5 Misconceptions about Winter Activities in the U.P.

It’s no secret that with the beauty of Michigan in winter, some stereotypes come along with it. This certainly rings true in the Upper Peninsula, which some people think is nearly inhabitable during the cold weather months. But as U.P. residents and enthusiasts will tell you, there’s so much to enjoy during the winter season in the U.P. 

1. Winter travel limits the fun
Those who live in and often visit the U.P. never let a little snow get in the way of a good time! Enjoying an evening on the town while avoiding slippery roads is easy in a place like downtown Sault Ste. Marie, where dozens of taverns, restaurants, and shops are found within a short three-block area. Plowed sidewalks are pedestrian friendly and snowmobiles are allowed on Downtown streets for those who arrive via trail. Who needs a car?

If you're exploring the central area of the Upper Peninsula, Marquette is a can't-miss. Home to Northern Michigan University, Marquette offers visitors fun experiences like the Marquette Harbor Light and Maritime Museum and Presque Isle Park. North of town, you can snap a photo of the iconic iron ore docks, one of the most notable landmarks in Michigan. What's more, this U.P. town has been previously identified as one of the nation's best places to live by Outdoor Life Magazine.

Tahquamenon Falls in the winter
Photo Courtesy of Wolverine Photography

2. Everything is closed in the winter
Many attractions remain open all year long in the Upper Peninsula but take on a delightful new appeal when covered in snow. Visit Tahquamenon Falls State Park this winter to see incredible ice displays sculpted by Mother Nature herself. Anglers see their lakes transformed for a new catch and hikers get a new perspective when exploring snow-covered forests by snowshoe. At the day’s end, bundle up with hot cocoa or an Irish coffee at one of the Eastern Upper Peninsula’s four casinos.

Don't forget! Mackinac Island is open during the winter, too. A visit to the island during the cold weather months is a perfect getaway for those who want a much slower pace - so that it's easier to get quiet, hang out and enjoy the company of friends, family and the great outdoors.
The coast of Sault Ste. Marie
Photo Courtesy of Michigan Nut Photography
3. It’s too cold to do anything outside
Some people think that because the Upper Peninsula is so far north, it’s nearly impossible to do anything outside. Guess again! Between cross country skiing, dog sled races, antique snowmobile runs and restaurants ready to serve up a nice hot plate with a beer brewed locally, you’re sure to enjoy the outdoors.  Some residents say it’s just as busy in the winter as it is in the summer! One thing that folks in the Keweenaw Peninsula know is that Lake Superior actually moderates temperature enough to keep it cold, but comfortable, in the winter.

One sport that's seeminly MADE for the U.P. is snowshoeing. Snowshoeing in Michigan is a perfect way to see the tranquil beauty of the winter season while staying active. For great snowshoeing, check out Fumee Lake Natural AreaFumee Lake offers a variety of trails, but the most popular are the “Little Fumee Lake Loop” and the “Big Fumee Lake Loop.” As their names imply, both trails circle one of the area’s two lakes, with the little loop measuring 1.35 miles and the big loop coming in at about 5.2 miles.

4. There’s nothing to see in the U.P., especially in the winter Let’s kick this misconception to the curb right away – you get to cross the western hemispheres’ LARGEST suspension bridge when traveling to the U.P.! Ask any Michigander who has crossed the bridge, it is a rite of passage. Besides the obvious, there are the beautiful campuses of Lake Superior State University, Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan University, and the breathtaking Porcupine Mountains.

Another stop we recommend is the Bishop Baraga Shrine in L'Anse. Erected in May, 1972, this religious historical monument commemorates the work of Frederick Barage. The 35-foot, five ton hand wrought brass statue stands majestically amid the surrounding trees. What's better, he's holding a pair of snowshoes.
The top of the Mackinac Bridge
Photo Courtesy of Tim Burke

5.There’s nothing in the Upper Peninsula that you can’t find in the Lower Peninsula
Not true! Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is famous for the amount of snow it gets, sometimes even up to 200 inches a year! While the L.P. has countless Pure Michigan Snow Day activities, the U.P.’s top-rated snowmobiling trails, ski resorts and winter festivals make it a blast for any visitor. 

About the Authors
Linda Hoath is the Executive Director of the Sault Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, a post she has held for 13 years. Linda is an outspoken advocate for the Eastern Upper Peninsula and also plays an active role with several state and regional organizations.  

Amanda Oppe is the Social Media & Marketing Manager for the Keweenaw convention and visitors bureau. Originally from Illinois, Amanda and her family were drawn to the Keweenaw and have been living and working in the Copper Country for almost 4 years.