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Lifestyle Things to do in Metro Detroit

45+ Things to do in Michigan This Winter

December 1, 2021

The skies outside are dull, but that doesn’t mean your calendar has to be. Check out our list of activities, places to go, and ways to keep busy in Michigan this winter.

By SEEN Editors

ONE DAY ONLY! GO CAROLING IN THE CITY

If you love Christmas, Rochester is the place to be on Dec. 12. That’s when the city’s downtown is transformed into a holiday wonderland, with twinkling lights, choirs, a Christ-mas-cookie station, an Ugly Sweater contest, and people caroling around a huge Christmas tree on Main Street. downtownrochestermi.com/caroling-in-the-city

 

WEAR AN UGLY SWEATER AT A SILENT DISCO

Nick Hagen
The headline says it all. On Dec. 11, Detroit’s Beacon Park will host an ugly-sweater-themed silent disco, where revelers in, well, ugly sweaters slap on wireless headphones and groove to DJ-spun tunes under a heated tent. downtowndetroitparks.com

GET YOUR DINO ON

45+ Things to do in Michigan This Winter

North America’s largest and most realistic dinosaur event is roaring into Novi’s Suburban Showplace. Jurassic Quest features more than 100 giant, animatronic dinos from the Cretaceous, Jurassic, and Triassic periods, as well as kid-friendly features like dinosaur rides and fossil digs. Dec. 10-19, jurassicquest.com

 

HIT THE SLOPES

J.t. Robinson drops the knee while dropping into the run “Ice Cliff” at Mount Bohemia. Keweenaw Peninsula, Upper Michigan. 2013 photo by Joey Wallis

With 40-plus ski areas state-wide, this one’s a no-brainer. Pack your skis or snowboard and hit the slopes Up North (Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls and Boyne Highlands in Harbor Springs are particularly family-friendly) or nearby at Mt. Brighton or the Pine Knob Ski and Snowboard Resort in Clarkston.

Thrill seekers should visit Mount Bohemia on the UP’s Keweenaw Peninsula, which offers daredevil-approved triple-black-diamond runs. (Rental skis, snowboards, and helmets are available at most places.) Read more about Mt. Bohemia in ‘Mt. Bohemia – Not for Beginners’

CHASE “WATERFALLS”

Michigan’s best water-falls are arguably in the U.P. (hello, Tahquamenon Falls!), but if you want to experience some waterfall magic closer to home, Ann Arbor’s Barton Nature Area is the place to go. When the Barton Dam freezes over, it transforms into a wall of ice. Pro tip: Park at the entrance on Huron River Drive, then walk under the railroad bridge to snag the best views. 1010 W. Huron River Dr., Ann Arbor

FIRE UP A SNOWMOBILE

45+ Things to do in Michigan This WinterGetty Images/iStockphoto

Dec. 1 marks the beginning of Michigan’s official snowmobile season — that is, when the state’s more than 6,500 groomed snowmobiling trails are ready to welcome riders. Michigan boasts one of the country’s most extensive interconnected trail systems, with trails spanning both peninsulas. Don’t want to travel far? You can find snowmobile trails at state parks in Commerce, Pontiac, Waterford, and Chelsea, just to name just a few.

SLIDE DOWN THESE FUN SLEDDING HILLS!

Getty Images

In truth, there’s no consensus on Metro Detroit’s best sledding hills — partly because there are simply so many. But our kid-approved picks include Beverly Hills Village Park in Beverly Hills, the Shiawassee Park in Farmington, Milliken State Park on the Detroit Riverfront, and Lost Lake Nature Park in Oakland, where, if you walk to the top of the sledding hill, you can stand at one of Oakland Township’s highest points.

SCALE AN ICY WALL

45+ Things to do in Michigan This Winter

Seasoned climbers and newbies alike can hone their skills at Peabody Ice Climbing in Fenton, where two iced-over towers (standing 45 feet and 72 feet tall, respectively) await. Gear is available to rent onsite, and if you need coaching, certified instructors are also on hand. Training to climb an actual mountain? Check out Peabody’s Altitude Gym, which can simulate an environment up to 19,000 feet. peabodyiceclimbing.com

 

ONE DAY ONLY:TAKE YOUR KIDS TO A NYE PARTY — DURING THE DAY

Want to ring in the New Year with your little ones without keeping them awake until midnight? The answer lies in Beacon Park, where the NYE festivities kick off at 1 p.m. on Dec. 31 with live music, entertainment, activities, food trucks, and more before wrapping up by dinnertime. downtowndetroitparks.com

INDULGE YOUR ARTSY SIDE

Three new exhibits are debuting at the Detroit Institute of Arts this winter. “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion,” opens Dec. 17 with portraits and images by 15 emerging Black photographers; Detroit fine-artist Shirley Woodson’s “Shield of the Nile Reflections” opens Dec. 18; and “By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500–1800” opens Feb. 6 and showcases the work of unsung Italian female artists. dia.org

EXPERIENCE ‘SNOWFEST’

Zehnder’s Snowfest has been a Frankenmuth tradition for more than 30 years, beloved for its snow-sculpting contest, ice-carving exhibitions, and family-friendly attractions, from fireworks to a petting zoo. Check out the scene, then drive through town to gawk at all of the pretty Christmas lights. Jan. 26-31, zehnders.com/snowfest

 

BEST OF METRO DETROIT: SKATE AT THESE AWESOME ICE RINKS!

The rink at Campus Martius Park may be Detroit’s most picturesque place to skate, but there are plenty of other great outdoor rinks around town. We like Riley Park Ice Rink in Farmington Hills, the Buhr Park Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, and Blake’s Skating Rink in Armada. Call to check on skate-rental availability.

 

GO FOR A ROLL ON THE SNOW

45+ Things to do in Michigan This WinterGetty Images/iStockphoto

Try fat-tire biking — i.e., riding bikes with wide wheels that can handle snowy terrain — on trails across Metro Detroit

Your bike may be stored away for the winter, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still ride on two wheels. Fat-tire biking — that is, riding bikes with four-inch-wide tires that can handle snowy surfaces — is picking up speed in Michigan. Call your local bike shop and inquire about renting a
fat-tire bike, then hit one of several area trails. The Waterloo Recreation Area in Chelsea, for one, offers eight miles of groomed terrain. michigan.org/property/waterloo-recreation-area

EMBARK ON A MIDNIGHT ICE-SCULPTURE TOUR

Try fat-tire biking — i.e., riding bikes with wide wheels that can handle snowy terrain — on trails across Metro Detroit
The Plymouth Ice Festival offers dozens of awe-inspiring ice carvings spread across the downtown area. (Fun fact: Each one starts out as a 350-lb. block of ice before being carved.) For a unique way to beat the crowds, set out on a midnight tour of the sculptures, which are available to view 24 hours a day. Feb. 11-13, plymouthicefestival.com

GO GLOW TUBING AT BOWERS FARM

45+ Things to do in Michigan This Winter

By night, the sledding hill at Bowers Farm in Bloomfield Hills transforms into a rainbow of lights and lasers, while people in giant inner tubes shoot through lit-up arches to the bottom. It’s called glow tubing, and it’s a super fun way to spend an evening, especially when you consider the “apres tube” scene: sitting by the farm’s toasty bonfire, roasting marshmallows for a s’more. Check website for dates and times; schoolfarm.org
LIGHT SHOW Bowers Farm in Bloomfield Hills offers glow tubing after hours

GOLF ON THE ICE

45+ Things to do in Michigan this WinterRyan Schlehuber
Golf takes a wacky turn in St. Ignace, where every March the city sets up a golfing range on the frozen East Moran Bay. This year marks the tradition’s 35th anniversary, and there’s a whole weekend of festivities planned. Where will your ball slide to next? March 4-5, stignace.com

BEST OF METRO DETROIT:SIP ON THESE YUMMY HOT COCOA DRINKS!

Nothing says winter like a steaming cup of cocoa, and Detroit is teeming with spots serving up all kinds of hot chocolate, from kid-friendly to spiked. Ones to try: the classic cocoa from Avalon Bakery’s Detroit flagship, made with Guernsey chocolate milk; the rich, French-style chocolate chaud at Ann Arbor’s Le Bon Macaron, and the over-the-top creations at Garrido’s Bistro in Grosse Pointe, piled high with goodies like cookie crumbles and toasted marshmallows.

OGLE SOME COOL CARS

45+ Things to do in Michigan this Winter

After being canceled in 2021, the 69th annual Detroit Autorama — also known as “America’s greatest hot rod show” — is back and rolling into the TCF Center on March 4-6. Event details were TBD as of press time, but you can bet that lots of colorful custom cars and hot rods will be on display. autorama.com

LACE UP YOUR SNOWSHOES

Want a more “gentle” winter sport? Snowshoeing — basically hiking over snow — is it. There are various local spots to practice, and some even offer rentals (call to check before you go). Beginners should try the 0.9-mile E.L. Johnson Nature Center Loop in Bloomfield Hills, while
experienced snowshoers can tackle the Clinton River Trail, a 16-mile stretch that hits elevations of almost 370 feet and runs from Rochester to Sylvan Lake.

GO OFF TO THE (SLED-DOG) RACES

From Feb. 17-21, Marquette is the place to be for sled-dog-racing enthusiasts. That’s when the U.P. 200 (one of the qualifying races for the Iditarod), the Midnight Run, and the Jack Pine 30 will return for the first time since 2020. Expect a party atmosphere: The races typically draw about 5,000 spectators to Marquette. up200.org

GET CULTURED

Spend a winter day learning about everything from Great Lakes history to early automobiles at these local institutions:
Ford Piquette Avenue Plant in Milwaukee Junction
▶The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn
▶ The Hands-On Museum in Ann Arbor

GET REVVED UP AT A SNOWMOBILE RACE NASCAR

But make it snowmobiles: That’s the premise of the 53rd annual International 500 Snowmobile Race, which draws thousands of fans to Sault Ste. Marie to watch professional snowmobile riders shoot around an oval-shaped ice track. The festivities begin on Jan. 31 with mini races and family activities before culminating in what’s known as the “grand daddy” race on Feb 5. i-500.com

TRY BIRDWATCHING

45+ Things to do in Michigan this WinterImage courtesy of the Detroit Audubon Society
Detroit Audubon is hosting two beginner birding walks on the Detroit Riverfront this winter; nature lovers should expect to walk the area while learning about the birds that call it home. Jan. 9 and Feb. 6, registration encouraged;detroitriverfront.org

REVAMP YOUR DATE NIGHT

Forget dinner and a movie — this winter, elevate your date night with a one-destination outing. Have a bite and keep the fun going afterwards at recently opened spots like Midtown’s Barcade (an arcade-meets-bar), the Grand River Ballroom (a spot for bocce ball, pinball, and Skee-Ball in the basement of the Detroit Beer Exchange) and Detroit Axe in Corktown.

ONE DAY ONLY! RUN FOR PACZKI

Image courtesy of Paczki Run
You know you’re going to eat at least one paczki on Fat Tuesday, so why not burn off the calories in advance? That’s the premise behind Paczki Run 2022, a 5K set for Feb. 26 that takes runners through Hamtramck and ends with a celebration full of polka, beer, and paczek (that is, more than one paczki). Racers must pre-register. runsignup.com/Race/MI/Hamtramck/PaczKiRun

ONE WEEKEND ONLY! CELEBRATE MARDI GRAS IN DETROIT

On Feb. 25-27, a taste of New Orleans is coming to the Detroit Riverfront. Set in Valade Park, Mardi Gras at Valade will feature a mask contest, Carnival costumes, a Second Line band, Creole- inspired cuisine, beignets, beads, and more. riverfront.org

CAST A LINE

45+ Things to do in Michigan this WinterGetty Images/iStockphoto

ICE, ICE BABY Try ice fishing on one of Michigan’s 11,000+ inland lakes from Feb. 19-20, when the state will waive all fishing-license fees

Michigan has more than 11,000 inland lakes and countless rivers and streams. When they freeze over, it offers the chance for anglers to fish in places that would be unreachable in warmer temps. On Feb. 19-20, Michigan will waive all fishing-license fees, which means you can drop a line in the ice at any state park for free. michigan.gov

LEARN TO LUGE

45+ Things to do in Michigan this Winter© Adam Alexander Photography 2020

FAST RIDE The Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park has a track designed by U.S. Olympic luger Frank Masley

Have dreams of shooting down an ice luge at break-neck speeds? At the Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park you can give it a try on a track designed by U.S. Olympic luger Frank Masley. First-timers can take a lesson before climbing aboard a 30-pound steel sled and braving curves at speeds approaching 30 mph. Opens Dec. 31; msports.org

TAKE IN A DRIVE-IN

Things to do in Metro Detroit this Weekend 11/10 through 11/14Photo courtesy of Bedrock Detroit
Put the kids in their PJs and head to the Monroe Street Drive-In in downtown Detroit, where you can watch a family-friendly movie from the comfort of your car. (The drive-in will operate through spring.) Popcorn and hot cocoa are available on site, and shows — which are announced a week in advance — play Thursday through Sunday evenings. Ticket sales open each Tuesday for the weekend ahead; detroitdrivein.com

FLOAT DOWN A LAZY RIVER

Can’t go somewhere warm this winter? Convince your little ones you’re on vacation with a trip to the Hawk Aquatics Center, a new indoor pool in Farmington Hills that has all the bells and whistles: a lazy river, a water slide, a zipline, and a climbing wall. fhgov.com/Activities/The-Hawk/Home.aspx

TAKE A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

Located about 20 miles south of Detroit along the lower Detroit River and western shoreline of Lake Erie, the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is the only one of its kind in North America. Explore the refuge’s islands, wet-lands, marshes, and more while staying on the lookout for wildlife like diving ducks — more than 300,000 of them pass through the area every year. fws.gov/refuge/detroit_river

EAT CHILI

Chili is the perfect cold-weather fare, and there will be no shortage of it in Port Huron during the city’s annual Chilly Fest. Aside from the hotly anticipated chili cook-off, live entertainment and family-friendly activities are also on the menu. Jan. 28-29, chillyfest.org

GET SPORTY

It may be too cold to comfortably play sports outside, but you can get your heart rate (and some friendly competition) going at these spots across Metro Detroit. Call before you go, as some places may require reservations.
Cadieux Cafe in Detroit — feather bowling
Action Paintball Park in Livonia
DYNO Detroit in Eastern Market — rock climbing
Topgolf in Auburn Hills
MI-Combat in Rochester Hills — tactical laser tag
Putting Edge in Novi — glow-in-the-dark mini golf

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