12 Top-Rated Things to Do in Marquette, MI

Written by Meagan Drillinger
Jan 12, 2023

Michigan's Upper Peninsula is packed with gorgeous places to visit and explore. But the city of Marquette is certainly in a league of its own. This beautiful, historic city overlooking Lake Superior is home to Northern Michigan University, and is one of the best places in Michigan to explore the state's natural beauty.

City Hall in Marquette, Michigan | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger
City Hall in Marquette, Michigan | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Marquette, Michigan's cultural core sits in its historic downtown, home to restaurants, shops, boutiques, tourist attractions, and brick buildings that tell the tales of Marquette's mining and shipping history. But Marquette is also a nature lover's paradise, with endless things to do, from hiking, boating, and biking to skiing, depending on the season.

Spend a few hours in Presque Isle Park, or make your way to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Marquette also likes to show off its rich maritime history, as it has long been an important shipping port in Michigan.

Are you ready to explore this fantastic Upper Peninsula city? Read on to discover the best things to do in Marquette, Michigan.

1. Explore Presque Isle Park

Presque Isle Park in winter
Presque Isle Park in winter

Welcome to one of the most beautiful places in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Known as the crown jewel of Marquette's outdoor activities, Presque Isle Park is a 323-acre forest that is truly a paradise for nature lovers.

The beauty of the park is entirely natural. It sits on a small peninsula overlooking Lake Superior. In fact, in 1891, Fredrick Law Olmstead (of New York City's Central Park fame), was invited to Marquette to design a city park. His advice to the city was to leave the area completely as is — the natural beauty speaks for itself.

Presque Island Park | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger
Presque Isle Park in fall| Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Today the park is most famous for its loop, the two-mile Peter White Drive, which can be walked, biked, or driven. The loop circles through a grove of beautiful trees, with many lookout points from which to stop and drink in the views out across Lake Superior.

Hiking trails branch out all across the park, as well. Keep your eyes peeled for frolicking white-tailed deer or even a snowy owl. One of the most famous landmarks in the park is Blackrocks, an ancient rock formation that stands 15 feet above the beautiful lake.

Address: Peter White Drive, Marquette, Michigan

2. Hike Sugarloaf Mountain

View of a rainbow from Sugarloaf Mountain
View of a rainbow from Sugarloaf Mountain

If Marquette has an abundance of one thing, it would be beautiful hiking trails and spectacular views. One of the best examples can be found at Sugarloaf Mountain, which is just a few miles from downtown Marquette.

One of the best things to do in Marquette is hike to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. But before you shy away with intimidation, rest assured that this is a simple hike and typically takes no more than 20 minutes to climb the half-mile route.

Most visitors park at the parking lot and take the 304 steps up to the top. The reward is sweeping views of the scenic Upper Peninsula, including Lake Superior, Marquette, and Presque Isle Park.

At the top of the mountain, you will also find several wooden viewing platforms, each of which offers a different angle. You'll be able to see the Superior Dome, the Upper Ore Dock, Wetmore Landing, and Hogsback Mountain, among others.

3. Drive Lakenenland Sculpture Park

Lakenenland Sculpture Park | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger
Lakenenland Sculpture Park | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Lakenenland Sculpture Park is a 37-acre woodland park that is devoted to the quirky, festive scrap metal art designed by local artist, Tom Lakenen. The sculpture park is a beloved part of the community that sits between Marquette and Munising.

Shrouded by towering trees, a winding dirt road makes its way around the park. You can walk or drive the route and pass by more than 100 of Lakenen's original works. What's more? The park is free for all and is open 24/7.

Tom Lakenen is the artist — a former construction worker who began creating art from scrap metal. He opened the park in 2003 on 37 acres, and it has become a hub of culture and entertainment. A pond is stocked with fish, and a bandshell provides a spot for live music.

In addition to the sculptures, visitors will find a fireplace area, picnic tables, a bog walk, and direct access to the North Country Trail.

Address: 2800 M-28 East, Marquette, Michigan

4. View Dead River Falls

Dead River Falls
Dead River Falls

Michigan's UP has its fair share of waterfalls. While visiting Marquette, you can tick a few of them off your list. Dead River Falls, in particular, is one of the most popular and beautiful waterfalls in Marquette.

Set in a rock-covered gorge, the Dead River Falls is a series of cascades that plunge between the rocky crevices. A dirt path follows along the length of the falls, giving several opportunities to spot the river and the many different levels of falls from different vantage points. The final drop sends the falls plunging into a canyon below.

The falls are just a quick trip outside of town. A parking area is available. From here, visitors will follow the well-marked path to Dead River Falls.

The trail starts off as an access road. Follow the gravel road for a quarter of a mile, and the footpath will emerge on the left. You'll be able to see the falls from many different angles as you walk along the trail.

5. Stroll through Downtown Marquette

Downtown Marquette | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger
Downtown Marquette | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Downtown Marquette is a charming slice of history in this Lake Superior town. You can feel the living history as you wander the streets that are flanked with historic buildings, and enjoy the present day shopping, dining, and fun vibe.

Much of the architecture downtown dates back to the 19th century, with gorgeous brick facades. Within the buildings is a rich array of shops, boutiques, galleries, museums, and restaurants.

Marquette was founded by a man named Amos Harlow and was originally called Worcester, after Harlow's hometown in Massachusetts. The history of the city has always been rooted in shipping, particularly minerals that were excavated from nearby mines. The name of the town was changed to Marquette to honor Jacques Marquette, a French Jesuit missionary who had been exploring the region.

6. Visit the Marquette Maritime Museum

Marquette Maritime Museum | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger
Marquette Maritime Museum | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

If you are interested in Great Lakes history, a stop at the Marquette Maritime Museum is a must. The museum tells the story of the maritime history of Marquette and Lake Superior through a variety of exhibits, like birch bark canoes, shipwrecks, and a Fresnel lighthouse lens collection.

The building itself is also worth a visit, as it sits on the National Register of Historic Places. The gorgeous building dates back to 1891 and is known for its stony facade, front gable, and rounded arch windows.

Among the offerings at the museum are tours of the lighthouse, history workshops, and children's art programs. The museum also offers winter lecture series and special events throughout the year.

Address: 300 Lake Shore Blvd, Marquette, Michigan

7. Catch a Game at the Superior Dome

Superior Dome | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger
Superior Dome | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

It's tough to miss this landmark of Marquette. One of the largest domes in the world, the Superior Dome is visible from many different vantage points around the city. It is a source of immense pride for its residents, and happens to be a stadium for Northern Michigan University, which is also based in Marquette.

The domed campus stadium is where the Northern Michigan Wildcats play football, lacrosse, basketball, field hockey, and track and field. The dome measures 143 feet tall with a diameter of 536 feet, spanning a total of 5.1 acres.

Catching a game here is an invigorating experience, as 16,000 fans are cheering around you. But when no games are on the schedule, visitors can have free rein of the place, whether that's climbing the bleachers or running laps on the field.

Address: 1401 Presque Isle Ave, Marquette, Michigan

8. Explore the Upper Peninsula Children's Museum

Peninsula Children's Museum | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger
Peninsula Children's Museum | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

If you're traveling to Marquette with the family, you may want to make a stop at the Upper Peninsula Children's Museum. Designed for kids ages one to 13, the museum fosters a creative space for kids and their families to come learn about the history, culture, and heritage of the Upper Peninsula.

Exhibits range from exploring human anatomy to learning where our water supply comes from. Kids can also pilot a real jet from the cockpit, or learn all about fossils.

A three-tiered model railroad is also one of the top exhibits at the museum. The museum even has a creative performance workshop.

Address: 123 W Baraga Ave, Marquette, Michigan

9. Tour the DeVos Art Museum

DeVos Art Museum | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger
DeVos Art Museum | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Head over to the Northern Michigan University campus to experience some top-notch art. Opened in 2005, the DeVos Art Museum is a regional art museum for the Upper Peninsula, and also happens to be part of the School of Art and Design. It's also free of charge and open to the public.

The collection at the DeVos art museum is dedicated to contemporary art, including the UP Focus, which is an ongoing exhibition that highlights artists that either live in, are from, or have been influenced by the Upper Peninsula. Other exhibitions are dedicated to print work, oil paintings, sculpture, illustration, and more.

Address: 1401 Presque Isle Ave, Marquette, Michigan

10. See the Stars at the Shiras Planetarium

Shiras Planetarium | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger
Shiras Planetarium | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Get lost among the stars with a visit to the Shiras Planetarium, one of the only fully operational planetariums on the Upper Peninsula and in the Upper Great Lakes region.

The museum opened in 1965 and has been a center of learning for hundreds of thousands of people over the decades. The planetarium is attached to the Marquette Senior High School, but showings are open to the public.

The domed planetarium features indoor stargazing and laser shows. From their Minolta MS-8 star projector, visitors can explore the night sky, planets, and constellations through a 45-minute experience.

Address: 1203 W Fair Ave, Marquette, Michigan

11. View the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse

Marquette Harbor Lighthouse | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger
Marquette Harbor Lighthouse | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

The Marquette Harbor Lighthouse is one of the more unique lighthouses in Michigan, and certainly on the Upper Peninsula. The original lighthouse was built in 1853, but was replaced in 1866 with the lighthouse we see today. Sort of.

What we see today, the barnyard red building perched atop a bluff overlooking Lake Superior, is actually an amalgamation of different designs that were added on over time. The original 1866 Marquette Lighthouse was only a story and a half tall, made of brick.

As time went on and technology changed, the 1866 structure was built upon, adding things like a second story, a covered staircase, and a barn behind it. The red color came in 1965. Today it is one of the most unique lighthouses in Michigan.

Visitors can tour the lighthouse if they sign up for a tour through the Marquette Maritime Museum. The tour includes a visit to the grounds and the living quarters of the former keeper and his family. Visitors can also walk out on the catwalk and snap a photo of the front of the lighthouse and Marquette's coastline.

Address: 300 N Lakeshore Blvd, Marquette, Michigan

12. Drive to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

One of the absolute jewels of Michigan's Upper Peninsula is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Overlooking the crystal-clear waters of Lake Superior, the preserved natural area is one of four national parks in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

It is known for its sandstone cliffs that drip with color that come from thousands of years of minerals that have seeped through the rock. The result is a beautiful collage of color that is splashed across the face of the weathered cliffs.

Among the many things to do within the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is hiking the trails, hitting the pristine beaches, boating, and kayaking. The lakeshore has more than 30 miles of bluffs that run along the southern shore of Lake Superior.

Beyond the cliffs, visitors can also explore the inland lakes, sand dunes, waterfalls, and forest that help to make up the rest of this spectacularly beautiful place.

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