January 19, 2022

25 things to do in Michigan this winter: ice caves, skiing, festivals, and more

Our friends at Awesome Mitten have shared their new #MIAwesomeList ultimate winter bucket list with us.

You can read the full list, which includes more than 25 ways to explore Michigan, at awesomemitten.com, including more detailed guides to help you plan your experience — and also enter to win Michigan winter getaway trips through Awesome Mitten's winter #MIAwesomeList partners.

Scroll down to view images
#1: Go ice climbing in Fenton
Whether you want to do an adventurous or a classic winter activity, Fenton and Genesee County have you covered. One day you could be ice skating, and the next … you could be ice climbing! It’s one reason Fenton is such a fantastic winter bucket list destination. No matter your level of experience, Peabody Ice Climbing offers a safe environment where you can climb 45-foot and 72-foot ice towers. At The Barn Hockey Ice Rink, you can spend some time ice skating on the hockey rink.
Photo via Facebook / Peabody Ice Climbing

#1: Go ice climbing in Fenton

Whether you want to do an adventurous or a classic winter activity, Fenton and Genesee County have you covered. One day you could be ice skating, and the next … you could be ice climbing! It’s one reason Fenton is such a fantastic winter bucket list destination. No matter your level of experience, Peabody Ice Climbing offers a safe environment where you can climb 45-foot and 72-foot ice towers. At The Barn Hockey Ice Rink, you can spend some time ice skating on the hockey rink.

Photo via Facebook / Peabody Ice Climbing
#2: Go fat tire biking in Alpena
If you’re a Michigan biking fan, the biking season doesn’t have to end when snow starts to fall. All you need is a fat tire bike to ride Nordic trails. The North Eastern State Trail follows the former Detroit and Mackinac Railway from Alpena to Cheboygan for 71 miles. The Chippewa Hills Pathway has 9 miles of trails that offer some of the most varied terrain for biking adventures. Rockport State Recreation Area has about 8 miles of trails for fat tire biking. The Norway Ridge Pathway is a 7-mile trail that passes through sandy ridges and tall red pine trees. The scenery is just beautiful as you ride.
Photo via Shutterstock

#2: Go fat tire biking in Alpena

If you’re a Michigan biking fan, the biking season doesn’t have to end when snow starts to fall. All you need is a fat tire bike to ride Nordic trails. The North Eastern State Trail follows the former Detroit and Mackinac Railway from Alpena to Cheboygan for 71 miles. The Chippewa Hills Pathway has 9 miles of trails that offer some of the most varied terrain for biking adventures. Rockport State Recreation Area has about 8 miles of trails for fat tire biking. The Norway Ridge Pathway is a 7-mile trail that passes through sandy ridges and tall red pine trees. The scenery is just beautiful as you ride.

Photo via Shutterstock
#3: Plan a Nordic ski adventure in Marquette
The Upper Peninsula is a hot spot for outdoor recreation all year round. And when Marquette turns white in the winter, Nordic skiers from all over Michigan and the country can’t wait to plan their next adventure. The Noquemanon Trail Network has more than 78 miles of Nordic ski trails, and a good chunk of those are located in the Marquette area.  For more moderately difficult Nordic skiing, the Blueberry Ridge Pathway is a favorite in the U.P. It’s named after the jack pine forest blueberry patches that litter the area. In the winter, it’s home to more than 13.5 miles of groomed ski trails and seven trail loops. 
Photo via Shutterstock

#3: Plan a Nordic ski adventure in Marquette

The Upper Peninsula is a hot spot for outdoor recreation all year round. And when Marquette turns white in the winter, Nordic skiers from all over Michigan and the country can’t wait to plan their next adventure. The Noquemanon Trail Network has more than 78 miles of Nordic ski trails, and a good chunk of those are located in the Marquette area. For more moderately difficult Nordic skiing, the Blueberry Ridge Pathway is a favorite in the U.P. It’s named after the jack pine forest blueberry patches that litter the area. In the winter, it’s home to more than 13.5 miles of groomed ski trails and seven trail loops.

Photo via Shutterstock
#4: Go downhill skiing in Petoskey
While Michigan gets an average of about 64 inches of snow every year, Petoskey gets a whopping 111 inches! Because of that, it’s no surprise that the area has several ski resorts and lodges that facilitate downhill skiing and other winter recreation. If you’re a skiing enthusiast, add at least one of these Petoskey ski resorts to your winter itinerary. Offering accommodations and everything that you need for winter skiing, Boyne Highlands is a four-season resort just north of Petoskey in Harbor Springs. For a more intimate skiing experience, check out Nub’s Nob. This ski area and resort is exceptional at grooming the runs and offers private ski lessons. Another large resort, Boyne Mountain is just south of Petoskey in Boyne Falls. The 60 runs offer plenty of thrilling opportunities for all skiers. 
Photo via Shutterstock

#4: Go downhill skiing in Petoskey

While Michigan gets an average of about 64 inches of snow every year, Petoskey gets a whopping 111 inches! Because of that, it’s no surprise that the area has several ski resorts and lodges that facilitate downhill skiing and other winter recreation. If you’re a skiing enthusiast, add at least one of these Petoskey ski resorts to your winter itinerary. Offering accommodations and everything that you need for winter skiing, Boyne Highlands is a four-season resort just north of Petoskey in Harbor Springs. For a more intimate skiing experience, check out Nub’s Nob. This ski area and resort is exceptional at grooming the runs and offers private ski lessons. Another large resort, Boyne Mountain is just south of Petoskey in Boyne Falls. The 60 runs offer plenty of thrilling opportunities for all skiers.

Photo via Shutterstock
#5: Experience the Flint cultural center
With a rich history, Flint, Michigan is a center for arts and culture. Sprinkled around downtown are several murals on the sides of city buildings, an effort of the Flint Public Art Project that is spread throughout the city. Downtown Flint is known for its attractions, restaurants, and boutique shops too.
Photo via Shutterstock

#5: Experience the Flint cultural center

With a rich history, Flint, Michigan is a center for arts and culture. Sprinkled around downtown are several murals on the sides of city buildings, an effort of the Flint Public Art Project that is spread throughout the city. Downtown Flint is known for its attractions, restaurants, and boutique shops too.

Photo via Shutterstock
#6: Experience a true Michigan winter festival
A lot of Michigan cities love to celebrate the snow and ice that cold weather brings with winter festivals. For 30 years, Zehnder’s has been hosting the Zehnder’s Snowfest, one of the most iconic ice and snow sculpting competitions in the nation (Jan. 26-30). Tip-Up Town USA is the longest running winter festival in Michigan (Jan. 22-23), featuring a polar bear dip, live entertainment, races, and winter games. Grand Haven Winterfest (Jan. 27-30) will feature a range of outdoor events with fun for the whole family. Just outside of Detroit, the Plymouth Ice Festival (Feb. 11-13) is a world-class event that involves exploring more than 65 ice carvings in downtown Plymouth. Winter Weekend In Downtown Petoskey (Feb. 19-27) is a celebration of the season with more than 30 ice sculptures. The Sault Ste Marie Downtown Winter Ice Festival (mid-February) is an exciting event where you get to watch as more than 50 award-winning sculptures are made using blowtorches, chainsaws, and chisels. The event usually includes a penguin parade too. Michigan Technological University in Houghton has hosted the Winter Carnival (Feb. 9-12) since 1922. This annual winter event, which celebrates 100 years this year, has become one of the biggest in the country. 
Photo via Joe Ross / Flickr Creative Commons

#6: Experience a true Michigan winter festival

A lot of Michigan cities love to celebrate the snow and ice that cold weather brings with winter festivals. For 30 years, Zehnder’s has been hosting the Zehnder’s Snowfest, one of the most iconic ice and snow sculpting competitions in the nation (Jan. 26-30). Tip-Up Town USA is the longest running winter festival in Michigan (Jan. 22-23), featuring a polar bear dip, live entertainment, races, and winter games. Grand Haven Winterfest (Jan. 27-30) will feature a range of outdoor events with fun for the whole family. Just outside of Detroit, the Plymouth Ice Festival (Feb. 11-13) is a world-class event that involves exploring more than 65 ice carvings in downtown Plymouth. Winter Weekend In Downtown Petoskey (Feb. 19-27) is a celebration of the season with more than 30 ice sculptures. The Sault Ste Marie Downtown Winter Ice Festival (mid-February) is an exciting event where you get to watch as more than 50 award-winning sculptures are made using blowtorches, chainsaws, and chisels. The event usually includes a penguin parade too. Michigan Technological University in Houghton has hosted the Winter Carnival (Feb. 9-12) since 1922. This annual winter event, which celebrates 100 years this year, has become one of the biggest in the country.

Photo via Joe Ross / Flickr Creative Commons
#7: Explore the Eben Ice Caves
Michigan is full of unique destinations and the Eben Ice Caves, within the Rock River Canyon Wilderness of the Upper Peninsula, is one of them. The Eben Ice Caves are the result of water that seeps through the sandstone of the Rock River and Silver Creek canyons. The water freezes as it flows over the cliff edges, creating remarkable stalactites and ice curtains over the bedrock undercuts. Standing up to 50 feet high, the ice has a yellow hue against the nearby cedar trees and sandstone.
Photo via Shutterstock

#7: Explore the Eben Ice Caves

Michigan is full of unique destinations and the Eben Ice Caves, within the Rock River Canyon Wilderness of the Upper Peninsula, is one of them. The Eben Ice Caves are the result of water that seeps through the sandstone of the Rock River and Silver Creek canyons. The water freezes as it flows over the cliff edges, creating remarkable stalactites and ice curtains over the bedrock undercuts. Standing up to 50 feet high, the ice has a yellow hue against the nearby cedar trees and sandstone.

Photo via Shutterstock
#8: Try an Olympic sport at the Kalamazoo Curling Club
In addition to hockey and ice skating, curling is a fun sport that can be played on any ice rink — indoor or outdoor. If you’re interested in learning more about this winter activity, put Kalamazoo on your Michigan winter bucket list. Since 2008, the Kalamazoo Curling Club has been providing a place for locals and visitors to participate in this Olympic sport. It was established by a group of people who simply like curling and wanted a place to do it with more people. The Kalamazoo Curling Club offers experiences for all skill levels, including rookies.
Photo via Shutterstock

#8: Try an Olympic sport at the Kalamazoo Curling Club

In addition to hockey and ice skating, curling is a fun sport that can be played on any ice rink — indoor or outdoor. If you’re interested in learning more about this winter activity, put Kalamazoo on your Michigan winter bucket list. Since 2008, the Kalamazoo Curling Club has been providing a place for locals and visitors to participate in this Olympic sport. It was established by a group of people who simply like curling and wanted a place to do it with more people. The Kalamazoo Curling Club offers experiences for all skill levels, including rookies.

Photo via Shutterstock
#9: Try an authentic banya at The Schvitz
Do you love saunas during the winter? We find it difficult to survive the cold winters without them, which is why The Schvitz Detroit is one of our top places to visit. It has an authentic banya, which is a Russian steam bath that’s heated with a wood stove. Established in 1930, The Schvitz was the original urban health club in Detroit and is the only historic bathhouse still remaining. As such, it’s more than a bathhouse: It’s a cultural institution and storied landmark that helps you unwind in an ancient environment. Over the years, it has continued to offer old-world holistic healing and heat therapies.
Photo by Tony Lowe

#9: Try an authentic banya at The Schvitz

Do you love saunas during the winter? We find it difficult to survive the cold winters without them, which is why The Schvitz Detroit is one of our top places to visit. It has an authentic banya, which is a Russian steam bath that’s heated with a wood stove. Established in 1930, The Schvitz was the original urban health club in Detroit and is the only historic bathhouse still remaining. As such, it’s more than a bathhouse: It’s a cultural institution and storied landmark that helps you unwind in an ancient environment. Over the years, it has continued to offer old-world holistic healing and heat therapies.

Photo by Tony Lowe
#10: Freeze for a cause with a Polar Plunge
Every year, the Law Enforcement Torch Run raises awareness and more than $1.2 million for Special Olympics Michigan athletes through a series of Polar Plunge events across the state. It’s the largest fundraiser for the organization. Other Polar Plunges include the Super Plunge (Jan. 21-22 at the Unified Sports and Inclusion Center in Grand Rapids), Monroe (Jan. 23 at Brass Monkey & Quatro’s), Jackson (Jan. 29 at the Eagle’s Nest Bar & Grill), Muskegon (Jan. 29 at Fricano’s Muskegon Lake), Southwest Michigan Plunge (Feb. 5 at Watermark Brewing in Stevensville), Fenton (Feb. 5 at the Fenton Moose Lodge), Holland (Feb. 5 at the Holland Elks Lodge), Mt. Pleasant (Feb. 12 at O’Kelly/Wayside), Munising (Feb. 12 at East Channel Brewing Company), Otsego (Feb. 13 at the Bittersweet Ski Resort), Grand Traverse Bay (Feb. 19 at the Centerpointe Marina / Visions Banquet Center), Alpena (Feb. 19 at The Sand Bar & Grill), Detroit (March 4 at Atwater Brewery & Milliken State Park/Harbor), and Marquette (March 19 at the Up North Lodge).
Photo via Special Olympics Michigan / Flickr Creative Commons