When the summer weather begins to cool and transition into fall, the trees throughout Michigan start to turn brilliant red, orange, and yellow. Although many people travel to states in the Northeastern United States to see the fall colors, the Mitten State has some of the most spectacular views, especially along the Great Lakes’ shorelines.
Best of all, plenty of cities and organizations across the state host fall activities and festivals. Let’s take a look at these best fall things to do in Michigan.
Best Time to See Fall Foliage in Michigan
Autumn doesn’t officially start until Sept. 22, but leaves in the Upper Peninsula begin to change sometime between Sept. 20 and Oct. 5. The reason is that temperatures are cooler there compared to other parts of the state.
As the cool weather spreads south, you can expect the leaves to start changing in the Northern Lower Peninsula from Sept. 24 to Oct. 7. In West, Southeast, and Mid-Michigan, the leaves typically change color some time from Oct. 7-14. The colors may last through early November.
Be sure to explore these 17 Must-Visit Places for Amazing Michigan Fall Colors!
Best Apple Orchards and Pumpkin Farms to Visit
Hayes Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch in Rock
In the center of the Upper Peninsula, Hayes Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch allows families to pick pumpkins for decoration and carving. However, you could spend the whole day there because of the numerous fun activities: straw tunnel, pumpkin bowling, pumpkin treehouse, corn maze, and hay maze.
Knaebe’s Apple Farm & Ciderworks in Rogers City
At Knaebe’s Apple Farm & Ciderworks, you get to pick your own apples and pumpkins. This farm stands out from the rest by serving hard cider and wood-fired pizza in one of its barns. The property features a corn maze, playground, farm animals, and Mac ‘n’ Squasher apple slingshot. Kids can go on pony and wagon rides as well.
Jacob’s Farm in Traverse City
Formerly named Jacob’s Corn Maze, Jacob’s Farm has fall fun for the entire family. Although the pumpkin patch is very popular, the 10-acre corn maze is a major attraction and one of the best things to do in Michigan fall season. The farm even allows you to pick fruit from the apple orchard from September through October.
Overhiser Orchards in South Haven
With a variety of apples, Overhiser Orchards is open for apple picking from the beginning of September through October. If you go for apples in October, don’t forget to pick out your own pumpkins. You and your family can enjoy cider, take a photo with a farm animal, get lost in a corn maze, and go on a hayride too.
Johnson’s Giant Pumpkins in Saginaw
For some of the biggest pumpkins in Michigan, check out Johnson’s Giant Pumpkins. From miniature to huge pumpkins, there’s a size and price point for your family’s carving and decorating needs. The farm grows and sells gourds, Indian corn, and squash as well. Aside from picking pumpkins, kids can enjoy the petting zoo, horse rides, face painting, barrel train rides, pumpkin throwing, and many other activities.
Blake’s Farms in Armada
From mid-June through early November, Blake’s Farms is a great place to pick your own fruit. The apple orchard was one of the first u-pick locations in Michigan. It grows Ginger Gold, Jonathan, McIntosh, Paula Red, and Molly Delicious apples. Along with picking fruit, this family-operated farm offers kid-friendly activities for Halloween, including hayrides.
Check out our lists of best Michigan apple orchards & cider mills along with the most unique & family-friendly pumpkin patches & corn mazes in Michigan!
Best Fall Festivals and Things to Do in Michigan Fall Season
Oktoberfest in Frankenmuth
Known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” Frankenmuth has a grand Oktoberfest celebration in Heritage Park. In 1996, the September event was declared the first to operate with the blessing of Munich’s original Oktoberfest. Alongside beer from the world-famous Hofbrauhaus Bavarian State Brewery, Frankenmuth’s Oktoberfest features authentic dancing, entertainment, and food.
Fall Fest at Emerick Park in Hillman
With the fall foliage of northern Michigan as a backdrop, the Fall Fest at Hillman’s Emerick Park is an exciting arts and crafts show. It’s held for a two-day weekend in mid-September and includes live music and a chili cook-off in the Pavilion.
Harvest Festival at Brimley State Park
In late September, Brimley State Park has a Harvest Festival. Most years, the annual event features fall coloring and activity sheets, a site decorating contest, a scavenger hunt, and pumpkin carving and painting. In addition, there’s a chili cook-off, trick-or-treating, a pancake breakfast, a costume contest and so much more.
Harvest, Fall, and Apple Festivities at Friske’s Farm Market in Ellsworth
One of the best places to go for things to do in Michigan fall season is Friske’s Farm Market. It holds a Harvest Festival in late September and a Fall Festival and Apple Fest Days in early October. Although the activities for each vary slightly, the giant apple slingshot is a prominent feature. There are also plenty of fresh doughnuts, cider, and other treats.
Colors by the Lake in Walloon Lake
At Village Green Park in Walloon Lake near the beginning of October, award-winning artists demonstrate and educate on the creative process as well as sell their work. You can choose from pottery, digital art, jewelry, paintings, and more. This event has a cash bar and food truck, but restaurants are nearby too.
Haunted Adventure at Cornwell’s Turkeyville in Marshall
If you’re looking for a Haunted Adventure, check out Cornwell’s Turkeyville. The haunted barn, ghoulish train, corn maze, and spooky hayride are available every weekend in October. There are homemade doughnuts, apple cider, and pumpkins for purchase as well.
Best Hiking Spots to See Fall Foliage
Mackinac Island Trails
Between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, Mackinac Island sits in Lake Huron and has more than 140 miles of trails with great views of the changing leaves. The trails range from easy to moderate, and the most popular is the 8.2-mile hike around the outer edge of the island.
Port Crescent State Park Hiking in Port Austin
In Port Crescent State Park, you’ll find three trails for more than 5 miles of hiking. They’re easy and offer great opportunities for watching birds, other wildlife, and the sunset. The park has 3 miles of shoreline on Lake Huron too, so you can go canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.
Porcupine Mountains State Park Trails in Ontonagon
If you want a variety of trails to hike, one of the best things to do in Michigan fall season is visiting Porcupine Mountains State Park. Stretching about 60,000 acres, the park boasts more than 90 miles of trails. Although it’s only 4.3 miles, the moderate Escarpment Trail is particularly picturesque with fall colors.
Sleeping Bear Dunes Hiking in Empire
With many chances to explore, Sleeping Bear Dunes has several miles of well-marked trails along the National Lakeshore. There are six trails, but the moderate, 1.5-mile Empire Bluff Trail has the best fall foliage view. It overlooks Lake Michigan, and you can see South Manitou Island to the north on a clear day.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park Trails in Paradise
Encompassing about 50,000 acres, Tahquamenon Falls State Park features several waterfalls. Dropping 50 feet, the Upper Falls is one of the biggest east of the Mississippi River. The Lower Falls consists of five smaller waterfalls. There are nearly 23 miles of hiking trails, and the best for seeing the fall colors is the moderate-to-difficult, 4.8-mile River Trail, which connects the falls.
Isle Royale National Park Hiking
In Lake Superior, Isle Royale National Park consists of 850 square miles of spacious land on the 45-mile-long Isle Royale. The park features more than 160 miles of hiking trails with excellent chances to observe wildlife, historic lighthouses, and ancient copper mining sites. The longest and most popular trail for fall foliage is the Greenstone Ridge Trail, which is difficult and extends for 42 miles.
Best Autumn Scenic Drives in Michigan
Road Trip Through the Upper Peninsula
If you’re looking for the best relaxing things to do in Michigan fall season, take a scenic drive through the Upper Peninsula. From Bessemer, you can travel north on the 15-mile Black River National Forest Scenic Byway to Copper Peak and then to the Lake Superior shoreline. For a longer trip, consider heading east from Bessemer to Mackinac City via less-traveled roads.
Mackinaw City-to-Standish Scenic Drive
Also known as the “Sunrise Coast,” you can follow the Lake Huron shoreline from Mackinaw City to Standish. The 200-mile drive via US-23 is four to five hours and passes through Cheboygan, Rogers City, and Oscoda. There are plenty of places to stop along the way, including Ocqueoc Falls and Sturgeon Point Lighthouse.
Cheboygan-to-Coldwater Road Trip
If you want a real road trip through the center of Michigan, make the drive between Cheboygan and Coldwater. Via US-27, the route takes about 4.5 hours and passes through scenic farmland, charming towns, thick forests, and gentle hills. You’ll even pass through Clare, which is the heart of the state’s Amish country.
Scenic Drive From Traverse City to Manistee
On the western side of Michigan, you can enjoy the beauty of Lake Michigan as you drive south on M-22. The brilliant foliage reflects in the sparkling lake. The state trunkline highway is 116 miles and passes through beaches, forests, and quaint towns. You can stop by Sleeping Bear Dunes in Empire along the way.
You won’t want to miss these metro-Detroit color tour drives, either!
Tons More Things to Do in Michigan Fall Season
These 22 things to do in Michigan during autumn are only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, we wrote a whole article on the best fall things to do in the Upper Peninsula!
You could hop in the car and discover other places as you go. One last tidbit of advice: Take your camera!