Wonderful Winter Activities in Michigan for All Ages

There’s nothing quite like a Pure Michigan winter. Children lace up their skates and chase one another around ice rinks. Golf resorts transform themselves into ski lodges, and evergreen trees droop under the weight of pure white snow. There’s plenty to keep you busy on a Michigan winter getaway.

Family skiing at Mt Brighton
Family skiing | Photo courtesy of Mt. Brighton 

Go Skiing
Skiing is a way of life for much of northern Michigan. The Great Lakes State’s famed lake effect snow arrives in abundance, making Michigan second in the nation in the number of ski areas. Favorite downhill ski resorts include Boyne Mountain, Boyne Highlands, Crystal Mountain and Cannonsburg Ski Area, among many others. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park not only offers Alpine and Nordic skiing, but ski-in winter cabins as well.

Skiing the Glades at Crystal Mountain
Skiing the Glades at Crystal Mountain | Photo Courtesy of Crystal Mountain

 Explore Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
Nordic skiers give high praise to Traverse City and its Vasa Pathway. In the Upper Peninsula, the snow starts early in the season and lingers into spring. Check out the Noquemanon Trail Network near Marquette, known for its extensive cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails, and the Fumee Lake Natural Area near Iron Mountain. Outdoor enthusiasts ski or snowshoe a variety of trails, most notably the Little Fumee Lake Loop and the Big Fumee Lake Loop.

Snowshoes | Photo Courtesy of Mlive

Experience Fat Tire Biking
Thick layers of snow prove no match for the voluminous wheels of a fat tire bike. Power through winter’s frozen landscape on the Noquemanon Trail Network near Marquette. In Traverse City, fat tire bikes carve up the snow on the Winter Sports Singletrack while farther south, Yankee Springs Recreation Area offers groomed fat tire bike trails, as do many of Michigan’s ski resorts.

fat tire biking in marquette_pure michigan
Fat tire biking in Marquette | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

Watch Snowmobile Racing
Each year Sault Ste. Marie amps winter up with the world’s largest snowmobile race. Catch the excitement at the I-500 Snowmobile Race, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018. Dozens of racers cover the 500-mile distance, skidding around a 1-mile track at speeds exceeding 100 mph.

I-500 race visitthesault
I-500 Race | Photo Courtesy of Visit the Sault

Visit Frozen Waterfalls
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula waterfalls take a stunning turn in winter, when cascades freeze into oversized icicles. Try your hand at ice climbing frozen waterfalls at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. In nearby Munising the Michigan Ice Fest offers ice climbing opportunities for experienced climbers and free clinics for beginners.  

Ice climbing
Ice climbing in the UP | Photo Courtesy of Will Gadd

Try Ice Golfing
St. Ignace puts a cold-weather spin on a warm-weather favorite at their annual Ice Golf Scramble. Participants putt brightly-colored balls on the frozen Lake Huron surface in daylight hours…and resort to glow-in-the-dark balls once the sun sets.

ice golf challenge
Ice Golf Scramble | Photo Courtesy of stignace.com

Check Out Ice Skating, Sledding, Snow Tubing, Mushing and More
In the heart of Detroit, winter’s cold transforms Campus Martius, the popular downtown gathering place, from an outdoor concert venue to a busy skating rink. While at Double JJ Resort you can dabble in a wide variety of winter activities: snowshoeing and dog mushing, horse-drawn sleigh rides and cross-country skiing, and one of the state’s most exciting snow tubing hills.

alpine tubing
Alpine Tubing | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

 The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex offers the Midwest’s longest lighted cross-country ski trail, a lighted quarter-mile skating path as well as figure and hockey skating rinks. But the complex’s big wintertime draw is a rare luge track designed by U.S. Olympian Frank Masley. Climb aboard a 30-pound steel sled and speed along the track’s icy downhills and curves at speeds approaching 30 mph.

Ice luge at Muskegon Sports Complex
Ice luge at Muskegon Sports Complex | Photo Courtesy of msports.org

Even Michigan’s summertime favorite, Mackinac Island, offers great fun, perfect for a winter vacation. Take advantage of the island’s quiet season cross-country skiing the grounds of historic Fort Mackinac buried under feet of snow. Travel the island’s snowy roads on a horse-drawn sleigh. And view the beautiful Mackinac Bridge surrounded by the season’s snow and ice. Don’t plan to travel to the island by ferry, though. When the waters of the Straits freeze over, transportation to Mackinac Island is via Great Lakes Air out of St. Ignace.
Swim at Indoor Parks
Michigan’s indoor water parks promise family fun no matter the weather. A perennial favorite is Traverse City’s Great Wolf Lodge, with water slides, wave pools and rooms decorated in a North Woods log cabin theme. Other award-winning indoor water parks include Avalanche Bay at Boyne Mountain, Michigan’s largest; the Gold Rush Water Park at Double JJ Resort, home to West Michigan’s tallest indoor water slide; and Zehnder’s Splash Village, one of Michigan’s newest. 

zehnder's dumping bucket at splash village
Slash Village Dumping Bucket | Photo Courtesy of zehnders.com

Relax in a Cozy Resort
Even snow bunnies need an indoor getaway once in a while. Michigan offers a host of cozy inns and resorts guaranteed to make you appreciate winter—even if you’re merely admiring the snow through the window.
Enjoy a cozy grown-up winter getaway at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. The hotel turned heads in 1913 when its builders included one of the world’s largest gold-leaf ceilings in the construction, and the Amway Grand remains one of Michigan’s most romantic getaways. The Inn on Ferry Street in Detroit occupies four immaculately-restored Victorian-era mansions and two carriage houses. Thick duvets, richly-restored four-poster beds, period antiques and generous hot breakfasts make this inn feel worlds away from the busy downtown just blocks away—and the Inn on Ferry Street is easily accessible via Detroit’s new QLine streetcar.

Amway Grand Plaza room
Get cozy at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

In Petoskey, the Inn at Bay Harbor offers cozy rooms overlooking Lake Michigan. Enjoy dinner at the Vintage Chophouse Wine Bar, relax in the spa on site and indulge in high afternoon tea. Wine lovers get cozy at Sutton’s Bay’s Inn at Black Star Farms, part of Black Star Winery. Luxurious overnight accommodations include premium wine tastings, gourmet breakfasts and a rural landscape thick with snow-covered fir trees, all surrounded by Traverse City’s award-winning wine country.

Inn at Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay
Inn at Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan