It’s National Manufacturing Day! These 6 Attractions Showcase Michigan’s Rich Heritage

Today is National Manufacturing Day! Home to nearly 14,000 manufacturing establishments, 61 top automotive suppliers, and more engineers per capita than any other state, Michigan is a leader in making things and making things work.

Interested in exploring Michigan’s rich manufacturing history? You’re in luck! We’ve compiled this handy list of just a few attractions that showcase Michigan as a manufacturing maven.

Quincy_MineQuincy Mine Tours
Explore Michigan’s historic mining industry with a visit to the Quincy Mine located on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Mining operations have been closed for many years, but the site is preserved as a cooperating site of the Keweenaw National Historical Park. The Quincy Mine Tour offers three unique tours for all visitors: Surface Tour only, Surface Tour with Tram Ride, and Full Tour. All tours include a visit to the museum, a video-tour of the No. 2 Shaft-Rock House and a guided tour of the enormous and complex Nordberg steam-powered hoist engine and the building it is in. On the Full Tour, you will take a ride on the cog-rail tram car down the hill to the mine entrance and then ride by tractor-pulled wagon into the mine, seven levels underground. If you’re looking for some family-friendly adventure, a tour of the Quincy Mine is your ticket.

Adventure Mining Company Copper Mine Tour
No visit to Copper Country can be considered complete without a tour through the historic Adventure Copper Mine. Walk through part or all of the tunnels on the first level or try your hand at rappelling to the second level of the mine…the choice is yours! Boldly go where no underground mine tour has gone before - descend an 80′ shaft with a rope and harness, learn how the miners worked to extract copper from deep underground, and listen to the history and stories of the miners that worked there. So, strap on your hard hat for an adventure enjoyed by guests of all ages.

Soo Locks
Did you know that between 7,000 – 10,000 boats pass through the Soo Locks each year? This man-made marvel is the busiest lock system in the world, by cargo tonnage.  Built in 1855, these locks connect Lake Superior to Lake Huron and beyond. The Locks consist of two canals and four locks that allow vessels of many types/sizes to safely traverse the 21-foot drop in elevation. Every season, repeat visitors who call themselves “Boat Nerds” flock to watch ships from all over the world use this free lock system.  The locks are open 24 hours a day. You can even take your personal boat through the locks – as long as you have permission from the lockmaster!

See the Soo Locks in action in the video below, or check out these nine things you might not have known about Sault Ste. Marie’s great engineering marvel.

Ford Rouge Factory Tour at The Henry Ford Museum
The Henry Ford boasts four one-of-a-kind attractions and 200 acres, including the Ford Rouge Factory Tour.  Put yourself at the center of sheer manufacturing when you take this unique walking tour. Beyond the awe-inspiring sweep, scale and action of the real-life factory floor where the Ford F-150 is made, get set for some eye-opening encounters with the technology of tomorrow—today. The tour is a self-guided five-part experience. Visitors can expect to take a 360-degree look at how automobiles are made, see five historic vehicles made at the Rouge or hop in a new F-150.

gristmillTom Walker Grist Mill
Tom Walker’s Grist Mill is a Michigan Historic Site. This 136 years old cider mill is a fall favorite among visitors to Livingston County and is one of the few remaining water-powered mills in Michigan. Grist Mill also has a rich history as a flour mill. It eventually became a grist mill, grinding grain for animal feed. These grains are still listed on the mill wall today.

The mill offers guided tours during the week – visit the press room and learn how delicious freshly squeezed cider is made, immerse yourself in a history lesson history, enjoy a quaint nature walk by the Ore Creek,  see the mill’s bakers creating delicious homemade pies in the Pie Shoppe, and of course, end your tour with a glass of cider and a spiced donut!

Michigan Iron Industry Museum
The Michigan Iron Industry Museum (MIIM) in Negaunee tells the story of iron ore and how its discovery in 1844 impacted Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, both in the massive investment made in the business of mining and the people who came to the region to work in the mines.

Photo courtesy of MIIM and Michigan DNR

Photo courtesy of MIIM and Michigan DNR

The museum is nestled in a wooded ravine overlooking the Carp River, which once was home to the area’s first iron forge. The exhibits, which include some outdoor interpretation areas, give the visitor a good overview of the history of iron ore production in the region and how that led to the rise of area communities, the waves of immigrants who flocked to the area for work and how the work in the mines evolved from a dangerous, very physical job done by hand to today’s more modern mining techniques that rely on technology.

MIIM is also becoming a popular spot to take in the Upper Peninsula’s spectacular fall colors. The museum is connected to the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, a 47-mile multi-use trail in Marquette County that connects to several historic sites throughout the area’s iron range. The museum grounds also have two shorter interpretative paths that provide breathtaking views of fall foliage. In either instance, a fall color walk or hike is ready-made at the MIIM. In the summer, the museum offers bicycle tours on the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, with stops at various historic mine sites. 

Have you visited a Michigan manufacturing attraction? Tell us about your visit.