Michigan Family Fall Fun 2016

October is a good month in Michigan. 

The weather often a string of comfortable temperatures during the day, cool enough to wear a light jacket and shorts as you rake leaves or go for a walk, with the evenings dipping cooler to bundle up for a bonfire or hayride. 

The sun seems to be at an angle and distance that illuminates the sky red-orange and still manages to warm the face as it casts long shadows.

Here are some random ideas for fun things to do in Michigan this October.

1. Stay overnight on Mackinac Island. I once had a conference at the Mission Point Hotel in October and we had a whirlwind trip up to the island. We left Thursday night and made it up near Gaylord where we stayed overnight, then got up early Friday morning to catch a 9 am ferry across. The wind was bracing on the top deck but exhilarating as we watched the trees seemingly change color along the St. Ignace coastline right before our eyes.  During the day we would go for long walks during breaks and hardly see a single person on the interior trails. Lunch or dinner in town was effortless and we really had a chance to chat with the owners and the year long residents who were there. Wonderful!

2. Cider Mills and Hay Rides. Michigan has an abundance of great apple orchards, cider mills, corn mazes and hay rides and choosing a favorite is as controversial and lead to as heated a debate as talk about college football, or the best Star Trek captain, so I will avoid all that and just say, a Sunday afternoon sipping cider at a picnic table with friends and family is a true cherished memory. Kensington Metro Park has a hayride to the pumpkin patch so you can pick your own pumpkin, check it out if you have a few hours in the Western Suburbs. Maybe even make it an adventure and pick one an hour a way that you have never been to!

3. Speaking of football.... Somehow the football gene skipped me, but I still find that the sound of a marching band and a crisp Friday night as the sun hangs low over the neighborhood houses as the crowd cheers an acrobatic catch in the end zone as time expires manages to thrill even me. Perhaps consider a high school game? It is likely that if you are in town visiting on an October weekend there will be a game somewhere near by. Even if your younger children have no interest in the game, the low-key, low-cost family friendly entertainment might be worth considering. It definitely helps you feel connected to the local community, which is something we try to seek out on our travels. Maybe try sitting on the visitor side if you have no special allegiance. For a non-play-off game it is likely to be less crowded. At the very least try to catch a few plays of a college game on the radio on a Saturday afternoon as you drive between events. 

4. Farmer's Markets In most communities, the farmer's market season is winding down in October. WIth the cooler weather and the fresh fall harvest making for a delightful combination. From Baraga and Munising in the UP (Upper Peninsula) down through Marshall and Dearborn in the LP (Lower Peninsula) you will likely find something you are looking for and maybe even a special treat like the best vegan oatmeal cookie you have ever tasted, or a Macintosh apple picked yesterday! 

5. Spooky Movie Festival In the month of October we seek out spooky movies to celebrate the season. If you are travelling bring along Something Wicked This Way Comes, or Monsters on Maple Street from the classic Twilight Zone.  They are great to listen to. I have finally watched The Corpse Bride after listening to it from the driver's seat three or four times- one of Tim Burton's best in my opinion, and the creepy, yet stunning visuals do add! Maybe stop by the State Theatre in Traverse City if the northwest is part of your fall color tour, or downstate check out the Penn Theatre in Plymouth or the Redford Theatre- all are showing family friendly spooky movies throughout the month as are the Dearborn Public Library and the Farmington Public Library. 

A single fallen leaf

A single fallen leaf

6. Celebrate Fall Colors! Each autumn brings its own natural drama with the changing of the leafs. Whether the season's color change will be slow and moody or vibrant is really no matter for the family dedicated to getting out in nature and enjoying it. Children love the sound of the crunch of the leaves under foot as you trudge through the park or playground or one of the many walking/hiking trails nearby. I remember my children when they were quite young loved putting leaves on the slide at the playground and crashing through them as they slid down with a giddy whoop! If you get a chance to bring a blanket and lay under a tree as the children play nearby-be sure to look up and gaze for a moment or two at the incredible beauty of the leaf!

Family Discussion Questions

1. What is the history of the Cider Mill you are visiting? How did it get started in that location? How has the area changed over time?

2. How is Cider made? What is the best apple for apple cider? How many apples are needed for a gallon of cider?

3. How do leaves change color? What are the weather conditions necessary for the color change? What is chlorophyll? 

4. What is the location of the sun in the Autumn? What is the Autumnal Equinox?

5. Does your family have a top five spooky movie list? What about favorite spooky story or book?

6. What songs would be on your Fall Road Trip sound track?

7. How did football become so socially important in midwestern communities? What is the history of the marching band?

8. What are some of your favorite items from the farm market? 

9. What is your family's favorite fall get-away?