6 Charming Michigan Small Towns to Visit During Winter


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Michigan is home to a plethora of small towns, townships and villages that are like hidden gems, waiting to be uncovered and experienced, and they're especially charming in winter.

From their quaint atmosphere to great restaurants with fabulous dishes and winter carnivals packed with experiences that are sometimes a little offbeat, Michigan’s smaller communities can be a great way to escape the usual. So if you want an experience that is anything but the usual, then here are six small towns that are unique stops for fun and family-friendly Pure Michigan winter activities.

  • Please check with any destinations directly to confirm hours and safety protocols. For statewide precautions, check the Travel Safely page here.


1. Quincy

Dubbed the “Gateway to the Chain of Lakes,” Quincy is home to the Quincy Chain of Lakes Tip-up Festival. If you're looking for a true Michigan small-town adventure, this south-central Lower Peninsula destination is for you. The village is just north of the interconnected First, Marble, Middle, Archer and Bartholomew lakes which makes it perfect for ice fishing when the lakes freeze. The 2018 festival takes place on scenic Tip Up Island, which is on Marble Lake. The festival consists of a craft show, fisherman’s ball, fishing contest and games for children. There are also snowmobile races, quad races and a woodcutter’s contest. While you're in town check out favorite local hangout, Stables, known for their cozy atmosphere, friendly service and Friday night fish fries!

  • Please refer to event websites for updates and cancellations.


2. Pentwater


Pentwater’s Winterfest is another great way to experience a Michigan winter. The two-week-long festival takes place the second and third weeks in February and includes a fishing tournament, the Snowman Scram 5K and opportunities to go cross-country skiing in the Pere Marquette State Forest. Visitors can also go sledding in the Village Green, participate in a soup competition or take part in the Cork and Canvas Wine Tasting and Gallery Stroll Benefit for the Pentwater Arts Council.
While there, spend time admiring Pentwater's tree-lined streets which show off the charming Victorian homes and cozy cottages framed by beautiful snow-covered gardens. Enjoy time in the village where almost everything is within walking distance of the marinas, shopping, dining, public beach and village. For more outdoor adventure check out Charles Mears State Park. There you can go ice fishing on Pentwater Lake, hike a trail, go snowmobiling or just admire a coastal view of the town and boat harbor from Old Baldy Dune.
  • Please refer to event websites for updates and cancellations.


3. Beulah


Are you a fan of chili cook-offs? Do snowmobile races thrill you? Then why not pack the family up and head out to Winterfest in Beulah. With quirky activities like an annual fish toss competition and frozen turkey bowling, beautiful Beulah’s annual winter festival has something for the whole family to enjoy. This fun festival also includes a cozy bonfire on the beach and fireworks over Crystal Lake, one of the largest inland lakes in Michigan. In every season, the beauty of the area and the small-town friendliness restores the souls of those who venture to this special part of the world.

  • Please refer to event websites for updates and cancellations.


4. Kalkaska

Another one of Michigan’s quaint villages that is known for its winter activities is Kalkaska. Established in 1965, the Kalkaska Winterfest is an annual celebration of winter activities that showcases local talent and brings out the spirit of living in northern Michigan. The craft show creates a bustling marketplace where shoppers can search for all sorts of treasures from birdhouses to fresh Michigan maple syrup! Soon barking fills the air as the largest sprint sled dog races in the lower 48 states kicks into action. The two-day event is a point of pride for the community and welcomes visitors from all over. When you need some warming up and break from all the festivities, come in from the cold at a local favorite that combines everyone's two favorite things: Breakfast & Burger Express!

  • Please refer to event websites for updates and cancellations.



5. Saugatuck

Named as one of the “10 All-Star American Beach Towns” by Coastal Living Magazine, Saugatuck – the Art Coast of Michigan – offers a quintessential small-town experience. In town, you’ll discover fine art created by local and national artists as well as eclectic shops filled with handcrafted goods. Outside, find inspiration from nature by visiting Mount Baldhead Park. Enjoy a hand-pulled ferry ride on the Kalamazoo River from town to the park, where you can utilize a one-mile looping trail for hiking and trail runs. Unique to Mount Baldhead, climb 302 steps to the summit and overlook a picturesque view of Saugatuck and Lake Michigan, then descend onto the grassy coastal sands.

6. Alpena

If a relaxed, small oasis sounds appealing, Alpena is a town for you. Known as the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes, Alpena houses three Dark Sky Preserves, seven lighthouses, 100 miles of trails, and over 400-million-year-old fossils. While the miles of trails become great pathways for snowmobiling adventure throughout the winter, all year round you can uncover Michigan’s rich boating history at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Museum. The 10,000-square-feet interactive museum is centered around a full-size replica of a wooden schooner, letting you walk the decks and see the massive timbers of the shipwrecked boat sitting on the bottom of the lake – without getting wet. Best of all, it’s free entry and great for all ages.

  • The Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Museum’s visitor center hours may vary. For updates, check directly with their office.

While Michigan’s more well-known communities have plenty to offer, its smaller towns are also a great way to break away from the usual.