Discover the best fall beach destinations in Southwest Michigan
Summer isn’t the only time to visit Lake Michigan’s beaches in Southwest Michigan. Fall days and lake temperatures are often warm from September until early October. Then from October through November, pull on a sweater, fleece, or jacket and enjoy the wilder Big Lake waves and less-crowded beaches from golden sunrise to star-studded night. For many, fall is their favorite beach season. Come see why.
Visit nine Lake Michigan beach towns If you’re planning an autumn getaway, solo retreat, or fall color tour along the lakeshore, add these Lake Michigan beach towns and their beaches to your itinerary.
Grand Mere State Park | 7337 Thornton Drive Grand Mere boasts sweeping dunes, deep blowouts, a mile-long sandy beach, and hikes beneath canopies of colorful leaves.
This is one of Southwest Michigan’s most popular year-round beaches with its 2,450 feet of shoreline from the mouth of the St. Joseph River to Park Street. The park gives you access to the South Pier, and you can walk to the beach from downtown St. Joseph.
This is one of the most beautiful, lesser-used beaches in Southwest Michigan. It is also a trailhead for a 10-mile natural and urban fitness hiking and biking adventure — the trees are autumn showpieces along the way.
Warren Dunes State Park | 12032 Red Arrow Highway, Sawyer Three miles of beach frontage, including a separate dog-friendly beach. A top pick for its giant dunes and beautiful fall foliage.
Weko Beach | 5237 Lake St., Bridgman Nestled among 42 acres of wooded dunes, it has 960 feet of sandy beach with some of the area’s favorite fall foliage and water vistas.
Seven favorite fall things to do at our beaches
There are so many ways to fill several fall days in Southwest Michigan. Here are locals’ and visitors’ top picks from high adventures to total relaxation.
Take a fall color tour
Follow the West Michigan Pike routes in this guide. Along the way, visit our pick-your-own and farm markets to gather just-harvested fruits and vegetables, plus bread, jams, desserts, and more for your fall beach picnic. This is also one of the best times of year to look for colorful rocks, beach glass, and fossils along the water’s edge.
Paddle along the shoreline
Most beaches offer easy access to take your canoe, kayak, or SUP from the parking lot to the shoreline. Several also have launch areas on scenic rivers that empty into the big lake. Shoreline paddles give you gorgeous views of fall foliage along the bluffs and across the dunes.
Watch for migratory birds on their Lake Michigan flight path
The migration flight path along Lake Michigan’s shoreline is almost as ancient as the dunes. Fall is a peak time for birdwatching, seeing everything from songbirds and shorebirds to raptors.
Be captivated by Great Lakes freighters and barges
It’s hard not to be drawn to the St. Joseph River and harbor when the big freighters and barges arrive or depart from St. Joseph. Watching these big ships navigate past the railroad swing bridge is especially enthralling. We hope you will also see the big ships at night easing through the channel by spotlight or their lights reflecting in the still harbor waters — it will take your breath away. Fall is the last season to be awed before the gales of November stop the shipping traffic on Lake Michigan until the next spring.
Reel in the big ones from our piers, rivers, and the Big Lake
Pier fishing for feisty salmon, trout, and steelhead is a thrill in Southwest Michigan. You can easily access some of our favorite fishing spots from New Buffalo Public Beach, Silver Beach County Park, Tiscornia Beach, and South Haven’s South Beach.
Go surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving
Many people are surprised to learn that you can surf, snorkel and scuba dive off the coast of Lake Michigan. Calmer days on the Big Lake are best for the latter two watersports, but frequent north and south winds make for surfable waves in the fall. You can often spot surfers from the shore at Lions Park, Silver Beach County Park, and Tiscornia Beach — or go out and ride the waves on your board!
See the best sunsets
It’s a daily ritual to head to any of our beaches to watch the sun sink below Lake Michigan’s horizon in a swath of peach, yellow, lavender, and scarlet colors brightening the evening sky. Even on overcast evenings, you will still find colors and a peaceful ending to your day on our shore.
Stay over at near-the-beach lodgings
Lodgings in Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, and Stevensville are just minutes from our beaches, resort town shopping, dining, fall festivals, and attractions. It’s a great time of year to get the hotel rate and amenities you want, especially on weekdays.
Southwest Michigan is bursting with ideas about what to do this summer. It was tough narrowing this bucket list to 73! Here are some traditional and quirky ways to fill your days and nights. But don’t stop with just these. Spend the next few months at our region’s most popular events, hiking our trails, taking in our galleries, learning our history, and, of course, enjoying the Great Lakes shoreline. Try to check off each one of these items on this ultimate Southwest Michigan summer bucket list. Add more to your list and then contact us with your suggestions of where to go and what to do. We will use them to update the bucket list each summer and share it with other travelers.
BRING YOUR PET ALONG!
We love pets all year round in Southwest Michigan. We’ve labeled the pet-friendly destinations in this list.
1. Farmers markets (Pet Friendly)
One of the best reasons to visit Southwest Michigan in the summer is what’s ripening in our countryside. This is one of the juiciest, crispiest, most-delicious seasons in Southwest Michigan. Check out our farmers market blog to find out where to get locally-grown goods and home-baked treats.
2. Pick produce
Pick fresh fruits and vegetables at our many farms! Check out our harvest guide.
3. Tour the North Pier Lighthouse
Go inside the inner lighthouse in St. Joseph! Where you can look out onto Lake Michigan from its lantern. If you prefer not to tour, you can visit the outside for free, or see them from our beaches.
4. Ride the Amtrak (Pet Friendly)
Take a ride past beautiful beaches and hop off where you’d like! The Pere Marquette line travels between Grand Rapids, Holland, Bangor, St. Joseph, and Chicago. Board at the depot in St. Joseph outside of Silver Beach Pizza.
5. Take the Water Taxi
Ride along the St. Joseph River and choose to hop off and one of four stops in St. Joseph and Benton Harbor. Did we mention it’s free? Ride any summer weekend!
6. Go shopping at boutiques (Pet Friendly)
Our boutiques sell home decor, apparel, locally made art, and unique items that your friends at home won’t have! We also have several adorable pet shops where you can get special treats for a man’s best friend.
7. Pedal the CycleBoat
This is St. Joseph’s first and only Cycleboat! Tour the St. Joseph inner harbor with up to 16 of your friends, family, strangers or co-workers with a certified Master Captain. There are two stops at local bars/restaurants.
8. Watch a sunset (Pet Friendly)
Whether inland or by the coast, Southwest Michigan’s sunset game is strong. Pick a beach, vista, park, or waterfront restaurant and end the day in a colorful way.
9. Go to the Market
Shop around, grab a bite to eat, take a cooking class, sample fine cheeses, support local artists or farms, and much more! This collection of shops has so much to offer to keep you busy for hours.
10. Have a picnic watching the races at GingerMan Raceway Pet Friendly
Located in South Haven, the GingerMan Raceway course layout simulates the full spectrum of driving situations: high-speed straights and short sprints, long sweeping corners and tight apexes, heavy and light braking, and elevation change. Bring a picnic and watch drivers zip around the track!
11. Grab an ice cream!
Enjoy an ice cream or frozen yogurt cone on a bench swing along Lake Bluff Park in downtown St. Joseph. Get delicious dips in your favorite flavors at Cabana’s, Chocolate Cafe, Kilwins or State Street Treats. The lake bluff views of Lake Michigan are spectacular, especially at sunset! Pet Friendly
12. Silver Beach Pizza
Watch the Amtrak passenger train and freight trains roll by while eating at Silver Beach Pizza in St. Joseph. It’s home to some of the area’s best pizzas — draft beer schooners.
13. Hot Dog Kart
Grab a Chicago-style hot dog from the Hot Dog Kart on the corner of State and Broad in St. Joseph. They serve Vienna beef dogs in a steamed poppy seed bun and smother it with your choice of toppings.
Watch them make slabs of creamy fudge on cool marble tables at Kilwins Ice Cream-Fudge-Chocolate Shoppe in downtown St. Joseph. Just follow your nose to their screened door. You won’t leave empty-handed.
15. Fire & Ice Pizzeria (Pet Friendly)
Wow! Watch Fire & Ice Pizzeria & Creamery in St. Joseph makes the coldest, creamiest ice cream in seconds with a blast of liquid nitrogen. It’s almost as much fun to see them make your favorite ice cream flavor as it is to eat it!
16. RyeBelle’s rooftop
Request a seat on Ryebelle’s Restaurant & Bar’s rain-or-shine rooftop in downtown St. Joseph. Then order your favorite beverage from the full bar. The Lake Michigan views are mesmerizing.
17. Have a farm feast
Enjoy dinner on the farm — you will rarely taste food this fresh and delicious! Granor Farm, a certified organic grower in Three Oaks, prepares and serves meals on Fridays and Saturdays. The vegetables, grains, herbs, and other ingredients come from their farm and local farming neighbors.
18. Feast on food truck goods (Pet Friendly)
Grab a snack or a meal from Southwest Michigan food trucks. They serve tacos, barbecue, cajun, burgers, and treats all summer. Find them at Lookout Park in St. Joseph, Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer, Watermark Brewing Co. in Stevensville, Arclight Brewing Company in Watervliet, and at special events and festivals.
19. Sherman’s Dairy Bar (Pet Friendly)
Get an ice cream cone or sundae at Sherman’s Dairy Bar in South Haven. If you think the baby dip cone is BIG, wait until you see the Pig’s Dinner. This place loads every scoop with flavor!
20. Play the Creative Connections Game
Earn prizes while exploring the vibrant and rich art, history, and culture of Southwest Michigan! This game is played year-round and gives you plenty of good reasons to come back.
21. Mural tour (Pet Friendly)
Take a colorful tour through our towns by seeing all the murals we have to offer. Several of these works of art actually pay homage to the history of the buildings they are on or the towns they are in!
22. Sculpture tour (Pet Friendly)
Southwest Michigan is home to many sculptures by famous artists who have left their mark on the area. Follow along this blog for some starting points.
23. SMSO (Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra)
Catch one of the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra’s shows! SMSO is a professional orchestra with highly-trained musicians who travel from cities as far away as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Louisville, and Nashville to perform.
24. The GhostLight Theatre
This state-of-the-art venue is home to a slate of thought-provoking and innovative theatrical productions, featuring talented performers from the community and beyond.
25. Art hop
Quarterly, local businesses, restaurants, and galleries invite the public to celebrate art and local artists in this walkable downtown setting. Art Hops are free, family-friendly, and open to everyone. Many of the participating organizations provide light refreshments for guests. Additionally, throughout the summer, visitors can enjoy Arts in the Park events which feature local artist’s booths, music, and food.
26. Benton Harbor Arts District
Whether you want to shop around a record store, learn glass-blowing techniques, visit galleries, see a play, enjoy farm-to-table food, drink craft beer, or simply read in the park, this is the place to be!
27. Culinary Cottage
The Culinary Cottage offers hands-on themed cooking classes. You’ll learn from someone who has been in the business for years and makes prepping a full meal seem easy and fun!
28. Berrien County Historical Association
Visit Courthouse Square to see Michigan’s oldest existing county courthouse, built in 1839. Then, explore Berrien County’s storied past through exhibits and other historic buildings on site. Look for family-friendly events happening here, too, like Croonin’ at the Courthouse concerts.
29. Echoes Baseball Game (Pet Friendly)
Back in the day, visitors were enthralled by the House of David’s semi-pro home baseball team with its long-bearded players. Today, you can watch a game on the grounds and see volunteers dawn uniforms similar to the ones that players wore decades ago!
30. Eden Springs Train
While you’re there, hop over to the miniature train for a ride around Eden Springs! This train and other amusement park attractions brought visitors here from all over the country back in the House of David heyday.
31. Sail on the Friends Good Will
The Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven is the home port to five on-the-water exhibits made up of both replicas and historic vessels. You can view the museum fleet from the docks or on the water. Sailing on the 1810 tall ship replica Friends Good Will is something you will talk about for years.
32. Benton Harbor African American History & Literature Gallery
Learn how our local history is essential to America’s history. This gallery engages our communities in fostering unity in differences and developing an appreciation for the African American experience through the arts, history, and culture.
33. Kal-Haven Trail Sesquicentennial State Park Pet Friendly
Looking for a day of activity? This 33-mile trail linking the cities of South Haven and Kalamazoo is the perfect opportunity for biking, hiking, running, horseback riding, and more!
34. Stargazing at TK Lawless (Pet Friendly)
Are you looking for an amazing tourism experience? Go stargazing at one of Michigan’s three International Dark Sky Parks and an official Michigan Dark Sky Preserve. With no light pollution, you will see a spellbinding vista of our universe and its stars, planets, moons, and nebulae.
35. Disc Golf
Visit Madeline Bertrand County Park for an 18-hole disc golf course, designed by the world’s leading course architect, is contained within Bertrand’s pine and hardwood forests. Each hole features a cement tee-off area, a pole target, and a tee sign that indicates hole number, distance from tee to hole, and par. Bring your plastic flying discs and enjoy the fun!
36. Learn to surf
Great Lakes surfing is an exciting hobby, especially in the summer! Third Coast Surf Shop has the professional experience to teach beginners how to master our waves. They even have summer surfing camps for your little ones.
37. Paddle the Paw Paw River (Pet Friendly)
Rent a kayak or paddle board and paddle down the Paw Paw River. Third Coast Surf Shop offers rentals in Benton Harbor, but there are several spots to launch and exit from, including near North Pier Brewing Company in Benton Harbor, where you can enjoy a beer and burger before continuing on.
38. Walk the towering canopy at Galien River County Park (Pet Friendly)
Composed of upland & wetland habitats, this nature park features a 300′ Canopy Walkway that leads to a 60′-high Marsh Overlook Tower and a 600′-long Marsh Boardwalk that leads to a river viewing and fishing Platform.
39. Fish off the pier
Don’t have a boat? The pier in St. Joseph is very popular among fishermen. The types of fish most frequently caught include perch, trout, salmon, whitefish and catfish. Public use of the North and South Pier is allowed at your own risk. Please use caution and keep off the pier during storms or high waters.
40. Fly a kite
Grab a kite from one of our small town shops, and take it to the nearest beach! Watch your toy soar high in the sky over the waves of Lake Michigan. On a windy day, it will be joined by several kites.
41. Fernwood Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve
Fernwood is a special place where people, plants, and nature come together. Beautiful gardens surrounded by forest are tucked into a landscape of 105 acres of cultivated and natural areas along the scenic St. Joseph River valley. Fernwood’s nature preserve, with its tall trees, tranquil ponds, abundant springs, and carpets of wildflowers, is a magical place that draws people back again and again.
42. Mountain Biking at Andrews University
Want a challenge? Head down to Andrews University Trails in Berrien Springs. The thrill awaits on one of the most technical mountain biking trails in the area. This ten-mile, single-track trail system has a variety of features and with more than 1,000 feet of elevation per lap, it will get your heart pumping.
43. Intermediate biking
Southwest Michigan is home to intermediate trails, too, including the new Lakeview Trail on Whirlpool Corporation’s Benton Harbor campus and the 10-mile single track at Dr. T.K. Lawless County Park in Vandalia.
44. Beach volleyball
It wouldn’t be summer without a round of beach volleyball! Bring your friends and family together for a fun game in the sand. Several beaches have nets already set up, you just need to bring a ball.
45. Ironman Steelhead Triathlon
For extreme athletes, taking part in the Ironman Steelhead Triathlon is a great way to challenge yourself and see a lot of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor area. Athletes start their day on a scenic journey through Southwest Michigan, traversing through the wine country and beaches to the finish line.
46. Makers Trail tour
Several of Southwest Michigan’s makers offer a chance to see their behind-the-scenes production. Sample their craft beverages and see how local grapes and grain make some of the most popular drinks in our region.
47. Journeyman’s Welters Folly
This is one of the largest putting greens in the world! At 30,000 square feet, this is a one-of-a-kind way to enjoy a handcrafted cocktail.
48. Bowl at Peat’s Cider
Housed within a 1960s bowling alley, Peat’s Cider Social is a place to open your palate to new hard cider and seltzer waters. And you can still bowl, too! There are also old arcade games to play, and food trucks out back occasionally.
Most of the 73 ideas on this list can be enjoyed by all ages, but here are some that babies to college-aged travelers would add to their bucket lists, too.
49. Silver Beach Carousel
Your children’s grins will spread from ear to ear the moment they walk through the Silver Beach Carousel House doors in St. Joseph. The toughest part is choosing which of the 48 magnificent, hand-carved menagerie figures and two chariots to ride first. Before you leave, ask for a passport and set a goal to ride all 50 over time.
50. Whirlpool Compass Fountain
Bring a beach ball or Frisbee, a towel, and clothes that can get wet to the Whirlpool Compass Fountain in St. Joseph. Then dance, splash, twirl, laugh and feel the refreshing water cascade over your head and down to your toes. The area’s biggest splash pad is free from late May to early September.
51. Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone
When you need a place to get out of the sun or rain, this is it! Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone will easily fill a couple of hours of your day. Toddlers to pre-teens love the Lake Michigan water table, lighthouse climbing tower, and pin wall, plus dancing and being silly by the interactive Recollections exhibit.
52. Great Lakes freighter watching (Pet Friendly)
These massive ships do not come into St. Joseph Harbor every day, but when they do, they are breathtaking. The best places to be awed are the piers by Silver Beach County Park and Tiscornia Park, Margaret B. Upton Arboretum, and the turning basin by the Inn at Harbor Shores. Have your camera ready!
53. Movies in the Park
Pack snacks and a blanket or chairs to watch a free outdoor movie with your family and friends at several parks in St. Joseph. The films start at 7:30 p.m. Check the July and August calendars for each Saturday’s film title and park location.
54. Toy shopping
Treat your child to a new toy, game, puzzle, or book from a downtown St. Joseph store. The Toy Company staff does a fantastic job recommending right-age choices. Plus, G&M, Forever Books, Oh My Darlings, and State Street Stuff are stuffed with selections you won’t find in big box stores.
55. Scooter Joe’s Wheel & Water Rentals (Pet Friendly)
Include Scooter Joe’s in St. Joseph on your kid-friendly activities bucket list. The Surrey bikes are a must, but you can also rent an individual beach cruiser, fat tire, tandem, and electric bikes. There are also Lily Pads, kayaks, canoes, and pontoon boats for the water. You won’t hear “I’m bored” from your teens.
56. Warren Dunes dog beach (Pet Friendly)
Romp at the Warren Dunes State Park dog beach in Sawyer. Leash up your dog and walk down to the designated pet area at the north end of this renowned park. It’s a great place to splash in the waves, chase balls and sticks, or walk six miles on hiking trails.
57. Antiques on the Bluff May to October | St. Joseph | First Sundays of the month
This rain-or-shine event brings around 50 antique and vintage vendors to Lake Bluff Park.
58. Dockside Music Late May to early September | Plank’s Tavern, Inn at Harbor Shores, St. Joseph | Evenings, Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays
Pick an evening to let the live music waft over you like the breezes from the harbor basin.
59. The Acorn shows Late May to early September | Live music, tribute bands, entertainment, competitions, and festivals | Three Oaks | Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays
This intimate theater is an arts and culture hub and one of our top must-go-at-least-once summer destinations. Attending just once will make you want to fit more shows on your calendar.
60. Makers Trail Festival Second Saturday of June | Weko Beach, Bridgman
Southwest Michigan craft beverage makers will pop corks, tap kegs and pour bottles all afternoon as you seek out your favorite Southwest Michigan craft wines, beers, ciders, and spirits. There’s also dancing and chilling to regional bands and savoring summer flavors from local food trucks. Year after year, this is one of our best beach parties.
61. Lest We Forget Third Saturday of June | St. Joseph River, St. Joseph
This festival is themed around one of the U.S. conflicts from World War I to now. This is your chance to ride an amphibious landing craft on the St. Joseph River — it’s FREE.
62. Juneteenth Parade & Celebration Third Saturday of June | Downtown Benton Harbor
Attend this culturally rich afternoon to mark the end of slavery in the U.S. and promote African-American history, art, culture, economic development, and community cooperation.
63. Lumberjack Weekend at the Square Fourth Weekend of June | Courthouse Square, Berrien Springs
See lumberjack demonstrations, participate in hands-on opportunities, and listen to experts share their love of Michigan’s logging history. It’s a tree-mendous time for the whole family!
64. Baroda Fourth of July Fireworks Early July | Baroda, St. Joseph, and South Haven | Dusk
64. Krasl Art Show The second weekend of July | Lake Bluff Park, St. Joseph
This juried event is one of the premier art shows in Michigan showcasing the talents of over 172 artists from across the United States. Bluff-top views of Lake Michigan and proximity to shops, restaurants, and hotels, bring visitors back year after year.
65. Lake Breeze Music Festival Second Saturday of July | Shadowland Pavillion, Silver Beach, St. Joseph
A diverse selection of music, food, and drink on the beautiful sunset shore of Lake Michigan.
A BBQ competition sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society plus music and dance, children’s interactive entertainment, games and rides, food trucks, and summer sales.
67. Mike Yore Memorial Car Show Friday, mid-July | Lake Boulevard, St. Joseph
Get a close look at over 150 eye-catching classic cars, talk with the owners, and enjoy listening to classic music hits.
68. Blues & Brews Festival Saturday, mid-July | Round Barn Winery & Estate, Baroda
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the smooth rhythms of live classic jazz and craft beers, wines, and spirits in the vineyards.
69. Chalk the Block
First weekend of August | Downtown St. Joseph
This annual favorite showcases the imaginations of amateur and professional chalk artists as they fill Broad Street with their creativity.
70. Coloma Glad-Peach Festival First weekend of August | Downtown Coloma
Come for the grand parade, baking contest, food vendors, arts and crafts show, gorgeous flowers, and the tastiest, juiciest peaches.
71. National Blueberry Festival Second weekend of August | South Haven
This lake resort town knows how to celebrate these delicious berries! Come for the parade, pie eating contest, 5K run/walk, craft show, live music, farm day, kids’ activities, and rides.
72. Berrien County Youth Fair Third week of August | Fairgrounds, Berrien Springs
Midway rides and games, grandstand entertainment, blue ribbon competitions, and lots of fair food favorites make this one of the best weeks of the summer.
73. Tri-State Regatta Labor Day Weekend | St. Joseph River & Harbor
Watch racing sailboats complete the first leg in St. Joseph on Friday, join the all-day party at the St. Joseph River Yacht Club on Saturday, and see the boats off on Sunday morning.
BOOK YOUR STAY NOW
Summer is a great time to take a day trip to Southwest Michigan, but it’s even more relaxing and fun-filled when you can stay for one or more nights.
This time of year, it’s never too early to reserve a room at one of our lodgings. To get your best pick of dates, amenities, and rates, you should put booking your stay at the top of your bucket list. Then see how many of these 73 ideas you can check off before Labor Day!
For fall colors and activities, Michigan tops the charts in the United States. But for the best fall vacation destinations near major Midwest cities such as Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit and Grand Rapids, Michigan, St. Joseph is Number One! This Lake Michigan beach town loves celebrating sweater-weather days and nights with you!
Be wowed by St. Joseph’s jewel-toned foliage
Luckily for you, this city loves deciduous trees — sugar maples, oaks, beech, Eastern cottonwood, chestnut and shagbark hickory. They line the Victorian-era streets, fill nearby woods, shade winding trails and grow on dunes and stand as sentinels along river banks. The leaves drench our city and landscape in scarlet, amber, orange, brown and deep purple from late September to early November. You can begin all of Southwest Michigan’s fall color tours in St. Joseph, then follow the lakeshore or go deep into our countryside to discover more beautiful vistas around every curve in the road.
The same Lake Michigan that makes St. Joseph one of the best beach towns, tempers the climate so it is a premier fruit, vegetable and flower-growing region in the country. Gather up shiny red, gold and Granny Smith green apples, plump orange and white pumpkins, purple, white and golden cauliflower, sweet corn, cabbages, tomatoes, beets, beans, kale, squashes, onions, decorative Indian corn and gourds, and a rainbow array of mums. Pick your favorites at the St. Joseph Farmers Market open on Saturdays until the first weekend of October or drive out to local farms for hayrides, corn mazes and a cornucopia of food choices.
Shop for fall fashions and enjoy oh-so-delicious comfort foods
St. Joseph has a very walkable downtown, its streets and shop windows burst with festive fall decorations. Sip hot caramel cider or lick creamy pumpkin ice cream cones. Find stylish clothing and household items that national box stores never carry. Bring home one-of-a-kind artwork and jewelry from galleries and artist cooperatives. Then find soothing comfort foods and soups, many made from locally harvested ingredients, in our cafes and restaurants. Stay awhile, it’s so refreshing.
Double your fall color tour fun: Makers Trail + Nature Most places in Michigan focus their fall color experiences on the dramatic changes in leaf colors. But in St. Joseph, you can also see and taste an autumn color experience on our Makers Trail — glasses filled with amber, russet, garnet, deep purple, straw yellow and rosé wines, beers, ciders and cocktails. To help you have twice the fun on your autumn travels, you can pair several of our more colorful nature trails with nearby Makers Trail destinations. Bring your Flight Crew Passport into each Makers Trail stop so you can earn three levels of rewards, a bonus prize and the chance to win a grand prize, too!
Arguably, this is the prime time to kayak, canoe or paddleboard and catch views you wouldn’t see any other time of year! Some of the most colorful fall foliage is along the banks of our rivers, nearby inland lakes and Lake Michigan — the reflections of the leaves in the rippling water double your enjoyment! It is also the season to spy wildlife, fall wildflowers and migrating birds.To follow our fall color water trails, launch your craft or rent from the Third Coast Paddling site.
The weather in this Michigan beach town is tailor made for fall golf What better weather to play golf than a crisp, cool morning that eases into a warm, sunny afternoon? Add in a swath of fall color and many golfers say this is their favorite time of year to get out on the links in Southwest Michigan. Average September and October high temperatures range in the mid-70s to low-60s.
You will find a range of golf courses to match your skills so the game stays fun for you and your companions whether you are just learning the game or finessing your championship drives. When you reserve your tee time, ask about fall discount rates, too.
Another favorite fall color hunt — collect beach glass
As the colder waves kick up on Lake Michigan, so do the treasures along its sandy shore. With fewer people on the beaches, this is a relaxing time to hunt for colorful beach glass. These smoothed shards of broken glass from bottles and jars glisten among the multi-colored stones. The most common colors you will find in and around St. Joseph are shades of white, brown and light blue. Once in a while you can spot green, dark blue, purple and, very rarely, red or orange glass, too.
Stay for a sunset … then the night; more fall joys await tomorrow
A signature reason to come to St. Joseph is the sunset as you gaze at Lake Michigan’s horizon or across the nearby vineyards, crimson blueberry fields or orchards. Each evening is a new array of colors, sometimes brilliant, others muted and always calming.
Stay long enough to watch the twinkling stars pierce the blackness and the moonlight dance across the water or fields. Then settle in for the night at one of our local hotels — several in St. Joseph offer views of the water. Tomorrow, you will find more fall beauty to color your world.
Recently, Forbes magazine published an article about the 10 best places if you want to retire early in the U.S. In it, southwestern Michigan tied for second place nationally and leads the pack in the Midwest.
MagnifyMoney, the source of the ranking, studied 217 metropolitan areas throughout the United States and scored each on cost of living, quality of life, and employability. Quality of life measurements are based on weather, access to arts and entertainment, and walkability.
Of the Top 10 places throughout the country to retire early, southwest Michigan ranked number one in quality of life. The area’s thriving arts and entertainment community weighs heavily in this strong showing.
The centerpiece in southwestern Michigan for many of the biggest names as well as some of the brightest upcoming touring acts is The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College. Located on the LMC Napier Avenue campus in Benton Harbor, The Mendel Center has been serving the region for more than a quarter century with a lineup that rivals those found in larger markets, but with unparalleled ease of access.
The Mendel Center offers several series and events that cater to all ages and create connections for visitors and residents alike.
The Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan Speakers Series
The Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan Speakers Series brings world leaders, politicians, and other newsmakers to the region. It provides unique opportunities for personal and community growth by presenting a wide spectrum of viewpoints on thought-provoking topics. The series is primarily membership-based but individual speaker tickets are available to the public. More information available here.
Hanson Theatre Living Room Series
The Hanson Living Room Series is a live music experience in the intimate setting of the 250-seat Hanson Theatre located in The Mendel Center. The venue is designed for maximum viewing and listening pleasure, and provides audiences with the opportunity to connect more closely with the performers and the performances.
Wine & Food Events
The Mendel Center also features an array of events centered on local food and drink, including the previously mentioned Mix & Mingle Holiday Party and Shamrocked Irish Feast. These events proudly feature local craft beers and wines. Speaking of Michigan wines, The Mendel Center partners on events with Lake Michigan Vintners, whose wines are handcrafted by the students of Lake Michigan College’s Wine & Viticulture Technology program.
Vacation may be the only chance you get to make time for breakfast, and when in Southwest Michigan, you will be glad you did. Whether you live for breakfast food or you’d rather drink your breakfast you’ll definitely want to start your day at one of these amazing restaurants:
Staymaker at Journeyman Distillery, Three Oaks, MI
The ultimate brunch buffet includes breakfast-themed pizzas, breakfast meats, savory casseroles, fresh-cooked eggs, a donut bar, house-made pastries, a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar and a unique cocktail menu. Gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan plus non-alcoholic drink options are available. Served every Sunday. Call for more information: 269-820-2050.
Mason Jar Cafe, Benton Harbor, MI
Made from scratch, locally-sourced, organic and delicious menu options make this a local and visitors’ favorite breakfast option. Go-to choices (there are honestly too many to list here) include their spicy egg sandwich, stuffed French toast, corned beef hash, huevos rancheros and daily quiche. A wide selection of specialty lattes and hot chocolates are standouts, too. This cozy cafe in the Benton Harbor Arts District is a must try while you’re in town. Open daily.
Plank’s Tavern on the Water, St. Joseph, MI
Brunch with a view! Start your day with a mimosa overlooking the St. Joseph River. Plank’s Tavern is located in the Inn at Harbor Shores. Choices include a selection of benedicts, deviled avocado poached eggs served with sweet potato hash, a breakfast hot pot and more. Brunch menu available Saturdays & Sundays 7am-3pm and brunch buffet on Sundays.
Iron Shoe Distillery, Niles, MI
Southwest Michigan’s newest distillery. Try their “Urban Legend Bloody Mary” paired with their macaroni & cheese waffle. Check their Facebook page for current hours.
Silver Beach Pizza, St. Joseph, MI
Silver Beach Pizza is well known for having the best pizza in Southwest Michigan, so why did they make this list? Because of their Bloody Marys! Start with their famous schooner glass full of delicious Bloody Mary goodness then add basically a full meal as a garnish: a slice of pizza, celery stick, pepperoni, dill pickle spear, pepperoncini, and olives. Enjoy it with a view of Lake Michigan and passing trains. Check their website for seasonal hours.
Southwest Michigan is home to the vibrant and artistic Twin Cities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. Visiting the waterfronts of Lake Michigan and the St. Joseph River, walking along Lake Boulevard in St. Joseph or exploring the Arts District of Benton Harbor soon reveals that there is a wide range of artists and artworks integrated throughout the community. In particular, there are several publicly placed outdoor sculptures and monuments. As part of the community, these artworks and memorials are a source of community pride. They beautify our neighborhoods and make them unique.
The merits of public art have become increasingly recognized. Public art offers informal opportunities to experience art during outdoor activities and exploration. It can be experienced in formals or flip flops, costs nothing to see, is available day and night and is barrier free. Public art frequently becomes a shared site to gather or a visual marker for destinations. People take photos in front of it, using it to capture and share special memories and moments. It is fun and invites engagement. Further, public art is known to increase the safety of the sites where it is located as well as drive cultural tourism, providing tangible benefits to the community in which it resides.
Read further to learn about the organizations and sites that host public art in the Twin Cities.
KRASL ART CENTER
The Krasl Art Center (KAC) in St. Joseph has collected sculptures since it opened its doors in 1980. Believing in the power of art and community, KAC originally developed its collection to complement the memorials along Lake Bluff Park through the commissioning and acquisition of unique contemporary sculptures. Today, the KAC celebrates its newly renovated grounds with the monumental sculpture Rising Crossing Tides by Richard Hunt at its focal point – both of which purposefully invite the community to engage with the grounds and the art on view as an extension of the beautiful outdoor surroundings.
Sculpture in the KAC collection ranges from regional artists to internationally recognized sculptors. On the west face of the KAC building the kinetic sculpture Three Lines Diagonal by artist George Rickey may be found. Rickey was a native of Indiana yet his artworks are on view in museums and sculpture parks throughout the world. Three Lines Diagonal is a dynamic sculpture of vertical elements held together by industrial airplane bearings. The elements twist and turn, powered only by the wind, usually off the lake, echoing its ferocity and calm from day to day, hour to hour.
American Treasure Dale Chihuly’s Beacon Gold Chandelier bursts with color and energy in its perfectly framed location within the KAC entrance. Day and night guests can see this world-class glass sculpture. On the KAC grounds, is a bronze sculpture by artist Dr. Burt Brent called The Heavyweight (renamed Lotus the hippo by local children), that welcomes young guests to crawl on her back because it is perfectly accessible and broad enough to sit on.
SILVER BEACH COUNTY PARK
Additional sculptures from the Krasl Art Center’s collection may be experienced at Silver Beach County Park. These works happily reside alongside beach-goers, surfers, volleyball players, children and adults alike. They endure the blowing sand of the beach year-round, which is why all are made of steel and often unpainted. Preeminent American sculptor Richard Hunt’s And You, Seas is located at the north end of the park, along the pier. It is a monumental steel sculpture overlooking the mouth of the St. Joseph River. Referencing waves, wind and nature, it is a commemorative artwork that also acknowledges the sailing community within the region.
MARGARET B. UPTON ARBORETUM
Since 1996, the KAC has produced its Biennial Sculpture Invitational. This 15-month long exhibition brings in sculptures by artists predominantly from the region. It provides an ever-changing display of public art throughout the twin cities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, with one of its main locations being the Margaret B. Upton Arboretum. Twelve sculpture pads feature Biennial artworks. This effort is coordinated with the City of St. Joseph, with engagement by both the city and community in its selection and placement.
BOX FACTORY FOR THE ARTS
The KAC partners with the Box Factory for the Arts to place six Biennial sculptures directly across the street from its main entrance. Sloping up a hill, artworks enliven the space with color, texture and form. The Box Factory curates a selection of artworks for its immediate grounds as well. This tradition honors their commitment to regional artists. Presently, South Bend artist Dora Natella’s sculpture The Sentinel stoically greets guests as they enter the front doors of this dynamic arts organization. Natella is a master of the human figure and this piece is a strong testament of her vision and skill.
BENTON HARBOR ARTS DISTRICT
The Arts District of Benton Harbor is filled with art, some placed by the KAC, but most placed by artists living and working in the community. There are several small pocket parks in the district and the influence of Water Street Glass Works and its Metal Shop is evident in the types of artworks often found within them. Quarterly Art Hops bring even more temporary art placements, pop-up galleries and exhibitions to the neighborhood making it an exciting place to visit and wander through.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of art sites in the Twin Cities. Several memorials may be found on Lake Bluff Park in St. Joseph and more Biennial sculptures may be seen at Lookout Park along Lakeshore Drive and at Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor.
If you have not explored the art in this area, do so. Ride your bike, take a picnic, go on a walking tour. A sculpture map and additional content may be found at krasl.org that will help you get started. Have fun with it. Ask yourself, your children or your friends what they see. There are no wrong answers.
Sitting on the beach with your toes in the sand. It’s an iconic image of summer – and frankly, no summer feels complete without at least one beach day (at least to me). If you’re looking to spend a day at the beach in Southwest Michigan, consider these tips while planning your trip.
Choose your beach carefully.
Beaches and parks pepper the coastline throughout Southwest Michigan, and each has its own personality and fits different beachgoers. Here are a few different options to choose from:
Silver Beach County Park: Silver Beach is the busiest of beaches and for good reason. With more than 20 beach volleyball courts, playground equipment and lifeguards on duty during the summer, it suits those who are most interested in being active on their beach day. If you choose Silver Beach, be sure to plan a walk to the pier for a little relaxation mid-day (it offers a great view of the North Pier Lighthouses). Silver Beach is located within walking distance of many of St. Joseph’s greatest attractions. Take the kids to the Whirlpool Compass Fountain to frolic in the water jets, for a ride on the Silver Beach Carousel and a trip through the Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone. Silver Beach can easily fill a full day of fun for even the most finicky of beachgoers.
Warren Dunes State Park: For the nature loving beachgoer, Warren Dunes provides a beautiful beach filled with unmatched beauty. Plan some time to hike the trails throughout the park – they run anywhere from .2 miles to 6.0 miles and offer views from all levels of the dunes and beach. Give yourself plenty of time to explore. Hike the large sand dune and look out over the coastline to get a view you’ve never seen before. Walk along the stream and find the clay pit. If you’re an adventurer, try skim boarding along the stream. Or take a ride down the blow-up water slide in the parking lot – the breeze is refreshing! Warren Dunes is a more natural environment than many beaches and as such has many species to keep your eyes out for. Here are some tips provided by the State of Michigan.
Jean Klock Park: Jean Klock Park is a jewel located in the city of Benton Harbor. With parking so close to the shoreline, it’s a great spot to go if you only have a short period of time to enjoy the beach (or a full day, too!). To get to the beach, you’ll walk through a trail of dune grass that is sure to give you that feeling of awe and wonder that any beach trip should. Crafters will love Jean Klock Park as it’s a local favorite for finding crinoids and beach glass. Amateur photographers will love it too with a gorgeous view of the North Pier Lighthouses (framed by beautiful dunegrass).
Plan for a full day.
Any amount of time at the beach is refreshing, but a full day can leave you feeling revitalized and ready to take on the world. From the peaceful sound of seagulls in the morning to the spectacular sunsets at night, few things can calm the soul like a beach day. Take in as much as you possibly can for full benefits.
Don’t forget the food.
Prepare yourself for a long day of sun. Whether you pack a cooler full of snacks and sandwiches or plan to buy some food throughout the day, don’t let the day pass without filling your belly. Fresh Michigan fruit from one of our local farms makes for a great beach snack (refreshing and keeps the blood sugar up!). And if you don’t feel like making yourself a bagged lunch or you just plain forgot, Jimmy John’s delivers to Silver Beach. Just call in your order and meet the delivery person at the flag poles.
Guest Blogger: Katie White is a lifelong resident of Southwest Michigan and professionally encourages visitors to spend time in the region every chance she gets.
Southwest Michigan is one of the best places to visit during the summer because there are so many ways to relax, play, and get outside. As summer rushes by, you may wonder “what’s the best way to enjoy it before it’s gone?” Here are 10 things to add to your “Last Days of Summer” checklist that you’ll want to experience before the season ends.
1. Attend the Berrien County Youth Fair, Aug. 13-18. This is the largest county fair in the Midwest and is a tradition for most families in Southwest Michigan. With spinning rides, cotton candy, elephant ears, corn dogs, cute farm animals and concerts this is something the whole family will love!
2. Stop by our farm stands. You’ll find the freshest produce at our farm stands and farm markets. Check out our harvest calendar to see what’s in season.
3. Watch a Movie in the park. Through August 25, every Saturday night at dusk you can watch a family movie on the big screen in Whirlpool Centennial Park. What’s cooler than bringing the whole family to watch a movie under the stars?
4. Spend a day on the water. Rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard (SUP) from Third Coast Paddling and explore the Paw Paw River. You’ll have a blast paddling with friends and family and get a great workout in too.
5. Plan an all day beach day. Soak up the sun at one of our beaches for a truly relaxing end to your summer.
8. Tour the Makers Trail. The local breweries, wineries and distilleries are constantly releasing new beers, wines and cocktails. Many of them offer things like wine slushies, wine popsicles, and other unique items you can only find for a limited time during the summer.
Like collecting fossils, stones and driftwood, searching Lake Michigan’s shoreline for beach glass is a relaxing hobby that beachgoers of every age can enjoy. Over the years, when I have been out taking photos along the lake, I would pick up the occasional piece of beach glass bring it home and put it in my ‘junk’ drawer. As the pile built up, I started to notice the differences in shape and color in my small collection. I also began to notice how beach glass had been incorporated in the decoration of friends’ homes and its prevalence in area shops as jewelry and mosaic. As a result, I have started actively searching for beach glass when walking from location to location taking photos along Lake Michigan.
What is beach glass?
Beach glass is broken shards of glass that have been smoothed as the result of years of tumbling and rubbing against rocks and sand in fresh water. It is very similar to sea glass which is created in salt water. Years ago, and to a lesser extent now, glass bottles, jars, glass construction material etc. were discarded into Lake Michigan or the adjoining waterways. After many years of tumbling around in Lake Michigan which acts like a giant rock tumbler the once sharp pieces are ground down, rounded, and take on a softer frosted look.
The color of beach glass is determined by its source. In Southwest Michigan, much of it started as bottles and jars. I really enjoy trying to determine what an interestingly shaped piece may have once been. The most common colors that I find are various shades of white, brown and light blue. To a lesser extent there is also green, dark blue, purple and very rarely red.
Where can I find it?
Personally, my favorite times of year to look for beach glass are spring and fall due to the shoreline frequently and dramatically being reshaped by the waves during storms. That being said, you can usually find beach glass throughout the entire year in Southwest Michigan.
Popular beaches are generally not good places to look. This is because there are more people who may be looking and also because these beaches are frequently groomed, thereby removing most of the stone and glass.
The best places to search are beaches near areas that have been populated for a long amount of time as there is a greater chance that glass has been disposed of in the area. I like to look for areas of the beach where small stones are washing up on shore, especially after a storm. The beach glass is often intermixed with the stones and you will have to train your eyes to discern the glass. These areas of stone often shift and change location depending on the direction and intensity of waves. A wonderful spot one day can totally disappear the next. White is usually the easiest to see as it contrasts well with the generally dark colored stone in Southwest Michigan. Conversely, I have to search harder to find brown.
For me the best time of day is either morning or evening. I find that the natural light highlights the glass and at times almost seems to make it glow among the duller colored stones.
While looking for glass, it is also common to find crinoids, and fragments of ceramic tiles, cups, plates, etc. On occasion, I even find small Petoskey stones, geodes, and coins.
Many collectors will leave or throw back glass that is not yet fully smoothed and will dispose of any that pose a safety hazard to walking on the beach. When I am out, I always carry a garbage bag with me to dispose of any sharp glass and garbage that I may find along the shore.
What should I do with it?
There are many possible ways to use the beach glass that you collect. You can fill decorative jars and bowls with the colorful glass to use as a home accent, make jewelry such as rings, earring, and pendants, create mosaics, glue magnets to them and stick them to your fridge or take photos of them like I enjoy doing.
When out looking for beach glass, take your time and enjoy the relaxing walk. It is a wonderful way to decompress after a busy week.
If you know of a great place to find beach glass please send me a message on facebook. 😉
Summer is definitely the most popular time to visit southwest Michigan, however, I feel that there is even more to enjoy in the fall. Here are some of my fall favorites:
Enjoying the Fall Color: Whether on foot, by bike, stand-up paddle board, kayak, or in the car, enjoying the colors of fall is a must. I love hiking the trails at Warren Dunes and Grand Mere State Park, driving past vineyards and farms, and walking along the beaches and down State Street in St Joseph.
Windy Days: Probably my favorite part of fall are the windy days along the lakeshore. Watching the powerful waves crashing against the lighthouses, piers and shorelines is an impressive sight you have to see. Because the winds are frequently from the north, waves have the length of the lake to build which brings an increasing number of surfers to southwest Michigan. Silver Beach, Lions Park Beach and Weko Beach are popular surf locations. Moreover, it is perfect for flying kites.
Beach Glass: Fewer people on the beaches and windy days make for a great opportunity to find beach glass and fossils as you stroll along the lake.
Camping: Fall is definitely the best time to go camping. The cool nights are perfect for sleeping and you cannot beat relaxing next to the warmth of a campfire with a cup of coffee.
Harvest: From hayrides and picking your own fruits and vegetables to enjoying a masterfully prepared meal featuring local ingredients, fall is a great time to eat. The smell of ripe grapes as you drive through countryside, the delicious taste of fresh pressed apple cider and search for the perfect pumpkin are all things I delight in.
Makers Trail: The Makers Trail goes hand in hand with the drive through the countryside to enjoy the fall color and farm markets. Moreover, many of the locations have great views of the fall color directly from their tasting rooms and outdoor seating areas. Additionally, an increasing number of locations offer delicious meals featuring local produce and unique beers, wines and cocktails. I personally love barrel aged and sour beers.
Fall Events and Festivals: A couple of my favorite fall events in St. Joseph & Benton Harbor are Artoberfest, Fall Festival and Luminary Festival. All are family-friendly fun. Art, food, music at Artoberfest; fresh produce, Critter Barn, face painting and more at Fall Festival, and a stroll down the candle lit city streets while shopping during Luminary.
Sunsets: With the summer crowds gone, the beach is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the vibrant colors of the setting sun. If you look closely, fall is a great time to catch a glimpse of Chicago from across the lake.