10 Tiny Towns with Big Tourism Dreams

Manistee, Mich.
Manistee's history is the central focus of its tourist industry. These streetcar drivers, pictured in 1910, would likely still find some parts of town familiar. © Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis

Population: 6,200 [source: City Data]

Around the Great Lakes, most cities go with the "come see our beautiful beaches" approach, and it works nicely [source: Payette]. Manistee, Mich., aims to one-up its neighbors by adding history to the mix.

Manistee believes Michigan is missing out on a big segment of the traveling population: people who want to learn about, experience and shop history.

In 1871, when Manistee was in full Victorian form, a fire wiped out a section of downtown. That area has since been restored to its original glory, and tourists do wander the area. A visit to the town's history museum draws interest, too. Manistee is going bigger, though.

Believing heritage will draw retiring baby boomers (a coveted tourist sector) with inquisitive minds and money to spend, Manistee has restored its 19th-century lighthouse and now has two out-of-service 20th-century ships -- a steamship and a Coast Guard cutter -- docked in its waters, one of which turns into a "ghost ship" for Halloween [source: VMM].

And because "come see our history" can co-exist with "come see our beaches," the town has also established the Explore the Shores program, which aims to better market and improve access to Manistee's coastline [source: Explore the Shores].