Looking for a place to enjoy fall this year? Here are three getaways you could try.
That’s why Eickhoff, executive director of Elkhart Lake Tourism, says that fall is an excellent time to visit her town. “The lake is beautiful, the weather’s beautiful, the colors are beautiful, and it’s just a little bit of a slower pace, and I think people really look forward to that,” she says, referring to the go-go nature of summer vacation time.
It may be a bit slower in Elkhart Lake, but there’s plenty going on there in fall. There’s lots of recreation, for example, including hiking in nearby Kettle Moraine State Forest and the Ice Age Trail, and paddleboarding or kayaking on the clear blue lake, which is still swimmable in September. Pontoon boat tours are still running, and so are races at Road America just south of town. There’s a popular vintage car festival there – including an invitation-only car display at the Osthoff Resort – from Sept. 14 to 16.
Also in close proximity is Wade House, a state historical site built around a onetime stagecoach stop. The site’s annual Civil War re-enactment – with over 500 re-enactors simulating battles, military drills, medical demonstrations and more – is set for Sept. 29-30. Wade House also hosts a fall celebration Oct. 13-14.
In the village itself, there’s a farmers market every Saturday into October, and plenty of good restaurant dining. “Many restaurants change menus seasonally,” says Eickhoff. “Many of them work with local farmers and purveyors, so that they have very fresh local ingredients that they’re using in their menus.” Then there’s a year-old nano-brewery, SwitchGear Brewing, offering house-made beers such as Resorter Red and Pontoon Pounder.
And the town is very walkable, so if you stay at one of the resorts, you’ll be close to everything.
Bayfield is also blessed with beautiful fall color, says Bob Gross, director of marketing at the Lake Superior port’s Chamber & Visitor Bureau.
And September is also full of activity up there.“Early in the fall, particularly in September and the first part of October, it’s still a great time to get out on the lake, to paddle at the sea caves, to take one of the boat tours out among the [Apostle] Islands or to hop on the ferry over to Madeline Island.” Local outfitters and a cruise line can fix you up with the right water transportation.
The city’s big fall festival, the Bayfield Apple Festival, Oct. 5-7, can draw 60,000 people to this community of 489. The event offers lots of chances to enjoy the products of the many orchards in the surrounding area: Booths sell apple pie, caramel apples and apple-and-whipped-cream waffle cones, along with other food and crafts. There’s also a parade featuring a mass marching band made up of 400-plus musicians from multiple high schools. “It’s quite something to see coming down Rittenhouse Avenue,” says Gross. And Saturday night, Alyssa Hauser, last year’s Apple Queen, will crown her 2018 successor
Bayfield is both the Gateway to the Apostle Islands and the Berry Capital of Wisconsin, and sometimes berries are still available for the picking in nearby farms in fall. To find out if they are, go to bayfield.org and click on the Berry Farm & Orchard Report button.
The city is also a “great place to get fresh seafood from Wisconsin’s North Coast,” says Gross, with the local commercial fleet bringing in a daily catch of whitefish and (depending on catch limits) brown and steelhead trout. Anglers often visit in fall, casting into river mouths with hopes of hooking spawning trout.
Muskegon County takes on a special charm in autumn. Lake Michigan and the autumn sky deepen to jewel tones that cause you to pause, and revel in autumn-hued rolling hills, forests, apple orchards, corn mazes and pumpkin patches.
You can drive the historic West Michigan Pike or steam over on the Lake Express ferry. When you arrive, there’s an experience tailored for everyone.
For the festive type, you can polka, jig or roll a pumpkin at Muskegon Polish Festival, Aug. 31-Sept. 1; Michigan Irish Music Festival, Sept. 13-16; Buster Keaton Convention & Film Festival, Oct. 5-6; Pumpkinfest, Oct. 13; or Depot to Depot Fall Color Tour on the Saturdays of Oct. 6, 13 and 20.
For the adventurous, you can learn the legends, myths and mysteries of Muskegon, with guided full moon midnight kayaking (starting time: 11 p.m.); trick or treating in a 115-year-old lighthouse; candlelit evening tours of the historic Hackley and Hume houses; “City of the Dead” Guided Cemetery Walks; Haunted Trail at Michigan’s Heritage Park; and a guided Downtown Muskegon Spooky Stroll.
For the athletic, you can pedal, paddle or get running at the Reebok Ragnar Relay Michigan, Sept. 28-29; join a year-round bike roll; kayak 23 inland lakes and 400 miles of river, lined in fall colors; and bike or hike dunes and more than 60 miles of trails.
For the museum- and music-minded, 14 museums cover everything from art to mastodons (some are seasonal; check hours at visitmuskegon.org), or take in live music and theater performances in charming historic or shiny new venues. (Don’t miss the beautiful Frauenthal Center, considered one of the best theaters in Michigan.)
For culinary and craft beverage devotees, visit three craft breweries and a downtown distillery, delight in award-winning dining and savor offerings from the Culinary Institute of Michigan.
Autumn can be your favorite season – and Muskegon can be your favorite place to enjoy it.