Northern Michigan focuses on fall as summer season begins to wind down


With the busy summer season beginning its wind-down, regional visitors bureaus are turning their attention to the approaching fall season.

Summer in Northern Michigan is a staple for many and most northern cities went into the summer with high expectations after the last couple seasons broke records. This year, with high gas prices and rising inflation, many northern cities still saw high traffic, as people chose to vacation closer to home instead of hopping on a plane.

Post Labor Day however, tourism traffic tends to slow down as kids return to school and the weather cools down. Visitors bureaus across the region are working to increase traffic in the off-seasons in order to make the tourism economy more year-round.

More:Best fall hiking spots around Northern Michigan

In Petoskey, visitors bureau executive director Jim Powell said they will be focusing on two marketing campaigns: extend-your-summer and the regular fall campaign.

“We will roll into that campaign just to work to drive traffic up here during that September time period which, depending on when fall color hits, it really is more summer than fall a lot of the time,” Powell said.

Fall and spring tend to be the slowest seasons for Petoskey, with summer being its peak and winter being popular for snow sports.

The Balloons Over Bay Harbor event is seen here in 2019.

Some September events in and around Petoskey are the Balloons over Bay Harbor, the 27th annual Taste of Harbor Springs and the Harbor Springs Festival of the Book. All of which help to drive traffic to the region post Labor Day.

Along with the larger events, Petoskey still holds farmers markets, music in the park and other gatherings through the month of September. Events tend to slow down in October due to the weather, but hiking and other outdoor activities still attract people to the region.

A new attraction visitors and residents can look forward to this year is the opening of the longest timber-towered skybridge in the world at Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls. The bridge will allow for a bird’s-eye view of the fall leaves.

Cables strung between McLouth and Disciples Ridge at Boyne Mountain Resort connect the two timber towers on either peak.

“That’s kind of one of the highlights of the fall,” Powell said. “They are targeting, I think, that early September time period to get that open. Certainly will be an amazing opportunity to experience that amongst the fall color up there. (It’s) definitely something that we’re excited to help them promote and build awareness around.”

More:Record-breaking SkyBridge expected to open at Boyne Mountain in time for fall colors

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Scenes from downtown Sault Ste.  Marie Wednesday, July 13, 2022.

Fall color tours are a major part of Northern Michigan tourism from September to November, depending on when the leaves decide to turn.

Sault Ste. Marie Visitors Bureau Executive Director Linda Hoath said that with the region’s emphasis on outdoor activities, the fall colors are the main driver of tourism to the eastern UP after Labor Day.

“Color tours are what they come up here for and not just driving, the boat tours do a great job of showing the color of the area. So, it’s about the color in the fall,” Hoath said.

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