Described as a city built on opportunity, there is endless potential in Saginaw Michigan. Located north of Flint Michigan and just a short drive from Saginaw Bay and the Thumbcoast, it is an oft-overlooked destination that has a surprising number of attractions to visit and activities to enjoy.
Whether you are a local who has lived in the area your entire life or a visitor who is looking to explore the best that the Great Lakes State has to offer, you will find many exciting things to do in Saginaw Michigan.
An Overview of Saginaw Michigan
Part of the Great Lakes Bay Region, Saginaw is a Michigan city where the past and the present effortlessly blend together. The historic downtown area adds charm to city life today while also anchoring residents and visitors to its storied past.
While the beauty of its 19th and 20th-century buildings remind people of an era gone by, brightly colored murals around every corner serve as symbols of moving forward.
The History of Saginaw
Well before European settlers arrived in the Saginaw Bay area, several bands of the Ojibwe Tribe called the region home and occupied the area until the first European settlers arrived in the mid-17th century.
Father Henri Nouvel is considered to be the first European visitor to the region, and additional European trappers and settlers continued to arrive.
It wasn’t until the early 19th century, however, that Saginaw was settled in earnest. In 1819, the first families arrived in the area, and Saginaw Township was formally established by 1830.
Meanwhile, the land was taken from the Indigenous Tribes, and most of their members were confined to the Isabella Reservation by the mid-19th century.
The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan continues to exist today and aims to raise awareness about its history, culture, and modern role through community outreach initiatives.
Through the latter half of the 19th century, the lumber industry reigned supreme in Saginaw Michigan. By the beginning of the 20th century, however, the lumber industry was starting to stall. Coal mining, agricultural development, and automobiles became the most prominent players in the local economy.
As with any community growing and changing in the 20th century, Saginaw had to come into its own. Today, it is a vibrant and diverse city anchored by its history yet focused on the future.
The Weather in Saginaw Throughout the Year
Saginaw Michigan is a magical place that enjoys the best that all four seasons have to offer. Winters in this mid-Michigan city can be long, cold, and snowy, but there are plenty of opportunities to get outside and enjoy the white stuff that falls endlessly from December through late March.
Spring can be chilly and wet, but the wait is worthwhile because summer is a glorious time of year to be near Saginaw Bay. Then, fall ushers in warm breezes and autumn colors, making Saginaw one of the best places to see fall colors in Michigan.
Outdoor Things to Do in Saginaw Michigan
When it comes to exploring the outdoor beauty of Michigan, some other communities are more well known. Wine lovers often seek solace in Traverse City, while those looking to enjoy the Great Lakes head to Saugatuck or Port Austin.
Saginaw, however, offers the same unparalleled beauty, quintessential charm, and adventurous opportunities — with far fewer crowds. This hidden gem has so many things to do outdoors that you may have a hard time figuring out what to do next.
Discover Colorful Murals Hiding in Plain Sight
In recent years, Saginaw has become known as the mural capital of Michigan. After two economic downturns scared the city, colorful murals began popping up, creating a movement that has transformed into the Great Mural Project and turned a depressing sight into an opportunity.
This ongoing community project is run by a nonprofit organization that wants to promote awareness and encourage economic development in Saginaw.
The Great Mural Project continues to launch new projects for local artists each year, giving them a space to express themselves and add character to the community.
Bike the Saginaw Valley Rail Trail
Spanning more than 11 miles across Saginaw County, this rail-to-trail conversion is considered one of the best outdoor attractions in the area.
Those who bike, hike, walk, or jog along the trail enjoy picturesque views, experience wildlife in its natural habitat, and see artifacts from history that are scattered along the path.
Spend a Day at the Saginaw Children’s Zoo
The Saginaw Children’s Zoo is a seasonal attraction that is open during the warm weather months and is favored by local families and visitors who want to enjoy a fun day out with their loved ones.
This intimate zoo is home to more than 150 animals, including African penguins, a bald eagle, a sloth, an emu, and so many more.
Beyond the animals, the zoo offers a variety of other things to do, including fossil finds, carousel rides, and train rides. There is also a playground where kids can play and explore just like they are animals in the zoo.
Meander Through the Tea Gardens at the Japanese Cultural Center
If you are looking to experience the beauty and authenticity of another culture while you are in Saginaw Michigan, the Japanese Cultural Center, Tea House and Gardens of Saginaw is the best place to go.
Known as one of the most authentic Japanese tea houses in the country, this cultural center and tea house rests partially on Japanese soil. Here, you can walk through the idyllic gardens and sip tea while experiencing an ancient tradition.
Rest and Relax on Ojibway Island
Located in the Saginaw River, Ojibway Island is the only island park in the city. It may be located in the heart of the city’s bustling downtown area, but it’s a peaceful escape, particularly on a warm, sunny day.
Known for its lush gardens and winding walking paths, the island is one of the best places to go if you are in search of a leisurely stroll or a peaceful picnic.
Enjoy the Sprawling Frank N. Andersen Celebration Park
Perhaps one of the most fun and exciting places in all of Saginaw Michigan is Frank N. Andersen Celebration Park, a large skate park in the city’s center that includes interactive and engaging attractions for people of all ages.
At Celebration Park, you can enjoy the year-round skate park, seasonal splash pad, European-style playground, and Lake Linton Boardwalk, which winds along Linton Lake and showcases the best views of the iconic Millennium Fountain.
Book a Boat Tour Through the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge
Imagine being able to take one of those high-powered, thrilling rides through the Everglades — without leaving the state of Michigan. Well, when you book an adventure tour with Johnny Panther Quests Ecotours, you can.
This ecotour guide has been providing unmatched experiences through the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, which is considered the everglades of Michigan. You can choose your own adventure, ranging anywhere from two to seven hours, and enjoy an immersive experience in one of the most beautifully preserved areas in the state.
Spend a Winter Day at Hoyt Park
Hoyt Park is a well-known, historic park in downtown Saginaw Michigan, and it is located near some of the best attractions in the city.
When it snows in the winter, the park is the place to be. With both sledding and snowboarding hills, it is an outdoor winter wonderland for those who love to play in the snow. In addition, it boasts an outdoor ice-skating rink that includes a warming hut and a hot chocolate stand.
Saginaw Michigan Indoor Things to Do
With so much to do outside throughout the entire year, it’s easy to overlook the indoor things to do in Saginaw Michigan. However, there are a variety of indoor attractions that are perfect for rainy days — or even beautiful days when you want to stay indoors.
Step Back in Time at the Saginaw Castle Museum
Castles are typically reserved for Europe, but Saginaw visitors are delighted to find out that there’s a grand and elegant castle in the heart of this community.
The Castle Museum of Saginaw County History appears like a castle on the outside, but it’s actually a historic museum housed in a former post office building that was built in the late 19th century.
Inside the museum, visitors will find exhibits that showcase the history of Native American tribes in the area, the lumber industry, and more. Also, it is home to the Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame, as well as several rotating exhibits.
It’s a wonderful place to wander, explore, and learn more about the Saginaw region.
Let the Kids Play at the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum
Sometimes, kids of all ages need a place where they can run around, touch what they want, explore their surroundings, and learn about the world.
Whether you are faced with a rainy day in Saginaw or you simply want to give your kids a memorable experience, the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum is the perfect place to go.
This hands-on museum has a variety of interactive exhibits, including water play areas, solar science stations, art areas, automotive spaces, and agricultural learning centers.
Enjoy a Performance by the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra
Since 1935, the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra has been treating the local community to classical performances that stand the test of time.
Throughout the year, the orchestra performs in a variety of capacities, offering not only classical shows but also pop experiences, educational concerts, and dance performances. Each season, it typically performs about five shows at the historic Temple Theatre in downtown Saginaw.
Cheer on the Saginaw Spirit Hockey Team
The Saginaw Spirit is an OHL hockey team that unites the community of Saginaw Michigan. Throughout the season, visitors can head to the Dow Event Center to cheer on the hometown team. There is no better way to enjoy thrill, excitement, and camaraderie in the city.
Best Saginaw Michigan Restaurants
Over the past decade, Saginaw has enjoyed a revitalization. As a result, there are many locally-owned restaurants to check out. From casual fare to fine dining experiences, there is something for everyone in this eclectic city.
Casual Dining in Saginaw
Saginaw is a welcoming Midwest city that is known for its casual atmosphere, so there are always plenty of family-friendly dining options to choose from. Here are some of the best locally-owned casual restaurants in Saginaw.
Timbers Bar & Grill
Known for its generous portion sizes, flavorful meals, and lodge-like atmosphere, Timbers Bar & Grill is a favorite restaurant among locals and visitors alike.
Its extensive menu is rooted in American fare, but there are hints of Italian, Mediterranean, and Mexican on the menu, which means that anyone can find exactly what they are craving at this restaurant.
Locally owned and operated in Saginaw for more than 30 years, Pasong’s Cafe is the premier Asian-fusion restaurant in the city. It opens for dinner each day, and its menu features meals created from the freshest ingredients available.
Old Town Drive-In
Old Town Drive-In is, perhaps, one of the most iconic restaurants in Saginaw Michigan. This unassuming roadside drive-in has been serving burgers, fries, and shakes since 1940.
It’s the kind of place where everyone in town has made a memory, making it one of the best places for visitors to go for a quick, hearty, and delicious meal.
Saginaw Fine Dining Restaurants
Saginaw Michigan is not known for its airs and graces, but that doesn’t mean that the locals don’t have an appreciation or affinity for the finer things in life. In fact, many fine dining restaurants in the city are perfect for special celebrations and romantic nights on the town.
Sullivan’s Food & Spirits
Sullivan’s Food & Spirits is one of the best places to go for those who want to enjoy a delicious meal in a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere. Known for its daily specials and homemade soups, it is the kind of place where you can satiate your hunger and nourish your soul.
Harvey’s Grill & Bar
At Harvey’s Grill & Bar, the staff and servers seek to elevate the experience every step of the way. While this is not a pretentious restaurant by any means, it is the kind of place where you can expect to receive superior service and chef-created meals.
The menu changes frequently because it is based on seasonal ingredients, and there are always new handcrafted cocktails to try.
Jake’s Old City Grill
Situated in a historic building in the heart of the city’s downtown, Jake’s Old City Grill has been serving up some of the best meals in Saginaw Michigan for more than 15 years. With a menu that includes seafood and steaks, pasta, chicken, and even burgers, everyone can find something that satisfies their cravings.
Coffee & Ice Cream Shops in Saginaw
Whether you plan to meander through downtown Saginaw to scout out the best murals, or you want to refresh yourself after a day on the Saginaw Valley Rail Trail, you will find that it’s easy to treat yourself. These are a few of the best coffee shops and ice cream stands in the city.
Dawn of a New Day Coffee House
Located in historic downtown Saginaw, the dawn of a new day coffee house is more than just a great place to get a caffeine fix. It has become a community gathering space of sorts, and you can often find local events being hosted here.
In addition to coffee beverages and pastries, there are homemade sandwiches and soups on the menu. The menu changes frequently, depending on the seasonal ingredients available.
Mooney’s Ice Cream & Cakes
No matter which ice cream flavor you love the most, you are sure to find it at Mooney’s Ice Cream & Cakes. This traditional ice cream shop is known for its 42 flavors of hand-dipped ice cream.
It’s a popular local spot during the summer months, but even during winter, you will find guests at the shop hoping to get their hands on a warm cup of homemade hot chocolate.
Saginaw Michigan Breweries
Like much of Michigan, Saginaw is enjoying the booming craft beer industry. Anyone who is looking to take a break and sip on a frothy handcrafted microbrew will be pleased to know that there are several local breweries in the city. Here are two spots to consider.
Oracle Brewing Company
Located in Old City Saginaw inside a building that was constructed in 1905, Oracle Brewing Company aims to blend the past with the present. When you grab a beer here, you will enjoy a relaxed atmosphere with zero pressure.
In fact, don’t be surprised if you have to approach the counter to ask for your next round. They know that you will come to them when you are ready.
Loggers Brewing Company
Loggers Brewing Company is one of the larger craft breweries in Saginaw Michigan, and you can almost always find more than a dozen beers on tap.
From fruit-forward beers to easy-to-sip lights, there is something for everyone. There are even several fruit wines and craft sodas available for those who are looking for an alternative to beer.
Hotels in Saginaw Michigan & Other Lodging
Like any metropolitan city, there are a variety of lodging options available in Saginaw Michigan. Families will find that there are affordable and convenient hotels, as well as vacation rentals. No matter your travel style, you will easily be able to find a home away from home.
Saginaw Michigan Hotels
Saginaw is best described as an urban community with suburban sprawl, and most of the hotels are national chain hotels that offer clean rooms at affordable rates. To experience the local culture, the best place to stay is in a Saginaw bed and breakfast.
Montague Inn is the only boutique hotel in Saginaw, featuring a variety of room styles that allow guests to select the experience that best works for them. This 17-bedroom mansion gives you a taste of the city’s history while allowing you to relax in comfortable, home-like accommodations.
Vacation Rentals in Saginaw
Another option for those looking to stay in Saginaw is vacation rentals. You will find downtown homes and lofts available for rent. For example, this renovated downtown home is the perfect option for families because it features four bedrooms and sleeps up to eight people.
Discover More Things to Do in Saginaw Michigan
From summertime fun near the shore to the glittering brilliance of a mid-Michigan winter, there are always things to do in Saginaw Michigan that appeal to people of all ages and interests.
If you are looking for one of Michigan’s hidden gems, consider planning a trip to Saginaw as soon as possible. Here, you will find small crowds, incredible artwork, and breathtaking views, giving you the Michigan experience that you crave.