The water has always been integral to Bay City, Michigan. The city is located among forests and marshlands near the "thumb" of Michigan, where the Saginaw River empties into Lake Huron. The city began as a small trading post for trappers but quickly grew when lumberers arrived and mills were established along the Saginaw River. The ship-building industry thrived from the late-1800s through World War II, and signs of the city's maritime past can still be seen today.
Bay City has a population of 34,000 and is the county seat of Bay County. It is the largest municipality in the county and is a center of shopping, business, government and culture.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
The manufacturing, retail, and services sectors make up nearly three-quarters of all the industry in Bay City. The economy is supported by nationally known companies, such as General Motors, Dow Corning, S.C. Johnson and Dow Brands. Other major employers are Bay Medical Center, Delta College, Monitor Sugar Company and Saginaw Valley University.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
- Downtown: The center of Bay City has been recognized as a "Great American Main Street" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It is a great place to shop for antiques, browse boutiques and stop to grab a bite to eat.
- Center Avenue Historic District: Homes in this district are excellent examples of Second Empire, Italianate, Queen Anne and Romanesque architecture. Many were built by wealthy lumber barons.
- Midland Street Historic District: This neighborhood is known as the entertainment district of Bay City. It is home to shops, restaurants and pubs.
From historic homes to the Saginaw River Rear Range Lighthouse, history buffs will find plenty to see in Bay City. The city's historic cemeteries serve as final resting places for Civil War veterans, and annual events such as the River of Time Living History Encampment and October's Tour of Historic Homes celebrate Bay City's past.
- Bay County Historical Museum: The museum's galleries give a good overview of the maritime history and distinctive heritage of Bay City. The museum is also home to an extensive research library. It is located in a former National Guard Armory that was built in 1910 and is listed on the state and national historic registers.
- City Hall: In the late 1800s, when city hall was built, the leaders of Bay City projected a population of 500,000 people by the year 2000. So they built a grand, ornate city hall that would befit such a large city. The Romanesque building was constructed of buff sandstone and opened in 1897. It was almost torn down and replaced in 1969, but plans were put on hold due to a lack of funds. In 1980, it was completely restored and it is now listed in the National Archives of the Smithsonian as "one of the 10 most outstanding buildings in the United States known for its historic restoration."
- Pere Marquette Depot: This former railroad station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was vacated in 1969 and nearly torn down in 1982. Today it has been restored to its original configuration and is open as a visitor's center.
- Spring Migration Festival happens at Cherri's Feed-n-Seed and Birder's Boutique.
- The Free Fishing Festival is at the Bay City Recreation Area in June.
- The Midland Street Bike Bash features motorcyclists putting on bike shows, tattoo contests, bikini contests and live music, and it all benefits U.S. soldiers still in Iraq.
- The Bay City Air Show is in August at the James Clements Airport.
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Bay City's cultural traditions date back to the days when prominent members of the community would entertain guests in the ballrooms of their Center Avenue mansions. Today an appreciation for the arts lives on in the city's visual- and performing-arts venues.
- The Art & Culture Loop: This series of interpretive kiosks in downtown Bay City gives visitors a brief history about the location where they are standing.
- Bay City Players: Michigan's oldest, continuously operating, community theater group. Actors present musicals, comedies and dramas in five annual productions.
- The Bijou Orchestra: This small orchestra is known for playing a wide range of music. It is composed of musicians selected from local symphonies, opera houses and university faculties.
- Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum: This museum, located in nearby University Center, features more than 200 works by sculptor Marshall Fredericks.
In Bay City, outdoor activities revolve around the water. Bird-watching is a popular activity in places such as Tobico Marsh, a habitat for more than 200 species of birds and waterfowl. Boaters cruise the waters of the Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay every summer. Fishers angle to catch walleye and bass. Ice fishing is a hot activity in the winter months. The city is also home to numerous parks:
- Bay City State Recreation Area, a large park along Saginaw Bay with a campground, picnic areas and swimming beach.
- Carroll Park, an urban park in the Center Avenue Historic District that was designed by famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead.
- Pinconning Park is located in the nearby city of Pinconning and set in a 206-acre forest nature preserve with a campground and boat launch.
- Rail Trail and Riverwalk Linear Parks, two parks that provide a combined nine miles of paved trails through Bay City.
- Veterans Memorial Park, a centrally located park that is home to many of the city's events and includes baseball and softball fields, a boat launch and a playground.