Sault Sainte Marie (Michigan)
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The oldest city in the state brings visitors in from around the world to see ships pass through the Soo Locks, where international commerce ships make their way between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes. Sault Ste Marie derives its name from nearby rapids and the archaic French word of Sault, which means rapids, or waterfall. The locks and nearby four casinos, as well as the numerous inland lakes, large expanses of forests, wilderness and the Lake Superior shoreline all make for an interesting visit. Located directly across the St. Mary's River and the Canada/US border is its twin city, Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.
Sault Ste. Marie is served by Interstate 75 from the south. This is the same highway that links Lower Michigan to the Upper Peninsula via the Mackinac Bridge. Sault Ste. Marie is at the northern terminus of I-75, about 50 miles north of the Mackinac Bridge. Two exits will get you into the Sault. 3 Mile Road is the first (approaching from the south) and takes you through most of the town via Business I-75. This route covers the main thoroughfare in town (Ashmun Street) and eventually gets you to Portage Avenue and the Soo Locks. The second (and last in the USA) exit off of I-75 is Easterday Avenue. This puts you virtually on the campus of Lake Superior State University to the east, or gets you more directly to Portage Ave. and the Locks to the west. The route is not quite as well-marked, however, and goes through some old and somewhat unattractive industrial areas. You bypass the downtown completely, which may not be so good, as you will miss lots of shopping, hotels and other amenities completely. But if you don't take this exit either, you will end up at the International Bridge toll and customs/immigration plaza for Canada. They will turn you around, without proper identification if you make this mistake. It's a hassle since traffic getting onto the bridge is often backed up in this area. Otherwise, crossing the border is reasonably easy. All you need is proper identification: a passport, passport card, Enhanced Driver's License, NEXUS, FAST, or SENTRI card, U.S. Merchant Mariner Documentation or U.S. Military Identification.
The "Sault Ste. Marie Michigan" airport is about 22 miles south of town, a former air force base along I-75. A shuttle bus & rental cars are available. The airport is served by Delta Air Lines, which offers daily flights to and from Detroit Metro Airport. There is also another small airport right in town that used to be the main airport years ago. After a long period of closure, it was re-opened for private planes a few years ago.
There is no rail service on the Michigan side, and buses from the Indian Trails bus line service Sault Ste. Marie Michigan regularly. The Mackinaw Shuttle Service also offers bus and limo service from its headquarters in Mackinaw City to Sault Ste Marie. Major carrier bus services were discontinued some time ago.
With all this in mind driving is about your only option. If you are headed for the Upper Peninsula anyway, it is definitely worth stopping in the Sault. It is also a great stopover if you are planning to continue on over to Canada, as the Michigan side tends to be less expensive for hotels, food, etc.
Taxi and local bus service are available, including buses into Canada.
The Edison-Soo Hydro-electric Power House is the world's longest canal-powered electric plant and dominates the shoreline east of the downtown area. Alford Park overlooks the St Mary's River, where you can relax for a picnic lunch to watch the big ships go by. Brady Park, established on the site of the original Ft. Brady, includes a tourist information center, a Japanese torii arch, the famous "musical fountain," and a comfortable atmosphere from which the big ships can be seen going through the locks. In the winter, the world’s biggest snowmobile racing event is held at the I-500 Snowmobile Track.
Visit the Soo Locks, the world’s largest system of locks, including the largest lock in the Western Hemisphere: it has been a major feature of Sault Ste. Marie since the first major lock was built in the mid-19th century.
The River of History Museum, located in the former Federal Building right on the waterfront, contains exhibits that will guide you through the fascinating history of the area from the most ancient times to the present. It includes the “Ship’s Store” souvenir shop.
The SS Valley Camp Museum is housed in a huge retired "laker" - an actual ore-carring ship. The museum contains many artifacts of maritime history on the Great Lakes, including mementos of the famed Edmund Fitzgerald wreck.
St. Mary’s Cathedral, the oldest church still in use in Sault Ste Marie, built in 1881. Next door to it is s the Tower of History was built as a Catholic Church memorial to the early missionaries to the area. This 200-foot-tall tower is a terrific place to view the St. Mary’s River and the countryside for many miles around. It also includes museum displays.
Lake Superior State University is located here on the former grounds of the second Fort Brady and has a great hockey team. The campus is pretty and well worth a walk through, as it overlooks the wide St Mary's valley and has a view of the International Bridge over to Canada. Some beautiful views are at night, as the campus is elevated and you can see the distant lights of the Canadian side.
Cascade Crossing Shopping Center houses many stores and shops, and used to have a Walmart, which has since moved down the business spur away from I-75 and closer to town. There are other stores and shops near the downtown waterfront.
Across the International bridge is the shops of downtown Sault Ste. Marie Ontario and The Station Mall with over 100 stores and services. The Station Mall is one of the largest regional shopping centres in Northern Ontario.