33 Cool Things to Do in Winter in Michigan

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Ready for 33 cool things to do in winter in Michigan? As you probably know by now, the #1 rule in our family is to never let a little chill in the air stop us from having a blast. And where better to embrace the winter wonderland than in the cozy mitten of the US?

After many family trips, tubing down icy slopes, skiing, and warming up with mugs of delicious hot cocoa, we’ve come to realize that this Great Lakes State is an absolute haven for those seeking some fun in the frost. And guess what? We’re ready to let you in on our secret winter bucket list.

From winter festivals to scenic snowmobile tours, or even an unconventional trip to the vineyards, Michigan offers a hearty serving of winter magic for everyone. I’ve carefully curated a list of 33 fun things to do in Michigan in the winter months. Don’t let the cold deter you, grab your warmest coats, pile on those scarves, and let’s dive into the land of ice and snow. Michigan winter, here we come!

Things to Do in Michigan in Winter

1. Experience the exhilaration of downhill skiing

Almost all of our winter trips to Michigan revolve around downhill skiing. We started bringing the kids to Boyne Mountain when they were babies and have been visiting ever since. There are plenty of fantastic ski hills and resorts all over Michigan, but my personal favorite is Boyne Mountain.

Ready to ski down a slope in Michigan in the winter.

Even if you don’t ski, there are plenty of other fun Michigan winter activities at or near the various ski resorts, so don’t let your lack of desire to ski stop you from booking a stay at one of them!

If you do want to ski, Michigan is a terrific place to learn. It’s much more affordable than the western ski resorts and if you head far enough north, you’ll still get that ski resort feel.

⛷️ Ready for a fantastic family trip full of Michigan winter activities? Book a ski weekend! Here is a link to my #1 suggestion.

2. Eat outdoors in the winter, thanks to an igloo

Lake Michigan in winter is gorgeous, but it’s also COLD! Luckily, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the views.

Igloo dining at Lake Street Pub in Boyne City, Michigan

Many Michigan restaurants (some on the lake) offer igloos for private dining in the winter months. Plenty of them started during COVID, but luckily have continued the tradition. It’s fun to sit outside, enjoy a delicious meal with a view, and not freeze.

As someone who loves outdoor dining, I’m a huge fan! It’s a great way to extend your season of enjoying being outside.

💥Insider tip: Dress warmly or visit when the sun is shining. The igloos are heated, but they ARE still outside.

3. Cross-country skiing

Maybe downhill skiing isn’t your jam. No worries. Michigan in the winter (especially Northern Michigan winter) has plenty of snow. Enough snow that cross-country skiing is a popular winter activity.

Most of the ski resorts offer cross-country skiing (and often even rentals), but you could also consider one of the Michigan State Parks or even some of the golf courses or farms.

If you are looking for perfectly groomed trails for cross-country skiing, consider Forbush Corner near Gaylord, MI. They have several snow-makers, plenty of grooming equipment, and a variety of trail options for every level.

Forbush Corner, 4971 W. County Rd 612, Frederic, MI

4. Explore the trails while snowshoeing

Aside from downhill skiing, one of my favorite winter activities in Michigan is snowshoeing. It’s so much easier than just walking in the snow, and if you dress warmly, a fantastic way to enjoy a beautiful snowy Michigan afternoon.

snowshoes in the snow

State parks and ski resorts are obvious places to enjoy snowshoeing in Michigan, but another fun and unique option is to snowshoe at one of the local Michigan wineries or farms.

Several of the wineries along the Petoskey wine trail have trails perfect for snowshoes, and it’s quite fun to explore the trails and then grab a glass of wine (or even a mulled wine) and warm up inside.

❄️ It’s quite affordable to own your own pair, and then you can use them for years. Sounds like a perfect holiday gift, right?

5. Enjoy a little excitement with fat-tire biking

A fairly new way to enjoy winter in Michigan is fat-tire biking. If you love biking in the summer months, with fat-tire biking you don’t have to give it up just because the weather has turned.

Fat-tire bikes are off-road bicycles with oversized tires, typically 3.8 inches or larger, and rims 2.6 inches or wider, designed for low ground pressure to allow riding on soft, unstable terrain like snow, sand, or mud. They are a hoot and a half to ride, let me tell you!

Michigan is blessed with an abundance of trails that become a fat biker’s paradise when winter rolls around. From the groomed trails of Noquemanon Trail Network in Marquette to the Cadillac Pathway in Cadillac, there’s a myriad of picturesque landscapes waiting to be explored. Not to mention the annual fat bike races that happen around the state.

Teens especially get a kick out of fat-tire biking and if you have some, you know it can be hard to entertain them on family vacations. No eye-rolls if you get them on one of these bikes!

Sure, you might get a bit of a workout (hey, no harm in building some muscle while having fun, right?), but with the spellbinding beauty of the winter woods around you, every moment is a treat. And trust me, the hot cocoa tastes even better after a day out on the trails. So next time you’re in Michigan for the winter, make sure you give fat-tire biking a whirl. You’re in for a wheel-y cool adventure!

6. Be impressed with winter ski races

Sticking with the snowy winter things to do in Michigan, how about watching a ski race?

As an average (at best) skier, I find it fascinating to watch experts fly down the slopes. And when they do jumps too? Amazing!

Skiers at the base of Boyne Mountain. Also showing the coney island food truck.

Even if there isn’t a professional race happening when you visit, odds are good that if it’s a winter weekend, there is some type of amateur (or even high-school) race going on. The Boyne Mountain Resort (as well as many others in Michigan) has regular NASTAR racing – the largest public grassroots ski race program in the world. It’s a great opportunity for skiers of all ages to compete and have a blast while doing so.

And, if you are a better skier than me – consider signing up for one and competing!

7. Glide across the ice while ice skating

Taking the speed level down a notch, ice skating is definitely one of the top winter things to do in Michigan.

One of the most classic and loved winter activities is ice skating! Michigan transforms into a dreamy ice-skater’s utopia, with both natural and man-made rinks scattered all over the state, ready to give you that magical ice-skating experience.

Imagine gliding across the smooth, icy surface of an outdoor rink, the cold breeze nipping at your cheeks, and laughter, and chatter filling the air, all while you’re wrapped up in a scene that could’ve been pulled straight from a storybook. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it?

Ice skating at Boyne Mountain in Michigan

Although just about every town in Michigan has at least one spot for ice skating, if you are looking for a unique experience, the Muskegon Winter Sports park offers a 1/4-mile ice-skating trail through the woods. Yes, you read that right – an ice-skating trail! There’s something truly magical about skating through a winter forest, with trees sparkling with frost, and the world around you muffled and peaceful.

Whether you’re a professional skater, a beginner, or someone who just wants to enjoy the atmosphere and cheer on others from the sidelines, ice skating in Michigan is a wintertime must. Just remember to pack your coziest mittens!

Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, 462 Scenic Dr. Muskegon, MI

8. Be like an Olympian on an ice luge

Want to try a unique winter activity? How about an ice luge? if you’re looking for a winter activity in Michigan that’s a little out of the ordinary but an absolute riot of fun, let me introduce you to ice luging. And let me tell you, folks, this is not your average sled ride!

After you’ve enjoyed the ice skating trail at The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, you can give ice luging a try. It is one of only four places in the United States where you can experience this thrilling activity. This Muskegon luge adventure boasts an 850-foot-long ice luge track that’s been designed to introduce beginners to the sport of luge. Here’s the cool part – it’s even recognized by the United States Luge Association!

Picture this: you’re lying on your back on a tiny sled (don’t worry, they’ll give you a helmet), staring up at the sky, and then whoosh! You’re speeding down a twisting, turning track with the wind whistling past your ears, your heart thumping like a drum. You can reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour! It’s a bit like being on a rollercoaster, but you’re on the ice, and the one controlling the brakes and steering is you!

Before you hit the track at the luge adventure sports park, friendly staff members will provide a safety session to teach you the basics of luging like how to steer, stop, and more importantly, how to enjoy the ride safely. You should be prepared to crash though, so this isn’t for the faint of heart — it’s the real deal.

Ice luging is as exhilarating as it sounds, and it’s a great way to make some unique winter memories in Michigan. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or a family looking to switch up the usual winter activities, this is one icy adventure that’s definitely worth checking out. Just remember to hold on tight and enjoy the ride!

Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, 462 Scenic Dr. Muskegon, MI

9. Race down the hills on a sled

A more traditional choice for things to do in Michigan during the winter is good old-fashioned sledding. Ready to take a trip down memory lane and feel like a kid again? Nothing screams “winter fun” quite like sledding, and Michigan provides some of the most epic sledding hills you can find.

Sledding down a snowy hill in Michigan

From sprawling state parks to local city hills, there’s no shortage of places where you can grab your trusty sled (or toboggan, or snow tube) and whiz down a snowy slope with abandon. And the best part? It’s an activity the whole family can enjoy, whether you’re five or fifty-five!

One of the favorites among locals is the Rolling Hills County Park in Ypsilanti. This park features a massive sledding hill that’s guaranteed to give you a ride to remember. Plus, it’s lit at night, so the fun doesn’t have to stop when the sun goes down.

Sledding in Michigan is not just about the thrill of the ride, but also the joy of being out in the fresh winter air, surrounded by beautiful snowy landscapes. It’s about the laughter, the spills, and the camaraderie that comes with it. So bundle up, grab your sled, and hit those Michigan hills for some good old-fashioned winter fun!

10. Take it easy with snow tubing

Lazy like me and don’t want to drag your sled up the hill? Then snow tubing is a terrific way to enjoy a Michigan winter night.

Get ready for a snow-filled adventure that’ll have you grinning from ear to ear – we’re talking about snow tubing, folks! It’s all the thrill of sledding but with a bouncy, cushy twist, and Michigan, with its abundance of snowy hills and specialized resorts, is the perfect place for it.

We’ve been snow tubing several times when visiting Boyne Mountain Resort near Boyne City, Michigan, and always had a blast. It’s a great choice for members of your group that don’t like to ski.

Another spot that’s worth checking out is Mt. Holiday in Traverse City. Their Tubing Park boasts a 700-foot-long lane where you can experience the joy of zipping down a snowy slope in a tube. Plus, they have a tow rope to bring you back up to the top – it doesn’t get any better!

Snow tubing in Michigan is one of those activities that’s guaranteed to leave you with rosy cheeks and a warm heart, no matter how chilly the weather may be. It’s simple, it’s thrilling, and it’s a fantastic way to enjoy the Michigan winter with your loved ones. So grab a tube and let the good times roll… or should I say, slide!

Mt. Holiday Ski Resort, Traverse City, MI

11. Reeling in the chill with ice fishing

Now this suggestion isn’t really my cup of tea, but I know a lot of families who love to go fishing, so an afternoon of ice fishing could be a really fun winter activity in Michigan.

Michigan, being surrounded by the Great Lakes and home to over 11,000 inland lakes, is an angler’s winter paradise. The lakes freeze over, creating a hard, icy platform perfect for drilling a hole and dropping a line in. It’s not just about the thrill of the catch – it’s about the tranquil stillness of a frozen lake, the rhythmic dance of falling snowflakes, and the anticipation that ripples through the quiet, cold air as you wait for that tug on your line.

A fan favorite is Lake St. Clair, near Detroit. It’s known for its abundant walleye, perch, and northern pike. Meanwhile, Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron is famous among ice anglers for its walleye. If you’re looking to snag a trout or two, Higgins Lake is the place to be.

Remember, safety first – make sure the ice is thick enough before you venture out. Most recommend at least 4 inches of clear, solid ice for a single angler. Visit a local bait shop or resort for information about ice conditions and safety.

Whether you’re an experienced angler or a novice wanting to give ice fishing a go, Michigan has you covered. With a warm hat, a sturdy ice auger, and a bit of patience, you’re all set for a winter experience that’s authentically Michigan.

12. Admire gorgeous frozen waterfalls

When winter casts its frosty spell over Michigan’s landscape, the waterfalls transform into stunning formations of ice and snow, creating an ethereal spectacle that’s nothing short of magical.

The Upper Peninsula, with its wealth of falls, is the prime destination for these frozen wonders. Picture cascades frozen in time, the water replaced by glistening icicles that twinkle under the winter sun. It’s a natural art show that’s different each year, depending on the weather patterns and the flow of the falls.

Tahquamenon Falls, one of Michigan’s largest waterfalls, is breathtaking when frozen. The tannins from the cedar swamps turn the ice a golden brown, offering a spectacular contrast against the white snow.

Whether you’re a photographer, a nature lover, or just an admirer of winter’s beauty, the frozen waterfalls in Michigan offer an awe-inspiring spectacle. Just make sure you’re bundled up – because baby, it’s cold outside, and those falls aren’t getting any warmer!

Tahquamenon Falls State Park, 41382 W M 123, Paradise, MI 

13. Enjoy the solitude with a little winter hiking

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little hiking. One of the best free things to do in Michigan during winter is to bundle up with warm clothes and boots and hit the trails for a little winter hiking.

Wearing winter boots in the snow

Michigan’s expansive network of trails offers a variety of winter hiking options. From dense, snow-laden forests to icy lakeshores, the views are jaw-droppingly beautiful and the experiences are nothing short of memorable. Any of the Michigan State Parks would be a fantastic place to start as they have plenty of winter hiking trails.

Visiting the University of Michigan? Near the city of Ann Arbor, the Nichols Arboretum is another gem. This 123-acre park is perfect for a winter stroll. The Huron River meanders through the park, and the hilly terrain offers beautiful views of the snowy surroundings.

Over on the west side of the state, the Saugatuck Dunes State Park offers a unique winter hiking experience. The frozen shore of Lake Michigan, coupled with snow-covered dunes, makes for a unique and starkly beautiful landscape.

So, ready to break out of your winter hibernation and embrace the chilly season? There’s no better way to do it than hitting the trails and exploring the snowy splendor of Michigan!

Nichols Arboretum, Ann Arbor, MI

14. Be wowed by the Eben Ice Caves

The Eben Ice Caves are one of winter’s most splendid displays. This natural wonder, located near the small town of Eben Junction in the Upper Peninsula, provides a thrilling, icy spectacle that’s nothing short of mesmerizing.

As the temperature drops and winter tightens its icy grip, groundwater seeping through the sandstone rock freezes, creating cascades of ice along the rock face and forming spectacular caves of ice. As sunlight filters through the translucent ice, it casts an enchanting, otherworldly glow within these caves, making it feel as though you’ve stepped into a fantasy world.

Venturing into the Eben Ice Caves is an experience like no other. The caves vary in size, some just a few feet high, while others tower over you, large enough to walk into. The interiors are adorned with a myriad of icicles hanging from the ceiling like crystal chandeliers, and the walls are covered with intricate ice formations that glisten and sparkle in the cold winter light.

To reach the caves, you’ll need to embark on a short but potentially slippery hike through beautiful snowy woodlands, so good, grippy snow boots and warm clothing are a must. Most people also find ice cleats and hiking poles helpful. The trail isn’t too challenging, but the snowy and icy conditions can make it a bit tricky.

If you want to experience something completely different and unique this winter, add a visit to the Eben Ice Caves to your list.

Eben Ice Caves, Eben Junction, MI

15. Splash around at an indoor waterpark

Sometimes you just want to be warm in the winter, and a visit to an indoor waterpark can help you forget the bitter cold and snow outside!

My favorite indoor waterpark in Michigan is the Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark in Boyne Falls. As the largest indoor waterpark in Michigan, this 88,000-square-foot complex boasts a range of attractions, from thrilling water slides and a rip-roaring surf simulator, to a relaxing lazy river and a fun-filled kids’ pool. I’ve spent many relaxing hours on a float cruising the lazy river, and the two hot tubs feel fantastic after a long day of skiing!

surf simulator at Avalanche Bay at Boyne Mountain in Michigan

If you are looking for winter activities in southeast Michigan, don’t miss out on Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark in Frankenmuth. With two distinct waterpark areas, one with a retractable roof, it offers a ton of fun attractions including a six-story family raft ride and a zero-entry activity pool.

Indoor waterparks in Michigan offer a fun and exciting escape from the winter weather, allowing you to enjoy a beach-like atmosphere without leaving the state. Just don’t forget your swimsuit!

💦 Book your stay at Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark today!

16. Cuddle up on a horse-drawn sleigh ride

If there’s a winter experience that truly embodies the magic of the season, it’s a horse-drawn sleigh ride in Michigan. Picture this: you’re snuggled up in a cozy blanket, the air is filled with the crisp scent of pine, and all around you is a sparkling white landscape that looks like it’s been dusted with powdered sugar. The only sound breaking the quiet is the soft crunch of snow under the sleigh’s runners and the rhythmic clopping of horse hooves.

The rides take you on a leisurely journey through a winter wonderland. You’re not just a passive observer here, you’re part of the scene – gliding past snow-covered forests, across frozen lakes, and by quaint farmhouses that look like they’ve sprung from a Christmas card. It’s peaceful, it’s romantic, and it’s utterly enchanting.

A number of farms and ranches across Michigan offer these scenic winter rides. We’ve participated in the horse-drawn sleigh rides at Boyne Mountain before – and the s’mores and hot chocolate afterward were delicious!

At the Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, you can climb aboard their Belgian horse-drawn surrey for a delightful ride through the resort’s snowy grounds. This is a fantastic option for families, with kids absolutely loving the experience.

Horse drawn sleigh rides in Michigan are a quintessential winter experience. It’s a delightful way to embrace the chilly season and make memories that will last a lifetime. So bundle up, hop on, and let the gentle horses guide you through Michigan’s stunning winter landscape. It’s time to jingle all the way!

Crystal Mountain Resort, Thompsonville, MI

17. Raise a glass to Michigan’s wineries this winter

Michigan has some lovely wineries, so a fantastic way to spend a snowy afternoon is to visit a few of them! While summer and fall are traditionally seen as prime vineyard-visiting seasons, winter brings its own unique charm and fewer crowds, making it a magical time to explore the state’s thriving wine scene. I always try to check out at least one new winery on my winter Michigan trips.

Bottle and glass of wine at Boyne Valley Vineyards in Michigan

Michigan is home to several wine regions, each with its unique character and specialties. The Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail, for instance, offers a variety of wineries with cozy tasting rooms, where you can sample award-winning wines while enjoying scenic views of the vineyards blanketed in snow. From full-bodied reds to crisp whites and delightful ice wines, the tasting options are bountiful and sure to please every palate.

The Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail is another must-visit, especially during winter. Imagine sipping a glass of local wine while looking out at the frozen Lake Michigan in the distance, its vast surface shimmering under the winter sun. It’s a view that’s hard to beat.

The Old Mission Peninsula Wine Trail in Traverse City is a winter wine lover’s dream. This wine trail is home to several renowned wineries. Many of them feature fireplaces in their tasting rooms, making for a cozy wine-tasting experience. Plus, the snow-covered vineyards against the backdrop of the frozen Grand Traverse Bay create a stunning winter panorama.

So, ready to uncork some winter fun? Whether you’re a sommelier-in-training or a casual wine lover, exploring Michigan’s wineries in winter is a delightful experience that pairs well with the frosty season. Cheers!

🍷 Make your visits to the wineries fun and easy with this highly-rated 5-hour Traverse City Wine Tour!

18. A Sparkling Season: Exploring Holiday Lights in the Mitten State

Looking for things to do in Michigan in December? Michigan in December is a magical time, and admiring the holiday lights is the perfect way to enjoy it. From quaint towns to bustling cities, it seems like every corner of Michigan gets into the holiday spirit with dazzling light displays that would make even the Grinch’s heart grow three sizes.

One of the most iconic holiday light displays in Michigan is the Wayne County Lightfest in Westland. This is the Midwest’s longest drive-through holiday light show, with over four miles of brilliant LED displays that take you on a magical journey. It’s like driving through a tunnel of stars!

Then there’s the Detroit Zoo’s Wild Lights. This beloved event features over five million LED lights illuminating trees, buildings, and animal sculptures throughout the zoo. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a glowing fairy tale as you stroll through the dazzling displays.

I love to enjoy the holiday lights all over the adorable northern Michigan towns of Petoskey, Boyne City, and Harbor Springs. I’ll grab a hot chocolate and wander the downtown streets feeling like I’ve stepped into a Hallmark movie!

The holiday lights in Michigan bring a sense of cheer and magic to the long winter nights. They’re a beacon of joy, a reminder of the holiday spirit, and a bright spot in the frosty season. So bundle up, grab a thermos of hot cocoa, and explore the sparkling beauty of Michigan’s holiday lights. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, after all!

19. Experience the Joy of Winter Festivals in Michigan

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a weekend without a winter festival in Michigan during the winter months. Through the years, we’ve visited just about every winter weekend, and there are always a few festivals happening. So the choice is typically not whether to attend a winter festival, but which winter festival to enjoy!

From ice sculptures and snowball fights to epic sled races and winter feasts, there’s no shortage of fun to be had at Michigan’s winter festivals.

coffee cup Ice sculpture in Petoskey, MIchigan

Kick things off with the Plymouth Ice Festival, typically held in January or early February. This beloved event is one of the largest and oldest ice sculpture festivals in the country. Marvel at the icy works of art scattered throughout the town, try your hand at ice carving, or just enjoy the winter chill with a warm drink in hand.

In February, Traverse City hosts the Cherry Capital Winter WowFest. From a massive snowball fight and a sledding hill right in the middle of downtown, to cherry-inspired dishes at local eateries, this festival truly celebrates winter in a city known for its cherries.

In Marquette, the annual U.P. 200 Sled Dog Race draws crowds from near and far. Feel the adrenaline rush as teams of sled dogs race through snowy forests and frozen landscapes. This thrilling event is a nod to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula’s rich dog sledding heritage.

Embrace the magic of Michigan’s winter at these fantastic festivals. There’s no room for winter blues here – only endless fun, vibrant communities, and a celebration of everything that makes this frosty season special!

Extend your festival fun in Traverse City with a stay at the Tru by Hilton!

20. Exploring local shopping in Michigan’s chill

Winter shopping in Michigan is a unique experience that combines the joy of finding that perfect item with the magic of the season. From local boutiques decked out in holiday decor to charming Christmas markets, shopping here isn’t just a task, it’s a celebration!

Street in downtown Petoskey, Michigan

Frankenmuth, Michigan’s “Little Bavaria,” is home to the world-renowned Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store. This is a holiday shopping experience like no other, offering over 50,000 trims and gifts. While in town, don’t forget to explore the charming boutiques and specialty shops offering everything from German imports to locally made products.

Ready for an unusual winter shopping experience? Be sure to visit Holland, Michigan, and enjoy popping in and out of the local shops without worrying about slipping on the ice thanks to the town’s heated sidewalks. Yep, you heard that right – heated sidewalks. Genius, right?

I always do a little holiday shopping in my favorite Michigan towns of Petoskey, Boyne Falls, and Charlevoix. And of course, Grand Rapids and Detroit’s downtown areas are filled with a range of unique boutiques, galleries, and specialty stores offering a diverse shopping experience.

In Michigan, winter shopping is about more than just ticking items off your list. It’s about supporting local businesses, finding unique gifts, and immersing yourself in the joyful spirit of the season. So bundle up, grab a hot cider, and get ready to shop ’til you drop!

👉 Want to experience those heated sidewalks in Holland for yourself? Book your weekend at the Tulyp, Tapestry Collection by Hilton With its excellent location and clean modern lines it’s a perfect choice.

21. Warm up with coffee or an indulgent hot chocolate

One of my favorite things to do in the winter (or anytime really!), is to visit local coffee shops. The chilly weather outside seems to enhance the cozy ambiance inside these cafes, making them the perfect escape from the frosty outdoors.

In Detroit, Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company is a popular haunt. Their hot, freshly roasted coffee is the perfect pick-me-up on a cold day. The rustic-industrial setting with its cozy fireplace makes it a fantastic spot to relax, read a book, or catch up with friends.

In the heart of Grand Rapids, you’ll find Madcap Coffee. Known for its commitment to quality and its innovative approach to coffee, it’s a place where you can indulge in unique brews while watching the snow fall outside.

Roast & Toast in Petoskey is our favorite. Between the funky atmosphere, the delicious coffee, and the decadent hot chocolate options, it’s the perfect spot to grab a drink before strolling the downtown streets.

Cup of roast & toast coffee

Visiting local coffee shops in Michigan during winter isn’t just about the coffee (although that’s certainly a big part of it!). It’s also about the cozy corners, the local art on the walls, the friendly baristas who remember your order, and that magical feeling of warming up from the inside out as you watch the winter world go by outside.

22. Marvel at the blue ice in Mackinaw City

The blue ice of Michigan – it’s a mesmerizing winter phenomenon that never ceases to captivate locals and visitors alike. This natural spectacle often occurs in the Straits of Mackinac, near the Mackinac Bridge, typically during late February or early March, when conditions are just right.

We were lucky enough to visit one year when the blue ice was at its peak and it was a very cool experience! If you hear that it’s a year with blue ice, plan a trip up to Mackinac to see it!

Blue Ice in Mackinaw City, mIchigan

W gives the ice its stunning blue hue? Well, without going too deep into the science, it’s essentially because of the way the ice forms. The ice piles up in layers due to the waves in the straits, and as these layers stack, they expel air bubbles. Without these bubbles, the ice absorbs the red and yellow light spectrum and reflects the blue light, giving it its namesake blue color.

When you see it in person, it’s a sight you won’t soon forget. The ice formations can range in size, some as small as pebbles, others as large as boulders. The crystal-like blue ice chunks create a landscape that looks almost otherworldly.

On sunny days, the spectacle is particularly stunning. The sunlight intensifies the blue glow, creating a beautiful, luminous contrast to the winter-white snow. This frosty phenomenon is yet another reason why a winter visit to Michigan is well worth the chill.

23. Challenge yourself with ice climbing

Ice climbing in Michigan is a thrilling winter activity if you are looking for an adventure and a chance to experience the state’s wintry landscapes from a unique perspective. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, with its rugged cliffs and the abundance of frozen waterfalls, provides some of the best ice climbing opportunities in the Midwest.

One of the premier spots for ice climbing in Michigan is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore near Munising. The park’s sandstone cliffs, some towering over 200 feet, become coated with thick layers of ice in the winter. Climbers of various skill levels can find routes that suit their abilities here, ranging from relatively easy ascents to challenging vertical climbs.

Then there’s the Michigan Ice Fest, typically held in February, which brings climbers from all around the world to Munising. It’s an amazing opportunity for novices and experts alike to learn new skills, share climbing stories, and take on the area’s icy routes.

For beginners or those wanting to enhance their climbing skills, several outfitters and guide services in the area offer instruction and equipment rentals. They ensure safety measures are adhered to while providing tips and techniques to make the most out of the climbing experience.

Of course, ice climbing is not for the faint-hearted. It’s physically demanding, and the freezing conditions can be challenging. But the reward is immense. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of ascending a frozen waterfall, surrounded by pristine winter landscapes, with a sense of accomplishment that warms you from the inside out.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising, MI

24. Shop til you drop at the Great Lakes Crossing Mall

If you want to spend some of your winter in Michigan inside, consider a day at the Great Lakes Crossing Mall. Just outside of Detroit, this mall is full of things to do.

Of course, there are stores galore – some are outlets and some are regular stores. We spent a few hours shopping on our last visit and didn’t even come close to getting to everything.

Great Lakes Crossing Mall

In addition to shops, the Great Lakes Crossing Mall is home to several unique and fun attractions. You can explore the waters at SEA LIFE, have fun with Peppa Pig, or build to your heart’s content at Legoland. There is even a carousel to ride.

Of course, you’ll find plenty of delicious restaurants, coffee shops, and candy stores, so you definitely won’t go hungry. And once you’ve had your fill of shopping, dining, and playing, be sure to check out the rest of what Auburn Hills has to offer!

If the weather is too cold to be outside (even bundled up), an afternoon at the mall is an excellent option to help chase away the winter blues.

👉 Enjoy a wonderful winter weekend in Auburn Hills with a stay at the Embassy Suites.

25. Explore “Little Bavaria” – AKA Frankenmuth this winter

Known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” this charming town is one of the best places to visit in Michigan in winter. With its Bavarian-style architecture, world-class Christmas store, and incredible winter activities, a visit to Frankenmuth feels like stepping into a snow globe.

Perhaps the most famous attraction in Frankenmuth is Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store. Open all year round, Bronner’s truly shines in the winter. With over 50,000 gifts and trims spread over a space equal to one and a half football fields, this Christmas wonderland is lit by thousands of twinkling lights and is a must-see when in town.

The charm of Frankenmuth extends beyond Bronner’s. The town itself is beautifully decorated, with twinkling lights, festive decorations, and an enormous Christmas tree that transforms the main square into a winter wonderland. The snowy streets lined with unique boutiques and specialty shops add to the enchanting ambiance, making it perfect for holiday shopping.

And let’s not forget about the food! Frankenmuth is famous for its family-style chicken dinners served at local institutions like Zehnder’s and the Bavarian Inn. Pair that with a pint of locally brewed beer, and you’ve got yourself a hearty meal to warm you up from the inside out.

So, if your family wants to visit a Michigan town that really feels like winter, add a weekend getaway to Frankenmuth to your winter vacation schedule!

👉 Plan your winter weekend getaway to Frankenmuth with a stay at the centrally located Drury Inn & Suites.

26. Enjoy the magic of the Enchanted Trail

A very unique and magical winter experience called the “Enchanted Trail” can be experienced most winter weekends at the Boyne Highlands Resort. Tucked away in the beautiful Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs, Michigan, this trail takes visitors on a whimsical journey through the resort’s gorgeous, snow-blanketed forests.

The trail, which is just over a mile long, is lit up with hundreds of twinkling lights that guide the way through the silent, snow-covered trees. The path meanders through the forest, offering a serene and intimate encounter with nature that can be enjoyed by folks of all ages.

Boyne Highlands in Michigan

Halfway through, there’s a warming hut where you can catch your breath and heat up with some hot chocolate, adding to the cozy and festive atmosphere.

It’s not just a trail – it’s a journey into a winter wonderland, a place where the beauty of nature meets the joy of the holiday season. It’s a spot for quiet reflection, for savoring the peace and tranquility of a winter’s night, and for making memories with loved ones.

The Enchanted Trail is an experience that embodies the charm and magic of a Michigan winter. So, lace up your winter boots (or even use your snowshoes), bundle up, and prepare to be enchanted by this beautiful trail.

👉 Book your stay at Boyne Highlands for easy access to the Enchanted Trail – and terrific skiing too!

27. Sip on a craft beer at a local brewery

Another one of our favorite things to do in the winter – especially on a sunny but cold day is spending an afternoon at a local brewery. Michigan’s craft beer scene is legendary, and during the colder months, breweries around the state offer a uniquely inviting atmosphere to relax, warm up, and savor some excellent local brews.

Many breweries also serve comforting food perfect for a cold winter’s day – artisanal pizzas, juicy burgers, tacos, or maybe a bowl of hearty chili or stew, all designed to perfectly complement their beer offerings.

Enjoying a taco and beer at a Michigan Brewery

Breweries like Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, or Jolly Pumpkin in Traverse City, among many others, offer not just great beer, but also a community atmosphere that’s perfect for whiling away a snowy afternoon.

And it’s not just about the beer, either. It’s about the shared moments over a game of cards, the hearty laughter resonating against the brewery walls, the stories told and the memories made. It’s a tradition, a part of the local culture, and a testament to Michigan’s warm hospitality.

So this winter, don’t just hibernate. Pull on your warmest sweater, gather your friends, and head to your local Michigan brewery. Sip on a seasonal brew, feast on some tasty comfort food, and enjoy a cozy afternoon full of warmth, laughter, and good cheer. Cheers to that!

28. Explore a fun and educational museum

We love a good museum – especially a science or history museum, so a favorite family activity is to visit one! On several trips, we timed our drives to and from Northern Michigan to allow for a few hours to explore the Impression 5 Science Center in Lansing. This museum is perfect for elementary to early middle school kids.

Kids in front of Impression 5 sign in Lansing, MIchigan.

One of the BEST museums in Michigan is The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. I can still remember visiting it as a kid – it is that impressive. It is an absolute must-visit for any history or car enthusiast. The exhibits here take you on a journey through America’s innovation history, with highlights including the limousine in which JFK was assassinated, and the bus where Rosa Parks made her brave stand.

If your family loves art, then the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is one of the premier art museums in the country. It houses over 65,000 works of art, from ancient to modern times, spanning continents and cultures.

The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History in Ann Arbor is another terrific museum to visit. This museum offers exhibits about the natural world, from the origins of the universe, to Earth’s history, and life’s evolution. A must-visit for those curious about science and the natural world.

Whether you’re a resident of the Great Lakes State or planning a visit, make sure to carve out some time to explore these fantastic Michigan museums. Each offers an enriching experience and a chance to delve deeper into the worlds of art, history, science, and more.

29. Visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Most people think about visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in the summer, but visiting during the winter months is like stepping into a peaceful, snow-covered dream. Located in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, this beloved national park transforms into a wintry wonderland that offers visitors a truly unique experience of Michigan’s natural beauty.

The towering sand dunes are blanketed in a layer of pristine, sparkling snow, creating an ethereal landscape that stretches as far as the eye can see. The views over Lake Michigan are particularly breathtaking, with the ice and snow contrasting against the deep blue of the lake.

One of the most popular winter activities at Sleeping Bear Dunes is snowshoeing. You can trek through the park’s various trails, like the Empire Bluff Trail or the Pyramid Point Trail, and enjoy the park’s beauty at a leisurely pace. The park even offers guided snowshoe hikes led by park rangers, which are a great way to learn about the park’s history and wildlife.

Cross-country skiing is another excellent way to explore the park. The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, which stretches for about 27 miles from Empire to Bohemian Road, is groomed for both classic and skate skiing. This trail provides a more active, yet equally enchanting, way to navigate the snow-covered dunes and forests.

Visiting the Sleeping Bear Dunes in winter also means fewer crowds. This allows for a serene and tranquil visit where you can truly connect with nature, hear the crunch of the snow under your boots, and take in the magnificent winter landscapes.

As with any winter activity, it’s essential to dress warmly, check the weather forecast, and let someone know where you’re going if you’re heading out into the park alone.

So if you’re looking for a magical winter escape, bundle up and head to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. You’ll find a winter paradise waiting for you!

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, 9922 Front St. Empire, MI

30. Ever seen a frozen lighthouse?

Winter in Michigan brings a unique phenomenon that turns the state’s shoreline into a scene straight out of a fairy tale – the frozen lighthouses. These iconic structures, surrounded by the Great Lakes, get cloaked in layers of ice and snow, creating a surreal and captivating sight that’s a must-see for any winter adventurer.

The spray from the winter waves collides with the freezing air, creating a mist that coats the lighthouse, which then freezes into intricate icicles and frost patterns. This creates an ethereal aura around the structure, and each lighthouse offers a different display, dependent on its location, the weather, and the water conditions.

Exploring these frozen lighthouses requires safety precautions. The conditions can be slippery, and the winter weather on the lakeshore can be harsh. It’s crucial to dress warmly, wear sturdy footwear, and respect any safety notices or barriers put in place.

Capturing photos of these frozen guardians of the lake is a popular pastime. So, bring along your camera to seize this striking spectacle of nature’s artistry.

St. Joseph Lighthouse, North Pier St., Saint Joseph, MI

31. Frederik Meijer Gardens Sculpture Park

Nestled in the heart of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is an expansive, 158-acre oasis that beautifully intertwines the allure of art and the wonders of nature. This remarkable destination draws in art enthusiasts, nature lovers, and curious minds from all corners of the world, offering an enchanting retreat no matter the season.

As you step into the gardens, you’re welcomed by an abundance of meticulously landscaped areas teeming with diverse plant life. In the winter, the stunning Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory, filled with exotic plants from around the world, is a fantastic place to warm up and get your fill of green.

Winter in the gardens is equally mesmerizing, with the unique beauty of plants in their winter dormancy. Don’t miss the Railway Garden during the holiday season, with its charming model trains winding their way through a miniature landscape dotted with replicas of Grand Rapids’ landmarks crafted from natural materials.

Then, there’s the sculpture park – I love a good sculpture park, and this is one of the most impressive outdoor sculpture experiences in the country. Wander among more than 200 sculptures thoughtfully placed throughout the park. You’ll find works from renowned artists like Auguste Rodin, Ai Weiwei, and Dale Chihuly, to name a few. Each piece harmoniously coexists with the surrounding natural beauty, providing an immersive artistic experience.

The centerpiece of the park, “The American Horse” by Nina Akamu, is a breathtaking, 24-foot bronze equine sculpture inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s horse design. It’s an iconic symbol of the park’s blend of art and nature.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, 1000 E. Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI

👉 Stay at the convenient (and gorgeous) Amway Grand Plaza Hotel when visiting the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

32. Relax & rejuvenate at a resort

Sometimes you just need to get away and relax, and a winter getaway weekend to a Michigan resort is the perfect cure for the winter blues.

There are several lovely resorts in Michigan. We spend a few weekends every year (winter AND summer) at Boyne Mountain and never run out of things to do. It is one of my favorite places to visit in Michigan during winter. Plus, if relaxation is on your agenda, Boyne has a wonderful spa onsite.

Boyne Mountain resort view from the Eagles Nest.

Head all the way north to Mission Point Resort, Mackinac Island for a real treat. Spread across 18 acres, this resort offers stunning views of Lake Huron and a wide range of amenities including a spa, a health club, an 18-hole putting course, and multiple dining options.

Kids love staying at a Great Wolf Lodge! With indoor waterparks, food on site, and plenty of other fun activities, it’s always a terrific choice for a winter family getaway. Luckily, there is a Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City, MI. So if your resort stay includes the kiddos, this would be a fantastic choice!

Great Wolf Lodge, Traverse City, MI

33. Indulge during Traverse City restaurant week

Does your family love good food? Trying new restaurants? Checking out local restaurants is one of our favorite activities when we are traveling, and with Traverse City’s Restaurant Week being in winter (typically the last weekend of February), it’s a great Michigan winter activity.

During Restaurant Week, a multitude of Traverse City’s best eateries come together to offer special three-course meals at a fixed price. It’s a fantastic opportunity for locals and visitors alike to explore the city’s vibrant food scene without breaking the bank. Plus, it’s the perfect excuse to try that restaurant you’ve been eyeing or revisit a beloved favorite.

Traverse City’s food scene is incredibly diverse, and that diversity shines during Restaurant Week. Whether you’re into cozy Italian bistros, upscale farm-to-table establishments, creative fusion restaurants, or fresh seafood spots, there’s something for everyone. The participating restaurants really bring their A-game, creating special menus that showcase their culinary chops.

What to wear in Michigan in the winter?

Michigan is COLD in the winter. But, as long as you dress warmly you can still enjoy all that the state has to offer. Definitely pack a hat and gloves, and a great pair of winter boots. Although I love cute shoes, I’ve discovered that in the winter (especially on a ski getaway), I really only wear my winter boots when we travel in Michigan.

dressed warmly for skiing in Michigan

If you plan on participating in any outdoor sports or activities, pack extras like gloves, winter coats, and ski pants, and wear super warm socks and long underwear. You’ll have a lot more fun if you aren’t cold. I also swear by these hot hands – they work wonders!

How do I get around Michigan in the winter?

Michigan is a big state, so you’ll absolutely want a car to get around. If you are flying the largest airport is in Detroit, so you could start your adventures there. Or, if you plan on visiting more of the western side of the state, consider flying into Grand Rapids.

Consider using Kayak to find the best flight options for you, and then check car rental prices on DiscoverCars to find the best deal on a car once you arrive.

FAQs: Winter activities in Michigan

What to do in Michigan when it’s cold?

Skiing, fat tire biking, snowshoeing, ice climbing, and ice skating are all great ideas – as are any of the other 28 ideas in this post.

What is Michigan like in winter?

Cold and snowy but beautiful. The skies are often a brilliant blue!

What’s the coldest town in Michigan?

Vanderbilt, Michigan is typically considered the coldest town.

What is the coldest month in Michigan?

January is consistently the coldest month.

A snowy scene during a Michigan winter

Conclusion: Fun Things to Do in Winter in Michigan

And there you have it – a snowy scoop of the countless winter delights that Michigan has to offer. From the adrenaline rush of fat-tire biking, ice luging, and skiing, to the soothing serenity of exploring frozen waterfalls, ice caves, and peaceful winter hikes, Michigan truly is a winter wonderland.

But Michigan’s winter magic isn’t limited to outdoor adventures. Warm up indoors with a visit to a local coffee shop, peruse the holiday-lit city streets, or enjoy the local shopping scene. Immerse yourself in vibrant winter festivals, enlightening museum visits, or retreat to a cozy resort after a day filled with winter play. And let’s not forget the food – Michigan’s culinary scene is a must-explore, especially during Traverse City’s Restaurant Week.

So, don’t let the winter chill keep you indoors. Bundle up, embrace the snowy splendor, and embark on a winter adventure in Michigan. It’s a season to savor, filled with memorable experiences that will make you fall in love with winter, one snowflake at a time.

Whether you’re a lifelong Michigan resident or planning your first winter visit, I hope this guide to “33 Cool Things to Do in Winter in Michigan” has sparked some ideas for your winter bucket list. Remember, there’s a whole world of wintry fun waiting for you in the Great Lake State. Stay warm and happy exploring – I’ll see you there!

PIN FOR LATER:

Ready for 33 cool things to do in winter in Michigan? As you probably know by now, the #1 rule in our family is to never let a little chill in the air stop us from having a blast. And where better to embrace the winter wonderland than in the cozy mitten of the US? 

After many family trips, tubing down icy slopes, skiing, and warming up with mugs of delicious hot cocoa, we've come to realize that this Great Lakes State is an absolute haven for those seeking some fun in the frost.
Ready for 33 cool things to do in winter in Michigan? As you probably know by now, the #1 rule in our family is to never let a little chill in the air stop us from having a blast. And where better to embrace the winter wonderland than in the cozy mitten of the US? 

After many family trips, tubing down icy slopes, skiing, and warming up with mugs of delicious hot cocoa, we've come to realize that this Great Lakes State is an absolute haven for those seeking some fun in the frost.