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Romantic getaways let couples escape this fall

By Greg Tasker
Special to The Detroit News

All couples need a break from the routine, not to mention from the everyday stress of dealing with changing job dynamics and lingering stay-at-home family issues because of the pandemic. Getting away for a weekend or longer this fall is the perfect way to reconnect, chase away some of those pressures, and embrace romance. Small towns or vibrant cities with outdoor pursuits are ideal locations to explore while maintaining social distancing and personal safety. Read on to discover a few favorite destinations in Michigan, the Midwest and beyond.

Fishtown. Manitou Islands. Lake Michigan. Leland, a postcard-pretty village near the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, lures throngs of tourists in the summer because of its beautiful waterside location. It’s quieter in the fall. Check into the four-room Riverside Inn, a more-than-century-old inn on the Leland River. It’s an easy stroll to Fishtown, Leland’s shops and boutiques, restaurants and Van’s Beach, where you can hunt for Petoskey stones. Or hop in your car and taste away at the more than two dozen wineries on the Leelanau Peninsula. Be sure to cap a day of adventure with dinner at the Riverside’s upscale restaurant overlooking the Leland River.

Leland's Fishtown sparkles with hundreds of lights lining the rooftops of the shanties on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018.  The first-ever illumination honors 85-year-old  Keith Burnham for his efforts to preserve Fishtown on Lake Michigan. The Fishtown Preservation Society purchased the shanty villages 12 years ago, and will pay off the mortgage on Feb. 7th, 2019.

Slip into another world with a weekend at Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel. A stay at the iconic Grand is truly an experience. Relax in a wooden rocking chair on the 660-foot-long front porch and inhale the mesmerizing views of the Straits of Mackinac. For more privacy, book one of the new elegant Cupola Suites on the fourth floor. Dinner in the regal Main Dining Room requires men to wear a suit jacket, but the multi-course meal is worth the effort. Mackinac is far less crowded in autumn, allowing plenty of elbow room to shop, hike and bike. The island’s interior is rugged and often overlooked by tourists. End your evenings with a cocktail in the Grand’s intimate Cupola Bar and watch the sunset over the Straits.

Sitting room at the Grand Hotel

Quench your thirst for craft beer in Beer City USA, a moniker rightly bestowed upon  Grand Rapids. Founders Brewing Co., Brewery Vivant and Grand Rapids Brewing Co., are among the many craft brewers calling Grand Rapids home. It’s not just about brews; there’s distilleries and cideries too. On the upswing, this western Michigan city boasts a walkable downtown, upscale restaurants, a downtown marketplace of eateries and more, coffee houses, museums and parks. The CityFlatsHotel, offering contemporary rooms with locally made furniture, is right downtown. Not too far away are the wineries of southwestern Michigan, hiking and biking trails and beaches. 

Leave the stress of the city behind with a serene stay at The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, about an hour north of Milwaukee. The spring-fed, 292-acre lake, once relaxed vacationers in another era and still does today. The Osthoff offers spacious suites, many overlooking Elkhart Lake, restaurants, a cooking school, a spa and many other amenities. You’ll find galleries, shops and restaurants in the nearby village. Every December The Osthoff hosts the Old World Christmas Market, modeled after a traditional Christkindlesmarket in Germany. Held in a heated tent the length of a football field, the market includes vendors selling authentic crafts from around the globe.

The Hemingway family kept a summer cottage on Walloon Lake near Petoskey, Mich.

Follow Hemingway’s footsteps and explore the woods, hills and rivers of northwestern Michigan, specifically Walloon Lake. Remnants of his past endure, including the nearby Horton Bay General Store. This swath of rugged outdoors served as the inspiration of Hemingway’s The Nick Adams Stories. The boutique Hotel Walloon wasn’t around during Hemingway’s era, but it’s a great place to secure a room. The 32-room hotel, which opened in 2015, was the winner of the 2019 USA Today 10 Best Readers’ Choice travel award for Best Wine Country Hotel (that honor went to the Inn at Black Star Farms on the Leelanau Peninsula this year). Wine country? Yes, the Petoskey region is home to a growing number of wineries.

A Shoreline Sightseeing boat floats along the Chicago River during an architecture boat tour  in Chicago.

Fall may be the best season to visit the Windy City and explore Chicago’s beautiful parks and paths along Lake Michigan and the Chicago River and avoid any crowds along the Magnificent Mile. Join a walking or river architectural tour. Hotels and restaurants abound, but if you can delay a weekend visit to the new year, opt for the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, which overlooks Millennium Park. Once an exclusive sportsmen’s club, the  Venetian Gothic landmark now welcomes travelers. With its thick upholstered chairs and blazing fires, the Drawing Room is an ideal spot to chill. The adjoining, exclusive Milk Room, once a speakeasy during Prohibition, has just eight bar seats and serves high-end cocktails.

A rainbow curves through the air beyond the Wisconsin State Capitol on Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Madison, Wis.

A college town (home to the University of Wisconsin) and a state capital, Madison is full of surprises. The downtown is pedestrian friendly, with farm-to-table restaurants, shops and museums. The domed Wisconsin State Capitol, the city’s tallest building, is surrounded by acres of green space. You can take a tour to the top and survey the city, which sits on an isthmus between lakes Mendota and Monona (great places to kayak). Not to be missed (when it resumes) is Saturday on the Square, a farmers’ market that wraps around the capitol grounds with a vast selection of produce, meats, confections, and so much more. The capital also has ties to Frank Lloyd Wright; his former estate, Taliesin, is a short drive away and well worth a visit.

Bourbon-loving couples will love all the distilleries to be found in and around Louisville.  Downtown is home to distilleries, including Evan Williams, Jim Beam and Old Forester, but there’s so much more. Louisville boasts a vibrant food scene, hip neighborhoods like NuLu (new Louisville) and a walkable riverfront. Or book a driver and take a drive to the outlying distilleries. To add to the romance, stay at the venerable 16-story Brown Hotel, home of the famous Hot Brown, a soul-comforting open-face turkey sandwich with bacon and smothered in a Mornay sauce. You won’t be able to resist after a day of sipping bourbon.

Best known as a ski destination, Stowe and the surrounding Green Mountains boast a vibrant fall season and the perfect destination for an autumn leaf-peeping adventure. The Green Mountain Inn, whose history dates back to the early 19th century, sits in the heart of this quintessential New England Village, near shops, restaurants and a 5-mile recreation path.

Upgrade your stay to a suite with a fireside jacuzzi. The inn’s Whip Bar & Grill offers Vermont-crafted beer and locally sourced and seasonal fare.  The winding Stowe Recreation Path offers mountain views, crosses rivers and accesses local watering holes. The region is a hiker’s paradise, with trails too numerous to mention.

Greg Tasker is a freelance writer based in northern Michigan.