Detroit Mom’s Travel Series: Houghton + Keweenaw Counties, a Yooper’s Guide

Houghton County is lovingly known as the gateway to the Keweenaw. It is home to the beautiful Lake Superior, and home to native inhabitants of the rural Upper Peninsula, affectionately called Da Yoopers. Houghton and Keweenaw counties offer abundant recreation, relaxation, innovation, and snow, snow, snow!

Whether you’re a true Yooper, a college student turned part-time Yooper, or just a friend of the Yoopers in general, Houghton and Keweenaw counties will leave you wanting more of the beautiful scenery and that true-north Yooper hospitality every Michigander deserves to know. Use these tips out of my Yooper guide to travel to God’s Country in the great, white north.


Winter Carnival | 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton 49931, 906.487.2818
Since 1934, MTU students have been traditionally engineering intricate month-long and overnight snow statues that soar as tall as nearby buildings. This event also brings together students, alumni, and visitors annually to participate in broomball, comedy skits, sleigh rides, a queen coronation, and lots of winter fun that has become the heart of Houghton’s culture. Held annually each February.

Bridgefest | Portage Lake Lift Bridge
The mission of Houghton’s annual Bridgefest is to present a family-friendly celebration of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge and the communities that it connects. Houghton’s lift bridge has been operating since 1959 and is not only a historical landmark, but is lovingly known as the gateway to the Keweenaw. Held annually Father’s Day weekend.

Copper Country Strawberry FestivalDowntown Chassell 49916, 906.523.6191
Michigan is not just for cherries! Enjoy the distinctive taste of the world’s best strawberries in Chassell, in Houghton County. Funds raised during this annual event go directly back into community efforts. For 75+ years running, Houghton locals enjoy strawberry shortcake made from locally-grown heritage berries, fish fry parties, queens-pageants, an annual parade, and lots of local traditions. Held annually the second weekend in July.


Ambassador | 126 Shelden Ave., Houghton 49931, 906.482.5054
In true Up North form, specialties include house-made cudighi and one-of-a-kind pizza that sets it apart. This tavern-turned-restaurant is famous for its oversized fishbowl cocktails and its authentic prohibition-era murals.

Kaleva Cafe | 234 Quincy St, Hancock 49930,  906.482.6001
The Kaleva is most notable for their home cooked meals, bakery, Finnisg pannukakku served each Saturday, and some of the most bang-up breakfast in the Northern peninsula. From their Sunday-served turkey dinners, morning-made pasties and tarts, each folded with flavor and care–the Kaleva is a one-stop shop for all your Yooper favorites.

Rodeo Mexican Kitchen200 Pearl Street #7, Houghton 49931, 906.523.5565
Authentic Mexican cuisine in our beloved rural peninsula. Ask about their chili chocolate cake!


Quincy Mine Tour | 49750 US Highway 41, Hancock 49930, 906.482.3101
Houghton’s rich mining history is reflected by the stoic Quincy Mine, which serves as a critical component into relaying the Copper Country’s heritage. This historic mining location, it’s buildings, equipment, and underground mine–as well as high-quality interpretive tours, exhibits, and programming–provides a hands-on opportunity to engage with Houghton County’s historic past.

Keweenaw Parks & Recreation| 800 E. Lakeshore Dr. Houghton, 49931
No trip to Houghton is complete without experiencing the wonder of nature. In partnership with the National Park Service, Keweenaw Parks connect visitors not only with a trip outdoors, but provide information about Isle Royale National Park, Keweenaw National Historical Park, the Keweenaw Peninsula, and the surrounding area.

Michigan Technological University Campus | 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton 49931, 906.487.2818
This campus has sights for days. Park your car and take a walk to Princess Point on the canal, a stroll down College Avenue, and view the Houghton’s historic homes. You may just receive a beer or praise for your choice of trickery.


Cyberia Cafe | 524 Shelden Ave, Houghton 49931, 906.482.2233
As owner Steve says: “You can never go wrong with a good drink and a smile to go with it.” At Cyberia Café, drinks range from smoothies and coffee to espresso, steamers, and Italian soda. In the bakery cabinet you will find muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, and more. Grab a drink and hit the many local shops neighboring this 20-year-old Houghton classic.


Roy’s Pasties & Bakery | 200 Pearl Street #7, Houghton MI. 49931, 906.523.5565
Featuring novel, made-from-scratch pasties, deli soups, sandwiches, bakery items, and custom cakes. Roy’s is the local spot for donuts, coffee, and true Yooper spirit.


Chutes & Ladders | 1100 W Lakeshore Dr., Houghton 4993, 906.482.1700
Ray Kestner Waterfront Park is home to one of the biggest playgrounds in Michigan, alongside some of the longest slides. Facilities include the RV Park, pavilions, bandshell, swimming beaches, picnic areas, hammock hangouts, beach volleyball court, traditional playgrounds, and the breathtaking views of the nearby Lift Bridge guarding the canal.


Gemignani’s Italian Restaurant | 512 Quincy St, Hancock 49930, 906.482.2920
Head over the bridge to Hancock. This Italian restaurant is known for its pure authentic cuisine like homemade raviolis and sauces, pizza, pasta, chicken, and seafood. Be sure to top this date night with locally sourced beer, wine, cocktails, espresso, an Italian soda, and end the night with a scoop of house-made tiramisu.


  • They call them “the Great Lakes” for a reason. Don’t forget to hit up Lake Superior.
  • Don’t forget a classic MTU bar crawl “downtown.” The essential stops include the Keweenaw Brewing Company, Armando’s aka Doghouse, the Downtowner, The Ambassador, The Library, The B&B, and the Continental.
  • Have a pasty (pronounced PAH-STEE). Best served as indicated on signs by roads stating, “world’s best pasty here.” Can be found scattered all throughout Yooperland; and yes, all of them really are the world’s best pasty.
  • Upon returning, don’t forget to try out your new Yooper twang! Say Yah To Da U.P., Eh?

What’s your favorite vacation spot? Check out our previous Travel Series location–Helen, Georgia!


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