Sault Ste. Marie is not only the oldest city in Michigan but also one of the oldest cities in the United States.
Also referred to as The Soo, it has the historic St. Mary’s River at its core, making it an excellent destination for waterfront experiences.
From fishing to kayaking and boat cruising on Lake Superior, Sault Ste. Marie offers something for everybody.
As a historic city, it’s filled to the brim with landmarks that will surely give history buffs a run for their money.
Travel back in time as you explore all its historical locations that are not only known within the country but also worldwide.
Interested to know more about this place?
Here are the 15 best things to add to your itinerary during your visit to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan:
See the Soo Locks in Action
The Soo Locks are perhaps Sault St. Marie’s best-known attraction.
Connecting Lake Superior and Lake Huron, this engineering marvel helps freighters safely travel to their destination and back thanks to its revolutionary mechanism that lifts or lowers freighters as heavy as thousands of tons to allow them to pass through the locks.
The locks first started servicing freighters and ships in 1855, and more than a century later, it is considered the world’s busiest lock system, with an average of 7,000 freighters sailing through the passageway each year.
With your visit to Sault Ste. Marie, now is your chance to witness this magnificent structure with your very own eyes.
There are two ways that you can enjoy the city’s most famous attraction: by going on a boat tour or catching a glimpse of the ships at the Soo Locks Park observation deck.
Taking a boat tour comes highly recommended especially if you have the extra budget, as it allows you to not only see the gigantic freighters up close and personal but also lets you experience cruising on St. Mary’s River and even passing through the locks yourself!
There are multiple companies over Soo Locks boat tours, and no matter which one you choose, don’t forget to make reservations beforehand for your trip to go smoothly.
On the other hand, if you’re on a tight budget, coming to the view deck is also just as good as you will still get to see ships pass by just a few feet away from where you’re standing.
Soo Locks Park is a destination worthy of a visit, with its lush gardens and a beautiful fountain, but when it comes to information about the Soo Locks, the Visitor Center takes center stage.
At the Visitor Center, you’ll discover details about the locks, such as its history and the science behind it, and in addition, they also provide the scheduled passage of ships, so you will know the best time to head to the observation deck to catch a glimpse.
It doesn’t stop there because, at the observation deck, visitors can gain further info about the locks as they listen to the stationed tour while enjoying the view of the river and the ships that pass by.
To guide you on your visit, be informed that the Soo Locks have an annual 10-week closure during the winter season as the lakes freeze over, so if you’re planning to include them in your Sault Ste. Marie itinerary, make sure to plan your trip during the other seasons.
Revisit History at Museum Ship Valley Camp
Still haven’t had your fill of the Sault Ste. Marie shipping experience?
Then you must swing by the Museum Ship Valley Camp, where you can explore one of Great Lakes’ historic freighters.
The SS Valley Camp, after almost half a decade of service, was converted into a museum that houses an impressive collection of maritime memorabilia ranging from shipwreck items to artworks within its 20,000 square foot cargo.
Its most notable exhibit is the Edmund Fitzgerald memorial, where two lifeboats that were recovered from the November 10, 1975 sinking are put on display.
After going through the exhibits, you can explore the ship’s grounds to get a feel of Valley Camp’s glory days.
The pilot’s house, crew’s quarters, and engine rooms are just some of the ship’s sections that are available to the public.
Valley Camp is also equipped with massive aquariums filled with fishes native to the Great Lakes region.
Tee off at Tanglewood Marsh Golf Course
If you’re still looking for more activities beyond sightseeing, the Tanglewood Marsh Golf Course is another worthy stop in your itinerary.
Located along 16th Avenue, the 18-hole course offers a good time for both the expert and beginner golfer, with its beautiful surroundings spanning up to 5,500 yards.
The area marries recreation with a nature commune with its surrounding marshlands preserved and maintained by both the course and the state government.
Post-golf, you may enjoy some refreshments at the clubhouse, where they serve an assortment of good food and drinks that are sure to replenish your energy.
Marvel at the St. Marys Falls Hydropower Plant
Near the Soo Locks is a destination that’s definitely worth the stop.
Constructed in the 1800s, the St. Marys Falls Hydropower Plant harnesses the power of St. Mary’s River and turns it into energy that’s distributed to the residents.
Currently run by the Cloverland Electric Cooperative, the plant is considered the oldest-operating large generating system in the United States.
In addition to being a historical landmark, the structure is also an architectural marvel, featuring a beautiful sandstone foundation and façade that is painstakingly crafted by Italian masons.
Whether you’re into history or science, this is one attraction you will definitely appreciate.
Relax at Rotary Island Park
Visiting Sault Ste. Marie’s best spots is bound to be exhausting, which is why you deserve to take a break at Rotary Island Park.
Nestled on a small island on St. Mary’s River, Rotary Park is framed by lush greens, offering that much-needed respite from all the hustle and bustle.
You can enjoy a peaceful time just perching by one of the park benches while taking in all the nature surroundings and observing the boats passing by.
It’s also the best place in Sault Ste. Marie for families with kids as it is equipped with a playground.
The popular Kids Fishing Pond is also located within Rotary Park, where kids and kids-at-heart can try their hand at catching trout and other native varieties of fish.
See Gorgeous Views from the Tower of History
Sault Ste. Marie has no shortage of historical landmarks, and the Tower of History is one of the most sought-after ones.
Built in 1968 in the modernist style, the tower spans 210 feet, making it the highest building in Sault Ste. Marie and the tallest observation tower in Michigan State’s Upper Peninsula.
The tower spans 25 stories high and is composed of 292 steps, and whether you opt to ride the elevator to the top or brave the challenging climb, one thing’s for sure: a magnificent view of Sault Ste. Marie awaits you at the top.
The open-air observation deck offers unobstructed panoramic views of all of Sault Ste. Marie—from the Soo Locks and St. Mary’s River to the residential areas—and even offers a glimpse of Canada’s lush forests as far as the eye can see.
Learn about Native American Culture at The Ojibwe Learning Center and Library
Native Americans are the earliest settlers of Sault Ste. Marie and in an effort to preserve and make their legacy more widely known, The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians established The Ojibwe Learning Center and Library.
The Ojibwe Learning Center and Library is home to a collection of educational materials about Native American culture and history available for anyone who visits.
The library is stocked with over a thousand books all about Native American traditions and history and even showcases a handful of cultural pieces and artworks crafted by the tribe.
The center also offers immersive experiences such as languages to offer guests a deeper understanding of their culture.
Catch a Performance at the Soo Theater
The Soo Theater is one of the hottest spots in the city for a cultural experience.
The historic theater was revived by an organization in an effort to enrich the quality of life of the locals by holding various productions ranging from Broadway musicals to concerts and operas.
It also aims to make theater and arts education accessible for all by offering affordable lessons for the community.
After a full day of exploring the city streets, check out the local talent and make reservations to see one of the scheduled performances at the Soo Theater.
Swing by the Chippewa County Courthouse
Another must-see landmark in the city is the Chippewa Country Courthouse building located on Court Street.
Built in 1877 in the Second Empire style, the elegant stone courthouse is composed of two stories and a beautiful clock tower adorned with a statue of Justice that faces the lush manicured front lawn.
In addition to an assortment of trees and plants, the front lawn also houses two interesting statues worth a look: one is “The Crane of the Salt,” which was erected in 1985, and the other is “The Wolf of Rome.”
The courthouse stands strong at over a century old and is still in use today, making it one of the oldest operational courthouses in the state.
Its historical significance has earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
Enjoy the Beach at Sherman Park
Seek respite from your hectic travel schedule and spend the day at the beach at Sherman Park.
Offering the city’s only public beach, Sherman Park promises a fun-filled day for the whole family with amenities like a play area, picnic tables, outdoor grills and pavilions, and even sports facilities from a volleyball court to horseshoe pits.
Sherman Park also has a campground, so if you want to maximize your stay at this facility, you can simply pitch a tent for a fee and enjoy your stay in nature.
In addition, there are various nature trails around the park you can explore, and it’s also a popular cross-country skiing destination during the wintertime.
Test Your Luck at Kewadin Casino
If you’re feeling lucky on your visit to Sault Ste. Marie, then Kewadin Casino is the place to go.
With locations all over Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Kewadin Casino prides itself on its Las Vegas-style gaming experience and variety of entertainment, dining, and leisure options for pleasure-seekers.
Its Sault Ste. Marie branch is no different because there, you will get the chance to test your luck on blackjack, roulette, or craps.
If you’re not into those games, you can opt to play bingo or any of the 800 slot machines available onsite.
For some relaxation, you can head to their indoor spa and avail of any of their services, wade in their luxurious indoor pool, or catch the latest show at their 1,500-seater DreamMakers Theater.
You need not look far for sumptuous eats because the in-house restaurant, DreamCatchers, can supply all of your cravings from breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
When it’s time for that much-needed rest, you may choose from any of their 319 room accommodations and sleep in comfort as you get ready for your adventure-packed day visiting the city’s countless attractions.
Stop by Bird’s Eye Outfitters for Outdoor Activities
Bird’s Eye Outfitters may seem like your ordinary adventure clothing shop, but it’s so much more than that.
Located along Portage Avenue, it’s Sault Ste. Marie’s one-stop shop for outdoor activities ranging from guided tours to water sports that guests can enjoy in the area and beyond.
Bird’s Eye Outfitters will encourage you to explore the great outdoors with its various experiences fitted for every season: go kayaking across the Great Lakes and hike around the Upper Peninsula during warm weather, or try your hand at snowshoeing during winter.
If you’re an experienced traveler, you can rent their kayaks or paddleboards and explore the lake solo.
More than a travel agency, Bird’s Eye is also a great hangout for its in-house coffee shop and restaurant and the fun events they often hold.
You may book your activity with them on their official website.
Pay a Visit to the River of History Museum
There’s no doubt about the vital role that St. Mary’s River played in Sault Ste. Marie’s beginnings, and the River of History Museum sheds the spotlight on the historic river and tells its 8,000-year-old history through a series of chronological galleries.
From its formation from glaciers to the early history of Native American settlers in the Soo, the dioramas help visitors imagine the past and, supplemented by audio media, makes for an effective story-telling.
There are also various artifacts displayed in the galleries that are relevant to the time period.
Have Fun in the Snow at Sault Seal Recreation Area
If you happen to visit Sault Ste. Marie, during the wintertime, then you won’t want to miss the thrilling snow activities at Sault Seal Recreation.
Sault Seal Recreation brings winter fun to families with seven tubing runs with two tubing lifts and a hill where you can go skiing or snowboarding.
Have tons of fun sliding around the area, whether you’re on a tube or snowboard, and take in the relaxing snow-covered surroundings of Sault Ste. Marie, which you can only get once a year.
Aside from enjoying these adrenaline-pumping activities, you can also don your snowshoes and explore the area while following the Lynn Trail.
Afterwards, retire to the heated chalet on the hilltop and enjoy delicious snacks to warm up your temperature as you prepare to go down the slope one more time.
Don’t forget to contact the chalet to make reservations for your winter wonderland trip.
Other Things to Do Nearby
See the Tahquamenon Falls State Park
The Tahquamenon Falls State Park is about an hour and 20 minutes away from Sault Ste. Marie, but it’s well worth the drive.
One of Michigan’s most prized natural treasures, the park is proudly home to two beautiful waterfalls with distinctive brown waters cascading from its fringe, earning them the name ”Root Beer Falls.”
The Upper Falls wows visitors with a 50-foot drop, while the Lower Falls are equally magnificent with its series of beautiful cascades.
The entire park spans 5,000 acres and stretches out to over 13 miles, and is packed with things to do all year round.
During the warm season, you can fully embrace the outdoors as you go on a walking trail to see the Upper and Lower falls up close.
Fishing is also possible, as well as camping at the park’s campsite.
During winter, the place transforms into a fun wonderland where guests can enjoy skiing and snowshoeing.
Sault Ste. Marie offers a range of experiences for its visitors.
Whether it’s a historical tour you’re aiming for or a thrilling adventure out on the lakes and beyond, this city in Chippewa County, Michigan, has it all.
Take a trip to one of the oldest cities and America and discover how it all started.
And on your journey across Sault Ste. Marie, don’t forget to try out all the best things to do there as mentioned above.