Ludington clinches 10 Best title

Up North tourist beacon outshines Carmel-by-the-Sea, California; Breckenridge, Colorado; and Moab, Utah.
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Constructed in 1867 and located within the boundaries of Ludington State Park, Big Sable Point Light is an active navigational aid for boaters on Lake Michigan. Photo courtesy of Pure Ludington.

Hip, hip, hooray! Ludington has clinched the prestigious title of “Best Historic Small Town” in the entire United States, according to the 2024 USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice poll. This victory is a testament to the charm and allure of this quaint Michigan beach town.

“We are overjoyed to receive this incredible news about Ludington being the best historic small town in America,” said Brandy Miller, executive director of the Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We are the perfect city to claim this title, with our rich history dating back to 1873 celebrated at last year’s sesquicentennial and our many historic attractions. It’s one of the top reasons people visit Ludington.”

The magic of this historic small town has captured the hearts of many. Nestled along the picturesque shores of Lake Michigan, Ludington offers an authentic “Up North” experience, just 99 miles away, and is easily accessible from Grand Rapids at the the junction of U.S. 31 and U.S. 10 (a highway that many Michiganders jocularly agree serves as the dividing line between “Up North” and the rest of the state).

A view of the historic Father Marquette Memorial Cross on a hill above Pere Marquette Lake is accented by a full moon. The monument is dedicated to the Jesuit missionary who in 1675 on the shores of Lake Michigan near present-day Ludington. Photo by Todd Reed/toddandbradreed.com.

From its inception in 1873, Ludington has been steeped in rich history and natural beauty. Initially inhabited by the Ottawa Indians, Ludington’s allure drew the attention of settlers and lumber barons in the mid-1800s, enticed by its abundant resources and strategic location along Lake Michigan.

Named after James Ludington, whose vision and endeavors shaped the city, Ludington’s maritime legacy remains ingrained in its identity. Notably, the city’s growth was propelled by key developments such as the deepening of its channel for commercial shipping and the construction of its renowned harbor in 1914.

Today, Ludington proudly showcases its heritage through a myriad of attractions. From historic lighthouses to the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum, the city’s storied past comes to life. Visitors can explore the Historic White Pine Village, delve into Victorian-era homes turned bed and breakfasts, and enjoy bonfires on the beach while taking in the beauty of sailboats, and commercial vessels going about their way to the backdrop of a golden sunset.

“Ludington embodies the quintessential American small town, steeped in a rich tapestry of history, culture, and community spirit,” said Rebecca Berringer, executive director of the Mason County Historical Society that oversees the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum and Historic White Pine Village. “From its storied lumbering and maritime heritage to its vibrant cultural attractions and picturesque landscapes, Ludington is a shining example of small-town charm. Being named America’s Best Historic Small Town not only honors our past but celebrates the enduring spirit of its people. Ludington is truly a special place to live and a wonderful location to vacation when visiting the Great Lakes state.”

Outshining its competitors, Ludington soared to the number one spot among a lineup of esteemed destinations, including Carmel-by-the-Sea, California; Breckenridge, Colorado; and Moab, Utah. What sets Ludington apart is its breathtaking sugar-sand beaches along the shores of Lake Michigan, captivating both locals and tourists alike.

As the lone representative from Michigan among the 20 nominated small towns, each with fewer than 25,000 residents, Ludington’s triumph is truly remarkable. This win signifies the resounding endorsement from the community and visitors alike, propelling Ludington to the forefront of historic small-town charm across the nation.

The S.S. Badger steams past the Ludington North Breakwater Light. Photo by Todd Reed/toodandbradreed.com.

“The nautical history and beautiful natural resources of this Michigan small town have clearly charmed our readers,” said Katie Ford, USA Today 10Best managing editor. The nominees are scrutinized by a USA Today editorial panel and serve to provide readers with trusted recommendations for travel, food, drink, and lifestyle, making Ludington’s victory all the more significant.

With 28 miles of pristine sugar sand beaches, Ludington and Mason County are steeped in timeless charm. In addition to miles of cross country skiing and hiking trails, kayak rentals and countless fishing opportunities, its harbor serves as the home port of the last coal-fired passenger steamship in operation in the United States— the beloved S.S. Badger, which serves the people of Michigan as Wisconsin, providing a much needed “shortcut” for travelers who need to get to the other side of the “Big Lake.” Cross-lake service begins at 9 a.m. June 14 and continues through Oct. 6, 2024.

For more information, read more about Ludington in this 2023 article from Grand Rapids Magazine or visit pureludington.com, Facebook.com/PureLudington and twitter.com/@Pure_Ludington.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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