At the turn of the last century, Manistee was one of Michigan’s busiest, grandest cities. The opulent homes of lumber barons lined the streets, a beautiful new opera house was under construction and the downtown storefronts glittered with the latest fashions. A century later, Manistee’s splendid Victorian buildings are largely preserved and those beautiful storefronts still glitter.

To get a sense of this lovely city, take a lazy stroll down the Riverwalk – the 1.5-mile boardwalk traces the banks of the Manistee River channel to First Street Beach. Warmed up? Shop your way back along downtown’s River Street. At Surroundings (423 River St., 231-723-0637), mix and match lentil-sized bits of wax in tantalizing aromas of buttercream vanilla and hazelnut to make individualized glass jar candles, or pick up some soy-based candles inscribed with classic, mood-setting Michigan moments: Lake Huron Sunrise, Cider and Donuts, Manistee Moonlight, Torch Lake Breeze.

Stop next door at the Ideal Kitchen (421 River St., 231-398-9895) to find nostalgic pink appliances that look like they fell right out of the 50’s. Poke your head into the alcove filled with teapots and enviro-friendly bamboo cutting boards, bowls and dishes.

Follow the soothing piano music streaming out the door at Alex Doucett’s (385 River St., 231-398-9552) to discover embroidered bedding in rich earthy tones. Looking for a decorative way to display your wines? Check out the unique twisting wine racks that cradle each bottle in a curl of wrought iron.

Give in to your rumbling stomach, grab lunch at Goody’s Juice and Java (343 River St., 231-398-9580) and escape back to the riverbanks. Sprawl out on the grass with a grilled turkey and asparagus panini or sip a frothy piña colada smoothie on one of the squeaky-chained swings in the park.

Katie Holland was an intern at Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.
This article was first published in June 2007, and was updated for the web April 2008.