Last Days of Summer Checklist

St. Joseph Beach

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.

1. Attend the Berrien County Youth Fair, Aug. 13-18. This is the largest county fair in the Midwest and is a tradition for most families in Southwest Michigan. With spinning rides, cotton candy, elephant ears, corn dogs, cute farm animals and concerts this is something the whole family will love!

2. Stop by our farm stands. You’ll find the freshest produce at our farm stands and farm markets. Check out our harvest calendar to see what’s in season.

3. Watch a Movie in the park. Through August 25, every Saturday night at dusk you can watch a family movie on the big screen in Whirlpool Centennial Park. What’s cooler than bringing the whole family to watch a movie under the stars?

4. Spend a day on the water. Rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard (SUP) from Third Coast Paddling and explore the Paw Paw River. You’ll have a blast paddling with friends and family and get a great workout in too.

5. Plan an all day beach day. Soak up the sun at one of our beaches for a truly relaxing end to your summer.

6. Dine outdoors with a view. Take in the fresh air at one of our many restaurants with outdoor seating. If you’re looking for both great food and a view, check out the Bistro on the Boulevard, Clementine’s Too, The Buck Burgers & Brew, and The Lakehouse.

7. Enjoy an outdoor concert. There are tons of free outdoor concerts in Southwest Michigan including the Friday Night Concert Series, Brown Bag Concerts, and the Summer Concert Series at Weko Beach.

8. Tour the Makers Trail. The local breweries, wineries and distilleries are constantly releasing new beers, wines and cocktails. Many of them offer things like wine slushies, wine popsicles, and other unique items you can only find for a limited time during the summer.

9. Take a tour of the Historic St. Joseph Lighthouse. Public tours are offered through Labor Day by the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center.

10. Watch the sunset. Lake Michigan sunsets can’t be beat. Make sure you get in one last glimpse from the beach, pier, boat or restaurant. The perfect way to end your summer.

Collecting Beach Glass

Beach glass in waves on shore

By Joshua Nowicki

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.

What is beach glass?

Beach glass is broken shards of glass that have been smoothed as the result of years of tumbling and rubbing against rocks and sand in fresh water. It is very similar to sea glass which is created in salt water. Years ago, and to a lesser extent now, glass bottles, jars, glass construction material etc. were discarded into Lake Michigan or the adjoining waterways. After many years of tumbling around in Lake Michigan which acts like a giant rock tumbler the once sharp pieces are ground down, rounded, and take on a softer frosted look.

The color of beach glass is determined by its source. In Southwest Michigan, much of it started as bottles and jars. I really enjoy trying to determine what an interestingly shaped piece may have once been. The most common colors that I find are various shades of white, brown and light blue. To a lesser extent there is also green, dark blue, purple and very rarely red.

Where can I find it?

Personally, my favorite times of year to look for beach glass are spring and fall due to the shoreline frequently and dramatically being reshaped by the waves during storms. That being said, you can usually find beach glass throughout the entire year in Southwest Michigan.

Popular beaches are generally not good places to look. This is because there are more people who may be looking and also because these beaches are frequently groomed, thereby removing most of the stone and glass.

The best places to search are beaches near areas that have been populated for a long amount of time as there is a greater chance that glass has been disposed of in the area. I like to look for areas of the beach where small stones are washing up on shore, especially after a storm. The beach glass is often intermixed with the stones and you will have to train your eyes to discern the glass. These areas of stone often shift and change location depending on the direction and intensity of waves. A wonderful spot one day can totally disappear the next. White is usually the easiest to see as it contrasts well with the generally dark colored stone in Southwest Michigan. Conversely, I have to search harder to find brown.

For me the best time of day is either morning or evening. I find that the natural light highlights the glass and at times almost seems to make it glow among the duller colored stones.

While looking for glass, it is also common to find crinoids, and fragments of ceramic tiles, cups, plates, etc. On occasion, I even find small Petoskey stones, geodes, and coins.

Many collectors will leave or throw back glass that is not yet fully smoothed and will dispose of any that pose a safety hazard to walking on the beach. When I am out, I always carry a garbage bag with me to dispose of any sharp glass and garbage that I may find along the shore.

What should I do with it?

There are many possible ways to use the beach glass that you collect. You can fill decorative jars and bowls with the colorful glass to use as a home accent, make jewelry such as rings, earring, and pendants, create mosaics, glue magnets to them and stick them to your fridge or take photos of them like I enjoy doing.

When out looking for beach glass, take your time and enjoy the relaxing walk. It is a wonderful way to decompress after a busy week.

If you know of a great place to find beach glass please send me a message on facebook. 😉

Josh’s Fall Favorites

Warren Dunes road in fall

By Joshua Nowicki

Summer is definitely the most popular time to visit southwest Michigan, however, I feel that there is even more to enjoy in the fall. Here are some of my fall favorites:

  1. Enjoying the Fall Color: Whether on foot, by bike, stand-up paddle board, kayak, or in the car, enjoying the colors of fall is a must. I love hiking the trails at Warren Dunes and Grand Mere State Park, driving past vineyards and farms, and walking along the beaches and down State Street in St Joseph.
  2. Windy Days: Probably my favorite part of fall are the windy days along the lakeshore. Watching the powerful waves crashing against the lighthouses, piers and shorelines is an impressive sight you have to see. Because the winds are frequently from the north, waves have the length of the lake to build which brings an increasing number of surfers to southwest Michigan. Silver Beach, Lions Park Beach and Weko Beach are popular surf locations. Moreover, it is perfect for flying kites.
  3. Beach Glass: Fewer people on the beaches and windy days make for a great opportunity to find beach glass and fossils as you stroll along the lake.
  4. Camping: Fall is definitely the best time to go camping. The cool nights are perfect for sleeping and you cannot beat relaxing next to the warmth of a campfire with a cup of coffee.
  5. Harvest: From hayrides and picking your own fruits and vegetables to enjoying a masterfully prepared meal featuring local ingredients, fall is a great time to eat. The smell of ripe grapes as you drive through countryside, the delicious taste of fresh pressed apple cider and search for the perfect pumpkin are all things I delight in.
  6. Makers Trail: The Makers Trail goes hand in hand with the drive through the countryside to enjoy the fall color and farm markets. Moreover, many of the locations have great views of the fall color directly from their tasting rooms and outdoor seating areas. Additionally, an increasing number of locations offer delicious meals featuring local produce and unique beers, wines and cocktails. I personally love barrel aged and sour beers.
  7. Fall Events and Festivals: A couple of my favorite fall events in St. Joseph & Benton Harbor are Artoberfest, Fall Festival and Luminary Festival. All are family-friendly fun. Art, food, music at Artoberfest; fresh produce, Critter Barn, face painting and more at Fall Festival, and a stroll down the candle lit city streets while shopping during Luminary.
  8. Sunsets: With the summer crowds gone, the beach is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the vibrant colors of the setting sun. If you look closely, fall is a great time to catch a glimpse of Chicago from across the lake.

Best Pizza Places in Southwest Michigan

Pizza and beer

By Erika Peterson

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.

Josh Nowicki
The Livery & Haymarket Taproom

Two of my favorite pizzas in Southwest Michigan are Mikey’s Bad Trip at The Livery in Benton Harbor and Elote at Haymarket Taproom in Bridgman. Both are very unique pizzas and contain ingredients not found on most pizza menus.

I love the pizza at The Livery. Their handmade crust is amazing. In fact, of all the pizzas I have ever tried the texture of their crust is one of the best – I love its perfect chewiness. Another aspect that makes it special is that it contains spent grain from their brewery. Moreover, their pizzas have unique flavor profiles and utilize local and seasonal ingredients. The Livery offers many great choices of delicious pizzas but Mikey’s Bad Trip is by far my favorite. It is deliciously creamy with a delightfully salty finish. The ingredients for this special pizza are cream sauce, mixed mushrooms, mixed herbs, truffle salt, black pepper and a cheese blend. I hear from talking to one of bartenders that people drive an hour or more just to get this pizza and I can understand why.

The pizza at Haymarket Taproom really surprised me in the best possible way. I initially went there to try the beer and did not even know that they made pizza. But wow do they ever! When you walk into the building you are greeted with the comforting and delicious aromas of a wood fire and pizza. Wonderful and unique combinations of toppings cooked in minutes make dining there very enjoyable. My favorite on their menu is Elote. Its ingredients include whipped ricotta, cilantro, roasted corn, cotija cheese, mozzarella & umami mayo. I am often skeptical of the word umami (I spend time in Japan every year gorging myself on delicious food). In this case, they are doing the term justice since the mayo does contain fish sauce, a great source of umami flavor. Don’t worry though, it is not fishy at all, there is just enough to make it extra savory.

Erika Peterson
Public House and Greenbush Brewing Co.

Everywhere I go, I’m always on the hunt to find the best pizza. Everyone knows cities like Chicago or New York are famous for it but lucky for me, I can find great pizza right here in Southwest Michigan.

A couple of my favorite places to get pizza here are at the Round Barn Brewery & Public House and Greenbush Brewing Co. At the Public House I like to get the “Create Your Own” pizza with pepperoni and add extra fresh mozzarella cheese. (I’m a little less adventurous with my pizza toppings). They also have three specialty pizzas on their menu and a lot of other topping options. I love the pepperoni that the Public House uses. It’s very flavorful and it’s always crispy which gives the pizza a good texture. I also like how chewy the crust is instead of being hard or crunchy. This pizza is on the thin side so it will disappear sooner than you think.

Greenbush pizza is a similar style to the Public House with a little thicker crust. The pizzas come in one size and are build-your-own. They do offer a unique specialty pizza that changes frequently so be sure to ask before ordering. Recent flavors have been Thai Chicken, BLT, BBQ Brisket and Crab Rangoon.

Where do YOU go for the best pizza in Southwest Michigan?

Do you have a favorite pizza in Southwest Michigan? Send us the name of the pizza destination with a description of your favorite pizza and we’ll add your suggestion to this blog.