15 Best Things to Do in Marshall, MI

Marshall, MI
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Marshall, the county seat of Calhoun County, Michigan, is notable for its cross-section of 19th century and early 20th-century architecture.

According to the National Register of Historic Places, the city is a "virtual textbook of 19th-century American architecture."

It was founded in 1830 by Sidney Ketchum, a land surveyor from New York, and had its first settlers in 1831.

The city was named after John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States, whom the early settlers greatly admired.

Marshall was envisioned as the future capital of Michigan, but unfortunately, it lost to Lansing as the state’s capital city in 1847.

The city prides itself on its historical center, the Marshall Historic District, a vast section of land covering significant residential and commercial areas in the city.

Self-guided walks and tours are available where you can stroll around at your own pace, such as the Historic Homes Walk, Capitol Hill Walk, and Downtown Walk.

Get ready to explore the city’s stunning architecture and other exciting destinations with our list of things to do in Marshall, Michigan.

Visit the Governor’s Mansion Museum

Exterior of Governor’s Mansion Museum
Andrew Jameson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Governor’s Mansion was built in 1839 by James Wright Gordon, who was elected state senator that same year and became the state governor in 1841.

In hopes that Marshall would become Michigan’s capital city, Gordon bought land on South Marshall Avenue, across from where the Capitol was to be constructed and built this house.

The Greek-Revival-inspired structure, however, was never occupied by a governor due to Lansing being chosen as the state capital in 1847.

In 1966, the Mary Marshall Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution owned and restored the house as their meeting place and as a museum.

The Governor’s Mansion Museum was listed on the Historic American Buildings Survey and the National Register of Historic Places.

Play Golf at the Emerald Hills Golf Course

The Emerald Hills Golf Course, located on South Kalamazoo Avenue, was formerly known as the Alwyn Downs Golf Club.

First opened in 1933, this 18-hole, 72-par, 6,207-yard golf course is one of the most famous public courses in Marshall.

The course in Emerald Hills is a user-friendly one but still provides a good challenge for any golfer's skill level.

The golf course has a restaurant and a bar, perfect for winding down after a good golf play.

Whether you play with a partner, a couple of friends, or a golf league, Emerald Hills Golf Course will make your time enjoyable with their amenities and beautiful bentgrass green-covered golf course.

Watch the Sunset at Stuart’s Landing

Hang out and watch the sunset over the Kalamazoo River at Stuart’s Landing, located along Homer Road.

Stuart’s Landing offers a gazebo, picnic areas, and restrooms, ideal for spending the day or afternoon with family or friends.

A decked area is available, providing visitors with a good spot for fishing and sunset viewing.

Also within the area is the Frances Stevens Stuart Band Shell, a bandstand for concerts and shows.

Stuart’s Landing serves as the kickoff location for the Marshall Riverwalk.

Tour the Honolulu House Museum

Exterior of Honolulu House Museum
Andrew Jameson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Honolulu House, located at North Kalamazoo Avenue, was built in 1860 by Hawaiian diplomat Abner Pratt, drawing inspiration from the life he had in Honolulu.

The house’s architecture is a blend of Gothic Revival, Italian, and Polynesian.

It housed four families over the years before it became vacant in 1951 after the last owner died.

The house was rescued from demolition by Harold Brooks, a Marshall citizen, who bought and preserved the house as he did with other historic local structures in the area.

The house became a museum in the 1960s and is the home of the Marshall Historical Society, an organization that preserves and promotes the city’s heritage.

Extensive renovation was done from the 1990s until the 2000s while restoring the house’s original 1880s magnificent features.

The Honolulu House Museum is open from April through December.

Ride a Boat at Saylor’s Landing Boat Launch

Saylor’s Landing Boat Launch is a recreational park located at 15 Mile Road.

It is a popular location for kayaking, tubing, and boat launching for longer trips along the Kalamazoo River.

The park includes a pavilion, grills, picnic areas, restrooms, a boat ramp, and a fishing platform.

The area is surrounded by farmlands, making it an excellent venue to see animals such as deers, aquatic mammals, cranes, and other birds.

Saylor’s Landing Boat Launch is open all year round, so bring your own canoe, kayak, or tube any time of the year.

Rentals are also available if you don’t have your own gear.

Stop by Capitol Hill School Museum

A piece of Marshall's history is the Capitol Hill School, a two-room school that served for 101 years.

Built in 1860 at Washington Street, the school was closed in 1961 and was later sold to the Marshall Historical Society in 1968.

It became a museum after much renovation work had been done, including its bell tower replicating the original as close as possible.

One of the two rooms was set up as a 19th-century classroom, while the other room is a museum featuring antique dolls, bicycles, toys, and more.

The Capitol Hill School Museum was listed on the Historic American Buildings Survey and the National Register of Historic Places.

Ride a Trolley for Free by the Marshall Trolley Company

Hop on a trolley and explore downtown venues and restaurants with complimentary rides by the Marshall Trolley Company.

Launched in 2020, the 13-seat trolley is available every Friday and Saturday night from 5 to 11 p.m.

One loop has eight stops, which takes an hour to complete, so it’s advised to arrive at the post stops a few minutes in advance due to differing traffic times.

The route starts at the Holiday Inn Express on Sam Hill 1 and ends at the Franke Center on Madison Street.

They offer ticketed events that feature museums, historic locations, wine, pub crawls, and more, all within a radius of 25 miles.

The trolley, however, can’t be rented for private tours.

Attend a Fair at the Calhoun County Fairgrounds

Welcome sign of Calhoun County Fairgrounds
rossograph, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Marshall is home to Michigan’s oldest running fair, the Calhoun County Fair, located at Fair Street.

The first Calhoun County Fair was held in 1839 by the Calhoun County Agricultural & Industrial Society to educate farmers on the latest technology at that time.

Floral hall in Calhoun County Fairgrounds
rossograph, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1848, the same society reorganized and decided to make it an annual event that runs through until today.

Events are held throughout the year in the fairgrounds, but something to look forward to is the Calhoun County Fair Week held every August.

Camping grounds in the area are available throughout the season, but make it extra fun by camping during fair week, with delicious food and drinks from reputable vendors, fun games, and exciting carnival rides jam-packed with fun activities for fairgoers.

Walk the Marshall Riverwalk

In 1986, Marshall residents recognized the development of waterfront projects as an enhancement in their quality of life.

This was realized over the next few years when the Marshall Riverwalk was developed, running along the Kalamazoo River.

The Marshall Riverwalk has a distance of 1.6 miles consisting of elevated boardwalks and concrete pathways.

The Riverwalk has five bridges, launches for boats, and canoes with views of the river and wildlife in their natural habitat.

The Riverwalk entrance starts at Stuart’s Landing and has several location points.

After finishing the trail on Pearl Street, stop by the local pub for a nice craft beer and sumptuous lunch.

Take Kids to Play at the Kids Kingdom

The Kids Kingdom is a playground in Ketchum Park for kids of all ages to enjoy.

Located at South Marshall Avenue nearby the Calhoun County Fairgrounds, the Kids Playground was built by more than 800 volunteers in 2005.

The playground offers fun features where kids can make use of their imagination.

Kids can run around, swing, slide, balance, and climb walls.

The Kids Playground has structures replicating some of the city’s beautiful architecture, such as The Cronin House and Brooks Fountain, making it a great location for kids to play.

Meet Marshall’s Pioneers and Founders at the Oakridge Cemetery

Exterior of Oakridge Cemetery
rossograph, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A cemetery may seem to be a strange place to visit, but if that cemetery holds so much history, then why not?

The Oakridge Cemetery in Homer Road is one of the oldest cemeteries in Michigan and continues to operate until today.

The 65-acre size cemetery was developed in 1839 and held more than 15,000 burials, including the city’s founders and pioneers, such as Abner Pratt, Adam Crosswhite, Samuel Hill, and Sidney Ketchum.

The cemetery is well-maintained and cared for by the city department.

The Oakridge Cemetery is included in the self-guided walks and tours, so drop by if you get a chance and learn more about Marshall’s history through these significant people who made Marshall what it is today.

Take the Family to the Bosserd Family Farm

Spring, summer, or fall, whatever season it is, the Bosserd Family Farm has something in store for you.

Located at Verona Road, the Bosserd Family Farm is open daily from April through October.

Perennials, annuals, planters, and baskets are available during spring.

Fresh produce such as potatoes, cucumbers, sweet corn, squash, and tomatoes are available during summer.

Tons of activities such as picking pumpkins, corn maze, and nature hunt are available during fall.

Whether you visit to shop their great selection of products or engage with their seasonal activities, the whole family will surely enjoy the visit at the Bosserd Family Farm.

Hike a Trail at the Brooks Nature Area

Nothing beats a good hike in nature, and Marshall has something to offer for those who love exploring the city through its trails.

Brooks Nature Area is the largest park in Marshall, with nearly 200 acres of natural habitat.

The city acquired the land in 1969, but the park was established later in 2006, where 88 acres of land was restored with wildflowers and native prairie grasses.

The park has 2.3 miles of well-maintained trails where visitors can do hiking, biking, dog walking, jogging, and skiing.

Brooks Nature Area comprises a diverse ecosystem and wildlife, including wetlands, flat terrains and fields, hardwood trees, lakes, as well as mammals, waterfowl, and birds.

Shop Fresh Produce at the Marshall Area Farmers Market

There’s something about farmers' markets — the ambiance, the abundance of fresh produce and other goods, the aroma of delicious food and drinks, and the connection with the local community.

Marshall has a year-round farmers market where participating vendors in the area display their products in season.

The Summer Market is open on Saturday mornings from May to October at the parking lot across from Marshall District Library on East Green Street.

The Winter Market operates Saturday mornings from November to April at the B.E. Henry Building on South Marshall Avenue.

Indulge yourself in fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, meat and poultry, eggs, baked goods, jams, honey and maple syrup, coffee and tea, plants and flowers, artisanal soaps, and more!

Live music is also played to give visitors the best shopping experience.

Shopping at the Marshall Area Farmers Market is an awesome way to support local farmers and vendors in the most sustainable way possible.

Eat Turkey at the Cornwell’s Turkeyville

Started in 1968, Cornwell’s Turkeyville is a place built from history and family tradition and has been enjoyed over the years by families, friends, and visitors in the area.

Located at 15 ½ Mile Road and sitting on a 400-acre farm, Cornwell’s Turkeyville is a major destination in the Midwest.

They are best known for their turkey, with traditional and new innovative items on the menu, including their delicious homemade ice cream.

Cornwell’s Turkeyville has something for everyone where guests can shop local products at the gift shop, attend classes on food, arts and crafts, camp at Camp Turkeyville, experience Cornwell’s Dinner Theatre, and more!

Strong family tradition passed down to generations made Cornwell’s Turkeyville what it is, committing to serving good food and a fun country experience to all.

Final Thoughts

Marshall's efforts to preserve historical landmarks demonstrate how much they give value to the past, which molds the city’s present and the future.

The abundance of historical homes and buildings, museums, and 19th to 20th-century architecture design, proves that Marshall is indeed the “virtual textbook of 19th-century American architecture."

Marshall makes a great family-friendly outdoor destination as well, with a good mix of parks, farmlands, and the nearby Kalamazoo River, adding more character to the city’s historic feel.

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