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8 Extraordinary Autumnal Experiences in Michigan

by Lisa Diggs

Ah, autumn. While there are those who may lament the passing of summer or dread the onslaught of winter, it’s nearly impossible to find anyone who doesn’t enjoy fall in Michigan. Crisp air, crunchy apples, football games, and a colorful landscape that changes daily, are just a few of the reasons to love this time of year. Here are eight other ways to turn ordinary days into extraordinary experiences this season.   

 

Artprize
For 19 days (September 18-October 6), art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown Grand Rapids, and it’s all free and open to the public. The artists are drawn by a stunning $200,000 first prize, which is voted on by guests to the event. This year there are 1,525 entries to experience and enjoy. The spirit of this one-of-a-kind cultural celebration invades the entire city, making it one of the absolute best times of year to visit Grand Rapids. This year Artprize has a fantastic mobile app to make your trip even easier and more fruitful.
 
Cider Mills
Speaking of fruit, there isn’t a better way to take a bite out of a crisp fall day than to visit a cider mill. The Historic Dexter Cider Mill near Ann Arbor is the oldest continuously operating cider mill in Michigan, but with more than a hundred around the state, you’re never very far from one. The spectacular combination of hot or cold cider and fresh doughnuts is the quintessential taste of fall.
 
Corn Mazes
Many cider mills and farms have taken to creating corn mazes in autumn, and you can’t beat them for wholesome family entertainment. Corn mazes are one of the few places in the world where getting lost is half the fun. One of the most popular is the Amazing Acres Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch in Edwardsburg. The farm is over 90 acres and is packed with events. Explore the 14 acre corn maze with over 3.5 miles of paths. The maze is available both day and night from September 14-October 31.
 
Fall Color Tours
With 19 million acres of woods, not to mention shorelines, streams, and sunsets, it’s no wonder Michigan is one of the most beautiful places in the world to experience autumn in its glory. Colors in the U.P. begin to turn around mid-September and the show extends throughout the state until the end of October. Check out this Fall Color Guide for ideas on routes and best times to go to each area.
 
Kent Harvest Trails 
Twenty farms in the Greater Grand Rapids area provide families the opportunity to enjoy loads of country fun. Activities and tours begin mid-September and run through the end of October.  Events include tractor- or horse-drawn wagon rides through the orchards or to the pumpkin patch, visits with animals in the petting zoo, even making a scarecrow to take home.  The farm markets are an excellent source of local produce or you can head out and pick your own fruit.
 

Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival
One of Michigan’s most delightful features is our wide variety of lighthouses. This annual four-day event (October 10-13) provides a unique opportunity to view them in a new light. Zoom overhead in a helicopter or glide over waves and get a sailor’s view. Back on land you can climb many of the lighthouses. Live entertainment, exhibits, and nautical vendors round out the weekend.  Alpena is the primary host, but from Tawas to Mackinaw, lighthouses will be open for tours and visits.

 

Nascar Driving Experience
We love our cars in these parts, and now auto fans who “feel the need for speed” can fulfill their dreams with the Richard Petty Driving Experience at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn (October 4-5). You can get behind the wheel of a 600HP NASCAR race car at speeds of up to 160 MPH! The Ride-Along will let you experience real life racing thrills by riding shotgun in a 2-seat NASCAR race car driven by a professional instructor for a 3-lap qualifying run. The Rookie Experience is for those who want the thrill of actually DRIVING a race car. Your hands are on the wheel, your foot is on the gas, and you’re in the driver’s seat for eight laps over one session around the track.

 
Wine Tasting
With more than a hundred commercial wineries producing over 1.3 million gallons of wine annually, Michigan wines are becoming so popular that the vineyards now attract more than 2 million visitors each year. Any time of year is a fun time for Michigan wine touring, but autumn is special. Vines are brimming with grapes in what is expected to be an outstanding season this year, and the harvest begins in October. The natural beauty is abundant and friendly winemakers anxiously await visitors to taste and enjoy the fruits of their labor. 

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