Ludington has long been a favorite destination for West Michiganders because of its close-to-home convenience, yet distinctly Up North feel. The cozy harbor town offers a getaway without getting too far away—making it ideal for a quick weekend trip, but also providing enough to do throughout Mason County that vacationers can fill a full week, just as well.
Boasting miles of waterfront along The Big Lake and the surrounding smaller lakes—plus pristine natural areas for camping, hiking, boating, fishing, swimming and cycling—it's perfect for those cautiously transitioning to normalcy with a desire for some extra space to spread out. For those eager to resume activities they love, while also discovering new restaurants, events and attractions, Ludington has that, too! Officially open for business this summer, the city is ready—and excited—for visitors to come back to its streets, shops, beaches and parks.
For families, there's the recently reopened Sandcastles Children's Museum. Along with a number of interactive displays that inspire creativity, promote learning and pique curiosity, there's a new Water Safety Exhibit exploring the power of Lake Michigan while also educating children and parents on staying safe when enjoying the mighty waves. There's also a new, 3,000-square-foot splash pad in Copeyon Park, which is re-launched this season, bringing a playful way for the kiddos to cool off. It's free and right next door to a playground and picnic area, so families can make a day of it. Lighthouse tower climbs at Big Sable Point Light and Ludington North Breakwater are another popular activity that have returned, with modifications to ensure proper distancing in their smaller quarters. Ascend to the top and take in amazing views of Lake Michigan and fresh waterfront air.
Beloved dine-in and carryout establishments, such as Jamesport Brewing Company, Q Smokehouse, Chuck Wagon, and The Blu Moon are open as well, in addition to places offering something refreshing, whether it's a frosty beer at The Mitten Bar, a scoop of ice cream at House of Flavors, or a caffeine boost at Red Rooster Coffee & Community. Ludington is also thrilled to share new restaurant openings, including Crown and Cork, formerly P.M. Steamers, which features casual waterfront dining overlooking Pere Marquette Lake, and Keeper's Fish Shack, a walk-up, food truck-style spot with a variety of fish and seafood options.
Locals and visitors will be drawn to linger a little longer downtown with the newly appointed Ludington Outdoor Social District, which allows patrons to purchase an alcoholic beverage from participating businesses and enjoy it while browsing around town or awaiting a table. Legacy Plaza, planned to open this summer, is a four-season area with a beautified green space, permanent pavilion and performance stage, bathroom structure, seating, fire pit, and more. It will also be the new home of the Ludington Farmers Market, and host to other recreational and cultural activities throughout the year, including the new Final Friday Experience, which replaces Friday Night Live, and occurs the last Friday of the month, now through September. Food, music, entertainment and a late farmers market are on the docket for this robust, soon-to-be area hot spot.
Also of interest is the Sunset Beach Bonfire Series, the last of which for the year is happening on the fourth Thursday of August at Stearns Park Beach, as well as the Suds on the Shore craft beer and wine festival at Rotary Park in mid-August.
For recreation enthusiasts, the Offshore Classic Fishing Tournament, Run the Beach 5K, and Odyssey SwimRun Ludington are planned—and unstructured outdoor leisure opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, and bike rental are available, as well. Vacationers looking to get on the water but not actually take the helm can board the S.S. Badger car ferry, which is in full sailing-season mode, taking travelers from Ludington to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Visitors could also take advantage of two-hour shoreline cruises—with one opportunity remaining this season in August.
There is no shortage of options when it comes to lodging, with everything from mini-cabins and lakeside cottages to modest hotels and luxury resorts, plus vacation home rentals and B&Bs—including the newly opened carriage house suites at Cartier Mansion.
For more information on accommodations, as well as a wealth of information on where to go, what to do, and when to do it, visit pureludington.com.
Allison Kay Bannister, a West Michigan resident since 1987, professional writer since 2002 and GVSU alumna, recently launched her own freelance writing business. Allison enjoys travel, art, dance, food and exploring world cultures—and, of course, writing about all these and more.
This article originally appeared in the Aug/Sept 2021 issue of West Michigan Woman.