Must-See Museums in Northern Michigan
The museums in northern Michigan may well be one of Michigan’s best-kept secrets. Sure, everyone knows about the stunning natural beauty of northern Michigan that draws visitors all year long. The opportuntities for outdoor activities are endless: hiking, biking, swimming, boating, fishing… and more!
However, there’s something else that adds to the allure of northern Michigan as a vacation destination. It’s the unique museums that celebrate the art, history and culture of the area and beyond.
From local historical museums that give life to nautical origins of towns along Lake Michigan and Lake Huron to art museums offering renowned art works, you’re in for well-curated treat.
Here are 12 museums in northern Michigan we think you should check out!
AuSable-Oscoda Heritage Museum
Where: 114 E. River Rd., Oscoda, MI 48750
Why You Should Go: Located in downtown Oscoda, a popular travel destination on Lake Huron. You’ll find Indian artifacts, commercial fishing, shipping, ship wrecks, logging, Paul Bunyan legend, railroads, lighthouses, the AuSable River and its dams, the fire of 1911, Wurtsmith Air Force Base.
Benzie Area Historical Society and Museum
Where: 6941 Traverse Ave, Benzonia, MI 49616
Why You Should Go: Explore the history of life in beautiful Benzie county since 1867. With more than 37,000 artifacts in the collection, you can get a real feel for the lives of those drawn to this picturesque setting so many years ago.
Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan
Where: 491 Johnson St., Alpena, MI 49707
Why You Should Go: If you choose one museum to visit in northern Michigan, make it this one in Alpena. It’s so much fun, with exhibits ranging from local wildlife to those celebrating this rich history of the Alpena area. You’ll find art exhibits, a planetarium and more here. You’ll also find an amazing fossil park where you can dig for your own treasures.
PRO-TIP: Alpena is home to two more amazing museums, and one is underwater! The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is worth exploring by boat, where you can gaze into the water at ship wrecks of Lake Huron. Learn more in our Guide to the Top Things to Do in Alpena.
Call of the Wild Museum
Where: 850 S Wisconsin Ave, Gaylord, MI 49735
Why You Should Go: A museum unlike any other, the Call of the Wild Museum in Gaylord is all about wildlife. Over 60 wildlife displays, a wildlife theater, and a hands-on learning center fill the museum space. It offers a unique looks at North American wildlife.
Additionally, a scavenger hunt makes the experience even more engaging. When you’re done, you can even head next door to the Call of the Wild Bavarian Falls Park for mini gold, go-karts, and bumper cars.
Dennos Museum Center
Where: 1410 College Drive, Traverse City, MI 49686
Why You Should Go: The Dennos Museum Center on the campus of Northwest Michigan College in downtown Traverse City is a best-kept secret. It has an amazing permanent collection of Inuit Art. Additioanlly, find some top-notch collections from modern and contemporary artists.
Little Traverse Historical Museum
Where: 100 Depot Ct, Petoskey, MI 49770
Why You Should Go: Located in an old Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Depot, this is a must-visit for anyone interested in learning more about Petoskey.
Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, this museum houses a permanent collection on the region’s rich history as well as a collection on Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway had ties to the area, noth in Petoskey and nearby Walloon Lake.
Hemingway set to paper in perpetuity his love of this area, describing in reverent detail early days traipsing through this naturally beautiful land. If you’r ea hemingway fan, you’ll recognize details from his Nick Adams stories.
PRO-TIP: Pretty Petoskey is a perfect destination any time of the year. Set on sparkling Little Traverse Bay, it’s home to beautiful beaches and clear water for swimming or boating. In the fall, head north along M-119’s famed Tunnel of Trees. In the winter, head to one of the fantastic ski resorts in the area, like Boyne Highlands.
Unique Museums in Northern Michigan
Mackinac Bridge Museum
Where: 231 E Central Ave, Mackinaw City, MI 49701
Why You Should Go: It’s no secret that the Mackinac Bridge is an engineering marvel. You can learn all about what makes it the “Mighty Mac” at the Mackinac Bridge Museum in Mackinaw City. The museum was created by J. C. Stilwell, an ironworker who helped construct the bridge itself.
Over the course of the museum’s lifespan, other ironworkers from around the country have contributed artifacts used in the Mackinac Bridge’s construction.
Old Mormon Print Shop Museum
Where: 26275 Main Street, Beaver Island, MI 49782
Why You Should Go: Beaver Island’s unique and colorful history is both documented and explored at this museum, just a short walk from the ferry dock. Lean about the island’s Mormon “King,” as well as the fishing, lumbering, and farming pioneer life of this Lake Michigan island.
Presque Isle County Historical Museum
Where: 176 W Michigan Ave, Rogers City, MI 49779
Why You Should Go: Located in downtown Rogers City, this unique museum tells that story of the area’s shipping, logging and farming industries dating back over 100 years. Housed in a former private residence known as “The Bradley House,” this also providea a unique glimpse into life in the Victorian age.
Current exhibits include lumbering, mining, Great Lakes shipping, an early 20th century schoolroom, Native Americans, a millinery shop, a farming and pioneering display, and living room, dining room, and bedroom decorated in the style popular in the 1880-1920 period. The museum also produces a number of revolving exhibits each year and sponsors numerous events and activities.
The Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum
Where: 7070 Main St., Mackinac Island, MI 49757
Why You Should Go: Located in a Native American Indian dormitory on the island, this museum exhibits fine and decorative art pieces. Additionally, you’ll find maps, jewelry and photographs from the island, documenting the islands history. Original photographs from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century also document the natural beauty of Mackinac Island.
Wexford County Historical Society Museum
Where: 127 Beech Street, Cadillac, MI 49601
Why You Should Go: Wexford County, home of historic Cadillac, MI, was once the heart of northern Michigan’s logging and lumber industry. Learn the evolution of the town from the 1800’s to present at this unique museum.
Wurtsmith Air Museum
Where: 4071 E Van Ettan St, Oscoda, MI 48750
Why You Should Go: Located in three old fighter hangars at the Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport, this unique northern Michigan museum is dedicated to preserving the history of Wurtsmith Air Force Base. You’ll find exhibits on the Tuskegee Airmen. Also see artifacts from the World War Two, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and more.
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