concession stand, canoe, rowboat, tube and paddle boat rentals, horseshoe pits, volleyball net and playground. In the heart of the Irish Hills with close proximity to Michigan International Speedway. Metal detecting area.
Cherry Creek Old Schoolhouse Winery & Fudgery
11000 Silver Lake Hwy.
( US 12 - 3 miles East of US 127)
Brooklyn, MI 49230
Phone: (517) 592-4663
For over 100 years, four generations of Burtka’s have been making wines in this country for the enjoyment of their family and friends. Nestled in the Irish Hills, minutes from several lakes and Michigan International Speedway, John & Denise Burtka have created a new destination for wine lovers. Based on their European roots, they built a boutique winery that makes award winning wines, using old world hand crafting. Located in a Historic 1870 Schoolhouse, this is one stop you don't want to miss! Come and taste their Award Winning Wines at the knotty pine bar. Sample Cherry Creeks freshly made Butter Fudge, or taste their Michigan Cherry Preserves. Sample gourmet items like fresh pressed Artisan Olive Oil or 18 year old Balsamic Vinegar from Modena Italy, all bottled on site for you. Shop our many fine Michigan products and wine gifts, and even create that special Gift Basket. As a rule, all visitors under the age of 12 are required to ring the 138 year old school bell ONCE before their parents will be served. In the summertime have a glass of wine, beer or cider while you enjoy food from the Schoolhouse Cafe while sitting under the pergola overlooking the vineyards and lake or listening to our Thursday & Saturday entertainment. Come visit our family at the friendly winery.......Cherry Creek!
Sandhill Crane Vineyards
4724 Walz Road
Jackson, MI 49201
Phone: (517) 764-0679
Sandhill Crane Vineyards is located east of Jackson, just minutes from Detroit, Ann Arbor and Lansing. This small family-run vineyard and winery features award-winning estate-grown wines. Winery and cafe hours Monday - Saturday 11 - 6; Sunday 12 - 6. Public winery tours Saturdays at 12pm and Sunday at 1pm. Other times by appointment. Our new cafe serves wine-friendly foods made with local ingredients. If you are planning to bring a group of 13 or more to eat at our cafe, we require that you order in advance. The winery also features a seasonal tasting room inside the Dexter Cider Mill, 3685 Central St, Dexter. The cider mill and tasting room are open late August through mid-November. Hours are Fri & Sat 11-5 pm and Sun 12-5 pm.