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Southwest Michigan is one of the best places to visit during the summer because there are so many ways to relax, play, and get outside. As summer rushes by, you may wonder “what’s the best way to enjoy it before it’s gone?” Here are 10 things to add to your “Last Days of Summer” checklist that you’ll want to experience before the season ends.

 

Help Us Celebrate 40 Years at The Blueberry Patch!

Mmmm. Plump, juicy blueberries, steamed-in-the-husk sweet corn and mead are some of the best tastes of summer. To celebrate our 40th anniversary, The Blueberry Patch at 7015 Blackwell Dr., Sawyer, is bringing those mouthwatering treats together starting the weekend of July 21 & 22.

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On August 2-5, St. Joseph, Mich., is packing in as much summer family fun as it can! While chalk-wielding artists take center stage, there is plenty of entertainment for all ages in this Lake Michigan resort town. Here are some must-dos:

22nd Annual Chalk the Block
For 22 years, regional artists have been creating beautiful works of art out of chalk pastels using the downtown streets of St. Joseph as their canvas. This year they’ll be mapping out their ideas and transforming them into masterpieces on Broad St. between Lake Blvd. and State St. Artists draw whatever they choose so each piece is unique. You can watch the artists at work starting on Friday evening and view their finished pieces all day Saturday and Sunday. Walking by, you’ll see why this free event is a perennial favorite for thousands of locals and visitors.

Blossomtime

It’s that magical time of year in Southwestern Michigan, Blossomtime! Our orchards and gardens are just beginning to awaken with fragrant blossoms. But it’s also a royally fun time to be here. It’s as if you’re part of a Disney-made fairytale – one that your children and grandchildren will treasure in their memories for years. Come be part of the magical moments April 29-May 5.

Pizza!

Looking for the best pizza places in Southwest Michigan? Check out what these local guest bloggers had to say about their favorite pizza places in this corner of the mitten. Some of them may surprise you.

Southwest Michigan offers some of the most diverse fishing opportunities in the country. No matter the time of year- spring, summer, fall or winter- this area offers the chance to catch multiple species of fish all year long.

Makers Trail Festival

For the first time, Southwest Michigan’s craft brewers, winemakers and distillers will party with you and your friends in one place. It’s the 1st Annual Makers Trail Festival at Weko Beach, Bridgman, Mich. on June 9 from 1 to 10 p.m. Come try new drinks or stick with your go-to local favorites, eat delicious beach food and listen to incredible music on the shores of Lake Michigan. It doesn’t get better than this!

PublicArt2018

Hear ye! Hear ye! Our 15th annual public art exhibit will turn our Lake Michigan resort town into “The Magical Kingdom of St. Joseph” from May 18 to Sept. 20. The mayor has decreed that young, old and middle ages will have a royal good time seeking 15 enchanting sculptures of dragons, brave knights and a kid-size castle along downtown sidewalks. These original pieces of art painted by area artists will be perfect for taking whimsical selfies and creating make-believe adventures for the entire family.

Silver Harbor Root Beer

If you’re not a fan of beer, wine or hand-crafted cocktails you might think that the Makers Trail isn’t for you. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are over 30 locations to choose from and each one brings something different to the table. Here’s why each one is worth a try.

LEGO-loving kids and adults - come to St. Joseph, Mich., this March - when this lakeside resort town turns into LEGO City. From March 1 until the end of most spring breaks, April 8, there is a bonanza of brick-building creativity going on at six different sites during the Sixth Annual Build Your Way Around Town LEGO events sponsored by United Federal Credit Union. Cost to go? Parking and admission is free at every site.

One of the rarest treats in Southwest Michigan is our ice wine and it can be found at several locations along the Makers Trail. Some describe this type of wine as liquid gold. Others dessert in a glass. All say it is mmm-marvelous!

During February, professional ice carvers aren't the only artists that amaze us in Southwest Michigan. Nature does her magic this month (and throughout the late fall and winter) along our Lake Michigan coast. Here are some facts, tips and important cautions that local landscape photographer, Josh Nowicki, shared with us:

Magical Ice Fest

The Magical Ice Fest in downtown Saint Joseph is a weekend of entertainment for the whole family and a great place to take fun photos. Ever year the event gets bigger and better. There are ice carving competitions, a run/walk, magician, Fire & Ice Party, Hawaiian Luau performances and more. This is one of my favorite events to photograph for several reasons. First the carvers love what they do. Second, the people attending the event are very cheerful. Third, ice carvings are an enjoyable challenge to photograph. Moreover, there is a great diversity of activities going on which constantly provide interesting photo opportunities. In this blog, I am going to focus on the fun of taking photos at this event, if you are looking for the specific details on the event please visit magicalicefest.com.

I am that guy sitting in the snow with my camera pointed at the ground. You can often find me somewhere in the snow around St. Joseph when pretty snowflakes are falling. Frequently, I have had to explain to neighbors and people passing by why I am sitting in the snow taking close up photos of my stocking cap. It is not until I show the display on the back of my camera that they really understand what I am trying to capture.

Red Top

Red Top is a Southwest Michigan winery offering a new and innovative wine tasting experience. With enticing wines on tap, instead of in the bottle, owners Rockie & Allison have opened their doors to a completely different style of winery. A delightful ten-minute country cruise south of downtown Baroda, MI will place you at Snow Road, where the beacon of a truly wonderful wine tasting journey begins.

Recently, I have started to appreciate the number and diversity of birds in Southwest Michigan. I have known that this area is very popular for bird watching and have had many conversations with bird watchers, however I had not until recently taken much time to really look for or at the birds. Now that I have, a whole new world of interest while outdoors has opened up to me.

As a photographer and videographer for the Makers Trail, I have had the privilege of getting to speak with a variety makers and visit many of the trail locations. What really strikes me from this experience is how unique each location is. The diversity of locations, architecture, products, and overall experiences is remarkable. From quiet tasting rooms to bustling full-sensory experiences and from classic flavors to experimental concoctions there are amazing options in Berrien County.

Once it snows in Southwest Michigan, it’s time to get out and have fun! Three silent sports — cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat tire biking — are great ways for kids to adults to get exercise, see the beauty of this season and do so at their own pace. Whether you are a first-timer (welcome!) or a can’t-get-enough-snow-time winter sports enthusiast, here are a few tips to make your time outdoors safer and more enjoyable:

Michigan’s Most Romantic City

With a reputation for being "Michigan's Most Romantic City" (thanks to the Detroit Free Press), St. Joseph is the perfect place for a weekend with your sweetie. Here are eight of our favorite things to do with the one you love:

Christmas Tree

Handmade gifts warm the heart in ways that mass-produced gifts can’t. Yet it’s the start of December … is there really time to make something someone on your list might treasure? DEFINITELY! Come to Southwest Michigan and take one of our fun classes! Not only can you spend a few dedicated hours making your gifts, but you can have fun with family and friends doing it! Here are some suggestions:

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I (Brandon DeJaynes) moved to the Southwest corner of Michigan five years ago with little knowledge of the community and its music scene. At the time, I was working as an Independent Contractor in Live Music Production and was frequently traveling and spending a lot of time away from home. As a self-proclaimed music geek, I yearned to find a venue close to home that would cater to my never-ending quest to find new, interesting and original music. To my delight, I discovered that The Livery in Benton Harbor has an eclectic and diverse music scene.

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One of the keys to successfully taking good photos is dedication. Almost every day I go out for a walk and take photos. However, there is a lot more that goes into frequently creating unique and interesting images. The three ingredients that I am going to highlight today are planning, preparation and patience.

lightitup

December is here and holiday happenings are in full swing here in Southwest Michigan. Join us all month long for twinkling lights, visits from Santa and his reindeer, and family-friendly celebrations that will have you in the Christmas spirit through the New Year.

LMC Mendel

Earlier this year, 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.

Halloween in Downtown Saint Joseph, MI

October in Southwest Michigan is filled with colorful leaves, apple cider, corn mazes, hayrides, pumpkin patch visits and orchard adventures; but let’s not forget about all the spooky Halloween happenings that are just around the corner. Check out these family-friendly Halloween events and local trick-or-treat times.

Finding the perfect pumpkin

Still need to carve your jack-o-lantern for Halloween? Need uncarved pumpkins in various sizes to decorate your porch or lawn? A gourd for each of your Halloween party attendees to paint? Come to Southwest Michigan! There are several places offering a selection of locally grown pumpkins in their patches and farm markets.

Fall Paddling on the Galien River

While some fair-weather paddlers pack up their kayaks and paddleboards after Labor Day, others know that September and October are the best months of the year to be on the rivers of Southwest Michigan. The bugs are gone, the temperatures are just right, and the fall colors are in full bloom.

NorthLakePark Stevensville 

You may hear a lot about Southwest Michigan and our beautiful sunsets, towering sand dunes, picturesque beaches or the fun events that take place here, but what about the unique communities that make this area so special? Each one stands out with its own character and charm, which is why you’ll want to visit:

Three Oaks Against 

In honor of its Sesquicentennial, the heartwarming and entertaining history of Three Oaks comes to life through story and song on September 9 and 10. The Acorn Theater is host to this free event (reservations recommended).

Haymarket Logo

The craft brewery scene is blazing in Southwest Michigan. New breweries are opening along our Makers Trail each year. One of the newest is Haymarket Taproom, 9301 Red Arrow Highway, Bridgman. It is the Michigan location for the much-acclaimed Haymarket Pub & Brewery, arguably the best brewpub in Chicago. We talked with award-winning Brewmaster Peter Crowley while he was on this side of the lake. Here’s what he shared:

Pets

Everyone loves to go on vacation, but if you’re like me you hate leaving your pets behind. It can be difficult (and expensive) to travel with animals but luckily Southwest Michigan is a very pet-friendly place. You can find many hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, wineries, breweries, trails, beaches, farms, and shops that will welcome your pets as they would any other member of your family. To help plan your pet-friendly vacation, here are some places I would recommend staying and visiting while you’re here.

peaches

It’s one of the sweetest times in summer — peach season in Southwest Michigan! Now ‘til mid-September you can pick sun-ripened, juicy peaches right from the tree. These aren’t those hard, must-wait-until-they-ripen fruits they bring to your grocery store from southern states. They are ready to eat, bake, freeze and preserve right now.

Sharknado by Beth Mandarino

There’s something fishy about St. Joseph, Mich., now through Sept. 21. In this Lake Michigan resort town, you can see 19 fish and shark sculptures lining the downtown sidewalks and below the bluff, plus one shark sculpture at the New Buffalo Welcome Center on eastbound I-94. They are part of the Fishing for Fun in St. Joseph public art display. 

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Southwest Michigan residents and visitors have an incredible new opportunity to discover firsthand the importance of Lake Michigan to our local heritage through St. Joseph Lighthouse Tours (which includes an optional walk to the top of the tower)!

Dessert at the Bistro on the Boulevard

The food scene in Southwest Michigan has been exploding in recent years with the addition of new restaurants, wineries and breweries. But where do locals go for sweet treats, decadent desserts and a caffeine buzz? With so many places to choose from, it’s hard to narrow down the list but here are a few of our favorites to help sweeten your stay.

Gene Harris Coming Home Coming Together Concert

Summer is so close you can almost taste it! That means Southwest Michigan will soon be filled with fun festivals and events. But what makes our festivals stand out from the rest?

Young Flight

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. Why are they there and where did they come from?

Acorn

Housed in the historic Featherbone Factory, 107 Generations Dr. in Three Oaks, Michigan, is a funky-industrial-chic performance venue called the Acorn Theater. Founded in 2001, the 260-seat destination presents diverse, high quality performances by known and up-and-coming artists.

easter egg hunt

Easter fills Southwest Michigan with Easter bunnies, egg hunts, sweet treats, prizes and family fun. Be sure to add some of these events to this year’s to-do list.

 Celebrate Spring

Ahh, spring. That beautiful time of year when the world becomes green again, animals (and people) come out of hibernation, and our local parks fill with all ages enjoying the fresh air, beautiful flowers and chirping birds.

 Arts Park

The Arts District in Benton Harbor is a year-round destination for great food, inspiring art and family friendly events.

Curious Kids

Looking for fun ideas to plan with the kids while they’re off school this spring? Come to Southwest Michigan! It’s full of family-friendly spring break activities.

 Art of Beer

St. Patrick’s Day Weekend is a traditional time to quaff a glass of beer with family and friends. It’s easy to do, and a whole lot more fun, at Southwest Michigan’s:

8th Annual Art of Beer Festival
March 18, 2017
5-9 p.m. EDT
The Mendel Center, Lake Michigan College
2755 E. Napier Avenue
Benton Harbor, MI 49022

 Chicago from Michigan

Several years ago I wrote a blog post about the view of Chicago from Michigan. Since then I have taken time-lapse photos, there has been more debate what is possible to see, and I have appeared in an ABC57 news segment talking about the science behind the view.

The Livery - Firkin Friday

I recently sat down with Simon Rusk, owner of The Livery, to talk about Berrien County’s oldest operating craft brewery. The building, located in the Benton Harbor Arts District, is over 100 years old and was the site of the Palace Livery, a former horse livery. In the early 2000’s a group looking to help revive the downtown area embarked to restore the building and create a microbrewery. Simon, a former lawyer, held several positions at The Livery from bartending, to brewing and management before becoming the owner about one year ago. Under his leadership, and those before him, The Livery has become a staple in downtown Benton Harbor for great beer, delicious pizza and music. Find out what Simon had to say about this local craft brewery and why Southwest Michigan is becoming a popular brewery scene, below.

 Our craft breweries and wineries that are just minutes away

A few years ago, the City of St. Joseph was named “Michigan’s Most Romantic City” by the Detroit Free Press. Today, it’s a very popular destination not only for weddings and honeymoons, but for Valentine’s Day Weekend. With the 14th landing on a Tuesday this year, it opens bookend weekends (Feb. 10-12 and 17-19) to celebrate with your sweetie. Here are ways to share your love:

St. Joseph's Magical Ice Fest

Get ready for some frosty fun in St. Joseph! The 13th Annual Magical Ice Festival looks to be bigger and better than ever and packed with family fun, ice competitions and even some frozen fish. The event, which runs from February 3rd through February 5th, is a great way to explore this charming lakeside town and celebrate the winter season.

BeerFest3

With the St. Joseph Winter Beer Fest happening soon, I thought I would share some tips on how to have the most fun at the event.

 Mike Nadolski

For nearly five years, Mike Nadolski has been the Pied Piper of Southwest Michigan leading thousands of tourists here. They pour in from across the state and from Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and beyond. As executive director of The Mendel Center, he attracts them with national acts, popular events and business meetings he and his staff host each year. Here’s what he shared from behind the scenes:

Bridge Winter Wedding 2

The best thing about a winter wedding is how unpredictably magical your photos can be. There’s nothing quite as beautiful as snow falling around a couple on a wooded path or lights twinkling in the background. Even the lakeshore is transformed as the ice builds up around the pier and off the beach. Southwest Michigan provides unlimited opportunities for capturing these naturally beautiful winter scenes by the lake, in the woods, or even along the twinkling paths of the many quaint downtown cities.

Happy New Year!

This year is coming to a fast close but there’s still time to plan a Southwest Michigan New Year’s Getaway. Here’s how to celebrate the start of 2017 your way!

Downtown St. Joseph, MI

Still have shopping to do before your December holiday celebrations? Chances are if you order online now, your gifts won’t arrive on time. But there’s no need to panic. You can pick up great gifts any day this coming week when you shop locally in downtown St. Joseph, Mich. Here is your Week Before Christmas and Hanukkah Presents List.

Lighthouse in Saint Joseph, MI

As I previously wrote in the post “The Allure of the Lighthouse,” people are drawn to lighthouses making them the epitome of photographic subjects in the Great Lakes region. Of these, the lighthouse in Saint Joseph, Michigan is among the most photographed. Photos of crashing waves in the fall and layers of ice in the winter annually make national, and at times international, news.

Santa

The holiday season is among us and lucky for you, Southwest Michigan is filled with holiday cheer! There are always fun activities for all ages in and around St. Joseph but you’ll want to be here during the “most wonderful time of the year.” Plan your visit today to enjoy these classic celebrations that are sure to get you in the Christmas spirit.

Lake Michigan Winter

Winter is my favorite time to be outside. I love the cold crisp air, the way that the snow blankets everything, the otherworldly ice formations along the lake and the delicate beauty of individual snowflakes. If you are prepared and enjoy the cold, Southwest Michigan is a photographer’s paradise 24 hours a day in the winter.

Beach Glass - Colors

Like collecting fossils, stones and driftwood, searching Lake Michigan’s shoreline for beach glass is a relaxing hobby that beachgoers of every age can enjoy. Over the years, when I have been out taking photos along the lake, I would pick up the occasional piece of beach glass bring it home and put it in my ‘junk’ drawer. As the pile built up, I started to notice the differences in shape and color in my small collection. I also began to notice how beach glass had been incorporated in the decoration of friends’ homes and its prevalence in area shops as jewelry and mosaic. As a result, I have started actively searching for beach glass when walking from location to location taking photos along Lake Michigan.

Luminary Festival

If you’re anything like me, the upcoming holidays make this the best time of year. They’re full of joy, a giving spirit, heartwarming family traditions and music that brings you back to the happiest moments of your childhood.

I used to believe you had to wait until after Thanksgiving to think about Christmas. Now, as I’ve gotten older, I find that I want to start celebrating the season as quickly as I can. Southwest Michigan makes that easier with its festive shops and November calendar filled with fun events.

Photo: David Knight Photography

Who says Halloween is just for kids? Not us! You may be too old to go trick-or-treating, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t dress up and join in on the fun. You’ll find plenty of Halloween activities in Southwest Michigan that are made just for adults. Here’s a list of local, can’t-miss festivities that will raise your spirits (and your glass) this Halloween season.

Ben Pancoast Fall 10

Q: What makes SWMI special for fall weddings?
A: The diversity of the area is what makes SWMI so special in the fall. You can take pictures at the beach and then within 5 or 10 minutes you can be on a wooded path surrounded by beautiful fall foliage, or out in a vineyard with golden vines, or an apple orchard. There are just so many options that it makes it incredibly easy to get beautiful unique fall photos without having to spend your day driving from one spot to another.

Makers Trail

Your road to craft beers, wines and spirits in Southwest Michigan.

When is the best time to tour the Makers Trail? Fall, winter, spring and summer! The Makers Trail is enjoyable year round, offering a different experience each season. With more than 30 members scattered across Southwest Michigan, you’ll have fun tasting new and long-time favorite handcrafted brews, wines and spirits. Come on your own or bring family and friends. The makers and their staffs look forward to your coming.

Fishing in Southwest Michigan

Located along Lake Michigan, Southwest Michigan is a prime fishing destination. However, when it comes to fishing, not many people are willing to share their favorite spots with you. So how do you know where to go to get that catch of the day? We’ll share a few places with you that are popular amongst locals.

Volleyball at Silver Beach

Sitting on the beach with your toes in the sand. It’s an iconic image of summer – and frankly, no summer feels complete without at least one beach day (at least to me). If you’re looking to spend a day at the beach in Southwest Michigan, consider these tips while planning your trip.

St. Joseph, MI

While it’s still warm and sunny, you may not be thinking “I should plan a fall getaway,” but the season is right around the corner! Here are a few tips so you don’t miss out on an autumn vacation in Southwest Michigan:

Southwest Michigan fireworks

Happy birthday to the U.S.A.! Locals and visitors love to celebrate the red, white and blue from dawn's early light to shimmering fountains of color in our Southwest Michigan skies at night. So where can you catch the best fireworks displays? Here are our "insider" suggestions:

Traveling by Train to Southwest Michigan

There are so many reasons to travel to Southwest Michigan: beautiful beaches and sunsets, sand dunes, fishing, boating, kayaking, golfing, delicious wines and craft brews, festivals and year-round family fun. If you're looking to experience any of the above, St. Joseph is the perfect travel destination for you.

Al look behind the scenes at the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid

Most articles about the 2016 Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid tell about the world-class Golf Club at Harbor Shores, the details of the championship, or about the incredible impact the event brings to this area year after year. But as someone who spent most of the event behind the scenes, I bring a different perspective.

Southwest Michigan’s Cultural Scene

When people talk about what Southwest Michigan brings to mind, they say, "Beaches," "Lake Michigan sunsets," "Great golf" and "Wineries," to name just a few of the fantastic amenities our region offers. But there's something else: a cultural scene that delivers a colorful array of memorable ways to renew, relax and feed your creative muse.

babymoon

Most everyone is familiar with honeymoons — that post wedding, romantic getaway for the bride and groom. But a Babymoon? Similar to a honeymoon, it is a special time for expectant parents to focus on each other before their bundle of joy arrives.

Group Outing on Paw Paw Josh Nowicki

Whether you're hosting a reunion, wedding weekend, company retreat, or another get-together, there's no better activity for a bigger group than paddling the rivers of Southwest Michigan.

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I love to spend my weekends each spring walking through the woods and searching for morels in Michigan. Like most people, I will not tell you my favorite locations, but I can give you a few tips on where to look.

Shadowland on Silver Beach

When it comes to picking a date for weddings in Southwest Michigan, most brides gravitate toward the summer months. Makes sense with our sugar-sand beaches, gorgeous Lake Michigan and charming countryside.

But have you ever thought of an off-season wedding in this coastal corner of Michigan? There are so many perks for choosing the shoulder months of January to April and September to December. One of the main advantages is the reduced cost. Most wedding venues and vendors lower their rates during the off-season, especially from November thru April.

Dinner at the Bistro on the Boulevard

We all wish for more time to do the things we want to do. This year we get a whole extra 24 hours! Leap Day is Feb. 29 — so why waste it working or doing your same-old Monday activities? Do something out of the ordinary – on your own — or with family or friends — in Southwest Michigan. Here are some ideas to jumpstart your plans:

at Timothy's in Union Pier

Southwest Michigan is home to the first winery in Michigan to plant vis vinifera grapevines (grapes from central Europe and the Mediterranean winemaking regions). In 1968, this totally transformed the quality of wines in our state. Now you can visit more than 19 wineries and taste award-winning vintages in Southwest Michigan. But before you start, here are five "don'ts" (and one giant "do!") to make your wine trip more enjoyable:

Ryan of Third Coast Surf Shop surfing Lake Michigan photo by Nowicki

Though it is believed that Great Lakes breakers were first surfed nearly a century ago, and possibly much earlier by native peoples, the first significant wave of participants arrived in the 1960s. The California surf craze was leaking into Middle America, and small surfing communities sprouted across the Great Lakes. Slowly but surely, surfing spread throughout the region, and today, surfing on the Third Coast is more popular than ever.

DSC 7787golfSWMI

While golf is usually thought of as a spring and summer sport, fall's comfortable weather coupled with captivating scenery create the ideal setting for getting out on the course. It makes sense, then, that National Golf Day is celebrated in the heart of autumn each year on October 4.

Throughout Southwest Michigan on any given sunny September or October day, you'll see golfers of all skill levels perfecting their shot while soaking in the beauty this corner of the Mitten affords. Why should you join them? We have five great reasons!

National Drink a Beer Day photo Joshua Nowicki

Michigan's long-time moniker of The Great Lakes State has, in recent years, taken on a much-deserved variation with the proliferation of craft breweries popping up from lake to shining lake. With well in excess of 200 craft breweries and more opening every month, it's easy to see how Michigan has earned its place as The Great Beer State, so aptly dubbed by the Michigan Brewers Guild.

While Southwest Michigan has long been known for its winemaking prowess, the region's beverage spotlight is widening to include a growing number of craft breweries. With a mix of late summer, lake-influenced landscapes and delicious beer varieties, southwestern Michigan is the perfect place to celebrate National Drink a Beer Day, September 28.

Fall Leaves Photo by Joshua Nowicki

For fans of Fighting Irish football, as well as for those who cheer for the visiting opponents, Southwest Michigan is a popular lodging destination during Notre Dame home football weekends. Not only is it a short drive to all the action at the stadium, this corner of Michigan provides a long list of fall activities to make it a full weekend. Such a long list, in fact, even season ticket holders have something different to do every home game weekend.

dog

Dogs. They're excited to see you walk through the doorway, even if you've left simply to take out the trash. A car ride with the window down equals pure joy. There is no better gift than a tennis ball...or bacon...or ice cream. With so many furry, loyal, fun-loving qualities there's no question why they say "every dog has its day." And that day happens to be August 26, National Dog Day.

Your four-legged friend deserves an appropriate celebration of the occasion. Happily, southwestern Michigan has many dog-friendly activities and lodging options to make it the perfect day for your whole family – even those members who chase squirrels!

Michigan Maritime Museum - Friends Good Will - photo by Joshua Nowicki

The dog days of August have the power to lull you into thinking summer will last forever. Then suddenly school is back in session and the leaves are turning. Don't waste another minute. Start living your summer of 2015 Southwest Michigan bucket list! Need a few ideas to get started? We have ten to set you on your way to building a heap of warm weather memories.

 Strata - David Barr - Silver Beach, St. Joseph, Michigan

What do Despicable Duck, Abundant Happiness and And You, Seas have in common? They are all part of the impressive outdoor art collection you can admire while walking in flip flops around Southwest Michigan. Casual wear is definitely acceptable as most of this area's art venues are in tree-lined parks and along sandy beaches. And don't mistake this for adult-only fare. There's lots of art to spark children's imaginations and you're never far from a sweets shop to reward your family's cultural adventuring.

apples
If we had a big ol' brass farm bell to ring, we'd clang it now! This is come-and-get-it time in Southwest Michigan. Area pick-your-own farms, roadside stands and downtown community markets are abounding in fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, cheeses, eggs and flowers. There are shelves of colorful jams, jellies and salsas. Bags of fresh-baked breads and donuts covered in cinnamon-sugar. The farm market freezers are stocked with ready-to-bake fruit pies and bags of berries for smoothies. Of course, reading about this bounty doesn't compare to plucking a plump, sun-ripened peach from the tree and taking a juicy bite. So c'mon! Bring the family for a fun (and delicious) time in the country!

Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra

Every summer, Southwest Michigan offers a feast for all five senses, but when it comes to listening pleasure few places in the Midwest can match the outdoor music venues this corner of the Great Lakes State offers. Several communities host regular and special event concerts that showcase talented local and nationally acclaimed vocalists, instrumentalists, songwriters and composers. Many give performances with Lake Michigan as the backdrop. It's a live music experience that doesn't require earbuds to enjoy the toe tapping, body swaying, soul stirring, feel good sounds all summer long. Here are some of the region's music musts:

Automotive Love on Display

Southwestern Michigan has a secret.

As you drive among late-model mini vans, SUVs, and four-door sedans, you'd never guess that a vast collection of artistry and pure automotive power silently surrounds you. Vintage and custom cars of all shapes and sizes – from the Brass Era to muscle cars to newer specialty vehicles and everything in between – are shielded from the rigors of daily driving, tucked safely away in garages, barns, and storage buildings throughout our corner of Michigan.

Wine Fesitval 0440
Southwest Michigan kicked off summer on Memorial Day. But May 25 was also National Wine Day and the start of several cork-popping months to toast this amazing freshwater coast. Whether you're a wine newbie or longtime connoisseur, there is no better place to be this summer than Southwest Michigan.

asparagus at timothys 2

 

Get bunches of this nutritional powerhouse at our now-open farm markets.

The biggest sign that spring has arrived here in Southwest Michigan is the sweetly scented, pastel-colored fruit blossoms now decorating our orchards. A close second is the appearance of Michigan-grown asparagus from now 'til early June in our farm markets and grocery stores.

It doesn’t happen often, but Valentine’s Day is on a Saturday this year! What a perfect weekend to give your sweetie something more than chocolates or a nice dinner (although you can add those to the mix, too). This is your chance to plan something out of the ordinary … so where do you begin? That’s easy. Spend it in St. Joseph, named Michigan’s Most Romantic City by the Detroit Free Press.
Here are ways to make this weekend sweeter than most.

galien

When the weather turns chilly, the tendency for a lot of us is to burrow inside.  But the crisp air of late autumn and early winter is perfect for getting out and stretching your legs at one of many hiking locations in southwestern Michigan.

fall

If I had to choose a favorite month in southwest Michigan, it's October. It's a great time to be with family and friends, the air is cool and crisp, and the colors are even crisper!

golf

As we say hello to October and welcome a new season, the crisp autumn air and fiery hues of turning leaves create the perfect backdrop for golf in southwestern Michigan. Just because the hot days of summer have retreated doesn't mean that one of summer's favorite pastimes has left with it. In fact, many golfers say this is their favorite time to get out on the links.

sailboats

Boating is part of the culture here in southwest Michigan. Watercrafts come in all shapes and sizes from kayaks to inflatable Zodiac boats to dual engine speedboats. But the most majestic of all are the sailboats.

sunset

As you look at the calendar and realize it's the middle of August, you may be wondering how you can I make the most of these last weeks of summer. Here are eight great southwest Michigan activities to do before the autumn leaves begin to fall.

cars

Car shows are a summer staple in Michigan. But this Saturday, August 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., something very special is happening when the Concours d’Elegance celebrates its 10th anniversary in downtown St. Joseph.

This isn’t your usual car show. This highly regarded invitational show will feature 94 of the most beautiful, interesting, and rare automobiles brought together from around Michigan and the Midwest to the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.

produceFruits and vegetables are at their delicious best right now in southwest Michigan! According to Allissa McManus who, with her husband George, owns and operates Piggot’s Farm Market and Bakery on Napier Avenue in Benton Harbor, summertime favorites are quickly coming into season as you can see in the photos of the beautiful produce from their market.

Light on the bluff in Saint Joseph, Michigan.I love the winter in Southwestern Michigan.  Yes, it can be quite cold, but it is also exceptionally beautiful.  I possibly spend more time outside enjoying walks and taking photos in the winter than I do during the hot summer months.  

In fact, my love of the cold is partially to blame for me having not written a blog post in a while; I have just been spending too much time outside.

"And You, Seas" by Richard HuntWith a sculpture collection extending along the west coast of Berrien County, you have probably visited the Krasl Art Center's collection without even knowing it.

When I moved to Southwestern Michigan several years ago, it was to take a job at the Krasl Art Center.   One of the features that captured my interest in the organization was the fact that its permanent collection was mostly outdoors and distributed throughout a variety of communities. 

North Berrien Historical MuseumI have a nostalgia for the past that seems to peak in the Fall and Winter, and as a result, I find myself drawn to the North Berrien Historical Museum in Coloma.

The simple and unpretentious displays of artifacts tell the story of North Berrien Country in a direct and easy to understand way.  Exhibits located in the main building cover thousands of years of history, and focus on Native Americans, rural life, schools, community business and resorts. 

The Heritage Museum and Cultural CenterFor the next couple of posts, I will be writing about museums in Southwestern Michigan.
 
The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in Saint Joseph, Michigan is a unique gem in the community.  Museum exhibits, library, archive, gorgeous banquet facilities, and fascinating public programs and events provide various ways for guests to experience the organization.

Sat. July 13th - 10am to 6pm & Sun. July 14th - 10am to 5pmKrasl Art Fair on the Bluff in Saint Joseph, Michigan

Admission: Free

One of the highlights of summer in St. Joseph, Michigan is the Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff. Taking place annually on the second weekend in July, it is a cannot-miss for visitors and locals alike.

The art fair is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top art fairs by both visitors and artists.  There are several very good reasons for this: a jurying process for selecting artists based on the quality of art, hundreds of volunteers, gorgeous location, a city that loves to entertain, and Sara Shambarger, the dedicated and enthusiastic director of the art fair.

St Joe for Kids photo Joshua NowickiSaint Joseph, Michigan is a wonderful place for children.  Museums, beaches, camps, ice cream and treats, along with a variety of additional indoor and outdoor entertainment await you during your next visit.
 
All Aboard! for public art in St. Joseph.  This year, the city of St. Joseph has organized a delightful collection of decorated planes, trains and helicopters.  Many of the sculptures invite children to climb aboard, ring a bell and imagine that they are on a fun journey.