19 Adventures to Discover in Michigan’s Winter Wonderland
It’s winter, and we are right there with you: it can be “so hard to get out” in Michigan Winter! The jackets that don’t fit into car seats. That one lost glove. The ice stubbornly clinging to your windshield, where no ice scraper can ever reach.
But I promise, once that car is warmed up and the kids are (with jackets thrown off) in their seats, there’s a whole winter world to discover. It’s all within easy driving distance to places like Ice Climbing, Dog Sledding, Sliding down a Luge and that’s just a start!
What you’ll find out there will have you falling in love with Michigan all over again.
Amazing Michigan Winter Activity Adventure Ideas For Families!
1 – Sled the Dunes
Until recently, I had no idea you could sled the Big Dune Climb in Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. Now that I know, it’s on the top of my winter bucket list!
For sledding the dune, you can bring your own sled, and we also suggest bringing ski goggles and keeping your mouth shut to escape the flying snow/sand mix!
Location: Sleeping Bear Dune Climb 6748 S Dune Hwy, Glen Arbor, MI 49636
Drive Time: 3 ½ hours
2 – Rise to New Heights with Ice Climbing
When I first heard about ice climbing, I was stoked at the thought of an amazing date adventure, but immediately dismissed it from being an activity for kids. Then I discovered it can be both!
The mission of Superior Ice Climbing Adventures in the Upper Peninsula involves introducing families and children to the sport of climbing. You couldn’t ask for a more picturesque and exciting way to explore the coast of Michigan in the winter!
Location: Superior Ice Climbing Adventures, West 2933 Co Rd 374, Carney, Michigan
Cost: Single 1 on 1: $200 PP: 2 to 3 climbers $150 PP; Groups of 4 + $120 PP. Different rates are available for kids.
Drive Time: 5 hours
If you don’t want to venture quite as far north, Peabody Ice Climbing offers ice climbing in the lower peninsula too. They have two towers iced over in the winter that offer an introduction for beginners (ages 13 and up) in a controlled environment but is also a place for seasoned ice climbers to train for the mountains.
Location: 12326 Foley Road Fenton, MI 48430
Day Pass: $20; 5 Punch Pass: $80; Gear Rental*: $20
Beginner Instruction (required for those who don’t have belay experience): $10
Drive Time: 1 hour
3 – Sled the Luge
There are only 4 luge tracks in all of the US, and one is right here in our home state at Muskegon State Park! For those not native to winter sports, think Winter Olympics – you know those riders on small sleds sliding down icy tracks on their backs, feet-first? Take a look at this video to see what it’s like.
This track, which is part of the Winter Sports Complex, was designed by an Olympian and is a one-of-a-kind ride, made to introduce beginners (ages 8 and up) safely to the sport. The complex has way more to offer winter visitors too.
Location: 462 Scenic Drive N. Muskegon, MI 49445
Cost: Each Learn to Luge sliding session is 2.5 hours and is $55 on Saturdays during prime times, or $49 all other times. Season passes are also available for both families and individuals.
Drive Time: 1 hour 45 min
4 – Visit Frozen Waterfalls
Want to see the beauty of the icefalls without the actual climbing? There are plenty of places to visit to simply sit and take in the frozen falls. A few especially noteworthy are:
Munising Falls at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
This is one of the easiest waterfalls to visit in winter, as it’s a short, paved trail that leads up to the falls. The parking lot is plowed, but the trail to the falls is not.
Location: Munising Falls, Munising, MI 49862
Wagner Falls is another must-see in Munising. Along with the falls, you can expect a gorgeous (and not too long) snowy hike to the falls.
Location: Wagner Falls, Munising Township, MI 49862
Tahquamenon Falls is Michigan’s most famous waterfall, and its beauty is no exception in the winter. There are two falls, and the easiest walk is to the upper falls. There is a brewery on site too for anyone needing a lunch stop.
Location: Tahquamenon Falls McMillan Township, MI 49768
Bond Falls is another well-known waterfall in the western part of the UP. The walk is much more challenging in the winter, so it may be best to visit this one without the littles, but if you can make it there, the trek in is well worth it.
Location: Bond Falls Haight Township, MI 49912
5 – Snow Tube Down the Hills
Lansing has one of our favorite tubing hills in the state! Hawk Island County Park is a destination for those near and far. With beautiful trails, exciting snow tubing, a mechanical lift, warming shack, and hot chocolate and snacks, this is a great way for a family to spend a mid-Michigan winter day.
Here are even more Lansing area favorite tubing and sledding options families love.
Location: Hawk Island County Park 1601 E Cavanaugh Road Lansing
Cost: $10 per person for two hours or $8 per person with groups of four or more (there is also a vehicle entrance fee of $3 for residents and $5 for non-residents)
6 – Ride through the Woods on a Dog Sled
That’s right, you can experience the true arctic life, right here in Michigan. Treetops Resort offers a thrilling dog sled adventure, where you and your family can experience man and dog working together in nature. Kids of any age are welcome!
There are other great dog sledding experiences out there too! Check out these dog sledding places in Michigan.
Location: 3962 Wilkinson Road Gaylord, MI 49735
Cost: $50 per person, and $25 for each added person in the sled.
Drive Time: 2 hours 20 min
7 – Become a “Musher”
If riding in a dog sled isn’t enough, you can actually learn how to drive it! Learn to Mush (the word for dog-sled driver) and become a certified Musher by the end of the day.
Shemhader Kennels offers an experience that includes time in the kennel to learn the sleds and hooking up the dogs. After that, it’s time to drive with a trainer, so that by the end, you’ll get your own team to enjoy driving your own dog sled team for two rides on beautiful and adventurous trails!
This is the only guide service in lower Michigan that allows the musher to drive the sled. The rides are about 3 miles long, and don’t worry – there’s always a guide behind you to coach you through the ride. This is an experience you’ll never forget!
For a family of 4, you can mix and match and give half rides and then each person can take 1 dog sled team by themselves. To drive the sled, you have to be over the age of 14. You can bring younger kids along, but remember that this activity is out in the cold for up to 3 hours, so having really young children along might be difficult!
For anyone wanting to see the dogs up and close but aren’t quite ready to drive, they also offer kennel tours. There are no rides with the tour, but it is a great time learning and playing with the dogs, and sometimes even puppies if you hit it at the right time!
Location: 6925 S. 27 ½ Road, Cadillac, Michigan 49601. Due to the ½ address, GPS and map programs sometimes have difficulty, so see the website for specific written directions.
Become a Musher- $350 per person ($350 each or $700) – only 2-4 people are allowed per day. For only 1 Person, the cost is $600, so it’s most cost-effective for a couple, two friends or two family members.
Kennel Tours- $75/ hour for an entire group.
8 – Snowshoe the Trails
Snowshoeing is one of my favorite activities in winter because it’s so accessible, great for all ages, and if you have your own snowshoes, it’s free! Wherever you can hike in the summer, you can snowshoe in the winter. (If the trail is specifically groomed for cross-country skiing, be sure to stay on the side of the trail so you don’t mess with the ski tracks though!)
I started my kids out on snowshoes as early as they could walk, and it’s fun to know that whatever corner of Michigan we’re in, even in deep winter there’s a trail out there to explore.
Harris Nature Center, just east of Lansing, has trails for snowshoeing and also offers a snowshoeing class that gives a beginner tips on staying warm in the cold, snowshoeing techniques, and guided walks along the trails.
With over five miles of trails, an indoor nature center, and activities and events offered for families year-round (all for free!), this is a perfect winter stop.
For some amazing scenic hiking further north, check out trails in Traverse City, guided day or evening hikes at Ludington State Park, hikes in the upper peninsula at Tahquamenon Falls State Park, or any of these trails all over the state.
For snowshoeing with kids on the west side of the state, be sure to check out these awesome areas.
Location: Harris Nature Center 3998 Van Atta Rd, Okemos, MI 48864
Snowshoeing and admission to the nature center are always free.
For the snowshoeing class: $15 for one 2-hour session, or $20 if you need to rent shoes.
9 – Cross-Country Ski Around the State
Cross-country skiing is another fun and easy way to get outside and enjoy the beauty of the winter. For families with kids under the age of two, you can ski with a ski sled or baby backpack to bring even the littlest along. By the age of 3-5, kids are ready to try their own skis!
Fitzgerald Park has xc-ski rentals by the hour, day, or weekend, so you can ski anywhere on Eaton County’s 15 miles of trails, and then afterward take the skis along with you if you decide to set out for a longer weekend trip.
Fitzgerald Park has cross-country ski clinics and “By the Light of the Moon” ski and snowshoe nights from 6-9 pm. These are a blast for all ages, with torch-lighted trails, a sledding hill, and hot chocolate at the nature center.
Many other area parks and nature centers have beautiful trails that are maintained for cross-country skiers too. These offer rentals for those just wanting to give it a try, and offer both kid and adult sizes. Some of these parks also offer ice skating, sledding, and more.
For some incredible trails up north, don’t miss ABR Trails, which has the most miles of groomed cross-country ski trails (45.3) in the state. And did you know that in the winter the entire east side of Mackinac Island is shut off not only to cars but even to snowmobiles?
It’s open solely to cross-country skiers, hikers and snowshoers – it’s quite an experience to explore the winter in a wonderland of uninterrupted beauty!
Location: Fitzgerald Park 133 Fitzgerald Park Drive, Grand Ledge, MI
Rentals are $5 per hour, $15 per day and $50 for the weekend
Cross-country ski clinic is $10 per person, $15 including rentals.
“By the Light of the Moon” night is $2 per person, $5 with rentals.
10 – Ride the Trails on a Fat Tire Bike
If you thought biking was on hold until spring, think again! This fun activity for ages 12 and up makes biking possible year-round. These bikes can power through snow and icy terrain, and there are plenty of places to bike in the winter around Michigan!
Crystal Mountain has groomed trails and bike rentals.
Cost: 1 hour: $19 per person; 2 hours: $25 per person. A trail pass is included in the rental fee.
Drive Time: 2 ½ hours
Boyne Highlands offers a groomed winter bike track. The Winter Sports Singletrack in Traverse City has a 15k track and a little further south you can find trails at Yankee Springs Recreation Area. The Waterloo Recreation Area in Chelsea also has 8 miles of groomed trails for winter biking.
11 – Hit the Slopes for Skiing and Snowboarding
With over 40 ski areas and more than 260 lifts and 1,000 runs, Michigan is a great place to learn to ski, is much more affordable than ski resorts in other parts of the county, and if you have a 4th or 5th grader, Michigan makes sure they can learn to ski for FREE!
Two Michigan favorites are Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls and Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville. Boyne Mountain also has horse-drawn wagon rides, snow tubing, indoor/outdoor pool and hot tubs, and Avalanche Bay water park. In the Upper Peninsula, check out Mont Ripley Ski Area in Hancock and Porcupine Mountains Ski Area in Ontonagon.
For mid-Michigan residents, Cannonsburg is a great place to go for a quick trip. Extremely kid-friendly and with tubing too, it’s a fun way to spend a day outside with the fam. Or, check out these other favorites for fun and affordable family skiing and snowboarding in many other Michigan towns.
Boyne Mountain Resort Boyne Mountain Resort, 1 Boyne Mountain Rd, Boyne Falls, MI
Crystal Mountain 12500 Crystal Mountain Dr, Thompsonville, MI
Drive Time: No matter where you are in Michigan, you are no more than 2 hours drive from a ski lift! Boyne is a 2-hour 45-minute drive from Lansing. Crystal is 2 ½ hours. Cannonsburg is only an hour away.
12 – Take a Toboggan Run
The 30-foot tower has dips and valleys, with the total vertical drop 90 feet over the course of a quarter-mile. It’s a 20 to 30-second thrill ride, with the highest recorded speed 42 mph.
Location: 450 Lane 100 Lake James Angola, IN 46703
Cost: Toboggan sled rental per hour: $13, and park entrance fees for out-of-state vehicles are $9, or $2 a person on a bus.
Drive Time: 1 hour 15
13 – Ice Skate in the Outdoors
Detroit: The Rink at Campus Martius Park opens with the official lighting of the Christmas tree in November and is open through mid-March. After skating, grab a cup of hot chocolate in the Cadillac Square Lounge to warm up.
Location: Campus Martius Park 800 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226
Cost: Adults $10; Kids (12 & Under) $8; Seniors (59 & Older) $8; Skate Rental $5
Drive Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Grand Rapids: Rosa Parks Circle in the center of downtown is a fun place to skate with the company and charm of the beautiful city.
Location: Rosa Parks Circle 135 Monroe Center St NW Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Cost: Adults $3, Kids $1 (what a deal, and price includes skates!)
Drive Time: 1 hour
St. Ignace: Skating on Moran Bay in St. Ignace gives you a one-of-a-kind experience of skating on the actual Great Lakes! During the winter, little league hockey teams use the ice as a practice rink and the bay is free for the public to use. If you go in February, be sure to check out the Labatt Blue U.P. Pond Hockey Championships.
Location: Moran Bay, Lake Huron
Cost: Free, bring your own skates
Drive Time: 3 ½ hours
14 – Watch Snowmobile Racing
You can find the world’s largest snowmobile race right here in Michigan at the Annual International 500 Snowmobile Race. Dozens of racers go the 500-mile distance, racing around the 1-mile track at speeds over 100 mph. Or, catch other area races here.
Location: 984 W 4th Ave, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783
Cost: Parking/Admission is $3 for the day or $15 for the week. You can also camp or reserve special seats.
Drive Time: 4 hours
15 – Discover Ice Sailing
This is one winter sport that isn’t as well-known, but we’re adding it to the list, because it should be! Ice sailing is simply powering winter sports, like sailing, skating, skiing, and snowboarding, by the environment or by wind so that you can do them directly on the ice. People say the adrenaline and experience of ice sailing is like no other.
Any place along the shores of Lake Michigan, where it’s frozen and you can catch the wind, is a great place to try the sport. Or, just go to watch!
Sailing clubs often have groups or individuals that offer lessons and outings. Find a club here.
16 – Try a Little of Everything at a Winter Sports Park
Winter Sports Parks are a one-size-fits-all winter stop. You can find a ton of different activities for all the different ages and interests of your gang!
The Petoskey Winter Sports Park has areas for sledding, ice skating, hockey, skiing or snowboarding. The ice rinks are resurfaced daily. There is also a warming house with a fireplace, seating, concession stand, and restrooms.
While you’re in the area, be sure to stop by downtown Petoskey too. This is one of my favorite towns to visit in Michigan. Walk the streets for fun boutique shopping, delicious eats, and a general store that carries local favorites while giving you the feeling of stepping back in time. The views of Lake Michigan as you enter and then explore the city are spectacular year-round.
Location: 1100 Winter Park Ln, Petoskey, MI 49770
Ice skate rental is $5. Admission to the park is free.
Private Groups may also reserve the Hockey Rink in one-hour increments at $25/hour.
Drive Time: 3 hours
The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex is another great winter park, best known for its Olympian-designed luge, but it has way more to offer winter visitors too! The park has over nine miles of cross-country ski trails, half of which are lit for night skiing. There are also three ice skating rinks for hockey, family skating, and a kiddie rink. The park’s snowshoe trails wind through the dunes along the shore of Lake Michigan. And the heated sports lodge has rentals, food, and a fireplace to warm little hands and toes.
Bonus: Muskegon’s track chair program helps visitors with wheelchairs explore areas of the park where traditional wheelchairs can’t reach. These off-road, electronic chairs can easily handle trails, snow, sand and up to 8 inches of water.
Location: 462 Scenic Drive N. Muskegon, MI 49445
Cost: Daily admission is $5, and each activity has a separate charge. Check out rates here.
Drive Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
17 – Swim and Splash in an Indoor Water Park
There’s something magical about swimming and splashing in 80-degree water while looking up at the skies and glass walls as the snow floats down around you. Indoor water parks give a break from the snow or are perfect on rainy winter days where snow sports aren’t possible. For a day of (what feels like) tropical warmth and fun, a must-do is Traverse City’s Great Wolf Lodge.
The park has water slides, wave pools and rooms decorated in fun cabin themes. Other indoor water parks include Avalanche Bay at Boyne Mountain (Michigan’s biggest), the Gold Rush Water Park at Double JJ Resort, which has West Michigan’s tallest indoor water slide, and Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark.
Cost: Rates vary depending on park and whether you stay overnight or get day passes. Check each website for more details.
18 – Visit Frankenmuth
There is no place like Frankenmuth, a true German Village known for its Bavarian-style architecture, authentic chicken dinners, and the world-famous Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. A walk around this city mid-winter is nothing but a delight – you just can’t help but feel cozy and festive as you wander the quaint streets.
One of my favorite winter activities in Frankenmuth is Zehnder’s Snowfest, where we love to walk around and see the incredibly detailed and enormous snow sculptures that line the streets. The Snowfest also features a warming tent, petting zoo, children’s activity area, and fireworks.
Drive time: 1 hour
19 – Warm-up at Winter Festivals All Winter Long
There are so many winter festivals in Michigan to explore! There’s nothing better than a weekend full of festivity and fun to warm you up from the inside out and give you a reason to get out to new towns to explore something new. A few winter favorites to note:
The Winter Carnival at Michigan Tech started in 1922 and has grown into one of the biggest annual winter celebrations in the nation. Known for huge, intricate snow statues, there are also broomball competitions, comedy skits, human ice bowling, and a queen coronation.
The Michigan Ice Fest in Munising, MI is Feb 12-16. This festival is for ice climbers to gather together for a week and climb around Pictured Rocks. For non-athletes, this is a fun time to visit the area, see the beauty of the waterfalls, and watch athletes in action.
The Meridian Winter Blast is held in February in downtown Detroit. With exciting live entertainment and culinary cuisine for the foodies, Winter Blast is a favorite of locals and brings in visitors from all over the state.
A popular ice fishing event is Tip-Up Town U.S.A, held in January in Houghton Lake. Thousands of people go to the annual winter festival that has children’s activities, a parade and chili cook-off, and an ice fishing contest weigh-in with fireworks.
Step Outside to Experience Michigan in Its Winter Glory
When the snow falls in Michigan, some days you don’t have to go anywhere! Simply stepping out of your back door can usher you into a winter wonderland. Bundle up and go out with the kids for some snow angels, neighborhood snowball fights, or to build a snowman.
The fresh air is rejuvenating, and nothing beats the beauty of newly laid snow.
Check out more winter adventures here, or comment below with anything we missed!