Late afternoon on Lake Superior
We never get a white Christmas here in Texas. But oh, do we love snow - so we decided to head north for New Year's Eve - really far north! We spent just over a week in Marquette, Michigan, visiting with family - it's a lovely small town right on the shore of Lake Superior. Historically Marquette was a mining town (and it still is), but is now more of a college town with a healthy downtown and plenty to do for kids and parents (whatever the season).
For starters, there is just so much natural beauty here - witness Presque Isle Park. This serene wooded peninsula juts out into Lake Superior and is closed to cars in the winter, making it a great place for walks with fantastic views. In the summer you can ride your bicycle all the way out to the park along the paved path that hugs the shoreline. There are beaches and playgrounds along the way - we stopped at one icy beach and "skated" on the big ice puddles on the sand...
Strange beauty - sandy icicles
There is also a bit of industrial beauty - on the short drive out to the park, we passed the enormous Ore Dock, with a train perched high above us, loading iron ore onto a huge ship. These incredibly long ships move slowly in and out of the harbor all day.
For the past several years, the Upper Peninsula Children's Museum has hosted a New Year's Eve party (with a deejay, cookies, and cider) for children and their parents. "Midnight" happens around 7:30 pm, out in the courtyard, with a countdown, a ball drop, and lots of cheering and noise-making when the ball hits bottom and starts flashing wildly. This is one of the most delightful and creative children's museums I've seen - so many fun and stimulating (and very much hands-on) exhibits are packed into this rambling upstairs space, it's inspiring.
The Ball Drop at the Upper Peninsula Children's Museum
The Head (those eyes can open from the inside) in the Body Exhibit
One corner of the Model Train
The Radio Station (broadcast to speakers located elsewhere in the Museum)
Mere steps (I'd say about three) from the Children's Museum is the unexpectedly wonderful Marquette Baking Company. I did not expect to find top-notch bread and pastry in this neck of the woods (and I'm picky about bread), but here it is - their croissants are just so good! The Marquette Food Coop is also right next door (though soon moving into larger quarters a few blocks away) - it's my favorite place to pick up organic snacks, groceries, and whatever I forget from home (toothpaste, etc.).
The Marquette Baking Co.
One day, weary of throwing snowballs, we stopped by the NMU Superior Dome - the largest wooden dome in the world! It's a truly impressive structure, and is free and open to the public. My son ran races and generally got his ya-yas out just running around on the turf.
The NMU Superior Dome
The Peter White Library is another good place to go when you need to get out, but the weather isn't cooperating. The airy children's room takes up almost half of the basement level (it's light-filled thanks to the many windows and skylights), and includes a large play area stocked with toys and games, in addition to an impressive collection of books.
Sadly, the Marquette County History Museum was closed for maintenance this year - when we visited last year, we got to see their exhibits on local Native American history and culture (we hoped to get another look at their Wigwam), natural history, and Upper Peninsula culture. The Maritime Museum was also closed (for the season). In summer, it's a fascinating place to learn about Lake Superior history. The Maritime Museum is a short walk along the lake from Lower Harbor Park and offers guided tours of the adjacent lighthouse.
The Maritime Museum
As for restaurants, nothing is too fancy, and there are many child-friendly options - we ate pizza at Vango's, and had a pretty good health-conscious lunch at the Sweet Water Cafe. For a nice dinner out, try the Vierling downtown (and order the whitefish!).
The Vierling, in the heart of downtown Marquette