While Ludington’s big draws like Lake Michigan are ideal in warm weather, you don’t need to wait until the mercury rises to visit Ludington. An early summer trip is a great way to enjoy the “quieter” side of Ludington before the crowds of summer, while also snagging a lodging deal. And with many of these arts and culture stops located indoors, it also can be a perfect activity in the event of inclement weather.
Art Galleries and Walks
Ludington has a thriving art scene, evidenced by the hive of downtown art galleries, such as Todd & Brad Reed Photography; Art by Mary Case Gallery and Studio, and even Nautical Yarn, for make-your-own artistic creations. Grab some friends and hit First Friday Art Walk, when galleries and other downtown businesses stay open until 7 p.m. the first Friday of the month to showcase local art. And don’t miss the Manierre Dawson Gallery in West Shore Community College’s Arts & Science Center, which features rotating special exhibits, as well as four pieces of original artwork in its permanent collection by the late Manierre Dawson (a 55-year Mason County resident), America’s pioneer of abstract art and the first artist in the world to paint in non-representational form.
One of Ludington’s top cultural institutions is the Ludington Area Center for the Arts (LACA), a community arts organization that cultivates regional arts in music, visual arts, performance, dance, culinary, literature and more. Host of the renowned juried West Shore Art Fair (celebrating its 50th show July 7-8), LACA offers a variety of art exhibits, classes and programs throughout the year.
Opened in June 2017, the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum is Ludington’s newest crown jewel. The former U.S. Coast Guard Station (also on the National Register of Historic Places) has been transformed into a state-of-the-art, family-friendly museum providing interactive exhibits about Ludington’s rich maritime heritage. Permanent and changing exhibits offer rare glimpses into the past with artifacts, historic photographs, and voices of people who played key roles in maritime industries that shaped the region. A favorite exhibit for kids and adults alike is the replica pilothouse of the Pere Marquette 22. Visitors can pilot the car ferry into and out of the harbor, as well across Lake Michigan in various weather conditions. New this year, the “Steaming into the Future” exhibit explores the career of the S.S. Badger that, for 35 years, carried railroad cars between Ludington and cities in Wisconsin. When cross-lake railroad service was no longer viable, the Badger continued as a passenger car ferry, now the nation's last coal-fired steamship.
For young visitors, Sandcastles Children’s Museum delights and inspires children and families to explore their world – offering hands-on discovery while stimulating creativity, curiosity and the love of learning. Special exhibits include a mini S.S. Badger plus a small aircraft that kids can “pilot.” And don’t overlook our bustling Mason County District Library, featuring a variety of monthly programs, ranging from Discovery Club for children, to Adult Craft Night.
Mason County Cultural Trails
From the warmth of your car, traverse the byways of Mason County on one of three Mason County Cultural Trails, themed driving routes with audio and selective video narration. Each stop allows visitors to scan a QR Code with a smartphone or dial a phone number to hear stories along the trail. The Agricultural Trail, Lumber Heritage Trail and Barn Quilt Trail give people a window into Ludington’s past, and a Sculpture Trail and Maritime Trail are in the planning stages. Depending on the season, routes like the Agricultural Trail include fun detours like Christofferson Farms for “u-pick” tree-ripened fruits, Kistlercrest Farms for cherries and apples plus pure maple syrup, the Jam Farm with 30 varieties of jams made from fruit grown by the “Jam Lady,” and Fox Barn Market & Winery with locally produced food items, produce, wines and wine-themed gifts.
Ludington is a year-round hotbed for live music, where you can duck into a cozy bistro or bar to hear local and traveling musicians. Some top spots to hear a music set include Ludington Bay Brewing Company, Ludington Pub, Jamesport Brewing Company and Mitten Bar. Also, the Ludington Area Center for the Arts features standing live music events like Gypsy Jazz Jam Sessions the fourth Wednesday of the month (all instruments invited to attend) 6:30 to 9 p.m., and Open Mic nights the first and third Fridays 7 to 9 p.m., along with other concerts. Another place to catch live music is at West Shore Community College with its Performing Arts Series – home to jazz, classical, popular and show tune music, plus musical theater. Check Facebook pages of the respective venues to see the latest bands coming to town.
Learn more about Ludington’s Arts & Culture scene here.
Check calendar listings for current events at Ludington’s various cultural institutions: Ludington Area Center for the Arts , Port of Ludington Maritime Museum, Mason County District Library, Sandcastles Children’s Museum and West Shore Community College.