Virtual Explorations

Curious what the weather is like on Isle Royale, Mackinac Island or your favorite Lake Michigan beach?
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Photography by iStock/ Warchi

Curious what the weather is like on Isle Royale, Mackinac Island or your favorite Lake Michigan beach? Do you have an interest in the history of the Straits of Mackinac region but can’t get there in person? The future of travel has undoubtedly changed, and many people have delayed vacation plans or elected to stay closer to home this summer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn something new or go on a virtual adventure.

The closure of Michigan’s state parks this spring prompted Department of Natural Resources (michigan.gov/dnr) officials to add a variety of virtual field trips, online tours and videos to the website. The DNR has its own YouTube channel (youtube.com/MichiganDNR), plus nature lesson videos featuring park interpreters, and an online tour of Michigan’s state forests. Other resources include a Michigan History Museum virtual walk-through, aerial tours of popular regions, and links to explore and engage with nature.

Mackinac State Historic Parks (mackinacparks.com/exploreathome) also has a variety of online exhibits, videos and educational materials and a YouTube page. Viewers can virtually explore six historic sites, along with exhibitions and demonstrations.

In communities across the state, especially those that rely on tourism, officials have added website links and local videos to highlight area attractions.

Visitors to the Ottawa County Parks & Recreation’s Bringing Nature to You (miOttawa.org/naturetoyou) web pages can discover different habitats in Michigan from the comfort of home. Some of the most popular online programs include What’s That Bird I Hear, All About Woodpeckers and Frog Calls of Ottawa County.

Little Traverse Conservancy (landtrust.org) will offer live and virtual field trips this summer and online environmental education resources that change with the seasons.

Michigan Sea Grant (michiganseagrant.org) created a webinar series on the Great Lakes and fascinating Great Lakes documentaries  to its website and YouTube channel.

VisitDetroit.com collected a variety of virtual events for those who want to explore the city from a distance, featuring Belle Isle Aquarium, The Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn’s Glass Academy, Michigan Science Center, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Institute of Arts and Detroit Zoo.

Playhouse at White Lake (theplayhouseatwhitelake.org), a summer theater venue since 1916, replaced its scheduled 2020 summer lineup with a virtual season that continues into August.

Sault Ste. Marie’s (saultstemarie.com) New View of the Soo web page features 14 videos, including a ride on a Soo Locks Boat Tour, a kayak trip to Voyageur Island and Rotary Park, and a visit to Museum Ship Valley Camp.

Municipalities, resorts and news stations across the state maintain webcams that allow viewers to stay up-to-date on the latest weather and boat traffic. There are live webcams in many coastal communities, including Mackinac Island at Chippewa Hotel, Beaver Island, Charlevoix City Marina, Drummond Island Ferry Dock, Leland at Manitou Transit, Mackinaw City at Shepler’s Ferry, Old Mission at Chateau Chantal and Little Traverse Bay at Inn at Bay Harbor.

Boat and bridge nerds can watch activity and traffic at the Soo Locks and the International Bridge, Mackinac Bridge, Houghton’s Portage Lake Lift Bridge, Tawas Bay, Tobin Harbor and Mott Island Dock at Isle Royale, Grand Haven beach and pierhead, and Muskegon Lake channel from the USS Silversides.

NOAA (glerl.noaa.gov) also offers real-time meteorological and marine data and images at stations across the region, including Chicago, Michigan City, South Haven, Muskegon, Alpena and Thunder Bay Island.

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