I’m writing this because many people don’t think about coming to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.) this time of year. But there’s something special about November — after the spectacular fall color wanes and before the pristine snow starts piling up mounds of winter fun.
This is the U.P.s fewer-tourist time of year, and for those of us who could use a change of pace in our lives, this is when to come. November is quiet. It’s calming, deadline free and life up here is more balanced. You’ll sleep better. Think clearer. And you will go outside and play — not to sweat through your indoor gym regimen but immerse in the outdoors. It’s exhilarating, refreshing and unjangles your nerves all at the same time.
Here are five reasons you and a companion will love the U.P. in November:
1. More hotel rooms and resort cabins are available.
The rates are typically lower. You get more room choices with better views. Bring along that book you’ve wanted to crack open. Ignore your electronic devices and play cribbage, chess or euchre. Stay where there are fewer street lights and noises. You’ll sleep soundly.
2. There’s a restaurant table waiting for you.
Fewer tourists typically translate to shorter wait times for seating. If you are here on a Friday night, ask the locals where to find the best fish fry — chefs in the U.P. vie for bragging rights.
In your travels, choose a restaurant with a view of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan or Lake Huron. The gales of November kick up roaring giant waves and the crisper air combined with the clearer atmosphere create stunning sunrises and sunsets. Our Eastern U.P., Central U.P. and Western U.P. itineraries list a few lakeside dining options, or read about who dishes up unique U.P. food options. Be sure to check with individual restaurants to confirm when or if they are open.
3. Fascinating U.P. stories, beautiful art and music are all across the U.P.
While many of the bigger attractions close for the winter, other gems stay open.
In the Eastern U.P., walk St. Ignace's Waterfront Huron Boardwalk with its interpretive historical markers, or visit the Father Marquette Mission and Museum of Ojibwa Culture.
Head up to Sault Ste. Marie to watch massive domestic and international freighters ease through the Soo Locks.
In the Central U.P., visit the Kitch-iti-kipi “Big Spring” at Palms Book State Park near Manistique or walk around the Garden Peninsula’s ghostly townsite in the Fayette Historic State Park.
Drive a few miles west to Escanaba to enjoy the work of regional artists and musicians at The Bonifas Arts Center. If you come during the week, stop by the Webster Marble: Inventing the Outdoors Museum and the Upper Peninsula Veterans Museum. Both are located in the same building as the Bays de Noc Convention and Visitors Bureau where you can glean additional ideas of what to do and see in the area.
Go north to Marquette and you will find numerous museums, art galleries, theaters and art centers. Two to add to your itinerary are the K.I. Sawyer Heritage Air Museum with its fighter aircraft displays and museum shop and the Marquette Regional History Center.
In the Western U.P., there are a plethora of cultural stops, many of them between Houghton and Copper Harbor. The Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts on Houghton’s Michigan Technological University’s campus offers an enriching selection of plays, music and dance.
Another campus must-see is the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum. See minerals from around the Great Lakes Region and the world, including one of the finest collections of native copper and silver. The Guinness world record-holding native copper slab recovered from the bottom of Lake Superior is so big it commands its own pavilion. The museum store offers jewelry, bookends, candleholders and more decor for the home — a unique place for holiday gift shopping.
In Hancock, Finlandia University’s Finnish American Heritage Center will introduce you to contemporary Finnish and Finnish-American art. Check their events for music, lectures and community celebrations held throughout the year.
Also visit the Quincy Mine, one of 22 sites featured in the Keweenaw National Historical Park. The mine is not open for tours in November, however, you can walk the grounds to see the structures that played an integral role in the copper boom.
4. Go outside and play!
Dress in layers, come prepared for snow and embrace November!
- Take a hike. Read our recent blog for late-fall hiking destinations.
- Reel in a whopper. Wear waders, long underwear and wool socks to fish our U.P. rivers and open waters. Then wet your line and hook fighting steelhead, hefty brown trout, perch and walleye.
- Go mountain biking. The U.P. has some of the best single-tracks in the country. Be on alert for thin layers of ice and slick leaves on switchbacks and jumps.
- Ride the waves. The gales of November rear Lake Superior waves eight feet into the air, making this month a freshwater surfer’s dream. If you’re not into wearing drysuits in chilly waters, have a blast watching the surfers who are. On a windy day, head over to the beach on the southwest end of Presque Isle near Marquette for some thrilling action.
- Go rock hunting. It’s easy to find treasure along Lake Superior beaches after a November storm, but only walk the shore on a calm day. Here are insider tips from a rockhound.
5. Be wowed by stars and the Northern Lights.
In the U.P., there is less light pollution so the nights are darker. That’s why on a clear night, you will be mesmerized by all of the stars, planets, moons, and nebulae you can see overhead.
Want to see the Northern Lights? November is one of the best months to watch the shimmering green, purple, red and orange light dance across the horizon.
The show doesn’t happen every night; the solar winds and Earth’s atmosphere have to be just right. But when they are, head to an open area along Lake Superior away from town lights. Some of the darkest skies are near Brimley, Whitefish Point, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising, Au Train, Marquette, Big Bay, Skanee, Eagle River and Copper Harbor. Read these Stargazing and Northern Lights pages for tips on what to bring and where to find Northern Lights forecasts.
Need to unwind? Come be one of the fewer tourists in the U.P. You will return home refreshed for whatever the holiday season brings.