Marquette is set on the scenic shores of Lake Superior. It’s the largest city in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and one of the most romantic places to visit in Michigan. Originally developed as a hotspot for the iron ore industry, it has since blossomed into a cultural mecca of art and history.
This makes it a great destination in the winter and summer, as there are many things to do in Marquette. It also boasts many natural wonders, from waterfalls to mountains, festivals to the northern lights. Below are all of the best things to do in Marquette, Michigan.
Fun Facts About Marquette
Before we dig into the best things to do in Marquette, let’s discuss some fun Michigan facts about the area!
- Marquette is named after Father Jacques Marquette, a French Jesuit missionary who explored the area in the 17th century. He founded Michigan’s first European settlement, which is Sault Sainte Marie, and later founded Saint Ignace near the Mackinac Bridge.
- Marquette is home to Northern Michigan University, which has a student population of over 9,000. The students give Downtown Marquette a whole different vibe than many other Northern Michigan towns.
- The main industry in Marquette used to be copper mining. Now there are many industries that fuel Marquette including Education, Healthcare, and Tourism.
- Marquette is known in Michigan for its rich scenic beauty and has even been named one of the “Top 10 Places to Retire in the United States.”
Where is Marquette, Michigan?
Marquette is the largest city in the Upper Peninsula, with over 21,000. It’s located in the Northern part of the Upper Peninsula, about three hours away from Mackinaw City. This amazing place in Michigan sits on the shores of Lake Superior and is known for being a port town, primarily for shipping iron ore.
It’s a popular Michigan destination in both the summer and winter, and like most places in Northern Michigan, the fall here is incredible. The Sawyer International Airport connects Marquette to Detroit, Chicago, and Minneapolis.
Best Things to do in Marquette
Presque Isle Park
Those in the know refer to it simply as the Isle. Presque Isle Park is over 300 acres of the oval-shaped peninsula that stretches out into Lake Superior. The landscape is gorgeous, surrounded by sandstone cliffs and dense natural forest.
You will also discover its secluded coves and pebble beaches as you wander. It’s the only dark sky park in the Upper Peninsula, and as such, it can sometimes offer unobstructed views of the famous Northern Lights.
It’s open all year round and is home to many native species of flora and fauna. There are over 100 species of plants within the park, so see how many you can identify. Keep your eyes open for wildlife, with a known population of deer and raccoons living in this ecosystem.
There are plenty of trails to traverse, like the Dead Pond Trail and Gull Pond Trail, at this recreational crown jewel of Marquette and one of the best places to see the ethereal aurora borealis in the country.
DeVos Art Museum
The DeVos Art Museum brings art to the community of Marquette through engaging exhibitions focused on diversity and collaboration. It’s set on the beautiful campus of North Michigan University and functions as part of its School of Art and Design. There are two separate galleries here – one for new displays of student, national, and international art, and the other offers selections from their personal collection.
The impressive permanent collection displays over 1,500 works of local and regional modern art, contemporary photography, 20th-century illustration, and indigenous artifacts. The rotating installations are always unique and exciting, exploring a wide range of different mediums and themes. It successfully connects the community to original works and fosters educational opportunities for all audiences.
Lakenenland Sculpture Park
The Lakenenland Sculpture Park is a quirky attraction that is one of the most unique things to do in Marquette. Proving one man’s junkyard is another man’s masterpiece; it houses over 100 sculptures made entirely from scrap iron. It’s free and open 24/7 and features a sculpture trail throughout the 37-acre grounds, chock full of whimsical metal installations.
In addition, be sure to explore the massive timber-framed pavilion, bog walk, fishing ponds, picnic shelters, and playground. Furry friends are allowed as well. You can hike or drive through to discover the displays, and there is also a snowmobile trail for winter art adventures. New works are always being added with themes ranging from fictional characters to political commentary to satire.
Marquette Maritime Museum
Housed in an old city waterworks building, the Marquette Maritime Museum explores the nautical history of the area. Its educational displays focus on two especially famous shipwrecks that occurred off the coast of Lake Superior in the 1900s. It also honors those submarine veterans who have kept the waters safe.
It’s part of an active lighthouse that offers guided tours along with informational displays about the history and functions of this famous fixture. The Romanesque style architecture of the building itself is beautiful. It boasts the best fresnel lens light collection on the Great Lakes.
They offer several community events throughout the year, including free children’s art workshops, paranormal tours, and maritime history on tap at Ore Dock Brewing Company.
One of the best things to do in Marquette in the winter is go skiing or snowboarding. Marquette Mountain has been a haven for outdoor activity since the 1950s. Winter sports are a beloved pastime in this area, deemed one of the snowiest cities in the country due to the lake snow effect. It offers an elevation of over 1,200 feet above sea level, with its most impressive vertical drop at 600 feet.
It provides three chair lifts and a tow rope to take you back up to the majestic peaks after you soar down the snowy slopes. There are 25 runs, always covered in an abundance of fresh powder and perfectly groomed for stellar skiing and snowboarding for all skill levels. It’s also open year-round and offers scenic hiking, biking, and other sports in the warmer months.
Sugarloaf Mountain offers one of the best hikes you can do in the area. This spectacular trek is easily accessible from downtown Marquette. It’s a short trail that has an incredible payoff. There are two paths to pick from, one shorter and more strenuous, the other a bit longer but more relaxed.
You’ll meander through dense forest with century-old trees shading your journey and ancient rocky outcrops lining the way. The views from the top will take your breath away, with sweeping 360-degree panoramas of the surrounding landscape. It’s the best way to view the expansive sparkling Lake Superior as well as the entire city of Marquette. It’s especially stunning at sunset.
The Shiras Planetarium has provided the Upper Peninsula community with educational and engaging programs about the cosmos since 1965. The presentations offered rotate monthly and include options such as Endless Horizons or Planets of the Solar System.
They also host laser light shows for entertainment accompanied by a range of popular music themes. There are local events to enjoy, such as Night Sky Tours and Campfire Under the Stars. It’s a stellar way to learn about the starry skies above.
Dead River Falls
Michigan boasts an abundance of waterfalls, and Dead River Falls are among the most beautiful. This arduous trail takes you upstream along the Dead River to discover three spectacular waterfalls. They are most impressive in the Spring season, with an excess of rushing waters barreling over all the rocky cliff edges.
Each of these variously sized cascades runs into a calm and sparkling basin at the bottom. The water here is safe to swim in, and these pools are a refreshing respite during the hike. Just be careful if you have to climb down to reach them, as the rocks can be slippery. This attraction provides a peek into the pristine wilderness of Marquette at its best.
Wagner Falls is a stunning Upper Peninsula waterfall well worthy of any stop. It’s located in Munising, which is about 45 minutes from Marquette. To reach the falls, you’ll wind through a forested area on the boardwalk.
It’s not a massive waterfall by any means (about 20 ft), but it is a great thing to do in Marquette if you are in the area and have some extra time on your hands. The best time to go is in September or October, when the fall colors are ablaze.
Yellow Dog Falls
10 miles south of Big Bay is Yellow Dog Falls. This waterfall is 50 feet wide and has an impressive 30-foot drop. There’s an impressive long bolder in the middle of falls, which many visitors come here solely to see.
From a hiking trail, you’ll approach the first “big” waterfall from the top after about .7 miles. If you’re up for it, you can keep hiking along the trail to a series of small falls.
Enjoy one of the many Breweries
You may mistake it for a residential home, but inside you’ll find a warm and welcoming atmosphere ideal for kicking back with a cold one. The 51K IPA is among their most popular brews on tap. The wrap-around patio is idyllic in the warmer months as well.
Barrel & Beam is the only farmhouse-focused brewery in the area. Their drafts are made from locally sourced ingredients and offer a wide range of flavors, perfectly balancing old-world process with new-world taste.
The atmosphere is charmingly rustic, housed in the historic Northwoods Supper Club. Though recently renovated, it maintains the original log walls from the 1930s. Their specialty seasonal beers and barrel-aged ales are truly something special.
Iron Ore Heritage Trail
This multipurpose nature walk follows the former corridors of the railroad once used to haul iron ore to the harbor in Marquette. The Iron Ore Heritage Trail spans 47 miles and traverses all kinds of different terrains. It takes you on a historical journey of the industry as well. There are options for both expert or novice outdoor adventurers.
You can hike and cycle this path, and some even explore the wilderness here via horseback, snowmobile, or cross-country skis as it’s open year-round. Several old buildings along the trail have been restored and repurposed into restaurants, bars, and shops that you can discover along the byway.
Stroll Through Downtown Marquette
One of the best things to do in Marquette is stroll around the downtown area. There are plenty of boutique shops and amazing Marquette restaurants to pop into. It’s wonderful any time of year, but I particularly enjoy it as the snow softly falls during the winter months.
Go Fishing on Deer Lake
If you are into fishing, the best spot to fishing in Marquette is Deer Lake. The lake hosts walleye and northern pike and is well known for having a high catch rate – though this lake is a catch and release fishing location only.
Both shore and boat fishing is permitted here!
A great accessible trail near Marquette is Thomas Rock. From the top you get amazing views of Lake Superior and the surrounding area.
The trail is also very informative as it has interpretive signs for the different trees, wildflowers, and plants you’ll find along the way. The best time to hike this trail is in the spring when the wildflowers abound and, of course in the fall when the orange and yellow leaves will take your breath away.
This is a popular and family-friendly beach in the US located just minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city center. It’s set adjacent to the beautiful US Coast Guard Station, meaning you can enjoy some stunning views of the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse from here as well.
The soft sandy shores provide the perfect swimming spot, and there is always a lifeguard on duty. There are plenty of amenities as well, including grills, picnic tables, volleyball courts, park bench overlooks, and a playground.
This out and back trail traverses some of the stunning natural wonders of Marquette. The Hogback Mountain trail is a prominent peak of the area, yet this escape into wilderness remains a hidden gem. The single track, four-mile trail is narrow and twisty, with the final half mile often proving to be very strenuous. It will take you through fields of wildflowers, woodlands, swamps, and rockface.
The treeless summit is always worth the hike. It offers uninterrupted views of the vast forested lands below and the endless blue expanse of Lake Superior. The overall elevation change is around 600 feet and less than 3 miles round trip, so overall a pretty easy hike in the area.
You’re likely to be able to soak up the picturesque scenery in solitude which will include Marquette and Presque Isle to the south, Sugarloaf Mountain to the east, and the Huron Mountains to the north.
Jilbert Dairy has been supplying the Upper Peninsula with prime dairy products since 1937. It’s a quaint and rustic setting right down to the giant cow statue marking the exterior. They process 10,000 pounds of milk every month and create the freshest creamy treats for purchase around.
They offer a wide variety of ice cream flavors, each more delicious than the next. The sea salt caramel cheesecake and Michigan fried cherry pie are among the coveted classics. Enjoy every bite in the tranquil outdoor area provided or the kitchy cow-painted inside seating. While you’re here, browse the other dairy products available, from cheeses to homemade fudge. This is one of the best things to do in Michigan in the summer!
Admire The Superior Dome
The Superior Dome is the world’s largest wooden dome, set on the charming North Michigan University Campus. It stands tall at 143 feet, with an impressive diameter of 536 feet. It’s a geodesic stadium made from Douglas Fir beams. It has space for up to 16,000 people inside, and it was created with the severe seasons of the local environment in mind.
It’s currently used as a space for the Wildcats football team to play. It features a retractable turf carpet that’s the largest of its kind anywhere, meaning it can host volleyball, basketball, tennis, and track as well. Check the schedule to see an event while you’re in town, or stop by to admire its enchanting facade.
Enjoy the Culinary Scene
The culinary scene in Marquette is a celebration of fresh, seasonal, and local fares. Iron Bay Restaurant and Drinkery is set in a restored iron bay foundry from 1872, creating a quaint and cozy atmosphere.
They serve up sophisticated plates in the historic waterfront district, and in Michigan in the fall, they offer perfect fall-inspired hot drinks. Fresh Lake Superior whitefish is a specialty here, taking many different forms on the menu. They offer a range of Michigan’s best craft beers on draft as well.
The Vierling Restaurant has been a fixture of the downtown community for over a century. It overlooks the scenic lower harbor of the city, and the decor is furnished with antique artwork and original stained glass.
The menu is thoughtful and carefully curated, offering American eats from artisan pizzas to gourmet sandwiches. The wine list is extensive as they have a cellar on-site, and the Marquette Harbor Brewery adjoins for a divine selection of microbrews on deck.
Marquette Regional History Center
The Marquette Regional History Center nonprofit education center was first founded in 1918. It serves to highlight Yooper history, and it offers a wide range of displays to dive deep into thousands of years of fascinating heritage in Marquette. It covers everything from pioneer life to natural history and indigenous tribes of the area.
Rotating exhibits appear alongside the permanent collection for an ever-changing representation of local culture. It’s home to a whole host of immersive and interactive exhibits, including an authentic pioneer cabin, fur trading post, Ojibwe wigwam, full size beaver dam, and Finnish sauna.
You can see significant artifacts, such as the first ever solar compass ever invented, vintage film footage of Henry Ford, and full-size canoe carved from a single piece of birch bark. It’s one of the best things to do in Marquette if you are experiencing bad weather.
When is the Best Time to Visit Marquette?
The best time to visit Marquette depends on your interests. Marquette is a fabulous winter destination in Michigan and summer, and it’s especially lovely in the fall. Marquette is truly a year round destination.
If you enjoy snowmobiling, nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and frozen waterfalls, visit Marquette between December and February. While if you want to mountain bike and hike, plan a Marquette visit between June and September. If fall colors are something you are after, you must visit Marquette in October!
Where to Eat in Marquette
- The Vierling Restaurant & Marquette Harbor Brewery: The best place to eat in Marquette! They serve up delicious bar food in a fun environment with lake views.
- Lagniappe Cajun Creole Eatery: Fantastic spot for Louisiana-style fare & cocktails. They often have live music, and one of the best things to do in Marquette is enjoy the blue grass bands here.
- 231 West Patisserie: Perfect for baked goods, breakfast, soups, and light lunches!
Where to Stay in Marquette
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