Take I-75 north from Detroit about five hours all the way to Mackinaw City, or drive a shorter stretch somewhere in between. Cross over the Mackinaw Bridge into St. Ignace for the full Michigan experience if you're really ambitious. But whether you're taking a Sunday drive or a weekend trip, the colors of the landscape deepen, become more lush and vivid. Coupled with the east to west shift of the sun, traveling "up north" in Michigan is a truly exquisite experience in October.
Michigan's landscape is among the most unique in all the world. Travel any direction from within the state to find a seemingly ocean sized lake, visit one of its 33 islands, or traverse the network of rivers in the interior. Autumn provides a backdrop for some of the most beautiful and rustic scenes on earth. If you've never looked over Lake Michigan from the heights of Mackinaw Island . . . walked barefoot along the lighthouse dotted sandcoasts of the lakes, jeans rolled up, sweater pulled tight . . . canoed the Au Sable under an aqua sky straight into the mouth of Lake Huron . . . in October . . . there's still time.
Did you know that cider mills are a North American thing . . . and even more specifically a New England and Midwest thing . . . and most specifically, a Michigan thing? And that Michigan's apple production is third in the US behind Washington State and New York? So it's not surprising that a visit to the local cider mill has become a celebratory Autumn highlight of Michigan families every October. There are 16 in Southeastern Michigan alone.
Parmenter's was my family's favorite when I was growing up. I have vivid memories of donning jackets in early October and riding our bikes down Hine's Drive into rural Northville to visit the big red barn, get caramel apples and cider, and feed the ducks on the Rouge River behind the mill. Parmenter's is famous for their unique pear infused blend of cider. . . . and for the grown-ups The Northville Winery and Brewing Company is just across the parking lot, having evolved from the mill beginning in 1982. They feature wine tasting, hard cider, and beer . . .
Even so, Plymouth Orchards is our current family favorite (my husband is not much of a drinker). It's where we took our children when they were growing up, and my husband swears by the cider/ cinnamon-sugar doughnut flavor combination as being the best around. I look forward to grabbing a jar of homemade apple butter from the bountiful fall display shelves as we're moving through the line every year.
4.) Michigan is the wine country of the Midwest.
Wine in Michigan is another growing industry, bred primarily from the western and northern pastoral and lakeside regions of the state. And October is wine tasting season in Michigan. Among the multitude of state wineries, twenty-five loop the western peninsula of Grand Traverse Bay on what is called the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail. My favorite Michigan wine, 2013 Chateau Grand Traverse Late Harvest Riesling, was produced here . . . it's crisp and fruity and not quite so sweet as most Rieslings. I like it so much I named my Boxer puppy Riesling . . . really . . . Also trending in Michigan wine in October is another Leelanau, Witches Brew. It's a spiced red that fun to sip warm on Halloween.
Just a little farther North in Petoskey, Michigan, Mackinaw Trails Winery occupies 30 acres on the shores of Lake Michigan and over the last decade has been gaining status as the "north star of the Michigan wine industry." Unique in its history is that founder Raffaele Stabile is the grandson of an Italian immigrant who taught his grandsons to press grapes to make wine for the family.
If I was a guy, I might have said something about college football season and the rivalry between the University of Michigan and Michigan State . . . but I'm not . . . and I don't care . . . but the malls! The malls!
Okay, so malls -- even in the fall -- are definitely not exclusive to Michigan. But with names like Twelve Oaks and Briarwood, The Orchards, and Arborland . . . they're like virtual autumn festivals . . . with trees seemingly growing right up through the floors (there are leaves everywhere). . . and a virtual frenzy of assault on the senses!
Everything is earth toned and smells like pumpkins and apples. There are velvety, knee-length sweaters marketed in colors like russet and amber gold and burgundy wine . . . and brown suede boots with faux fur at the ankles (I'm biting my knuckles). Mrs. Fields has cranberry spice cookies and Starbucks in the common area has real pumpkin spice latte'. You can smell the Yankee candle shop from way down at Bath & Body Works where they've got little leaf and owl plug ins that diffuse scents like cranberry woods and fireside chat . . . And don't even get me started on the autumn scenes that illuminate through the windows of Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel . . .
So raise your glasses to October . . . and start planning a trip . . down the street or across the state. It's all beautiful.