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Northern Michigan Vacations: Traverse City, and all of Northern Michigan, possesses an incredible history of early Inuit settlements, European missionaries, Chicago big wheelers, and unfortunate shipwrecks. To step back in time, head to these three museums, all with exciting new exhibits just in time for summer.
This beautiful museum’s main attraction is its collection of antique musical instruments dating from about 1870 to the 1930s. A walking tour gets you up close to rare nickelodeons, pipe organs, music boxes and other music makers from back in the day. Another highlight: the annual silent film series featuring live accompaniment on the museum’s ornate Wurlitzer theater organ. 7377 U.S. 31 N., Williamsburg, 231.938.9300, musichouse.org.
The region’s premier art museum is just steps from downtown Traverse City, yet tucked away from the hustle and bustle, as it sits among tall pines and a sculpture courtyard on the oasis-like campus of Northwestern Michigan College. All year long, Dennos maintains a dynamic array of exhibitions, including three galleries that showcase national and regional exhibits. Its permanent collections include the nation’s largest and most complete collection of Inuit art, plus the hands-on Discovery Gallery, which will enchant young children—its interactive pieces include an anti-gravity mirror and a “laser harp” that plays music when you pluck its invisible strings. Call or visit online for times, ticket information and a schedule of upcoming exhibits. 1701 E. Front St., Traverse City, 231.995.1055, dennosmuseum.org.
History Center of Traverse City
In the 1930s, Traverse City parks commissioner Con Foster envisioned a new kind of cultural center downtown: a park right on the bay, with a zoo, beach house and regional history museum. Foster scoured the Midwest to find photos and artifacts for the museum—more than 10,000 pieces total, when all was said and done. Though the waterfront Con Foster Museum has long since closed, the entire museum collection is now housed at the History Center on Sixth Street, where you can peruse exhibits that allow a peek into this region’s past—from railroad history to Native American culture to the era of lumber barons. Exhibit schedule online. 322 Sixth St., Traverse City, 231.995.0313, TRAVERSEHISTORY.org.