10 things I love about Brighton, and 5 things I don’t

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Best thing about Brighton? The cock-eyed Old Town Hall.

When I first moved to Livingston County in 1983, Brighton was still what you could call “sleepy.” The corner of Grand River Avenue and Challis Road – where Target, Home Depot, MJR Brighton Cinemas, etc., are now – was just a big field. The Meijer store had just opened, but it was teeny-tiny. There wasn’t a single big motel. And, of course, there was no Taco Bell.

Then the explosion began. Fast-forward 33 years, and Brighton now has EVERYTHING. Which means there’s plenty to love – and plenty not to love.

So here’s my list of 10 things I love about Brighton, and 5 things I don’t. (And for the record, when I refer to “Brighton,” I mean the entire Brighton area – Green Oak, Genoa and so on.) Here we go!

10 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT BRIGHTON

1. The Old Town Hall
Brighton has gotten so many new things, but my favorite thing about the town is still something old. For about four years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when I was the editor of the Brighton Argus, my office was there. And I loved it. The historic building on the banks of the Mill Pond was built sort of cock-eyed so that it would line up with Main Street and St. Paul Street. It’s just a very cool building, and I hope it’s going to be around for another 150 years.

2. The downtown experience
When you take all the factors into consideration, Brighton’s downtown experience is one of the best in all of Michigan. It has everything – a variety of interesting and eclectic shops; great restaurants; a cool playground; duck poop. Everything.

3. The Brighton Center for the Performing Arts
The best thing about the BCPA isn’t just that it’s a Broadway-quality theater (which it is). The best thing about the BCPA is that since it opened, the people who run it have made it a mission to bring amazing shows and performers to town – everyone from Gordon Lightfoot to Rich Little. The BCPA rocks.

4. The Brighton Kiwanis Club’s Gazebo Concerts
Is there anything better than a lazy Sunday evening in the summer, sitting in your lawn chair and listening to the music at the Mill Pond? No.

5. Mt. Brighton
Nobody seems to know what’s under the Big Hill on Bauer Road (it’s either built on a big pile of dirt, a big pile of tires or a big pile of garbage, depending on who you ask), but Brighton wouldn’t be Brighton without Mt. Brighton. It was even featured in a Hollywood movie (the awful “Aspen Extreme”).

6. The Imagination Station
It was built by a group of about 1,500 community volunteers back in 1996, and since then, it’s been a magnet for the downtown area. How many thousands and thousands of children have grown up playing here?

7. Cooper and Binkley Jewelers
If I had to single out just one business in Brighton’s downtown — and there are some excellent ones — it would be Cooper and Binkley. It’s been here for generations, it’s a beautiful store, and nobody is more generous when it comes to giving back to the community. This is everything a small-town store should be.

8. The Tridge
Other towns have a bridge. Brighton has a Tridge. You can walk on it, bike on it, fish off it, watch ducks off it – whatever you want. When they built it about 20 years ago, it took the downtown from good to great.

9. Kensington Metropark
I know we technically share this with Milford and Oakland County, but Kensington is one of the best things about the Brighton area. You can hike, bike, golf, swim, skate, see wildlife and everything else – all in one place.

10. The Yum Yum Tree’s electric train
There’s nothing more iconic about Brighton than the little train that chugs around the ceiling inside the Yum Yum Tree. May it never go away.

And now that we’re feeling all warm and fuzzy … 5 THINGS I DON’T LOVE ABOUT BRIGHTON

UNG11. The Ugly Naked Guy
This statue at the Mill Pond is officially called “Decision Pending,” but everybody in town calls it the Ugly Naked Guy (and according to Wikipedia, I’m the one who gave it that name! Hooray!). It’s true that I’ve been railing against the Ugly Naked Guy for years, and I hate it just as much now as I ever have. It’s simply ridiculous that a town as cool as Brighton should have a statue as ugly as this sitting in the most prominent position in town.

2. The roundabouts
I’m not talking about the itty-bitty one on Main Street, near Brighton High School. I’m talking about the gigantic ones on Lee Road, down in Green Oak Township. People either love ‘em or hate ‘em, and I have to say that I’m still in the “hate ‘em” camp. Your blood pressure always goes up a couple notches when you have to drive through them, and simply driving to the store shouldn’t have to be that much of an ordeal.

3. Traffic on Grand River Avenue
The worst traffic in Livingston County – by far – can be found right here. If you have a couple hours to spare, try driving from Target to downtown Brighton during rush hour. It’s a blast.

4. The Genoa Township Board
The Brighton area has some outstanding elected bodies (including the Brighton City Council). But as we saw last summer in the debacle surrounding Livingston Christian Schools trying to move into its new home at the Naz, the Genoa Township Board is one of the worst. This is an election year, so hopefully, some changes are coming.

5. The new Brighton Mall
There are some fine stores here now, but man, I miss the old Brighton Mall – the enclosed one with Kmart and Grundy’s Hardware and all that. Ah, the good old days.

So, what do YOU love and not love about Brighton?

About Buddy Moorehouse 82 Articles
Longtime Livingston County journalist Buddy Moorehouse is director of communications at the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.

48 Comments

  1. Born and raised in Brighton. So sad to see the yuppification of such a lovely small town. It’s true; one can never go home again. 🙁

  2. I moved here in 1983 too and a lot has changed in those years. I’m with you on disliking the Circles of Death roundabout. Too bad because I avoid it, meaning I also avoid those businesses on the “other side” of the expressway. No way to get there without traversing the roundabout. I don’t like the “too contemporary” art either. We have a lot of great local artists and it makes no sense that we don’t feature their works. What I do like is the owner-operated businesses. I frequent them. I support them whenever possible. I’m very happy to see Gourmet Garden opening again this week after their fire. I would never choose a chain over a locally owned business, so long as that business is “nice” and the LC businesses and business owners are the best. My favorite store is Creative Quilt Kits, also locally owned. They don’t get much press in county, but they are very well known in the quilt community as being innovative, warm and friendly. A good break on a “bad day” is always a trip to town to eat lunch at Gourmet Gardens where I’m always greeted by name, get ice cream at Yum-Yum Tree (I still miss Sharon) with a stroll around the mill pond and then fabric therapy and a visit with Gaye at Creative Quilt Kits east of town, beside Ritters. I just don’t think it gets better than that. I’m glad I raised my children here. They moved away but now they are trying to come back to raise their children here too!!!

  3. Total agreement with Buddy Moorehouse regarding Ugly Naked Guy. How does a piece of art like that add to the charm of our downtown?? Same goes for the modern industrial looking metal pieces. Yes, they are all pieces of art, but all seem to be out of place in Brighton.

  4. The roundabouts are way safer and more efficient than a tradional 4-way stop as proven by the Mythbusters and many countries in Europe.

  5. I miss the smell of Grundy’s Hardware in the mall. I remember walking in there 100 times with my dad as a kid.

  6. Third generation Brightonian, here. I don’t like that WAY TOO MANY yuppies/city slickers moved here and turned our small town into suburbia snobbery. Our road systems are too small to handle all the traffic. When I’m driving on Grand River I just want to yell “Go back to where you came from!”

  7. The things I never liked:

    – The lack of diversity. The past few years, I have lived in racially diverse areas and have met some really great people of different race. I also have extended family that were from Vietnam. So I’ve been able to try foods I normally never would have. I can even make home made spring rolls now.

    – I have to agree with another poster….the snobbiness. Some people in LC look down poorer people. And heaven forbid someone want to build a Manufactured Home Community there! all the Protestors!

    – Traffic!!!! Especially US23 and Grand River in general.

    Things I miss:

    – Ok, while living in racially diverse areas is nice….if you live in the wrong parts of certain towns, you don’t feel as safe. Especially when an area has 16 shootings in 12 days. I was shopping in LC the other week, was in Meijer. jumped and reflectively grabbed at my purse because someone was behind me as I was getting my shopping cart (sorry, my nearest Meijer is in the ghetto). We don’t have greeters – we have security. And the bank behind is has an armed guard.

    I do miss some restaurants from LIvingston County in general. B-Line, Cozy Inn, Border Cantina, Chery’s Place. Yum Yum Tree, Golden House (you would think with an area with a lot of Asian’s…you could find a decent place here. There is one in Okemo’s, Asian Buffet).

    This area (Lansing) does have stuff LC doesn’t – we have Mitchell’s Seafood Market, PF Changs, DeLucas (best Italian and pizza), Asian Buffet, and we’re getting two Chik Fil-A’s.

    – Kensington…..I do miss that.

    – Biggest thing I miss about LC: Stroh’s in Brighton Mall. That was the best malted milk!

    – Free parking in downtown. Parking in downtown Lansing and East Lansing is expensive.

  8. I grew up in Brighton, moved around quite a bit, and am now settled in Howell; but Brighton is where I consider home to be and probably always will. My favorite thing about Brighton is that no matter how it has grown, it had never lost that small town feel. All the things mentioned in the article, in addition to the small community theater groups, the editor of the newspaper that I’ve been following for 30(?) Years, parades, small cafes/restaurants, farmer markets, festivals, etc., adds to the fabric of this town and creates a rich tapestry of character and nostalgia that other towns just don’t possess!

  9. What about all the great people that we cherished around Brighton. The pharmacist at the drugstore downtown, the old lady (she seemed old when I was a kid) that always gave me extra ice cream at the Dairy Queen, or Walkin’ John. Life would not have been the same without these people and more. Anybody know if Walkin’ John is still around?

  10. Brighton is great is you like a lack of diversity, an overabundance in salons, and jewelry stores, and upper class snobbery. It’s a great place to live if things like roundabouts and art sculptures of the male physique don’t bother you too much. Thank god Brighton got a Panda Express to run the hardworking owners of Gourmet Garden out of business. Im hoping for a Chipotle soon so they can close down Mi Zarape.

  11. Never liked Brighton too much. Too many closed minded white people. I’d like to raise my children in a place where they could experience different cultures and not think Panda Express is good Chinese food.

    • I hear you and understand. However, have to admit that having moved to Brighton from Detroit back in 1978, as narrow minded as folks may or may not have been, there was never a “bad” side of town in Brighton….one of the things about growing up that I truly miss.

  12. I love Brighton, I grew up Downriver in a small town and moved to fowlerville in 2000 then moved to Brighton in 2012 Best move ever! I love that I have a home 2 blocks from downtown with 1/2 half acre, and our home is not cookie cutter it is Beautiful and I love the chimes of St. George Lutheran Church! They are lovely when we are sitting in our yard. I am sure there are “snobs” as some have put it, but my feeling is if someone is giving you that vibe tell them to pound salt. and we all put our pants on the same way. I also Like the fact the school system works with the kids and there are different options not just the traditional High school but also the Bridge alternative school.

  13. I wish they would bring back the 4th of July celebration with the carnival and the fireworks and Thank you Mr Bob Herbest and ubers drugs back in the day a and the sidewalk sale days ! I Brighton and have called it home for over 30 years now I guess I just miss the good ole days !

  14. I love Brighton! I was born right here at Mellus Hospital (the building the current Chamber of Commerce is in). My mother was a nurse there in the 1950’s. All of my sisters were born there also. Dr. Wilkerson had his practice in Dr. Brown’s building. Precious memories. Friendly town that has grown alot. ~m. clark

  15. I love Brighton. But what I don’t love is the reputation it has among other towns in the county as snobby and elitist. Please, Brightonians, be kind, be helpful, be compassionate, be fair. Show the world what classy and considerate looks like.

  16. I was born and raised in Brighton but live in Montana now..my favorite memories and the old drive in theater , I was born just in time to enjoy the tail end of it. And my family owned Lynn’s Cafe owned by my Aunt Lynn, then cousin Cheri, and my mom Jeanne before it changed hands. I think Lynn’s was always a Brighton staple. And Mt Brighton was a huge part of my childhood , glad that made the list!!

  17. Rolison Pro Hardware Store, bet hardware store ever! Also, Coney Joes. Worked at the hardware store, and ate at Coney Joes every weekend. When I visit the state I still stop there.

  18. I loved the ‘dime store’ on main street. We used to get popcorn and play on the OLD playground which was made of dangerous rusted metal slides, swings and a merry go round. We survived it and loved it! not much was on Grand River – not even Meijer. It was all forest and we would go chop dead wood back there. The Brighton Mall was the ‘happening place.’ And I loved the creaky floors and the smell of the hardware store on Main Street. Uber’s was great for getting candy. And Coney Joes is my all time favorite! Oh and who can forget A&W next to Dairy Queen

    • I have been thinking about the Brighton Mall! The Music Box for buying concert tickets, records, tapes, etc.!! A & W is missed as is D & C! Best jelly beans ever! Love the Mill Pond! Kensington has always been a great place. I miss the hot air balloons I used to see in Brighton! I catch them on occasion, but it isn’t often. Was it Grants before K-mart? Also the bookstore and office supply store,…not to forget the Bon Ton Shop! My moms favorite!

  19. We moved to Brighton 3 years ago.
    LOVE: Farmers’ Market Saturday mornings, Kensington Valley Hockey, our librarians, Main St feels like Main St Disneyland without admission costs, all the parking downtown is free, Oh My Lolli hides tokens for free lollypops in the Imagination Station everyday, volunteer oportunities like cleaning/remulching the Imagination Station, the fire station Halloween open house and tridge-or-treat, the BHS marching band is 200+!, The street lights change to blinking yellow overnight so you don’t have to wait at red lights when nobody is around, Sniglets at Wacky Willie’s.
    DISLIKES: our one acre is not enough land for chickens according to B twp, I am also on team ‘dislike’ of the triple round-about and avoid those stores if possible, and my children cover their eyes when we walk past “ugly naked guy” and grumble about it not being right.
    Overall, moving here was our best decision ever.

  20. Love:our downtown parades,roundabouts, ALL outdoor art, state and metro parks within a 10 minute drive!

  21. I find it humorous that Genoa twp board made the dislike list. Although, they are so deserving. I’m not even poor & I realize a lot of the people in Brighton are snobs who think their sh*t doesn’t stink. I’ve grown up here. All 40 years. It’s the saddest part of Brighton. Otherwise, the town is great with a lot of shopping & food options.

  22. I’ve lived in Brighton since 1972 and I love the roundabouts! Even with the challenges, they have dramatically improved traffic flow getting off the freeway at Lee Rd during rush hour.

    I love Bishop Lake and the Brighton Recreation Area.

    I love that the “Pink Hotel” has been transformed and now adds to the charm of downtown Brighton.

    While I’m not particularly fond of the statue at the milpond, it certainly isn’t worthy of “hate”. It’s art and it’s as worthy as any other sculpture to be there.

    I still love driving down Grand River on a Saturday or a Sunday just as the sun is coming up and there are very few cars on the road. Brighton still has that old sleepy feeling then.

  23. Coney Joes! That is a Brighton staple. Also, I grew up during the time when we all hung out at the “idiot circle” at the old Brighton Mall, then in the old movie theater parking lot when they close it before Best Buy was put in.

  24. i live i nc now but in the begining of the livingston county hockey league we used the mill pond iceit will always be home to me

  25. I remember my dad taking me with him to the Brighton dump when they started pushing clay to seal it over the garbage and then dirt. Eventually came grass and the ski lifts and lodge. I know I’m showing my age now and I remember sking there in the early 80s. Ponderosa was the best restaurant in town back when it had barn wood walls and no salad bar, that came later. Taco bell had the iconic clay roof and an actual bell at the Alamo type peak and there was no Meijer, Kmart and kroger were king. Meijer in Ypsilanti was the closest one and they had DAYCARE for shoppers.

  26. Roundabouts are like communism- they should work- but they don’t. Because, people.

    And my kids have called that statue Naked Mangled Man for years- it’s fun when people hang leis on him or sneak baseball hats onto his head at night- Brighton’s sense of humor- you gotta love it!

  27. The good old days – The Barber Shop, Coney Island, The Bank, Jacklagoff Bookstore, Perry Drugs, A & P, and not mention Grundy Ace Hardware. We never had to go anywhere, it was all there. – Mr. Grundy

  28. The good old days – The Barber Shop, Coney Island, The Bank, Jacklagoff Bookstore, Perry Drugs, A & P, and not mention Grundy Ace Hardware. We never had to go anywhere, it was all there. – Mr. Grundy who just turned 90 is still working. Thank you for sharing

  29. You’re right, Barbara! It was the Iron Mustangs. They had a motorcycle track back in the woods off Challis Road.

  30. I will be showing my age, but I remember when Brighton had only two stop lights. Grand River and Main, Grand River and Whitmore Lake rd. When you walked downtown you knew everyone by name. I miss that. We still have a great town. I don’t miss having to go to Ann Arbor to shop for everything except groceries.
    L.p.

  31. I grew up in Brighton. I like that Brighton has shops and restaurants in the downtown area. The farmer’s market is pretty cool. What don’t I like? Brighton is too close-minded politically.

    • I grew up in Brighton as well and couldn’t agree more about the ridiculous closed-mindedness. The number one reason I left as soon as I graduated from high school.

  32. I remember the land where the MJR, Home Depot, etc as being the motor cross, motorcycle club called the Iron Horses (I think it was called) land with trails and race track. Fun times.

  33. I moved from Brighton over 8 years ago due to husbands job relocation. I miss it every day & the feeling never goes away.

  34. I Love Love Brighton! I love being so close to all the restaurants and shopping….I dont even mind the traffic….I travel all over and Brighton is clean and has lots to offer for all ages…the downtown is thriving and when company comes to visit theres always something going on, they are always impressed…

  35. Lets just say the police are much friendlier in South Lyon. After locking my keys in my car, I was surprised how understanding they were. I was embarrassed and they assured me that it was no problem.

  36. I think that one of the worst torturers of modern life, is waiting at a stop sign or traffic signal for my turn or time to go. When I am stopped at a light and traffic is clear in every direction, or when I am waiting on the person that doesn’t know it’s their turn to go at a multiple stop intersection. I feel like I am being Punk’d and as I look around for the hidden cameras, I can’t help but think of all of the time, that I have lost and will lose during the course of my life, just waiting at intersections for my turn. The roundabout intersection, when implemented and used properly, has been proven to be at least 20% more effective than a traditional four way stop. When the intersection is more complicated the efficiency increases, the community saves on electricity and signal costs, the commuter has increased fuel efficiency and less wear on their breaks.

    MDOT has some instructional videos to help educate the public. https://youtu.be/ONacAiKXe-8.

  37. I lived in Brighton for 23 years.. started out hating it, ended up loving it.. Moved out of Michigan 3 years ago and still miss Brighton, especially its’ wonderful restaurants, Meijer and Meier Flowerland, Mt. Brighton and lots of warm, polite people. You don’t know what you got til it’s gone.

  38. Love the roundabouts. Hate that people are too dumb to figure them out. It’s a “Yield” sign NOT a “stop” sign. And once you’re in the circle – YOU DONT STOP! Also Grand River traffic is the worst! It takes forever to just go one mile. Also because the people never go the speed limit. Errrrrrg

  39. What I don’t like is the cities DDA board. Many members don’t even live in town or have a building in town, yet they are allowed to wheeled so much power as to what, when, where and how. The continue to buy, tear down and then try to sell. Soon North St., both N & S wont have a single building.

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