The Saugatuck area of southwest Michigan is offers plenty to do this fall in this charming city and surrounding area. The area consists of Saugatuck itself which is an art colony full of shops and restaurants that has a long history of being LGBT-friendly. Like Provincetown, the city has no chains ( like CVS or Starbucks ). Unlike Provincetown, it is not right on the water as in Lake Michigan.
The adjacent city of Douglas is also very cute. The nearby cities of Holland ( with its Dutch Heritage and beaches ), Fennville ( with its wineries and blueberry, peach, and apple farms ), and South Haven ( also a beach town ) are also very welcoming and offer plenty to do this fall.
Make your first stop the Dunes Resort ( 333 Blue Star Highway, Saugatuck ), where much is planned through the end of October.
The pool scene is a must where you can order food and drinks. They have dancing weekend nights as well as a Sunday T Dance that starts at 4 p.m. and features a cook out. Lodging rates are lower after Labor Day.
The Dunes features both motel-style lodging as well as cabins and other options. Upcoming events include:
Sept. 22-24: MML Leather Weekend with a classic disco-themed T Dance Sunday afternoon
Oct. 5-7: Fall Fest Weekend
Oct. 12-14: FalL TG Weekend
Oct. 19-22: Make a Wish Benefit Weekend
Oct. 27-29: Halloween WeekendThere will be a parade Saturday afternoon in Douglas and a party at the Dunes that night including a costume contest.
Details at DunesResort.com
Another must in the area is the Fenn Valley Vineyards and Wine Cellar ( 6130 122nd Ave., Fennville; FennValley.com ) which offers wine tastings from produced from locally grown grapes. My friend and I like the Capriccio and Michigan Awesome red wines as well as their hard cider. The winery offers tours as well. Runners will want to do the Vine Wine'd 5K Trail Run on October 7 through the Vineyard with a post-race cookout ( fennvallye.com/vine-wined ). They will also have a Sip n Shop artisan craft market on Dec. 9.
Saugatuck's Oval Beach is another must-see where the sunsets are incredible. You can also hike to the top of nearby Mt. Baldy, a giant sand dune just east of the beach.
Another great ( free ) beach is the Laketown Beach just south of Holland ( which is north of Saugatuck ).
Holland itself has a great Farmer's Market every Saturday where you can enjoy some Michigan apple cider.
Don't miss the Degraaf Nature Center ( www.degraaf.org ) just south of Holland at 600 Graafschap Road where you can explore the trails and learn about the native trees and animals in the nature center
We enjoyed dinner at the Saugatuck Brewing Company ( 2948 Blue Star Highway ). The What Not is another great restaurant ( 2405 68th Street in Fennville ). I liked the taco salad where my friend had the perch dinner ( all you can eat Friday nights ). The What Not also has music on Saturday nights.
If you need any food or camping supplies, DeMond's Super Valu ( 237 Center Street in Douglas ) has everything you could need.
Bring your bike ( or rent one ) and you can enjoy the Kal-Haven Trail which runs from South Haven ( a charming beach town just south of Saugatuck ) all the way to Kalamazoo. Saugatuck itself now has a bike lane along the Blue Star Highway.
Over at the CampIt Outdoor Resort ( 269-543-3000 ) which is located at 6635 118th Street in nearby Fennville, you can camp, rent a small cabin , or stay in the lodge. They also have a nice pool and offer day passes.
My friend and I camped in the Westwood area which was quiet and near the new shower facilities.
Their store has everything you need. CampIt has a lot planned this fall including:
Sept. 15-17: Chicks in the Sticks/King Campit Contest
Sept. 22-24: Volunteer weekend, MML weekend
Sept. 29-Oct. 1: Wine and Dine Weekend
Oct. 6-8: Halloween Haunt
Oct. 13-15: Closing Weekend
Before you leave, pick up some Michigan apples, blueberries, or peaches ( as well as pumpkins and mums ) at Earl's Farm Market. They also carry apple cider and ice cream. They are located at 1630 Blue Star Highway in Fennville.
If time permits, head over to Lansing, the site of the state Capitol. In nearby East Lansing, visit the beautiful Beal Botanical Gardens or the MSU Horticultural Gardens ( 1066 Bogue Street ) or bring your bike and enjoy the bike trails along the Red Cedar River.
Getting there: Saugatuck is a two-hour drive from Chicago, a three-hour drive from Detroit or a four-hour drive from Indianapolis. You really need a car to explore since everything is fairly spread out. There is Amtrak service from Chicago to Holland. You could also fly into nearby Grand Rapids, Michigan or South Bend, Indiana. ( Chicago's Midway is probably the closest major airport. )
Where to stay: In addition to the two resorts mentioned, Saugatuck has a number of motels catering to the LGBT community. Nearby Holland is another option.
For more information on LGBT Michigan, check out Metra Magazine ( metramagazine.com ) or Between the Lines ( PrideSource.com ). For more information on the Saugatuck-Douglas area, see GaySaugatuckDouglas.com .
Bill Malcolm's syndicated travel column now appears in The Midwest Eagle, The Windy City Times ( on line edition ) and other publications. He also writes for All Aboard Indiana and The Broad Ripple Gazette. All or part of this story may appear in this or other publications.