Fun’s a Walk Away in Bay City

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

When we can park our car on Friday night and never turn it on again until we leave again on Sunday night — that’s a great weekend. Bay City, a town of 35,000 near the mouth of the Saginaw River and the entrance to Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron, certainly fits the bill for just that sort of indulgent trip. In classic Michigan fashion, you can find Bay City right between your thumb and first finger.

The first people — Chippewa, Hopewell, Ojibway, Ottawa and Potawatomi — once thrived along the banks of the Saginaw River. Recent archaeological digs have uncovered artifacts from the earliest permanent settlement, which dates back to 3000 B.C. The first Northern Europeans settled in 1831, when Leon Tromble built a log cabin on the east bank of the Saginaw River. The town was established in 1837 and was incorporated as a city in 1865.

When we rolled in on Friday night, we went immediately to the River Walk and set up our chairs for Friday at the Falls. These free concerts attract people of all ages, as witnessed by the children dancing in the very front and the older folks sitting sedately along the edges of the lawn. It was a great way to unwind after our drive and gave us time to ponder where we wanted to have dinner.

We had already checked into the DoubleTree, part of the Hilton chain. We normally look for smaller bed and breakfasts or inns, but location was everything in this case, and the new hotel was near downtown and on the water. Our room had a water view and was very comfortable, in a taupe kind of way.

The historic downtown boasts of 120 specialty shops and 23 restaurants; I took them at their word and didn’t spend time counting.

We had dinner in mind and decided to try the American Kitchen, primarily due to its charming outside area with lovely flower boxes. It offered burgers and bourbon, a winning combination for hungry travelers. We started with some green bean fries, hoping that would count as a vegetable. We passed on the peanut butter burger, however.

My husband continued his focus on bacon with the Kentucky Derby Burger, topped with bourbon-glazed onions, bacon, hickory barbecue sauce and sharp cheddar cheese. The California Turkey burger called to me, and it came with a tasty dollop of guacamole. After dinner, we strolled around the downtown, noticing that several places offered outside dining, a plus on a warm summer night. The Old City Hall Restaurant proved a cozy spot for a nightcap.

The next morning we went to Maggie’s Omelette House for brunch. Maggie’s is on a side street in a nondescript building, and offers any kind of omelet you can imagine. How about egg white and kale with lots of cheddar cheese? The service was good, the coffee plentiful and it lived up to its reputation.

Of course what would summer in Michigan be without a little rain, so we scrapped the boat trip and walked across the street to the Delta College Planetarium and Learning Center. The $8.75 million facility houses a state-of-the-art Planetarium Digital 360 theater. The magnificent lobby has a floor that displays the major star constellations.

Bay City: wonderful riverfront, great restaurants and nice hotels, all within walking distance. If you need any more reason to visit, Bay City will host the Tall Ship Celebration, Michigan’s largest gathering of tall ships, starting Thursday.