Fall is right around the corner, and the time for orange/red tinged trees, hot apple cider, cozy coffee shops, and warm comfort foods are on the horizon! Being a lover of all things fall myself, the midwest is the place to be to experience all it’s wonders, colors, and scents. Even though there are many vacation spots around the midwest that offer views of the great lakes, cozy fall views, pumpkin patches, and corn mazes, consider the unique beauty of Door County, Wisconsin.
In today’s post, I’ll be sharing 10 fun things to do in Door County, Wisconsin in the fall, as this is particularly a very beautiful time to visit the peninsula. The midwest in the fall is truly a vibe, and one that I feel so lucky to experience every year as the trees turn orange, and the wind gets chillier. The scenery of Door County is truly that taken from a postcard and is super cozy and gorgeous by nature, so without further ado, let’s go through the 10 fun things to do in Door County, Wisconsin this fall!
Travel update: Door County is currently open to visitors, and are taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of visitors, business owners and employees, and locals. Face masks are required, a minimum of a 6-foot distance between each other as well. This order is in effect until September 28th. Click here to learn more.
Where is Door County?
Door County is located on the 70-mile long peninsula in the state of Wisconsin and is surrounded by two bodies of water: Green Bay on the west and Lake Michigan on the east. It is approximately 4-4.5 hours from the city of Chicago and is mostly known for its beautiful waterfront, majestic nature, delicious locally-grown cherries, limestone rock formations, and it’s small picturesque towns along the peninsula. There are 34 named islands, some of which you can visit such as the most popular one, Washington Island which is 30 minutes away from the mainland. It is a popular travel destination for Wisconsinites and Illinoisians, many of us from which we cannot get enough of it!
Why go to Door County during the fall?
Of all the places in the midwest to visit during the fall, Door County, Wisconsin is a place to check out for that good “midwestern” fall feeling. Often referred to as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest” Door County offers the warmth and hospitality of the midwest, while serving some serious natural beauty that you cannot miss.
From the charming small towns, to the beautiful lake and cozy, warm feeling there is in the peninsula during this time -fall time is personally my favorite season to visit door county, and enjoy everything it has to offer from the indoors, out.
Go apple picking
Door County is known for their many local farms, and their farm to plate approach in some of the best restaurants in Door County, and apples are one of those fruits they are known for cultivating. A visit to the apple orchards is definitely in order when you go to the peninsula, and it’s one of the best souvenirs you can take for yourself, family and friends back home. Along with picking your own apples, you also get to choose from an abundant selection of apple flavored food items, such as apple cider, homemade applesauce and apple jam, and then my personal favorite, apple cider donuts. Door County has many local shops where you can buy these products, immediately upon entering “the door” as you’ll find many country stores, farmers markets, roadside stands, and even festivals dedicated to their local delicacies!
Celebrate fall at Sister Bay’s Fall Fest
Speaking of festivals, from October 16-18, you can visit Sister Bay for their end of the season outdoor party, where you can enjoy street foods, local artist displays, live music, a fall parade, and SO much more, including local apple farmers. Seriously, so delicious, the best way to go into fall, a true taste of that midwestern fall culture this part of the U.S is known for, and so much more.
Update: Due to COVID-19, The Sister Bay Parks and Properties Committee has decided to cancel this year’s Sister Bay Fall Fest, for the first time in 75 years. Nonetheless, this is a fall event very true and unique of Door County and Sister Bay specifically, so it is an event to check out and put on your list for next year!
Explore Scandinavian and Belgian Culture
Door County is famously known for its Scandinavian and Belgian culture that heavily influences it’s food, architecture, and certain attractions such as Al Johnson’s Swedish restaurant, a building designed in true Scandinavian form (goats on the roof and all) and Ephraim’s (one of the towns within the peninsula) annual Fry Bal festival, celebrating the Swedish holiday Midsommar. Due to it’s heavy Scandinavian, German, and Belgian immigration dating back to the mid to late 1800’s, their culture, influence, and traditions still live on pretty strongly. Today, you’ll notice Belgian chapels scattered around the peninsula, many open to the public, and walking through the streets of the town called Ephraim, you’ll be able to take notice of Norwegian architecture and charm – it’s everywhere!
Experience the coffee and bakery culture of the peninsula
One of my personal favorite things to do other than explore the nature and history of Door County is to indulge in the coffee and bakery culture it has to offer. Places such as Blue Horse Cafe, Fika Bakery and Cafe, Door County Bakery (famously known for it’s Corsica bread, which is so good!), and Grandma’s Swedish Bakery are all places that serve delicious baked goods, including specialty European baked goods, craft coffee, and something for everyone. During its famous Cherry season (mid-late August), be sure to try a Cherry flavored scone or muffin!
Related: Culinary Tours of the World
Take a scenic fall drive
A drive down Door County’s famous Coastal Byway for a literal picture of fall perfection. Located in over a 66 mile stretch between Sturgeon Bay (beginning of the peninsula) all the way to Northport and Gills Rock (northernmost point of the peninsula), this drive is definitely not one to miss, and the perfect drive to take you amongst Door County’s full splendor of red, orange, and brown as well as views of Lake Michigan, Green Bay, Forests, the Niagara Escarpments, and picturesque small towns by the water, as well as through one of Door County’s most iconic streets that is commonly photographed. When you search it on Google Maps, type in “Door County Coastal Byway” or “Hwy 42/57” and you’ll be able to start your scenic journey throughout the door.
Have the best pizza at Wild Tomato
As someone who travels all the way from Illinois, which is home of some of the best pizza, I can say without a doubt that WIld Tomato pizza is UP there with my top 5 favorite pizza places. It’s a Door County staple, deliciously crafted with local farm produce, Wisconsin cheese, baked in stone ovens which produce a deliciously crispy, subtly burnt edge around the pizza; it’s simply amazing! Even though there is never a specific time or season to enjoy their pizza, there is just something about enjoying a really good pizza in the chilly weather of the peninsula, and the views that you can only get in Door County. Try it when you’re up there!
Visit Washington Island
Washington Island is an island located atop of the Door County peninsula, and an easy 30 minute ferry ride that leaves Northport every 30 minutes or so. There is free parking for those who choose to go to the island without their car, and prefer to leave it on the mainland. However based on experience, I would recommend taking your car or bikes, as that is the best way to get around the island.
Fun fact: The stretch between Northport and Washington Island is known as “Death’s Door” because of its once treacherous waters as a result of Lake Michigan and Green Bay meeting there. Once arriving in Washington Island, you’ll see that there is a lot of open space, forests, and of course beautiful views of the water. In the fall, you can expect the Fall Fun Fest & Cider Pressing Party, which is a local and visitor favorite fall celebration where you can bring your own apples, a bucket, and press away to make your own cider, along with other fun fall activities, food, and live music. While you’re there, I also recommend a visit to Schoolhouse Beach – it’s a beach with the prettiest pebbles beach you will see around here, along with the sight of the beautiful turquoise waters. A place to stick around, and just stare out from for the sheer beauty of it.
Travel Update: According to Washington Island’s main website, the island is open to visitors however there is no updated information regarding their Fall Fun Fest & Cider Pressing Party. Their ferry routes are on a reduced schedule which you can find here. For more information regarding current travel to the island, please click here.
Admire the contrast of the blue turquoise water with the fall colors
Door County is brimming with parks to walk and camp, and even though Peninsula State Park is the most famous, Cave Point County Park on the peninsula’s east side is a wonder not to miss as you’ll be a beautiful view (and maybe even secluded moment) of Lake Michigan crashing into the land, which has created caves from the erosion. Click here to get a full list of the parks that you can visit on your next trip there!
Disover the lighthouses of Door County
Fall is the time to come and see the lighthouses, especially between October 2nd-4th during Door County’s Fall Door County Lighthouse Festival! A tour that provides access to all 11 lighthouses through land and water, even including some of the lighthouses that are not easily available during the rest of the year! Depending on your level of desired adventure, you can choose the kind of tour you’d like to take either going all throughout the peninsula or to specific ones in a specific town. Tickets for this event can be found here!
Now, if you’re more into the self-guided tours, I got the perfect cheat sheet to help you go at your own pace, as you discover the lighthouses of Door County with the amazing backdrop of the midwestern fall.
You can check out the complete list that I created for you, with the locations of the lighouses ready to be plugged into your GPS! Just leave me your email down below, and I’ll send it to you right away!
Go ghost hunting
Fall time invites in the warmth and comfort of baked goods, cozy coffee shops, autumn in the trees and air – and also a good ghost story. According to some, “Wisconsin contains more ghosts per square mile than any other state in the nation” and between the stories of shipwrecks that never made it past Death’s Door, the mysterious apparitions in bed and breakfasts, restaurants and shops that were built upon Native American burial grounds, and the apparent ghosts of the first immigrants who established the Door County we know today refusing to leave, Door County has a number of mysterious sightings, vibes, and testimonials from the locals who live there all year around.
If this is your cup of tea, don’t miss Door County’s Ghost Trolley Ride, or choose from one of their many other haunted tours and bar crawls, and learn about those souls who lived here before any of us, and learn a bit more about the history of the peninsula! What better time to explore this side of Door County than on a chilly fall night.
Have you been to Door County, Wisconsin?
I’ve lost count of the times I have been to the peninsula, and though it’s beautiful all year around, I have to say that the fall time is one of my favorite seasons to visit the door.
There are many things to do, and more that I didn’t include as they have so many events, celebrations, beautiful parks and viewpoints to admire nature.
Prepare to disconnect, literally, as many don’t get cell reception up there, which used to annoy me when I was younger. Now, I must say I kind of prefer it. I like to think of it as Door County’s way of making it’s visitors really look and enjoy what it has to offer, and what we can discover each time we visit.
To more fall time adventures like these,
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