Saugatuck's primary source of revenue stems from tourism: although only about 1,000 individuals call Saugatuck their year-round home, the population of the town swells to nearly 3,000 in the summer. Saugatuck is a prime summer weekend getaway destination for residents of Chicago, Grand Rapids and Detroit areas, some attracted by the many bed and breakfasts in the area. In 2010, Saugatuck came in fourth in Budget Travel magazine's ten coolest towns in America.
In town, attractions include the many art galleries (over a dozen), small, independent shops, and restaurants, such as the Butler (named after the founder of the town, William Butler), Marro's Italian Restaurant, The Elbo Room, Coral Gables, and the Mermaid Bar & Grill. The Star of Saugatuck, a large paddle-wheel boat, gives daily tours of the Kalamazoo River and Lake Michigan. The Saugatuck Chain Ferry, a hand-cranked vessel, departs from Wick's Park and takes tourists from the town side of the river to the other shore for a walk to the beach, the historical museum or to climb the stairs at Mt. Baldhead. In addition to the art and music festivals throughout the year, the Saugatuck Center for the Arts features equity theater, music concerts, art exhibits, educational events, a green market, and is available for event rental.
Other attractions include the nearby town of Douglas, Saugatuck's sister city. Saugatuck's historic churches contribute to a vibrant community while preserving some of the oldest buildings in town. The oldest of these churches is First Congregational Church, founded in 1860. Douglas was home to the SS Keewatin, a coal-fired steamship formerly of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The 105-year-old ship was a floating museum and a fixture in the harbor until it was recently purchased and moved back to Canada.
Since the 1970s the Saugatuck and neighboring Douglas have been popular as a tourist destination for gay and lesbian tourists from the Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Grand Rapids areas, as well as other Midwestern urban areas. It has even been nicknamed by some as the Provincetown of the Midwest.
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