Family adventure to Alpena Michigan

We fell in love with Michigan before kids, and now we like to pick a new area every few years to explore with our girls.  Alpena did not disappoint!  Family friendly with so many things to do in and around surrounding areas; beaches(without the salt and sharks), and the nature is stunning!  We planned this trip with our dinosaur lovers in mind, with Dinosaur Gardens and Devonian fossil finding(and a bat hibernaculum). There are tons of food choices and a cute little town. Hiking trails and parks are abundant. You’re going to want to visit soon!

This post is sponsored by Visit Alpena.


Dinosaur Gardens

11160 U.S. 23 South. Ossineke, MI 49766

Just a short drive from Alpena, this gem!  A thrilling explorative adventure as you walk past enormous life-like creatures. Daring guests can explore our No-Boundaries exhibits and see what life was like when dinosaurs ruled! Dinosaur shaped putt-putt golf course, miners sluice, fossil dig, frozen yogurt bar, and a dinosaur-themed gift shop.

There are so many more dinos than what I shared in pictures below, but I didn’t want to spoil the experience.

Paul Bunyan Fun

There are 2 options to snag a selfie or silly family photo with Paul Bunyan.  Brush up on the story before you go!

Paul Bunyan & Babe The Blue Ox

12022 US-23 Ossineke, MI 49766

My oldest enjoyed the Blue Ox the most.  I liked how they were tucked in the woods, it made for a magical experience.  

Paul Bunyan

@Alpena Community College

666 Johnson St. Alpena, MI 

This Paul Bunyon stands 30 ft. tall and is made from auto parts. It’s the most unique version of a Paul Bunyon sculpture ever built.


My favorite was the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse for the view and shorter climb.  Just a heads up, the steps can be a bit tricky with younger kids, especially those with a fear of heights(my middle).  

Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

5295 E Grand Lake Rd, Presque Isle, MI 49777

There’s a gift shop and an area with pelts and some historical setups that were fun to look at.  This lighthouse is right beside the lake, and so pretty!  There’s also a bell, which was fun for the kids to ring. 

New Presque Isle Lighthouse

4500 E Grand Lake Rd, Presque Isle, MI 49777

I was a bit sad that you couldn’t go to the very top of this one, but it’s very high and only a rail on the outside edge.  You’ll get a workout climbing this taller lighthouse.  The steps were ornate and you can see through them.  Make sure you drive down the side access road before you leave for a great view!

More if you’re interested.

Paint Pottery @ Cobbygoose

150 N State Ave, Alpena, MI 49707

Cobbygoose is Alpena’s very own Paint Your Own Pottery Studio. They offer walk-in painting for ceramics(we did the to-go pottery due to the pandemic), canvas and wood art. Monthly classes, story time, art camps & clubs, birthday parties, bachelorette parties, team building, corporate events and so much more. 


So many choices!  Here are the restaurants we tried on the trip…

  • Connie’s Cafe (just down the road from Dinosaur Gardens)

11585 US 23 S, Ossineke

Serving Great Food to Great People!  Home of the Jumbo Cinnamon Roll.  Home of the Homeade.

Oh my gosh, so great!  My oldest can’t stop taking about the biscuits and gravy.  And you must get a huge cinnamon roll!

Garden of Dreams

Take a stroll through this inspirational garden. Details here…

  • Red Brick Tap & Barrel

109 River St, Alpena, MI 49707

A neighborhood gem serving up hand tossed pizzas, calzones, house-smoked meats, sandwiches, burgers, Easy Street Cafe Gyro’s and fresh salads. They also feature 30 beers on tap.

  • Fresh Palate

109 N. 2nd Ave, Alpena, MI 49707

Chef and Owner Eric Peterson was first inspired to fill the human spirit with happiness. Grandma Goodrich or GG as Eric affectionately refers to her, shared an experience baking cookies, licking spoons, laughing, packaging, and distributing happiness through delicious hand made love and pure ingredients. To this day Grace Goodrich’s handmade cookies are delivered weekly to The Fresh Palate. 

  • Cabin Creek Coffee

201 N Second Ave, Alpena, Michigan

Serves soups, salads, sandwiches and a variety of coffee drinks and smoothies.

  • Austin Brothers Brewing

821 W Miller St, Alpena, MI 49707

Serving lunch, dinner, and late night bar snacks, it’s a one stop shop for top-notch brews and food. They take pride in the words fresh and local. If they don’t make it in house, someone close by did. They guarantee you’ll taste the difference. Choose between draft classics and bold brews from their fine line. If you’re looking for a beer with integrity, quality, and flavor – look no further.


  1. Duck Park, Island Park

This 2.5 acre park has 1,200 feet of Thunder Bay River frontage. It complements the natural setting of Island Park by offering an area for more developed recreational uses and vehicular parking. It is also the proposed site of the River Center and adjoining boardwalk from which a range of recreational and educational activities related to the river area can be provided. The site includes picnic tables, an area for rest, as well as off-street parking. Ducks, swan, geese, and other wildfowl gather at this site.

  1. Bayview Park

208 N 1st Ave, Alpena, MI 49707

This is one of the City’s largest developed parks with multiple year-around uses. It contains four tennis courts, three basketball courts, and a multipurpose open lawn area. There is an area of shoreline, space for picnics, and an open field. A fenced, fully equipped young children’s playground, developed by and maintained in partnership with the Alpena Kiwanis Club.

  1. Starlite Beach Park

S State Ave, Alpena, MI 49707

This park includes three large children’s play structures, two children’s play areas, public restrooms, pavilion, picnic area, beach, off-street parking, and its newest addition in 2018, a splash park! 

*Photos courtesy of City of Alpena

  1. Rockport State Park Recreation Area

101750 Rockport Rd, Alpena, MI 49707

So many things you can do here!  

  • Trails – Hiking, Biking, Equestrian 
  • Sinkholes – A dozen sinkholes on the property
  • Fossils – Devonian Period
  • Beaches – Secluded, sandy
  • Historic Ghost Village – Bell at Besser Natural Area
  • Abandoned Limestone Quarry
  • Bat Hibernaculum
  • Dark Sky Preserve stargazing
  • Shipwreck – the Portland, located off the coast of Besser Natural Area beach, marked by a buoy
  • Fishing – Deep water port & Historic Pier
  • Middle Island
  • Paddle – sea kayak or stand up paddleboard on the big lake
  • Picnic area
  • Boat launch
  1. Besser Natural Area

12057 E Grand Lake Rd. Alpena

My oldest was into the Historic Ghost Village.  I loved the white pine trees! And the green of the trees against the blue in the lake and the tan of the sand is gorgeous.  Throw in the larger rocks in the clear water and it made the perfect combination!  The trails are on the narrower side in some parts, watch out for poison ivy for the kids.

In March 1966, Jesse Besser of Alpena, gave this virgin Pine Forest with its extensive Lake Huron shoreline to the people of the state of Michigan. It will forever be a memorial to the lumberman who spared this stand when the original forests were being harvested.

  1. Mystery Valley

14894 Leer Rd, Posen, MI 49776

This was an interesting lesson in geology.  I had never seen earth cracks or a sink hole.  Check and check!  The views on the trails were nice.  The Mystery Valley reminded us of The Elephant Graveyard in Lion King.  The ground was softer and spongy with a layer of a moss.  If you walk all the way to the far end of the valley you’ll find a massive sink hole, keep the kids close, it’s deep!

We didn’t make it to these, but here are more options…

Lady Michigan Glass Boat Tours

About Alpena Shipwreck Tours

Besser Museum and Planetarium

491 Johnson Street, Alpena, MI 49707

Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center

500 W. Fletcher Street, Alpena, Michigan 49707

Did you know that Alpena is home to the Largest Concrete Plant in the U.S.?  It reminded me of the Simpsons plant. On the outskirts of town.

And some additional family pictures for your enjoyment. Until next time Michigan!