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Fish sculptures at Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan

Michigan

Great Lakes Bay, Michigan: Outdoor Fun and Adventure

By: Victoria Shepherd

Anton Fresco/James McGaw
1 of 6
Masts of Appledore Tall Ships in Bay City, Michigan

Michigan

Great Lakes Bay, Michigan: Outdoor Fun and Adventure

By: Victoria Shepherd

Anton Fresco/James McGaw
2 of 6
Waterfall in Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan

Michigan

Great Lakes Bay, Michigan: Outdoor Fun and Adventure

By: Victoria Shepherd

Anton Fresco/James McGaw
3 of 6
Roses blooming at Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan

Michigan

Great Lakes Bay, Michigan: Outdoor Fun and Adventure

By: Victoria Shepherd

Anton Fresco/James McGaw
4 of 6
The Tridge three-way footbridge in Midland, Michigan

Michigan

Great Lakes Bay, Michigan: Outdoor Fun and Adventure

By: Victoria Shepherd

Anton Fresco/James McGaw
5 of 6
Children’s Garden at Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan

Michigan

Great Lakes Bay, Michigan: Outdoor Fun and Adventure

By: Victoria Shepherd

Anton Fresco/James McGaw
6 of 6
  • States:
    Michigan

Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay region is made up of six diverse and wonderful cities: Bay City, Birch Run, Chesaning, Frankenmuth, Midland and Saginaw.

From the Everglades of Michigan in Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, which features about 8,100 hectares of natural landscapes and wildlife, to music and culinary delights, the Great Lakes Bay region is the perfect place to spend an enjoyable few days.

Boating in Bay City

My starting point and a great base for a visit to the area is charming Bay City, a cozy waterfront town nestled on the banks of Lake Huron. On this crystal-clear freshwater lake, I saw a variety of watercraft, including the majestic Appledore Tall Ships schooners, which offer both private and public sails. A perfect way to relax is to simply sit on the waterfront and watch the sailboats slice effortlessly through the water, or take a sunset cruise and melt your cares away.

Admiring the Appledore Tall Ships in Bay City

Admiring the Appledore Tall Ships in Bay City
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Anton Fresco/James McGaw

Shopping at Birch Run Premium Outlets

A visit to the region should definitely include shopping at Birch Run Premium Outlets, which features more than 145 stores and is the Midwest’s largest outlet mall. Visitors, including bargain hunters like me, come to experience the irresistible selection of designer and name-brand stores, all offering great prices.

After a day of shopping, if you’re feeling a little peckish, focus on what your stomach needs and head to Tony’s I-75 Restaurant for a BLT sandwich made with a pound of bacon. Splurge on a banana split that’s big enough for you, your guests and the table across the way.

Shopping for bargains in the Great Lakes Bay region in Michigan

Shopping for bargains in the Great Lakes Bay region in Michigan
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Anton Fresco/James McGaw

Delightful Dow Gardens in Midland

The next day, I visited gorgeous Dow Gardens in Midland. I discovered more than 44 acres of perfect natural beauty and manicured grounds featuring sculptures, art and architecture designed by Alden B. Dow, son of the gardens’ creator, Herbert Dow, founder of Dow Chemicals. I meandered along the winding pathways through the flowers and trees, and took a couple of hours to explore the delights of this oasis. Mr. Dow created the gardens with a simple philosophy in mind: “Never reveal the gardens’ whole beauty at first glance.” Here, you’ll find something delightful at every turn. While visiting the children’s interactive garden, I scrubbed and kissed a giant cast iron pig and helped a scarecrow rake his allotment. 

Next stop was The Tridge in Midland, a three-way pedestrian footbridge that’s a connector for more than 1,600 kilometers of rail trails. These popular multi-use trails were once train lines. Now they make for a perfect afternoon stroll or bike ride in lush surroundings.

As I left town, I passed by the Santa Claus School, which teaches everything from Santa Sign Language to how to properly maintain your beard.

Bridges and ponds at The Dow Gardens in Midland

Bridges and ponds at The Dow Gardens in Midland
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Anton Fresco/James McGaw
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Willkommen to Frankenmuth

Christmas is also present year-round in Frankenmuth, the final stop on my tour of the region and home to Michigan’s Little Bavaria, a city that celebrates everything German. At the world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s, you’ll find everything you need to decorate for the holiday. After picking up a hand-painted decoration, I headed downtown to Tiffany’s for lunch. The weather was perfect, so I sat on the outside patio and had a delicious meal, followed by a horse and carriage ride along the main street.

Be sure to include the Great Lakes Bay region of Michigan on your next U.S.-bound holiday.