Alpena has a rich cultural environment with many of the aspects you would expect to find in a larger metropolitan area. Walk with dinosaurs, sail through a Great Lakes storm, paddle in a kayak, or snowshoe the backcountry. Whatever the season, there are always things to see and do in the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes.
Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan - An educational institution dedicated to serving the public of all ages and abilities in art, history and science of Northeast Michigan. The Museum has an extensive collection of art that cannot be found anywhere else in Northeast Michigan. You can dig for fossils in the Lafarge Fossil Park and keep all the fossils you find. Stroll through the Museum's replica of a 1890's Avenue of Shops. Explore the lumbering and farming history of Northeast Michigan. Visit the Peoples of Lakes and Forest Gallery, which houses a variety of Prehistoric and Native American artifacts unique to this region. Take time to explore the historic buildings on the Museum's campus. See the Foucault pendulum which gives visual proof the Earth is rotating while demonstrating Newton's Law of Motion. The only Planetarium in Northeast Michigan, the Besser Museum Sky Theater, is open every Saturday at 2 p.m.
Hundreds of years of nautical commerce have created a rich landscape of maritime history and culture in the Alpena area. A destination maritime heritage center with exhibits and programs, museums with nautical exhibits, seven area lighthouses and maritime trails, tours and events bring the stories of ship captains, sailors and lighthouse keepers to life.
Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center (NOAA) - The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary preserves a national treasure, nearly 200 historic shipwrecks in and around the bay. Lake Huron’s cold, fresh water preserves many of these shipwrecks intact and in water depths ranging from a few inches to 200 feet, making the sanctuary a popular destination for divers, snorkelers and kayakers. You can explore the history and archaeology of these wrecks at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, the Sanctuary's 20,000 square foot river front headquarters. Exhibits on Great Lakes maritime history and shipwrecks include the new "Exploring the Shipwreck Century" exhibit, a 9,000 square ft. permanent exhibit where visitors can experience elements of a traditional maritime museum combined with a hands-on discovery center featuring life-sized recreations of an historic Great Lakes schooner and shipwreck sites, artifact displays, and interactive learning stations on technology and diving.
Glass Bottom Boat Shipwreck Tours - Experience the Great Lakes and their rich history, above and below the waves! Explore the shipwrecks of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The crystal clear waters and our large viewing wells allow you to 'dive' the wrecks without getting wet. Departing from just outside the back door of the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, our tour boat will take you on a journey back in time where you will be able to virtually touch shipwrecks that have been submerged for hundreds of years.
Visitors can enjoy beautifully restored and preserved historic homes along tree-lined Washington Avenue, State Street and First Avenue. Alpena’s historic homes, some dating back to the 19th century, capture the look and spirit of a long-past era. Examples of Gothic Revival, Italianate, Romanesque and early 20th century Commercial, Beaux arts and Renaissance revival structures can be found. This is a self-guided driving or walking tour; homes are not open to the public. Stop by the Chamber office to get a complete list of historic homes and buildings or download it here.
Art in the Loft is Northeast Michigan’s premier arts center and gallery. Their mission is to enrich the quality of life in Northeast Michigan through an arts center that offers learning opportunities and increases public participation in the arts. Each season is filled with special events, activities, exhibits and workshops. The Loft hosts an array of popular community events throughout the year. Many opportunities are available for all ages to participate as an exhibiting artist, volunteer or to learn new skills and discover your own creativity. The gallery is open to the public and can be rented for private functions.
The Thunder Bay Arts Council Office and Gallery provides a home for the Thunder Bay Arts Council and its programs of visual and performing arts in the community of Northeast Michigan. The Thunder Bay Arts Council hosts a series of performing arts events throughout the year, including Annual Showcase Series, Community Chorus, Alpena Symphony, Guitar Summit, and Community Showcase. Also, every July, the Thunder Bay Arts Council hosts Art on the Bay at Bay View Park on the shores of Lake Huron in downtown Alpena during the annual Brown Trout Festival. Over 100 fine artists and crafters exhibit and sell their work at one of Northeast Michigan's premier open air fine arts and crafts fairs.
Alpena County George N Fletcher Public Library, Northern Michigan's largest library features collections such as Genealogy, Best-Sellers, Large-Print, Audios, Videos, CD-Roms, Internet, Word Processors, 12 Newspapers/ 242 Magazines. They also have the largest collection of 19th century Great Lakes ship photographs and records in the entire world! Some of their events include Authors in the Fall and Children's Book Club.
Alpena Civic Theatre - Live theater performances for over 40 years. All-volunteer membership, offering fine entertainment from musicals to drama and comedies.
Thunder Bay Theatre - Located in a historic building in “Old Town” the theater provides a year-round schedule of programs, including main stage productions, in-house and touring children’s shows and drama workshops.
Great performances at the Alpena Fine Arts Band Shell, Alpena High School Auditorium, the Alpena County Library and Alpena Community College’s Granum Theatre are scheduled throughout the year. For a complete list of events check out the Community Events Calendar.
Lighthouse Tours - The only lighthouse on Alpena’s coastline is a skeletal structure called "The Alpena Light." Take a boat tour to see the tower and building on Middle Island, or experience the life of a keeper by spending the night. Two of the oldest and most interesting lighthouses on the shores of Lake Huron are located within one mile of each other in Presque Isle, about 20 miles north of Alpena. The "Old Light" was built in 1840 and the "New Light" was built in 1870. Towering 113 feet above Lake Huron, the "New" is the tallest light structure on Lake Huron. Other nearby lighthouses include the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse near Rogers City and the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse near Harrisville. Most lighthouses are open mid-May through mid-October. A self-guided driving tour of key northern Lake Huron lighthouses coastline destinations is available here.