Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Running St. Joseph, Michigan

I grew up not too far from the East Coast, so when I was growing up we would vacation at the beach on the Atlantic Ocean.  Michiganders spend lots of time at on the shores of the Great Lakes, and I'll be honest, I've never really gotten it. It's not the real ocean. It just didn't make sense.

Last week I changed my tune after visiting St. Joseph, Michigan, a charming little beach community on Lake Michigan. It feels like you're in any beach town on the eastern seaboard...it doesn't even feel like you're still in Michigan. I went for a brief run there (it was VERY muggy), and it's a great place for visitors, residents AND runners.
Silver Beach in St. Joseph

Downtown St. Joe is the quintessential main street. There are a number of great stores, art galleries, restaurants, and ice cream shops (important for summer visiting). We went into a number of stores and admired lots of local wares - paintings, photography, sculpture, jewelry and more. My favorite was a home interior store with fantastic taste. I want them to come decorate my entire house.
Charming downtown St. Joe
I am a giant fan of public art. I think it's hugely important for a vibrant community. St. Joe clearly gets the importance of public art and displays it everywhere. It's 2011 public art display, "Barnyard at the Beach", boasts adorable farm animals at every corner downtown with various themes. I loved all of them. Many of the stores have colorful chairs outside for patrons to rest, and some downtown benches are even painted. 
Displays for "Barnyard at the Beach"
More "Barnyard at the Beach"
The feather in St. Joseph's cap is clearly its waterfront. Silver Beach, just down the bluff from downtown, is 22 acres of coastline with fantastic waterfront development. There is a splash pad for kids (it was packed on Friday afternoon), a gorgeous old carousel, and paths for running, walking and biking. In addition this year Delta Airlines has chosen Silver Beach as one of the world's best beaches. Not so shabby.
The splash pad and Silver Beach from the bluff
The morning run was through downtown and down the hill along the water. It was amazing scenery to run along Silver Beach and down along the pier and toward the lighthouse. It is a tranquil and scenic run. If I lived there I would run there every day. I can't imagine it would ever get old.
Me with the lighthouse in the background
St. Joe is a runner's dream with lots of scenic paths to explore, and as someone who loves cities - it has a lot to offer in that respect too. With a lively, walkable downtown, public art, lots of attractions, and shops, it's a great community.


  1. Samantha, I grew up and still live in, St. Joseph, MI. I started running about a year ago and just happened on your blog post through a google search this afternoon. You did a wonderful job highlighting our beautiful city and the beach and I just wanted to say thank you. FYI, this year the public art is planes, trains and helicopters.

  2. Thanks for the comment Jessica! Fortunately my job takes me all over Michigan, and St. Joseph is one of the most beautiful spots! Perhaps we'll have to plan a trip to see this year's public art!