We all have our favorite spots in West Michigan. Whether it is a restaurant that we frequent, a brewery, winery or distillery that we recommend to all of our friends, or a place we find utterly fascinating, we all have a personal favorite. Going behind the scenes and getting exclusive looks at these places needs to be on the bucket list of any fanatic. Learn your favorite spot’s secrets with these behind the scene tours or backstage peeks!
Behind the Scenes in West Michigan’s South Region
History enthusiasts and novices alike will love the Behind the Scenes Architectural Tour at Henderson Castle Inn and Winery. As one of the most popular and historic inns in Kalamazoo, Henderson Castle opened its doors in 1895. An Architectural Tour of this building will take you through the entire castle and its grounds. Visit the basement, organic gardens and Bordeaux style wine cave, all of which are rarely seen by the public. After your tour, have a flight of wine for the ultimate Henderson Castle experience. Tours last one hour and cost $25 or $40 with wine flight package.
Bell’s Brewery offers free tours of their facilities at both their Kalamazoo and Comstock locations. Their Kalamazoo facility is home to where some of your favorite beers originated. Beers like Amber and Oberon were first brewed at this location. Tours are available Saturdays and Sundays, so grab a pint, hop on a tour and explore this piece of beer history. Nearby is their Comstock location, home to their 50-barrel and 200-barrel brewhouse. This location is designed to allow guests to take a first-hand look at their brewing process, fermentation and packaging. These tours also include two complimentary samples when they run on Saturdays and Sundays.
St. Julian Winery offers tours at their Paw Paw location. These free tours run every day and all ages are welcome. While you may learn plenty on these free tours, take one of their Enhanced Tasting & Tours for the ultimate St. Julian Winery experience. Reservations for these tours must be made one week in advance, but are certainly worth your time. These include an extended tour of the grounds, followed by a tasting. You can choose from pairing wine with cheese, chocolate, or a combination of the two. During your tasting, their wine educators will offer an intimate, in-depth education on the winemaking process from bud-break to bottling. Both of these tours offer the chance to see a closer look at one of West Michigan’s favorite wineries and will leave you even more in love with your favorite blend.
Coming for a limited time in November are Bell’s Brewery’s Exclusive Brewery Tours at their Comstock location. These tours take you through their most recent additions, including a look at their fermentation cellars, state-of-the-art Bottling Hall, Packaging Hall and Robot Alley. These spaces are not typically open to the public, so you can be one of first few to walk through these new and impressive areas. Tours are available every Friday in November at 6pm. There is limited availability on these tours, so don’t delay!
Dark Horse Brewery in Marshall offers tours of their facility on Saturdays and Sundays between noon and 6pm. If you’re a fan of their beer or have any interest in West Michigan’s rich beer culture, these Dark Horse tours need to be on your radar. Tours cost $10 and include an in-depth look at their production facility, a pint glass to take home, and each tour concludes with a tasting in the VIP Loft.
Ever wondered what goes into creating the perfect bottle of vino? Uncover the rich history of Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant in Buchanan and explore their modern winemaking facilities during one of their casual walking tours, given daily May through October, and Saturday and Sunday only beginning in November.
Every Saturday at 2pm, Saugatuck Brewing Company in Saugatuck offers their brewery tours. Tours cost $7.50 and include a full tour of their facilities, beer samples and a logo glass for you to take home. If you haven’t been to Saugatuck Brewing Company or you’re a long time fan looking to get a better look at their facility, this tour is perfect for you!
Visit Dablon Vineyards Winery & Tasting Room in Baroda for their Dablon VIP Tour & Cheese Pairing. This tour is perfect if you’re looking for a more in-depth and educational visit to the winery. With their VIP pairing, you’ll receive a personalized cheese-pairing menu for your party. The pairing includes six Dablon wines and cheeses. Learn more about your favorite Dablon wine and what to pair it with during one of these educational endeavors.
Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks offers small group tours of their facilities on weekends and limited times during the week. See first hand how their whiskey is made and explore the history of the Featherbone Factory. Journeyman will show you both the original and new production areas and an aerial view of where they hand dip their bottles. You can even attend a bottling party where attendees can actually bottle the spirits themselves! These tours can give you a new appreciation for the spirits that you love!
If you want to fit a few behind the scenes tours into your day, take a trip with the West Michigan Beer Tours in Kalamazoo! Their public bus tours last approximately five hours and include three brewery stops, a tour director with knowledge of the industry and local area, introduction to the brewery owners or brewers, tours of facilities and a sample at each brewery. These tours are perfect for any beer enthusiast who wants to get a peek behind the curtain to see what goes into making their favorite brews. You’ll learn about the local breweries and the industry itself during these beer-centric bus tours!
The Outdoor Discovery Center in Holland has a number of Michigan’s birds of prey. On Friday, November 4th from 6:30pm to 8pm, they’re bringing some of these birds to Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings to share their unique biology and allow participants to see these creatures up close. You won’t often have an opportunity to see some of these majestic raptors, so find some time to meet these birds!
Fenn Valley in Fennville believes that wine should be approachable, so they have tours designed to help take the mystery out of making world class wine. They aim to strike a balance between education and entertainment. Tours are offered year round and can easily be booked online. These tours adapt to each season, so the tour that you take in the summer may not be the same as the tour offered in the winter. Depending on when you go, you can see their wine cellar, vineyard and more. If you have the time and are interested in how wine is made, visit Fenn Valley during each season for unique tours and educational experiences.
Behind the Scenes in West Michigan’s Central Region
Take a step backstage and see what goes into a Grand Rapids Symphony performance at one of their Behind the Music events. These informative and unique sessions are designed for adults looking to delve into the world of orchestral music. Events include exploration into the minds of composers like Sergei Rachmaninoff and the music that powers cinema. Coming in 2017 are their Classical Curious sessions. Moderated by the Grand Rapids Symphony staff, attendees will be able to use live chat to ask questions during a symphony rehearsal. Ever wonder what exactly the conductor is listening for during a performance? This is your time to ask! Fantastic music will fill the air, and you’ll be able to learn all about what goes into its creation with these Behind the Music experiences.
As one of the country’s premier distilleries, a behind the scenes tour of Long Road Distillers’ Grand Rapids location is the perfect way to learn about the process behind their award winning spirits. It’s easy to sit at the bar and look at the equipment through the glass, but you’re going to want to go on one of these tours. Led by one of their many distilling experts, feel free to ask questions along the way while you check out the machinery necessary to create your favorite craft spirit. Each tour concludes with a tasting of the spirits that you just learned about. See for yourself why this distillery recently received Best in Show from the New York World Wine and Spirits Competition.
Come to Chocolates by Grimaldi in Grand Haven for a tour of their chocolate factory! It won’t be exactly like Willy Wonka’s, but you’ll still be able to learn about how Chocolates by Grimaldi makes their signature sweets. You’ll appreciate these delectable desserts even more when you see the process from the pod to the bean to what you put in your mouth. You’ll be able to taste samples right off the line, while you admire their 1950s enrober just like the one from I Love Lucy! Tours are $4 and perfect for kids and families!
New Holland Brewing Company in Holland offers joint brewery and distillery tours of their Production Campus in Holland every Saturday. Tours include samples of both New Holland’s beer and spirits. Tours last roughly an hour and a half. New Holland also offers private tours and specialty tours. Specialty tours are updated regularly and include looks into their Dragon’s Milk Cellar, a full tour about their Mad Hatter series of beer, and a Whiskey Barrel tour focusing on their distilling process. West Michigan loves New Holland’s beer for good reason, and with their variety of tours, you’re going to be able to see exactly what it takes to get some of your favorite brews into your hand.
One of Grand Rapids’ most famous breweries, Founders Brewing Company, has tours and behind the scenes looks every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tours last between 40 minutes to an hour and include a look at Founders’ history, facility, brewhouse and equipment. If you want your tour to conclude in a tasting, check out their Tour and Tasting Experience offered Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. These two to two and a half hour tours include a guided tasting and a special surprise (surprises are chosen on the day of the tour and are surely worth your time)! Between both of these tours, you’ll be able to learn more about one of West Michigan’s favorite breweries.
If you want a unique way to tour the Grand Rapids beer scene, take a ride with the Great Lakes Pub Cruiser. Hop on this 15-person party bike with your friends and family as you make your way around Grand Rapids, stopping at bars, breweries and restaurants along the way. Personalize your tour and choose the stops and route that you want. These two hour tours are the perfect way to explore Grand Rapids, whether you’re a local or just here for the beer.
Behind the Scenes in West Michigan’s North Region
Chateau Grand Traverse in Traverse City offers complimentary tours of their facility. These tours will give you an overview of the rich history of the northern Michigan wine industry and include plenty of information on Chateau Grand Traverse’s winemaking process from harvest to bottling. Learn more about what it takes to get your favorite wine into your glass with these informative tours.
As one of northern Michigan’s most sought after locations, the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island is the perfect place to take a behind the scenes tour on their signature mode of transportation: horse and carriage. Group carriage tours offer narrated tours of the island, starting downtown and stopping along the way at points of interest. Their concierge desk can help you design a personalized route wherever you want to go. If you’re looking for some of the island’s behind the scenes magic, create a trip that includes parts of the island unseen by many. You’ll be taken back to a time before cars on these fun and personalized tours!