You may know Manistee by its Victorian facade and Old Christmas Weekend, and while you’ll still find lumber-era charm today, the city’s focus has shifted to its natural attributes. Taking in the “soul of the water, spirit of the woods,” as the new slogan touts, is easily done in this Lake Michigan community. Here’s how to spend 24 hours in this region with a storied past.

Catch Some Rays or a Perfect Sunset in Manistee

Back in 1919, the city realized it needed something besides salt and lumber to keep thriving. Perhaps, they thought, they should move the sand dune that blocked the way between town and Lake Michigan and attract travelers coming in these newfangled automobiles for some fun in the sun. Smart move. First Street and Fifth Avenue both lead to beaches of the same names that boast some of the coast’s longest stretches of sugar sand. Better yet, you can now rent stand-up paddleboards and kayaks on Fifth Avenue, and on youth-oriented First Street, find a DJ spinning beach tunes.

Manistee lighthouse

Photo by Kris Riley

Stroll Manistee’s River Street

Shop for art, antiques, kitchen finds and fashion inside the pastel-painted brick buildings with soaring tin ceilings along this historic thoroughfare. Dine casually at aptly named Taco ‘Bout It, where there’s a lot of buzz about the Mexican fusion menu and multiple margarita options. Catch $2 Wednesday classic movies, or hit some first-runs, at the restored circa-1938 Art Deco Vogue Theatre, then stroll the adjacent river walk. The
25 markers you’ll pass en route to the beach and harbor showcase the days when shipbuilders thrived here and Scandinavian fishermen set up shop.

Related Read: Crowds Return to Manistee’s Vogue Theatre.

Take a Themed Manistee City Tour

The Manistee County Visitors Bureau has mapped out 17 self-guided tours, each with a different theme.“West Homes” features 21 Victorian lumber baron beauties, while “Brews and Spirits” has 13 stops that include North Channel Brewing Company and its river view, Sawmill Stout and BBQ nachos. Other tours take in U-Picks and artisan markets, bridges, scenic drives and more. Let your interests guide you, but also pop into The A.H. Lyman Company, once a drugstore now the Manistee County Historical Museum. Browse the Victorian clothing and know the restored 1880s pharmacy section alone draws students from around the country for the authenticity of showcased cures and prescriptions.

Photo by Lydia Mejia

Stay at a Manistee Lodging Spot with a Unique Past

The city’s first lawyer and major philanthropist Thomas Jefferson Ramsdell built the red sandstone and terra cotta beauty that’s now the Ramsdell Inn. Sleep in luxury, right in the center of River Street action, amid the architecture of F.W. Hollister, who also built the city’s original fire station. T.J. Ramsdell also built the nearby Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts. Here you can still see the original work of art of a curtain mural and stage on which the famed James Earl Jones (a one-time Manistee County resident) had his debut. For a nod to the city’s maritime heritage and an experience you won’t get many places, how about a “boatel?” The docked former car ferry SS City of Milwaukee, now celebrating 90 years, is run as a bed and breakfast, and come October, a haunted ship to tour.