In less than a month it will be Christmas break for the kiddos. Which can only mean three things: lazy mornings lounging in pj’s til afternoon, cartoons for days, and the inevitable phrase every parent hears at least once or more during school break “I’m bored”. Cue the Alpena Adventure Checklist and cure the boredom while also keeping them sharp by checking out these must-see historic adventures: 

The Foucault Pendulum at Besser Museum is provides visual proof of the Earth’s rotation and is always fascinating to our young Alpena explorers! Since Alpena rests on the 45th parallel, it takes the pendulum 33 hours and 56 minutes to complete a full rotation.

Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library– Known for their largest collection of 19th century Great Lakes ship photographs and records in the entire world, a trip to the library pairs great with a trip to the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center (description below). The Alpena County George N. Fletcher Library hosts a wide variety of educational events and children’s programs for your little learner. Check out their website for event dates and times. 

Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan– Focusing on art, history, and science, Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan is wonderful place for kids to explore the heritage and culture of Alpena. History exhibits at Besser Museum include: Native American heritage displays, an industrial cityscape of late 19th century Alpena in the walk-able avenue shops, and fossil displays. Besser Museum is especially beautiful time of year during the holidays as they have their Season of Light displays up, featuring community Christmas trees and Christmas trees from around the world. 

Ghost Town of Bell Nature Hike– Located deep within the woods of the Besser Natural Area in Presque Isle, lies the ghost town of Bell. This little historic town used to be home to many immigrants who came over to the Alpena area during the logging boom in the early 1900’s. Like so many small towns and villages, when the logging boom went bust, this small little town went with it. You know you’ve reached Bell when you see the cemetery plots, a large stone chimney, and a dedication plaque. Your kids will be in awe as they see the remains of the large stone chimney looming before them, making the perfect adventure photo backdrop. 

The life-size replica of a Great Lakes schooner at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center is fun for all ages!

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center– Explore the history and archeology of the shipwrecks in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center. This 20,000 square-foot river front headquarters displays shipwreck artifact exhibits, interactive learning stations, a high-definition theater, and a life-size recreation of a historic Great Lakes schooner. Kids love the hands-on displays and interaction complete with jungle gym/slide at this one-of-a-kind fresh water maritime heritage center. A place you will only find here in Alpena, Michigan. 

Maritime Heritage Trail Hike– A historically-oriented walking tour along the Thunder Bay River in downtown Alpena begins at South Riverfront Park (behind the old Armory on Water Street), following the river north, crossing over the Ninth Avenue Bridge, then following the river south and ending at South Riverfront Park again. This scenic walk includes a beautiful pedestrian bridge behind the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, a boardwalk, and interpretive signage. The objective of this trail is to demonstrate the importance of Lake Huron and the Thunder Bay River in the development of Alpena and its unique maritime culture. 

Seasonal add-ons for exploring history during summer break

Dinosaur Gardens photo-op courtesy of the Chrzan family

Dinosaur Gardens– Featuring reproductions of over 27 life-size dinosaurs residing in a setting much like back in the prehistoric days, the size of the ferns and lush stand of Cedar, White Pine, and Hemlock will amaze you just as much as the dinosaurs! This 24-acre park out in Ossineke is also home to an 18-hole mini golf course, frozen yogurt bar, and gift shop. The perfect family fun day to learn about the dinosaurs while satisfying your sweet tooth. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day

Fossil Hunting at Rockport State Recreation Area– Did you know you can find fossils from over 400 million years ago right here in our Sanctuary of the Great Lakes?! Well you can, in the quarry at Rockport State Recreation Area. Take the kids on a mini adventure to find fossils from the Devonian Period a.k.a. The Age of the Fish, and don’t forget to bring a bucket! Visitors are allowed to take home up to 25 pounds of fossils from the quarry per year. Great for every season except for winterFind out more about Devonian Period fossils by reading our blog, “Unearthing The Age of the Fish: Fossil Hunting Rockport State Recreation Area.”

Glass Bottom Boat Shipwreck Tour– Explore the shipwrecks of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary on the 65-ft. glass bottom boat, Lady Michigan. This 2.5 hour cruise is fun for all ages and includes incredible views of historic lighthouses, Thunder Bay Island, and ill-fated shipwrecks under Lake Huron, without ever getting wet! Tickets can be purchased online or inside the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center. Shipwreck Tours begin May 23rd and end October 13th

Lighthouse Adventures– There are 7 lighthouses in the Alpena area, with 2 in Presque Isle and 1 in Alpena being the closest and most easily accessible without a longer drive/boat ride. Alpena’s little red light is fun to observe at the boat harbor from the end of the pier and is a great photo-op from afar. New Presque Isle and Old Presque Isle lighthouses are also a great adventure to take during the warmer weather months, as they are both accessible for the public to climb as well as attached historic keepers houses to tour and show your kids what early 1900’s living was like! Open mid-May through mid-October.