Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Houghton, MI

  • Published 2022/09/14

The Keweenaw Peninsula draws many tourists, thanks to its fantastic nature and distinguished history.

The region has earned the moniker of “Copper Country” of its connection to the industry throughout history.

Here, what was considered the first “Copper Boom” in the country happened.

You can find Houghton in the northern part of this peninsula.

While it serves as the largest city and the seat of the county that shares its name, you may find that Houghton is relatively small.

Nevertheless, the community takes pride in its identity and history, and you can witness this through the many attractions in and around the city.

Experience its small-town charm and outstanding attractions by making it your next holiday destination.

Check out the best things to do in Houghton, MI, and its nearby areas.

Have Fun at Mine Shaft and Rock House

Have an enjoyable afternoon with your loved ones by visiting Mine Shaft and Rock House.

Here, you will find Houghton’s best indoor fun site.

It features an 18-lane alley that you can play on.

You can also play on an 18-hole mini-golf course if bowling is not your thing.

Apart from that, it also has an arcade area that has more than 40 different games.

The establishment also offers a unique attraction – a virtual reality roller coaster that you can ride.

After spending time in the recreational area, head over to the in-house grill for tasty food and delicious drinks.

Hop on Board the Isle Royale Ranger III

View of Isle Royale Ranger III

Steven Schremp /

Close to Houghton, you will find Isle Royale State Park.

However, you will find that getting there might be a bit complicated.

To reach the island State Park, you must board the Ranger III.

The water vessel itself is an attraction on its own.

People aboard the Isle Royale Ranger III

Jacob Boomsma /

It measures 165 feet long, and up to 128 passengers can ride it across the lake waters to reach the island.

Apart from the ride to the state park, this ferry offers passengers tours and a cruise along the Portage Canal.

It also has a comfortable ambiance paired with cozy seating amenities, great lounges, and even a grill.

Consider checking out the best experience this vessel has to offer.

Interior of the Isle Royale Ranger III

Jacob Boomsma /

Explore the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum of Michigan

Outside View of A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum of Michigan

Chris857, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

An amazing place to visit in this part of the U.S. is the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum of Michigan.

The palace was recognized as the state’s official mineral museum in 1991.

It features 4,000 different specimens of minerals exhibited in their showrooms.

Inside View of A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum of Michigan

Chris857, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

However, it has an even more extensive collection stored away, reaching more than 50,000.

This mineral museum has three different exhibits: the Copper Pavilion, The Phylis and John Seaman Garden, as well as the Thomas D. Shaffner Exhibit Hall.

The first exhibit featured a Lake Copper sample weighing 19 tons.

The second one offers visitors an area to view rock samples and plants.

Go on a tour around this educational and interesting place to learn more about incredible minerals.

Exhibit in A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum of Michigan

Chris857, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take Your Kids to Chutes and Ladders

Kids can be rowdy during out-of-town trips and holiday vacations.

One way to keep them occupied is by having fun.

When you’re in Houghton, check out the Chutes and Ladders Park, that’s two minutes away.

Your children will find a diverse array of areas to explore.

While kids serve as this park’s target audience, adults can still have fun and appreciate it as the playground features a fantastic layout.

It features a large structure made with many stairs, slides, climbing areas, and interactive amenities.

It’s not your ordinary playground.

Consider checking Chutes and Ladders during your trip to Houghton.

Visit Carnegie Museum

Outside View of Carnegie Museum

Chris857, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Given its familiar name, you may be wondering if the Carnegie Museum has a connection to the famous Andrew Carnegie, an industrialist.

It is as the said industrialist provided a $15,000-grant to build a library at the site.

Since then, that library has become the museum that it is today.

The museum features several rotating exhibits connected to the local community.

Additionally, it has exhibits dedicated to Keweenaw County’s local and natural history.

While the museum is small, it features exhibits that will pique every visitor’s interest.

Check this place out when you’re in the region.

Check Out Nara Nature Park

Do you want to visit a great place in Houghton? Consider going to the beautiful Nara Nature Park.

The park was created in 1993 when Robert and Ruth Nara decided to donate their property to the local community.

It has become a nature park that locals and tourists both love.

The waters of Nara Nature Park

Jason Patrick Ross /

Since then, the park has expanded land area-wise and has built an animal shelter for wildlife preservation.

Additionally, the Nara Nature Chalet and Interpretive Center was also established at the park.

When you get here, explore the natural wonders of Houghton by following the trails nearby.

It also features a 4,500-foot bridge traversing across the Pilgrim River.

Boardwalk of Nara Nature Park

Sorayot Chinkanjanarot /

If you like water-based activities, you’ll be glad to know that it has fishing areas.

Canoe and Kayak launches are also available for paddling enthusiasts.

Have a blast trying out many outdoor activities while basking in the glory of the outdoors at Nara Nature Park.

Spend a Day at Ray Kestner Waterfront Park

Landscape of Ray Kestner Waterfront Park

Chris857, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Have some fun with your entire family while visiting Houghton.

Check out the Ray Kestner Waterfront Park, found along the Portage Canal shoreline in the city.

You can spend your day here, hanging out with all your friends and family while having a lovely picnic.

The park has tables, benches, pavilions, and grills that you can use during your stay there.

Nearby, you can follow a paved male measuring 4.5 miles long that runs along the said canal.

Additionally, it also has a swimming beach for your enjoyment.

Spend a pleasant afternoon here with your family and have a relaxing time hanging out.

Consider heading to this waterfront park while in the city.

Try Out the Drinks at Keweenaw Brewing Company

Sign of Keweenaw Brewing Company

Kristen Prahl /

Learn how the locals of Houghton make their bear by checking out Keweenaw Brewing Co.

This specific brewing company has been open since 2007.

Many locals and tourists visit this place to try out some of their delicious creations.

If you plan to visit, you can head over to their brewery or tasting room.

Outdoor dining tables of Keweenaw Brewing Company

Kristen Prahl /

You can go to the brewery and see how they can eight different brews and prepare them for shipment.

The said brewing company ships its products to most parts of the state.

Meanwhile, the tasting room will allow you to try the brews they made on-site.

For a good time and delicious drinks, head over to this brewing company.

Beer glasses at Keweenaw Brewing Company

Kristen Prahl /

Learn Watersports With Portage Wake

Stay active and learn a new watersport while in Houghton.

While you’re here, don’t forget to head over to Portage Wake.

The said watersport company aims to teach people the fantastic activity of wake surfing.

In a nutshell, wake surfing is a sport that utilizes a boat to make waves large enough for a person to surf on.

Even people without prior experience can pick it up quickly, thanks to being low-impact.

Apart from wake surfing classes, Portage Wake also offers wakeboarding, water skating, and water skiing lessons.

It also offers jet ski rentals for those who want a relaxing adventure on the water.

It’s an exciting activity that you will enjoy.

Skate at MacInnes Student Ice Arena

People inside MacInnes Student Ice Arena

Jcvertin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit MacInnes Student Ice Arena and find yourself gracefully gliding on ice.

This arena measures 4,200 feet and has been built to almost professional standards.

Here, you can try out skating on ice and learn how to glide.

Alternatively, for experienced skaters, you can just have fun on the ice with your friends.

Apart from a rink where you can skate indoors, you can also catch hockey matches and events here.

It has a seating capacity of 4,466 people who can catch exciting games while in the area.

If you plan on watching a game, don’t forget to check out the arena’s website for upcoming events.

Complete a Mission at Respawn Tactical Laser Tag

Respawn Tactical Laser Tag elevates the game of laser tag.

The game pits teams against one another in various competitive, captivating multiplayer modes, guaranteeing hours of family-friendly entertainment.

The minimum age requirement for participants is eight years old.

The “Team Deathmatch” task in Respawn Tactical Laser Tag is only one of several missions.

The objective is straightforward: tag or gets tagged, then remove every player on the other team to obtain victory.

Heist, Capture the Flag, Total Domination, Search and Destroy Missions, among many more.

Up to 16 players can participate in open-play sessions, which typically have three to four missions.

Shop for Brand New Items at Copper Country Mall

The one-level Copper Country Mall houses national and regional retailers in a single accessible location.

The mall provides guests with the newest clothing, presents, technology, and entertaining options.

Tractor Supply, Dunham’s Sports, Rogers Cinema, and Sears Hometown serve as the mall’s main anchors.

Visit the area to look at the retail options or to enjoy a night at the movies.

Whether you’re with your entire family or friends, you will all find something to shop or enjoy at Copper Country Mall.

Look for Unique Items to Buy at Keweenaw Gem & Gift

Keweenaw Gem & Gift, Inc., a company founded in 1981 by Ken Flood, specializes in Michigan mineral and rock products.

They use natural copper from Michigan and the associated ores to make distinctive presents like bookcases, clocks, and décor items.

You can use your stones or the stores’, and greenstones are crafted into lovely jewelry.

The majority of Michigan’s Petoskey stone is supplied by Keweenaw Gem & Gift.

Find gift ideas for all occasions, including hats, novels, home accessories, magnets, and more!

Look through the lovely selection of items made in the center of Michigan Keweenaw Peninsula.

Have an Afternoon Tea at Four Seasons Tea Room

In a structure that had previously housed an apothecary for almost a century, The Four Seasons Tea Room first became operational on October 1, 2002.

The tea room’s interior walls are dotted with traces of its former existence, such as the enormous safe, the century-old medicine closets, and the kind service, which is often hard to find.

The tea room is furnished with porcelain figurines, satin linens, ladies’ headwear, and ceramic tea cups in pleasant colors and hardwoods.

A cream tea, which is tea paired with scones and pastries, is a good option if you want an exquisite cup of tea.

Try the complete afternoon tea for a more extensive experience, which features an entrée, soup, and a 3-layer platter of pastries and sandwiches.

Enjoy Playing at 906VR

Houghton’s own exclusive virtual reality experience venue is called 906VR.

They plan on giving everyone access to an enjoyable and secure virtual reality experience.

With seven stations equipped with HTC Vive Pro headsets, 906VR provides a diverse assortment of entertainment.

Visitors may pick from nine various experiences in their digital escape rooms!

Experience the thrilling VR fun world at 906VR, where campers will spend a week learning about history, STEM, and how to create VR movies.

Ages seven to fourteen are welcome to attend camp held Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Have Fun at Keweenaw National Historical Park

Exterior of Keweenaw National Historical Park Headquarters

Andrew Jameson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another exciting place to visit while in the Keweenaw Peninsula is the National Historic Park Nearby.

The Keweenaw National Historic Park aims to preserve and share the story of the area’s copper mining industry – including its rise, prosperity, and fall.

Industrial mining ruins at Keweenaw National Historical Park

ehrlif /

This state park has heritage sites that house some of the region’s significant cultural and natural resources.

Church at Keweenaw Heritage Center

Andrew Jameson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Here, you can learn about the stories of this industry, the difficult times experienced by its people, the community’s creativity, struggle, success, and decline.

Abandoned mine cars at Keweenaw National Historical Park

ehrlif /

The sites let you discover the significance of mining in the lives of those who once lived in this region.

If you plan on visiting Houghton, consider going on a trip to check this place, which is only 18 minutes north of the city.

View of Keweenaw National Historical Park History Center

Andrew Jameson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stop by the Paavola Wetlands Nature Area

To appreciate the breathtaking nature found in the Keweenaw Peninsula, check out the Paavola Wetlands Nature Area.

The said area boasts having many hiking trails spanning multiple miles that any visitor can access and visit.

Apart from trekking through these trails, you can also go snowshoeing across them in winter.

The said nature area also has gravel trails that lead you to vantage points looking over the beaver pond and a farmstead clearing.

Along the trails, you may have a chance to encounter some of the wildlife and plant species growing within this nature preserve.

It serves as the home to many different songbird species, waterfowl, and beavers, among many others.

Meanwhile, many different plants surround the 15-acre beaver pond here, while you can find trees like birch, spruce, pine, and aspen when you go upland.

Tour the Quincy Mine

Daytime view of Quincy Mine

Lulub /

You can visit an exciting historical place just five minutes from the heart of Houghton.

The public knows The Quincy Mine as a preserved historic copper mine found in the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Mining operations here have stopped since 1945, but its facilities remain well preserved for tourists to discover and learn.

Machines at Quincy Mine

Anh Luu /

Here, you co on a guided tour exploring the copper mine.

You can also check out some of the attractions within this site, including a 198 Shafthouse, the Nordberg Steam Hoist engine, and the Miner’s Memorial House.

You will also discover a site that lets you enjoy a panoramic view of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge.

You can also see a fantastic view of Houghton with the Huron Mountains nearby.

Hoist House and Cable Guides in the Quincy Mine,

Geist Arts /

Go to Coppertown USA Mining Museum

You can find the Coppertown USA Mining Museum 19 minutes away from Houghton, MI.

A building that used to house the former Calumet & Hecia pattern-making shop now serves as the home to this museum.

Here, many skilled artisans have worked on creating design patterns used for metal component casting.

The architecture of the building itself is interesting as its one-story structure is made of yellow bricks.

The said museum has an exhibit that showcases how copper mining operations ran back in the day.

Immerse Yourself in Nature at McLain State Park

Jetty of McLain State Park

Yinan Chen, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Another state park that you can visit near Houghton is McLain State Park.

Located just 17 minutes away, you and your companions can participate in various activities available here.

Like many local parks, you can go on a lot of fantastic outdoor adventures here.

The waters of McLain State Park

Yinan Chen, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It has fishing areas and windsurfing amenities that you can use.

Apart from that, you can also go hiking, berry picking, and hunting while you’re here.

Do you want to immerse yourself in nature for more than a day?

Full view of a Lighthouse in McLain State Park

Yinan Chen, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This park has cabins and campsites that you can use.

While you’re here, don’t forget to check out the lighthouse nearby and witness spectacular sunsets along Lake Superior’s horizon.

The shore of McLain State Park

Yinan Chen, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

Even though it’s small, Houghton has a big personality that leaves a deep impression among many visitors.

Along with its neighbors in Keweenaw Peninsula, it aims to preserve the nature it comes with and its identity as a major copper mining town in the past.

As such, you can find many different attractions that reflect this when you travel to the region.

All of them are well worth the time.

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