Midwest Living Review
Part of the tricities area, which includes Saginaw and Frankenmuth, Bay City may look like a small town (population: 36,800), but it has a big city vibe. Spanning both sides of the Saginaw River, the downtown area is gentrified and ripe for exploration. On the east bank, Hell's Half Mile, once notorious for the nefarious activities of its sailors and lumbermen whose drunken exploits in the 1800s gave the area its name, is now known for antiques stores, trendy boutiques and diverse dining options. A lack of better quality hotels is the one negative in an otherwise tourist-friendly environment. Also in this area are the Delta College Planetarium and a user-friendly riverfront, complete with bike-walking paths, green spaces and condos sprouting from rehabbed buildings. The west side of the Saginaw River features the Midland Street Historic District, a lively mix of nightclubs, bars, restaurants and shops. Known as the Entertainment Capital of Mid-Michigan, the watering holes situated on both sides of Midland Street range from dive bars to retro lounges. A third district along Center Avenue contains 250 structures on the National Register of Historic Places, most of them the former homes of lumber barons. Annual festivals include the River Roar boat races, the Pig Gig Ribfest, and holiday celebrations, including a Santa House (with real reindeer), the Festival of Lights along the riverfront and Christmas movies at the beautifully refurbished downtown State Theater.