Explore maritime history, walk through Victorian homes, step back in time with World War II-era ships and planes, and examine museum artifacts while learning more about West Michigan history. Don’t consider yourself to be a history buff? West Michigan is also home to various exhibits and experiences highlighting the history of literary figures, inventions, art, and more!
Museum Exhibits and Historical Displays:
Explore “The Jewish Farmers of Berrien County” exhibit, which will run through December 23rd. After being nearly lost to time, the close-knit Jewish farming community served Berrien County for decades. Now, their stories are on display to reconnect this important family to the great agricultural history of Berrien County. The exhibit is free, but donations are welcomed. Another historic site in Berrien County is the History Center at Courthouse Square, which serves the best of Berrien County’s past.
Originally Saugatuck’s 1904 water pumping station, the Saugatuck Pump House is now a prominent small-town museum. Its riverfront patio offers stunning views of the Kalamazoo River and downtown Saugatuck, drawing tourists year-round. The current exhibit, “The Lure of Mount Baldhead,” explores the dune’s significance. While in Saugatuck, be sure to explore the Saugatuck Antique Pavilion, the Midwest’s largest antique mall.
Ludington has a history steeped in agriculture, lumbering, and shipping, and three museums pay homage to these important beginnings: Historic White Pine Village, Mason County Historical Society, and Port of Ludington Maritime Museum. Stay at a historical hotel or bed & breakfast, then visit these valuable stops!
Outdoor and Nature-Based Historical Activities:
Explore nature’s beauty at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings Fall Hiking Series for ages nine and up. Learn about local flora and fauna and their evolution in various habitats this autumn. Join the Landscape History Hike on November 4, 1-3 p.m., descending through a glacial gorge. Be prepared for narrow paths, uneven terrain, and steep stairs. Meet at the Visitor Center in Hastings and explore this wonderful area, then drive to the property on S. Broadway Street, 1.5 miles away. For updates, visit their website.
Experience driving an authentic Model T at the “Go Back to Driver’s Training …Old School!” at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners. Get behind the wheel of a genuine Model T Ford, built between 1908 and 1927, and learn to drive using 3-foot pedals, one-hand lever, and two-hand controls on the steering wheel. Drive 3 miles on paved roads within our historic campus with a skilled instructor. Ideal for families, couples, team building, or anyone looking for a nostalgic driving lesson. Only three classes left for 2023.
Celebrate Halloween in style by donning your KISS attire and embarking on the Cadillac KISStory tour! In October 1975, the legendary band KISS made Cadillac their own, leaving an unforgettable mark. Discover their history by visiting various downtown locations marked with their story.
Hidden stories linger among the tombstones of Evergreen Cemetery, waiting to be unearthed. Experience the captivating tales of City of the Dead – Muskegon, where costumed actors, portraying ‘residents’ of the cemetery, vividly recount their narratives while guiding visitors through this historic burial ground. While in Muskegon, be sure to visit the Muskegon Museum of History, where you can learn more about Muskegon’s rich history.
Discover the past with historic locations in Coldwater Country. You will not want to miss Friday Night Desserts after Tibbits Professional Players’ performances. Explore Coldwater Country’s history via the Coldwater Country app or ColdwaterCountry.com, offering Historic Walking Tours of Downtown Coldwater with 1-, 3-, or 5-mile options, perfect for a fall afternoon.
Crane’s is the place to enjoy a great meal, hard cider or wine, and house-made fruit pie with fruit, all grown in the area. It is also unique in the decor, a local history lesson with Crane’s extensive collection of local memorabilia.
Historic Hotels and Buildings:
Visit the Pantlind Lobby at Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids to see three stunning Czechoslovakian chandeliers made of Austrian crystal, a massive hand-applied gold leaf ceiling, and historic features like a copper fountain and a wooden-gilded “sunburst.” Originally Sweet’s Hotel, this hotel was transformed by J. Boyd Pantlind in the early 1900s, reopening in 1916 with design inspiration from New York’s renowned architects Warren & Westmore. It earned a reputation as ‘One of the Ten Finest Hotels in America’ by 1925.
Harbor Springs Area Historical Society and Little Traverse History Museum offer great exhibits to get to know the Petoskey Area history. Also, take advantage of the Little Traverse History Museum in Petoskey’s walking tours and unique vintage views walking tours. Looking to learn more about Native American history? There is a selection of historical inns and hotels that are worth checking out. Stafford’s Perry Hotel, built in 1899, and the Terrace Inn of Bay View, built in 1911, are two noteworthy historic accommodations.
For those seeking to uncover the hidden treasures of West Michigan’s history, Raven Hill Discovery Center, located in the charming community of East Jordan, offers a unique and immersive experience in the rich history of this region. This interactive living museum that is perfect for all ages preserves the past and celebrates the diverse cultures and industries that have shaped this region.
Cultural and Arts Attractions:
Soak in some culture while visiting the Charlevoix area. Whether you are interested in learning more about the mushroom houses, Castle Farms, or exploring Ernest Hemingway’s old stomping grounds, there’s something for everyone. Check out the local art scene, take a class, walk through history, or read a book. Whether visiting with a group, planning a family outing, or escaping with friends, there’s plenty to see and do.
Discover Holland’s history with ease. Take free self-guided walking tours (Art and Architecture, Historic Sites) from the Holland Visitors Bureau or opt for guided experiences with Holland Tasting Tours, including downtown strolls and Pilgrim Home Cemetery tours. Explore the rich history at the Holland Museum, featuring Dutch galleries and unique artifacts. Discover Windmill Island Gardens, where you can see a 250-year-old Dutch Windmill.
The Michigan Legacy Art Park at Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville is the perfect place to exercise your body and your mind. Explore the 30-acre wooded preserve on a nearly 2-mile trail to learn more about Michigan’s history through 50+ works of art.
Landmarks and Historic Sites:
Explore Marquette County’s Upper Harbor Ore Dock, which was constructed in 1912 and is still in use today. Marquette came into existence due to the discovery of iron ore in 1844, around 20 miles west of the city in the Ishpeming and Negaunee regions. The city grew as a vital shipping hub for transporting iron ore. It’s an impressive structure, measuring 1,250 feet in length, 60 feet in width, and standing 75 feet above the water. This dock features 200 storage pockets and can hold up to 50,000 tons of iron ore pellets, with an annual capacity of 9.5 million tons.
Take a walk back in time through Hemingway’s country in northern Michigan. The Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author spent the first 22 summers of his life on Walloon Lake, strolling around the woods and fishing the waterways, shaping his rugged persona. You can follow in his footsteps through Walloon Lake, Horton Bay, Petoskey, Kalkaska, and the Pigeon River Country along the self-guided Michigan Hemingway Tour.
From 7,000 years ago to the 1900s, people mined Keweenaw copper. Native peoples made copper into tools and trade items. Investors and immigrants arrived in the 1800s in a great mineral rush, developing thriving industries and cosmopolitan communities. Though the mines have since closed, their mark is still visible on the land and among people. Explore the Keweenaw National Historical Park this fall to learn more about the rich history of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Kalamazoo’s museums and attractions have so much to offer! Whether you’re an artist, historian, or scientist at heart, you’ll find something to captivate your interests. Don’t miss must-visit spots like the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum and the Gilmore Car Museum. Dive into Kalamazoo’s rich cultural tapestry, where hidden gems from the past come to life. Uncover the history of Kalamazoo while exploring our array of sites and museums.
Other Historic Fun around West Michigan:
- Tri-cities Historical Museum
- Castle Farms
- Point Betsie Lighthouse
- Michigan Maritime Museum
- Lakeshore Museum Center,
- Historic Charlton Park
- Journeyman Distillery
- W.K. Kellogg Conference Center and Manor House
- Tours Around Michigan
- Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives
- Coopersville Historical Society Museum,
- Friends of Coopersville Railway