Respond to fall’s call with these 7 fun fall activities in Midland County and across the region

As soon as the air feels crisp, the thoughts of many Michiganders turn to pumpkins, cider, cozy clothes, and crunching leaves. While autumn in Michigan may look a little different due to COVID-19, there are still plenty of fall activities to keep you and your family busy without sacrificing safety.

Explore Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens

If you haven’t walked the nation’s largest canopy walk inside the Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens, 1809 Eastman Ave. in Midland, this could be the perfect time. The canopy walk is just over ¼-mile long and is ADA accessible. It’s not your only option, though. The forest encompasses 54 acres of apple orchards, meadows, ponds, woodlands, and streams. More than a mile of hard-surface pathways let you explore the space.

Dramatic fall foliage provides the perfect backdrop for a variety of fall activities in Michigan. Photo Courtesy of Quinn Kirby. Create your own color tour

You don’t need to drive to northern Michigan to enjoy vivid autumn hues.

Start your color tour right here in town at The Tridge, the starting point of the 30-mile Pere Marquette Rail-Trail. The multi-use, paved, scenic trail begins in Midland and goes all the way through the Sanford, Coleman, and Loomis, ending in downtown Clare, offering plenty of opportunities to admire fall foliage.

Over in Mt. Pleasant, Nick Raymond, Mt. Pleasant Visitor’s Bureau Content communications coordinator, says the city doesn’t have an official color tour, the saturation of the season can be found many places close to home.

“A lot of people go to [Central Michigan University’s] campus,” Raymond says. “And there’s a place a lot of locals call the tunnel of trees. It’s a really neat picture.”

Raymond recommends a blog post on the Mount Pleasant Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau website,
“The BEST places for fall colors in central Michigan.” The piece pinpoints the tunnel of trees near Mission Creek Woodland Park and proposes kayaking the Chippewa River as a method for viewing fall’s features among its recommendations.

Cook up new creations with local produce

Homemade apple crisp and pumpkin pie are hallmark comfort foods during autumn, but mix it up by putting a local twist with Michigan-grown produce.

Located in the east lot of DOW Diamond, the Midland Farmers Market features 40 local vendors offering homemade and homegrown products from fresh fruits and vegetables to local syrup and honey. The fall markets run from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. every Wednesday and Saturday until Oct. 31. The market will operate from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on Saturdays only Nov. 7, 14, and 21.

The Midland Farmers Market provides a variety of fresh, local produce for fall cooking and baking.

Laura Coffee, marketing and owner services director for GreenTree Cooperative Grocery in Mt. Pleasant, says not only is local produce fresh, it’s also sustainable because of the shortened farm-to-table distance.

“We are lucky that our local produce doesn’t have far to go and it goes from farmers directly to people and you’re building a supply chain that’s consistent,” Coffee says.

If you want to try something new, Coffee offers some advice:

“[A recipe] that’s kind of fun is people will take the pie pumpkins, cut the top off, put stew ingredients in it, bake it until the pumpkin is cooked through, and scoop it all out with the pumpkin,” she says. “Another simple one is to cut squash in half – any winter squash will work – and put it in the oven with butter and sugar; or, you can freeze it and put it in smoothies to make pumpkin pie smoothies.”

Coffee mentions the Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Markets continue into October. The Thursday market at Island Park, South Shelter, runs from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. until Oct. 29 and the Saturday market at Town Center runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. until Oct. 10.

GreenTree stocks local produce suppliers including Monroe Family Organics, Almar Orchards, and Good News Market and Farm, among others.

Complete the STEM Pipeline Passport

This is a great way for kids interested in any STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) area of study to explore the field. Using this “passport,” it’s up to you to explore online and in-person STEM events within your community and record your experience.

By recording your participation in 5 STEM-related events, you have completed your passport and you and your family will receive a prize on behalf of the STEM Impact Initiative and MI STEM Network.

Click here to learn more about this event and view a list of participating businesses and programs in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

The Midland Symphony Orchestra is bringing the music directly to the masses through virtual performances.

Enjoy virtual and in-person events at Midland Center for the Arts 

Listen to an award-winning authors or sounds of the symphony from the comfort of your couch with a virtual pass. Check out Strum, Strings and a Serenade, featuring the 8th String Quartet of Shostakovich, the famous Serenade for Strings by Tchaikovsky, and music by rising star Jessie Montgomery, which was recorded live on Oct. 3 and available for streaming until Oct. 10. On Oct. 11, award-winning author Ibram X. Kendi, whose third book “How to be an Anti-Racist” was a No. 1 New York Times best-seller, is the featured speaker in this live-streamed conversation part of the Artists & Authors series. Buy a virtual pass for $15 or get a monthly pass for $9.99 a month.

And comedy fans won’t want to miss the next Curbside Comedy events. Get ready for nonstop laughs outdoors at one of the following shows, which includes two professional comedians who have graced the stages of HBO, Comedy Central, and Late Night TV:

Oct. 8: Steve Iott, featuring Mike Moses

Oct. 22: Danny Browning, featuring Wesley Ward

Seating begins at 7 p.m. with shows starting at 8 p.m. Capacity is limited so pre-purchasing tickets are recommended.

The Chippewa Watershed Conservancy has a variety of trails for beautiful fall hikes.

Conquer the highest peak in Isabella County

A .4-mile and light 1,270-foot hike is all it takes to climb Bundy Hill in Remus, but the autumn colors will leave you wanting to complete the 1.68 miles of trails the preserve contains.

Chippewa Watershed Conservancy Executive Director Mike LeValley says an early-morning outing is the way to go if hikers want to avoid crowds.

“My personal favorite is to do the trail as a figure-eight; climbing the McNeel trail to its junction with the Ridge Trail, following the Ridge Trail to the Summit Trail and following it to the top, then descending on the McNeel Trail back to the Ridge Trail, following it back to the Summit Trail and then returning to the parking lot,” LeValley says. “This way I get to experience the view on the Ridge Trail twice.”

If a climb isn’t within your interest or ability but you’d still like to experience nature and the autumn air, LeValley suggests Hall’s Lake Natural Area. While the area lacks the view from Bundy Hill, LeValley says there are more chances to view wildlife like porcupine, fox, beaver, and even the occasional bobcat.

Visit Johnson’s Giant Pumpkin Farm

Always a staple on fall activity round-up lists, Johnson’s Giant Pumpkin Farm at 4715 N. Portsmouth Road in Saginaw, is ready for the season. This year, the corn maze says “COVID GO AWAY,” and the family-friendly pumpkin farm outlines all its COVID-19 precautions on its website.

All weekend organized activities have been canceled, but there is still free parking and admission for the rest of the fun – animals, maze, craft store, piping hot donuts, gourds galore, and more. Things will be different this fall, but this fall staple is still an open. More information can be found on the farm’s Facebook page and website.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.