Best of Michigan in September: 10 Must-Experience Activities

Michigan in September
Fall color drives in Michigan 

As the weather cools off and the leaves start changing colors, Michigan in September is one of my favorite times. From apple picking and fall festivals to scenic drives and outdoor activities, there are so many fun things happening across the state.

Here are the top attractions and activities I recommend checking out in Michigan this September. Please join Let’s save Michigan to learn more through this article.

1. Visit Mackinac Island

Michigan in September
Mackinac Island 

With its horse-drawn carriages and Victorian charm, Mackinac Island is like stepping back in time. Walking around the perimeter of the island takes about 4 hours, allowing you to take in the lake views, historic buildings, and peaceful wooded areas.

Stop for a bite at the Grand Hotel, which has been welcoming guests since 1887. At night, climb to the top of Fort Mackinac for gorgeous sunset views over the Straits of Mackinac and Mackinac Bridge. Don’t forget to treat yourself to fudge from one of the island’s famous fudge shops!

No matter how you choose to spend your day, Mackinac Island offers a fun glimpse into Michigan’s past surrounded by natural beauty. The island really comes alive in the fall when the crowds start to dwindle but the scenery is still gorgeous.

2. Check Out ArtPrize in Grand Rapids

Michigan in September

ArtPrize is an incredible open art competition held each fall in Grand Rapids. For 19 days, the city comes alive with over 1,000 art installations ranging from sculptures, murals, paintings, and more.

Many exhibits are interactive, allowing you to immerse yourself in the artwork. As you walk around downtown, you’ll find incredible pieces displayed in parks, museums, businesses, and public spaces.

It’s free to view and vote on your favorite pieces. ArtPrize awards over $500,000 in prizes based on both public vote and juried selections.

Some of my favorite parts of ArtPrize include the feeling of discovery as you tour the exhibits, getting to meet the artists, and seeing Grand Rapids in a whole new light. The art and energy surrounding ArtPrize is truly special!

3. Pick Your Own Apples at an Orchard

Michigan in September
Michigan apple orchard 

This family-owned orchard has been growing apples for over 100 years. Stroll through the scenic apple orchard and pick your own apples right from the trees. Gala, Honeycrisp, Fuji, Jonathan, Golden Delicious and more apple varieties are available.

After apple picking, head to the cider mill for hot apple cider donuts, pies, turnovers, and other baked goods. Kids will love the barnyard animals, corn maze, and hayrides too. The orchard also has pick-your-own pumpkins, raspberries, and additional fall activities on weekends.

With generations of farming history and cozy cider mill vibes, VerHage Fruit Farms is a classic Michigan apple destination.

4. Take in Fall Colors on a Scenic Drive

Michigan in September
Fall Foliage

One of my favorite ways to soak in the beauty of autumn is by taking a scenic drive to see the fall foliage. Here are some of the top spots in Michigan for gorgeous leaf peeping:

  • Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Has some of the most stunning fall scenery around. Take a drive along the 42 miles of Lake Superior shoreline to see the hues of orange, red, and yellow reflected in the water.
  • Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive: This 7 mile loop winds through the lush forests and towering dunes of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, offering spectacular overlooks of Lake Michigan and the fall foliage.
  • Tunnel of Trees: Drive along scenic M-119 where the canopy of trees creates a tunnel effect over the road. Stop at lookout points along Little Traverse Bay for beautiful vistas over the water.
  • Route 131: This highway from Petoskey to Boyne City offers fantastic views of rolling hills and fall color. Make sure to stop at Brown Bridge Quiet Area for an exceptional photo op.

With cooler weather and fewer crowds, September is the perfect time to take a relaxing drive and admire Michigan’s fall beauty. Don’t forget your camera!

5. Cheer on the Detroit Lions

Michigan in September
Detroit Lions 

Football season kicks off big-time in September, and Ford Field will be rocking for Detroit Lions home games. Grab some food from concession stands like Slows Bar BQ, then head to your seats to cheer on the Lions.

With a capacity of 65,000, the stadium gets LOUD. I love the energy you feel during big plays and touchdowns as the crowd goes wild. Arrive early to catch players warming up – you can get autographs if you’re close to the field.

Pro tip: Check out the festivities at Eastern Market before the game for a true taste of Detroit! Let’s go Lions!

Other upcoming fall sports happening in September include University of Michigan football, Michigan State football, and the Detroit Tigers MLB games. So many ways to root for the home teams!

6. Visit a Cider Mill or Winery

Franklin Cider Mill
Franklin Cider Mill

In addition to apple orchards, cider mills are a classic autumn destination. The historic Franklin Cider Mill has been operating since 1837, making it one of the longest-running mills in Michigan.

In addition to fresh cider and hot donuts, you can watch the cider press in action, shop at their bakery, and meander by the duck pond. They also serve delicious lunches and dinners like grilled sandwiches, salads, and chicken pot pie.

Michigan’s wineries also shine in September during harvest season. Tour vineyards and taste upcoming vintages at places like Fenn Valley Vineyards, Tabor Hill Winery, and Black Star Farms. Many wineries host special events too like the Wine and Harvest Festival at Valley View Winery.

Fenn Valley Vineyards
Fenn Valley Vineyards

The cider mills and wineries make for festive and delicious fall outings! I love seeing generations of families enjoying these Michigan traditions together.

7. Attend Michigan Harvest Festival

Michigan Harvest Festival
Michigan Harvest Festival 

Between rodeos, carnival rides, animal shows, live music and autumn food, county fairs perfectly capture the spirit of fall in Michigan.

Take your pick of giant pumpkins, enter the pie eating contest, ride carnival rides, and enjoy live music at this harvest festival. Kids will love the superhero appearances and ninja warrior course.

County and harvest fairs capture so much of what makes fall special in Michigan. It’s always a blast checking out the 4H and farm exhibits, indulging in classic fair food, and enjoying live entertainment.

8. Go Camping – Michigan in September

Camping in Michigan
Camping in Michigan

Fall is a wonderful time to go camping in Michigan since the weather is cool and bug-free. You’ll also have more privacy at campgrounds than summer’s peak season. Some great places to pitch a tent include:

  • Wilderness State Park: With 26 miles of hiking trails, 7 lakes, and limestone bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan, Wilderness offers incredible nature and fall color viewing.
  • Bewabic State Park: Located on the UP, this smaller park sits along the Sturgeon River Gorge and has great hardwood forests bursting with autumn hues.
  • Mitchell State Park: In addition to tent sites, Mitchell has cabins along the shores of Lake Mitchell that make a cozy fall getaway.

When choosing a campground, I look for scenic hiking trails, great lake access for kayaking or canoeing, and secluded sites. Bring warm layers and supplies to make campfire meals like soup or chili.

Waking up amongst the peaceful forests and fall foliage creates precious memories. And you can’t beat the affordable rates compared to summer! Just check weather and pack accordingly.

9. Explore Warren Dunes State Park

Warren Dunes State Park
Warren Dunes State Park 

With towering sand dunes overlooking Lake Michigan, Warren Dunes makes an excellent fall escape.

Warren Dunes is located close to quaint beach towns like Bridgman, Union Pier, and Sawyer if you want to explore the area after hiking. With more than 3 miles of beach and sand dunes up to 200 feet tall, the park makes for a terrific autumn escape full of adventure and natural beauty.

10. Visit a Michigan State Park

Michigan in September
Michigan State Park- Michigan in September

Michigan’s state parks come alive in the fall with fiery foliage, trails perfect for hiking, lakes ideal for kayaking or canoeing, and cozy cabins available for overnight stays. Here are a few of my favorite state parks to enjoy in September:

  • Tahquamenon Falls State Park: Stunning 200-foot Upper Falls and 50-foot Lower Falls, tinted amber from tannins. The trails showcase the vibrant fall colors extremely well.
  • Yankee Springs Recreation Area: The 16 miles of hiking trails, clear lakes, and dense forests look absolutely gorgeous in the fall. Be sure to walk the 1-mile nature trail.
  • Mitchell State Park: You can bike, hike, or drive the scenic 5.5 mile loop around Lake Mitchell covered in colorful trees. The park also features beaches and limestone bluffs.

With so many beautiful state parks, it’s tough to go wrong exploring the trails and scenery this fall. Pack a picnic, rent a kayak, try birdwatching, or book a cozy cabin for the full state park experience.

With vibrant fall colors, exciting fairs and festivals, and scenic views, September is a wonderful time to take a Michigan vacation. What are you most looking forward to doing this fall in Michigan? Let me know in the comments!

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