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My Town: Ernie Hudson’s Picks for Benton Harbor, Michigan

‘Ghostbusters’ actor shares his favorite hometown places to visit

building as background; photo of ernie hudson in upper left corner; the words greetings from benton harbor michigan in upper right corner

Photo Illustration: MOA Staff; (Source: Hudson: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images; Background: Nick Hagen)


Ernie Hudson, 77, starring on the NBC reboot of Quantum Leap and in the movie Champions with Woody Harrelson, was raised by his maternal grandmother in the small town of Benton Harbor, Michigan. About 185 miles west of Detroit, Benton Harbor and the city of St. Joseph are separated by the St. Joseph River and are known locally as the “Twin Cities.” Hudson returns to the city to visit relatives and to speak at the schools, prison and at the Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor [Greater Southwest Michigan]. “I get back at least once a year, sometimes twice,” he says. “My mom died when I was 3 months old, but her sisters, aunts — now they have all passed on — [but] their kids are there.”


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L: Courtesy Hudson; R: Courtesy Columbia/Everett Collection

“Ghostbusters” star Ernie Hudson was raised by his maternal grandmother in Benton Harbor, Michigan.


Book a room at …

There’s a newer, renovated hotel right at the edge of Benton Harbor called The Inn at Harbor Shores. It’s a really nice restaurant and hotel. If I’m back there, that's where I’ll stay, unless I do an Airbnb.


adirondack chairs at the inn at harbor shores

Nick Hagen

The Inn at Harbor Shores features 92 guest rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, multiple dining options and a full-service spa.


Eat like a local at …

The Mason Jar Cafe. Years ago it was a barber shop. It’s a nice place.


woman walking and people sitting at tables in the mason jar café

Nick Hagen

The Mason Jar Cafe serves fresh, seasonal fare prepared with organic ingredients such as eggs, asparagus, potatoes, strawberries, kale, arugula and blueberries sourced from local farmers.


Go for a stroll at …

Jean Klock Park. Benton Harbor is right off the river. When I was growing up, they had a huge farmers market, and at one time there were boats that came over from Chicago. It’s always been a cool place to go. ... They also revitalized that park with great walking trails all along the river. It’s a beautiful place just to get away and be right on the water. The area is known for the dunes. The lake is beautiful. At that park they have different events and concerts.


man walking dog on beach at jean klock park

Nick Hagen

Historic Jean Klock Park offers walking trails, picnicking and swimming facilities and access to long stretches of beach along Lake Michigan’s shoreline.


Take in a show at …

The Ghostlight Theater in the Benton Harbor Arts District. A good friend, [artistic director and co-founder] Paul Mow, he [helps run] The Ghostlight Theater. I’ve worked with him and gone back a couple times. He’s really doing some nice work. They have been really active, and even during COVID they managed to get productions up. 


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L: Courtesy Nick Hagen; R: Courtesy Paul Mow

Martel Burton, left, starred as Don Pedro in the Ghostlight Theater's production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” Hudson has remained close friends with the theater's artistic director and cofounder, Paul Mow.


Soak up the sun on …

Silver Beach [County Park], just on the other side of the bridge in St. Joseph. A lot of people would come over and vacation from Chicago. I know the carousel is still there. The highlight of the summer was being able to go to St. Joseph. … The bridge used to be famous because for so many years it was so segregated. St Joseph was all white; Benton Harbor was pretty much all black. I remember one day — it had to be in first grade — my brother was three years older, and he and his friends were playing hooky. They took me along with them, and instead of going to school we walked over to St. Joseph’s and went to Silver Beach, which was closed at that time. So we walked around the beach and it was really kind of cool … and we realized it got late and we were running trying to make it home in time. We were coming across the bridge and we looked up and saw my uncle's car. They were looking for us.


sunset at silver beach

Nick Hagen

Located at the mouth of the St. Joseph River, Silver Beach County Park is open daily year-around from dawn to dusk.


Savor the local produce at …

Piggott’s Farm Market and Bakery. As kids, we would pick fruit — not always for fun but, sometimes in the summer to make money. [The area is known as] the fruit belt. There’s just amazing fruit — blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, peaches.


lucy mendoza at the counter of piggott's farm and bakery; signs and artwork behind her

Nick Hagen

In addition to a selection of homegrown fruits and vegetables, Piggott's Farm Market and Bakery sells pies, cookies, jams, honey and preserves.


Ride the train ride at …

Eden Springs Park [formerly at The House of David recreational space]. When I was a kid, The House of David, had an amusement park. Through the amusement park, they had a train that ran all away around the park. The park itself is no longer active, but the train is there. It’s a fun thing for kids.


train tracks at eden springs park

Nick Hagen

Trains at Eden Springs Park run from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The miniature trains run on weekends from noon to 5 p.m.; a gas-powered train runs on Saturday and the steam engine runs on Sunday. Tickets are $3 per ride.


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