The Coolest Small Towns In America: Saugatuck

In Budget Travel's fifth-annual celebration of hometown escapes across the USA, we're spotlighting 10 places that somehow pack in more personality than cities triple their size. How? It all comes down to the people.

Saugatuck, Mich., which sits at the junction of the Kalamazoo River and Lake Michigan (Courtesy Courtesy Wood Sabolt)
Saugatuck, Mich., which sits at the junction of the Kalamazoo River and Lake Michigan (Courtesy Courtesy Wood Sabolt)

SAUGATUCK, MICHIGAN (pop. 954)
A lake town where time stands still

One weekend in Saugatuck was all it took for Philippe Quentel. After two days of taking in arts and crafts homes, picket fences, and upper Midwest charm, he made the 140-mile drive back to Chicago, sold his art gallery—then one of the city's largest—and opened Affordably French, right in the heart of Saugatuck (421 Water St., 312/404-4592).

To residents of this sleepy Lake Michigan town, Quentel's story is nothing new. Then again, little in Saugatuck is. Spared the big-box modernization seen by many of its neighbors, it retains a charm from another era. On Butler Street, 70-year-old Saugatuck Drug Store is the source for everything from Kleenex to kites (201 Butler St., 269/857-2300). Chain restaurants are nonexistent. And to get to Saugatuck's white-sand Oval Beach, visitors cross the Kalamazoo on an 1838 hand-cranked chain ferry.

"In old black-and-white pictures, Saugatuck looks just as it does now," says Lindsay Tringali, 31, owner of Bella Vita Spa and Suites, a clean-lined, six-room inn downtown (119 Butler St., bellavitaspa.biz, from $109). "Beyond some fresh paint and paved roads, it never changes."

Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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