Most of our time in Michigan was spent working, so we decided to take two half-days and do some last-minute exploring before going back to Indiana.
On an errand to the coast of Lake Michigan, we stopped at a lighthouse to stretch our legs and enjoy a beautiful morning. This is the St. Joseph's Lighthouse.
We walked the length of the pier and lingered a bit on the water.
The pier and lighthouse is pretty in the summer, and while I wouldn't want to visit at that time, the winter pictures are spectacular.
On another day, we visited the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo. What an amazing place! They had many different airplanes in various stages of restoration. Here you can see the skeleton that supports the skin of the wing.
Without the protective covering, you could see the cables that ran throughout to control the flappers. you could even manipulate the flappers to see how they worked together to provide better maneuverability.
An engine without its skin was also on display - looks quite complicated!
They had planes from the dawn of human flight through all the war eras on display. Here is a Corsair.
In a back hanger, they had a workshop where they were restoring World War II planes. Interesting fact: Air Craft Carrier pilots were trained on Lake Michigan during WW II. They took two passenger cruise ships from Lake Erie, chopped the tops off and converted them to training platforms for carrier aircraft landing: the USS Wolverine and the USS Sable. Lake Michigan was in the middle of the country and safe from enemy attack from submarines. Pilots were required to make 8-10 successful landings and take offs to qualify as a carrier pilot. 17,820 Pilots were qualified on the Wolverine and Sable. There were 200 accidents where 128 planes were lost in the lake, and 8 pilots lost their lives.
If you are interested in learning more, Heroes on Deck is an excellent documentary detailing the story. Better yet make a trip to the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo.
In recent years, some of these planes have been recovered from the bottom of the lake and restored. We were able to see a few of them in various stages of restoration.
There was also a temporary interactive weather exhibit which we took some time exploring.
The Air Zoo was great for all ages. They had rides for wee little ones.
They had activities for older kids like this block challenge. There were five or six stations throughout the museum where you could sit and build a structure according to the specifications of each station. They provided the table and stool, you provided the imagination.
They even had flight simulators that pivoted and inverted. (Trey did the 3D flight simulator while Susan was exploring hurricanes so no pictures were taken. He seemed to survive nicely.)
If you are ever in this area, we highly recommend the Air Zoo ($15/person). We will go back if we are in southern Michigan.