Be a tourist in your own town in the Great Lakes Bay Region

From jumping in grown-up bounce houses to watching professional sports to pedaling a trolley through a historic downtown, here’s an insider’s guide to some of the best ways to enjoy a weekend in Bay City, Midland, and Mount Pleasant.

Be a Tourist in Bay City

Kathy Roberts, Managing Editor of Route Bay City, is an unabashed fan of her adopted hometown of Bay City. She’s lived here since 1987 and confesses it was tough to whittle this down to six places and activities. If you read closely, you’ll see she cheated a little and worked in a few additional places.

What to do:
  • Baxman Market
For one-of-a-kind finds, start your shopping trip at Baxman Market on Bay City’s West Side. (Photo courtesy of Baxman Market)In the things to do category, consider leaving the traditional business districts and visit Baxman Market, 4873 Baxman Road. Here, you’ll find everything from handcrafted items and antiques to furniture and home décor.

Keep an eye on the Baxman Market website and Facebook page for special events. The sisters who own it proudly proclaim proclaim their love of recycling trash into treasures. Inside the barn and tent in the residential neighborhood that is home to Baxman Market, you’ll find watering cans turned into vases and mirrors turned into serving trays.
  • Third Street Star Bridge
Make time for a selfie under the Third Street Star Bridge. The Star Bridge is simple – strings of lights stretched across Third Street. It’s a popular stopping spot all day, but when the sun goes down, the bridge is magical.

Linger long enough to enjoy a drink at the patio outside Jake’s Corner Lounge at 114 Third St., a sandwich from Intermission Deli at 113 Third St., or a take-out daily special from Zef’s Coney Restaurant, and watch what happens.

You might see a high school kid taking senior photos, couples stopping to capture first-date chemistry, or even a marriage proposal. This location is as popular with the people who live here as it is with our visitors.

Where to eat:
  • Sunrise Pedal Trolley
Bay City has the good fortune to be home to a wealth of locally-owned restaurants. Here, you can enjoy everything from a classic coney dog to a fancy seafood meal.

One of the best ways to sample a bit of everything is to book a trip on the Sunrise Pedal Trolley, 401 Washington Ave.  You and up to 14 of your friends have the trolley for two hours and choose your own route. Tell your driver when you’re ready to hop off to run into an eatery for a snack or drink.

Call your friends, search out Bay City’s best eateries, and plan your trip. Popular tours include stops in Downtown Bay City, Uptown Bay City, and the Johnson Street Business District.

Taking a trip on the Islander or the Princess Wenonah to get a view of the city from the Saginaw River. Bay City Boat Lines offers several different tour options including those featuring music, history lessons, or dinners. (Photo courtesy of Bay City Boat Lines)
  • Princess Wenonah and The Islander

You don’t have to be in Bay City long to realize we have a proud Polish heritage. One way to enjoy Polish cuisine and see more of the waterfront is to book a dinner cruise through Bay City Boat Lines. Tours on the Princess Wenonah or Islander allow you to see the community from the water, plus, if you time your trip right, you’ll get some food from Krzysiak’s House Restaurant, 1605 Michigan Ave. 

Michelle Judd of Bay City Boat Lines says she’s working on the summer schedule now. She expects to continue the three-hour Friday night cruises featuring a live band, dinner, and a cash bar.

“It’s a good date night or adult night out,” Judd says.

This year, she’s got The Rock Show, Jedi Mind Trip, Caribbean Blues Band, Soul Express, and the Josh Ramses Band on the Friday schedule.

She’s also working on sponsors to offer history tours.

“Since we began operations (in 1998), we’re run a series of history tours,” Judd says. “They’re free to the public. I depend on sponsors to make that happen. Those are very popular. We travel north three days a week and south two days a week. Even people who live here end up learning something they didn’t know.”

Where to stay:

After a boat ride, pedal trolley tour, and capturing selfies under the lights, you’ll be ready to turn in for the evening. 
  • Unique stays
Search on “where to stay in Bay City, MI” and you’ll come up with a list of campgrounds, hotels, and motels in prices to fit every budget. For something a little different, though, Bay City offers a host of AirBNB options. You can stay in a home or apartment, of course, but there’s also an option to sleep aboard a sailboat or in an old-fashioned carriage house.
  • Bed & Breakfast
If you’ve driven down Center Avenue, then it’s not hard to guess we’ve got a one bed and breakfast option too – the Historic Webster House, 900 Fifth St. Each room is unique and the breakfasts are elaborate, often featuring locally-sourced ingredients.

Owner Deborah Ingersoll says she provides made-from-scratch, upscale breakfasts to make a stay at the inn special.

No matter what brings people to town in the first place, Ingersoll says they always discover how much there is to love here.

“Once they get here, they explore and they see all we have to offer in the Tri-City area,” Ingersoll says. “I have people who have been here 9, 10, 11, times. We can bring people here.”


Be a Tourist in Midland

Ron Beacom, managing editor of Catalyst Midland, is biased. He thinks Midland is one of Michigan’s finer cities. He and his family have lived in Midland since 1989. Ron takes you on a tour of Midland, starting on a Saturday morning.  

A flock of Bird Scooters is ready to take flight in downtown Midland. (Photo by Ron Beacom)Morning

First, let’s check out the Midland Area Farmers Market, located next to Dow Diamond, home of the Great Lakes Loons, Midland’s minor league baseball team. Check loons.com for tickets.

The market moved to the Dow Diamond east parking lot from its standard location by the Tridge in the aftermath of last year’s flood. The vendors offer a wide range of products including organically grown produce, baked goods, artisan cheese, wine sampling, kettle corn, fresh brewed coffee, and flowers. If you’re hungry, there are also food trucks serving breakfast and lunch items. The market is open from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturdays and Wednesdays.

Speaking of the Tridge, you can drive or walk to Midland’s signature landmark, a three-way pedestrian bridge spanning the confluence of two rivers, the Chippewa and the Tittabawassee, just below the downtown shopping district. You can walk or bicycle across the Tridge to Chippewassee Park. There’s a playground for kids and a dog park, well, for your dogs. There’s also a paved 1,000 foot trail loop for walking, biking, jogging, and powered wheelchairs and scooters.  

A couple takes an early morning stroll through the Midland Area Farmers Market.Near the Tridge, you can get on the Pere Marquette Rail Trail. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can ride your bike northwest all the way to Clare, 30 miles away, or to towns in between, Sanford and Coleman. Less than three miles from the Tridge, the trail takes you past Northwood University. You’re encouraged by the university to get off the trail and travel through the campus nestled in the woods. In the center of the campus is the Mall Walk which features striking sculptures, including one of Abraham Lincoln riding a horse. He’s also reading a book so it might be an early example of “distracted driving.”

Another trail that starts at the Tridge takes you to the Chippewa Nature Center (CNC), southwest of downtown. It’s a 4.1 mile ride on the Chippewa Trail to the CNC. When you arrive, check out the visitor center and its exhibits or explore the center’s 1,500 acres and its many trails, the Homestead Farm, wigwam, school house, and sugar house. The CNC sits along the Chippewa and Pine Rivers. There’s no admission fee unless you sign up for a specific program. 

Afternoon

When it’s time for lunch, two of my favorite places to eat downtown are the Amazing Deli and Pizza Sam’s. My standard at the deli is the #10-Main Street’s Best-featuring smoked turkey and pastrami. My wife, Lorraine,  enjoys the #11-Smooth Turkey-smoked or regular turkey piled high and topped with provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on grilled white bread.

Pizza Sam’s has been a fixture in downtown Midland for over 60 years. The pepperoni has a tasty bite to it. On the specialty pizza menu, you’ll find Sam’s Special, the vegan Meat-Less Madness, Barbecue Chicken, and the Greezka. You can also grab a sandwich, soup, chili, and salads. They also serve beer and wine. Top it off with ice cream for dessert. You can see a list of other dining options on the downtown Midland website. 

You can walk off lunch by doing some shopping. Peel ‘n Pare features items for the kitchen, while Little Forks Outfitters supports the outdoor life. You can find more choices here. You can also try a unique form of transportation, rent a Bird Scooter. Download the app.

Next up, we’ll leave downtown and go a bit north on Eastman Avenue to Dow Gardens and the Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens, two world class attractions. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, you’ll need an appointment  The Canopy Walk in Whiting Forest is the nation’s longest at 1,400 feet. It soars up to 40 feet above the ground. It features a playground, apple orchard, cafe, and two pedestrian bridges. Dow Gardens covers 110 acres showcasing a display of annuals, perennials, water features, and towering pines. 

As the afternoon goes on, we still have time to explore shopping along North Saginaw Road and South Saginaw Road in what’s now called the Center City district, starting at the Circle.You can also take Eastman Avenue north to the Midland Mall and the many national retail chains that surround it.

Midland's signature landmark is the Tridge, spanning the Chippewa and Tittabawassee rivers. (Photo by Ron Beacom)Evening

It’s time for dinner. A Midland tradition is The Boulevard Lounge. Locals call it “The Bully,” located on South Saginaw Road near Rodd Street. Try the Bully Burger. Downtown, a new favorite is Molasses Smokehouse & Bar. Molasses and other restaurants downtown offer outdoor seating.

If you need something sweet to finish the meal, check out Great Lakes Ice Cream, at the intersection of East Ashman and Washington. They make their own ice cream. Out on North Saginaw Road on the edge of town, you’ll find Cottage Creamery.

For entertainment, downtown Midland’s live outdoor music series in The Commons will take place on Friday and Saturday evenings, starting on June 11 and 12. Bring a chair!

If you’re staying overnight, the H Hotel in downtown Midland is advertising special packages. By the mall, there are several choices including the Holiday Inn with a pool and Big E’s Sports Grill.

See you Sunday morning. I’ve got some more ideas…

Be a Tourist in Mount Pleasant

From sensory deprivation tanks to some of the best brews in town, Epicenter Mount Pleasant’s Quinn Kirby takes you on a tour of some of the best kept secrets in Mount Pleasant – and some not-so-secrets – to inspire your next day on the town. Read through for options perfect for families, foodies, or for those who need a relaxing day alone. 

Another interesting service provided by Pure Vitality Juice Bar and Spa is the cryotherapy facial. The temperature of the facial can reach -280 degrees, but Perry says it just feels like a cool breeze.

Things to do
  • Pure Vitality Juice Bar & Spa
Located in the heart of downtown Mount Pleasant, this family-owned business is most popular for its smoothies and health foods. However, with “spa” in its name — this family means it. 

Pure Vitality offers many opportunities for relaxation with an infrared sauna and massage, cryotherapy, and float pods. 

“The float pod is one of our most popular services,” says co-owner Mitch Perry. “1,000 pounds of Epson salt [are dissolved in the water] so there’s no gravity.”
  • The Jump Station
With 10,000 square feet full of trampolines and bounce houses, you can jump for joy at the Jump Station. Found at 2422 East Broomfield Road, the Jump Station boasts 10,000 square feet full of trampolines and bounce houses.

“It’s one of those things where if kids are looking to get out of the extreme heat in the summer, they can come here and have fun or in the winter when it’s cold and dreary they can come to the Jump Station and burn off some energy,” says co-owner Bryan Wieferich says in a promotional video for the Mt. Pleasant Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The Jump Station is formally described as a family recreation center, but Wieferich says adults do come to the park with friends. The business also hosts birthday parties and has dedicated hours for families with toddlers. 

The Ginkgo Tree Inn is owner Jean Prout’s passion project. “Doing the inn was on my bucket list,” she says. PLACES TO STAY
  • The Ginkgo Tree Inn
Built in 1901, this Victorian-style B&B officially became The Ginkgo Tree Inn in 2011. Located at 309 N. Main St., just a short way away from downtown Mount Pleasant, the house has five rooms and is run by owner Jean Prout. 

While the beauty of the home itself lends to the business’ draw, there’s another unique aspect to how the inn is run: Prout doesn’t mess around when it comes to breakfast.

“The guest tells me what time they want [their meal] between 7 and 10 a.m., I ask them what their favorite thing is, then I give them a four-course breakfast,” says Prout. 
  • The Courtyard by Marriott
If you’re looking for a stay-cation, the Courtyard by Marriott at 2400 East Campus Drive is a great choice for anyone who wants to spend the night living in luxury.
Only a few minutes away from Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, 6800 Soaring Eagle Boulevard, the 148-room Marriott hotel offers a ballroom for hosting events as well as an indoor pool and hot tub. The hotel’s restaurant, The Bistro, includes a bar and lounge for those looking to enjoy the perks of going out while staying in.  

Where to eat
  • Midori
For those who aren’t sushi fans, Midori’s menu still has something for you. The dinner service includes options of steak, cooked seafood, and noodles.Serving high-quality seafood and signature cocktails, Midori Sushi and Martini Lounge, 105 E. Broadway St., offers fine-dining right in the heart of downtown Mount Pleasant. 

Sourcing their ingredients from vendors such as the Honolulu Fish Company, Snake River Farms, and The Perfect Puree of Napa Valley is part of how Midori executes the goal in its mission statement; “[…] Using the freshest ingredients and implementing practices that are environmentally responsible.”
  • Summit Smokehouse & Taproom
Located at 3086 Jen’s Way, Summit Smokehouse & Taproom is one of a selection of sit-down restaurants in Mount Pleasant that brews its own beer. Its menu currently lists 21 original creations with a wide variety of tasting notes and brewing methods to choose from. Want a fruit beer? Choose the Railroad Raspberry. Cider? The Johnny Jump Up. A hefeweizen? Hef Eddington, created for a former brewmaster. 
 
For additional information on any of these Mount Pleasant businesses, or to create a tourist itinerary with places you discover yourself, visit meetmtp.com or use #meetmtp when sharing your local adventures on social media.




 
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