Benton Harbor is situated in south east Michigan, on the shores of Lake Michigan, across the St Joseph River from its twin city by the same name. It was formerly swampland but a canal was laid that drained the swamp and created a harbor suitable for a shipping yard. This fueled manufacturing in the town and factories sprang up.
The climate is moderated by the waters of Lake Michigan, causing conditions favorable to growing fruit. There are several vineyards and conservation areas around Benton Harbor.
1. Sarett Nature Center
© Sarett Nature Center
In 1963, Mr and Mrs Vawter purchased 130 acres of land and donated it to the Michigan Audobon Society for the purposes of establishing a nature sanctuary. It was named after Professor Sarett, a lifelong friend of Mr Vawter and well known local naturalist and poet. A River trail was developed incorporating ponds and walks. A lookout tower, treetop walkways and the Nature Play Area add variety to the visit. Half- and full-day ecology classes are offered to schools, homeschoolers and scouts. There are weekend and evening classes and natural history tours for the general public. The center is closed on Mondays.
2300 Benton Center Rd., Benton Harbor, MI 49022, Phone: 269-927-4832
2. 12 Corners Vineyard, Benton Harbor, MI
© 12 Corners Vineyard
Lake Michigan has a moderating influence on the climate in West Michigan, making it ideal for growing fruit and more recently, grapes. 12 Corners was started by a group of friends on 115 acres. They grew a variety of hybrids and cultivars on varying slopes and types of soil. This has brought out a range of individualized tastes in the grapes and wines made from them. Tasting is offered 7 days a week and there are weekly live music events. A wine club gives members a number of benefits. The venue is for hire and a full wedding service is available.
1201 N Benton Center Rd, Benton Harbor, MI 49022, Phone: 269-927-1512
3. Jean Klock Park
The park is named after the daughter of Mr and Mrs Klock, who died in childhood. They purchased a half mile stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline and donated it to the city of Benton Harbour to be used as a park 'for the children', in perpetuity. More land was purchased for the park in 1952. In the park are several ecologically sensitive dunes, wetlands and marshes. The city has come under pressure from several private developers to sell off bits of the park. The Friends of Jean Klock Park have fought valiantly but were not able to stop the development of 3 holes of a golf course on the land.
4. North Pier Brewing Company
© North Pier Brewing Company
Husband and wife, Jay and Jordan Fettig make beer in Benton Harbor and sell it at their taproom and outdoor beer garden close to Lake Michigan. They specialize in European, especially Belgian lagers and ales. The brewery is open 7 days a week and has endeavored to create a 'third place', somewhere other than home and work that people can meet and relax. They have 12 rotating beers on tap and have recently started canning. The bar restaurant serves tacos, sandwiches, salads and baskets of snacks.
670 N. Shore Dr., Benton Harbor, MI 49022, Phone: 269-757-7163
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5. Water Street Glassworks, Benton Harbor, MI
© Water Street Glassworks
The Glassworks is a community arts program set in the Benton Harbor Art District. It opened in 2004 after extensive renovations were made to the once derelict and abandoned historic Hinkley Building. There is a school, a studio and a gallery on the premises, dedicated to glass and metal fire arts. Students enter a two-year program, working with jewelry, mosaics, enamel and beads. There are regular exhibits of the work of students, staff and instructors. Tours and demonstrations can be arranged. The venue is available for group 'bring your own food' parties. The annual extinguishing of the fire occurs on 31 May each year.
140 Water Street, Benton Harbor MI, Phone: 269-925-5555
6. Southwest Michigan Underwater Preserve
Under the waters of Michigan’s western shore lies the Southwest Michigan Underwater Preserve, a gorgeous, submerged wonderland that is just as rich in maritime history as it is in beauty. It was officially dedicated as Michigan’s tenth preserve in 1999 and is known for the many shipwrecks that can be explored within its waters. Some of the ethereal shipwreck dives at this preserve include the 106-foot Rockaway, the commercial vessel known as the Verano, the 135-foot Havana, and the H.C. Akeley, a 230-foot steamer that sunk while transporting goods from Chicago to Buffalo. In addition to the ships, the preserve also allows avid divers to explore the grottos and trenches of the Clay Banks, and the unusual rock bottom of the Grand Mere Rock Outcropping.
7. Vineyard 2121, Benton Harbor, MI
© Vineyard 2121
Husband and wife, Jeffrey and Deborah Pallas combined their talents of landscaping and public relations to create a tourist destination at their vineyard. The tasting room was opened in 2015. It offers wine tasting, wine flights and light meals such as soups, salads and sandwiches. The large outdoor patio overlooks the vineyard. The grounds have been landscaped to create photogenic opportunities for weddings and other private and corporate functions. Much work has gone into the development of the estates roads, ponds and buildings. The farm, winery and wines have all received awards. Vineyard 2121 is open from March to October.
4110 Red Arrow Highway, Benton Harbor, MI 49022, Phone: 269-849-0109
8. Henry's Hamburgers
© Henry's Hamburgers
In the 1960s, Henry's Hamburgers was a bigger franchise than McDonalds. In 1959, the outlet in Benton Harbor was opened. It outlasted the franchisor and has changed hands and venues a few times but still maintains the food and service that made it successful. Patrons can choose carry-out or to use the drive through. A top seller is the Brown Bag special - a double cheesburger, fries and a Pepsi, which accounts for 50% of sales. Quirky specials such as the 99c Munchie of the Month and Nuggets 'two for the price of one' keep customers interested. The community board on their web sites invites customers to recall their memories of the franchise.
1832 M 139, Benton Harbor, MI 49022, Phone: 269-926-6757
9. Mary’s City of David Museum
© vitaly tiagunov/stock.adobe.com
Come and visit the third oldest Christian community in America when you visit the Mary’s City of David. The property, which spans 140 impressive acres and 81 buildings, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in America in 2009, and later opened a museum at the urgent of several historical organizations in the area. Out of the 81 structures in this Israelite community, there are 11 that are open for visitors including the museum which is found in Mary’s Auditorium. Come and see many interesting artifacts and photos from the community’s history, pick up literature at the gift shop, or simply get to know the incredible and deep religious roots that this community has. The museum is open Monday to Friday, and is open to walk-ins.
1158 East Britain Avenue, Benton Harbor, MI 49023-0187; 269-925-1601
10. The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College
The Mendel Center is all about three things: performances, events, and making life-long memories. This events center boasts two incredible performance stages and several spacious events and meeting spaces that can accommodate anywhere between 10 to 1,600 guests. Beyond being a popular events space, however, The Mendel Center is known for staging and playing host to spectacular performances such as concerts from every genre, science talks, stunning performances by troupes like the Russian National Ballet, and more. The Center has also played host to various National Geographic Live talks, circus performances, and popular theatrical showcases like Stomp. No matter the kind of performance you enjoy, there is sure to be something for you at The Mendel Center.
1100 Yore Avenue, Benton Harbor, MI 49022, Phone: 269-927-8700
11. Piggott’s Farm Market and Bakery, Benton Harbor, MI
© Piggott’s Farm Market and Bakery
Say hello to Southwest Michigan's freshest in-season produce at Piggott’s Farm Market and Bakery. Piggott’s Farm was opened in 1949 as a family-run farm and remains to be one today. The mission of the farm is simple, to be responsible stewards of the land, along with its resources, and to produce nutritious and delicious produce for the people of Southwest Michigan and its surrounding areas. Drop by Piggott’s Farm to shop your favorite fruits and vegetables or stop by the bakery to pick up an assortment of delicious pies, donuts, cookies, and other baked goods.
3824 E. Napier Avenue, Benton Harbor, MI 49022, Phone: 269-876-9269
12. Things to Do in Benton Harbor, MI: ARS Gallery
© ARS Gallery
Situated in the heart of Benton Harbor’s blossoming Arts District, the ARS Gallery was opened in 2010 and is dedicated to the education of visitors of all ages in the fields of cultural and visual arts. The gallery is owned and curated by Anna Russo Sieber, who ensures that each exhibit brings an opportunity to enjoy and build an appreciation for contemporary art. The ARS Gallery shows exhibits from both up-and-coming and established artists and hosts a variety of educational programs for art enthusiasts who would like to develop a deeper understanding of various art mediums. Part of the gallery’s commitment to art is to provide scholarships to students that show a love and promise for the arts. Come by the gallery to see their running exhibits, which in the past have included the works of Dave Wilkinson, John Sauve, and Greta Hurst.
147 Fifth Street, Benton Harbor, MI 49022, Phone: 269-277-5090
13. Eden Springs Park
© Eden Springs Park
Previously called The House of David, Edens Spring Park is a popular recreational space and camping ground that has a long and interesting past. Opened in 1908 and operated by The House of David until 1973, the park is known for its gorgeous campsite, its entertaining train rides, and historical tours that are available to visitors year-round. Visitors can take walking and digital tours of the park to learn all about the park and its origins. Meanwhile, various train rides are available on the weekends with the gas-powered train offering rides on Saturday and steam engine train operating on Sundays. A miniature train can also be seen at the park from 12 – 5 every weekend.
793 M 139 Benton Harbor, Michigan 49022, Phone: 269-927-3302
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