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5 Must See Attractions In or Near Bay City, Michigan

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Here are five must-see attractions in Bay City, Michigan, a charming lakefront area of the gorgeous MIchigan Sunrise Coast.

Bay City is a charming spot on Michigan’s Sunrise Coast. Once a booming town of sawmills and shipbuilders, it is a growing area that is perfectly fit for millennials and those of retirement age. Due to its geographical location, Bay City is known as the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes region. Here are five must-see attractions in or near Bay City, Michigan that shouldn’t be missed. 

Fun Fact: Madonna is from Bay City. 

fun things to do in bay city aerial view

1. City Market 

You’d think you were in a much bigger city, maybe even Detroit, as you enter City Market in downtown Bay City. This treasure trove of around 25 local vendors and restaurants, plus a trendy work space, is loaded with fresh vegetables, fruits, and artisan crafts. It is amazing! 

bay city's city market local shops

You’ll find an arsenal of flowers, coffee, fresh-baked pastries, wine, homemade breads, and foods  you’ve been craving in this one-stop-shop. The decor is bright and vibrant, making it a place you will want to browse and spend time in. City Grind brews delicious coffee and Modern Craft Winery is perfect for sipping a smooth glass of wine. The kitschy Lunch Box dining space is a favorite spot for enjoying Heidi’s Darn Good Cookies, That Guys BBQ, or Replenish juice bar. Check out the City Market event calendar offerings posted in the back of the market for cooking classes and other special functions.  

olive and cheese bar selections
vendors city market bay city Michigan

2. The Tall Ships

Bay City is home to two gorgeous tall ships: the Appledore IV and V. Climb aboard an Appledore Tall Ship and set sail for a memorable boat excursion along the Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron. You are welcome to bring food and drinks aboard. The tall ships are stocked with warm blankets in the event of cold weather. Guides share historical and fun information throughout the cruise. Tours offered are the classics (sunset, celestial, fall colors), specialty sails, and chartered trips. 

You’ll have the best seat in the house to see and photograph Bay City’s four bascule bridges along the way. 

fun things to do in bay city
appledore tall ship bay city

#3 Lumberman’s Monument 

Found in Huron Manistee National Forest, the 14-foot bronze Lumberman’s Monument Visitor Center is one of the coolest historical attractions I’ve seen in the state of Michigan. The statue pays tribute and acts as a memorial for the “River Rats”, or those who were responsible for hauling the timber to the working mills.

The Lumberman’s Monument Visitor Center is on the Au Sable River, which can be admired via the staircase landing (242 steps from top to bottom). A wanigan–where the cook shacks (sheds) were found in the early logging industry days—is at the bottom of the landing. Lumbermen worked these rivers nearly every day of the week years ago, and helped shape the country we now know. 

monument to lumberjacks of michigan
lumberman's monument Michigan
stairs to scenic spot

#4 Tawas Point State Park 

Tawas Point Light Station (an 1885 lighthouse) became automated (electrified) in 1935. The Coast Guard took over operation in 1953 and it became automated. While Tawas Point was decommissioned in 2016, you can still visit the stately lighthouse today. You’ll see bird watchers at the lighthouse, too, or those seeking a perfect Tawas Bay sunrise spot—after all this is Michigan’s Sunrise Coast. Tawas Point is situated on Lake Huron and there is a small fee for admission. 

tawas lighthouse
tawas lighthouse Lake Huron view


#5  Downtown Public Art 

The Detroit Institute of Arts donated 15 replica pieces of public artwork that have been placed around Bay City. They look like paintings from an art gallery wall, only they hang on stands in downtown Bay City. Descriptive panels give a synopsis of the work, which improves the knowledge of the pieces you are seeing. You’ll even find some of the artwork hanging on the sides of building walls, such as the Asafo Flag.

Bay City has a few murals that are photo-worthy, too, such as the Greek-god astronaut floating in outer space, overlooking the Third Street Star Bridge. This website can help you find downtown Bay City’s historical panels.

instagram wall in bay city Michigan

Looking for Food in Bay City?

Old City Hall is a casual-fine dining eatery with lovely decor and chef-inspired dishes. The restaurant’s big city vibe is on-point and the food taste is impressive. For starters, try the Thai Lettuce Wraps (plenty to share) and for dinner, go with the Filet Bordelaise. Both are excellent! Old City Hall is in a historic repurposed former 1890 City Hall building with extensive beer and wine lists.

Pick up your favorite coffee drink and a cider donut or bagel with cream cheese from Populace Coffee Roasters, a perky little shop with a cool Instagram wall. Coffee is freshly roasted Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and can be shipped through mail order. 

dinner old city hall appetizers bay city
bay city old city hall restaurant
populace coffee bay city donuts and bagel

Need a Hotel in Bay City?

If so, look no further than the modern DoubleTree by Hilton Bay City Riverfront. Comfortable beds, warm colors, an onsite restaurant, and a gorgeous Dale Chihuly chandelier in the lobby await you on the banks of the Saginaw River in downtown Bay City.  The hotel has an indoor pool, fitness center, and whirlpool, plus offer complimentary airport shuttles. 

doubletree Hilton bay city riverfront

Thanks to Pure Michigan for hosting my visit, accommodations, and food. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased. 

Bay City Photo Gallery

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nature setting sunrise coast Michigan
scenic drive sunrise coast bay city Michigan
city market lunch and coffee
chipmunk
nature setting sunrise coast Michigan
pastries bay city market Michigan
downtown bay city street art
bay city Michigan downtown

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Read more of our Michigan posts: 

A Perfect Northern Michigan Road Trip

Things to Do at Mackinaw Island

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