Along the Eastern shoreline of Bay City, Michigan, is a vibrant rehabbed historical community that really grew during the logging boom of the early 1900s. Shipping and commerce has replaced that industry and helped shape Bay City into the thriving city it currently is. Read on to learn of some fun things to do in Bay City, MI.
Disclosure: The writer was hosted for this trip.
Fun Things to Do in Bay City MI
When you ask someone from Michigan where they live, they hold up a hand in the shape of a mitten and point to the spot. Bay City, a quaint city with a big city feel is located in the state’s “thumb” and situated on the waterfront. From awe-inspiring outdoor attractions to sailing on impressive tall ships, you can find a lot of fun things to do here. Want suggestions? Read on for our travel guide to fun things to do in Bay City, Michigan and surrounding towns, including Chesaning, Frankenmuth, Midland, and Saginaw.
Support local businesses
Bay City’s Downtown City Market is the go-to place for local foods, fresh eats, and specialty shops, as well as the most impressive farmers market in the area. Made up of 25 local small businesses, farmers, stores, and eateries, the market offers everything from flowers to produce and coffee to handcrafted goods. Be sure to sip a tasty coffee or frappe from City Grind or glass of wine from Modern Craft Winery. Then, feast on a slice of cheesecake from For the Love of Cheesecake or a hearty sandwich from Wrapin-N-Rollin. The market is closed Sundays and Mondays.
TravelingMom Tip: Learn more about Bay City by strolling Center Avenue Historic District, home to 21 historic places belonging to prominent folks of the 1800-1900s.
Sailing on the Appledore Tall Ships is a cool way to see this Bay County region of Michigan. Sail the Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron to admire the scenery, watch the sunset, see fall colors, or enjoy the celestial night skies aboard one of the two schooners, Appledore IV or Appledore V. A Bay City boat ride is the best way to get up close and personal with Michigan’s Great Lakes. Snacks and drinks are included on the beautiful vessels.
Celebrate Christmas year-round
Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, the world’s biggest Christmas store, is only 21 miles from Bay City, Michigan. It’s well worth the trip to Frankenmuth, Michigan’s “Little Bavaria,” to experience the wonders of Christmas amidst the 2.2 acres of holiday merchandise. Started in 1945, Bronner’s is home to more than 50,000 items, including collectibles, ornaments, lights, stockings, nativity scenes, and holiday decorations.
Fun Fact: John Wayne ordered a Santa Claus suit from Bronner’s in 1976.
Stroll through Dinosaur World
A short drive away in Ossineke, Michigan, is a unique attraction for kids. Dinosaur Gardens is a walk-through property featuring a few dozen creatively made fiberglass sculptures of dinosaurs, prehistoric birds, and even cavemen. The creations are made to scale and in a natural setting which adds to the fun of the wooded walk. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the enormous Jesus welcoming you from the road; what it has to do with dinosaurs remains a mystery.
I wonder if Madonna, who was born in Bay City, ever explored Dinosaur World?
Dive into antiquing
Bay City is home to Michigan’s largest antique center, voted “Best Antique Mall” by AAA publications. Bay City Antiques Center and Bay Antique Center offer 60,000 square feet of browsing heaven throughout 400 booths and displays.
Want More Michigan? Check out the fun (and surprising!) things to do in Lansing.
A social biking experience
Sunrise Pedal Trolley is an excellent way for adults to “exercise your right to drink” as you stroll around the downtown streets of Bay City. Climb aboard the 15-passenger Dutch-made pedal bike as you make your way to restaurants, coffee shops, or pubs, with a history of the town included. You can pedal as little or as much as you want on the trolley. It’s actually quite easy, plus it’s great for team building or or meeting new people. Ask your tour guide for recommendations for Bay City nightlife, should you choose.
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FYI: All passengers must have a valid photo ID.
Peruse pretty gardens
Dow Gardens has 110 acres of gorgeous botanical gardens (1700 varieties of plants) connected to Whiting Forest in Midland, Michigan. Tickets to Dow Gardens also include entrance to Whiting Forest. Stop by the amazing Children’s Gardens that include swings, slides, things to climb on/in/under/around, and an interactive water feature. Whiting Forest has the longest canopy walk in the country and is fully ADA accessible. I loved the natural setting that surrounded both of the properties. Especially appealing – the numerous apple orchards.
TravelingMom Tip: Be sure to grab a photo op in the suspended cargo nets that look like acorns hanging amid the spruce trees.
Climb a Lighthouse
Tawas Point Lighthouse is the perfect place to visit for birdwatchers, lighthouse lovers, maritime fans, or those wanting to watch a lovely sunrise over Lake Huron or sunset over Tawas Bay. Opened in 1853 in Northern Michigan’s Bay Country, the lighthouse is 63 feet tall and operated from 1876 to 2016. Guided tours are $5 for adults and $2 for kids 5 to 17. Kids 4 and under are free.
Take the kids
Plan to visit the Bay City State Recreation Area (known as Bay City State Park) on the shores of Saginaw Bay for swimming, a splash pad area, playgrounds, picnicking, biking, and beach area with volleyball nets
Visit the Lumberman’s Monument
At the Lumberman’s Monument Visitor Center in Oscoda, you will learn about how this regional area was home to the early logging industry in Michigan. The grounds feature the focal point of the property, a 14-foot bronze statue of three logging industry workers, glass-front displays, a pollinator garden, as well as a stunning view of the Au Sable River down below. You can climb down the 260 steps to see a wanigan (loggers’ floating kitchen) or follow the trail to the dune observation deck.
TravelingMom Tip: Check the website for Kids Day programs.
Embrace the stars
Venture over to Delta College Planetarium and Learning Center astronomy education center to learn about the stars in the sky. Indoor star-gazing and moon shows are offered in this venue, within walking distance or beautiful Wenonah Park. It’s one of my favorite things to do in Bay City, MI.
See a show
The historic State Theatre, built 1908 as The Bijou Theatre for Vaudeville and Burlesque shows in downtown Bay City, is a gorgeous art-deco Mayan-inspired venue for live music, movies, and performances. The State Theatre’s decor is stunning. I loved the heavy red curtains and opera boxes, it looked like a shining star of yesteryear.
Partake in Bay City, MI 48708 Annual Events
Bay City, MI plays host to several popular annual events including:
- February-April: Polar Bear Chili Cook-Off, Hot Chocolate Hop
- June: Bay City Country Music Festival
- July: Fireworks Festival
- August: Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival, Hop Riot Beer Fest
- November: Holiday Open House Weekend, Small Business Saturday
Where to Stay in Bay City
Situated on the Saginaw River is the upscale DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Bay City Riverfront. Conveniently located, this friendly hotel offers free Wifi and parking, and has an indoor swimming pool. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, with attractive decor, furnishings, and comfy beds.
Other Bay City Things Recommended by Locals:
- Sage Branch Library
- Firehouse Museum
- Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum
- Carroll Park
- Veterans Memorial Park
- Riverwalk Pier