Since I was a kid, Port Huron has been the first place my family typically heads to for beach time, boat watching and just general relaxing. So I was pleased when a press release landed in my inbox this spring announcing free admission to all Port Huron museum sites—something made possible by a large grant from the city of Port Huron and several corporate sponsors.

Now granted, I’m all for supporting these kinds of institutions with paid admission because they need some way to keep their doors open but when you’ve got a sizeable crowd of family and friends in tow, it can be challenging to shell out that kind of money. I’m glad to see that donors have taken this step to make these cool spaces more accessible to everyone.

My kids and a friend spent a day in Port Huron in late June and after doing some shopping and hitting the beach, we checked out the city’s two museums along the St. Clair River – The Thomas Edison Depot Museum and the HURON Lightship.

The depot museum, located right at the base of the Blue Water Bridge to Canada, is housed inside the historic 1858 Fort Gratiot train depot built by the Grand Trunk Railway. Thomas Edison worked in the depot as a news reporter between 1859 and 1863. The museum’s displays are well assembled and offer many hands-on opportunities for younger visitors to better understand how his inventions, like the phonograph and motion picture, work. One display shows items that were unearthed from under the home where he and his family lived in Port Huron.

Be sure to check out the displays just outside the depot museum too that detail the region’s history, which included the presence of a military fort and Native American settlements.

From the depot we walked south along the river to the HURON Lightship which is permanently moored along the water’s edge in Pine Grove Park. The ship, as the name implies, served as a floating lighthouse in areas where it was impractical to build a lighthouse. It was retired from U.S. Coast Guard duty way back in 1970 but it looks like the last sailor debarked just yesterday. It was fascinating to see how her small crew lived and worked on board. My kids were enthralled with the extensive model ship display and live feed from a camera on the ship’s bow showing all kinds of fish at the river’s bottom. One the museum’s volunteers provided all kinds of wonderful insights and patiently answered my six-year-old’s questions.

Soon I hope we can check out the city’s other two museum sites-the Fort Gratiot Light Station and the Carnegie Center. Just to note, there is a small charge for guided tours at the light station and for featured exhibits at the Carnegie Museum.

When that happens, I’ll be grateful for the chance to visit these gems for free but plan to put a few dollars in the donation jar.

For more details, find Port Huron Museums online at

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