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A Guide to Museums in Upper Peninsula Michigan

During a visit the the Upper Peninsula, no trip would be complete with visiting the fascinating Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Over the years, Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes have sent thousands of sailors and their vessels to a watery grave. This museum commemorates those stories and gives visitors an in-depth look at some of the most famous legends of the lakes, with plenty of haunting artifacts to go along with them. Included among the collection is the bell of the famed Edmund Fitzgerald, which was lost to Lake Superior in 1975. The museum is located on Whitefish Point, directly on the shores of Lake Superior, on the grounds of a working lighthouse – the oldest operating on the lake, built in 1861. Much more than just a museum, a stroll around the campus allows for views of Lake Superior, lighthouse quarters and a look at a former U.S. Coast Guard rescue station. The restoration work done on the campus is in itself spectacular. The cost of admission gains visitors access to the museum and a 20-minute video presentation, as a well as guided tours of the 1861 Lighthouse Keepers Quarters and the 1923 Surfboat House. Access to Lake Superior is barrier free.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is open daily from May 1 to Oct. 31. Admission prices are as follows: Adults – $13, Children under 17 – $9, Children under 5 – Free. Family and other special discount rates are available. Whitefish Point is about a hour drive from the Mackinac Bridge.

Mention the history of the U.P. and mining comes to mind for many people. There are a number of historical parks and museums dedicated to the mining history of the peninsula. One of the most prolific is the Quincy Mine, located in Hancock at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula. A former copper mine that operated from 1846 to 1945, it is now maintained by the Quincy Hoist Mine Association. Visitors to the Quincy Mine get a chance to self-tour the extensive grounds of the former mine. The museum portion of the grounds, housed in the former No. 2 Hoist building (built in 1894), includes mineral exhibits and a closer look at copper in the U.P. Attached to the museum, a tour guide shows visitors the 1918 hoist, which allowed the mine to be dug almost 2 miles down into the earth. Other pieces of the mine still sit on the property, some of which are in good condition and been converted to use, others of which are now crumbling and now simply a distant reminder of the past.

For those who are willing to pay a little more, a tram tour and underground tour are available. The underground tour is sure to delight the old and young, as it gives a close-up look at mining in years gone by. Visitors will also be able to see the water that has been filling up the lower levels over the years since the mine has closed.

The Quincy Mine is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily throughout the summer months and has limited hours during the spring and fall. Call 906-482-3101 to schedule group tours. Cost varies based on age and tour selection.

But don’t think that bringing your children along to a museum will leave them bored and dragging their feet. The Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum is a wonderful, amazing and whimsical place for kids of all ages. A set of truly unique, interactive exhibits and educational makes this great, affordable stop. Kids can climb through a giant head and slide down the tongue of a larger-than-life person or play air traffic controller inside of an airplane. For those kids that love the “gross factor” they can slide down a giant toilet into a septic system. There are also kid-sized exhibits focused on safety (included an old ambulance), the water cycle, health and microbiology. Even the bathrooms are dedicated to an educational purpose. The colorful, creative place is perfect for babies to the even the young at heart. Admission is $5 per person, adult or child. Infants are free. A family rate of $25 is available. The U.P. Children’s Museums is open seven days a week year-round.

And last but not least, although it isn’t technically a museum, one of the most unique experiences someone can have in the U.P. is a visit to the Hoegh Pet Casket Company factory in Gladstone. The company, established in 1966, offers up tours to anyone who wants to learn about pet burial at the world’s largest pet casket factory. The tour showcases how the caskets are made and various casket sizes and styles and a model pet cemetery is also featured. The factory tours are available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday year round. Call 906-428-2151 to arrange for a tour.