Last month, we blogged about how propane can power your adventure and give you flexibility, mobility, and freedom from “the grid.”
That got us thinking about all the awesome adventures you can go on this fall, all without leaving the great state of Michigan! In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to narrow it down to just five—we picked some personal favorites, but we could have just as easily selected a couple dozen more.
So with that caveat, here are five Michigan autumn adventures we’re strongly considering for an upcoming long weekend. Did any of these make your list, too?
Cast Your Vote at ArtPrize 10
For the tenth straight year, downtown Grand Rapids will become a massive art gallery for three glorious weeks in September and October. Outdoor sculptures and site-specific installations compete against paintings, performance art, and video in dozens of venues across three square miles of the city, as well as the nearby Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park (which is worth a visit on its own anyway).
ArtPrize bills itself as the world’s largest art competition, and there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world. More than half a million dollars in total prize money is available to winning entries—half of which are chosen by a panel of experts, and the other half by pure public vote. And anyone in the world over 18 years of age can enter a work in the competition, as long as they can find a registered venue within the downtown district willing to display it.
While you’re in Grand Rapids, of course, make sure you do a little extra exploring. Take a stroll through Heritage Hill, a historic preservation district with Michigan’s largest collection of 18th and early 19th century homes (including Frank Lloyd Wright’s famed Meyer May house). Or pull up a barstool and experience one of the great local brews that helped name Grand Rapids Beer City, USA.
After this fall’s competition, ArtPrize will be switching to an every-other-year format, so if you’ve never been before you won’t get another chance until 2020.
Drive Up M-22
There’s a reason that M-22 was named the “best scenic autumn drive” in the entire United States by readers of USA Today. For 116 glorious miles between Manistee and Traverse City, M-22 winds its way along the Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay shoreline, through thick and colorful forests and quaint towns and past stunning dunes and lighthouses.
Of course you’re going to want to plan your day accordingly and make plenty of stops along the way. Along the route, you can:
- Grab breakfast and linger a while in beautiful downtown Manistee before starting off on your journey
- Play 18 holes at Arcadia Bluffs, arguably the most breathtaking “seaside” links-style golf you can play outside of Ireland.
- Do some shopping along Main Street in Frankfort, check out Point Betsie Lighthouse, then—if you’re brave enough!—go for a nice refreshing dip in the chilly Lake Michigan waters along the nearby public beach.
- Go for hike along the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and climb the mighty dunes—or at least appreciate them from a distance! Fun fact: Good Morning America once named this pristine bit of Lake Michigan coastline “the most beautiful place in America.”
Once you reach the end of the route in Traverse City—the “unofficial capital” of the northern lower peninsula—there’s plenty more to do. Explore the town, grab a bite to eat, or wind your way up the Old Mission Peninsula and stop at some (or all) of its 10 wineries with public tasting rooms.
Celebrate Oktoberfest in Frankenmuth, Michigan’s “Little Bavaria”
Frankenmuth is a town proud of its German heritage—more than 150 years after it was first settled, almost 10 percent of the population still speaks German at home.
Nearly every commercial building downtown (and plenty of private residences, too) features striking Bavarian-style architecture, and there are dozens of awesome shops, restaurants, and public spaces to check out.
Of course, you’re definitely going to want to make some time to stuff your face with fried chicken at Zehnder’s, an 1856 hotel converted into a massive 1,500-seat all-you-can eat restaurant. Then, get a head start on the holiday season with a trip to Bronner’s, the world’s largest year-round Christmas store. (It boasts an absurd 96,000 square feet of salesroom floor.)
As befits a German town, there’s no better time to visit than during Oktoberfest, which will take place over September 20-23 this year. Frankenmuth’s Oktoberfest was the first outside Germany to be officially sanctioned by the city of Munich, and always features great live music, traditional German food and drink, and community events.
Bring your spouse and kids along for the Family Fun Center at the Bavarian Inn of Frankenmuth and you’ll never be bored! There’s a waterpark, arcade, mini golf, and even karaoke (if you can carry a tune).
Take a Trip Back in Time to Mackinac Island
For our money, early fall—right around the second half of September especially—is the perfect time to visit Mackinac Island. The biggest crowds of the summer tourist season have started to die down, but the weather remains quite pleasant and a good portion (though perhaps not all) of the seasonal shops and businesses will still be open.
Mackinac is famous, of course, for its ban on virtually all motor vehicles—a policy that’s been in place since 1898. No big deal: the island is small enough that that you can get around quite easily by foot, horse, or bicycle.
But that’s not the only reason a trip to the island can often feel like a step back in time. The island still has a few standing Anishinaabe and Ojibwe structures that predate European colonization, alongside several French, British, and American structures from the late 1700s through the 1800s.
That includes Fort Mackinac, a nearly 250-year-old fort that served as a British stronghold during the war of 1812. And if you want to splurge, you can spend a night at the Grand Hotel—a place where five U.S. presidents, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, and other famous individuals have stayed.
Of course, if history isn’t your thing, you can still have plenty of fun going into town for a bite to eat, some shopping (maybe some genuine Mackinac Island fudge at Ryba’s), or exploring the natural beauty.
Okay, we admit it: the last entry on our list is a bit of a cop-out.
But we’re propane people, which means we love camping, we love the great outdoors, and we happen to know the perfect fuel to power your camp stove, heater, or grill for those cold autumn nights—even in rustic campgrounds with no power hookups, or when inclement weather is sabotaging your efforts to build a fire.
The great thing about Michigan is that, pretty much no matter where you live or what level of “roughing it” you prefer, you’re probably no more than an hour away—two at most—from the perfect camping spot.
Want a rustic spot out in the forest? There are millions of acres of federal and state forests to choose from. Want a spot on the lakeshore? Michigan has 3,000+ miles of coastline, second only to Alaska in the United States. Looking for a place to camp that’s still an easy drive from city conveniences? No problem at all.
So that’s our list. Five great activities, all of which are as “pure Michigan” as, say, powering your home with propane! (Our state is No. 1 in the nation in residential sector propane consumption—just one of the many things Michigan does better than anywhere else!)
What’s on your to-do list the fall? Safe travels as you hit the road!