Within just a short drive of Michigan’s largest metropolitan area, you’ll find dozens of historic farms and cider mills in addition to acres of orchards just waiting to be explored. While this route is a bit longer than the others here (225 miles round-trip), you’re invited to spread it out over a long, relaxing weekend so as not to miss any of the agricultural treasures of this region. During this tour, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to get off the major highways to travel through quaint small towns and along scenic country roads.
Start your tour at the historic Cobblestone Farm Museum (2781 Packard Road, Ann Arbor). Here, you can discover early settler life and a 100-year-old log cabin at this living history museum. Restored to reflect its mid-19th century appearance, the museum provides a view of past rural life in Washtenaw County. Building on the site’s domestic and agricultural heritage, guests are engaged in rich sensory experiences based on a farm family’s journey through the seasons and the years. Programs include guided tours, living history days, a pioneer living program and season offerings. Guided drop-in tours are available Fridays and Sundays, Memorial Day through Labor Day. (734-994-2928) www.cobblestonefarm.org
At your next stop, you'll find one of the oldest continuously operating cider mills in Michigan -Dexter Cider Mill (3685 Central St., Dexter). Head west on Packard Road and take a slight right at E. Eisenhower Parkway for 1.3 miles, then turn left at South State Street and take a slight right to merge onto I-94 West toward Jackson for 9 miles. Take Exit 167 for Baker Road toward Dexter for about 3 miles and then turn left at Main Street and then right at Central Street. Open since 1866, this family-owned and operated mill is situated on the banks of the Huron River. You’ll find wood-pressed cider, fresh apples and caramel apples. Freshly baked goodies, such as donuts, strudel, turnovers, old-fashioned ginger snap cookies, apple nut bread and apples pies made on site, will make your mouth water. Jams, jellies and original pastry mixes are also available. Open August through November. (734-426-8531) www.dextercidermill.com
Settle in for a 32-mile stretch north to Parshallville Cider Mill (8507 Parshallville Road, Fenton), one of the last water-powered grist mills operating in Michigan. Head north on Central Street, continuing on Mast Road for 3 miles. Then, turn right at North Territorial Road for 6 miles, turning left at E. 5 Mile Road and taking the ramp onto US-23 North for 21 miles. Take Exit 70 and turn left on Clyde Road for a couple miles before turning right on Parshallville Road. Built in 1869, this historic site operated as Tom Walker’s Grist Mill for three generations. While you’re here, take a tour of the mill, enjoy a nature walk by the Ore Creek, view donuts being made in the mill, visit the press room to see the cider making process, and taste the fruits of the miller’s labor. Special activities are planned each fall weekend, including hayrides, kid’s activities and magic shows. Open September through November. (810-629-9079) www.parshallvillecidergristmill.com
Just 2 miles away is Spicer Orchards (10411 Clyde Road, Fenton). Follow Parshallville Road to the south and turn left at Clyde Road to this fifth-generation family farm. Started around the turn of the last century, today the farm has 15,000 dwarf fruit trees. The farm market building is designed after an old Victorian carriage house that once stood on the farm, with a 10,000-bushel storage, sorting machines, donut shop, bakery, cider mill and gift shop. Families visiting will find wagon rides and tours, a kid’s corral and petting barn. (810-632-7692) www.Spicerorchards.com
Next, it's onto Diehls Orchards (1479 Ranch Road, Holly), about 11 miles away. Head east on Clyde Road, continuing straight onto Milford Road for about 7.5 miles, then turn left at N. Milford Road for about 3 miles, turning right at E. Rose Center Road and then left at Ranch Road. Diehl’s is open daily from August to December, with the 33rd Annual Ciderfest Sept. 27-28, 2014, and hayrides and pony rides from September to October. Enjoy group harvest hayride dinners and campfires during the fall. You’ll also find apples, cider, donuts, jams, jellies and honey. Picnic and play areas also available. (248-634-8981) www.diehlsorchard.com
Its time to head east, for the 40 mile trek to Stony Creek Orchard and Cider Mill (2961 W. 32 Mile Road, Romeo). Head west on Ranch Road and turn right at East Rose Center Road/Milford Road for about 3 miles and turn right at East Davisburg Road for another 3.7 miles. Continue on Broadway/Davisburg Road for about 3 miles, turning right at Dixie Highway for 2 miles. Merge onto I-75 toward Detroit for 11 miles, taking Exit 81 to merge onto Lapeer Road (M-24 North) for 3.4 miles. Turn right at E. Silver Bell Road for 2.4 miles, then left at N. Adams Road for 3.6 miles. Turn right at Stoney Creek Road, following the road to the right and then the left for about 4 miles. Turn left at Rochester Road, traveling for 2.1 miles before turning right at E. Romeo Road for 1.8 miles, continuing on 32 Mile Road for ½ mile. A fall outing wouldn't be complete without a trip to Stony Creek. Drive up the prolonged driveway lined with locus trees and majestic pines more than 300 feet tall and come to a quaint farm and apple orchaRoad Covered with white barns and buildings of all different shapes and sizes and decorated with antique farming equipment, it’s like stepping back in time. Throughout the harvest months, stop to pick your own apples, grab a cup of fresh pressed cider and a warm donut and enjoy the picnic area while the children play. One of the more unique offerings are moonlight hayrides, available Friday and Saturday evenings in October. A great outing for groups and families, the 25-minute hayride includes a glass of cider, a donut and a bonfire. (586-752-2453) www.stonycreekorchaRoadcom
Further northeast, about 10 miles away, is Blakes Orchard & Cider Mill (17985 Armada Center Road, Armada). Take 32 Mile Road east for 3.3 miles and continue on W. St. Clair Street for ½ mile before turning left at North Main Street. Take a slight left at West Gates Street before turning right almost immediately on S. Van Dyke Road for a mile or so, turning left to follow the road (M-53). Turn right at 34 Mile Road for 1.7 miles, then left at Kanie Road for 1 mile before turning right at Armada Center Road. Blake’s was one of the very first “Pick Your Own” orchards in Michigan, dating back to the 1940s. Known for their award-winning apple cider, they run three different locations and more than 500 acres of orchaRoad Blake’s has even been voted the #1 apple orchard in Michigan by AAA readers. Since its opening, Blake Farms has become one of the premier family entertainment farms, offering train rides, pony rides, hayrides, cornfield mazes, several animated attractions and many other family oriented activities. You’ll also find one of the premier haunted attractions – Blake’s nighttime Haunted Hayride & Three Story Haunted Barn. Open during the Christmas holiday season, with wreaths, trees, a gift shop, hot cocoa and freshly baked goodies. Group tours available. Open June through December. (586-784-5343) www.blakefarms.com
Another 10 miles away is Westview Orchards and Cider Mill (65075 Van Dyke, Washington/Romeo), spanning 188 acres and dating back to 1813. Head west on Armada Center Road for 1.7 miles and turn left back on Kanie Road for 1 mile, right at 34 Mile Road, left at South Van Dyke Road (M-53) for 4.5 miles, and then right at 30 Mile Road for ½ mile before turning right at Van Dyke Road. Westview Orchards is the result of six generations of old-fashioned hard work and determination. A state-of-the-art cider mill was added in 1998, housed in a 1850s barn on the west side of the orchard farm. On weekends, visitors are invited to witness every step of the cider making process. Children and families love Westview, where a three-acre playground is waiting to be explored. Activities include a giant corn maze, straw mountain, a 40-foot apple drop slide, petting barn, pony rides and wagon rides. Family Fun Weekends are offered throughout the fall, with live entertainment, fun-filled activities, contests, prizes and more. After a day of playing, be sure to stop by the bakery and farm market for tasty treats to eat on the spot or to take home for later. (586-752-3123) www.westvieworchards.com
It's time to make your way south again, to Yates Cider Mill (1990 E. Avon Road, Rochester Hills). Travel south on Van Dyke Road and turn left at 30 Mile Road for a half mile, turning right at M-53 South for 7.1 miles. Take the 23 Mile Road West exit, turning right at 23 Mile Road for 4.1 miles and then left at Dequindre Road to E. Avon Road. In 1863, the Yates family constructed a wooden dam across the Clinton River. That same year, they opened a grist mill beside the rapid flowing waters of the Clinton-Kalamazoo Canal. By 1876, the millers were making apple cider, thus, Yates Cider Mill was born. Three generations of Yates kept the wheels turning with water power, and today, the Posey family has continued the tradition. Today, families make a visit to Yates an annual tradition. Children enjoy the farm animals and pony rides. A concession stand offers a tasty menu, including ice cream and the famous donut sundae. Grounds surrounding the mill are ideal for hiking, picnicking and just relaxing on an autumn day. Groups are welcome, by appointment only, Wednesday through Friday, from mid-September through the end of October. (248-651-8300) www.yatescidermill.com
You're more than halfway through your route, as you head south to the Franklin Cider Mill (7450 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills). Head southwest on Dequindre Road for 3 miles and turn right to merge onto M-59 West for 8 miles. Take Exit 40A to merge onto I-75 South toward Detroit for 2 miles. Take Exit 75 toward Square Lake Road and merge onto the I-75 West Business Loop for 1.5 miles. Continue on W. Square Lake Road for 1.3 miles, taking a slight right at South Telegraph Road. Make a Michigan U-Turn and after 4 miles, turn right on W. Maple Road for 1 mile, then turn left at Franklin Road. The first mill here first opened in 1837 – the year when Michigan became a state. The present water wheel, one of the largest in the country, was installed soon after the turn of the century. Very little is known about the press, except that it was shipped to this country from Europe in the early part of the 19th century, and it is rated at nearly 90 tons pressure. Today, all apples that the cider uses for making its cider or just for selling are hand-picked 100 percent organic apples. A visit to this historic site today means you can find many different types of products at the cider mill consisting of apple cider, cider donuts, apples, pies, scones, breads, cakes, Hickory Farms meats and Cheeses, jams, spreads, butters, honey, vegetables and candies. Franklin’s is also the place for special events and musical entertainment. (248-626-2968) www.franklincidermill.com
You're now on route to the second oldest continuously operating business in the city of Northville, Parmenters Northville Cider Mill (714 Baseline Road, Northville), dating back to 1873. Head south on Franklin Road and turn left at W. 14 Mile Road for 1 mile, then right at Telegraph Road for 2.4 miles. Merge onto the Walter P. Reuther Freeway (I-696) via the ramp to Lansing. Take that for 7.2 miles, and then take Exit 1 to merge onto I-275 South (I-96 East) toward Toledo for 3.5 miles. Take Exit 167 for 8 Mile Road toward Northville, turning right at 8 Mile. Take that for 1.7 miles before turning left at Griswold Street, then an immediate right at Baseline Road and then a left at Baseline Road (Old Novi Road). There are dozens of tasty treats to make your mouth water while visiting Parmenter’s, like the cider slush, caramel apple chips, maple candy, and of course, delicious freshly made cider. You’ll also find donuts, caramel apples, apple butter, pumpkin butter, honey, maple syrup, jams and much more. The Chow Mill, Nut Mill and Northville Fudge Company also operate on the property. At The Northville Winery, you’ll also find four wines (including apple wine), hard cider and sparkling cider. A play area is provided for children just outside of the mill, offering a train play escape, a monster truck with a slide, and a small play house. A branch of the Rouge River runs behind the mill, offering a relaxing setting for enjoying a quite autumn day. Open September through November. (248-349-3181) www.northvillecider.com
The end of your trip is near as you head west on baseline Road toward Oakland Street toward Erwins Orchards U-Pick & Cider Mill (61475 Silver Lake Road, South Lyon). Turn right at Novi Street, then right at E. 8 Mile Road and left at Novi Road for 3.4 miles. Take the ramp to Brighton and merge onto I-96 West for 9 miles. Take Exit 153 toward Kent Lake Road, keeping left at the fork and following the signs for South Lyon. Turn left at Huron River Parkway, continuing on Kent Lake Road for 1 mile before turning left at Silver Lake Road. This is a third-generation family farm celebrating nearly 90 years. James N. Erwin planted his first tree in 1920. Today, the farm consists of 200 acres. You’ll find a variety of u-pick apples, award-winning cider and tasty apple spice donuts. Activities include wagon rides, hay maze, trike trail and a goat walk. Groups are welcome. Halloween attractions include a costume contest, Barn of Horrors and a Children’s Spooky Barn. Open mid-late August through early November. (248-437-0150) www.erwinorchards.com/wordpress
Your final farm stop is Wiards Orchards & Country Fair (5565 Merritt Road, Ypsilanti), about 30 miles away. Head east on Silver Lake Road and turn right on Pontiac Trail (which becomes North Lafayette Street briefly) for about 10 miles. Turn left at N. Dixboro Road for 3.5 miles, then turn right at Plymouth Road (Plymouth-Ann Arbor Road) for 1.5 miles. Turn right to merge onto US-23 South toward Toledo for 5.5 miles, and then take Exit 35 to merge onto I-94 East. Take I-94 East for 4.1 miles. Then, take Exit 183 for Huron Street (US-12 Business Route) toward downtown Ypsilanti. Turn right at South Huron Street, continuing on Whittaker Road. Turn right at Stony Creek Road, following it for about 2 miles before turning right at Merritt Road. This family business was started in 1853, and for more than 150 years, they’ve been serving the community by providing some of the area’s best apples, as well as a cider mill, bakery and donut shop. The Country Fair complex features a complete sports facility – including pony rides, hayrides, a corn maze, a miniature golf course, a 40x80 Pavilion and two play areas. Wiard’s is home to “Night of Terrors” – Michigan’s largest Haunted Thrill Park, featuring six attractions added in 2007. Open August through October. (734-390-9211) www.wiards.com
If you so choose, it's back to the Cobblestone Farm Museum just 7 miles northwest, to round out your extended tour. Head west on Merritt Road for a half mile, then turn right at Munger Road for 1 mile, then left at Textile Road for 1 mile. Turn right at Carpenter Road for 3.1 miles, and then turn left at Packard Road back to the historic museum.
- Detroit CVB