This is a great destination for an autumn trip -- here are some ideas about what you can do with your kiddos and where to eat, stay and play while you visit Bayfield and the surrounding area.
So, apples are a pretty obvious suggestion here. BUT, there are SO many different varieties of apples you could really fill yourself up sampling all of the orchard offerings! We were told that the Delta Diner (about 45 minutes from Bayfield) is a solid choice, but be prepared for a wait--it was so busy we settled on a malt to-go and kept on schlepping through the rain to Bayfield and ate at Gruenke's Inn which was really just okay. With little ones, all of the neat memorabilia on the walls and shelves is a little overwhelming. Cart foods are all along the city streets and I'd say any of that is super! For a long weekend like this, we prefer to do our own cooking and rent a kitchenette for lodging.
We really enjoyed our stay OUT of Bayfield – it was just much quieter and relaxing, though we had a drive in whenever we wanted to take in events or if we wanted to go out to eat. The Delta Lodge was a great choice for family-friendly accommodations that were lakeside with all of the amenities like a full kitchen and several bathrooms as well as an enclosed screen porch. We had canoes, a paddle boat, a little beach area and the sounds of the forest around us and it was delightful!
Another option that books fast but looks very intriguing is the Old Rittenhouse Inn. (Almost all of the Bayfield accommodations fill up about a year in advance, so plan early!) The large mansion-style inn has many themed rooms that may not be as great for kiddos, but would sure be neat for a more romantic getaway with a fantastic view of Lake Superior.
Sites & Attractions
Again, APPLES. If you're already sensing a theme, this is good. It's going to come up a bit here and there since it's APPLEFEST! We went to three different orchards and loved each one for different reasons. Some have different varieties on hand for picking, others have cute stores or great cider. Some have live music or even family photographers! There are dozens of orchards and you could fill a whole weekend visiting each one. Most are conveniently located around a harvest loop and maps are available from the area CVB and online. You can even park at one and bus into town, since parking in Bayfield is a nightmare.
We recommend Erickson’s Orchard for some apple picking fun. Erickson’s has wonderful live music, tours, an orchard maze for kids, and the best cider around. There is also a cute country store for all of your Apple Festival souvenirs. The owners are friendly and can tell you all you ever wanted to know about the history of the area—it’s a wholesome, generations-old orchard that got its’ start in a not-so-family-friendly way. The current owner told us how it was the site of an old-time cat house and men who could not pay their bill would plant trees to get out from under their debt!
Another great family-friendly option that isn’t terribly busy is Sunset Valley Orchard. This orchard had a family photographer on hand and even grape vines! The antique tractor on the property was a hit with our son and the old barn with the apple presses made a very interesting tour. There is again a very cute little country store on site where you can buy all sorts of themed goods.
Apple Fest is really a weekend-long event—get online and look into the events calendar for the festival, plan your days according to what you want to take in. You can do everything from dances to a traditional 5k carrying an apple (to make a yummy dessert when you finish!) There is a pageant and a coronation and lots of live entertainment as well as a carnival with rides.
Cornucopia is a nearby town that sits nestled on the shore of Lake Superior and is the site of the Wind and Water Festival – a kayak and kite gear swap and celebration. The little ‘hippie’ town is adorable and exuded good vibes. There is a lovely playground by the expansive sand beach and many slips with boats docked for the little ones to gaze upon in awe. Not far from there, you’ll find a rugged but relatively short trail to some ‘sea caves.’ It’s not real family friendly at all, but makes for an adventurous day hike.
Madeline Island was an attraction recommended to us by nearly everyone we spoke to. Our honest opinion? The Madeline Island Ferry is the best part of the whole experience. Most everything was closed by October, when the Apple Festival is going on and the weather was too stormy to do any of the Apostle Islands cruising. All of the shops were closed and we weren’t even able to find a place for lunch (since the few shops that were open were only serving supper hours.) Big Bay State Park would be nice for a picnic and Big Bay Town Park was exquisite and would be a wonderful wedding site or if you have kids willing and able, there are canoe and kayak rentals available there, though, once again, we were the only souls around. The lagoon at the Town Park is remarkable and would make for excellent paddling on a warm, sunny day. Judging by the numbers in the fleets pulled ashore, it must get very busy in the summer months.
If you want to see Madeline Island, make sure to either call ahead to ensure your attractions and restaurants will be open OR make two trips out of this and do the island in the summer and come back to the area for Apple Festival. Bring a stroller or wagon to the festival—the crowds are thick and you’ll be carrying the younger kids. It’s also a great tool for carrying your bushels of bagged apples and trinkets. Stay out of town—unless you like the commotion of the crowds and want to take it all in, we recommend staying in one of the smaller towns outside of the city.
Apple Fest is one of those things you need to see and do at least once in your lifetime. It’s a very family-friendly festival and it can even be an educational trip. The kids will love it and the adults will be excited about the fact that much of the fun is inexpensive (or free) and outdoors! Enjoy the very last of the fall colors and harvest season before the cold winter sets in! Make the Apple Festival in Bayfield part of your itinerary for family fun this year!