Houghton: Familiar and Unique
Most of our readership knows their way around the hometown of our beloved Huskies. However, some of you may not know that the town, and campus, have undergone a lot of renovations and updating over the last decade. Many of you are returning after long absences or in very different family situations than when you were in college at Tech. Whatever your situation, there is so much to do in town and in the Keweenaw that you cannot do it all over just a weekend. Here is a select guide to God's Country in the UP.
So you're: bringing friends up to Houghton
It's easy to return to the old haunts when you're in Houghton. The Downtowner Lounge still hosts Thursday Long Island Iced Tea specials, the Ambassador still has Tostada pizza, and the Keweenaw Brewing Company ("the KBC") still has pints for under $3. While it is definitely worth revisiting your old stomping grounds, you may find Houghton offers more now than you remember. Head over to the Continental Fire Co., known locally as "the club", for music and dancing. If dancing isn't your speed, the Continental Fire Co. also has frequent events including wine tasting and tap takeovers. The Franklin Square Tap (formerly known as The Thirsty Fish) has low-key live music most weekends and fewer college students than many of the bars in Houghton.
When exploring Houghton, be sure to check out many of the new stores in downtown Houghton. The Surplus Outlet is recently renovated, Rhythm Bike & Board has a wide selection of winter gear, and multiple other shops in downtown Houghton offer unique Upper Peninsula and shabby chic items.
Depending on the season, there are many outdoor activities available when visiting Houghton. In the summer and fall, drive your friends up the Keweenaw and make stops at the Jampot in Eagle Harbor and the Brickside Brewery in Copper Harbor, or get into the woods with a hike around Hungarian Falls and take in the beautiful vistas. In the winter, do Hungarian Falls on snowshoes for an added challenge and find yourself in the middle of a winter wonderland. If you are a cross country ski or snowshoe fan, the Michigan Tech trails offer nearly five miles of groomed cross country ski trails and over 20 miles of trails in the woods in which to get lost.
So you're: returning to Houghton with family
If you're in town with your family and no longer have any friends or relatives in town (you're willing) to stay with, the Franklin Square Inn is generally your best bet for hotel choice. The Franklin Square Inn is centrally located to downtown and campus and has free breakfast and drink coupons to the Franklin Square Tap, which will save a few dollars. Make sure to mention you are up as an alum or MTU parent for a discount (usually something like 10%). The Quality Inn (formerly Travelodge) has undergone major renovations and is supposed to be significantly nicer than a couple years ago. If you're done with the complimentary breakfasts at the hotel, you're going to want to take the family to Soumi for a Combo Breakfast or Traditional Finnish Pannukakku (they take credit cards now!). If the wait there is too long, you might also try Kaleva Café in Hancock.
The Ambassador is always a family favorite for pizza. They have several specials like the tostada pizza and garlic chicken pizza which will please families of all sizes. Should your family stress you out too much, make sure to grab a fishbowl with your pizza. If you're looking for a delicious pasty to share with your family, Roy's Pasties & Bakery has moved in the last few years and is now near the waterfront below the lift bridge. Make a pasty picnic and bring a few with you to the Swedetown Trails for sledding or cross country skiing. Head over to the Tech-owned Mont Ripley ski hill for alpine skiing for the whole family, or Mount Bohemia for ungroomed black diamond slopes. If ice is more your thing than snow, Dee Stadium is open for free skate a few times a weekend, just be prepared for some young Yooper kiddos to skate circles around you, no matter how good you think you are.
So you're: a rival fan visiting Houghton
Houghton is a great place to visit as a rival hockey fan. Most people in town are aware of the hockey schedule and will recognize your rival team apparel. Try and stay at one of the hotels downtown mentioned above, as these are going to be centrally located to all of the bars and restaurants. These hotels are generally reasonably priced and usually include some amenities.
For a light breakfast in the morning, grab yourself a coffee and baked good at 5th and Elm Coffee House. For a traditional sit-down breakfast head over to Soumi, but be prepared for a wait as Soumi is a local favorite. The Keweenaw (pronounced "key-wuh-naw") Brewing Company opens in the late morning most days and makes for a great gathering point for your crew before the games. The Downtowner Lounge, mentioned above, has delicious wings and burgers and is the closest thing to a sports bar in downtown Houghton. MTU students flood this place every night, and you will be pleasantly surprised by the cost of drinks if you are coming from any metropolitan area. There is no bar within walking distance to the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena ("the Mac"), so don't start your night too hard before the game. However, the Mac does serve alcohol now, in the Lamplighter's section on the west concourse.The Douglass House Saloon (known locally as "the Dog") is another college student haunt. Grab a pickled egg and a Scooby Snack here to cap your night (trust me on the pickled egg, they are a local delicacy).
For a bit of hockey history, head down to Dee Stadium, the Dee sits on the site of the old Amphidrome. The Amphidrome was the home of the Portage Lakes Hockey Club, the first professional hockey team. There is a Hockey History Museum inside the building (open 10:00-6:00, Mon-Sat), as well as a visual display on the front facade. The Dee was home to 44 seasons of Michigan Tech hockey until 1979 and was the home ice for two Tech national championship teams. As a side note, this year is when the MacInnes will pass the Dee as the longest standing home for the Huskies.
If you're looking to get involved in the outdoor activities mentioned above, check out one of the outfitters in the local area. Year Round Gear, Downwind Sports, and the MTU Outdoor Adventure Program (OAP) all rent outdoor equipment. Each of these groups is a great resource for finding a great outdoor activity, so reach out to one of them to determine what you should do while in the Keweenaw.
We hope you have a safe and enjoyable trip home to Houghton and, as always, "Go Huskies!"
If you have a suggestion for a destination in an away city, please feel free to reach out to us through the form on the About page. We'd love to hear your recommendations!
Cover photo courtesy of Steph Heiden.