Fall Road Tripping in Detroit and Michigan

Michigan Detroit Fall Road Trip

Alright friends, I’m going to be completely honest with you, whenever I said I was taking a long weekend away in Detroit Michigan this is how that convo went down:

Me: “Just going for an extended weekend in Detroit and might check out around Michigan.”

Every dang person I told: “Why”?

Me: “Yay, now I’m super excited!”

So I understand if you’re reading this thinking – “Detroit why?” I also if get if you’re thinking “hey quit hating on Detroit!” As far as an exotic vacation destination goes, this isn’t really it. But there honestly is so much to see and do around Detroit and Lake Michigan and I had a really lovely time. Travelling in fall isn’t always the ideal time, but if you’re like us you want to travel all year long. So here goes, a guide to a place you might not have thought all that much about.

First Stop Detroit, Michigan

Detroit Downtown Michigan

Detroit is actually a super nice city and reminiscent of New York architecturally. Downtown has fancy, funky bars and restaurants with delicious food drinks (and matching price tags). Plus everyone is so dang nice! Of course “it’s the Midwest”, but it really is what everyone says. I left my wallet on a plane and the cleaner offered to drive it out to me – I mean, come on Midwest, who does that!?

Detroit Michigan Riverfront
“Oh hey Canada, I see you there!”

The Riverfront is beautiful, you can view the coast of Canada just on the other side of the river. We went in fall so there were lovely fall trees making it super picturesque. I also had a little moment of longing to just pop on over because y’all know how I love Canada (I mean, just check out this lake!)

Unfortunately Detroit suffered an economic downturn and parts are not ideal to visit. Once an amazing place; Belle Island has unfortunately been left to ruin. But still worth a little trip if you love geese and squirrels and old abandoned buildings… although we did hear it’s a different experience in summer.

There weren’t too many people around, I suspect because the temperature stayed around 5 celsius/41 fahrenheit (we actually had snow!).

Second Stop South Haven

Michigan South Haven Lighthouse
Little red lighthouse – so cute!

We didn’t have much of a plan heading out on our road trip, we just took recommendations from locals. South Haven came most recommend and I can see why. What a gorgeous lakeside town. This was our first glimpse of Lake Michigan and it is pretty special. It looks just like the ocean, it is so vast with waves crashing up on the beach. To be fair I’m pretty sure Lake Michigan does not know how to lake.

South Haven, like most of Lake Michigan is definitely more of a summer destination, but wowzers is it pricey to visit in the summer! I imagine it is extremely bustling and full of beach goers. If you have the dosh I would say go in the summer, but if not, off season is your time.

If you have some extra hours you might want to check out nearby Saugatuck. An artists town, with plenty of lovely little stores and galleries to peruse.

Stop (Pass-by) Three Holland.

I suggest taking the taking the Blue Star Highway and Adams Road (rather than the 196) out of South Haven to Holland if you have the time and want a slice of that American Midwest farm life scenery. This is also where we got some of our best fall leaves photos. (Just be careful you will have to get back onto the 196 at Lakeshore Drive as it dead ends).

Michigan Holland Fall Leaves
A love story about a girl and her leaves.

Beautifully decorated for the holiday season, Holland is a charming little town. But in the interests of an honest blog I am here to inform you that a couple of the main attractions of this town: Windmill Island Gardens and Neil’s Dutch Village Theme Park are closed from October to April. We Holland a little disappointed as we weren’t aware of the closures. I suggest going in tulip season which is late April – mid May.


Stop Four Grand Rapids

Michigan Grand Rapids frederick mueller gardens horse Leonardo da vinci
“Look a giant horse winky!” (So mature).

I had no idea what to expect from Grand Rapids but I loved it! A change of pace from the small towns, it’s a city with really great restaurants and bars and lots of concerts and events going on all the time.

Michigan Frederick mueller gardens fall
Worth getting wet for.

But my favourite part of GR was the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. It was a miserable rainy day, but we really enjoyed our rainy walk through these gardens. Word of warning: they are huge! If you set off on the loop and plan on doing the whole thing expect to be at least a couple of hours. But very enjoyable hours indeed.

Heritage Hill (Wealthy St – Crescent St, Lafayette Ave  – Union St), a residential area full of beautifully preserved 19th and early 20th century homes, is another must see.

Michigan Heritage Hill
“Yes, I would like to buy one house please.”

Stop Five Frankenmuth

Michigan Frankenmuth Town
So darn quaint.

Some suggested to maybe not bother with Frankenmuth, but we are rebels and renegades so we went anyway. OK so to be fair I think a certain type of person likes this place… That certain type of person is me! Frankenmuth is a Bavarian Christmas town and this time I feel like we really came at the right time of year.

Michigan Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn
“Is the tree upside down or am I?”

We stayed in the Bavarian Inn and once again, given no prior planning we were blown away. It’s actually a tourist attraction of its own, being flipping huge and totally decked out. It’s like one of those themed Vegas hotels with a games area (as in – a whole Dave and Busters), mini golf and a water slide all inside the hotel. While definitely a place for families, they luckily have a dedicated adult pool and spa (cos we’re not all about the children). I would call this one a must stay if you are in the area.

Frankenmuth is also home to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland – “the world’s largest Christmas store”. Photos and words don’t really do this place justice, it is absolutely massive! Definitely get out there fans of the festive season and fans of world’s biggests. We picked up a very round, very kitsch, light up glitter Santa. He will soon be proudly displayed in our home for the festive season (follow us on Instagram to see our Xmas set up). Who else is pumped for Christmas?

Michigan Frankenmuth Bronner’s Christmas Store
“What is this magic?”

So there you have it a Southern Michigan road trip in the fall. I bet not many of you thought about that ey? But you might now…?

Written by Taryn

PS: Speaking of Christmas we are currently taking recommendations of where we should spend our Christmas this year, so please comment with your recommendations.

2 Replies to “Fall Road Tripping in Detroit and Michigan”

  1. Is Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland open all year round? When I was in the U.S I never got used to the idea that an market existed for the most niche of stores! Like The Purple Store which, as the name suggests, only sells purple things.

    It is interesting that you mention the Sculpture Park as one of your favourite things about Grand Rapids. I was driving from Leeds to London last month and saw a sign for the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I hadn’t planned to go but I am glad I did! It was definitely a highlight for me. Have you been?

    1. It is! It’s a tourist attraction in and of itself – I think that’s how it manages to stay open. I’ve not been to Yorkshire but it sounds great! Sounds like your trip is going awesome 🙂

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