Fall getaway tips to Northwest Michigan coast

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (J Jacobs photo)
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (J Jacobs photo)

It’s not too early to plan a fall getaway.

When

Avoid the heavy road traffic of Labor Day Weekend by taking your well-deserved escape mid-September to mid-October.

Where

The scenery, shops hiking paths and wine trails of the northwestern edge of Michigan from Frankfort and Sleeping Bear Dunes to Leland and Traverse City are snapshot perfect. And they follow state and local Covid protection protocols.

What

Some of the best snapshots can be found at the region’s lighthouses: Frankfort North Breakwater,  Grand Traverse and Mission Point.

Old Mission Lighthouse is on the 45th parallel. (J Jacobs photo)
Old Mission Lighthouse is on the 45th parallel. (J Jacobs photo)

Some of the best driving and hiking trails are at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Some of the best fun shops are at Leland and Fishtown on the west side of the Leelanau Peninsula on Lake Michigan and Suttons Bay on that peninsula’s east side on Grand Traverse Bay.

Historic Fishtown at Leland on the Leelanau Peninsula. (J Jacobs photo)
Historic Fishtown at Leland on the Leelanau Peninsula. (J Jacobs photo)

Save time to do: Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail and Old Mission Peninsula Wine Trail.

Lodging

To be near and actually at the Sleeping Bear Dunes I like the Homestead, a condo and lodge style resort with great views and beach and wonderful sunsets.

To spend time on the Leelanau Peninsula I recommend Black Star Farms. It’s a combo winery and B&B with gourmet breakfasts and wine before going out for dinner.

For more lodging choices and things to do visit Traverse City.com.

 

Related: Vines and vistas make a great fall getaway

A Wisconsin fall getaway

 

Fall in Ephraim, (Photo by John Nienhuis and Door County)
Fall in Ephraim, (Photo by John Nienhuis and Door County)

Picture a small town where goats on a restaurant roof can cause a traffic jam in a county where visitors to its scenic towns often gather around huge outdoor pots to watch traditional fish boils.

It is Door County, a peninsula that separates the calm waters of Green Bay from turbulent waves of Lake Michigan and where the must-take-home items are chocolate covered cherries or cherry pies and the must-visit time of year is fall.

An easy drive from Green Bay’s airport, the route on the way to the Sturgeon Bay, the first vacation town on the peninsula, is dotted with the crimsons, golds and pinksm of changing leaves. And, as TV ads say, “But wait.” The colors keep intensifying, driving northwest along curving roads through picturesque villages.

Continue reading “A Wisconsin fall getaway”

The Door: A heavenly vacation spot belies its death passage name

Hike, bike or take the Door County Trolley through Peninsula State Park for great views of Green Bay. Jodie Jacobs photos
Hike, bike or take the Door County Trolley through Peninsula State Park for great views of Green Bay. Jodie Jacobs photos

The best part of vacationing in Door County, WI is the way its delightful harbors make you feel you left work and daily stress miles back at the last stoplight.

The county actually begins back a ways on a thumb shaped peninsula that separates Lake Michigan from Green Bay (the body of water, not the city). There are a smattering of stoplights at its southern end.

But once you cross a drawbridge over Sturgeon Bay, a shipping waterway cut across the peninsula to  connect Lake Michigan to Green Bay, you enter a world where a curve in the road reveals yet another scenic view and where villages have a few scattered stop signs, not stop lights.

However, to experience the dangerous waters where Lake Michigan waves bump against those from Green Bay that give the peninsula its name, you should drive north about 40 miles from Sturgeon Bay to Gills Rock and then a short distance to Northport. There you would take a ferry across to Washington Island.

Among the stories floating between the peninsula and the island is a tale of how when one native tribe lured another tribe to cross from Washington Island to the peninsula, those who attempted the crossing died in the stormy waters, thus giving the crossing the name Death’s Door.

Safe? Yes, though sometimes the trip can be rocky. But the Washington Island Ferry is so popular the best plan is to check the season’s schedule and get to its departure ramp at Northport ahead of time so there is room for your car.

While exploring look for Island Stavkirke, a recreated 12th century Norwegian church and the Jacobsen Museum of island artifacts.

OK, you’re here, meaning at the Door County room, condo, guest house or cottage or other lodging you booked ahead of time, and you are already gazing out at the quiet blue expanse of Green Bay or the ever changing colors of Lake Michigan.

Ah, but an hour later comes the stomach rumble, so next is investigate food options. Do ask your accommodation manager because Door County is loaded with good restaurants and diners so choosing one is a matter of what kind of food you’re in the mood for and how far you want to go. Continue reading “The Door: A heavenly vacation spot belies its death passage name”

Visit Great Smoky Mountains for fall color and terrific crafts

 

I love all parts of Tennessee but if you only have time for a color drive through one section you won’t go wrong choosing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park offers more than 800 miles of well-maintained hiking trails and wonderful fall color. (Tennessee Tourism photo)
Great Smoky Mountain National Park offers more than 800 miles of well-maintained hiking trails and wonderful fall color. (Tennessee Tourism photo)

BTW if you see bear cubs, pull to the side to take photos because “bear jams” instead of ordinary fall color “peeps” make it hard for people merely driving through the park from Nashville to get to Ashevill, NC.

Put Sugarlands Visitors Center (above Gatlinburg) into your GPS to start the color drive. It’s a short drive south of Gatlinburg on US 441.

Ask there about road closures. You should be able to continue up to Clingman’s Dome for an amazing view and a fun picture op

At 5,048 feet you can stand with one foot in Tennessee and the other in North Carolina. The Tower is closed but the parking lot which also has great views is open.

After going back down to Gatlinburg, drive the eight-mile Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community loop on Glades and Buckhorn Roads.

The art in the studios complement the park’s natural wonders.

You are likely to return home with great photos and probably a well-turned bowl or gorgeous painting.

For more information call (865) 436-1200 or visit the park headquarters at 107 Park Headquarters Road Gatlinburg, TN 37738.

 

For fall color drive along the other Minnesota river

 

Pair fall color with a town worth at least one overnight stay and a drive that is scenic any time of year.

Take a paddle boat excursion on the St. Croix River. (Jodie Jacobs photo)
Take a paddle boat excursion on the St. Croix River. (Jodie Jacobs photo)

A fun getaway is to drive along the St Croix National Scenic Waterway and Lake Superior’s North Shore after first starting in Stillwater, MI.

Overlooking the St. Croix River on the Minnesota side of a waterway that also borders Wisconsin, Stillwater has several historic B and B’s, antique shops and cafes.

I stayed at the Rivertown Inn for its romantic rooms, great breakfasts and charming hosts. However, there are several other good B&Bs.

A good way to see color from the town is a paddle boat excursion.

When ready to look for a long color drive, head north on Highway 95 to follow the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.

Both sides of the highway are state parks. The scenic byway goes from Point Douglas near Hastings to north of Sandstone, MN.

If you didn’t take a paddle boat in Stillwater you can do so from the Minnesota side of Taylors Falls. From Taylors Falls continue north on M35 and then I 35 to Duluth where you pick up M61 along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

The route takes you to Grand Marais. The North Shore is a nationally designated “All American Drive” for its scenic overlooks, fall color, hiking trails and waterfalls. Be sure to make an overnight reservation ahead of time.

A fun lodge is the Naniboujou.  Or check out the lodges at the William Obrien State Park site.  For more information visit Explore Minnesota.

Remember to charge the phone because lots of good photos await.

 

 

Five fall trips where color is just part of the draw

 

Now that leaves on a few trees are changing is the time to figure out where to go to see spectacular color in a few weeks and next month.

 

Ephraim in the fall in Door County, WI. Door County Visitors Bureau photo
Ephraim in the fall in Door County, WI.
Door County Visitors Bureau photo

But if you don’t want to merely drive some place for fall color and then head back home then consider a vacation destination with great views, hiking, biking, fun shops and lots of lodging and dining choices.

 

 

 

 

 

Where: Door County, Wisconsin, near Green Bay

 

Why:

 

    • ·         Good hiking and biking in state parks
    • ·         Really good art galleries
    • ·         Fun crafts and clothes shopping
    • ·         Excellent dining choices
    • ·         Beautiful views of Lake Michigan and Green Bay

.        Lots of lodging choices

More information at Door Vacation and Door County

 

 

Where: Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois

 

Why:

  • ·         Scenic overlooks, hilly terrain and interesting stone formations
  • ·         Good hiking, biking in Giant City State Park
  • ·         Shawnee Wine Trail tastings
  • ·         Makanda, a delightful artist comunity

More information at Shawnee National ForestShawnee Wine TrailGiant City State Park and Makanda.

Explore the back roads of Brown County in the fall. Brown County photo
Explore the back roads of Brown County in the fall. Brown County photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where: Brown County, Bloomington area

 

 

 

Why:

  • ·         Good hiking, biking and horseback riding in Brown County State Park
  • ·         Fun crafts shops in Nashville
  • ·         Scenic hills and Hoosier National Forest
  • ·         Renown architecture in nearby Columbus
  • .         Indiana University has a beautiful campus (go on a non-football weekend)

More information at Brown County State ParkHoosier National Forest and Columbus.

 

 

Where: Wisconsin Dells on the Wisconsin River

 

Why:

  • .     Good river boat scenery
  • .     Nice hikes
  • .     Fun water-parks for kids
  • .     Interesting photo museum in town
  • .     Circus World in nearby Baraboo

More information at Fall colors Wisconsin Dells, Baraboo,  and fall color advantage.

Traverse City area puts on a color show each fall. TC Visitors Bureau photo
Traverse City area puts on a color show each fall.
TC Visitors Bureau photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where: Traverse City/Sleeping Bear Dunes  in northern Michigan below the UP

 

 

Why:

  • ·         Good hiking in a scenic national park
  • ·         Excellent wine trails
  • ·         Wonderful dining choices
  • ·         Beautiful views of Lake Michigan and Traverse Bay.

More information at fall color trip, Traverse City/Sleeping Bear and Traverse

 

 

Fall color tips:  For current Midwest color reports go directly to a state’s tourism site.

Wisconsin’s suggested scenic drives are at Travel Wisconsin.

Michigan is at Michigan.org and at Fall Color Tours.

Minnesota is at MNUS and Explore Minnesota.

Illinois is at Enjoy Illinois and ILUS.

Indiana is at Visit Indiana and Hoosier fall color. http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/hoosier/docs/fallcolor.htm

 

Have a fun, safe trip!

 

 

 

 

 

The Angel Museum, a perfect holiday outing

When the bustle of holiday preparations start to weigh on brain and shoulders, seek smiles and joyous countenances from angels. More than 12,000 of them are lifting visitors’ spirits at a small museum just over the Illinois border in Beloit, Wisconsin.

Joyce Berg gives a tour of The Angel Museum in Beloit, WI
Joyce Berg gives a tour of The Angel Museum in Beloit, WI. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

They are porcelain, ceramic, glass, metal and wood and nearly 100 other materials. They range from about 1/8 of an inch to life-sized and from candle holders, vases and chubby, cuddly, doll-type cherubs to artistic figures, ink wells, pins and a WWI medal. And they were crafted by artists in more than 60 countries.

Their home is the former Catholic Church of St. Paul building slated for demolition until Beloit residents, the city and angel collectors Joyce and Lowell Berg stepped in. Or as Joyce says, “Angels saved the church.”

Opened in May 1998, the museum’s collection dates back to the Berg’s falling in love with the Italian bisque figures of two angels on a seesaw during a 1976 Florida vacation.

“We stopped at an antique store. We weren’t looking for angels. But that Christmas when we got out our decorations we realized we had other angels. The next year on a trip we bought more angels. It became a passion,” said Berg during a recent museum tour (Lowell has since died but is remembered with a special angel exhibit in one of the cases).

Collecting, however, comes with a couple of problems. The collection grew too large for the Berg home. In addition, people who heard about the angels wanted to stop in to see them. The church building was a perfect solution to both issues.

The museum is in a former church. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
The museum is in a former church. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Since then, the collection has grown to more than 14,000, a number that is too large to show at one time. “So, I rotate them,” Berg said.

What is amazing is that she has only one duplicate angel. “It’s mind boggling how artists have come up with so many different angels. Their little faces just make you feel good,” she said.

The museum also contains Oprah Winfrey’s collection of 600 black angels. A passing comment on Winfrey’s show about not seeing black angels resulted in hundreds of black angels sent to the celebrity.

When Winfrey said how much she loved them but didn’t have room for them all, she was told about the museum in Beloit. It now houses her donated collection.

As to most of her angels residing in a museum instead of her home, on the museum website, Berg said, “I want to see a place where goodness prevails and I can share my angels with the masses.”

Black angels in the Oprah collection. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Black angels in the Oprah collection. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

The museum also sells angel artifacts in its Heavenly Treasures Gift Shoppe. Hours Thursday-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.The museum will be closed Dec. 22 to March except for special events or tours.

The Angel Museum is at 656 Pleasant St. at Hwy 51, Beloit, WI 53511. It is about a 1 hour, 30 minute drive from Chicago. For other information visit Angel Museum and call (608) 362-9099 or (877)-412-6435.

 

Enjoy fall color as a day trip from Chicago

Stroll among paths of gold. Hike where every turn reveals another photo op. See the countryside on an old train or find a new scenic vista. Just go. Get out there where the leaves are still changing color and the weather isn’t too frosty.

Elegant Farmer

See fall color by boat in Lake Geneva. Photo compliments of Visit Lake Geneva
See fall color by boat in Lake Geneva. Photo compliments of Visit Lake Geneva

Maybe you have seen and tasted delicious apple pies in your grocery store from the Elegant Farmer. But the farm and its bakery, about 90 miles north of Chicago in Mukwonago, WI, is also a fun destination during its Autumn Harvest Festival. Festival hours are Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. now through Oct. 23, 2016.  Along with picking up yummy treats from its store, apples and pumpkins from its fields or taking a hay ride, the Elegant Farmer is one end of the turn-of–the-century’s East Troy Electric Railroad.  The train is a remnant of Wisconsin’s Interurban rail system. Train tickets are $12.50 adults, $10.50 seniors, $8 children age 3-11 and free to under 3. The Elegant Farmer is at 1545 Main Street · Mukwonago, WI 53149 at the crossroad of County Highways ES and J. For other information visit Elegant Farmer and call (262) 363-6770.

Lake Geneva

Cruise Geneva Lake or float over its town of Lake Geneva and the surrounding area in a hot-air balloon. Hike the path around the lake or do the zip line across a colorful tree canopy. There are so many ways to see fall color in Lake Geneva, WI you might decide to stay overnight. However, if you go, you might want to tie it in to the Canopy Tours Fall Festival, Oct. 22 or 23 where you get music, food, pumpkin painting and other activities and can watch the Pumpkin Drop from zip liners  (or participate if you do the zip line event). Lake Geneva is about 90 minutes north west of Chicago. For other information visit Lake Geneva or call (262) 248-9271.

Morton Arboretum

Golden paths await at Morton Arboretum. Photo compliments of Morton Arboretum
Golden paths await at Morton Arboretum. Photo compliments of Morton Arboretum

The Arboretum in west suburban Lisle is coming alive with color. Maples and oaks near parking lots 7 and 8 began changing two weeks ago as have the maples near parking lots 14 and 15. To find out more about the color changes and what’s blooming click on Fall Color Report. Or ask when you arrive. For fun take the Scarecrow Trail on the Meadow Lake Trail. The Morton Arboretum is at 4100 Illinois Highway 53, Lisle, IL 60532. For other information visit Morton Arb and call (630) 968-0074.

 

 

For a fall getaway, catch the Horicon Marsh bird migration

You can hike, bike, kayak and canoe. To say bird watch would be an understatement. Thousands of ducks and Canada geese land here each fall.

Pair of cranes photographed in Wisconsin
Pair of cranes photographed in Wisconsin

You can capture two fall happenings at one time by traveling over to Horicon Marsh in Eastern Wisconsin. Horicon is a 33,000 acre (right, count the zeros) of wildlife, freshwater plants and a fall bird migration stop just south of Fond du Lac and about 1.5 hours north of either Madison or Milwaukee. Its bordering trees make photos here picture perfect.

Divided by two government entities, the north two thirds is operated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge. The southern third is managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as the Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area.

You can hike, bike, kayak and canoe. To say bird watch would be an understatement. Thousands of ducks and Canada geese land here each fall.

The marsh is the largest redhead duck nesting place east of the Mississippi and sees the largest migrating flock of Canada geese. Mid-September is fine but to capture nearly 200,000 geese in your lens go in mid-October. As with TV that ads say, “wait, there is more,” you are likely to see some of the marsh’s 300 bird species including cranes and pelicans.

Among the largest freshwater marshes in the United States, Horicon is filled with muskrats, fish, frogs and red fox. Check events at the HoriconMarsh.org site for hikes.

There will be a guided hike and bird watch event Oct. 3 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Also a sunset crane watch is at the Palmatory Overlook, 1210 N. Palmatory St., Oct.17 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

A stay at the Honeybee B&B turns a Horicon visit into a vacation
A stay at the Honeybee B&B turns a Horicon visit into a vacation

A good intro to the marsh is the Emporium, a new interactive center that is fun for kids and adults.

Turn the trip into a vacation by staying nearby at the Honeybee Inn. The breakfasts are great, the rooms comfy and innkeepers/owners Barb and Fred Ruka are knowledgeable about the marsh and other area sights.

Honeybee Inn Bed & Breakfast is at 611 East Walnut Street Horicon, Wisconsin 53032, 920-485-4855 .  http://honeybeeinn.com/area/

The Horicon National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is on the east side of Horicon Marsh, 3.5 miles south of State Highway 49 on County Road Z at  W4279 Headquarters Road, Mayville, WI 53050, 920-387-2658. The Wildlife Center is at N7725 HIGHWAY 28, Horicon, WI 53032, 920-387-7890.