LEISURE, RECREATION AND CULTURE
Welcome to nature’s playground! There are few places that can boast as wide a range of spectacular natural resources, and we’ve got ‘em. Twenty-eight miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, rolling sand dunes, 2,000 miles of rivers and streams, 40 inland lakes and over 450,000 acres of Manistee National Forest are waiting to be enjoyed all year long.
The beauty and mystery of Lake Michigan are undeniable. Calm enough for swimming, building sandcastles on the shore and watching beautiful sunsets one day, it can kick up a fuss with big drama just 24 hours later. It provides thrills for the adventurous and intrigue for the imaginative and those who like to walk its shoreline, collecting shells, fossils and driftwood. Under all conditions, it is a magnet for the curious.
Every manner of activities for outdoor lovers is available at our state and local parks and natural areas. For hikers and cyclists, fishermen and fisherwomen, kayakers and canoers, boaters and kite-boarders, paddle boarders, or golfers and tennis players, opportunities abound, whether athletic and adventurous, serene and contemplative, or somewhere in between.
That mystery and magnetism are extended to the Manistee National Forest and all of our natural areas. Just as important, the beauty of our natural surroundings has played as big a part in our history as it does in our daily lives, and is reflected in our museums, our cultural trails and the preservation of our two lighthouses and other historic structures. It also informs and inspires our cultural activities, creative endeavors and even our festivals. There is much to celebrate, and a joyful attitude permeates all we do.
TOP THINGS TO DO & SEE
1) SUMMER BEACH BONFIRES: Have you ever been to a beach party before? Well, this summer when you are in Ludington, we extend the offer! You’re invited to this great get-together of tourists and locals alike. Live music, great conversation, games and beautiful sunsets are what we can guarantee when you take in a beach bonfire. Bonfires dates can be confirmed with the Visitors Center.
2) FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE: Downtown Ludington knows how to throw a street party! Friday Night Live is everyone’s favorite summer event, because it’s not only a time to catch up with your friends and neighbors, but also time to meet some new ones. This street party brings together live music, good food and fun games in a family-friendly atmosphere. The best part of it all is that it is free!
Let your kids jump for joy in a bounce house, ride a pony, take a spin in the Baby SS Badger or get their faces painted. While there is plenty for the kids to enjoy, we didn’t forget about the adults. Four stages throughout the downtown fill the air with some of Mason County’s best musical talent. And when you need to refuel, you can stop at any number of food vendors and get yourself an elephant ear, ice cream, Italian sausage or egg roll.
3) THE LOVE LUDINGTON BOARD & JAMES STREET PLAZA: Grab some chalk and head to the board at the James Street Plaza and share the “LOVE” you have for Ludington. The board is a constantly evolving art installation in the heart of the downtown, where locals and visitors alike gather to share stories, shop, and just talk about why this place is so special to them. Make sure to stop and spread the word, and don’t forget to share your photos online at #loveludington!
4) COUNTDOWN TO NEW YEAR’S EVE: This the biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in the area, and it is complete with live entertainment, outdoor beverages, and of course, the big ball drop in the heart of Downtown Ludington. The New Year’s Eve celebration started as a small gathering of individuals who wanted to get the town excited for the upcoming year. It has quickly turned into one of the largest ball drops in Northern Michigan, and is a great time for anyone looking to ring in the new year with friends and family. Gather at midnight near the intersection of James and Ludington Ave to ring in the new year and watch the fireworks.
5) DANCE TO THE SCOTTVILLE CLOWN BAND: The band is a local institution. It would never be a true Ludington Parade without the clowns. “The Big Noise from Scottville” is what this band is often called. One of the favorite numbers performed, among many, is called “The Stripper.” it really gets the crowd on their feet. The Scottville Clown Band is known for its colorful attire and crazy antics. The band members come from all over Michigan and over 14 other states, from California, Tennessee, Florida and even New York. The members are a very diverse group, some doctors, firemen, police officers, bankers, and realtors. This hilarious group of very talented musicians come together many times throughout the year to share this passion for entertaining crowds and travel all over Michigan to strut their stuff.
6) ‘SLOW ROLL’ WITH LOCAL BIKING ENTHUSIASTS: So what is the Slow Roll?… well simply put, it is something different to everyone who rides and participates. For some, it is a great stress release after a long day of work. For others, it is a way to meet friends, and for some, they are on vacation and want to “do what the locals do.” After all, when you see a huge pack of casual bike riders, why not ask the simple question… what are you doing? The route takes you through the heart of Ludington, and many usually gather for a quick bite, a drink, or an ice cream cone afterwards. It is a great way to meet people, socialize, and just hang out while exploring the area.
Slow Roll is a group bicycle ride that meets every 2nd and 4th Thursday night at the North James Street Plaza in downtown Ludington at 6 p.m. Slow Roll is for everyone: all ages, all skill levels, and every type of bike is welcome!
7) CATCH A MOVIE IN THE PARK: Each Thursday night in August, local families bring their blankets and chairs to beautiful Ludington Rotary Park for Movies in the Park. A large screen and theater sound fill the park for a family-friendly night of flix! Just a few steps away is House of Flavors, so get to the park a little early so you have time to grab a yummy ice cream cone before you settle in for the movie. If you can’t make Thursday in Ludington, try Tuesday’s movie at the Scottville Clown Band Shell in Scottville.
8) BUTTERSVILLE BEACH WITH YOUR FOUR-LEGGED FRIEND: Our four-legged friends deserve some rest and relaxation too! Let your pooches cool off with a dip in Lake Michigan. The sandy shoreline south of Loomis Street Boat Ramp, as well as Buttersville Beach south of Pere Marquette Lake, allow dogs. Both offer lots of space to play, fetch and swim.
If your dog doesn’t quite have his sea legs and would prefer to stay on dry land, take him over to Central Bark, Ludington’s dog park. This one-acre, fenced piece of land offers plenty of space for dogs of all sizes to expend some energy. Central Bark is located near the Cartier Park Walkway and Lincoln Lake, offering a beautiful wooded and shaded backdrop for fun with your pet!
9) FARMERS’ MARKET: Check out the local produce offered by area farmers at the North James Street Plaza in Downtown Ludington. Vendors are there every Friday from 3-7 p.m. during the summer season, and sell local artisan products as well.
10) RHYTHM & DUNES: Music fans should mark their calendars for West Shore Bank’s Rhythm & Dunes Summer Concerts. Two evenings each summer visitors and locals bring their lawn chairs, drinks and dancing feet to Waterfront Park for a free concert in a beautiful setting. Locals love to grab picnic items from Best Choice Market like sandwiches, wine, dips and more to take with them to the park to enjoy the concert.Come early with the kids, who can romp and play at the amazing playground at Waterfront Park before the show starts!
LOCAL MUSIC AND ARTS
LOCAL MUSIC AND ARTS
Music is in the air in the Ludington area and no matter your choice of musical period or style, you’ll find many options here to enjoy. West Shore Community College’s Performing Arts Series is home to Jazz, classical, popular and show tunes and musical theater. Our festivals and summer concerts also mean there’s a wide variety of music and activities all year long.
For a brief summary of events and activities visit: www.ludington.org for a complete list.
THE LUDINGTON AREA CENTER FOR THE ARTS (LACA): Writers, musicians, photographers and artists in all media find inspiration in nature and the surrounding areas and activities, and as a result, creativity abounds in our area. Find your inspiration as a spectator or participant at local galleries and photography studios.
The Ludington Area Center for the Arts (LACA) offers:
Exhibitions in many media
MORE: Classes, workshops and exhibitions for students and community members are also available at West Shore Community College. Artisans can be found at the Ludington Farmers Market on Friday afternoons May through September. The West Shore Fine Arts Fair in July and the August Gold Coast Artisan Fair are known far and wide for their quality offerings from artists and crafters around the nation.
MUSEUMS AND CULTURE
MUSEUMS AND CULTURE
Want to get a feel for Mason County’s heritage? Our popular self-guided tours are a way to do that at a time convenient for you. The Mason County Cultural Trails are a series of themed, driving routes with audio and selective video narration. The Agricultural Trail, Lumber Heritage Trail and Barn Quilt Trail give people a window into the past and how it is flourishing in the present. The Sculpture Trail and Maritime Trail are in the planning stages. Information is easily accessible from pureludington.com/masoncountyculturaltrails.cfm or call 800.542.4600.
White Pine Village is an interactive, historic and educational experience that is a significant stop on all three Mason County Cultural Trails. Tour 30 buildings and sites displaying items from Mason County’s past, including a trapper cabin, original courthouse for Mason County, general store and farmstead.
Port of Ludington Maritime Museum focuses on the rich history of the car ferries, U.S. Coast Guard and the Ludington harbor and features engaging exhibits and activities.
Sandcastles Children’s Museum is a hands-on museum with over 30 interactive exhibits to promote learning through play.
Another history attraction, currently located at White Pine Village with a new location slated for 2018, is the Mason County Sports Hall of Fame. Visitors to the museum will learn about the history and value of athletics in Mason County and enjoy an engaging and memorable experience.
Waterfront Sculpture Park is located in Ludington’s popular harbor and home to nine bronze sculptures placed throughout the walkable waterfront park, and each depicts and tells the story of Ludington’s rich history. Enjoy the playground and catch the iconic SS Badger returning or departing from Ludington.
Opportunities for hiking, biking, canoeing or kayaking excursions abound, with rental options if you don’t yet have your own gear. Check out the Shoreline Cycling Club and its publication, DIRTroad for thorough descriptions and maps of the area’s cycling routes.
Ludington is considered one of the best ports on Lake Michigan for salmon and trout, and fishing is a year-round sport on our lakes and rivers, on your own or through a charter. Ludington is also the location of the famous Offshore Classic Fishing Tournament in July.
Boaters will find several options for public boat launches and excellent marinas in Ludington, with accommodations for vessels up to 125 feet in length. Stearns Park Beach on Lake Michigan in Ludington has many amenities and is perfect for families. Another favorite Lake Michigan beach site is “First Curve,” with over three miles of shoreline on M-116 on the way to Ludington State Park.
Golfers will find rolling hills at Lincoln Hills and Hemlock and tight fairways at Lakeside Links. There are another seven courses within an hour’s drive of Ludington. And don’t forget to visit our farms and orchards. If your pooch enjoys outdoor recreation too, dogs be welcomed at Buttersville Beach south of Pere Marquette Lake and the sandy shoreline south of the North Breakwater Pier at Stearns Park Beach. The fenced, one-acre Central Bark, Ludington’s dog park, is also a good option for dogs of all sizes to expend some energy.
THE LAKESHORE AND THE FOREST
Our vast Lake Michigan shoreline hosts water and nature lovers of all generations. So too does the popular Ludington State Park, situated between Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake. It is home to over 5,000 acres of scenic sand dunes, ponds, marshlands and forest. There are campgrounds, many miles of hiking trails, and in designated areas, biking and wheeled traffic are permitted.
It’s a water sports paradise with canoeing, kayaking, boating and swimming also available. The stately Big Sable Point Lighthouse is located on Lake Michigan within the Park. The Manistee National Forest offers year-round recreation including hunting, fishing, off-road vehicle use, biking, camping, snowmobiling, river use and berry picking and mushrooming.
Be sure to look for Trillium, the delicate wildflower, in spring. Manistee is the name of a Chippewa Indian God and means “Spirit of the Woods.” Explore Nordhouse Dunes and the Lake Michigan Recreation Area north of Ludington just outside the county line on W. Forest Trail Road for additional Lake Michigan shoreline.
People who say there is nothing to do outside simply aren’t looking. This area is packed with some amazing outdoor activities, and one favorite place is the Ludington State Park. The area is a 365-day State Park with so much to do and see. Watersports, peaceful nature walks, relaxing trips to the beach or socializing with friends on the cross country ski trails are all available in their respective seasons. Hiking the shore ice is also a unique thing to do in the dead of winter when you just need to stretch your legs.
If winter invigorates you and makes you feel like a kid again, you have lots of company here. Hike or fat bike along the Lake Michigan shoreline, and be sure to bring your camera for photos that look like a scene from an Antarctic research documentary.
Fish for trout and steelhead in our pristine rivers and hunt in the Manistee National Forest. Enjoy over 10 miles of well-marked and easy-to-navigate cross-country ski and snow shoe trails at Ludington State Park. In the Manistee National Forest, you can snowmobile or cross-country ski or snowshoe, and it’s an especially magical experience when there’s a full moon.
Our festivals continue in winter too. Celebrate New Year’s Eve with a few thousand of your neighbors at this free winter street party with beer, DJ, ball drop and fireworks. Barely a month later it will be time to enjoy the Pure Ludington BrrrewFest, and then there’s the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March.
A full slate of cultural and educational activities abound as well at Ludington Area Center for the Arts, West Shore Community College and the Mason County Public Library.
Visit our partners at: www.PureLudington.com for a complete list of leisure and recreation activities during all of our four seasons.