Travel Destinations

Great Lakes Urban Ports


Carved out by retreating glaciers some 10,000 years ago, the vast inland seas known as the Great Lakes contain 21% of the world’s surface fresh water. In addition to their role as a vital transportation route, the pristine lake waters and surrounding forested lands provide crucial wildlife habitats and entertainment for boaters. Along the 9,000 miles of shoreline, you find welcoming ports that present a gamut of amenities from historic sites and arts festivals to world-class restaurants and sporting events.


Rochester, NY

“The Flower City” is a favorite destination for art, history and food lovers. The largest display of lilacs in North America is celebrated at Rochester’s internationally attended Lilac Festival. George Eastman Museum holds several million visual arts objects, and Susan B. Anthony Museum highlights the courage of the women’s rights movement. Food and brew are plentiful here. The city’s signature dish, the legendary Rochester Garbage Plate (your choice of hamburger, sausages, chicken or hotdogs served on top of fries, macaroni salad or baked beans topped with hot sauce) is a unique mashup of ingredients. Hedonist Artisan and Laughing Gull satisfy the cravings of chocolate lovers. Genesee Brew House features interactive exhibits and historical artifacts in its tasting room with spectacular views of High Falls.

Where to Dock: Port of Rochester Marina or Southport Marina

Courtesy of The City of Toronto

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

New York City run by the Swiss is a favorite description of Toronto. It’s a friendly city with international cuisine, culture and activities. Get a view from the top at the CN Tower before exploring attractions where everything from meteorites to sharks to works by contemporary indigenous artists are on display. Practice with a real puck and stick at the Hockey Hall of Fame or visit Toronto Zoo, the world’s third largest zoo. Don’t miss the opulent, Gothic-revival Casa Loma, a stunning castle. As a true multicultural city, Toronto’s culinary scene is extraordinary. For 200 years, St. Lawrence Market has been a casual hub for local and artisanal eats. Renovated Victorian industrial buildings in the pedestrian-only Distillery Historic District are home to indie eateries, galleries and boutiques.

Where to Dock: Harbourfront Centre marinas (Marina Quay West, Marina Four or John Quay)


Buffalo, NY

The harbor renaissance in Buffalo is centered around Canalside, the commercial heart of the downtown waterfront and the recreational- oriented Outer Harbor where hundreds of lakeside acres are dotted with hiking trails and boardwalks. The city is a collection of eclectic neighborhoods. Elmwood Village’s tree-lined streets have dozens of open-air cafes and independently owned, artisanal shops with public art on nearly every block. The quirky, artsy historic district of Allentown has beautiful brick buildings and colorful characters. Wall-size murals flank the many galleries, restaurants, shops and live music bars. For a Happy Hour featuring a variety of food and spirits, try Lucky Day. Built in the early 1900s as a freemason’s temple, it has a dark, inviting atmosphere and a handsome polished bar with an expansive whiskey library. Legendary nightly live music club, Nietzsche’s, has an artistic vibe.

Where to Dock: Sun Life Marinas - Buffalo Harbor

Cleveland, OH

Transformed from industrial city to cultural oasis of “world-class experiences without the world-class ego,” Cleveland offers first-rate museums, top-notch sports teams and the ubiquitous brats and brews. The term “Rock and Roll” was coined in Cleveland in the 1950s, and the city is now home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Cleveland Museum of Art showcases 45,000 objects spanning 6,000 years. For film fans, the Bumpus House is the setting of the iconic movie, A Christmas Story. Pierogies, hot dogs, sausage and corned beef are city staples. Try the Polish Boy: kielbasa, coleslaw and fries topped with barbecue sauce. At The Happy Dog, an authentic neighborhood bar, 50 house-made toppings crown beef hot dogs and vegan sausages, washed down with over 75 beers. Live music on weekends with Polka Happy Hour on Fridays!

Where to Dock: Oasis Marinas at North Coast Harbor

Monroe, MI

Originally called Frenchtown by French-Canadians who settled the banks of the River Raisin, Monroe is one of Michigan’s most historic cities. Learn the role the town played in the War of 1812 at River Raisin National Battlefield Park. The battle resulted in the greatest victory for Tecumseh’s American Indian confederation and the greatest defeat for U.S. troops. The resulting rally cry “Remember the Raisin” spurred support for the rest of the war. William C. Sterling State Park’s 1,300 acres on Lake Erie offer one mile of beach front, six miles of hiking trails and shore fishing. Aqua Dulce Cafe serves locally roasted coffees, baked goods and smoothies. Erie Bread Co. is a favorite for craft breads, pastries and pizza. Shrimp and grits is a popular choice at the Public House Food & Drink.

Where to Dock: River Raisin Marina


Alpena, MI

The history and heritage of a modern city blends easily with relaxed outdoor adventure in Alpena on the shores of Lake Huron and the Thunder Bay River. Agricultural, maritime, industrial and high-tech influences contribute to its vibrant culture. Once a major lumber port, the downtown is home to several historic buildings from the turn of the 19th century that have been preserved and renovated over the years. Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary protects about 200 historically significant shipwrecks resting on the bottom of Lake Huron. View the Shipwreck Alley collection from above by boat or by snorkeling from shore. The varied depths of the wrecks appeal to a range of diving skill levels.

Where to Dock: Alpena Marina


Chicago, IL

Courtesy of Chicago Harbors

For six consecutive years, Condé Nast Traveler readers voted Chicago the nation’s Best Big City. The Loop, named for the elevated train tracks that encircle it, is the city’s vibrant hub of first-class museums, boutiques and eateries. Art Institute of Chicago is one of the country’s largest and oldest art museums. National Museum of Mexican Art houses the nation’s largest collection of works from that country. Every neighborhood has gourmet eateries. Regarded as one of the world’s best restaurants, Alinea serves a multi-course tasting menu. Goddess and the Baker is a warm and inviting space for good coffee, a sandwich or dessert. The historic Green Mill Jazz Club, opened in 1907, became a speakeasy and Al Capone’s favorite hangout. North Avenue Beach in Lincoln Park has all the beach-vibe amenities beside surprisingly turquoise waters.

Where to Dock: Navy Pier Marina or Chicago Harbors

Milwaukee, WI

With its walk-around, character-filled neighborhoods, Milwaukee is urban- easy. German heritage is celebrated along cobblestoned Old World Third Street. The emerging Walker’s Point area is acclaimed for its locally made cheese, chocolate, ice cream, coffee and craft beers. In addition to its beer-brewing heritage, the city now has a powerhouse arts scene, big-city attractions, revitalized historic districts and numerous James Beard-nominated chefs. The Harley-Davidson Museum sports a priceless display of 450 bikes celebrating the rich motorcycle history and its contribution to pop culture. Stroll the RiverWalk past the “Bronze Fonz” statue from Happy Days to the Historic Third Ward, a six-square-block, converted warehouse district containing art galleries, theaters, specialty stores, restaurants and nightlife. The area is anchored by foodie haven Milwaukee Public Market, ranked among top markets by Frommer’s.

Where to Dock: McKinley Marina

Green Bay, WI

Green Bay was the first European settlement in the state but long before their arrival, many indigenous tribes called the area home. The impact and culture of these original inhabitants remain. Visitors looking to take a step back in time can experience the traditions of Native Americans, the daily life of early settlers or explore the area’s rich maritime history. Hanging wall art, pottery, jewelry and textiles fill The Art Garage, a gallery where local artists can display and sell their creations. The city is home to the Green Bay Packers, but beyond football food — beer, brats and cheese curds — you find no shortage of great dining such as the more adventurous offerings at Chefusion Restaurant.

Where to Dock: South Bay Marina


Courtesy of Duluth Entertainment Convention Center

Duluth, MN

Part rugged, part refined, Duluth is one-of-a-kind. From the world-famous Aerial Lift Bridge spanning Duluth Ship Canal to charming neighborhoods filled with local breweries and restaurants, Duluth is a boater’s dream destination. Named “Best Town Ever” by Outside Magazine, the city is idyllic for outdoor enthusiasts. With 9,168 acres of parkland and more than 300 miles of trails, you’re less than 1,000 feet from a trail wherever you are in the city. There’s even the 1.8-mile Bob Dylan Way, a cultural pathway winding through downtown to honor Duluth’s native son. Glensheen, the huge historic Congdon-family estate, was built on the rugged shores of Lake Superior at the turn of the last century. Restaurants are varied with plenty of breweries throughout town. For dining with waterfront views, try Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake.

Where to Dock: Lakehead Boat Basin

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