Touring the Mitten’s “thumb”

Part 3: Michigan’s less-traveled region offers more than most realize in Tuscola County.

After touring the neighboring counties of Sanilac (Part 2) and Huron (Part 1) and enjoying what they have to (Part 2) offer then perhaps a visit to Tuscola County, the western side of the Thumb, can complete a full tour of the region. Tuscola County offers interesting coastline activity as well as inland activity to feed a traveler’s curiosity. The county itself is full of ways to spend hours leisurely exploring museums and rural communities. Those new to the area can visit one of the largest and most unique barns in Michigan, The Octagon Barn Agricultural Museum, which hosts educational and musical events throughout the tourist season. Visiting the uniquely shaped historical gem of the county is intriguing enough without scheduled events.

Caro, Vassar and Cass City offer a surreal charm of rural Michigan communities still standing strong even after years of uncertainty with Michigan’s economy and transformation. Each location is home to historical movie theaters that are thriving and surviving in an era when small town theatres are struggling to stay open due to audiences being lured to larger cinemas or accessing films right from home. With the help of community action, loan funds and local support, the Vassar Theater, Cass Theatre, and Caro’s Strand Theatre are cultural icons still serving their communities and are not to be overlooked as a thing of the past. With state of the art media visitors can enjoy today’s films in yesterday’s historical buildings that speak of the past and serve today’s audiences, still offering true nostalgia for yesterdays.

While an afternoon in an historical theatre might meet your needs for only part of the day or evening, a stroll through the “downtown” of either location just might fulfill the rest. Window shopping and strolling along city centers in historical locations as these reminds most of us of a certain element of community that has been lost since the development of shopping malls and the growth of “big box” chains. Simply a drive through back roads for a peak at both Amish communities and local farming operations will provide you with some peace and quiet to compliment your journey.

The Thumb Area Tourism Council (TATC), a non-profit organization specifically set out to attract tourism dollars and economic growth to the counties of Tuscola, Sanilac, and Huron, is a resource not to be overlooked for planning a trip to this unique part of Michigan. Their comprehensive list covers everything visitors (or future residents) might find necessary for planning a stay, such as area attractions, business(es), education resources, festivals, health care, and services to name a few.

Michigan State University Extension and Sea Grant both have experts in tourism working throughout the Thumb that can assist communities and counties in tourism development.

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