15 Best Things to Do in Clare, MI

Clare, MI
ehrlif / shutterstock.com

There is a wealth of things to do in Clare, a small city of just 3.83 square miles in the Clare County of Michigan.

Although the city of Harrison is the county seat 15 miles north of Clare City, the latter is very much in the groove of the wonderful lifestyle accessible in Michigan.

Two pet names suggest such a distinctive character for Clare and its namesake county: “City of Festivals” and “Where the North Begins.”

Clare’s location is in the central part of Michigan, enabling the city to meld itself with the various points of interest in the Great Lake State.

This city, in fact, straddles the boundary of two counties, with Clare County covering most of its northern area and Isabella County sharing a southern slice of Clare City.

Founded in 1891, subsequent to the 1870 construction of the Pere Marquette railroad, the city of Clare is thus very much integrated with the many points of interest around its area.

Taking this into account, it surely would be a wonderful experience to explore these 15 best things to do in Clare and its neighbors in Michigan.

Book a Stay with the Doherty Hotel

Front View of Doherty Hotel
Magicpiano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit Clare with billeting at The Doherty Hotel on 604 North McEwan Street corner East 5th Street.

This is a family-owned, 157-room hotel in business for more than 90 years and is now in the hands of fourth-generation Dohertys.

They promise hotel guests personal attention as if they’re family, offering exceptional food and lots of amenities.

The hotel’s facilities include an indoor pool, Jacuzzi, and a 1,400-square-foot banquet/ conference space.

The hotel can also arrange various tours in and around Clare for its guests, including outdoor activities and shopping.

Staying at the Doherty also puts you just steps away from downtown Clare’s various points of interest, like the Ideal Theater that has been screening movies since 1930.

Visit Lake Shamrock and Its Park

The naming of Shamrock Lake after the green leaf symbol of Ireland underscores an Irish influence on Clare.

An early Irish settler in Michigan named the city and the state as Clare, taking it from his hometown in Ireland.

Lake Shamrock covers 62 acres and is located in the northeastern part of Clare, with its namesake park accessible at 225 Wilcox Parkway.

Shamrock Park, at 9.8 acres, is one of Clare’s largest parks and a popular hangout for locals who enjoy a quiet place to relax and watch waterfowl cruising the serene lake.

The park’s amenities include a little league baseball diamond, sandbox, slides, swings, and climbing apparatus, plus two picnic pavilions and restrooms.

With a boat, you can also access Barns Island amid placid Lake Shamrock for fishing Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, Northern Pike, and Smallmouth Bass.

Camp at the Herrick Recreation Area

Known for short as HRA, this facility at 6320 East Herrick Road is for Clare visitors coming in RVs or campers.

This campsite southeast of the city center covers over 100 acres that feature three ponds.

You can choose from any of the 73 campsites in HRA or opt to stay in one of its five rustic cabins.

All HRA campsites are fully hooked and modern, while the cabins were each built overlooking a pond.

While camping at the HRA, you can enjoy not only swimming, boating, and fishing.

This campsite, open from May to early October, also provides sand volleyball courts, a horseshoe pit, and a playground.

Keep Campsite Close to the City at Pettit Park

Clare offers affordable campsites at the 5-acre Pettit Park on the banks of the Tobacco River.

This riverside site is just upstream of Shamrock Lake and offers not only camping but also fishing.

The park’s campsites are on a first-come, first-served basis, but reservations can be made for groups seeking 4 to 8 campsites.

Accessible via Wilcox Parkway and McEwan Street, the park has 21 campsites, 16 with electric hook-up, and five rustic sites.

The park’s amenities include a picnic pavilion, picnic area with grills, horseshoe pits, playground, and ADA-compliant fishing pier.

Campers also have access to a sanitation station, ADA-compliant restrooms, and coin-operated shower facilities.

Visit the Historic Clare Railroad Depot

The historic Clare Railroad Depot is located at 201 West Fourth Street near the City Hall and the City Park.

Fully restored to its 1890s Queen Anne architectural style, this building holds many railway artifacts and is also home to the Clare County Visitors Bureau and the Clare County Arts Council & Arts Gallery.

After you visit this Depot, go for a photo-op at the city’s iconic shamrock leaf-emblazoned water tower near Clare City Park.

This park, which hosts concerts, features a gazebo, picnic tables, benches, grill, water fountain, and seasonal skateboard facility.

Nearby Maple Street Park at West 3rd Street is also a choice for its picnic table and shelter, grills, benches, swing set, sandbox, and youth climbing wall.

Stay Active at Stamina Stadium

The city of Clare boasts a 13.2-acre sports park in its Stamina Stadium located at 820 Schoolcrest Avenue.

This facility features four fenced softball/baseball diamonds with bleachers, offering the chance to watch local teams at play or in practice.

Other facilities in the Stamina Stadium include a T-ball field, batting cages, a pavilion, swings, slide, a Jungle Gym, concession stand and restroom.

Adjacent to the Stadium, you can also access the half-mile McIreland Nature Trail with benches along the way for wildlife observation opportunities.

This trail runs from the Stadium’s south side and across the Little Tobacco Drain for its terminus at Eastwood Drive.

Explore the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail

The Pere Marquette State Trail is a multi-use trail running for 55 miles from lower Michigan to the city of Clare.

If you are a well-trained biker or runner, you can explore interesting destinations in Clare and those in Lake and Osceola counties.

You will pass through paved areas along the trail as well as cinder or ballast surface in some parts.

Take the westward trek of this trail, and you will pass through the towns of Loomis, Sanford, and Coleman before finally winding up south in Midland.

Along the way, you also have the opportunity for a detour to the 28.7-mile White Pine Trail for points of interest in Reed City.

Set Aims at the Clare Rod and Gun Club

Shooting and hunting aficionados can pursue their passion at the Clare Rod and Gun Club.

A charter member of the Michigan United Conservation Club, this group was established in 1937.

The club’s facilities are located at 10844 South Eberhart Road across from the Clare City Airport.

Every Sunday, starting from 1:00 p.m., the gun club opens its trap shooting event to the public.

Up-to-date systems are in place during these events to make them more enjoyable for shooters.

The club’s other programs include hunter's safety classes in September, pistol shooting for beginners and ladies, and youth/adult archery from January to March.

Shop and Dine at Herrick House and The Mulberry Cafe

This rare shopping and dining tandem is located at 20 East 5th Street in Clare’s downtown area.

Herrick House and The Mulberry Café is housed in a 2,000-square-foot vintage residence flaunting a turn-of-the-century Victorian design.

In this Civil War-era home, the merchandise to pick from includes ladies’ accessories, gift items for kids, prints, home décor, bath and body care products, specialty foods, and jewelry.

The Mulberry Café offers soups and pies as its specialties.

However, it also offers a full menu for breakfast and lunch, plus daily specials.

This Café’ provides a choice of indoor or outdoor seating to its patrons.

Try Cops & Doughnuts

This doughnut and coffee shop is the former Clare City Bakery operating since 1896, which was about to close in 2009.

However, the nine members of the Clare Police Department pooled their resources to rescue the business.

From the old bakery, Cops & Doughnuts rose at the bakery’s original location at 521 North McEwan Street.

This revitalized venture became so successful that Cops & Doughnuts has added locations in Pleasant, Bay City, and Midland.

At the Cops & Doughnuts Headquarters in Clare, you can enjoy not only homemade confection and steaming coffee.

There you can also buy collectible mugs and T-shirts with witty slogans like “Handcuffs and Cream Puffs” and “You Have the Right to Remain Glazed.”

Hunt for Downtown Bargains

Go for bargains while at the same time supporting a charitable cause by shopping at The Red Door Thrift Store.

Located at 1006 North McEwan Street in Clare’s downtown area, this store can keep all its items priced at reasonable levels because these are donations.

The Red Door Thrift Store opened in November 2011 solely to support Clare County’s only homeless shelter, Joshua’s House Maternity Home.

Also, along North McEwan Street, you can find another opportunity to hunt for bargains at Clare Antique Mall.

Located a short distance north of Red Door Thrift Store, Clare Antique Mall has 32 vendors and a wide variety of collectible items to choose from.

These include vintage jewelry and clothing, antique handmade signs, musical instruments, fishing and hunting tools, comic books, and sports cards.

Take Home Some Amish Products from Colonville Country Store

Clare is home to a large Amish community, and all around the city, you can buy their finely crafted products, baked goods, and produce.

For some samplings, visit Colonville Country Store, which has two locations in Clare.

Its original location at 7047 East Colonville Road is a one-stop shop for a wide variety of

poly and cedar wood outdoor furniture and accessories.

Shift to its second store at 7880 East Colonville for reasonably priced gifts and books, camping supplies, footwear and clothing, vitamins and supplements, among other products.

Satisfy your craving for mouthwatering Amish goodies at Country Cookstove & Bakery on 8704 South Eberhart Avenue, where the fare, to name a few, includes donuts, whoopie pies, cinnamon rolls, and maple syrup.

Swing a Mug at Four Leaf Brewing

This beer lovers’ must-visit is a three-barrel microbrewery at 412 North McEwan Street in downtown Clare.

Opened in 2015, it bills itself as “Michigan's Gateway to Great Craft Beer,” with a taproom offering not only craft beer but also mead, cider, and wine as well as great food.

Four Leaf’s tap list includes a beer selection from 12 brews that includes Wheat Beer, American Pale Wheat, Ale, and Porter.

Shifting to cider gives Four Leaf patrons several choices, such as Sweet Tart Apple Cider and Sweet Cherry Apple Cider.

All beverages of this microbrewery are handcrafted on site, using high-quality malts, fresh hops grains, honey, and fruits sourced locally.

Have Fun at Gateway Lanes and Lounge

There’s more to this fun place at 1410 North McEwan Street besides its 16-lane bowling alley.

Gateway Lanes and Lounge offers good food, and on some weekends, its lively bar features band music and karaoke on others.

Join its monthly tournaments that provide a lot of freebies when coinciding with a holiday.

On these special occasions, a tournament ticket not only unlocks four games of bowling but may also include a drink of your choice, chicken wings, salad, chips and dips, and cookies.

The friendly staff of Gateway Lanes and Lounge will ensure that you will have a cool, relaxed visit to Clare.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Shop at the Rosebush Farm Market

Visit Rosebush, a village in Isabella County, only about 8 miles to the south of Clare.

One of the prime attractions of this village is the Rosebush Farm Market that specializes in fresh produce.

Open daily, this farm market is located at 3814 North Mission Road in Rosebush.

A lot of pantry staples are available at the Rosebush Farm Market, including cabbage, lettuce, onions, peaches, melons, bananas, and various varieties of apples.

These are all Michigan produce and supplied by locals, some of which also deliver candies and maple syrup.

Final Thoughts

Clare is a small city but delivers big expectations largely because of its long history of development and ideal location.

Staying in Clare’s downtown alone already unlocks a lot of exciting recreational possibilities, be it indoors or outdoors.

Convincing your family or friends for a shot on these 15 things to do in Clare should be an easy task for you.