The Beginner’s Guide to a Pure Michigan Winter Adventure

The car is packed with warm clothes, good boots and a whole bunch of outdoor gear. You’ve even put together a special Michigan mix of Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band and Motown favorites consisting of heavyweights like The Temptations and lesser known acts like The Velvelettes. But do you have an honest clue of what sights, sounds, tastes and experiences to take in, making you want to come back to Michigan for more every winter?

Well, that’s where we’re here to help.

If you’re going to Michigan for the first time this winter, we’ve got some activities and places you have to put on your list to get the true Michigan experience. These are the places that make the Mitten State a distinctly great destination when the snowfalls.

So throw on that mix and open up the navigation app on your phone, because you’re going to experience what a Pure Michigan winter really is.

Festivals

Just because there’s snow on the ground and the mercury isn’t rising above the 30s doesn’t mean you should stay indoors snuggled under blankets all day.

Some of Michigan’s best festivals happen during the winter at destinations that are thriving with action and fun.

Frankenmuth is famous for its celebration of German heritage, but it’s also where you’ll be able to experience the long-running Zehnder’s Snowfest on Jan. 25-30. With larger-than-life snow sculptures and intricately detailed ice carvings, Zehnder’s Snowfest also features a warming tent, petting zoo, children’s activity area and fireworks display.

Zehnders-Snowfest

Zehnder’s Snowfest is an annual favorite for many Michiganders, PC: Frankenmuth

Over on the shores of Lake Michigan is Ludington where you can experience the Pure Ludington BrrrewFest. Held on Jan. 28, this annual festival celebrates bundling up and enjoying a cold beer during a Michigan winter. Enjoy live music while sampling the some of the best beer from brewers across the state.

If you’re more interested in visiting the Motor City during the winter, then you should check out the Meridian Winter Blast, held during the month of February in downtown Detroit. From live entertainment that will have you moving to the beat and local cuisine even the fussiest of foodies would drool over, Winter Blast is a tradition that is beloved by Detroiters and visitors alike.

Snowmobiling

Does tearing down a freshly groomed snowmobile trail sound like a great way to spend a winter day?

Well Michigan has more than 6,500 snowmobile trails and one of the most extensive systems of interconnected trails in the United States. The state also boasts a varied terrain, which includes national forests and 11,000 frozen lakes.

Snowmobiling-in-Boon

A snowmobiler exploring the winter season in Boon, PC: Instagrammer andypeninger

Some of the most popular places for snowmobiling are Grayling, Gaylord, Cadillac and Mancelona, with a large number of trails that allow you to take off in just about any direction.

Farther north in the Upper Peninsula, the snowmobile season goes from Dec. 1 to March 31. A popular spot for snowmobilers is Trout Lake Township, which is just 30 miles from the Mackinac Bridge and is home to one of the main crossroads for Upper Peninsula snowmobile trails. Heading southwest from there is the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway, where you’ll find loads of vintage snowmobiles.

Skiing

The feel of fresh powder on your face as you rip down some of the best skiing spots in the Midwest is a true Michigan winter tradition.

With pitch and vertical drops on par with what you’ll find in New England and out West, Michigan is home to 51 ski areas and more than 260 lifts and 1,000 runs.

Two of the most popular places to go are Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls and Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville. Boyne Mountain offers 60 downhill trails, 12 lifts and ski-in/ski-out accommodations. Crystal Mountain, located 28 miles southwest of Traverse City, is a family-owned resort with 58 downhill slopes and almost 19 miles of cross country skiing.

Ice-Skiing-in-Michigan

Michigan’s ski scene offers fun challenges for first-timers to pros

In the Upper Peninsula is where you’ll find the Mont Ripley in Hancock and Porcupine Mountain Ski Area in Ontonagon.

Mont Ripley gets an average 250 inches of dry lake effect snow every year, adding to the experiences you’ll have with its 440-foot vertical drop ski area on 173 acres and 24 runs

Billed as the place with trails and views that get kids outdoors, the Porcupine Mountains Ski Area, has 600 feet of vertical drop with 13 trails and four gladed areas. Visitors can also choose to rent snowshoes and experience the peaceful solitude of Michigan’s northern forests as they enjoy a quiet trek through the snow.

Ice fishing

Are you looking forward to landing a big one from one of Michigan’s 11,000 inland lakes as you breath in the fresh winter air?

Then grab a bucket and pole because the Great Lakes State has some of the best ice fishing in the nation, making for a relaxing way to spend a day angling.

Almost any fish available in the summer can be caught during the winter months through the ice. And the ice fishing tradition is so strong in Michigan, that many lake communities host festivals centered on the sport.

Ice-fishing-in-Michigan

Ice fishing offers a unique experience for those looking to relax while enjoying the outdoors

One of the most popular ice fishing events is Tip-Up Town U.S.A., held Jan. 20-24 and Jan. 29-31 in Houghton Lake. Attracting thousands from the Midwest, the annual winter festival is great fun for the entire family with children’s activities, a parade and chili cook-off, as well as an ice fishing contest weigh in and fireworks.

Scenic beauty

Sure there’s plenty to do in Michigan during the winter, but what if you just want to spend some quiet time enjoying the natural beauty of the outdoors, filling up your social media with picturesque photos of sunsets and wildlife.

Maybe you should consider a trip to Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Paradise, which has 50,000 acres of beauty surrounding the Tahquamenon River and waterfalls. The Upper Falls is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi with a length that is more than 200 feet across and a drop that almost reaches 50 feet.

Another remarkable place to experience is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising, which is rated as one of the most beautiful places to visit in the United States. Between the solitude and beauty of its forest and the elegant ice formations along the jagged cliffs, visitors will have the adventure of a lifetime witnessing this exquisite backdrop.

Something different

What if you want to do the unexpected?

Well if you’re craving to come home with a great story to tell about your winter Michigan trip, than here are a couple of ideas to consider. For example, have you ever considered taking a dog sledding tour?

Nature’s Kennel Sled Dog & Racing Adventures in McMillan offers tours and day trips for guests of all ages and abilities. Guests can learn to drive their own dog sled team and can select from 10- and 20-mile dog sled trips. They can also choose between day rides or an overnight adventure.

Dogsledding-in-Michigan

Dogsledding should be on everyone’s Michigan bucket list, PC: Gina Dewey

Another great exploit is learning to ice climb. Michigan’s miles of sandstone cliffs are lined with hundreds of frozen waterfalls, creating some of the best ice climbing spots in the nation ranging from 20 to 210 feet in height. There’s even the Michigan Ice Fest, held Feb. 15-19 in Munising. Filled with classes for all skill levels and after parties, attendees can have fun while getting great experience from some of the best climbers in Michigan.

So what are you waiting for?

Pack your bags, set the vacation notice on your work email and prepare for a Pure Michigan winter adventure that will have you coming back for more.

What would you suggest a newbie do to have a fantastic winter in Pure Michigan? Let us know in the comments!

End the Year with These Michigan Events in December

December is nearly here! Holiday season is in full swing with New Year’s and Christmas events all month long, including some fun shopping opportunities! Get into the spirit with the below events.

Visit our events page to see everything going on all month long.

December 1-4

America’s Tallest Singing Christmas Tree
December 1-3, Muskegon

The Mona Shores High School Choir’s Singing Christmas Tree got a new look last season with an entirely new tree structure, complete with more versatile LED lighting, gaining international attention compliments of the Associated Press, who took great interest in their holiday spectacle.

With its 25,000 colored lights that coordinate to the beautiful singing, 15 tiers that reach 67 feet up into the majestic Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts, over 260 singers and accompanied by the 50 piece Mona Shores High School Orchestra, the Singing Christmas Tree must be seen to be believed.

This year’s Singing Christmas Tree is being held at the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts, on Dec. 1, 2 and 3 at 7:00 p.m. each night with a 3:00 p.m. matinee Saturday as well.

Gateway to the StarsGate-Way-To-The-Stars
December 2, Bay City

Come and see the stars! This is a live and interactive show that demonstrates how to explore the sky using binoculars and telescopes. Planetarium Manager Mike Murray teaches you observing techniques that can maximize the stargazing experience. The show runs on the first Friday of every month.

Danú: A Christmas Gathering
December 2, Midland

Hailing from historic County Waterford, Danu is one of the leading traditional Irish ensembles of today. Their concerts throughout Ireland feature high-energy performances and a glorious mix of ancient Irish music and new repertoire. The acclaimed Irish ensemble will celebrate Christmas with Feile na Nollag’ (A Christmas Gathering). Christmas in Ireland is one of the most important holidays for families and friends, as many Irish people living abroad come home to gather in celebration. Music and dance gatherings, in communities both urban and rural, have often combined for generations to offer a great variety of songs, music, and stories for the holidays.

Santa’s Arrival, Tree Lighting & Holiday Open HouseSanta's-Arrival-Tree-Lighting-and-Holiday-Open-House
December 2, Traverse City

Join Traverse City downtown for the holiday season kick-off featuring a night of fun, music and activities!

34th Annual Lexington Christmas Tree Lighting
December 3, Lexington

Experience small town charm during the 34th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting in the Village of Lexington. Join in the Christmas Sing A Long with the Cros-Lex Pep Band, and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa from the fire station. Santa arrives at 7:30 p.m. with treats for all the boys and girls. Adults can enjoy the Merchants Walk and taste fresh roasted chestnuts, listen to the Salvation Army Band and enjoy wagon rides to view the decorated homes.

December 5-11

Santa Parade and Christmas Tree Lighting
December 7, Algonac

Saint Nick give his reindeer a night off and arrives on the back of a decorated in lights antique tractor for Algonac’s Santa Parade! Come for this very unique and fun event.

Wine & SteinWine-Stein-Lansing
December 7, Lansing

You love wining and steining in the summer! Now, celebrate the wintery season with a WINTER casual after hours bash at the zoo! Enjoy tastings of beer and wine and sample fabulous hors d’oeuvres from local restaurants as you listen to holiday tunes and meander through the zoo, featuring our holiday favorite Wonderland of Lights.

Treetops Crafts & Drafts
December 8, Gaylord

Crafts & Drafts is a unique paint & sip where a wine bottle is your canvas! Throwing out the traditional paint & sip ways for Crafts & Drafts with Mary B. You’re not limited to paint, use multiple mediums to create a unique craft that you can keep for yourself or give as a gift this holiday season.

Guests can enjoy beer and pizza while creating this fun craft.

Farm By Lantern LightFarm-By-Lantern-Light
December 9-10, Grayling

Wellington Farm, USA, a 60-acre living history farm is now accepting reservations for their annual “Farm By Lantern Light” event. Due to the limited seating per showing, reservations are an absolute must.

This most unique event is presented each year during the Holiday Season. It has been said to be, by many who have attended previous years’ productions, the most unique and memorable Christmas Season experience in the Midwest. The full evening’s experience consists of a tour through the historic farm by lantern light. The interior of all major buildings and the geographic landscape is breathtakingly illuminated by over 100 kerosene lanterns.

DIYpsi Holiday Market
December 10-11, Ypsilanti

Head to DIYpsi (dip-see) a handmade art fair that takes place in Ypsilanti’s business districts once each summer and winter. For two weekends each year, the city hosts the best indie artists our city and region have to offer for a one of a kind shopping experience that will take care of everyone on your list.

There will be incredible hand-crafted food and drink when you get here! (and occasionally an eclectic mix of live music)

On top of finding unique hand crafted gifts, doing your shopping at DIYpsi means you’re contributing to a larger cause- keeping thousands of dollars invested in our local economy and supporting the arts.

December 12-18

Wizards of Winter
December 15, Kalamazoo

Head to Kalamazoo State Theatre for a performance by The Wizards of Winter! Featuring former members of Trans-Siberian Orchestra and some of the mid-Atlantic’s finest rock and progressive musicians, The Wizards of Winter will be performing a holiday rock opera in Kalamazoo! This 12 member ensemble boasts soaring vocal harmonies, precision string instrumentation, powerful percussion and stunning keyboard work, layered around a rich storyboard that evokes December’s past!

Michigan History Museum – Panel: 21st-Century Michigan through Native Eyes
December 15, Lansing

Rock Your Mocs is a three-part series exploring 21st-century native perspectives in Michigan; it is presented in partnership with arts, academic and tribal organizations.

Join in the Learning Center for a moderated panel discussion touching on topics of native governance, traditions and environmental sustainability. Tribal members from across the state and from diverse backgrounds and affiliations dive deep into native perspectives and cultures. You can submit a question for possible inclusion in the panel discussion via Twitter or Facebook.

The Secret Society Of Twisted Storytellers
December 16, Detroit

The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers presents “WHIZ OF THE WIZ: Story Time with George Faison!” This will be a live, curated, multimedia storytelling event. Stories told and directed by Tony Award Winner, Dr. George Faison, internationally celebrated producer, director, choreographer, writer, composer and dancer. Show features excerpts from theatre, film and concerts Faison has choreographed. Including The Wiz, Josephine Baker Story, Cotton Club, Alvin Ailey and more with songs and dance performed live from The Wiz with orchestra.

Full Moon Night Skiing
December 16, Roscommon

Experience the magic of winter in a whole new light! Every full moon during the ski season, the Trapper’s Cabin trail is lit with torches, creating a truly unique and memorable nighttime experience. There will also be a bonfire and hot chocolate at Trapper’s Cabin. Skiers who need to rent skis must do so before 7 p.m. Join for an evening you’ll never forget!

Winter Solstice CelebrationWinter-Solstice-Celebration
December 17, Midland

The Winter Solstice is here! For centuries, people have gathered with family and friends to recognize the longest night of the year and to celebrate the return of longer days to come. Take part in earth-friendly traditions as you roll a beeswax candle and make an evergreen wreath and a small Yule log to take home. Also learn about evergreen trees and why the seasons change, and listen to solstice stories and music from across the globe. You can also shop for the holidays at the Nature Center Store.

December 19-25

Bronner Family Christmas Sing Along
December 22-23, Frankenmuth

Join the Bronner family as they lead everyone in singing a variety of Christmas carols. It take place on Dec. 22nd from 1:30-2:00 pm and Dec. 23rd from 1:30-2:00 pm.

Dablon Winery Features the Film ‘Mozart’s Sister’
December 21, Baroda

Mozart’s Sister is a re-imagined account of the early life of Maria Anna ‘Nannerl’ Mozart, five years older than Wolfgang and a musical prodigy in her own right. Once the featured performer, Nannerl has given way to Wolfgang as the main attraction, as their strict but loving father Leopold tours his talented offspring in front of the royal courts of pre-French Revolution Europe. Approaching marriageable age and now forbidden to play the violin or compose, Nannerl chafes at the limitations imposed on her gender. But a friendship with the son and daughter of Louis XV offers her ways to challenge the established sexual and social order.

Grand Rapids Symphony’s Cirque de Noël
December 22-23, Grand Rapids

Experience the magic of Christmas, the wonder of Cirque and the beauty of live orchestra all in one show! Running from December 22 to December 23, this ultimate family tradition feature performances by aerialists, acrobats, contortionists, and jugglers, choreographed to seasonal favorites as Cirque de la Symphonie artists share the stage with your Grand Rapids Pops.

Shen Yun 2017Shen-Yun-2017
December 22-27, Detroit

Consisting of about 20 pieces, a Shen Yun performance takes you to a magic journey through 5,000 years. Breathtaking animated backdrops, exquisite hand-made costumes, high flying leaps, thunderous drums, and mesmerizing live orchestra music will transport you to another world.

December 26-31

Dog SleddingDog-Sledding
December 29-31, Gaylord

Join Team Evergreen and Liza Dietzen and take an exhilarating ride through the trails on the Jones Masterpiece Golf Course behind a team of dogs that is training for the ultimate sled dog race, “The Iditarod.”

Torchlight Parade
December 31, Harbor Springs

There’s no ticket required to watch the New Year’s Eve fun at Nub’s Nob! This event at Nub’s Nob takes place at 6 p.m. so even the younger kids can get in on the fun as the Nub’s Nob Ski Patrol and the Winter Sports School Skiers make a couple of runs down Smokey creating a pretty light display.

New Year’s Eve Ball Drop
December 31, Marquette

Every New Year’s Eve the intersection of Washington St and Front St in Downtown Marquette becomes the location where locals and visitors to the area come together in a large crowd to welcome in the New Year. On the 12th strike an illuminated ball is lowered from the historic Savings Bank Building.

Traverse City New Year’s Eve Cherry Ball DropTraverse-City-New-Year's-Eve-Cherry-Ball-Drop
December 31, Traverse City

This New Year’s street party features the lowering of a massive, illuminated cherry, accompanied with live music and entertainment!

What are you doing this December? Let us know in the comments!

Sledding and Snow Tubing in Pure Michigan

Before winter ends and spring blooms, be sure to squeeze in some fun wintertime activities perfect for enjoying quality time outdoors with friends and family. A couple of the most popular and well-known of these activities is sledding and snow tubing. 

Similar to sledding, snow tubing has grown in popularity over the past few years, with some ski resorts offering slopes and hills specifically for the activity. Imagine yourself flying down a snowy hill, racing your friends or family members to the bottom, and taking in the scenic Michigan winter wonderland on your way back up to the top. 

With snow tubing being one of the many activities featured in A Pure Michigan Winter, we compiled a list of just a few places to go tubing in Pure Michigan. 

Do you have a favorite sledding or snow tubing hill that you want to share? Tell us in the comment section.

Timberlee Hills
Snow Tubing at Timberlee Hills is the perfect way to spend the day in Traverse City this winter. Tubing at Timberlee is all the fun of sledding – without hiking back up the hill! There’s no hassle, huffing or puffing. Snow Tubing is one of the fastest growing winter recreational activities in America – and Timberlee is Michigan’s largest snow tubing hill. For more information visit their website.

Mount Zion Recreational Complex
If you’re looking for affordable family tubing head to Mt. Zion in the Upper Peninsula! Mt. Zion is well known for very reasonable rates, their tubing park and learn to ski and snowboard programs. For more information visit their website here.

Gladstone Sports Park
Another tubing spot in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is the Gladstone Sports Park. Known for their intermediate downhill ski area Gladstone also boasts a tubing area that includes three runs and the only return lift in the Upper Peninsula. For more information on the park contact parks@gladstonewireless.com.

Treetops Resort
Treetops Resort in Gaylord offers all of the amenities of a full service resort including skiing, snowboarding, a spa, and extreme tubing! Treetop’s extreme tubing run is adjacent to their ski slopes and offers a fun and exhilarating ride down the hills of Northern Michigan. For more information to start planning a family tubing trip see the website here.

Hanson Hills Recreation Area
Snowtubing is a main attraction at the Hanson Hill Recreation Area. This 1000 acre winter/summer sports park features family recreation at reasonable rates including a terrain Park, 11 downhill skiing runs, 35 km cross-country skiing, snow tubing, biking, softball field, hiking & walking trails, and rental facilities. More information is available on their website here.

Boyne Highland and Boyne Mountain
Boyne has two resorts in Michigan that feature some of the best tubing parks around. Take a break from a day of skiing and snowboarding for the most fun you have on have sitting down riding the tubing lanes! For more information visit the Boyne website.

Learn more about snow tubing in Michigan in Tubing | A Pure Michigan Winter, from the Pure Michigan winter video series.