Hot cider, pumpkin patches, apple picking, and hayrides: these are the hallmarks of the Fall harvest! South Haven is one of the best areas to keep the harvest tradition alive, especially for young families looking to craft and capture memories that will a lifetime! Plus, we can always use more excuses to enjoy warm cider and donuts. So explore the brilliant fall colors of the South Haven countryside, do some picking of their own, or even get lost in a corn maze!
Start off the harvest season at this family farm that dates back to 1958. DeGrandchamp Farms Cranberry Harvest begins in mid-October. Once a year, the farm opens its fields and invites attendees to witness the beauty of harvesting cranberries in the natural bogs.
Catch a hayride to the bogs throughout the day to watch the crew rake in bright, red cranberries from the flooded bogs. Then, head to the sorting line to learn about how cranberries are sorted, packaged, and shipped. Cranberry products are available for purchase at the retail market, including jams, salsas, dried fruit, and baked goods. Fresh cranberries are available in October and November.
Grab the family and head to Overhiser Orchards to pick your own pumpkins or apples and explore the farm and its many harvest activities. Available apples for u-pick include Empire, Cortland, Jonamac, Blondee, and Gala. Munch on some fresh donuts while you sip cider, pet the farm animals, or feed the birds with the farm’s sunflower seed harvest.
Take time to get lost in the corn maze or head over to the sunflower field for the farm’s new nature walk. Hayrides are available, weather permitting. You can even fish in the pond on-site, but save some room for the corn maze!
A true farm for the whole family, Bumbleberry Acres features u-pick, farm animals, a playground, wagon rides, and more. Halloween is always an especially fun time at Bumbleberry, so be sure to visit online for special events and activities!
At the Dutch Farm Market just north of South Haven, apples (Red Delicious, Matsu, Cortland, Yellow Delicious, North Spy, Ida Red, and Rome) and Bosc pears are available for picking, and free wagon rides are available until the end of October. The market store has all the apples and pears, and everything from homemade jams, taffy apples, fresh-pressed cider, honey, and maple syrup, to home-baked pies, bread, turnovers, and donuts, to name just a few.
Can’t squeeze a trip to the farm into your schedule?
There’s good news! You don’t have to compromise on freshness. The South Haven’s Farm Market operates through September under the Huron Street Pavilion in downtown South Haven, and Barden’s Farm Market on the corner of Phoenix and Blue Star Highway is open daily! Drop in for baked goods, craft beer, and something sweet for all your friends and family!
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!
Summertime in South Haven! During the summer, streets are filled with people of all ages, hands are filled with shopping bags, and bellies are full of good food and adult beverages. Nothing draws a crowd like the three, beautiful bars/restaurants that are located right on Black River.
The Idler, Admiral Jack’s, and Captain Lou’s are the perfect spots to truly experience the summertime South Haven vibes. With amazing views, the best company, and drinks on the river, some could say we are one of the best small beach getaways, even for a day. While walking around town be sure to add all these riverfront bars to the agenda, and feel right at peace with twinkling tiki lights and music that is reminiscent of Margaritaville. The Idler, Admiral Jack’s, and Captain Lou’s are some of the hottest spots in town, and are worth adding to the itinerary!
First stop, the Idler. Nothing gets your day going more than a South Haven Iced Tea (S.H.I.T.), one of their signature drinks. The Idler is located conveniently downtown, so if your thirst needs to be quenched stop by and have a S.H.I.T or a Foxy Rum Punch to take a break, rest your feet, and enjoy the views the Idler has to offer. The Idler overlooks the Black River Channel, and if you are lucky enough to get a seat in the outskirts, you may even see glimpses of Lake Michigan. Something unique the Idler offers is the “shot ski” where you and three other friends can take a shot from a ski! Just be sure to have people with similar heights, otherwise you might wear the shot instead of drinking it.
Within walking distance, and right next door is Admiral Jack’s, settled right on the river. Jack’s, as it is known by the locals, is that escape you’ve been looking for in that little chunk of paradise. They are known for their tropical drinks, so you’ll have to try a Rum Runner. It has two bars, and plenty of space to enjoy the views of the Black River, and maybe even catch the sunset. Jack’s is unique in that it serves both the people on land and in the water, as they have a dock to park your dinghy! Before cruising Lake Michigan for the day, be sure to stop by to get some food and drink. Jack’s is the middle stop of the riverfront bars, so be sure to have some water with your adult beverages, and gear up for the second half.
When it seems like the day is coming to an end and the sun goes down, be sure to check out Captain Lou’s for the nightlife scene, located right across the Dyckman Bridge. Lou’s serves ice cold drinks and food during the day, and becomes the hangout spot during the night. The two-bar set-up is the best place to watch all the boats come in for the evening. Lou’s is the best place to find yourself relaxing from the day in the sun, or the place to get the party started; accommodating both mindsets! The two bars include covered and uncovered seating, and plenty of space for dancing while live music echoes over the river. If the sun was a little too much for the day, relax in the shaded bar area and sip on something delicious! Or, if the night is just getting started, plan on dancing until your feet hurt. Lou’s might be your first or last stop of the day- either way Captain Lou’s is a must-visit while in South Haven.
So, when coming to South Haven on your next adventure, be sure to add these riverfront bars on the agenda. These small-town places have a lot to offer your vacation: drinks, food, memories, and maybe even some hangovers, but the stories will be told for years to come!
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.
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.
The ropes are untied and the boat embarks. You slowly steer through the Black River channel and into the blue sprawl of Lake Michigan, which reflects the diamond chips cast by the sun.
Once you’re on the lake, the strengthening air begins to cool: You pull on a sweatshirt. Crew members dressed as 1800s merchant seamen begin to move on the deck. One asks you to help him.
You join in raising a sail, which billows and cracks as you face the horizon. The wind whips your hair and the beaches of South Haven grow smaller behind you.
You cruise and float with your fellow passengers until the sky begins to dim and splash the coming night with celestial paint. You gaze out at the South Haven sunset, a blazing ball of copper that drops slowly like an eyelid at bedtime.
And somewhere, deeper within it all, you sense the spirit of an American era.
You’re at the pinnacle of South Haven sailing.
Built entirely of wood (mainly Douglas fir) in 2004, the boat on which you stand is an exact replica of Friends Good Will made specifically for the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven. If you lose yourself in the moment, you might even imagine what it was like to be on the deck of the vessel during her early 19th century voyages.
The original Friends Good Will was built in 1810 at River Rouge in Michigan by Oliver Williams, who owned a dry-goods store in Fort Detroit (now within Detroit city limits).
Williams sold everything from hammers to cut trees for houses to candles and barrels of whiskey. Before building Friends Good Will, the only way he could get the goods to his store was to buy them in Buffalo, New York, about 260 miles away on the far east side of Lake Erie. Once loaded on wagons, the goods would make a horse-drawn trek back to the fort, which could take from four to six weeks depending on the weather.
Determined to be more efficient, Williams built the ship so the goods could be acquired by traveling down the Detroit River and straight across Lake Erie. When sailing in good wind, the ship would trim the Buffalo trip from several weeks to two or three days.
In summer 1811, soon after Friends Good Will’s initial launch, Williams’ business was profitable. Just two round trips with the ship could stock his store for more than a year.
In fall 1811, Williams entered a contract with the U.S. government. Friends Good Will would transport soldiers, materials and military supplies including guns and gunpowder first up Lake Huron to Fort Mackinac (now part of Mackinac Island) and then down to Fort Dearborn in what is now Chicago.
When Friends Good Will was making one such voyage to Fort Mackinac in summer 1812, Williams was not yet aware that the U.S. and Britain were at war. The British, who had taken Mackinac Island just days before, lured the ship into the harbor near the fort by flying false colors above the ramparts. They seized the boat and its cargo and crew and renamed it HMS Little Belt, an insult at that time. The British then armed the vessel and added it to the Royal Navy for battle against the U.S.
In September 1813, U.S. Commodore Oliver Perry recaptured the ship at the Battle of Lake Erie and kept the name Little Belt as a snub to the British. He also did not return the boat to Oliver Williams; rather, he put it into service for the American Great Lakes navy, which used it to ferry military cargo and ammunition.
In December, the ship was driven ashore by a storm just south of Buffalo. The crew unloaded it and went up to the city. Later that month, a British raiding party entered Buffalo and burned it down, including the boat.
Thanks to South Haven’s Michigan Maritime Museum, Friends Good Will lives on through day sails, school field trips and educational tours. Schedule your ride today for an exhilarating Lake Michigan journey guided by the ghosts of history.
Discover more about the museum’s other inspiring boat rides as well!
A creative writer for many years, Jon Davis (eloquentarrow.com) paints pictures with his words and captivates readers with distinctive language. He now shares his love for South Haven with us, writing about the experiences you can have only in the Haven. Jon resides in Oswego, IL, with his wife, Kristie, and two daughters. They visit South Haven often to take in the scenic beauty and spend meaningful time as a family.