Escanaba, Michigan

On Big Bay De Noc

 

sculptureSomeone once said that there is no such thing as bad publicity. I’m not so sure. Escanaba In Da Moonlight holds the record for the longest running play in Detroit's history. The film was a success but didn’t do any favors for Escanaba. That film has given most people who have never been to Escanaba, a distorted view of what life is like there. Escanaba isn’t a primitive wilderness and the weather isn’t always like that seen in the movie. Downtown Escanaba is where the unique character of this upper peninsula town begins to become apparent. The road to downtown is a broad boulevard with five lanes. Shops, local dining spots and brew pubs line the street. The sidewalks are broad as well, making it easy to enjoy the many festivals and events that take place there. To get a true idea of life in Escanaba, one needs to know about the beaches, the arts and the banana belt.

 

When talking about beautiful beaches, Escanaba may not spring to mind, but Escanaba has beaches and they are gorgeous. Little Bay de Noc, part of Lake Michigan, is where you find the Escanaba Municipal Beach. It is part of Ludington Park. The beach is found on a small island connected to the main park by a road and a footpath. When beachgoers have had enough sun, the Sand Point Lighthouse and Delta County Historical Museum are within walking distance. To get to the park and beach just drive all the way through downtown on that broad boulevard to the marina. Another beach is found inside the Portage Point State Wildlife Area south of town. This beach is on a strip of land that extends out into Lake Michigan for nearly two miles, Portage Point.

Superb art can be found in the downtown galleries. The East Ludington Gallery is the oldest artist cooperative gallery in the Upper Peninsula. The gallery has become a favorite destination for lovers of art of all kinds. There are more than 40 artists contributing to the works at the gallery from functional crafts to fine arts. Inside are found paintings in several mediums, stained glass, jewelry, photography and quilts among many others. The gallery has high standards for what will be displayed. All artists must have their work juried before the gallery will accept it. The gallery is inside an historic building and consists of several rooms. Whether searching for a simple craft item of a complex piece of fine art, it can be found here, and the quality is always of the highest. Just a short walk from the East Ludington Gallery is the William Bonifas Fine Arts Center. It is considered home to all the arts in the Central Upper Peninsula. There are galleries to tour, art workshops, educational classes and theatrical productions. The galleries feature local and regional art exhibits. Their programs and classes are designed to offer educational opportunities for all ages and all skill levels.

 

Besides the prevalence of the arts, another thing that surprises people is the pleasant weather. Sure, they have winter weather, this is the upper peninsula, but it is more clement than many expect. There is a section of the upper peninsula known as the Banana Belt. It runs through the center of the peninsula from west to east and has much milder weather due to lake effect winds and other factors. Escanaba is within the western part of the belt and gets less snow than Lansing and much less than Traverse City. On one trip I was in Felch, about 45 minutes away, where we got 12 inches of snow one night. When I arrived in Escanaba next morning, they had gotten less than an inch. The weather is pleasant enough of the time to support a superb farmers market. At the pavilion are found local produce and a variety of items created by local artists and crafters.