Traveling the Tri-Cities

Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region pleases all with a nice mix of art, shopping and outdoorsy activities to satisfy both your cultural and outdoor cravings. Cynthia Earhart, a contributing writer for Michigan Travel Ideas, spends a weekend exploring the Michigan Tri-Cities of Saginaw, Bay City, Midland and the surrounding area.

Turning inland from Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay, visitors trade lake activities for cultural ones. The Tri-Cities—Saginaw, Bay City and Midland—and nearby towns provide diversions to please most tastes. The largest city, Saginaw, proves its dedication to its colorful past at the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History, the St. Charles Historical Museum and the Saginaw Railway Museum. In the renewed Old Town area, Jake’s Old City Grill is the place to go for dinner, and the stately Montague Inn along Lake Linton is the perfect place to stay for those that appreciate the charm of older buildings. Returning to the present, sample a burgeoning arts scene at the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra, the Saginaw Choral Society and the Saginaw Art Museum.

Aboard the Appledore IV

Just 30 minutes north, Bay City might be the smallest of the three but it has a big-city vibe with boutiques and antiques shops the size of warehouses in the trendy Hell’s Half Mile downtown. Good restaurants and bars (The Old City Hall, Fusion 1 Cafe) and coffeehouses (Brewtopia, the Chocolate Lounge at the Sweet Boutique) abound as do specialty clothing stores (Urban Laundry), art galleries and pottery studios.  The Appledore IV stands majestically at its dock on North Water Street, the starting point for setting sail on the Saginaw River.

There seems to be a park on every corner in Midland, 30 minutes west of Bay City, where the beautiful Dow Gardens should be at the top of everyone’s list. This list should also include the photo-op perfect Tridge, a three-legged pedestrian bridge built over the meeting point of the Tittabawassee and Chippewa rivers in the heart of downtown.

Dow Gardens

Nearby Chesaning, a cute town with Victorian homes and shops lining the main road, boasts two retreats for scrap bookers and quilters. A mere 45 minutes away, the Birch Run Premium Outlets has more than 145 factory outlet stores to satisfy shoppers for a full day, perhaps even two! Rounding out the region’s diverse offerings, Frankenmuth—Michigan’s Little Bavaria—pleases crowds with tours along the Cass River, family-style chicken dinners and Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, a warehouse of aisle upon aisle of ornaments and decorations that will get anyone in the holiday spirit—even in July!

Cynthia Earhart writes about her travel adventures for several Ohio regional publications, including Lake Erie Living and Over the Back Fence. A recent weekend trip through Michigan left her with a new appreciation for the placid Lake Huron shoreline.