Surrounded by nature, Cadillac Michigan is a fall paradise for leaf peeping. This city on the lakes is united by rivers and connected by trails, offering fantastic views in every direction.
Alongside colorful outdoor activities, Greater Cadillac is full of great indoor attractions, restaurants, and lodging options for a fun, family-friendly getaway this fall. Add some (or all) of these favorites to your fall in Cadillac family vacation itinerary.
Hiking & Biking Trails in Cadillac With Fall Color Views
Across the 500,000 acres of nature in the Cadillac area, there are more than 200 miles of trails to explore. Every mile has awesome views of the changing colors from late September to the end of October and into November, depending on the weather. However, below are some of the best spots you can find.
Keith McKellop Walkway
The paved 1.5-mile Keith McKellop Walkway runs along the eastern side of Lake Cadillac and is perfect for in-line skating, jogging, or simply walking along the shoreline. The main trailhead is located on the eastern side close to the Rotary Performing Arts Pavilion.
Following the 4-foot-wide trail west, it eventually ends in a small loop behind the Northern Lights Irish Dance and Ballet Academy. You’ll pass informational signs, gardens, parks, playgrounds, sculptures, and more along the way. The trail also crosses the Clam River via a small boardwalk bridge.
White Pine Trail
Featuring 92 miles of multi-use trails, the White Pine Rail Trail connects five counties in Michigan from Cadillac to Grand Rapids. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has named it one of the Top 100 rail trails in the United States.
During the fall, this paved path offers scenic views of the foliage whether you’re biking or walking. When you need a break, rest on one of the benches along the trail. Best of all, a new trailhead expansion is being added in Cadillac this Fall!
Mitchell State Park Heritage Nature Trail
Starting at the Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center, the 3.5-mile Heritage Nature Trail at Mitchell State Park meanders through a 235-acre preserve. This hike offers nature trails following wood chip paths with bridges and boardwalks featuring abundant wildlife and interpretive signage along the way. Group tours and guided hikes are available along the 2.6-mile loop of woodland and Heritage Marsh.
Lake Cadillac Foot & Bike Path
Connecting to the White Pine Trail and Clam River Greenway, the Lake Cadillac Foot & Bike Path is paved and stretches for 7.5 miles. The path follows the Lake Cadillac shoreline through beaches, parks, and neighborhoods, as well as downtown Cadillac.
The elevation doesn’t change much along the way, so the path is ideal for walking with little ones too. Since it’s the most scenic trail in the area, it’s a top feature that visitors enjoy.
The Cadillac Pathway is excellent for hiking, biking, and running in all seasons but the fall scenery may be the best. The well-marked path system traverses through hardwood and pine forests, so you’ll get splendid views of colorful trees.
There are several loop options that range from easy to hard in difficulty and from 1 to 11 miles in length. The easy-to-moderate section of the trail system is located near the northern trailhead off Seeley Rd, where there’s also plenty of parking and an outhouse.
Come back when the snow flies with your skis, snowshoes or fat bike as their groomed winter sports trails are very popular.
Waldeck Island Nature Preserve
Encompassing 11 acres, Waldeck Island Nature Preserve rests on Stone Ledge Lake south of downtown Cadillac, just a quick 5-minute drive from US-131. The 1.2-mile loop is open all year for hiking, and the trek through swamp land and serene forests is very colorful in the fall.
The trail is easy and offers a relaxing and quiet setting for the season, which is great for wildlife viewing. From the Hansen Memorial Wildlife Platform, you’re almost guaranteed to see ducks, herons, geese, and more.
Farms With Fall Activities in the Greater Cadillac Area
Agriculture is a major part of the fall in Northern Michigan, and Greater Cadillac is full of family-friendly farms with seasonal activities. In particular, kids will love spending time at these six fall farm destinations!
The Hudson Farm
Located in Cadillac Michigan, The Hudson Farm is popular among locals and visitors alike. While it hosts activities throughout the year, the fall harvest season is particularly fun.
The 2022 Fall Festival on Sept. 24 and Oct. 1 and 8 will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It includes a host of things to do — “fiber” activities, a Petting Zu, free crafts, a hay maze, farm music, and a puppet stage. Wagon rides are available for a small fee, and there’s a new path for 2022!
On top of that, The Hudson Farm has a food shack with some indoor seating and a variety of refreshments. The farm’s Ewe-niquely U gift shop sells lotions and soaps made from goat’s milk. You’ll also find socks, yarn, and gifts made from the wool of the farm’s alpacas, angora goats, llamas, and sheep.
Poplar Pines Farm
There are always fun opportunities at Poplar Pines Farm in Mesick Michigan, about a 30-minute drive northwest of downtown Cadillac via M-115. The petting farm is a favorite for the whole family — you can feed and pet chickens, ducks, mini goats, ponies and miniature horses, rabbits, and sheep.
Families who want to camp on the farm can do so at the rear of the property. Each rustic campsite features firewood and an outhouse. While you’re camping, you have unlimited access to the petting farm, games, a playground, and a sandbox. There are also outdoor movies and kids’ crafts on Saturdays!
Every year, Poplar Pines Farm hosts a Pumpkin Hunt that includes hayrides through the woods in search of the perfect pumpkin. Afterward, doughnuts and hot cider are available. The 2022 Pumpkin Hunt will be on Oct. 15.
Pahl’s Country Store
From late September through the end of October, Pahl’s Country Store in Buckley Michigan is one of the best places to go for pumpkin picking. During this time, the pumpkin patch is open every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. But, pumpkin picking isn’t the only activity.
For a small entrance fee, Pahl’s offers hay and straw mazes. Plus, there’s a pony carousel and apple cannon. While you’re here, you don’t want to miss the homemade doughnuts, cider, and other yummy treats. The store sells corn stalk bundles, gourds, and squash as well.
The small, family-owned Norman’s Farm is located in Tustin Michigan, about a 15-minute drive southwest of downtown Cadillac via US-131. Since 1889, the farm has been growing quality produce. And during the fall, it sells gourds, pumpkins, and squash.
Throughout the month of October, the farm celebrates the season with activities every Saturday. Your family can enjoy doughnuts, fresh cider, and pumpkin painting. Also, you can hunt for the perfect carving pumpkin and pet the farm animals.
Dick Family Farm
Raising pumpkins for more than 25 years, Dick Family Farm is another wonderful destination where you can enjoy fall activities. It’s located in McBain Michigan, less than a 30-minute drive east of downtown Cadillac via Falmouth Rd.
This centennial dairy farm has more than 20 pumpkin varieties to choose from, a corn maze to explore, a hay bale mountain to climb, and a corn bin to play in. You can pet the farm animals, play yard games, and nosh on homemade doughnuts, cider, ice cream, and more too.
These activities are open to the public from the last weekend of September through the last weekend in October. You don’t want to miss the Dairy Fest Celebration on the second Saturday of October, though. It features a farm tour of the robotic milking facility and hayrides. 2022 hours are Fridays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and closed on Sundays.
Maple Leaf Farm & Creamery
About a 30-minute drive east of downtown Cadillac via M-55, Maple Leaf Farm & Creamery in Falmouth offers fun and educational experiences. During the fall, you can schedule a Baby Goat Experience that gives you 25 minutes in the nursery with the cute and cuddly creatures.
Fall Color Tours In & Around Cadillac Michigan
Another way to see the fall colors and experience the season in and around Cadillac is to follow the fall color tour routes. The In-Town Cadillac Route takes you through the heart of downtown and by top-rated restaurants and boutique shops.
The Around Cadillac Route features about 200 miles of hiking trails, farms and markets, and fall overlooks across the west and east segments of Greater Cadillac. It also crosses the Pine River and the Big Manistee River and passes through colorful canopies.
2022 Greater Cadillac Family Fall Events
Farms and markets aren’t the only places that host fall events in Greater Cadillac. Here are some other festivities that the whole family will love.
Manton Area Harvest Festival
Labor Day Weekend
Since 1924, the Manton Area Harvest Festival has been a tradition of live music and community events that attract people from across Northern Michigan and beyond. The three-day event started as a small gathering and has grown into one of the biggest parades in the area.
Most of the events are held at Manton Station on Wall St., but craft shows and other events are held around town. Find out for yourself why this festival becomes more popular each year.
Hughston’s Cow Camp Rodeo
Sept. 1-5, 2022
Every Labor Day weekend, Hughston’s Cow Camp Rodeo brings a host of camping and activities to McBain Michigan. You can join a trail horseback ride to the pond to meet Laredo, Lum, and Denver Hughston, and there’s a poker run and gathering at the pond.
The event includes a cornhole tournament, chili cook-off, and campsite contest as well. However, the main attraction is the IPRA Championship Rodeo, during which you can watch some of the most talented arena riders in the sport compete for top marks.
Additionally, the Cow Camp has concessions, and you can ride the trails at any time. If you want a campsite, we recommend registering ahead of time!
Cadillac Festival of Races
Sept. 3, 2022
The Cadillac Festival of Races is the longest, continually held 10k run in all of Michigan. Beginning and ending at Cadillac City Park and the Rotary Pavilion, the event also includes a 5k race along the beautiful Lake Cadillac.
For 2022, a 7-mile Team Relay will be added around the lake, utilizing the White Pine Trail. There will also be a kids’ fun run and other events, including a costume contest for the best-dressed team.
You can register for the races starting at 8 a.m. at the Cadillac Rotary Pavilion. The top three in each age group will receive awards, and everyone who finishes will receive a medal.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the 7th-grade membership program.
Earthwork Harvest Gathering
Sept. 16-18, 2022
Every third weekend in September, Earthwork Farm near Lake City holds the Earthwork Harvest Gathering to celebrate culture and music. Attendees come from all around to camp in the open meadows and mixed hardwood forests during the celebration.
This three-day event seeks to encourage social-ecological awareness through cultural traditions, an emphasis on local farming and food, panel discussions, and workshops. Also, the farm organizes an eclectic and robust lineup of musical performances.
Cadillac’s Craft Beer Festival
Sept. 24, 2022
Although it’s only open to attendees 21 and older, we would be remiss not to at least mention Cadillac’s Craft Beer Festival (especially for older family members who like to travel together).
Every fourth Saturday of September, locals and visitors converge at City Park in Cadillac’s Social District. This craft beer event was established in 2010 and is where you’ll find the best beer, cider, mead, and spirits in Michigan.
In a small-town tailgate setting, there’s also live music, food and retail vendors, and yard games. For 2022, the music stage will present Emilee Petersmark, the Charlie Millard Band, and Melophobix. Last call will be at 9 p.m.
White Pine Ride
Oct. 1, 2022
The White Pine Ride is a cycling event organized by the Rotary Club of Cadillac, giving you an opportunity to have fun with friends and family while supporting the club and trail development. The 2022 event is being held to coincide with the fall colors.
Bikers of all skill levels can register for one of four routes along one of the most scenic, paved rail trails in the state. From 9 a.m. at Cadillac City Park, the routes range from 12 miles to 83 miles long — that’s an epic ride! Fortunately, the ride includes rest stops with healthy snacks.
When you return, you can enjoy a picnic lunch and music in the downtown market. You’ll also receive a shirt with your rider registration.
Cadillac Area Symphony Orchestra Fall Concert
Nov. 20, 2022
At the Cadillac Community Auditorium, the Cadillac Area Symphony Orchestra Fall Concert brings wonderful music to the area. Since 1973, the orchestra has called the city its home, growing from a small group of instruments and musicians to a large ensemble that performs all sorts of music.
Family Indoor Things to Do in Greater Cadillac
If the fall weather keeps you from going outdoors, there are still great family-friendly things to do inside throughout the Cadillac area. From museums to axe throwing to shopping, here are some of our top picks.
Wexford County Historical Museum
At the Wexford County Historical Museum, your family can learn all about the culture and history of Wexford County within the walls of its historic Carnegie Library.
The 5,000-square-foot museum has a lot of artifacts, documents, paintings, photos, maps, and exhibits that depict the community’s daily life and history since the 1870s. It has recently been renovated and reopened in Summer 2022.
The Sweet Shop
Anyone with a sweet tooth (adults included) will be in heaven at The Sweet Shop. This long-time Cadillac candy shop makes 100-plus candies in dark, milk, and white chocolate varieties the old-fashioned way.
In addition to the handmade chocolates, the shop specializes in homemade fudge, gourmet popcorn, and freshly roasted nuts and specialty mixes. The shop is famous for having the BEST fall season caramel apple varieties too!
If you’re visiting in the summer, The Sweet Shop serves Moomer’s Ice cream in homemade waffle cones!
Skeggox Axe Throwing
For a more unique indoor activity, head to Skeggox Axe Throwing in Cadillac Michigan. Even if your family has never participated in axe throwing, this place has the equipment and instruction that you need to have a fun time safely. It’s even a good way for parents to relieve some stress and kids to burn energy.
Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center
Families that want to learn about hunting and fishing, or want to improve their skills, can go to the Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center. The facility is open on weekends from Labor Day to Memorial Day.
When you enter the facility, you’re welcomed by a 500-gallon aquarium full of fish from Lake Cadillac and Lake Mitchell. There’s another 200-gallon aquarium in the fishing exhibit hall. All of the exhibits feature displays of the area’s fishing, hunting, and trapping heritage.
Additionally, there’s a classroom that’s used for fishing, hunting, and other educational classes. You can even buy fishing and hunting licenses at the center.
Boon Country Store
A landmark for many years, the Boon Country Store is a great stop during a scenic fall color tour of Greater Cadillac and for camping necessities. It’s about a 15-minute drive west of downtown via Boon Rd. (34 Rd.). The store is known for having more than 20 varieties of Boon cheese and specialty meats — when you visit, be sure to ask them about the unique history on how it all got started!
Restaurants in Cadillac Michigan with Family-Friendly Dining
More than 25 locally-owned restaurants and eateries serve Cadillac, with many of them infusing local ingredients and their own creativity into tasty cuisines. Plan to stop at these (and other) delectable restaurants during your fall family getaway.
Blue Heron Cafe
The Blue Heron Cafe is one of the best places in Cadillac to get made-from-scratch breakfast, lunch, and baked goods daily. Only the freshest, highest-quality ingredients are used, including a mix of organic and locally grown items with catering options available!
The breakfast menu includes a homestyle country breakfast, roasted pork bowl, and lamb sausage and eggs. For lunch, you can order from a range of sandwiches and salads. Meet a friend for coffee or you can always take a treat to go — cookies, doughnuts, and muffins.
After 26 Depot Cafe
In the historic Ann Arbor Railroad Depot building in Cadillac Michigan, the After 26 Depot Cafe is part of a community-wide effort to employ local adults with cognitive impairments and developmental disabilities with the help of support staff.
The restaurant serves full breakfast and lunch menus. You can get biscuits and gravy, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, customized omelets, and more for breakfast. At lunchtime, you can choose from chicken tenders, burgers and sandwiches, mac and cheese, and more — all served with a friendly smile.
Herraduras Mexican Restaurant
For some real South-of-the-border food, stop at Herraduras Mexican Restaurant. This premiere Mexican restaurant serves authentic cuisine from burritos and taco plates to chimichangas, enchiladas, and quesadillas. Or choose from grilled chicken, steak, or a few other American dishes.
Save room for a giant margarita and something sweet from the dessert menu — like fried ice cream, a churro, or flan dessert.
Burke’s Waterfront Restaurant
Since 1982, Burke’s Waterfront Restaurant has been serving the Cadillac community with superb service. You can stop here any time of day — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — for a delicious meal.
In fact, this eatery is known for having a diverse menu — eggs Benedict, country omelets, chicken, steak, seafood, pasta, meatloaf, gourmet burgers, and sandwiches. You can even order Mexican dishes! While the weather is nice, you can enjoy your meal served out on the patio, which overlooks Lake Cadillac.
Duane’s Family Restaurant
If you decide to visit Dick Family Farm and/or Maple Leaf Farm & Creamery during your fall trip up north, Duane’s Family Restaurant is an ideal stop close by for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It has been serving home-cooked meals since 1978.
This local favorite is a family eatery in downtown Falmouth with a breakfast buffet on Saturday mornings and dinner buffet on Friday and Saturday nights. Among the favorites on the menu are pancakes and waffles, burgers and sandwiches, full salad bar, broasted chicken, seafood baskets, and the famous hot beef sandwich.
In addition, Duane’s has a bakery case full of goodies that are made fresh every day. You can get a variety of homemade bread by the loaf, cookies, as well as cream and fruit pies.
Family-Friendly Cadillac Michigan Hotels & Campgrounds
From hotels and motels to resorts and campgrounds, Greater Cadillac has all of the lodging options that you could want. A few wonderful places for families to stay include Comfort Inn, Lake Cadillac Resort, Mitchell State Park, and Mackinaw Timbers.
When you start planning your family getaway for this fall, check out the array of lodging options in Cadillac Michigan.