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.
Visit Muskegon County, where you will find beautiful beaches, dunes, parks, trails – and forests filled with fall foliage. Muskegon County is not only a nature lover’s paradise. There are also exciting fall events, outdoor sports opportunities and unique outdoor activities. There’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Stunning Natural Scenery
Firstly, let’s talk about the natural beauty. With plenty of hardwood trees like maple, oak, birch, and aspen, Muskegon County’s forests are a show of vibrant colors. The fiery reds and oranges to warm yellows and golds are set against the brilliant blues of Lake Michigan and 23 inland lakes. This display draws visitors from far and wide to wander the trails and drive the scenic routes. With three state parks, seven county parks and many public parks – there’s no shortage of space to roam.
For the Adventurous
Head to the Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park for a unique and exhilarating autumn experience. Feel the thrill of zooming over a canopy of fall colors on a dual zipline. Climb a 38 ft. outdoor climbing wall or take a scenic hike through the park’s picturesque trails.
Take a Tour
For a more laid-back experience, check out the Depot to Depot self-guided fall tour. This month-long event invites you to soak up the autumn scenery. Pick up or download a map from Visit Muskegon. Then, enjoy special offers along the way as you explore local cuisine attractions, and shop for unique treasures.
Fall is for Family Fun
The little ones love it here too! Find fall-fun ranging from orchards and mazes to Trick or Treating at a historic lighthouse. New in 2023 is Michigan’s Adventure’s Tricks and Treats Fall Fest. Families will be able to enjoy select rides (including attractions at Camp “Spooky”), decorations, activities, entertainment and costume contests.
Make Your Plan
Experience the beauty and excitement of a Midwest autumn in Muskegon County. It’s all right here; from natural beauty to exciting seasonal events and fun outdoor adventures. So why not book your trip today and start exploring all that this hidden gem has to offer?
South Haven is a small community situated comfortably within walking distance of the Lake Michigan shoreline. With a diverse array of lodging & dining options, as well as a legendary history of summer festivals and hospitality to match, South Haven is the perfect place for friends and families to visit and begin new traditions. Here are 14 Reasons folks visit (and revisit) South Haven the most:
1. Sugar Sand & Rocky Beaches
The number one reason why people visit South Haven in the summer is to spend time on the city’s beautiful beaches. Along the Great Lakes you will find different terrains on the shores, from rocks to dunes to soft and silky sand. South Haven’s public beaches (there are seven!) are full of groomed, sugary sand that is perfect for relaxing, building sand castles and enjoying the sunshine.
You can park anywhere in town and walk from the downtown shopping area to the beach with relative ease. Getting to and from locations is simple in South Haven, and there are several hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals within walking distance to all the excitement of the downtown and nearby beaches. This makes it easy to rent a scooter, a bicycle or a golf cart and have fun around town! It’s easy here!
3. Variety Of Accommodations
There is a huge variety of places to stay in the city and township. Two locally-owned hotels are located directly downtown, while four chain hotels lie just a mile down from the main strip on Phoenix Street. You’ll also find several bed and breakfasts, an abundant amount of vacation rental homes, unique inns and camping cabins.
Photo Credit: Mark McCulfor
4. Exciting Adventures
Kids will love splashing around at the Friends Good Will Splash Pad, located near South Beach. The Splash Pad is an enchanting and safe place to allow small children to frolic Also, located just 4 miles from downtown, Arvesta Sport Complex contains two wibbit play areas, a cable park for skiing, wakeboarding and kneeboarding (no experience required), waterslides, a drink bar and more!
5. On-Water Experiences
There are so many different options to suit your taste for adventure, relaxation and fun:
• SoHa Surf Shop sets up camp at North and South Beaches with kayak and paddle board rentals.
• The Michigan Maritime Museum hosts a fleet of historic and replica boats, including tall ship Friends Good Will, an experience you can’t miss out on!
• The Sunsetter is docked at the South Marina and is a relaxing cruise that offers views of the lakeshore.
• Elsie J, a renovated 1945 Tugboat, takes day trips and sunset cruises.
Try one, or try all!
6. Pure Michigan Trail Town
In 2019, South Haven was one of the first four communities to be designated as a Pure Michigan Trail Town. Rent a bicycle from Rock n’ Road Cycle and hop on the Kal-Haven and Van Buren Trails for a scenic ride, or a casual stroll. Rent a kayak at Black River Park and paddle up river on the Bangor/South Haven Heritage Water Trail. Visit one of the township’s four nature preserves and hike along dunes, wooded paths and even search for beach glass. There are so many ways to enjoy South Haven’s trails, and each trail has its own unique aspects.
7. Waterfront Bars
If you’re looking for a fun atmosphere to grab a bite or have a drink, look no further than Captain Lou’s, Admiral Jack’s and the Idler Riverboat. All three are situated around South Haven’s harbor and you can very easily walk to and from each bar. Live music is a frequent occurrence on the weekends in the summertime.
8. Handcrafted Haven
Three breweries, one craft beer tasting room, three wine tasting rooms, a winery and a cidery all exist within the South Haven zip code. You can find even more if you venture further afield in all directions. There are so many flavors to try!
9. Michigan’s Fruit Belt
Fresh produce is a staple at South Haven’s downtown farm market, which runs every Saturday from mid-May to mid-October and every Wednesday from June-August. There are several surrounding farms offering u-pick strawberries, raspberries, peaches and (of course) blueberries. Summer fruit is a must have, and in South Haven there is PLENTY to go around!
South Haven, aka The Blueberry Capital of the World!
10. Locally-Owned And Quaint Downtown
South Haven’s downtown is full of locally-owned shops and restaurants. You’ll find a variety of stores, from t-shirt shops to jewelry, women’s clothing, home decor, candy, toys, books and so much more. Make it an adventure with in-store experiences like 42N Naturals‘ fragrance and terrarium bar, and Kalamazoo Candle Company‘s candlemaking workshop!
11. Eating Across Downtown
Whether it’s a burger and beer or a martini and chef’s plate, you’ll be able to satisfy your craving at one of the many South Haven restaurants. There are classic American diners, upscale destinations, pizza joints and ethnic options. On the water, the beach, in town, or in the country, there’s a place to eat in nearly every corner of South Haven. With vineyards and craft breweries to tour as well, you can try something new every day. Eat your way through South Haven’s restaurants and maybe you’ll even find your new favorite food spot!
12. Sherman Dairy Bar’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream
Sherman’s has been a local favorite for 63 years and for good reason! Their old-fashioned ice cream is made one batch at a time with rich flavors. You’ll find classic flavors along with fun and unique choices, and of course the midwestern favorite, blue moon!
13. Historic Movie Theatre With Throwback Prices
Rain or shine, a movie at the historic downtown Michigan Theatre is a fun way to spend your time. The prices have not changed since the 90’s so you can see a matinee for only $4, and an evening show for $5.50. You can’t beat that!
14. Sunsets Over Lake Michigan
Cozy up in the sand, gather in front of the lighthouse, or find a spot among the bluffs. Sunsets are a magical sight and they are a great way to wind down from the day. If there is anything we highly recommend, it’s witnessing a stunning, colorful sunset. That’s a South Haven specialty! Click here for our 2023 Sunset Schedule.
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!
Looking for a fun-filled summer vacation? Muskegon, Michigan is a must-visit destination for anyone! This beach-town is a hidden gem in West Michigan. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure, relaxation on sandy beaches, or a taste of local culture, Muskegon has it all.
Beautiful beaches, stretch for miles along the shores of Lake Michigan. Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to relax or a place to enjoy water sports, there’s a beach for you. There is even a beach to bring your dog at Kruse Park!
When you’re done soaking up the sun, there are plenty other things to do in Muskegon. One popular attraction is Michigan’s Adventure. This “two parks for the price of one” is the state’s largest amusement park and includes a water park. For those who prefer a more active vacation, check out the Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park. Experience thrilling summer activities like ziplining, wheel luge, archery, rock climbing and more!
If you’re interested in history and culture, Muskegon has you covered there too. There are three lighthouses worth exploring. And two to tour: Muskegon South Pierhead Light and the White River Light Station. Tour historic homes, a WW2 landing ship or submarine – or visit one of many museums. The Muskegon Museum of Art features works by noted American & European artists. There are galleries of rotating and traveling exhibitions.
When the sun goes down, visit one of the 9 drive-in theaters that remain in Michigan. The Getty Drive-In Theatre offers double features on 4 outdoor screens. Tune your car radio to the cinematic sounds coming from the big screen.
When it comes to accommodations, there are hotels from names you know and trust. Or, if you prefer a cozy cabin or spacious beach house, there are vacation rentals to fit your needs – and budget!
Overall, Muskegon, Michigan is a summer destination sure to please. From sandy beaches to outdoor adventure to cultural attractions, there’s something for everyone. So, pack your bags, grab your sunscreen, and get ready to make lasting memories in Muskegon, Michigan!
Saugatuck/Douglas has long inspired artists of all mediums and captivated the art lovers who visit. Home to numerous galleries, studios, exhibitions, and public art installations, art aficionados will find much to appreciate in the Art Coast of Michigan.
While the long-established Fall Gallery Stroll is known for being the premier arts weekend of the year in Saugatuck/Douglas, other inspiring Gallery Strolls featuring special exhibits and activities happen here each season. Wander through dozens of galleries and artists’ studios, chat with the artists, watch live demos, enjoy live music, and sample delicious local bites and refreshments, all while expanding your artistic tastes. The picturesque streets of downtown Saugatuck and Douglas make for a charming backdrop as you stroll leisurely from one unique gallery to the next.
Experience art at its source and get the opportunity to speak with artists directly with a studio visit. Discover the artist-owned Peachbelt Studio in Fennville, where original oil paintings by Dawn Stafford are exhibited in a rural historic red brick one-room schoolhouse circa 1867. Stop by the James Brandess Studios & Gallery, housed in the historic Post Office of Downtown Saugatuck, to see the artist in action painting landscapes, still-lifes, and portraits. Enjoy the ambiance of the 1890’s Fernwood Farm, which houses the solar-powered Khnemu Studio where resident artist Dawn Soltysiak makes handmade art and functional pottery. Of course, no artist’s farm would be complete without chickens and ducks roaming free, along with a horse, llama, and a few peacocks!
Art is everywhere around the Art Coast, and here are some of the places you can encounter it as you’re out and about.
One of the most iconic sculptures in Saugatuck, Family of Man IV, created by artist Cynthia McKean, resides in Coghlin Park, overlooking Lake Kalamazoo. Vibrant red with a dramatic silhouette, the sculpture represents the cyclical nature of mankind’s existence from the present to the past and the future.
Encounter Seurat in Saugatuck just across from Wicks Park. Adorning the walls of the public restroom is a stunning recreation of Georges Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. The mural has been a Saugatuck fixture since 1977 and was painted by artist Carol Miron. Visitors can often be seen lounging leisurely on the grass around the park, just as the subjects do in the painting.
Located nearby on the Dockside Market Place building on Water Street is the colorful Smile! You’re in Saugatuck mural, which makes the perfect backdrop for a pic to commemorate your time with us.
The Village Square Park and playground is home to Romero Britto’s Big Temptation sculpture as well as the “Girl With Puppet” statue, erected by the Saugatuck-Douglas Art Club and Friends in honor of Burr Tillstrom, the famous puppeteer and creator of Kukla, Fran and Ollie and distinguished citizen of the area.
Stop by our Visitors Bureau in Douglas and see Big Fish, a colorful 12-foot by 8-foot rainbow fish sculpture created by artist Stephen Rubinkam in collaboration with local artists Jeff Blandford and Josh Russell.
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.
Take a stroll along the Black River in downtown South Haven and you’re likely to encounter the serious fishing boats. If you’re already a fisherman (or fisherwoman), you may know what fishing on the big lake is all about. But if you’re like me, lake fishing invites curiosity and a certain mystique.
I’m not a complete fishing novice. I have experienced the occasional casting from a rowboat or canoe on camping trips, once tried fly fishing in Wyoming and had the distinct pleasure of salmon fishing in Alaska on a rare sunny day where, with a lot of help from a seasoned guide, I caught a 25 pound King Salmon.
Fishing on Lake Michigan, however, is a different experience and fishing with die-hard sports fishermen opens up a whole new world. Chuck Moore and his crew, experienced friends Bill and Kevin, graciously offered to take me out and glimpse their unique world. Moore’s boat is a 33-ft. craft called the Merry More, which he bought 4 years ago and retrofitted for optimum fishing.
We started out at 6:30 am and I was sure to take my Dramamine, though I wasn’t sure I needed it (I did). We headed out of the harbor into open water. It was a cloudy, close to foggy morning, but the lake was smooth. At about 3 miles out, the crew put trolling bags over the side to help with steering and to slow the boat while trolling. One by one, while Chuck steered the boat, Bill and Kevin put fishing lures onto the lines and cast them out, using boards to keep the lures away from the boat until 18 lines were out.
That was my first surprise of the day (that’s a lot of lines)–this is serious fishing. Chuck has radar in the cabin to track where the fish are lurking and steered the boat to optimize its position. The lures they used were called spoons (oblong pieces of metal with a treble hook at one end and a grommet or loop at the other.) The spoons were colorful and, it was explained to me, wobble in the water which attracts the predator fish. The lures have colorful names, too. One used was called Mixed Veggie, another, still in its package and never to be used, was named the O.J. Simpson.
Eventually we were 5 miles out in the lake. It occurred to me that we could have been on an ocean. We couldn’t see the shore and I once again marveled at this amazing body of water I have the privilege to live near which offers, what Chuck calls, “world class fishing”.
I confess, despite the Dramamine, I still became a bit queasy. I was told not to go below deck, to stand in the middle of the boat and look at the horizon. It helped. So did being called to land a fish. We hooked one and I was brought to the stern to bring it in. I began reeling it in and then a yellow devise called a rod butt cushion was placed on the butt of the fishing pole so that I could position it in my belly button and give myself some leverage without severely bruising myself. It took a bit of arm strength and I didn’t embarrass myself. The guys were good at giving instruction and I managed to bring the fish in so that they could net it and land it on board. It was a beautiful lake trout.
I let my husband, along for the fun, land the other three we brought in—two king salmon and a steelhead, all three larger than my lake trout. We headed back to the harbor, sooner I know than the guys would have liked. We watched them process the four large fish in about 15 minutes and we bid them farewell. They were headed back out. It was a good fishing day, and they weren’t about to let the day go to waste.
Nancy Backas has been writing, mostly about food, for more than 30 years. South Haven is a favorite place, and she and her husband Terry visit as often as they can. The rich food and art culture, along with opportunities to explore South Haven’s magical natural surroundings is what draws she and her husband to SoHa. She looks forward to sharing her South Haven discoveries. And, while they currently live in Chicago, with moving plans in the works, South Haven will soon be their new home.
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.
What do you see when you envision the perfect beach? For us, it’s pretty hard to beat Oval – the largest beach in Saugatuck/Douglas. Although our beaches are a beloved part of our community, our year-round attractions, local character, food scene and charm factor, all distinguished Saugatuck/Douglas from the rest when Thrillist Travel chose the “25 Greatest Beach Towns in America.”
Thrillist Travel described Saugatuck/Douglas as summertime hotspot for travelers with unique lodging options, a thriving arts and food scene and a popular retreat for LGBT travelers. Thrillist Travel says:
“Saugatuck is to western Michigan what Provincetown is to Cape Cod. It is thoroughly a tourist’s beach town – invaded in the summer, but its character is also impeccably maintained.”
Thrillist Travel hit the hotspots when it comes to food – mentioning coffee from Uncommon Coffee Roasters, Saugatuck Brewing Company, The Southerner and the newly-opened New Holland Spirits Tasting Room. Of course, Thrillist Travel listed Oval Beach and Mount Baldhead as a must-visit.
From our beaches, trails and waterways to our restaurants, shops and lodging options, Saugatuck/Douglas in summertime is truly hard to beat – come see for yourself! Plan your beach town retreat to Saugatuck/Douglas today at Saugatuck.com/stay.
Click here to read the full Thrillist Travel article.