SAUGATUCK DOUGLAS - MICHIGAN'S WEST COAST PRIDE
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Tucked between soaring sand dunes and the glorious Kalamazoo River, Saugatuck-Douglas showers the spoils of resort-life on locals and visitors alike. With its beautiful beaches and eclectic cuisine and nightlife, the area’s relaxed atmosphere has charmed gays and lesbians for nearly a century. Whether hosting the club kids or the over 60 crowd, Saugatuck-Douglas proudly offers something for everyone.
Once a thriving lumber town, Saugatuck-Douglas became a popular tourist destination in the early 1800s. By 1870, Chicago and St. Louis natives commonly traveled to the Saugatuck-Douglas lakeshore to escape the summer heat, but the area’s true turning point came in 1910, when artists from the Chicago Art Institute established the Summer School of Painting on the Ox-Bow Lagoon. Oxbow encouraged a gay presence in Saugatuck-Douglas and over time, the community flourished as a gay safe haven. In fact, tourists have warmly nicknamed Saugatuck the “Fire Island of the Midwest.”
After forging a reputation as a gay-friendly weekend retreat, Saugatuck-Douglas emerged as a pillar of the greater Midwest gay community. Many who once called Saugatuck-Douglas a home away from home became full-time investors in the town’s success. As they fell deeper in love with their surroundings, the weekend warriors purchased and renovated homes and businesses. What were once abandoned storefronts and dilapidated cottages gradually became quaint bed and breakfast establishments and storefronts. Saugatuck-Douglas now features more than 30 art galleries and a local calendar loaded with music, art and film festivals. Currently, more than 30 percent of Saugatuck-Douglas’ impressive restaurants, hotels and shops are gay owned and/or operated.
The Saugatuck-Douglas dining circuit bridges the gap between top-shelf taste and low-brow attitude. American, French, English and Italian delicacies are available in abundance, as are the prerequisite burgers and ice cream demanded by most travelers.
Saugatuck-Douglas’ clothing, gift and antique shops run the gamut from classic to contemporary.
Tourists also enjoy many options when it comes time to rest their weary heads. Saugatuck-Douglas motels, resorts, cottages, suites and Bed & Breakfast inns are suited to every taste and budget.
For art enthusiasts, the area boasts more than 38 galleries and an ever growing Film Festival every June. The Mason Street Warehouse professional theater company in the Saugatuck Center for the Arts presents "uptown theater in downtown Saugatuck" every June - October.
Although business and tourism thrive year-round in Saugatuck-Douglas, things really heat up between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Swimmers and sunbathers soak up the scene on infamous Oval Beach. MTV once touted Oval Beach as one of the nation’s five best beaches, and Conde Nast Traveler rated it one of the world’s 25 best shorelines.
Saugatuck-Douglas has plenty of physical, outdoor diversions for the young and restless as well. Canoeing, jet-skiing and horseback riding can be arranged from several locales, and premier hiking awaits at Saugatuck Dunes State Park, Allegan State Park and picturesque Fenn Valley vineyard (269/561-2396).
When travelers tire of the sand in their suit, romantic Lake Michigan is on hand to conjure another stunning sunset each and every night.
For more information:
Felicia Fairchild, Saugatuck/Douglas Convention & Visitors Bureau
269-857-1701 or www.saugatuck.com
Mike Jones, Gay Saugatuck Douglas
616-836-2770 or www.gaysaugatuckdouglas.com
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