Michigan’s Upper Peninsula may be known as a wilderness paradise, but there is also a rich history to explore when you’re ready to head indoors. The area was first inhabited by native tribes that spoke Algonquian languages. Later, French explorers, British occupiers, and eventually a flood of immigrants all moved into the area, with a substantial increase in population during the iron and copper mining boom that occurred in the 19th century.
Although the population has declined since the early mining days, the people who once lived here left behind a vast amount of historical artifacts that reflect what life was like back then. Today, one of the Upper Peninsula’s main industries is tourism, and thousands of people flock here every year to learn more about our nation’s history while checking out both indoor and outdoor museums that enrich their visit to the area.
On top of looking for Upper Peninsula hotels that keep you close to the wilderness, you’ll also want to make sure they allow you to stay in close proximity to the best museums to check out during your visit. Here are a few of the top museums to visit in the UP that will help you pick the perfect lodging to pack more educational opportunities into your itinerary.
Check Out the Ironwood Depot Museum
When you choose a US 2 hotel, you can bet that you’ll already be starting your trip off right by staying in a place where you’ll have fast access to cultural sites. The Ironwood Depot Museum is located in the heart of one of the most beloved cities in the UP, and you can access it within minutes when you stay choose to stay in town.
The Chicago and Northwestern Depot was established in 1892, where it became a hub of activity during the big mining and trading booms. Once the mines closed, the majority of activity here did, too. In fact, the last passenger trains stopped using the Depot in the 1970s. Today, the Depot has been refurbished and offers you a glimpse of history that is cultivated and maintained by the Ironwood Historical Society and the Ironwood Area Chamber of Commerce.
Discover More About Logging and Mining at the Iron County Historical Museum
Located in Caspian, this museum is also located close to the best Upper Peninsula motel in the area. Here, you’ll find 26 buildings that house over 100 major exhibits that all focus on providing visitors with a deeper look into the logging and mining industries. If you enjoyed the Ironwood Depot Museum, then you’ll love that you can also explore another railroad depot on the grounds, along with a Victorian-era farmhouse and a log cabin homestead. For a different type of culture, make sure to check out the Lee LeBlanc Wildlife Art Gallery, which brings the beauty of nature to life through the creative works of a brilliant local artist.
Head to the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum for Family-Friendly Fun
The Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum has exhibits that are designed for children between the ages of one to 13, but you’ll also find lots of interesting facts and information that also keep the adults in your group intrigued. The interactive exhibits encourage kids to explore through hands-on learning experiences, such as an archeological dig site where they can get behind the wheel of a mining dump truck.
While visitors much love the Fantastic Forest and Over the Air exhibits, kids are especially drawn to the Micro-Society exhibit, where they can indulge their imaginations by playing in the mini kid-sized city the museum has created that comes complete with a post office, bank, and fire station. The museum also offers several fun programs throughout the week that are great for dropping in to enjoy some kid-friendly live music, crafts, and other activities when you have some extra time in your schedule before you head back to the best Upper Peninsula motel to rest.
Dive Into the History of Maritime Transport at the Shipwreck Museum
You’ll find this museum on tons of recommended lists for people who are planning itineraries with places to visit that are close to their Lake Superior hotel, and it’s easy to see why. Over 100,000 visitors come to the Shipwreck Museum in Sault Set Marie every season, and one of the biggest attractions is the Whitefish Point Light Tower. The light tower, which was established in 1861, has been in continuous operation since then. This makes it the oldest operating lighthouse that you’ll find on Lake Superior, and visiting it is quite the treat. While you’re here, you can learn more about the wreck site of the Edmund Fitzgerald along with what makes this part of the shoreline known as Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast.
Extend Your Learning at the Marquette Maritime Museum
Shipwreck and lighthouse aficionados are in their element along the Lake Superior coastline, and this museum is packed with gems of artifacts that will help you keep building on your understanding of the Upper Peninsula’s maritime history. The museum offers both guided and self-guided tours, and the Lighthouse Lens Exhibit is known as one of the best you’ll find along the Great Lakes. You can also check out a 40-foot tall working periscope from World War II, along with taking a tour of the first floor and tower of the lighthouse.
Keep These Tips In Mind for the Best UP Museum Experience
Going to the museum is bound to give you new insight into the rich history of the Upper Peninsula, but there are a couple of ways to make sure that you get the most out of your visit. For example, some museums are only open during the height of the tourism season, which could impact which ones you can see during your time in the UP. Others may require advanced notice to book tours, especially if you have a large number of people in your group.
Following these tips helps your museum visit go more smoothly, and they could even open up more time for you to visit more than one during your stay at the best Upper Peninsula hotel in the area.
- Check the website for current special events and programs
- Consider taking a guided tour
- Try to visit on a weekday when there are less crowds
- Choose museums with the ages of your group in mind
- Limit visits to under a couple of hours to prevent museum fatigue
- Interact as much as possible by asking questions, reading placards, and listening to recordings
As a final tip, planning to stay in lodging that is in close proximity to as many museums as possible can help you pack more fun and educational opportunities into your visit. The best authentic motels are also located nearby rich sources of UP history, and you can’t go wrong with staying in Ironwood.
Our Upper Peninsula hotels are located right by local museums and historical sites that you can squeeze in between your outdoor adventures, or you can use them to jumpstart a trip that is based upon hitting all of the major museums. Being able to wake up and hit a museum first thing in the morning sets your day off right when you’re eager to explore all that the UP has to offer about the area’s unique history and culture.