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Learning through play: Grand Rapids Children’s Museum program gets preschoolers ready for kindergarten

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and Grand Rapids Public Schools are teaming up to get more preschoolers ready for kindergarten through the growing ‘Purposefully Playing Toward Kindergarten’ program.

On one side of the classroom, a few children gathered around a sewing machine and put buttons on clothes. Three kids worked on puzzles at a table nearby. A lone boy cut out paper dolls with scissors. A girl painted at an easel.

On a play mat with pictures of roads and buildings, four boys driving matchbox cars led a teacher around town to the school and then to the supermarket.

“Where are we going to go now?” the teacher asked.

Hmm, maybe to the bin of blocks in the corner, or the play kitchen against the wall, or to a sensory table with pieces of colored macaroni.

Welcome to “Purposefully Playing Toward Kindergarten” (PPTK), a growing summer program that emphasizes open-ended play to get preschoolers ready for kindergarten.

“It looks different for each child,” said Onalee Melton, a site coordinator at Buchanan Elementary School, one of four campuses where PPTK is taking place this summer. “We have the blessing with this program to guide kids into whatever they’re excited about.”

About half of incoming kindergarteners these days are not prepared to succeed in school. In some cases, the children are lagging behind in their understanding of basic math concepts or their use of language. In other cases, they’re not quite ready socially or emotionally.

PPTK aims to build all of those kindergarten-readiness skills through a unique partnership involving the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) and donors including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Delta Dental. In the program, GRPS teachers and paraprofessionals are teaming with “play facilitators” from the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum to immerse students in four hours of open-ended play time Mondays through Thursdays for five weeks.

It’s the same kind of open-ended play the children would experience if they were to visit the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum downtown. Only the PPTK program is right at their local neighborhood school.

‘There are so many barriers for our kids in these neighborhoods to get to the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum that we’re not going to just stay inside our four walls anymore,” said Maggie Lancaster, the museum’s CEO. ‘We’re going to come to you and provide this wonderful open-ended play where you are.’

‘There are so many barriers for our kids in these neighborhoods to get to the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum that we’re not going to just stay inside our four walls anymore,” said Maggie Lancaster, the museum’s CEO. ‘We’re going to come to you and provide this wonderful open-ended play where you are.’

The children at each of the four sites eat breakfast and brush their teeth each morning and get lunch before they go home. In between, they enjoy about an hour-and-a-half of indoor exploration – building things out of magnetic tiles, for example, or making bead necklaces or figuring out how the sewing machine works. They also get about an hour of outdoor exploration.

In other words, they learn through play – even if they don’t realize that they’re learning.

“When they play with bubbles, when they play with Legos, when they play with slime, that open-ended play is a critical part of brain development,” said Maggie Lancaster, CEO of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. “That’s where we come in. If you go into our museum you’ll never see signs. There’s no way that we’re ever going to tell anybody how to play with something or where to go or what to do. It has to be child-led. GRPS has provided that opportunity in this summer program as well.”

PPTK is a free program that began two summers ago with 25 children and now involves 205 children at four GRPS schools – Buchanan, Kent Hills, Martin Luther King and Sibley. Partners plan to expand the program even more in 2020.

Grand Rapids Children's Museum PPTKMany families can’t afford preschool, so PPTK fills the gap by exposing them to play-based learning in a structured environment with a high adult-to-child ratio. Having a safe space with the opportunity for open-ended play helps the children build confidence and a sense of autonomy, said Lauren Greer, director of education for the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.

“The best parts are the tiny stories that come out of each day, where maybe one child who isn’t very verbal one day had a lot to stay about something, or some child has a breakthrough and discovers that they love painting and they paint all day,” Greer said.

“That’s how you know this is really valuable. The space that we’re providing these children for their social and emotional growth is most important.”

The growth of the program alone is evidence that parents find value in PPTK. But the program also is proving to be successful at preparing kids for kindergarten. By the end of the summer, 90 percent of parents feel that their children are ready for school, said Yazeed Moore, program officer with the Kellogg Foundation.

Plus, each child in PPTK gets a free Grand Rapids Children’s Museum membership for a year so they can experience even more open-ended play.

The bottom line is that through play, more children are having fun and getting ready to hit the ground running on their first day of kindergarten – which is critical to their chances of long-term academic success.

“Kindergarten readiness is so critical,” said Kate Lara, GRPS director of early childhood. “To be able to learn the academic skills of kindergarten, you need to have those social skills as your basis first. Right now (through PPTK), they’re learning how school works. GRCM PPTKThey’re learning that it’s a safe space. They’re learning that there’s expectations and that they can follow those expectations. They’re learning what a classroom is, how to function in school and how to function with their peers.

“We’re going to have 205 kids who are much more ready for kindergarten than they sure would have been without this program.”

Hockeytown moves north in September as Michigan hosts world’s best young players

Lake Trust CU

Two months ago, Alex Pietrangelo captained the St. Louis Blues to their first-ever Stanley Cup title and scored the series-clinching goal in a winner-take-all Game 7. Nine years before reaching the pinnacle of professional hockey, he was skating at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City.


Prospect Tournament Logo

Long one of the top defensemen in the National Hockey League, Pietrangelo is one of many players who competed in the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City and then went on to All-Star careers. The annual event returns to Centre Ice Arena in September with another batch of the world’s best hockey prospects. The 16-game tournament Sept. 6-10 offers a glimpse of the future for the Detroit Red Wings and seven other NHL teams.


Who knows which prospects might follow in Pietrangelo’s steps and soon hoist the Stanley Cup?


“The NHL Prospect Tournament is some of the best hockey played for a minor cost of $10 a day,” said Tom Rodes, tournament director. “Top-end talent and future stars headline rosters every year.


“Additionally, many former NHL stars are now managing, scouting or coaching some of the teams, so you could bump into (Red Wings’ brass including new General Manager) Steve Yzerman, (assistant general manager) Pat Verbeek, (director of scouting) Kris Draper or (director of player evaluation) Jiri Fischer.”


In fact, ticket sales for this year’s tournament are going faster then ever, and “we’re thinking it

Stanley Cup champion Alex Pietrangelo (left) has tussled with the Detroit Red Wings for years, going all the way back to the 2010 NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City.

Stanley Cup champion Alex Pietrangelo (left) has tussled with the Detroit Red Wings for years, going all the way back to the 2010 NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City.

has something to do with returning Red Wings ‘Captain’ and now General Manager Steve Yzerman,” Rodes said.


The Red Wings started the NHL Prospect Tournament in 1998, the year after the team started holding its pre-season training camp at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City. The tournament gives team management and scouts the chance to evaluate prospects before the season, and it’s a great opportunity for fans to find new favorite players for the future.


The NHL Prospect Tournament was the first of its kind and remains the largest with eight NHL teams participating including the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and the Red Wings.


As host of the NHL’s largest prospect tournament, Traverse City has become the gateway to the NHL for many of the game’s best players. In fact, more than 600 NHL Prospect Tournament alumni have played or are currently playing in the NHL including current Red Wings Dylan Larkin and Jimmy Howard.


Detroit Red Wings goalkeeper Jimmy Howard is one of more than 600 current and former NHL players who participated in the NHL Prospect Tournament at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City.

Detroit Red Wings goalkeeper Jimmy Howard is one of more than 600 current and former NHL players who participated in the NHL Prospect Tournament at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City.

The eight teams in the NHL Prospect Tournament consist of drafted players from the Canadian junior leagues, European players and players with up to a year of minor-league experience such as Filip Larsson, who is slated to play goalkeeper this year for the Grand Rapids Griffins in the American Hockey League. Three of the top six players picked in this summer’s NHL Draft are expected to participate including Kaapo Kakko, Kirby Dach and the Red Wings’ own Moritz Seider. Top Red Wings’ draft picks in 2018, Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno, as well as current Red Wings Ryan Kuffner and Taro Hirose also are likely to suit up.


The eight teams each play four games in a round-robin format that concludes with a championship game at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 10. Red Wings games are scheduled at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, and at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9. The Red Wings also will play on Tuesday, Sept. 10, at a time to be determined.


“The hometown Red Wings draw a full house every time they play and the championship game at the end of the tournament is also typically jam packed,” Rodes said.


Tickets are available for $10 per day and include all four games scheduled that day. Evening and weekend games tend to attract the largest crowds.  Undated general admission, not game Traverse City Training Camp logospecific.


After the NHL Prospect Tournament, the full Red Wings team will gather at Centre Ice Arena for the annual Red Wings Training Camp with practices and games Sept. 13-16. Ticket prices range from $10 to $35 with games scheduled at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, and noon Sunday, Sept. 15.


While in town for the NHL Prospect Tournament or the Red Wings Training Camp, you’ll have a great opportunity to enjoy a last blast of summer or a first taste of fall in beautiful Traverse City. Starting in September, you can get Fab Fall Packages in Traverse City with deals on places to stay as well as discounts on dining, shopping, wineries, spas and more.


RELATED: 11 Awesome Michigan Things to Put on Your Fall To-Do List

Project 1 by ArtPrize: A complete guide on what to know before the public art exhibit debuts

Project 1 logo

As the artistic director for ArtPrize, Kevin Buist didn’t know what to expect 10 years ago when the public art exhibition with the world’s largest financial prize debuted in Grand Rapids.

Buist is in similar unknown territory this fall with the launch of Project 1 by ArtPrize.

The organization’s new vision of an interactive art exhibition is carefully curated with five intentionally selected artists who will launch the concept with their work at three sites in and near the city’s downtown.

“Project 1 flips ArtPrize on its head,” Buist said recently. “We’re taking our resources and investing them in a smaller number of commissioned pieces with no competition. ArtPrize was very experimental, and it became, and will continue to be, a great success.

“For Project 1, we had to be willing to make a shift to breathe new life into the community and ask new questions. The artists are crafting massive public and interactive pieces that couldn’t exist in a competition format. It’s an exciting step in continuing to make Grand Rapids the pre-eminent location for remarkable art in the fall.”

And Buist has no doubt that will be the case. The experience will be different, but it will be just as memorable for visitors, he believes.

“These are going to be big, beautiful projects that people will want to explore. They’ll want to photograph them,” Buist said. “This is serious art that has a ‘Gee, Whiz,’ factor. There’s still going to be a huge art exhibit, and I think people will understand and appreciate the change after they witness it.”

The evolution to a biennial structure, ArtPrize will return in 2020, also allowed the ArtPrize team to deepen the significance of art by creating a theme that serves as an inspiration for the pieces while also examining critical issues. Project 1 selected “Crossed Lines” to look at how boundaries, both visible and invisible, affect a sense of belonging that can unite or divide the city.

“Art can deal with difficult topics and reveal histories that are uncomfortable or contemporary practices that may not be widely known,” Buist said. “This is not prescriptive or didactic. We’re not looking for a particular outcome. Art is open to interpretation, and ultimately, we hope to expand people’s views about life and empower them to think critically.”

When is Project 1 being held?

The first Project 1 will run from Sept. 7 to Oct. 27, a much longer event than ArtPrize, which typically lasts about two weeks. Project 1 will still be a self-guided exploration, but there will be more event-based performances and programming around artists’ installations. The plan is to kickoff the opening weekend with a burst of activity at each site and then highlight one particular location per weekend in a rotation.

Where will the art be located?

There are three primary sites:

  • Downtown Grand Rapids, which will feature a walkable experience with installations by four of the five commissioned artists. Exact locations of the art will be revealed shortly before the opening of Project 1.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Southeast Grand Rapids, where one artist will locate a piece that visitors can walk and climb on, as well as venture inside. The piece will also be a stage for local music, dance and spoken word. Another artist will use the park’s community lodge as a centerpiece.
  • Tanglefoot is a former flypaper manufacturing campus that is now home to urban artist studios, on the city’s near Southwest side. Here artists will build spaces for use by other artists and encourage audiences and performers to occupy a courtyard space at 314 Straight St. SW.


The artists and their Project 1 plans:

Amanda BrowderAmanda Browder: Browder creates large-scale, vibrant fabric installations and transforms building exteriors into multi-colored sculptures. The largest and most ambitious section of Kaleidoscopic will be draped over the exterior of a community center building in Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Southeast Grand Rapids. Browder will also wrap four skywalks which link buildings in the heart of downtown. The final section will cover the facade of a building at the Tanglefoot site on the southwest side of the city.

Heather Hart

Heather Hart: Hart creates submerged rooftops, complete with shingles and dormer windows, that look like they were dropped from the sky. The rooftops refer to home, stability or shelter. Hart speaks about the rooftops as thresholds between public and private space. Combined with family and oral histories, and activated by performance, her work explores the power these thresholds have in our lives. Hart will create The Oracle of the Soulmates — twin rooftop sculptures, one in the center of Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids, the other on the lawn in MLK Park. Climb on the rooftops and venture inside the attics.


O Jeyifous

Olalekan Jeyifous: Jeyifous’ work in public art and installation explores the past and potential futures of urban environments. He will create The Boom and the Bust — a sculpture referencing the historic and contemporary challenges of housing discrimination and the inequities of urban life. This abstracted multi-story building form will rise 25-feet from the ground at the corner of Louis Street and Monroe Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids. The sculpture arises from the artist’s research into the recent history of housing in Grand Rapids. By combining references to skyscrapers and single-family houses, it juxtaposes massive downtown development alongside foreclosure and displacement.

Amenta Lott

Paul Amenta and Ted Lott: Amenta and Lott, known for their history of wide-ranging collaborative artistic productions with SiTE:LAB, will present Critical Infrastructure — a site-specific architectural intervention at the landmarkTanglefoot Building. In collaboration with DisArt, an arts and culture organization that focuses on creating public art events that cultivate and communicate a disabled culture, the intervention will create an environment that addresses issues of accessibility in both form and function. The project will reimagine the site by temporarily transforming a private space into a fully accessible public space, through a series of ramps and landings which welcome visitors and a wide variety of performances and interventions by other artists.

Lozano Hemmer

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Lozano-Hemmer develops interactive installations that live at the intersection of architecture and performance art. He will create a new site-specific installation called Voice Bridge. Along the handrails of Grand Rapids’ iconic Blue Bridge — a pedestrian bridge which connects the East and West sides ofdowntown over the Grand River — you’ll find speakers and 400 lights that shine on the footpath of the bridge. You’ll control the intensity of each light by speaking into the intercoms at each end of the bridge and recording a message. Once recorded, your message will play back as a loop — jumping from speaker to speaker across the bridge as more messages are recorded.


What is the expectation?

Project 1 leaders believe the installation sites will have contrasting experiences, ephemeral but enduring. Visiting while the location is activated with planned performances will be different than when guests return and challenge themselves to see the art in another light.

“There will be moments that if you miss them, you’ll miss them and the interactivity can’t be recreated,” Buist said. “We think that will draw audiences and excite and inspire the visitors to gather together. And then people will want to go and get another unique look at the installations.

“People will be surprised and challenged and engaged, but, yeah, it’s a bit of an unknown right now. That’s a fine place for us to be in because we want to see the reaction to something that, again, is totally new.”

Learn more about Project 1 by visiting the art exhibition’s website.

The HAP Crim Festival of Races: ‘It’s a celebration’ that will change the way you look at Flint

As the race director for the Crim Festival of Races, Andy Younger witnesses the excitement of runners crossing the finish line and the incredible spirit of the community supporters, but every year there are moments that provide waves of satisfaction that have little to do with running.

“Without fail, every year, I hear people say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that Flint was this nice,’” Younger said. “And that’s what the Crim is really about. It’s not just a race, it’s a celebration that shows off the best of Flint and changes the way people look at our city.

“Flint is roaring back and people may not realize all of the positive things that are happening downtown. Restaurants are thriving and new ones are opening all the time. Businesses are succeeding, and we’re growing by leaps and bounds. It’s completely different from what people picture.”

The 43rd annual Crim races and surrounding community events are set to highlight Flint on Aug. 23-24. In addition to the 10-mile, 5-mile and 5K races on Saturday, Aug. 24, the city will host the Michigan Mile and a free “Rock the Block Crimstock,” concert on the evening of Aug. 23. The post-race celebration will feature more live music and a festive atmosphere.

Each year the Crim welcomes up to 15,000 runners and as many as 50,000 spectators. It is among the five largest 10-mile races in the U.S. and attracts many of the country’s top runners, including an appearance by Parker Stinson this year. Stinson holds the American record in the 25K, and it’s possible he’ll challenge the 1983 U.S. 10-mile record held by Michigan native Greg Meyer.

The 10-mile race began in August 1977 by Michigan House Speaker Bobby Crim, and the ensuing years have seen it develop into an institution in Michigan running circles. The Crim Fitness Foundation, which organizes race day, focuses its year-round efforts on improving the community’s health and quality of life.

“The entire weekend totally transforms downtown,” Younger said. “There are just people everywhere and you can feel the energy of the city and the shared experience that people are feeding off.”

The race courses wind through Flint’s downtown, with the signature 10-mile event taking runners through the scenic University of Michigan-Flint campus and toward Kettering University, one of the best engineering schools in the country. Each university is involved in the race and in a deep commitment to the community, Younger said.

Participants will then head through the Mott Park neighborhood, a region of the city marked by green space and public parks, before hitting the storied “Bradley Hills,” Flint’s version of the Boston Marathon’s Heartbreak Hill.

“The Bradley Hills are a nice feature that make the Crim challenging for runners of all abilities,” Younger said. “It’s kind of that midway point, and once you’re done, you know you’re on your way in to the finish.”

Next comes the city’s southwest side and a visit to the Woodcroft Estates subdivision, where historic homes feature a look at Flint’s past in the structures that date to the 1920s. The neighborhood, Younger said, generally hosts the greatest concentration of race support outside of downtown.

“It’s legendary what they do out there for the runners and there’s never a dull moment,” Younger said. “There are crowds of people and bands and ‘unofficial aid stations’ handing out all sorts of refreshments to keep people going. There are a lot of good distractions in Woodcroft, and the residents really get into it.”

The final mile of the Crim leads runners through the American Mile, where veterans, active military and their supporters cheer and distribute hand-held flags to participants. It’s a show of national pride and spirit, and a way for people to give back to each other, Younger said.

“It’s that final extra burst of energy, and it’s cool,” he said. “It gives runners a chance to show their appreciation to the armed forces, and it’s a fun thing for them to do for the community.”

Visit the Crim website to learn more and register for your next race.


How to spend a Michigan’s Best Day in Ludington

Our MLive video series “Michigan’s Best Day In” shows you how to eat and drink your way across some of Michigan’s coolest towns. Our newest video features the beautiful city of Ludington, located on the shores of Lake Michigan.  A year-round destination, the city really shines during the summer, when the powder sand beaches are busy, the lake sparkles in the sun, and downtown is bustling.

So far, we’ve visited Grand HavenJacksonDearbornOwossoBay CityGrand Rapids Westside, and Petoskey.

Our Michigan’s Best team of Amy Sherman and John Gonzalez, along with the MLive video team, are excited to introduce you to all that Ludington has to offer.

Special thanks to our sponsor, Pure Ludington, for supporting this project.


Michigan’s Best Day in Ludington

Start your day in Ludington off right, by fueling up with a big breakfast. We headed to Brenda’s Harbor Cafe, a favorite of both locals and tourists, with traditional offerings all served up in a nautical-themed space.

The Eggs Benedict is one of the most popular breakfasts, and features toasted English muffins topped with savory, shaved ham and poached eggs blanketed with creamy, lemony hollandaise sauce.

We also enjoyed the thin and delicate Swedish pancakes that come topped with butter and a bright lingonberry jam.


The diner also serves lunch, and is open until 2 p.m. daily. Owners Brenda and Mark Cole bought the business in 2008.

Brenda’s Harbor Cafe | 316 S. James St., Ludington, Michigan 49431
(231) 845-7434


Probably the number-one reason why you need to visit Ludington? It has some of the best beaches in the state, if not the country.

Nestled on the shores of gorgeous Lake Michigan, the city has plenty of powder sand beaches to choose from, with over 28 miles of shoreline to explore.

Ludington State Park is one of the most popular state parks in Michigan, and once you visit, you’ll understand why. With 5,300 acres of dunes, trails, beaches, forests and marshes to enjoy, the park is one of Michigan’s best. Lake Michigan beckons on one side, and Hamlin Lake on the other. The park has over 360 modern campsites to rent at three different locations: PinesCedar and Beechwood campgrounds.

You can take a short, 1.5 mile hike to check out Big Sable Point Lighthouse, which is open for tours from May to October.

Kayak or canoe, hike or bike, swim or lounge. Ludington State Park has it all.

Ludington State Park | 8800 W. M-116, Ludington MI, 49431

(231) 843-2423

Other beaches in the area:

Sterns Park Beach | North Lakeshore Drive, Ludington, Michigan 49431
(231) 845-6237

Summit Park Beach | 5528 S. Lakeshore Drive, Ludington, MI 49431


One of the coolest things to do in the area is to visit the Amber Elk Ranch. Located just minutes from downtown, it’s one of the coolest things to do anywhere.

Owner Bob Northrup took his passion for elk up to a whole different level when he opened up the ranch. He has 130 acres where he raises elk for breeding stock, antlers, meat and community education.

When you arrive, head over to the cabin to purchase tickets for the wagon ride. Then hop on in, and get ready for an up close and personal elk experience. The tractor chugs you out onto the ranch, with one of the ranch hands hopping out every so often to unlock and then lock the various gates you’ll travel through. Your driver will share all sorts of interesting elk facts as you head out to the large “pens” where the elk reside, separated by age and gender.

Once in the pens, there are buckets of grain to feed the elk. And this is where it gets really good. You don’t just throw some grain out on the ground, you hold your hand out flat and low from the wagon and the elk come and EAT RIGHT OUT OF YOUR HAND. It is incredible to have a giant (and some of the bull elks are huge) animal that close. I screamed in both fear and delight as the first elk came up and kind of swallowed my hand with its rough tongue licking up all the grain. The elk also like it when you scratch their heads, right between the antlers, and they’ll gaze up at you with big brown eyes. Gently touch the velvet on their sensitive antlers. It’s pretty much the softest thing you’ll ever feel.

The female elk are a little more aggressive with the food, so be sure to keep the buckets in the center of the wagon, and keep your hand flat when feeding them. The baby elk are shy, and usually won’t come up to the wagon, but they are adorable at a distance.

The trip typically takes about an hour. Afterward, you can check out all the antlers piled up around the ranch, and visit the small petting zoo on the property.

Amber Elk Ranch | 2688 W Conrad Road, Ludington, Michigan 49431
(231) 843-5355

Tour Rates:

  • Adults: $12.00
  • Children ages 2 to 12: $8.00
  • Seniors: $10
  • Children under age 2: Free.
  • Group rates available. Please inquire.


When you are this close to all this water, you really better try some fresh fish. In Ludington, you can head on out on one of the many charter boats that provide incredible fishing experiences on Lake Michigan, and catch your meal yourself.

Ludington is considered the number-one salmon fishing port in Michigan, with record-class catches of salmon and trout. There are over 45 professional fishing charter captains in the area to choose from.

You can see a complete listing of charter boats here.


Not into fishing? No big deal, you can enjoy some fresh fish at a variety of restaurants around town.

For something unique and completely delicious, head to Bortell’s Fisheries, just south of downtown. The Bortell family has been serving up their fresh, fried and smoked fish for over 120 years. They still use the original recipes and techniques that have been passed down through six generations. The fish here is ultra-fresh, and if fried, gets a nice thin, crispy coating. This is a no-frills place. You place your order, and then grab and go. There are picnic tables outside where you can eat. Cash only.

Bortell’s Fisheries | 5510 S Lakeshore Drive, Ludington, Michigan 49431
(231) 843-3337


Prefer to a sit down place? Here are a few other spots with great fish.

Scotty’s | 5910 W U.S. 10, Ludington, Michigan 49431
(231) 843-4033

Old Hamlin | 122 W Ludington Ave., Ludington, Michigan 49431-2022
(231) 843-4251

Stix Bar | 1963 N Lakeshore Drive, Ludington, Michigan 49431-9383
(231) 845-8181

Jamesport Brewing Company | 410 S James St., Ludington, Michigan 49431
(231) 845-2522


The Port of Ludington Maritime Museum is chock full of history, artifacts, photos and some amazing interactive exhibits all focused on the region’s maritime history. It’s the perfect stop for a little education, and for a break from all the sun (or rain, if that’s the case).

Located right on the water in a former U.S. Coast Guard Station, overlooking the North Pier Light and the S.S. Badger car ferry, the museum has three floors to explore.

On the main floor, learn about the history of the area, with scale models of boats and nautical artifacts telling the stories of the steamers and ferries that have plied the waters through the years. There is a mini lighthouse to climb, and an exhibit on how the lighthouses of yore worked. Head upstairs for a super sweet interactive exhibit where you get to captain a ferry into Ludington port, complete with a welcoming whistle pull. More photos showing the history of Ludington are on the third floor.

Port of Ludington Maritime Museum | 217 S. Lakeshore Drive, Ludington, Michigan 49431
(231) 843-4808



10:00 am – 5:00 pm; Last ticket sales at 4:30 pm

Open Tuesday – Saturday, April 16th – May 25th

Closed Memorial Day

Open Sunday – Saturday, May 26th – September 1st

Open Tuesday – Saturday September 2nd – October 19th

Open Saturdays, October 26th, November 2nd and 9th


General Admission Cost

Seniors: $11.50

Adults: $12.50

Children: $10.00 (6 – 17 years of age)

Under 5: Free


Visit both The Port of Ludington Maritime Museum and Historic White Pine Village with dual ticketing: Two Museums for one great price!

Senior: $18.50

Adult: $20.00

Child (6-17): $14.50

Under 5: Free


Downtown Ludington is full of shops to explore, from art galleries to surf shops. Gordy’s is a T-shirt and skate shop located right downtown, and is a great place to pick up some custom apparel to let the world know you visited Ludington.

The store has a heat press on site. Pick out your T-shirt or sweatshirt, then select from a variety of logos and designs on the wall. The helpful (and fast!) staff will then press your shirt right before your eyes. It’s a cool spot to create a unique memento of your trip.

Gordy’s | 104 W Ludington Ave., Ludington, Michigan 49431
(231) 845-9100


A hot summer day in Ludington calls for an ice cream, and there is no better place to go than the very popular, very busy, and very delicious House of Flavors.

The Neal family has been making ice cream for almost 80 years in Ludington, and with their production facility next door, churn up almost 25 million gallons of ice cream every year. They are the largest producer of ice cream in Michigan.

At the restaurant, you can stroll on in and select from a rotating list of about 30 flavors every day. Have it stacked up in a homemade waffle cone, or get it whipped into a shake or a malt. If you are really hungry for ice cream, get one of their “Pig Dinners” that come in various sizes and are served in a trough. Finish one and you’ll get a collectable Pig Pin.

Don’t let the long line deter you. The scoopers here are fast, and it moves quickly. Plus, part of the fun is trying to decide what flavor to get.

House of Flavors is a summer tradition for many Ludington visitors, with families returning year after year to this fun, retro spot, for good old-fashioned fun.

House of Flavors | 402 W Ludington Ave., Ludington, MI 49431

(231) 845-5785

We also would be remiss if we didn’t mention the fabulous rotisserie turkey they roast every single day at House of Flavors. Moist and succulent, the turkey gets served up as Thanksgiving dinner, and hot sandwiches drenched in homemade gravy and nuzzled up next to homemade mashed potatoes.

It’s fantastic, and somewhat unexpected. Pro tip: the hot turkey sandwich can be ordered for breakfast.


A great spot to stop for a drink is The Mitten Bar, located right downtown. The bar, opened by husband and wife team of Brian and Megan Josefowicz in 2011, features all (and only) Michigan-made goods. The couple wanted to create a community gathering place for both locals and tourists alike. It’s a super-friendly place, and the staff will make you feel welcome right away. Many nights, there is live music performed on the small stage in the back.

Craft beer, wine and spirits from Michigan are featured, along with 12 draft lines. The only pop available is Faygo, and it’s really all you need.

The Mitten Bar | 109 W Ludington Ave., Ludington, Michigan 49431
(231) 843-7616


The best way to end the day is to head to the beach for the sunset. You won’t be the only one. It’s kind of the greatest show in town, every single night.  There really isn’t a bad spot to watch from, and you can even head on out onto the pier.

Some of the most popular spots to catch the sunset are  Ludington’s North Breakwater Light Pier, or from the beach at Stearns Park or Ludington State Park.

Get sunset times here.


We hope that you enjoy your Michigan’s Best Day in Ludington.



Want to know what’s happening behind the scenes? We are always posting videos, photos and more on our Social Media channels.

Here’s how to find us:

@mlivemibest on Twitter

@mlivemibest on Instagram

Also, be sure to follow our new MI Best Facebook Page, which you can check out here.

We use the hashtags #mibest. If you’ve tried a Michigan’s Best pick, let us know at #ItriedMiBest

In addition:

Amy Sherman is on Twitter @amyonthetrail, as well as Facebook and Instagram @amyonthetrail.

John Gonzalez is on Twitter @michigangonzo, as well as Facebook and Instagram @MichiganGonzo.

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