As silver-white winter melts into spring, Northern Michigan residents may catch cabin fever and eagerly venture from their homes out into the community. The Grand Traverse region offers many entertaining options for the whole family.

One great destination for a sunny spring day is the Outdoor Sculpture Park on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College. The unique, sizeable installations have been created by noted Michigan sculptors as well as artists of international stature. Hike to the whimsical pieces spanning the NMC campus or view several where they are most concentrated, around their home base at the Dennos Museum Center.

Venture inside the Dennos to experience exhibitions in two galleries and presentations in the visual arts, sciences, and performing arts.

The Dennos Museum Center is home to the Milliken Auditorium, which boasts one of the larger theaters in the region, with more than 350 seats. The venue hosts monthly performances of the Dennos Concert Series and the Northwestern Michigan College Concert Band as well as major productions.

This spring, the performing arts productions include:

  • The Golden Dragon Acrobats, returning by popular demand – March 5
  • Dervish, lyrically telling stories with traditional Irish Music – March 9
  • Albert Cummings crooning his signature blues stylings – March 23

Activities in visual arts include the 2019 Northwest Michigan Regional Juried Art Exhibition from February 3 to May 5. Held annually for nearly 30 years, the exhibition features works made by local artists over the previous year. A regional arts professional judges the event, and the first place finisher is awarded $1,000.

The Dennos Museum Center also offers films, in-depth workshops, and community programs such as DRAW NoMI, a collaborative arts event focused on bringing people together to make art.

The Great Lakes Children’s Museum in Traverse City provides events and activities well suited to families. From Labor Day to Memorial Day, the museum presents special events and weekly programming with interactive hands-on entertainment “for mini-humans and their adults,” according to their website.

Saturdays feature Arts in Action. The museum partners with local artists representing interesting mediums of creative expression to conduct arts and culture workshops tailored to children ages two through eight.

Weekly programming includes craft sessions, free playgroups, and gym activities. Interactive storytime engages young listeners using props, costumes, and sound-effects and may include a book to take home.

The children’s programs are enriched because the museum offers an outlet for the well-being of the parents as well. Discussion groups are a support system of resources and inspiration. Enhancements like this have earned the Museum an award from the 2018 Gold Seal of Transparency on GuideStar, billed as the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations.

Additional family-friendly venues in the nearby community include the Elk Rapids Area Historical Museum and the Eyaawing Museum and Cultural Center, established by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. By exploring the Anishinaabek Tribe’s heritage, visitors learn about respect for the circle of life and the importance of honoring families. The spring calendar includes an immersion beading project.

The Elk Rapids Historical Museum is another destination with educational programs, historical exhibits, and local artist displays. As springtime reminds residents that we’ll soon return to our beloved Michigan waterways, this season is a fitting time to revisit the exhibit on the region’s Chain of Lakes and its impact on the cultural landscape. The museum is open to the public by appointment only from September through May.

Both the Elk Rapids Historical Museum and the Eyaawing Museum and Cultural Center provide another unusual opportunity to celebrate family: to explore genealogy. Learn more about your family’s heritage with a visit to the Grand Traverse region this spring.


Dennos Museum Center, 1701 East Front, Traverse City, (231)995.1055 / DennosMuseum.org

Great Lakes Children’s Museum, 13240 SW Bay Shore Drive, Traverse City, (231)932.4526 / GreatLakesKids.org

Eyaawing Museum & Cultural Center, 2304 N. West Bay Shore Drive, Peshawbestown, (231)534.7768 / GTBIndians.org

Elk Rapids Area Historical Society, 301 Traverse Street, Elk Rapids, (231) 264.5692 / ElkRapidsHistory.org

Northwestern Michigan College, 2200 Dendrinos Drive, Traverse City, (231)995.1777 / NMC.edu