Looking to learn something new? Breweries, distilleries, historic attractions, and more offer tours for visitors to go behind the curtain to see how they operate. No matter where in West Michigan you may go, there’s bound to be a great opportunity to go “behind the scenes” near you.
Breweries, Wineries, & Distilleries
1. Head to River Saint Joe in Buchanan for one of their private Microbrewery and Organic Farm Tours. See where the ingredients for their food and brews are grown and how they transform it into tasty beverages. The tour includes the history of RSJ, information about the brewery’s sustainability efforts, the plant-to-pint brewing processes, and hop yard and farm practices.
2. West Michigan Beer Tours in Kalamazoo takes beer lovers on a one-of-a-kind journey that shows the process, the people, and the pride behind Michigan beer. Whether you do a bus tour or a walking tour, both experiences provide unique experiences, such as brewer meet-and-greets, exclusive tastings, and more. Visit their website for the full list of upcoming tours.
4. Head to Grand Rapids and enjoy a tour of Founders Brewing Company’s facility. One hour tours are available for guests 21 and up to learn all about the history of Founders, see their packaging lines and brew house, and learn fun facts along the way. Not able to make it to GR? Founders also offers virtual tastings and education, allowing you to learn how beer is made and how to sample like the pros, even from the comfort of your home.
5. Jamesport Brewing Company is Ludington’s first microbrewery to change the landscape of the downtown district. Meet the brewer and get an up-close look at how Ludington beer is made with a brewery tour, scheduled upon request. Tours are available by appointment, allowing visitors a great opportunity to learn more about this local favorite.
6. New in 2021, Black Star Farms in the Traverse City area is offering private tours and wine tastings. This one-hour guided walking tour will take you through their picturesque property, highlighting the centennial barn, vineyard, and wine cave. Plus, enjoy a sparkling toast in the vineyard, learn the history of the entire estate, follow the journey from grape to glass, and top it all off with an informative wine and spirit tasting. These tours are truly one of the gems on the Traverse Wine Coast, and they’re being offered now by appointment, until the snow flies, so be sure to book your tour today!
7. Traverse City’s Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery invites you to take a private “Wine Wagon” Tour of their property! Private tours are available daily by appointment for 2-7 guests. On your 2-hour immersive tour, you’ll explore 5 unique locations throughout Brys Estate’s 111 acres (from grape to glass!), all via an open-sided electric shuttle. Wine tastings will be offered at each stop along the way. See the wine wagon in action here!
8. Also in Traverse City, Bonobo Winery offers 30-60 minute tours to go behind the scenes of their facility and vineyards. Plus, enjoy a welcome pour of sparkling wine and a souvenir wine glass! Interested? Contact them to reserve a tour today!
9. Ever drank a Soft Parade from Short’s Brewing Company and wondered how it’s made? Have you visited their pub and pondered where they could possibly cram a ton of brewing equipment? Stop by the Bellaire Brew Pub on the weekend and ask for a tour – the Short’s staff would be happy to show you around!
Behind the Scenes Foodie Fun
1. Moo-ville Creamery in Nashville allows you to learn all about their dairy cows in their behind the scenes, self-guided tour. Available whenever they are open, you can walk around their facility to see things such as their robotic milking system, the baby calves, what they feed the cows, how milk is bottled, and so much more.
2. Learn all about a West Michigan milk bottling facility, cheese factory, and the special cows who make it all happen at Country Dairy of New Era. The site also features a farm store and deli, where you can grab lunch and an ice cream cone before heading out to the playground. Tours after Labor Day do require an appointment.
3. Maple Moon Sugarbush & Winery in Petoskey offers free tours where they show you the start to finish process of pure maple syrup production. The tour starts out in their beautiful maple woods and continues inside the production facility. Follow the process from tap to table, seeing the many pieces of equipment their sap flows through to become the delicious substance you know as pure maple syrup (otherwise known as liquid gold!). You will also get to try free samples of multiple varieties of their delicious maple syrups.
4. Kilwins Chocolate Kitchen in Petoskey lets you and your family watch the magic of chocolate-making happen at your own pace and on your schedule. No reservations are necessary; if they’re open you can take the self-guided tour! Large windows allow you to look into their production kitchens, so you can watch team members make all the delicious treats sold in stores. Storyboards run along the tops of the windows which showcase how they make all of their top-selling products. Plus, the Kilwins staff are always happy to answer any questions you may have about their origins or what they’re currently making!
History and Educational Tours
1.Take advantage of the St. Joseph and Benton Harbor Walking Tour of The Historic Homes of Old Saint Joseph offered by the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center. Architect and preservationist Stephen Byrns will lead you through a historic walking tour of the Old Saint Joseph Neighborhood for 90 minutes – you won’t want to miss it.
2. The W.K. Kellogg Conference Center and Manor House is located on beautiful Gull Lake in Southwest Michigan nestled between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek in the town of Hickory Corners. The estate offers 32 acres of gorgeous grounds including champion trees, lush gardens, and lakefront access. During your visit you will feel like you have stepped back in time when life was more simple and the air more pure. Once the summer cottage of W.K. Kellogg, the manor house and grounds offer self-guided tours where a story is told about a generous local philanthropist whose gifts continue to offer guests relaxation in a natural setting.
3. Want to learn more from the comfort of home? The Air Zoo has an online platform available giving exclusive looks at their exhibits and artifacts. Explore the Launchpad to Learning platform on the Air Zoo’s website.
4. Go behind the scenes of a Kalamazoo area theatre! Walk through the Vaudeville Theatre’s history, going backstage to learn about their atmospheric sky, architecture, organ and pipes, lightboard, marquee, renovation history, and more. You will see the dressing rooms, the green room, statues, staircases, the fountain, and the theatre house from different viewpoints. You can even go on stage and view the theatre as a performing artist would!
5. Grand Rapids’ Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park offers Tram Tours to see the park in a new way. Wind through the pathways in comfort during a narrated tour ride, as the tram takes you all across the property. Tram tours are first come first serve, so be sure to plan ahead.
6. Tri-Cities Historical Museum offers a variety of seasonal community tours throughout the year. From downtown walking tours to cemetery tours to historic tavern tours, there are a variety of ways to learn in the Grand Haven/Ferrysburg/Spring Lake area. Many tours are free to the public but do require reservations.
7. Another great option for touring a local museum from home is Lakeshore Museum Center’s Virtual Tours of Muskegon’s Hackley and Hume Houses. Watch videos on their website and “walk” through the homes to learn all about their history.
8. Muskegon’s LST 393 Veterans Museum is proud to open their historic warship and nationally renowned veterans museum for public tours. Earning three battle stars in World War II in the invasions of Sicily, Italy, and in Normandy, LST 393 was then outfitted and painted in camouflage scheme for the intended invasion of Japan. She was recently repainted “D-Day Gray” and is being faithfully restored to her wartime greatness. History will come alive for you on your visit, as you take a fascinating one-hour tour of this historic ship, marvelling at the technology and living conditions our World War II sailors endured.
9. Grass River Natural Area in Bellaire offers a variety of tours where visitors can experience Grass River, enjoy its unique wildlife, and find out all about GRNA’s conservation efforts, wetland plants, and wildlife. Whether you explore the area by kayak, pontoon boat, or on a guided river walk, you’re sure to learn a lot in the great outdoors.
10. A visit to Castle Farms in Charlevoix includes a history video covering the four owners, their visions for the property, and the extensive restoration. Guests can explore at their own pace on a self-guided tour or be immersed in history with a guided tour. You’ll see historical photos and documents throughout the property, bringing the past to life. For an extra twist, see if you recognize any of the famous bands who once performed at the castle.
11. Step back in time and explore the historic sites of the Mackinac State Historic Parks and see how early settlers, millers, fur traders, and soldiers lived and worked in Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island.
12. Head to Marquette, where you can tour the filming locations of the 1959 film “Anatomy of a Murder.” A local log cabin restaurant is known for appearing in the film, and invites guests to enjoy classic American cuisine while the restaurant transports them back in time with memorabilia of pictures of the stars and scenes in the movie. Other filming locations to visit include the Marquette County Courthouse and Thunder Bay Inn. Built by Henry Ford, the historic inn overlooks Lake Independence and offers a scenic escape just outside the city.