26 Things to Do in Michigan This Fall: Travel the Mitten’s A to Z Guide
Summer is coming to an end in Michigan, and our attention now turns to cooler temperatures, Halloween, and the changing colors of leaves throughout the state. The Pure Michigan campaign continues to draw attention to the amazing autumn colors in the state, but that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fall fun in the Mitten State. Scenic drives, apple orchards, harvest festivals, beer festivals and more are just a few of the things we’ll showcase here in our A to Z guide. For more ideas, check out our 10 Amazing Places for Fall Color in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and 10 Amazing Places for Fall Color in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Snow will be here soon, so get out and enjoy everything Michigan has to offer before the temperature drops below freezing!
Artprize in Grand Rapids - The eighth installment of the world’s largest art competition will see some changes from previous installments: previous winners cannot enter again and no venue can have more than two entries advance to the Final 20 for voting. More than 400,000 people have come to downtown Grand Rapids each year for previous versions of ArtPrize, which will award two $200,000 grand prizes and eight category awards, more than $500,000 is awarded with half decided by public vote, and half decided by a jury of art experts. Check out our photo galleries from 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2010 and 2009 for some examples of the art that has been featured in previous years. We also put together a list of 10 Venues to Check Out last year, and most of those will be back in action again this year. Find the full details for this contest at https://www.artprize.org/.
Basketball Returns – The state of Michigan has two basketball teams that should have your attention. The Detroit Pistons return to work on October 27th with an away game (schedule here). Michigan residents can welcome the Pistons back home on October 28th when the team makes their home debut against the Orlando Magic. The Pistons have nine home games in the months of October and November with opponents including the New York Knicks, Miami Heat, and Oklahoma City Thunder. The Pistons will be looking to improve on their 8th place finish in the Eastern Conference this season. The Grand Rapids Drive will kick off their third season as the Pistons affiliate in the NBA D-League. Three home games (schedule) are featured by the Drive in November.
Charlevoix Hobbit Houses – During a recent visit to Charlevoix, we were reminded how this great small Michigan town has some of the most unique houses around. Charlevoix features “Hobbit Houses” designed by Earl Young. From 1918 to the 1950s, Young built 80 of these homes. These houses that resemble the Hobbit Houses in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie trilogies are the perfect way to celebrate Hobbit Day on September 22nd. First proclaimed a holiday in 1978, Hobbit Day celebrates the birthdays of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. Some of the most photographed houses can be found on Park Avenue, near Lake Michigan and the Charlevoix Lighthouse.
Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon - Registration for the international marathon and international 10K may be closed, but there are still other races you can enter as part of the Detroit Free Press Marathon weekend. The Priority Health 10K covers Belle Isle, the Riverwalk, and several of Detroit’s historic districts. The American Home Fitness 5K runs past the Riverwalk, the Ren Center and more. The Meijer Kids Fun Run takes place on Saturday at William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor. Check out all the details at http://www.freepmarathon.com/, and if you don’t plan on running consider stopping by anyway to cheer on runners and take in the scene of thousands of runners in downtown Detroit.
Erebus – One of Michigan’s most highly regarded haunted attractions is Erebus in Pontiac, which held the Guinness World Record for world’s longest walk-through haunted attraction from 2005 to 2009. How scary is Erebus? Just check out their answer from their FAQ section: “Yes! We’ve been voted one of the top haunts in the nation by numerous sources, received many awards and have been featured on the Travel Channel, Discovery Channel and other television networks. Everybody has a different FEAR threshold and we do our best to accommodate everybody. You will laugh, scream, giggle and tremble with or at your friends, but most importantly, you will have a great time bonding with your family and friends as you hold onto each other for dear life!” Erebus was also featured on A&E Channel’s “My Ghost Story” to highlight paranormal activity at the haunted attraction. Head over to http://www.hauntedpontiac.com/ for more details, including ticket information, directions and pictures.
Fallasburg Fall Fest – Head to Lowell September 16 and 17 to enjoy the 48th annual Fallasburg Fall Festival, a two-day event that features art booths, craft demonstrations, live music and more at beautiful and historic Fallasburg Park. The covered bridge here is one of the few left in the state that you can still drive a vehicle across. Admission is free and you can find out more at http://www.lowellartsmi.org/.
Grand Rapids Comic Con – The Grand Rapids Comic Con comes back to the larger size Devos Place for the 2016 event. On October 21st, 22nd, and 23rd, the city of Grand Rapids will welcome and feature actors and writers from popular science-fiction, zombie, and comic related series. This year is highlighted by a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reunion featuring co-creator Kevin Eastman and three actors who played Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael in the 1990 movie. Julian Glover is be a popular draw with acting credits including Game of Thrones, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, For Your Eyes Only, and Doctor Who. I attended this event in 2015 for two of the days and can’t wait to go back.
Hops and Props on the River – The 5th annual Hops and Props event is celebrated in Manistee on September 17th. This cool event features beers (hops) from 25 Michigan breweries and classic boats (propellers) that make for one heck of a day. Get a load of this list of breweries: Founders, Kuhnhenn, Dark Horse, Arbor Brewing, Starving Artist, Right Brain, New Holland, Saugatuck Brewing, Virtue, Griffin Claw, Douglas Valley, Schmohz, Shorts, Jolly Pumpkin, Bells, Blackrocks, Tapisty, Blakes Hard Cider, Mountain Town, Petoskey Brewing, Brewery Terra Firma, Unruly Brewing, Stormcloud Brewing, Northpeak Brewery, Fetch Brewery, Grand River Brewery. Tickets can be purchased for $20 in advance or $25 at the event. Each ticket comes with a tasting glass and six drink tokens. The boat show kicks off the event going from 10am to 7pm. Beer samples can be had from 2pm to 8pm. Live music from Flat Broke (2pm to 3:30pm), Mojohammer (3:30pm to 5pm), and Delilah Dewylde (5pm to 7pm) will also keep guests entertained.
Ice Cream – Summer may be almost over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy all you can eat ice cream. This fall, take part in a world record attempt in Nashville, Michigan. The event will be held at noon on September 17th. The city will try to regain its crown of world’s largest ice cream sundae. The city held the title (1850 feet) for three weeks before losing to a small New Zealand town (1957 feet and 1 inch). Michigan’s own House of Flavors in Ludington took the title with a monstrous ice cream sundae earlier this year (2640 feet). Now, Nashville will attempt to get its own record back with the help of Nashville’s own Mooville Creamery, the provider of ice cream for the world record attempt. Color changing spoons for the event cost $2 before the event or $3 the day of. We’re big fans of Mooville and would highly recommend enjoying their ice cream and breaking a world record in the process.
Joe Louis Arena Farewell Season - The 2016-2017 NHL season will be a bittersweet one for Detroit Red Wings fans. This marks the last year the Red Wings will play in the Joe Louis Arena, the team’s home since 1979. The Red Wings will celebrate all season long with special events and giveaways. The team kicks off its farewell season with its first home game on October 17th versus the Ottawa Senators. Giveaways in October and November include a Gordie Howe Poster, Gordie Howe Statue Replica, Ted Lindsay Statue Replica, and Dylan Larkin Bobblehead. The months of October and November feature 13 home games at Joe Louis Arena.
Klackle Orchards in Greenville – Just north of Grand Rapids is where you’ll find one of the state’s premiere destinations for family fun, u-pick apples and an excellent selection of pumpkins. A corn maze, wagon rides and a farm market with “creative mix of specialty foods, cheeses, baked goods, and lots of other delicious treats” are just a few more reasons to check out Greenville’s Klackle Orchards. Head over to http://www.klackleorchards.com/ for more information, including more about The Pavilion – a sports complex on the orchard property.
Lakeview Arena – The Lakeview Arena in Marquette will host a NHL preseason game on October 4th. The game, which features the Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres, is the prize for Lakeview Arena winning the Kraft Hockeyville USA contest. Along with the prize of hosting a NHL preseason game, the arena received $150,000 for arena upgrades. Opened in 1973, this hockey rink has great history as the home of the Marquette Iron Rangers of the USHL, the first North American hockey team to sign a female player. From 1976 to 1999, the rink was the home of Northern Michigan University’s hockey team, which won the NCAA Tournament in 1991 and had great success during this period of time. Rock band KISS also performed at Lakeview Arena in 1985. Detroit is Hockeytown and sees its share of NHL games every season. Lakeview Arena offers a great opportunity for Michigan residents to take in some NHL hockey in the Upper Peninsula for a change.
M-22 Scenic Drive - Last year Michigan’s M-22 highway won USA Today/10best.com’s Reader’s Choice Poll for Best Scenic Autumn Drive. This 166 mile long highway is full of spectacular fall color as it passes through small towns, past lakes and runs through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Towns on the route or near to it include Frankfort, Suttons Bay, Traverse City, Glen Arbor, Northport and Empire. The route has become incredibly popular in recent years, even forcing the state to start replacing the M-22 signs (like the one shown above) with ones that omit the M due to high theft. Find out more and check out gear at http://www.m22.com/.
North Country Trail Day – Michigan has more mileage on the 4,600 mile long North Country Trail than any other state, so there will be plenty of special events statewide on September 26 for North Country National Scenic Trail Day. Events in Marquette, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Ada, White Cloud, Middleville, Irons and the Jordan Valley will include guided trail hikes, festivals and more. Find out more at https://northcountrytrail.org/north-country-national-scenic-trail-day-september-26/. You can check out our earlier posts on trail segments in Rockford, Middleville, Lowell and the Upper Peninsula as well. You also still have the chance to earn prizes by hiking 100 miles on the NCT in 2016.
Oktoberfest Events in Michigan – There are numerous Oktoberfest Events in Michigan to celebrate the popular holiday. We chose to highlight two of the events in this A to Z guide. The Atwater Bloktoberfest event takes place on September 24th. Bloktoberfest runs 1pm to 11:30 and features Atwater beers, live music, local food, and German games to celebrate the holiday. An Oktoberfest celebration in Grand Rapids is held over the two day period of September 23rd and 24th. This event is free with plenty of free parking. Drink wristbands do cost $5 as do the drinks and food items at the event. This Oktoberfest West Michigan event is held at the John Ball Zoo. The event is labled as Beer City’s only BIER Festival.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 50th Anniversary (10/15) – 2016 is a big year for the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, as they have been busy celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and are also celebrating their 50th anniversary. October 15th marks 50 years that Pictured Rocks has been a National Lakeshore, and it is one of the Upper Peninsula’s best places for fall color. Special events continue this fall, including Au Sable Day on September 17th (at the Au Sable Point Lighthouse). Find out more at nps.gov and check out some of our posts about the lakeshore, including 50 Things to do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 8 Pictured Rocks Day Hikes, Kayaking Pictured Rocks with Uncle Ducky Outdoors and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Photo Gallery.
Quilts in Cheboygan – The city of Cheboygan features the Cheboygan Quilt Walk, which can be found at the Cheboygan Chamber of Commerce in Washington Park. There are more than 80 colorful patterned quilts on display. This quilt walk began when local artists submitted drawings for a “Barns” theme. The committee was surprised by how many quilt on barns submissions they received that they decided to do this quilt walk.
River Raisin National Battlefield Park special events - The River Raisin National Battlefield Park has a few special events left on their calendar this year, so consider making a trip to Monroe to visit this historic site from the War of 1812. September will see the battlefield host a POW Trail of Flags and Clash of Cultures: A Walk Through Time & Rally Point on the Raisin. In October, you can visit and check out a Detroit International Wildlife Refuge Presentation, a Custer and the Veterans of the Battle Reunion presentation, Black Powder Demo Day, Spirits of the River Raisin and a Life of a Fur Trapper in the 1800s event. November brings on the Harvest Tea, and a Veterans Day Display. Head over to https://www.nps.gov/rira/planyourvisit/things2do.htm for more information. Nearly 400 Americans were killed and another 500+ were taken prisoner, in what was the worst defeat for American forces during the War of 1812 as well as the deadliest conflict on Michigan soil. This hallowed ground became a National Park site in 2009 and is located at 1403 East Elm in Monroe.
Somewhere in Time Anniversary – On October 3rd 1980, the film Somewhere in Time was released in theatres. The movie would not be a huge commercial success, but would gain a cult following. In Michigan, we known the movie as the one that was filmed on Mackinac Island and allowed automobiles there for a short time. We have highlighted some filming locations on the island from the movie. The Grand Hotel also hosts a Somewhere in Time Weekend each year. Jane Seymour showed up for last year, which marked the 35th anniversary of the movie. While Seymour won’t likely return to Mackinac Island in October, there’s no reason you can’t go and see the locations that make this Michigan made movie so special.
Tawas Point Haunted Lighthouse Weekend - Get the rare chance to climb to the top of a Michigan lighthouse at night by visiting the Tawas Point Lighthouse the weekend of October 7th to 9th. “Activities include a Halloween dance, hay rides, campsite decorating, games for all ages, entertainment, pumpkin painting, lighthouse tours, lighthouse store, concessions, maritime themes, corn husk doll making and trick or treating in the campground (for campers only).”
US-23 Heritage Route – Some of Michigan’s best fall color can be found on the “Sunrise Side” of the Lower Peninsula, along the Lake Huron shore. This scenic route passes through Arenac, Iosco, Alcona, Alpena, Presque Isle and Cheboygan counties, passing historic sites like the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse, 40 Mile Point Lighthouse, River Road Scenic Byway, family fun and adventure, local food and shopping options, and plenty of outdoor fun. Check out maps and details at http://www.us23heritageroute.org/.
Vander Mill – Cider is a fall favorite and Michigan is blessed with some great places that make their own cider. Vander Mill recently expanded to add a Grand Rapids location. We visited their original Spring Lake location in 2015 and were impressed with how the venue was set up to enjoy cider and food, but also as a great place for families with an old fashioned tractor ride, and numerous playhouses in the yard. The cider is great at Vander Mill as well and we look forward to having some this fall.
Wear Plaid for Plaidurday on October 7th – If you’ve been around Travel the Mitten long enough, you may remember our coverage of Plaidurday in 2015. Yes, this is a real holiday and we celebrate it by wearing plaid proudly. The holiday was created in 2011 by Junior “Bugsy” Sailor, a native of the Upper Peninsula. Bugsy Sailor is best described as a “part ginger, full Yooper, plaid-wearing man”. This year, Plaidurday will be celebrated on October 7th (the first Friday in October every year). We also celebrate Lumberjack Day, a similar holiday, on September 26th, giving you lots of time to wear plaid this fall. Plaidurday events normally take place in Lansing and Marquette.
Xtreme Circus – Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey bring their latest version of the circus to Grand Rapids and Auburn Hills this fall. This version is being called “Circus Xteme” and promises xtreme family x-citement with x-traordinary events, un-xpected thrills, x-hilarating entertainment, and x-otic animals. The Circus Xtreme features camels, Bengal tigers, a comedy troupe of comedic canines, high wire stunts, aerialists, a professional dardevil, BMX rides, and human cannonballs. Circus Xtreme will visit Grand Rapids first coming to Van Andel Arena for the dates of 9/29 (7pm), 9/30 (7pm), 10/1 (3pm and 7pm), and 10/2 (1pm). The Circus Xtreme will come back to Michigan later in November. Dates for the circus at the Palace of Auburn Hills are 11/10 (7:30pm), 11/11 (11am, 7:30pm), 11/12 (11:30am, 3:30pm, 7:30pm), and 11/13 (1pm, 5pm). Tickets start at $12 and can be purchased here.
Yooper Celebrations - Celebrate Upper Peninsula pride on September 6th (9/06) or at the Bay de Noc UPtoberfest (10/8). The U.P.’s largest beer and wine festival takes place in Escanaba and will have plenty of brews on hand for the 11th edition of the festival. Find out more at http://uptoberfest.org/. You can also find some of the state’s best fall color spots – check out our list of 10 Amazing Places. Perhaps a tasty Yooper Ale or 906 Ale from our friends at Upper Hand Brewery will help you celebrate life above the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan.
Zombies – Michigan is no stranger to brewfests to celebrate the great craft beer the state produces. What better fall event than the Zombie Beer Fest featuring people dressed as zombies celebrating the Halloween season. This event takes place at Calder Plaza in Grand Rapids (351 Ottawa Ave.) on October 15th. Grand Rapids also features the Zombie Dash at Ah-Nab-Awen Park. This race features a 5k course that is flat and fast. Each runner has three life strips and tries to avoid the 300 people dressed as zombies. The race kicks off at 6:30, with most runners experiencing sunset (6:30pm) and some will see darkness (7:00pm). Prizes will be awarded to the best dressed zombies.