41 reasons to be thankful for winter in Detroit

Ice Screams

41 reasons to be thankful for winter in Detroit

Thank goodness it’s winter.

You heard that right. It’s winter, and there’s no reason to get the blues about it, chump.

Sure, snow may cover the ground, and it’s cold outside. But the season is just as full of possibilities as any other. Depending on your sensibility, maybe even more so. If you love cold, fresh air, winter sports, or just plain making snow angels, it’s obviously for you. But there’s plenty to do indoors as well: It’s prime time for arts and theater, and a music schedule that won’t slow down. A crowded schedule of winter events is practically designed to help you get over feeling stir crazy, and to keep your mind, muscles — and liver — in shape. Here’s a list with 41 of the reasons we say, “let it snow.”

click to enlarge Ice rink at Campus Martius
Ice rink at Campus Martius

1. Skate your heart out downtown at the Rink

Park organizers the Detroit 300 Conservancy report record-breaking attendance at the Rink at Campus Martius Park, with the highest number of skaters during this year's holiday period. It's easy to see why — with a 60-foot tree, colorful lights, and amped-up dining and retail options downtown, Campus Martius is Detroit's answer to New York's Rockefeller Center. The rink is open through March 6 at 800 Woodward Ave., Detroit; campusmartiuspark.org.

click to enlarge Vodka Vodka
Vodka Vodka

2. Drink and be merry at Vodka Vodka

Do you like to get pickled with vodka in the winter? Do you prefer to consume that clear liquid that burns your throat, puts a fire in your belly, loosens your extremities, and lets loose all your inhibitions if you drink enough of it? Would you like to also ogle a lot of attractive people in various states of undress as you feel that wonderful fire spread throughout your entire being? Then get your own butt over to Metro Times' world-renowned Vodka Vodka event Jan. 23, and have one of the times of your vodka-loving life. Tickets $45-$65 at mtvodkavodka.com; ages 21 and older only.

3. Enjoy the quaint, small-town thrills of the Fire & Ice Festival

Rochester provides the setting for a weekend of snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, tube sledding, dog sled rides, an ice carving contest, and much more. There'll be winter cheer in the beer tent, and live music from Jennifer Kincer & Friends and evening fireworks displays on Friday and Saturday night. Fairgoers can also expect carriage rides, check out potential pals with the Oakland County Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center, and a chance to stay fit with the Mills 5K Race on Sunday. The fest runs 5-9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday Jan. 23, and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24, at Third and Water Streets, Rochester; 248-858-5437; destinationoakland.com; admission is free.

4. Celebrate the snow and ice in Frankenmuth

Tired of scraping ice and snow off your car? Why not watch others carve and sculpt those pesky ice blocks into beautiful pieces of art. This winter, Zehnder's Snowfest is celebrating 25 years, and it promises to "bring winter fun for the whole family." Besides ice sculpting competitions and exhibitions, Snowfest will also have a warming tent full of activities, a petting zoo, and fireworks. The ice flies from Jan. 27 to Feb. 1, at 730 S. Main St., Frankenmuth; 800-863-7999. See zehnders.com for full activity lists and prices.

5. Visit the 1980s with Offworld arcade

Once a month, this community of old-school gamers hauls its machines into Detroit's Checker Bar for a popular pop-up arcade. With a nominal cover fee, guests can play to their hearts' content (all machines are switched to "freeplay" mode). The events are also known to feature guest DJs and vintage console and games raffles, and friendly competition — high scores are recorded on the arcade's official website. Keep your eyes on the site for dates, as well as updates on what organizers are calling "something super secret and super awesome for you in 2016." Next event is Saturday, Jan. 30 at Checker Bar & Grill is at 124 Cadillac Square; Detroit; 313-961-9249; see offworldarcade.com for info; $5.

6. Cheer on winter motor sports at Sno*Drift

It's definitely a day trip up to Montmorency County, but plenty of downstaters make it up there just for the Sno*Drift Rally, which takes over closed county roads, with speedy little production-line cars racing through small towns in timed stages. Crowds gather along the hairpin turns to cheer while watching the snow fly as these tricked-out Focuses, GTIs, and Jettas slide sideways and glide away, thanks to the drivers' fancy footwork on the brakes, clutch, and gas. Race runs Jan. 29-30, in and around the town of Atlanta; See sno-drift.org for more info.

7. Do the next best thing to going up North at M-Brew

When M-Brew opened in 2014, owner Dean Bach tried to re-create the ambiance of a northern Michigan cabin. The "Up North" vibes are enhanced with little touches, like a fireplace hearth, folk art, and menu items like the "brew-ski," or a sampling of local beers presented on a ski-shaped plank. And adding more indoorsy wintertime appeal, M-Brew hosts a collection of vintage arcade games, pinball machines, and a retro Jukebox downstairs. At 177 Vester Ave., Ferndale; 248-542-2739; m-brew.net.

8. Test your nerd quotient with a pub trivia night

Most people go out in winter to exercise their bodies, but those looking to exercise their mind can easily find a pub trivia night that suits them. It helps to seek out some friends who are into it, so you don't have to join a team cold. One of the longest-running and most entertaining trivia nights is the Lager House Pub Quiz, which can include such unusual categories as "knitting" or "Canadian junk food." Try a few of them on a wintry night, for the thrill of trying to remember who that other guy from Wham! was while alcohol impairs the parts of your brain that control speech, judgment, and memory. Visit facebook.com/lagerhousepubquiz for more info.

9. Make a splash with the kids at Great Wolf Lodge

Cheap and DIY it ain't, but if you're a tired pair of parents who can't fly off to a sunny destination, this is the next best thing. You'll pay a pretty penny for a weekend in the water park, spa, and hotel that is Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City. You can go splishing and splashing at a dozen attractions, dine at a sit-down restaurant, or chill in a commodious tub in your room. Those with children can watch the tykes wear themselves all day — and have another drink, because somebody's gonna sleep tonight. See greatwolf.com.

10. Get in touch with your inner winter beast at Wild Winter Weekends

Think trips to the Detroit Zoo must be relegated to the summer months? You'd be wrong. In fact, it's less crowded, and offers a host of special activities that only happen when the weather is cold, during Wild Winter Weekends in January and February. You can expect music and crafts for the kiddos, zookeeper talks, and other attractions, all included with admission. Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at 8450 W. 10 Mile Rd., Royal Oak; 248-541-5717; detroitzoo.org; tickets are $14 for adults and $10 for kids 14 and younger.

11. Eat (and drink) with the season

Say "seasonal dining" and most people think of tender spring vegetables, crunchy summer salads, and the bounty of the fall harvest. But winter is often overlooked, and that's a shame, because it's associated with some of the most comforting, richest food: bisques, stews, chili, fatty cuts of duck, rich steaks braised bone-in, veal cheeks, Kurobuta pork chops, or prosciutto's fattier cousin Speck. There are even special drinks to break the chill of winter: At Detroit's Sugar House Bar, you can still get the ancient favorite, hot buttered rum, with blackstrap rum, simple syrup, and butter, still hot in the mug. At the Oakland in Ferndale, they serve a Tom & Jerry — hot rum, cognac, milk, sugar, spice, and whipped egg — every time it snows.

12. Laugh about the Civil War with Butler

The Detroit Repertory Theatre — lovingly referred to as "the Rep" by those in the know — is in the midst of its 59th season, the oldest professional nonprofit playhouse in the state. It has a plush bar, gives plays lush stagings, and doesn't shy away from plays about race or class. This winter, you can enjoy the Michigan premiere of playwright Richard Strand's Butler, billed as a "riveting evening of seriously funny Civil War history." Showtimes are 8:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 3 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays through March 13, at 13103 Woodrow Wilson St., Detroit; 313-868-1347; detroitreptheatre.com.

13. Wash down sweets with blackberry brandy in Hamtramck

For metro Detroiters, there's a place that is almost synonymous to "paczki," and that is Hamtramck. It's a common fact — on Fat Tuesday, head to Hamtramck to purchase dozens of those delicious, jelly-filled doughnut-like confections. With countless bakeries selling the calorie-laden pastries, Hamtramck is the place to eat, drink, and be merry on Feb. 9, with most of the city's bars open early. To ease the guilt of indulging, Tour Detroit also hosts its annual Paczki Day Run, a 5K around the city on Saturday, Feb. 6; see tour-de-troit.org/paczkirun for registration information.

14. Defy gravity at Planet Rock

On belay? Belay on! If you have no idea what those phrases mean, consider going on an indoor rock-climbing excursion this winter. Planet Rock has safe and clean facilities, a variety of walls for all skill levels, and helpful instructors who are happy to introduce newcomers to the world of rock climbing. Locations at 82 Aprill Dr., Ann Arbor (734-827-2680) and 1103 W. 13 Mile Rd., Madison Heights (248-397-8354); see planet-rock.com for pricing and hours.

15. Learn how to conquer a sheer wall of ice at Michigan Ice Fest

Winter sports tend to lay heavy on the extreme side, but nothing can compare to what happens at the Michigan Ice Festival in Munising, in the Upper Peninsula. Every year, ice climbers from around the world head to the U.P. for the most outrageous and extreme ice climbing that Michigan has to offer. Even if you're new to the sport the five-day fest has workshops and clinics for new and experienced climbers. The festival takes place Feb. 10-14; see michiganicefest.com for details.

16. Get stuffed at Meridian Winter Blast

Organizers expect 75,000 visitors to Winter Blast this year. It's a family-friendly affair, with fun activities like the snow slide and zip lines for the kids. The "Taste of Detroit" tent will be a one-stop shop for Detroit's burgeoning and well-documented food renaissance, with tasty bites from El Asador, El Barzón, La Dolce Vita, Slow's to Go, Hudson Café, Detroit Seafood Market, and more. It's a great reason to bundle up, get out, eat well, and defy the February chill in the heart of Detroit. Runs Friday-Sunday, Feb. 12-14; winterblast.com.

17. Wash down downtown at Bar Blast

Coinciding with the Winter Blast at Campus Martius is Bar Blast, the official afterparty and pub crawl that will hit more than a dozen downtown, Foxtown, and Greektown bars. A continuously running shuttle will hit Pappy's, Exodos, Old Shillelagh, Cornerstone, Town Pump Tavern, Centaur, Cheli's, Delux, Thomas Magee's, Bookies, and other drinkeries. All you need is a wristband to ride the shuttle until 2:30 a.m. Starts at 9:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13, throughout downtown Detroit; wristbands are $10.

18. Throw a forward pass at bowling pins at the Hockeytown BrewHaHa Frozen Fowling Fest at Joe Louis Arena

Fowling (pronounced "FOAL-ing"), the unholy marriage of football and bowling concocted by Detroiters, has been taking the world by storm. While you can play a game anytime at Detroit's Fowling Warehouse, organizers have once again partnered with Olympia Entertainment to bring the sport to the Joe. Ticket-holders get to fowl on the arena floor, competing for Red Wings prizes — all while sipping on local suds and sampling seasonal cuisine from Olympia Entertainment executive chef John Borso. Takes place Friday, Feb. 19, at Joe Louis Arena, 19 Steve Yzerman Dr., Detroit; 313-471-3333; fowlingwarehouse.com; tickets are $47.50; 21 and over only.

19. Drown the winter blues in boat drinks

Sadly, not all of us can afford a sun-splashed getaway to some place where you can drink while sketching in the sand with your toes. Luckily, there's a whole class of local businesses that specialize in making you think you're already there. From Bahama Breeze to Parrot Cove, which both happen to be in Troy, you can find the drinks, dishes, and decor that will transport you to a sunnier place and clime.

20. Warm up your innards at Whiskey Business

Warm up with some whiskey at Metro Times tasting event, but be careful, 15 samples of the world's best whiskeys can put you in a very special place. If you can drink responsibly enough, you'll be able to enjoy some rare spirits, as well as those that are locally made. In addition to a ton of brands to try, there's also live music, drinking games, vendors, and food available for purchase. This thing regularly sells out, so we suggest buying tickets beforehand. Starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, at the Royal Oak Farmers Market, 316 E. 11 Mile Rd., Royal Oak; whiskeybusinessmi.com; tickets are $50.

21. Go wild at an indoor playground

Though some activities are outdoors (and out of reach), CJ Barrymore's Family Entertainment Center in Clinton Township offers plenty of indoor activities for cabin fever-frenzied families. Practically an indoor street fair, CJ Barrymore's has bumper cars, games, funnel cake fries, and plenty more. It also has bowling lanes and a laser tag room. While go-karting, batting cages, and a new roller coaster are closed for the winter, the golf dome is open every day for golfers wanting to perfect their swing before it gets warmer. At 21750 Hall Rd., Clinton Twp.; 586-469-2800; see cjbarrymores.com for hours and prices.

22. Ogle the sweet rides at Autorama

Since 1953, Detroit's "other car show" has celebrated the best of hot rods and custom cars. As in past years, custom builders will unveil their fanciful creations to compete for the coveted Don Ridler Memorial Trophy. Other happenings include a pin-up beauty contest, a "Dancing With the Cars" sock hop, live music, Toy-a-Rama, and more. Runs Friday-Sunday, Feb. 26-28, at Cobo Center, 1 Washington Blvd., Detroit; 248-373-1700; autorama.com; $19 general admission.

23. Drink Belgian beer and try your hand at feather bowling

Roll a giant wooden cheese wheel down an alley toward a flimsy feather sticking out of the ground to earn points? Add a couple of beers and your most competitive friends and you're about to have the time of your life. A mix of curling and bocce, the point is to knock the other team's balls away from the feather while your team gets its balls closest to the feather. They do it in Mount Clemens at Bath City Bistro, and, most famously, at Detroit's Cadieux Cafe, 4300 Cadieux Rd., Detroit; 313-882-8560; cadieuxcafe.com.

24. Blow out the winter blues with Hamtramck Music Fest

Kerfuffle about its origins aside, this might be the best-run and most fun affordable music fest the Detroit area has to offer. The three-day event is smartly contained — it's basically walkable. There are no big corporate sponsors to bum your trip. There are tremendous showcases each night, and daytime all-ages shows and other events. Plus, it is all for a good cause; festival proceeds go to Ben's Encore, a nonprofit that provides instruments, music lessons, and scholarships to inspired young musicians and underserved school music programs. Fest runs Thursday-Sunday, March 3-6; for venue and show information see hamtramckmusicfestival.com.

25. Rip it up on the slopes

Northern Michigan has some of the greatest hills in the Midwest, but just an hour or two north of Detroit are some great and inexpensive hills for skiing or snowboarding. Mount Holly has a fantastic ski school and all you need is a valid school ID. And if you're looking to get into ski racing, hit up the slopes at Pine Knob. See skipineknob.com or skimtholly.com.

26. Feel the noise at Berserker Fest

Berserkerfest is a three-day punk and metal fest held for the first time at the Masonic Temple. If you like your music as loud as a jet engine, your faces pierced, your jean jackets emblazoned with the most illegible of all possible band logos, then you've probably already bought a limited-edition advance pass, which comes with a free badge and silkscreen poster. The almighty Voivod headlines, along with Antiseen, Stnng, Child Bite, Cannibal Corpse, and more. This year's lineup has really upped the ante; this is going to rule. See berserkerdetroit.com for the latest updates on ticket prices and show times. Runs Thursday-Satuday, March 3-5, at the Masonic Temple, 500 Temple St., Detroit; berserkerdetroit.com.

27. Roll a strike at the Garden Bowl

Is there a more charming throwback of a sport than bowling? Believe it or not, the campy pastime at the center of The Big Lebowski was serious sport back in the days of polyester pants and wide collars, with Earl the Pearl throwing boomers on the TV. And we still have a bunch of bowling lanes in metro Detroit, from old suburban standbys to Punch Bowl Social downtown. But the oldest continu ously operating bowling center is the Garden Bowl at the Majestic Complex, with a wide range of beer at the bar and Sgt. Pepperoni's pizza. There's a reason the bowling alley has been called "the poor man's country club" — this winter, you might find it's right up your alley. Garden Bowl is at 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; majesticdetroit.com.

28. Ice skate with Olympians

Want to learn from the best? The metro Detroit area is known for a number of ice rinks boasting coaches who have trained Olympians or skated on a national, international, or Olympic level themselves. You can expect to see some of the finest skating in the world on its ice. The Detroit Skating Club is at 888 Denison Ct., Bloomfield Hills (248-332-3000; dscclub.com), and the Arctic Figure Skating Club is at 46615 Michigan Ave., Canton (734-487-7777; arcticarenas.com).

29. Be this year's naked cowboy

Have all of the troubles of this modern world got you down in the dumps? Do you feel lost and confused? Are you capable of walking along the side of a freeway without any clothes on in the freezing snow? Then grab your cowboy hat and roam. Please be safe, of course, and also be sure to immediately monetize the event for your gain. Our coverage of last year's naked cowboy gave us the most "clicks" we might ever have gotten; imagine the possible T-shirt sales alone if you orchestrate it properly! (Call our marketing team today.)

30. Go urban snowmobiling on a snow-covered freeway

OK, we're kidding, but other people aren't. They are serious as hell. Perhaps you saw the video called "Urban Sled'n" on YouTube, featuring a crew of people on snowmobiles riding up the Lodge Freeway at 3 a.m. during the biggest snowstorm of the year, blasting past slow-moving car traffic. Seriously, folks, this is a bad idea: The track and skis will get harmed by the pavement under bridges. Also, this may not be entirely legal.

31. Explore the ancient sport of curling

Want to try out the "second-coolest game on ice"? Get in touch with the Detroit Curling Club and ask about their "individual curling experience." You don't have to know a handle from a hog line to ease into the 500-year-old sport that helps build finesse, balance, and strategy, all with a good amount of yelling, teamwork, and fun. See detroitcurlingclub.com.

click to enlarge Polar Plunge
Polar Plunge

32. Show how tough you are by leaping into frigid water

Polar Plunges take place all over metro Detroit from January through March, so if you can't make this one, there's likely another that will fit into your schedule. But why would you want to take a dip into icy waters during the coldest time of the year? Other than getting bragging rights for being a total badass, you'll be supporting the Special Olympics' Michigan chapter by raising money for over 21,000 athletes to help participate in the year-round programs the nonprofit offers. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, at Cheli's Chili Bar, 47 E. Adams Ave., Detroit; firstgiving.com/polarplunge.

33. Have a good, hot soak in a garden setting

The appeal is obvious: It's freezing cold outside and has been for way too long; how the heck does a cash-poor soul get into an immersive, tropical-style environment? Oasis Hot Tub Gardens in Ann Arbor lives up to its name. It is very clean, affordable, and each area is designed to resemble its own little garden. You have your own multichannel audio system and — oh, man — wouldn't you rather be in a giant hot tub, right now? Open daily noon-1 a.m., at 2301 S. State St., Ann Arbor; oasishottubs.com; one hour rates start at $34.

34. Push cinematic boundaries at the Ann Arbor Film Festival

This six-day film festival is one of the coolest of its kind. It's been around for 54 years, shedding light on independent filmmakers and artists and bringing their obscure works to the screen. It's long been a stomping ground for up-and-comers and names like George Lucas, Andy Warhol, Gus Van Sant, and Les Blank. This year, more than 100 films from around the world will be screened, along with art installations, workshops, presentations, and even a few afterparties. Runs March 15-20, at the Michigan Theater and other Ann Arbor locations; see aafilmfest.org.

35. Split the difference between the casino and the kiddie arcade

Want to go to a casino, but are unwilling to lose big bucks? Head to your nearest Dave & Buster's to spend those saved dollars eating, drinking, and playing. Purchase a Powercard, load it up, and win enough tickets to walk home with a giant stuffed animal. Basically a giant, grown-up arcade, Dave & Buster's offers plenty of games, tasty food, and good drinks, for both kids and adults. Three locations at 45511 Park Ave., Utica (586-930-1515), 19375 Victor Pkwy., Livonia (734-452-4600), and 3660 28th St. SE, Kentwood (616-224-8800); see daveandbusters.com for weekly deals and hours.

36. Get right with Jesus at the Winter Jam Tour Spectacular

Here we have the largest tour of contemporary Christian bands, not a show to miss if you like your pop and rock music sanctified and holy. Headliners include For King & Country, Matthew West, RED, Sidewalk Prophets, NewSong, Trip Lee, and Lauren Daigle. This isn't your dad's Christian rock; no one here will sound like Amy Grant, weird hillbilly stuff, or DCTalk. Doors at 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31, at the Palace of Auburn Hills, 6 Championship Dr., Auburn Hills; $10 at the door.

37. Rush down the street in your underwear with Cupid's Undie Run

Dash through the streets of downtown Detroit in nothing but your skivvies during this 1-mile charity run. Red and pink underoos are encouraged, of course, but plenty of people also sport skimpy superhero costumes. It'll be fucking freezing — that's part of the fun — but needless to say, you might need some booze to get through this one. Plus, all the dough you raise to run the raise goes toward the Children's Tumor Foundation to help end neurofibromatosis. The whole thing is a four-hour affair with a party taking place inside the Fillmore before and after the run. Noon-4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, at the Fillmore, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit; cupidsundierun.com; registration fee is $45-$55.

38. Get saucy at The Dirty Show

For many Detroiters, it has become a Valentine's Day tradition to see The Dirty Show. If anything can take a frigid February night and heat things up, it's the scads of pervy "erotic" art and live striptease and bondage. And this titillating show just keeps getting bigger: This year organizers added the Cinerotic Film Festival to the show's offerings, and called on local filmmakers to submit their sexiest celluloid for inclusion. Colin Christian, who's known for crafting a fiberglass strap-on for Miley Cyrus to don during her Dead Petz tour, is this year's guest of honor. The show is open 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Feb. 12, 13, 14, 19, and 20, and 6 p.m. to midnight on Feb. 14, at the Russell Industrial Center, 1600 Clay St., Detroit; dirtydetroit.com; tickets are $30.

39. Kiss off the blarney with Irish Taste Fest

'Round these parts, St. Patrick's Day is all about wearing cheesy green leprechaun hats and getting totally wasted on green beer. That's all fine and good, but it's not really an authentic celebration of the holiday. Perhaps not in lieu of your typical celebrations, but in addition to them, we suggest a more docile but wholly delicious celebration of the Irish holiday: Irish Taste Fest, an event brought to you by Metro Times, will offer a slew of the culture's best dishes from local eateries, plus Irish whiskeys, Irish beer, Irish ciders, and Irish entertainment. And we promise nothing will have green food coloring in it. Starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at the Royal Oak Farmers Market, 316 E. 11 Mile Rd., Royal Oak; irishtastefest.com; tickets are $45.

40. See Detroit as it was, with Steve Shaw

Here is one "artist talk" that's sure to be both fascinating and entertaining. Born and raised around these parts, talented photographer Steve Shaw was a student of Bill Rauhauser's who followed his footsteps: Over the last few decades, he's snapped exciting documentary art photos in and around Detroit. His work shows a city hit by hard times, but there is a hopefulness in his strong images. Shaw will show his work, discuss it, and take questions starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, 4454 Woodward Ave., Detroit; $5 suggested donation. Shaw's work is on view until April 24.

click to enlarge St. Patrick's Day Parade
St. Patrick's Day Parade

41. Watch winter perish in a sea of green beer at Corktown's St. Patrick's Day Parade

Corktown's annual celebration of its Irish history (and public drinking) continues with its 58th year. As in previous years, expect the bars along the parade route to fill with revelers in the run-up to the big show, with traditional pipe and drum bands, floats, clowns, and general mayhem as Detroit sheds its winter blues — and spring is almost within our grasp. Parade starts at noon Sunday, March 13, and runs along Michigan Avenue between Sixth and Fourteenth streets, Detroit; 313-475-4675; detroitstpatricksparade.com; free.

Lee DeVito, Michael Jackman, Mike McGonigal, Alysa Offman, and editorial interns Luanne Lim and Jack Roskopp contributed to this article.

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