Harvest time is here! Come on out to Manchester, a lovely farming community on the River Raisin in the southwest corner of Washtenaw County. From corn mazes to cider and donuts, to roadside pumpkin stands to a village-wide Halloween celebration, Manchester is packed with authentic fall fun in a community that has worked hard to preserve the beauty and peace of rural life.
You can start your visit at the historic Alber Orchard & Cider Mill, located 5 miles north-east of Manchester at 13011 Bethel Church Road. The orchard store, located in one of the several original barns, has a viewing deck where guests can watch through a window as the original 1890 cider press does its work. From there, guests can purchase cider by the glass or the gallon; modern and heirloom apple varieties by the pound, the peck, or the bushel; and other sweet and savory products. If you call ahead, you can even purchase larger quantities of cider perfect for home fermentation. Get started on that applejack so you can stay warm in February! The orchard is also full of outdoor fun such as a free straw bale maze, free farm animal petting, and for a fee offers tractor-drawn hayrides, a U-pick pumpkin patch and a 7-acre corn maze. But the real treat is the gnarled century-old trees that fill the orchard. Wandering among them, you discover the special, ancient character of each tree. The orchard and store are open September through November on Tuesdays through Fridays from 12- 6 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
On the western side of the community, located 5 miles southwest of the village at 16400 Herman Road, Manchester boasts the oldest corn maze in the state. This fall, Fusilier Family Farms will operate its historic corn maze as a regular corn maze during the day and a haunted corn maze at night on the weekends. Fusilier’s, which is open daily, also sells local apples, fall vegetables, pumpkins, and squash. They have a free indoor straw bale maze as well, which is especially fun for small children - and they offer hayrides!
In the Village of Manchester proper, there are two great harvest time treats. At 10950 M-52, McLennan’s Nursery and local market offers pumpkins, squash, corn stalks, gourds, cider and apples and a large selection of fall mums. But, their essential treat is McLennan’s homemade maple syrup. Trees located all over the village and the surrounding countryside are hand-tapped every spring, the sap is collected daily and then boiled in a sugar shack right at the Nursery. Buy your syrup direct from the source, and never look back! Then, while in the village, be sure to stop at Frank’s Place for fresh, small-batch donuts and baked goods handmade every morning, Tuesday through Saturday, to go with your cider! Get there early enough, and the apple fritters are sometimes still warm. Finally, take a stroll down to the Main Street bridge to admire the river against the fiery backdrop of the leaves of the riverbank grape, for which the river is named.