Kids, Art, & History Museums in Leelanau County

Looking for some fun with a side of education? Museums are just the ticket. Whether you want to lean more into local history, get your fill of art, or find a way to educate and entertain even the littlest learners, you’ll find something for everyone at these Leelanau County museums.

History Museums

Leelanau Historical Museum
Located by the Leland Library, this hidden gem features a variety of rotating and permanent exhibits about the history of Leelanau County and its people. Learn about the lost ships in the Manitou Passage, the work of divers and archeologists of yore, Leelanu’s lighthouses, and fur traders. The extensive collection of black ash baskets and quillwork from Leelanau’s Odawa and other Anishinaabek artists is particularly compelling.

Sleeping Bear Point Coast Guard Station Maritime Museum
This museum showcases the lives and work of early Leelanau County’s maritime rescue services. Rich with lore and artifacts, like vintage life-saving equipment and the Lyle Gun, which was used from the late 19th century to 1952 for shore-based rescue operations. And since it’s situated within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, it also features great views of the lake and surrounding area.

Culture & Art Museums

With an emphasis on the culture, people, and lore of the Empire area’s earliest days, the 50+ year-old Empire Area Museum offers a fascinating look back in time. The main building boasts a first and second floor with vintage artifacts including a lovely turn-of-the-century saloon, a blacksmith's shop, a woodworking shop, a railroad, a covered wagon, and shipping displays. Outside, you’ll find a one-room schoolhouse and a recently added barn with 1960s-era fiberglass boats produced in Empire.

Kids Museums

Kids of all ages will love a trip to the interactive and multigenerational COGNiTiON Science and Discovery Center in Beulah. In addition to ever-popular exhibits on mammals, reptiles, and arachnids (including the opportunity to hold them!), it features sensory activities, an inflatable planetarium, a killer virtual reality experience, and much more.

Small but mighty, Traverse City’s one-level Great Lakes Children’s Museum is designed for fun and hands-on learning. The exhibits showcase the nature, fishing, culture, and weather of the Great Lakes region, and its rotating and permanent exhibits are geared for kids ages one through eight and include skill-building stations, a puppet theater, and an ever-popular water table, among many others. Swing by the gift shop to find unique and fun educational toys for kids to bring the joy home.

Please note that many of these museums are open seasonally and some change their hours regularly. It’s a good idea to call or stop by the museum’s website before planning your visit.

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