Social Distancing – Saugatuck/Douglas Style

We in Saugatuck/Douglas take pride in our community as a one-of-a-kind place for respite, and we want nothing more than for our wonderful visitors and local residents to remain healthy and happy during these challenging times. As our community continues to follow CDC guidelines for social distancing, we’re loving how locals (and visitors, too) are still enjoying our communities in a safe and healthy way. Check them out, follow along and maybe even use these ideas to plan your visit when the right time comes!

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9za0jZAbC9/?utm_source=ig_embed

Our area is home to many hiking trails that are enjoyed year-round. Although the CDC recommends social distancing and self-quarantining, there are no restrictions on getting outside and going for a brisk hike like the folks at Hidden Garden Cottages have! They chose to explore Oval Beach and the dune trails surrounding it, but you could also explore any one of our local favorites:

Experience our Culinary Scene in a New Way

Everyone has to eat – why not eat out and support local businesses? The state government has recommended that all restaurants cease offering dine-in services to help prevent the spread of the virus, but restaurants are able to offer takeout! Click here to download a list of area restaurants who offer takeout.  

While takeout food is a blessing in times like these, it can still be difficult for those who crave the company of friends. Many business owners in our tight-knit community know this well and have created “virtual happy hours,” allowing our Saugatuck/Douglas friends to catch up and stay in touch during these unusual times.

Enjoy Local Talent – Virtually!

A big part of our community and nightlife is live music. During the summer you can find live music every night in our region! During the Fall, Winter and Spring, residents love to kick back and enjoy music from local talent. Rather than not performing, our local musicians like Nathan Holley and May Erlewine, feel that the show must go on! They’re offering online concerts via outlets like Facebook live to keep our music-loving community connected.

The COVID-19 virus is serious business, but you can still be safe and healthy and still enjoy the Saugatuck/Douglas community! We at the Saugatuck/Douglas Convention & Visitors Bureau are closely monitoring the rapidly evolving situation around Coronavirus (COVID-19) and are committed to providing all guests with a safe and relaxing visit – click here for our official statement regarding the virus, which is updated frequently for accuracy.

Valentine’s Weekend in Saugatuck/Douglas

Romance is everywhere in Saugatuck/Douglas year-round, but especially so during Valentine’s Day. Lovebirds have made the Art Coast of Michigan their destination for honeymoonsanniversary trips and romantic getaways for years; in fact, we’ve been dubbed one of the five best mini-moon spots in the state of Michigan!

The town’s trendy art galleries, romantic lodging options, acclaimed dining and unique shopping – nestled along the Lake Michigan shoreline and defined by natural landmarks like the Kalamazoo River and Saugatuck Dunes State Park – create the perfect setting for outdoor enthusiasts and city-dwellers alike.

This Valentine’s Day, treat your special someone to a romantic trip to the Art Coast of Michigan, anchored by these holiday happenings.

Valentine’s Day Dinners in Saugatuck/Douglas

Say “I Love You” at the Belvedere Inn & Restaurant, February 14 & 15, 2020

Nothing says, “I love you,” like a fine dining experience at the Belvedere Inn & Restaurant; and Chef Shaun Glynn and his staff know how to create just that. Learn more

Cost: $75 per adult. Reservations Required

Valentine’s Dinner on the Italian Coast at Coast 236, February 14, 2020

Enjoy an Italian-inspired, three course l prix fixe menu at coastal inspired restaurant, Coast 236 in downtown Saugatuck.

Cost: $48 per adult. Reservations Requested

Valentine’s Dinner at The Loft at Borrowed Time, February 14, 2020

Enjoy an intimate 3-course dining experience with a birds-eye view of the restaurant from Borrowed Time’s loft.

Cost: $35 per adult. Reservations Requested

Winter Dinner in Eastern Europe at GROW, February 14, 15 & 16, 2020

Escape to Eastern Europe without the plane ticket at this pop-up dinner at GROW in Downtown Saugatuck featuring five courses, five bubbles and five toasts. Learn More

Cost: $75 per adult. Reservations Required

Valentine’s Day Dessert Plate & Coffee Pairing at Uncommon Coffee Roasters, February 14, 2020

After dinner out, enjoy a special Valentine’s Dessert for two, featuring a flour-less chocolate cake for two topped with espresso ganache, fresh berries and whipped cream. This shareable plate comes with two pour-over coffees using Uncommon’s favorite Love Wins Blend.

Cost: $10 per couple

Valentine’s Weekend Wine, Cider and Beer Experiences

Vino-tines at Fenn Valley Vineyards, February 15 & 16, 2020

Enjoy sparkling and still wines, cheese and chocolate, expertly paired by the staff at Fenn Valley Vineyards. Guests also receive a souvenir sparkling wine flute, chocolates and a rose for your valentine. Learn More

Cost $50 per couple

Galentine’s Day Beer Pairing, February 13, 2020

This event is part education, part decadence. Learn from instructor, Kim Collins, about pairing and Guardian beer. Three cheeses and three chocolates paired with six unique beers. Kim Collins is a Certified Cicerone, owner and head brewer of Guardian Brewing Company. Learn More

Cost: $25 per adult

Brew Your Own Beer at Saugatuck Brewing Company (by appointment only)

Base fee includes your personal instruction, brewing equipment and base ingredients up to (71) twenty-two-ounce bottles of your crafted brew. You may design your own label for an additional cost of $35 (must include government warning). Price includes beer sampling as well. Learn More

Cost: $275-$300 per couple

5th Annual Wassail at Virtue Cider, February 15, 2020. Noon – 8 p.m.

Head to Virtue Cider for horse-drawn sleigh rides, live ice sculpting, snowshoe tours, cider, traditional English fare, live music and a processional through the apple orchards to bless the trees for the coming harvest. Learn More

Cost: Entrance is free. Food, cider, sleigh rides and Chicago bus shuttle sold separately.

Make it a Weekend: Other Happenings and Activities During Valentine’s weekend

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound, February 13, 2020

Screening at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts at 7 PM. Directed by veteran Hollywood sound editor Midge Costin, the film reveals the hidden power of sound in cinema, introduces us to the unsung heroes who create it, and features insights from legendary directors with whom they collaborate. Learn More

Cost: $12 per adult

Winter Gallery Stroll, February 15, 2020

Get away with your special someone for the evening and tour area art galleries, each open with specials and entertainment. Learn More

Cost: Free!

Joshua Davis Performs Live at Salt of the Earth, February 16, 2020

Come see singer/songwriter extraordinaire, Joshua Davis perform at Salt of the Earth in Fennville on Sunday, February 16. Enjoy a delicious, special Valentine’s Weekend dinner and drink menu during the show. Learn More

Cost: $20 for concert tickets in advance, $25 day of. Dinner and drinks sold separately. Reservations requested.

Book Your Valentine’s Getaway in Saugatuck/Douglas Today!

From romantic Bed and Breakfasts to sleek boutique hotels and everything in between, there’s a place for everyone in Saugatuck/Douglas. Click here for special Valentine’s weekend deals and rates! Learn More.

Saugatuck Named One of the 25 Greatest Beach Towns in America

What do you see when you envision the perfect beach? For us, it’s pretty hard to beat Oval – the largest beach in Saugatuck/Douglas. Although our beaches are a beloved part of our community, our year-round attractions, local character, food scene and charm factor, all distinguished Saugatuck/Douglas from the rest when Thrillist Travel chose the “25 Greatest Beach Towns in America.”

Thrillist Travel described Saugatuck/Douglas as summertime hotspot for travelers with unique lodging options, a thriving arts and food scene and a popular retreat for LGBT travelers. Thrillist Travel says:

“Saugatuck is to western Michigan what Provincetown is to Cape Cod. It is thoroughly a tourist’s beach town – invaded in the summer, but its character is also impeccably maintained.”

Thrillist Travel hit the hotspots when it comes to food – mentioning coffee from Uncommon Coffee Roasters, Saugatuck Brewing Company, The Southerner and the newly-opened New Holland Spirits Tasting Room. Of course, Thrillist Travel listed Oval Beach and Mount Baldhead as a must-visit.

From our beaches, trails and waterways to our restaurants, shops and lodging options, Saugatuck/Douglas in summertime is truly hard to beat – come see for yourself! Plan your beach town retreat to Saugatuck/Douglas today at Saugatuck.com/stay.

Click here to read the full Thrillist Travel article.

Top 5 Autumn Activities in Saugatuck/Douglas

There’s lots to do in Saugatuck/Douglas all year round, but fall is an especially special time to visit. From traditional autumn activities like apple picking and color tours to more creative ones like gallery walks and beverage tours – spending time in Saugatuck/Douglas in the fall is an experience you’re sure to enjoy.

1. Fall Color Tour – Saugatuck Style

Taking a drive to see the fall colors is a popular Michigander tradition, but in Saugatuck/Douglas, we do color tours a little differently than the rest of the state. One of the most popular ways to see the colors around here is on the water. The Star of Saugatuck offers rides along the Kalamazoo River and into Lake Michigan, giving guests a view of the Saugatuck/Douglas colors that you can’t see from land.

For the active color-seekers, Saugatuck/Douglas offers many opportunities to experience the magic of a Michigan fall. Hiking through the 13 miles of Saugatuck Dunes State Park that lead into acres of rolling dunes is an amazing way to see the colors and get some exercise. For a more romantic color tour, try walking our world-renown Oval Beach for a view of the colors along the lake shore. Finally, what’s more refreshing than a fall bike ride through the colors? Ride along the 11-mile bike route that stretches from Saugatuck to Holland along the side of 62nd Street, 138th Avenue, 64th Street and Blue Star Highway.

2. Apple Picking/Cider Drinking

If you’re from the Midwest, you know that a visit to the local apple orchard is a must. Here in the Saugatuck/Douglas area, we live among a 30 mile stretch that is considered Michigan’s “Fruit Belt,” where apples and pumpkins are plentiful in the fall.

At Crane Orchards, getting the chance to pick your own fruit (u-pick) is only one of the fun fall outdoor activities to take part in. Their 20-acre corn maze is fun for the entire family, as well as a tour of the Crane farm, orchards and woods on a tractor driven hayride, or a cow train for the kids to enjoy. The Saugatuck Center for the Arts also hosts a farmer’s market every Friday, which sells local produce and goods through the end of September, a great place to get local apples or cider!

3. Experience the Arts

The arts are woven into the fabric of the Saugatuck/Douglas community and can be found at every turn throughout the entire year, but the autumn season is always accompanied by annual community arts events that shouldn’t be overlooked!

If you like live music, the Saugatuck/Douglas area is a year-round haven for local musicians, but during the fall months, venues like Salt of the Earth, Fenn Valley Vineyards, Crane’s Pie Pantry & Restaurant, Borrowed Time, and Saugatuck Center for the Arts host local, regional and nationally known musicians.

For live performance, theater, video and community arts events, the Saugatuck Center for the Arts is a venue that is known for bringing in Broadway level productions and nationally known live music. This year, you’ll find shows like A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, running from  August 16 – September 1.

If you’re a fan of visual art, galleries across Douglas and Saugatuck will be open for viewing, but a few special events make it worth the trip! On October 12, The 42nd Annual Fall Gallery Stroll is a yearly local favorite featuring dozens of galleries, special receptions, live music, drinks, demonstrations and more throughout Saugatuck and Douglas. If you want to see the colors in conjunction with artwork, join the Blue Coast Artists Tour, on October 5 & 6 to visit eight studios that are situated between South Haven, Saugatuck and Fennville.

4. Take a Beverage Tour

The Saugatuck/Douglas/Fennville area is rich with a great collection of wineries, breweries and cideries, all within our community borders. Let the drinks lead the way!

Start your beverage tour in Fennville with a glass of crisp apple cider at Virtue Cider, and then hop across the road to Fenn Valley Vineyards for some classic Michigan wine. While in Fennville, be sure to stop by Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant & Winery for a snack and perhaps more wine. Finally, don’t forget to stop by one of our area’s newest breweries, Waypost Brewing Company!

When heading back to Douglas, Saugatuck Brewing Company is your next stop for some craft beer before heading to Saugatuck to stop at some in-town tasting rooms like Tabor Hill Wine Port, Fenn Valley Tasting Room, Coppercraft Distillery Tasting Room, Crane’s Tasting Room, Ridge Cider Co. Tasting Room, and The Mitten Brewing Company.

5. Festivals/Parades/Special Events

Part of what makes Saugatuck/Douglas the charming, quaint small town that it is, is its unique local events. Below is a list of some of our favorite fall events happening in our region:

Plan your autumn getaway to Saugatuck/Douglas today! Check lodging accommodations and availability at Saugatuck.com/stay.

A History of the Mount Baldhead Radar Tower

Mt. Baldhead Beach

One of the most iconic sights along the Saugatuck shore is the moonlike sphere of the Mount Baldhead radar tower. This Cold War relic dates back to the 1950s, when the escalating arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union had many Americans living in fear of an atomic bomb attack.

In 1949, the US Air Force teamed up with IBM and MIT to create the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, a sophisticated computerized air defense network to watch over our northern border. This system collected data from hundreds of radar monitors across the country,  feeding it into one of the first true computer networks to keep an eye out for Soviet invaders. At the first sign of invasion, SAGE commanders would scramble fighter jets to intercept the threat.

However, because terrain obstructed radar signals along many parts of the border, additional “gap filler” radar towers were needed to create a complete view of low-flying aircraft. When the Air Force asked to lease 0.34 acres on the top of Mount Baldhead for this purpose, the Village of Saugatuck agreed—in exchange for the Air Force rebuilding the worn wooden steps to the top and planting vegetation to stabilize the dune.

Construction on the unmanned station began in 1956. Once complete, it featured a Bendix AN/ FPS-14 radar tower, supported by two diesel power generators, two motor/generator rotary regulators, a site monitor, and a data transmitter. The original antenna began sending radar data to the 781st Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron in Battle Creek in 1958.

By 1963, technology had taken another leap ahead, so the AN/FPS-14 radar and antenna was deactivated, removed, and replaced with an AN/FPS-18 radar and antenna, protected by the fiberglass dome you see today. However, its role was short-lived. As microprocessors led to faster, more sophisticated monitoring and communication, the SAGE system was eventually phased out.

When the Mount Baldhead radar was permanently deactivated in 1968, the Air Force terminated its lease, selling the building, tower, and radar equipment to the Village of Saugatuck for $250. While no longer operational, the site is still intact, and efforts are underway to add it to Michigan’s Register of Historic Places. And you can see a little piece of history up close, for the price of a little sweat equity. (See below.)

*Thanks to the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center for sharing background information.

Hike the “Ball & Chain”

 While you can see the Mount Baldhead radar tower from many parts of the beach, there’s nothing like climbing up to the top for a close-up view. The trail is open all year, but it’s even more of an adventure in summer with a little trip the locals call the Ball & Chain.

Crank the Chain

Start on the east side of the river in downtown Saugatuck and pay a dollar to board the Saugatuck Chain Ferry, the last working chain-driven ferry in the US. This hand-cranked boat crosses the Kalamazoo River on an underwater cable, providing a convenient shortcut to Mount Baldhead and other west-side attractions like the Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum and Oval Beach.

Climb to the Ball

Walk about .2 miles north from the ferry landing on Park Street, and look for the museum and the long wooden staircase to the peak. (Benches on the landings let you catch a breather if you need it. We won’t judge.) After climbing 300 steps to the top of Mount Baldhead, you’ll come face-to-face with the radar tower and peep over the trees to a enjoy a bird’s eye view of the harbor and town. If you’re up to it, follow the trail down the sand dune to cool off with a dip in the lake. Otherwise, take the stairs back down, wander through the museum, and have lunch after taking the ferry back across to downtown Saugatuck.

(Weather-permitting, the chain ferry runs all day from Memorial Day to Labor Day and costs $1/person each way.)