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Bay City Michigan: 15 BEST Things to DO (MAP)

bay city michigan

by Sydney Weber

Best Things to Do in Bay City Michigan

Looking for the best things to do in Bay City Michigan?

There’s so much to do in this charming, nautical city in Bay County Michigan, set on the shores of Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay.

You’ll find waterfront dining; a historic district filled with antique shops and mansions; cute coffee shops, tall ships for sailing, boutiques for shopping and so much more.

Bay City is known for its friendly atmosphere, historic downtown shopping area, amazing summer concerts in the park, and annual fireworks festival. With hiking and biking trails along the Saginaw River, it’s a perfect spot for some pure Michigan outdoor recreation, too.

We’ve out together a guide to 15 delightful activities and attractions of this waterfront city in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay region. Whether Michigan’s Bay Area is your destination or a point on the journey, use our carefully curated Bay City travel guide to help you plan your trip.

Be sure to scroll to use our interactive map of the best things to do in Bay City, Michigan.

map of the best things to do in bay city michigan

Where is Bay City, Michigan?
Bay City MI Is located in the Great Lakes Bay region of Michigan, about two hours north of Detroit in southeast Michigan. Use this interactive Google map to plan your visit. Bay City’s Firework Festival is an annual event in late June that you won’t want to miss!

Wenonah Park
Tall Ship Appledore

Explore Bay City’s Waterfront

BaySail and the Appledore Tall Ship

If you want to hit the water but are feeling a little more old-fashioned than the Princess Wenonah, then go for BaySail with their Appledore Schooners. The Great Lakes 101 sail takes starts in downtown and goes to Saginaw Bay, and the Sunset Sails tour is an absolutely enchanting trip on Saginaw Bay during the golden hour.

The Appledore IV schooner can also be found at other ports on Lake Huron, like East Tawas, Alpena, and Mackinac Island. Charters and private tours are also available. #BestOfBayCity

Wenonah Park
111 Center Avenue, Bay City, MI 48708

Bay City’s riverfront is truly one of the best parts of the city, and there are two sides to enjoy. The
downtown riverbank brings you to Wenonah Park and its World Friendship Shell.

The shell is an amphitheater that hosts Wednesdays in the Park summer concerts, movies, and magic shows, providing options for the whole family. There’s also a Little Free Library on the edge of the park, near the main business sector. #takeoneleaveone

Bay City Boat Lines

Alongside Wenonah Park lie Bay City Boat Lines, which has all sorts of options for enjoying
the water. There are the Rock the Boat concert cruises, Carefree Cruisin’ dinner cruises, Saginaw
guided tours, and free Monday morning history tours in the summer, all aboard the
Princess Wenonah. Sailing with Bay City Boat Lines can even get you 15% off a stay at the
nearby DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel.

Bay City Michigan Park
Veterans Memorial Park

Veterans Memorial Park
John F Kennedy Dr, Bay City, MI 48706

On the other side of the river there’s Veterans Memorial Park, which is a must-visit. It’s easily
the best-equipped park in the city. There are boat docks and launches, baseball and softball
fields, a walking track, tennis, a gaga pit, grills, pavilions, a decked-out playground, a pavilion,
picnic tables and shelters, bathrooms, and an indoor kitchen space.

Also part of Veterans Memorial Park is the Riverwalk, a paved trail that goes along (and in one
place, out onto) the Saginaw River. Cyclists, rollerbladers, and pedestrians can pass through
Kanztler Arboretum, a fitness park, and cross a pedestrian bridge to Bigelow Park. The pier-and-
gazebo combination on the river (like actually on the river, the water is underneath it) is worth a

Nearby is the Bay County Community Center, which has basketball and volleyball courts,
pickleball, knockerball,
a summer recreation program for kids, and an outdoor pool. Make sure
to check their website for pool availability.

Other parks to check out:

  • Third Street Waterfall Park
  • Birney Park
  • Bigelow Park
  • Bay City State Park (including Tobico Marsh)
Delta Planetarium bay City
Delta Planetarium – photo from Delta College

Museums to Explore in Bay City MI

Delta College Planetarium
100 Center Ave, Bay City, MI 48708

One of the most striking buildings in the city, the Delta College Planetarium has won two architectural awards, granted by the American Institute of Architects. The outside of the Planetarium theater is orange, red, and shaped like the exhaust nozzle of a rocket.

The black parts of the exterior represent space, and once you’re inside, the blue, gray, and black wall near the stairs is meant to resemble a darkening sky. Design elements like that abound throughout the Planetarium.

With a variety of shows available (like Beyond the Sun, The Search for Life in Space, Cody Coyote’s Adventure Planetarium Show, to name what’s coming up on the calendar), a trip to the Delta College Planetarium is an educational blast.

Antique Toy and Firehouse Museum
3456 Patterson Rd, Bay City, MI 48706

Both kids and adults alike will love this charming historical museum featuring large antique firetrucks & collectible toy police, fire and emergency cars, too.

Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum
123 Nautical Avenue, Bay City, Michigan

This captivating museum showcases a stunning collection of naval vessels, immersing you in the rich heritage of the United States Navy. Step aboard the mighty USS Edson DD946, a beautifully restored naval ship that served in the Vietnam Conflict.

Explore the USS Edson’s fascinating interior, including the commanding officer’s quarters, engine room, and the breathtaking flight deck. The museum also features interactive exhibits, educational displays, and knowledgeable guides who offer insightful stories about the ship’s illustrious past.

Bay city historic  homes
Historic Mansion in Bay City MI – photo from the Center Avenue Neighborhood Association

Wander the Center Avenue Historic District

This is one of my favorite places to gape at luxurious old mansions.

Once the homes of wealthy lumbermen and shipbuilders, these beautiful mansions are being preserved and their rich legacy of historical architecture is something you don’t want to miss. These grand homes take you back in time to the Gilded Age and horse drawn carriages, and they are truly spectacular.

Bay County Historical Museum
9th St, Bay City, MI 48708

The historical Museum of Bay County is a real gem in Bay City. From exhibits galleries to a theater that shows documentaries to events and tours, there’s a real wealth of information here.

They offer a fabulous downtown Bay City architecture walking tour highlighting some of the important buildings and the architectural significance of some of these Bay City beauties you’ll even see structures designed by famed Detroit architect Albert Kahn.

candy store in bay city michigan
Photo from St. Laurent Brothers in Bay City MI

More Fun Places to Explore in Bay City Michigan

Third Street Star Bridge
113 Third Street, Bay City, Michigan 48708

You won’t find real stars, or a bridge for that matter, but this exciting new project in downtown Bay City illuminates the Third Street sky with twinkling lights. It’s a great place to shop, and wander when you next visit Bay City.

St. Laurent Brothers
1101 N Water St, Bay City, MI 48708

You’ll find a complete line of roasted nuts all roasted daily at this charming Downtown Bay City factory outlet! They offer a complete line of homemade nut clusters in milk, bittersweet, dark and white chocolate; sugar-free nut clusters, chocolates and a large assortment of unique and sugar-free candies. From almonds to cashews to macadamias, they’ve got them all!

Market at Uptown Bay City

The Great Lakes Market, coming to Uptown Bay City in September 2023, is an art fair that goes beyond the things normally encompassed in the words ‘art fair’. There’s art, crafts, and food in early fall, which is one of Michigan’s four best seasons.

antiques in bay city michigan

Shopping and Antiquing in Bay City

Antiquing in Bay City MI

Love resale shops, thrift stores and antiques? Bay City is an antique-lover’s dream. The Bay City Antiques Center has 60,000 square feet of antique finds spread out in the former Campbell House Hotel. Looking for carousel horses?

They’ve likely got it. An old wine press? Yep. Printer’s blocks? You know it. Even if you can’t make it in person, you can check out their offerings on their website’s photo gallery. Multi-floor, multi-dealer, multi-awesome.

Right next door is the very-similarly-named-but-still-distinct Bay Antique Center, which at 63,000 square feet across three floors is Michigan’s biggest antique store. Again, if you’re looking for it, one of Bay Antique Center’s 100 dealers probably has it.

Other antiquing gems, not to be ignored, are The Finest Antiques and Home Décor, the Americana Company Antique Mall or Retro Attics Studio. We repeat, antique-lover’s dream.

Shop at the Bay City Town Center
4101 E Wilder Rd, Bay City, MI 48706

Located right off I-75, the Bay City Town Center includes a mix of retailers such as PetSmart, Marshalls, Dunham’s, Bath and Body Works and more.

arcade bay city michigan

More Don’t Miss Places to Visit in Bay City MI

Birch Run Outlet Mall, one of Michigan’s largest outlet mall, is just 30 minutes south on I-75 from Bay City.

Vienna Pastry & Bakery, located on the corner of Columbus and Washington Avenue offers a wide assortment of donuts, cookies and more made fresh daily.

Dutch Village Adventure Park – you’ll love this 18-hole mini-golf course with Dutch accents!

Bayside Buggies– Take a Pedicab tour of the city

Crazy Quarters Arcade – Enjoy music from the 80’s and 90’s while plugging quarters into a huge collection of pinball machines and arcade games.

Bay City Players – Catch a show performed by the oldest continuously operating community theater.

River of Time Historical Re-Enactment Weekend Don’t miss this annual event that brings encampments of historcial reenactors to the public to showcase various time periods and historical events, ranging from the 1600s to the 1800s.

Bay City Restaurants

Visit Some Amazing Restaurants in Bay City, MI

Beatles & Beans Coffee Emporium
N Water St, Bay City, MI 48708

Do you like coffee? Do you like The Beatles?

Do you like drinking coffee while listening to The Beatles? Then, do we have the place for you.

Expresso Express Coffee House’s Beatles & Beans Coffee Emporium is a truly one-of-a-kind coffee shop (and it’s cash-only, bring your Washingtons).

They’re absolutely covered in Beatles décor and sell more Beatles memorabilia than you can probably imagine. Plus, they have an ever-changing menu of drinks: the Let It Bean Latte has triple espresso and the barista’s choice of flavor. This beverage creativity lives alongside bakery staples like bagels and biscotti.

Disclaimer: if you can’t stand puns, this is not your spot. The Beatles jokes keep coming and they “Don’t Let Me Down”. Puns, puns, puns, here they come…

Sarah’s Sweet Escapes
811 Saginaw St, Bay City, MI 48708

Here, hot chocolate isn’t only for the winter months. Grab some frozen hot chocolate, or for a classic summer treat, frozen lemonade. And maybe some chocolate-covered fruit, too…

Gatsby’s Seafood and Steakhouse
203 Center Ave, Bay City, MI 48708

Gatsby’s was founded by a father-son team and features top-notch meats and fish. On the flip side, they also have one of the most extensive vegan menus I’ve ever seen. Bring your carnivores and your herbivores.

Old City Hall
814 Saginaw St, Bay City, MI 48708

If you’re looking for some fine casual dining (or any of their 150 wines, 23 tap beers, or 120 spirits) in a nifty spot, check out Old City Hall. With a gorgeous bar area and exposed brick walls, the interior is almost as pretty as the food.

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MI Table
213 Center Ave, Bay City, MI 48708

This farm-to-table restaurant’s motto is “Savour Our State”, and it’s not hard to do, what with their seasonal menus featuring Michigan food and beer. It’s so hard to pick which dishes to highlight, but I’ll make the effort and point out their white bean dip, charred lemon and artichoke pizza, Traverse City chicken cherry salad, venison sausage gravy and biscuits, whitefish sourdough sandwich, and Michigan specialty ice cream.

Krzysiak’s House
1605 Michigan Ave, Bay City, MI 48708

Good Michigan Polish food isn’t limited to Hamtramck. Krzysiak’s House has been serving hearty and delicious meals since 1979, and this family-owned restaurant is worth the stop. From their homemade egg noodles and Polish sausage to the local-artist-painted murals on the walls, there are many things to appreciate about this slice of Bay City.

  • Other restaurants to check out:
    Tavern 101
  • Beaver’s Pub
  • Real Seafood Company
  • Nino’s Family Restaurant
  • BarqueBC
  • Latitude 43
  • Coco Loco
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About the Author-
Sydney Weber is a Feature Writer for and a graduate of Indiana University. She grew up in the Detroit and Lansing areas and spent many weekends going down side streets to see what’s what. Sydney loves finding little gems of places wherever she goes.