Roadside America: St. Joseph, Michigan

Growing up in Boston and later Tucson, I grew up going on beach vacations in New England and California. It wasn’t until I started dating my husband a decade ago that I discovered America’s “Third Coast” (the Great Lakes, for our purposes, though some call the Gulf states the Third Coast) in the Midwest. Visiting my in-laws in St. Joseph, Michigan, I was amazed to see that you don’t need to go to the edges of the country to experience sand between your toes, eat an ice cream on the boardwalk, and swim out further than your parents can see you. The Lake Michigan town of St. Joseph is a resort town from way back in the midst of a comeback, striking the rare balance between charming and twee.

Each year that I’ve visited St. Joseph, the town has evolved and improved into a destination worth visiting beyond a quick side trip from Chicago. The waterfront parks have been revitalized in recent years, and the beaches are so wide and sandy, you could forget you aren’t on an ocean. St. Joe and its sister city Benton Harbor are under two hours from Chicago, as well as an easy drive from other Midwestern cities such as Milwaukee and Detroit, in what has been called the “Riviera of the Midwest.”Just across Lake Michigan from Chicago, residents recently had hoped to revive the old Chicago-St. Joseph ferry that carried thousands to the beach in the 1920s heyday, but the venture proved too costly. Land remains the only approach, although there is a trans-Lake Michigan ferry between Milwaukee and Muskegon in the summer season, about 90 miles north of St. Joe. Amtrak makes the trip an hour and forty minutes from Chicago daily if you’d prefer not to get caught in traffic.

This area of Michigan is also famed for its produce, owing to the “lake effect” on the climate, helping to produce what is arguably the world’s best fruit. From June to November, you can taste many varieties at the Benton Harbor Fruit Market, one of the oldest and largest seller-to-buyer produce markets in America. Excellent fruit means excellent wine as well, and you can visit over a dozen wineries within a dozen miles of St. Joseph. You can also sample Michigan flavors at the annual Harvest Festival and regular farmers markets in the summer season.

In addition to the cute shops and a good selection of restaurants, St. Joseph has a budding arts scene anchored by the Krasl Art Center, which holds a major art fair each summer. The new pride of St. Joe is the Silver Beach area just below downtown. The historic Silver Beach Carousel was first opened in 1910 and re-opened 100 years later after the park had deteriorated and closed in the early ’70s. You can ride the carousel year-round, but go in the summer for the optimum effect, when you can finish out a day at the beach with one of Michigan’s famed sunsets and think about how soon you can return.

[flickr image via Molechaser]

Vintage Coney Island: postcard from 1938 Fortune Magazine

Coney Island
Summer has officially started and for many New Yorkers, summer is synonymous with Coney Island‘s boardwalk, beach, and hot dog eating contests. Fortune Magazine has just republished a story from their archives about Brooklyn‘s famous “island” (really, it’s been connected to the mainland for many years and is an island only in name, though technically it is part of Brooklyn, which is part of Long Island) when a day at the beach cost only 10 cents (round trip!) in subway fare.


The fascinating and evocative article chronicles the history and then-current status of New York‘s “nickel empire” after its 1920s heyday and at the beginning of its decline that led to the closure of most of Coney Island’s original attractions.

Back in 1938, there were sixty bathhouses where you could rent a locker, use the pool facilities, and even rent a bathing suit for fifty cents or less (nowadays you can try to change in a municipal restroom, but the only pool will be the overflowing sinks). Though it may seem a world away from the Coney Island of 2011 (men in white sailor suits cleaned the boardwalk each night!), a lot of parallels can be drawn about the waning popularity of urban beach resorts and revitalization efforts of Coney Island then and now.

Other highlights of the article include:
-The saga of Feltman’s frankfurters, who could once serve 8,000 meals at a time until a young upstart named Nathan undercut the hot dog business by a nickel and took over the market.
-Observations from chief lifeguard of 37 years John McMonigle on beach rescues: ” The fat dames is different. Hell, you don’t have to worry about them — can’t swim a lick — but they go in, dog paddle around two hours, an’ never touch bottom. By God you can’t sink ’em.”
-The oddly intriguing practice of baby incubators on the boardwalk with a charge to view (Boardwalk Empire viewers will recall seeing this in 1920 Atlantic City). Turns out they were opened by a pragmatic and kindly doctor who treated poor and ill infants, using the admission fee to pay for the medical care and facilities.
-The difficulties of running a freak show, where acts included “The Spider Boy; Singing Lottie, Fat Girl (O Boy, Some Entertainer); Laurello, the Only Man With a Revolving Head (See Frisco, the Wonder Dog); Professor Bernard, Magician Extraordinary (He will fool you); Professor Graf, Tattoo Artist (Alive); and his star act, Belle Bonita and her Fighting Lions (Action, Thrills).”

Read the whole article (maybe on your way to Coney Island on the subway) here.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Albany_Tim.

The Party’s “Summer Vacation,” a nostalgic music video


Summer vacation is just around the corner and it’s time to enjoy some lighter forms of entertainment. If you’re a twenty- or thirty-something, you may remember Disney‘s Mickey Mouse Club’s attempt to become cool as the MMC. Before future stars Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Justin Timberlake joined the cast, there was the pop ensemble The Party and their summer anthem “Summer Vacation.” The song did respectably on the charts in 1990 and the video has all of the hallmarks of an early nineties music video: white dudes rapping, boardwalk skateboards, and lots of lycra. Enjoy this nostalgic trip to the beach: Tune in, groove on, and bust out!

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk 005: Khmer Rouge Tourism, Scottish banknote woes, China on dog meat, and fun in the Californian sun


GadlingTV’s Travel Talk, episode 5 – Click above to watch video after the jump

Spring is here! The sun is out! GadlingTV’s Travel Talk heads to Santa Cruz, California for an action-packed episode.

This week we discuss Cambodia’s efforts to turn the Khmer Rouge legacy into tourist attractions, why traveling the UK with Scottish banknotes could be problematic, China’s unrelated plans for a new London-Beijing connection and a ban on the sale of cat & dog meat.

We’ll show you how to brew a special tea from Argentina; Sheila recounts tales from England and dating around the world, Melanie from Germany shows Aaron how to cook bratwurst and we go on a massive beach adventure.

If you have any questions or comments about Travel Talk, you can email us at talk AT gadling DOT com.

Subscribe via iTunes:
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Show directly in iTunes (M4V).
[RSS M4V] Add the Travel Talk feed (M4V) to your RSS aggregator and have it delivered automatically.

Links:
Yerba Mate – buy Maté and learn more!

Your money’s no good here, Scotland – the Everywhereist.
Llanfairpwllgwyngyll – try saying this five times fast.
Hosts: Stephen Greenwood, Aaron Murphy-Crews, Drew Mylrea
Special guests: Sheila & Melanie from Germany.
Produced, Edited, and Directed by: Stephen Greenwood, Aaron Murphy-Crews, Drew Mylrea
Special thanks: Todo Mate, Capitola.
Music by:

“High Life No. 2”

“Sweeny’s Polka”
.Caledonix
http://caledonix.de
“Evolution”
the Pacific
http://myspace.com/thebixbyknolls

Poll of the Week!

%Poll-43056%

Last week’s results:
Should a pilot that flew illegally for 13 years be given a chance to get licensed?

Yes – he’s adequately proven that he can fly! (54.4%)

No – he’s a criminal and should be put in jail. (35.1%)
Only if we can monitor his conversations in the cockpit! (1.8%)
Only if he has the looks and charm of Leonardo DiCaprio. (8.8%)

High-tech bridge to connect Singapore’s Sentosa Island

Construction began Tuesday on a 620 meter boardwalk that will connect Sentosa Island with Singapore’s mainland.

The resort’s annual 5 million guests will be able to access the island on foot come November 2010. A series of covered travelators will be capable of transporting an estimated 8,000 guests per hour in each direction.

The boardwalk will be lined with retail, food and beverage outlets and be divided into five garden theme areas – mangrove, rock garden, terrain / hill, coastal flora and rainforest.

The development is expected to cost USD $48.6 million, and will accomodate a surge in visitors next year when Resorts World at Sentosa opens. The island currently features two five-star hotels, two golf courses, and will be home to Universal Studios Singapore when it opens in early 2010.

And if all that isn’t enough to pique your interest, then maybe our list of Summer festivals in Singapore will.

More tech specs can be viewed via the Sentosa Leisure Group’s official press release.