Day Trips From The Art Coast
The charming vibe of the Art Coast is hard to beat with its beautiful beaches and waterways and exceptionally inviting galleries, shops, and restaurants. But if you do find yourself interested in exploring what our outskirts have to offer, there’s a wealth of interesting attractions and cultural experiences to be found within an hour or less drive.
One For The Road
If a visit to Saugatuck’s Investment Classics Cars & Memorabilia has only whetted your appetite for classic automobiles, take a ride over to the Gilmore Car Museum in southwest Michigan. The museum’s 90-acre campus is just a little over an hour from downtown Saugatuck and features over 400 cars on display and a variety of family-friendly activities. Unique experiences include an opportunity to get behind the wheel of an authentic Model T Ford “Tin Lizzie” and drive it around the museum’s historic campus.
Architecture aficionados should stop by the Old School House in Douglas, a Civil War-era school regarded as one of the finest examples of 19th-century school architecture in America. Afterward, head to the Meyer May House in Grand Rapids, about a 46-minute drive from Saugatuck. Designed in 1908 by Frank Lloyd Wright, the house has been meticulously restored and is complete with original furnishings and faithfully executed reproductions. Completely free to the public, the Meyer May house provides a rare opportunity to experience a Prairie house exactly as Frank Lloyd Wright intended.
While you can see goats frolicking at Evergreen Lane Farm & Creamery and a host of heritage farm animals at Virtue Cider, those with more exotic interests should plan a visit to John Ball Zoo. Located about a 40-minute drive from Saugatuck, this zoo has been delighting visitors since 1891. Now with over 2,000 animals and featuring more animal-touching exhibits than any other zoo in Michigan, John Ball also offers family-friendly activities such as a 300-foot zipline, 4-story ropes adventure course, and a funicular.
Botany & Sculpture Enthusiasts
After admiring the many outdoor sculptures in Saugatuck/Douglas, a must-visit stop is the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Located only 46 minutes away, this is one of the nation's premier horticultural and cultural attractions. The expansive grounds include Michigan’s largest tropical conservatory, five indoor theme gardens, numerous outdoor gardens, including an 8-acre Japanese garden, and one of the world's most comprehensive collections of outdoor sculpture.
Up In The Air
Only 1 hour and 10 min from Saugatuck, the Air Zoo in Portage, Michigan, has been honoring and celebrating air and space flight since 1977. A world-class, Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace and science museum, the Air Zoo features over 100 rare and unique aircraft and spacecraft, inspiring interactive exhibits, amusement park-style rides, and full-motion flight simulators that offer fun and education for the entire family. And, resuming in 2023, the Air Zoo and Waldo Wright's Flying Service will offer guests a unique barnstorming flight experience in an open-cockpit New Standard D-25 Biplane. This aircraft seats up to four and will take you soaring over the beautiful Southwest Michigan countryside for an unforgettable experience.
Spend a little time at the historic Saugatuck Pump House, which was built in 1904 as Saugatuck's first water pumping station and now serves as the Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum. Then take the 42-minute drive over to the Grand Rapids Public Museum to discover world-class exhibits on history, nature, cultural heritage, and more. Founded in 1845, the Grand Rapids Public Museum is the oldest museum in Michigan and features more than 250,000 artifacts and specimens in its collection. Visitors can ride on a 1928 carousel, catch a show in the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium, or eat in the cafe overlooking the Grand River.
Only a two-minute walk from the Grand Rapids Public Museum is the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, touted as America's most entertaining presidential museum. Interactive exhibits give visitors insight into Ford’s journey from boyhood to life after the White House, emphasizing the responsibilities of democratic citizenship and service to country during turbulent times. Attend a White House State Dinner, step inside the Oval Office, see the original Watergate burglar tools, and then pay your respects at the burial site of President Ford and First Lady Betty Ford, located on the grounds of the museum.
There’s no shortage of art to explore in the Art Coast of Michigan with all the galleries and artist studios in the area, but if you’re looking for even more inspiration—you’re in luck. Only a 43-minute drive away is the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM). Embracing the city’s legacy as a leading center of design and manufacturing, the GRAM has a growing collection in the areas of design and modern craft. Their permanent collection spans from Renaissance to Modern Art, with a special focus on 19th and 20th century European and American art.
Just a 5-minute walk from the GRAM is the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA), West Michigan’s largest contemporary art center. The UICA exhibits innovative, contemporary artwork from regional, national, and international artists throughout the year and hosts various events, including docent-led tours, performance art, artist receptions, and gallery talks.