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
1. 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?