40 reasons to rejoice you're in Michigan for the winter 

How to have fun (in the lack of sun)


In the post-holidays, pre-spring stretch of the year, it's easy to fall into a winter routine — shoveling the snow off your driveway, scraping the ice off your car, and counting the days until that beautiful first day of spring. The good news is the days are slowly but surely getting longer. But while you wait, why not make the most of the coldest time of the year? From outdoor excursions to activities that improve your health and vigor, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the season.

Enjoy downtown Detroit during Winter Blast. Ice sculptures, free skating, heated tents, and live entertainment are all in and around Campus Martius Park. Going on 11 years, this is a fun event in the heart of the city that can be enjoyed by all ages. Did we mention heated tents? And while Winter Blast has plenty to offer, some of us just want to use this wonderful excuse to get downtown to get drunk with the rest of the metro Detroiters who are piling into the city. Bar Blast, sponsored by Metro Times, is the official afterparty of Winter Blast. It takes place Feb. 7 and offers continuously running shuttles through downtown, Foxtown, and Greektown from 9:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Go sledding. Balduck Park on the east side is a longtime sledding destination for generations of Detroiters — and your best bet for sledding in the city proper. Then there's tobogganing, a throwback version of sledding, with a few local toboggan runs in metro Detroit. Often iced and elevated, the potential for speeds up to 60 mph are realistic while tobogganing. Our recommendation is to check out Kensington Metropark in Milford.

Explore six miles of cross-country ski trails at Hudson Mills Metropark. Sure, it lacks the action of downhill sports, but the gentle pace of cross-country offers light exercise, and groomed trails afford excellent chances to catch a glimpse of elusive winter wildlife.

Catch a flick at the Detroit Film Theatre. You won't find show times for any Hollywood blockbusters at this theater, but you will find Japanese animated flicks like The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and non-fiction films like Frederick Wiseman's National Gallery. Settle in for a Sunday matinee or make either Saturday night show times a date — either way you're sure to see something remarkable at the DFT.

Go ice skating. Whether you glide like a pro or can barely move on ice, if there's a frozen pond near your residence it's always fun to kill a few hours circling around on skates. Better yet, if you have a group of friends, get a pick-up game of hockey going — at least in the winter you won't have to worry about motorists driving by. Need extra incentive to head downtown for some al fresco exercise? We'll bet the words "rinkside bar" will do the trick. Earlier this winter we talked with Campus Martius Park's president, Bob Gregory, about this year's amped-up offerings, the bar being one of them. Plus, is there anything more romantic than holding hands with your significant other while ice skating in the middle of downtown Detroit on Valentine's Day?

Geek out at Offworld Arcade. Recently launched in the newly renovated St. Vincent building, this monthly event pairs excellent music (Wade Kergan from Hello Records DJ'ed the other month) with dozens of standalone classic video games. It's more of a social event than you'd think, and just the sound of all the machines being played at once is weirdly exciting, even if you're not a nerd. Learn more at offworldarcade.com.

Relax in a hot tub. There are plenty of ways to warm up: getting a guest pass to the saunas and steam rooms at the Warren Community Center, renting a private room at Southfield Family Sauna & Tub, or hitting the Schvitz Health Club (on certain nights). But it doesn't get any grander than Ann Arbor's Oasis Hot Tub Gardens, where heated changing rooms lead out into ceiling-free rooms with 18-foot-high walls, containing gardens, fireplaces, waterfalls, and different sizes and shapes of tub, in which water can get to 102 degrees.

Go back in time at the Henry Ford Museum or Greenfield Village. Lift up the hood of antique cars and learn about engines, celebrate Black History Month throughout February, and remember Abraham Lincoln mid-April — the Henry Ford Museum always has something going on. Pro tip: If you're thinking about a trip to either of these Dearborn attractions, find a friend or family member who already has a pass because things can get a little pricey.

Chill out at Vodka Vodka. MT's annual ode to vodka returns for its sixth year, coming Saturday. Feb. 7 to the Royal Oak Music Theatre, a new venue for the event. Expect plenty of food, DJ entertainment, and vodka — more than 60 types of vodkas, in fact. Find out more at mtvodkavodka.com.

Browse the trove at John K. King Used & Rare Books. John King on Lafayette Boulevard is not a store to browse in; it's a surreal environment to get fully lost in for many hours. Have you been inside the arcanely arranged pulp room lately, asked to visit the rare book room, or dove into the boxes of ephemera lying around? Don't expect to be able to call or text a friend inside there — it's like a tomb.

Go BMX racing inside an old Meijer store. Now here's a creative way to keep the sport of BMX alive in the cold months and reclaim an abandoned department store at the same time. While the name is a bit of a misnomer — it's located two and a half hours away in Greenville — the folks at Rock City BMX have been operating this indoor track since 2010. Read more at rockcitybmx.com.

Make a splash at Michigan's indoor water parks. If you don't mind making a day trip, Michigan has a few indoor water park options within driving distance. Many are attached to hotels, so you could make it a whole weekend. Try Zehnder's Splash Village Hotel and Indoor Waterpark in Frankenmuth, Splash Universe Indoor Water Park in Dundee, or the Best Western Sterling Inn in Sterling Heights.

Spend the day at the DIA. For kids and adults, the Detroit Institute of Arts is a magical place. Sure there's the art, but there are also great attractions like drop-in workshops, lectures, Family Sundays, classes, and even the Kresge Court. In March, an exhibit about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera opens, and you won't have to feel guilty about wasting a beautiful day indoors. It'll probably still be gross out by then.

Fire up the barbecue. It's like that joke about how you can spot Michiganders in Florida: They're the ones wearing flip-flops when it's 70 degrees. Similarly, we often look for the first excuse to roll out the grill. One Detroiter we know, Quincy Holmes, has even grilled when it's 15 degrees out. That's commitment, baby.

Gawk at beautiful cars. This is Detroit. And love or hate the auto industry, it will always be the Motor City. Every January, auto enthusiasts from the general public mix with industry folks at the North American International Auto Show to inspect current and concept cars with the unbridled enthusiasm as a child on Christmas morning. If custom cars are more your style, Autorama rolls into Cobo from March 6 – 8.

Explore man-made "mountains." Really, no man-made ski slope in metro Detroit is composed of refuse. They may be artificial, built on fill like Mount Brighton, or on mine tailings, like Mount Holly, but they give area ski and snowboard enthusiasts a chance to hit the powder without punishing the odometer.

Warm up with hot food to go. You got up an hour early to shovel or blow snow. You dug out your car or truck. Your nerves are jangled from windblown snow and black ice. On the way home, you just want something hot. Thank goodness you live in metro Detroit. Whether it's a box of fried chicken from Meijer or some goodies from the hot table at Bozek's, we have what it takes to fill you up with warmth.

Hang out at the Detroit Public Library. The DPL isn't just packed with books, it's packed with history, too. And it's packed with fun things to do on a cold, boring winter day. Bring the kiddies for preschool story time every Friday so you can browse the Burton Historical Collection in peace. Or, take the free art and architectural tour that happens every Saturday at 11 a.m.

Pretend you're drinking by the beach. Hey, we don't have the sunshine and sand of Florida, but that doesn't mean we can't have frosty drinks in a colorful setting. Choices range from Bahama Breeze, a perennial MT Best of Detroit winner, to Parrot Cove in Troy, where they mix margaritas in four-gallon batches and sell more than 500 shots' worth of tequila a day. You'll almost feel the trade winds tousling your hair.

Go record collecting. Detroit has a dozen great record stores, but none have as many 45s as Peoples. The store doesn't just boast a big box of only James Brown 45s — there is one for his releases on King Records, plus another box of Brown 45 releases on his own label, People. And the box covers were decorated by the late Motown artist Hermon Weems.

Get cozy in a restaurant. Half the appeal of excellent comfort food spots such as Polish Village, Loui's, and Buddy's is the decor. Think back to when you first walked into Loui's and saw the blood-red ceilings and ancient Chianti bottles, or Polish Village at Christmastime when all the paintings are wrapped like presents — didn't it instantly feel like home?

Go camping — in the winter. Yes, some people do it. They have even devised outdoor wood-burning stoves like the Riley Wall Tent Stove to keep you comfy and help you dry those clothes. Though winter camping doesn't have wide appeal, its fans love the silence, the chance to see wildlife, and the lack of yahoos swearing and whooping between mouthfuls of whiskey as they canoe by your parcel of the great open spaces.

Indulge on Paczki Day. Some of our readers complain that Paczki Day is just an excuse to boost doughnut sales. But for the revelers who crowd Hamtramck for several hours of irresponsible day-drinking, it's our jelly-smeared Mardi Gras, and a bar crawl that slips (and slides) in and out of the city's dozens of drinking and dining establishments every February.

Rock out at the Hamtramck Music Festival. The first weekend in March is a great time for a music fest because we all need an excuse to stop hibernating. And Hamtramck is an ideal spot for it, with so many bars and venues crammed next to each other. This fest aims for inclusivity and all proceeds go to a cool local music charity.

Be wowed by winter rally racing. It's kind of a hike up to Atlanta, out in Montmorency County, but at the end of January, that's when the Sno*Drift Rally takes over closed county roads, with speedy little production-line cars racing through small towns in timed stages. It's quite a thrill to line up by the side of these snowy roads and watch tricked-out Focuses, GTIs, and Jettas take corners with fancy footwork on the brakes, clutch, and gas. See sno-drift.org for more info.

Rediscover the wintertime activities of your childhood. Not everything that was super fun when you were 7 years old remains that way into adulthood, but when's the last time you made a snow angel? Obviously it has to have recently snowed, when the stuff is still wet and packs well. This is an excellent couples' activity — see who made the best one (no arguing, though)! And if you haven't built one since you were a kid, perhaps now is the time to revisit the art of the snow fort. Need some help? Ideal's Sno-Castle Kit has all the shovels and brick molds you'd need. Pick one up from Royal Oak's Toyology for $29.99.

Go shopping at Eastern Market. Sheds 3 and 5 are heated during the colder months, which makes it possible to still enjoy and shop for produce, plants, specialty goods, meat, and more. In fact, there are certain items only available during the winter. Why would you want to deprive yourself of that?

Get berserk at Berserker. In its inaugural year, this extreme music festival (named for ancient Norse warriors who went to battle in an insane fury) brought out attendees en masse. Sweaty, heavy, fast, and loud, this four-day fest split between the Loving Touch and WAB in Ferndale, features over 50 bands.

Take the Polar Bear plunge. Nothing like jumping in a frigid body of water in the middle of winter to make the Ice Bucket Challenge look downright silly. Thrill-seekers looking to contribute to a good cause can sign up for one of the Special Olympics' 29 Polar Plunges scheduled around Michigan in 2015. Check out somi.org for more information.

Hang out on a heated patio. Metro Detroiters love any excuse to sit outdoors, even when "outdoors" is in a mostly enclosed patio. That's where you'll find us, under blazing heat lamps at such places as Como's, Anita's Kitchen, and Public House in Ferndale, Arbor Brewing in Ypsi, or even the "smoking patio" at the Renshaw Lounge in Clawson. C'mere, cold — let me laugh at you.

Tap that. Because it's Michigan, it is still cold in March. One of the perks of that fact is that March is maple sugaring time. Didn't know we do that here? We're actually the sixth highest maple-producing state in the country!

Head up north to the ol' cabin. A cherished Michigan tradition — although metro Detroiters' ideas of what counts as "up north" vary somewhat. Some regard anything north of Flint to be up north, while others insist Saginaw's Zilwaukee Bridge is a sort of psycho-geographical border. The point is, there are plenty of places to get away and have a bit of a Walden experience — even if just for a weekend.

See what snowshoeing is all about. You don't have to travel to the far reaches of the Upper Peninsula to showshoe in Michigan. Wixom, Clarkston, Northville, Metamora, Pinckney, Waterford, Commerce, Holly, Saginaw, Monroe, and Lake Orion are all local municipalities that offer enough space and scenery for us lucky Michiganders to try out and enjoy one of the oldest forms of transportation.

Do doughnuts in the parking lot. There's nothing like doughnuts in the morning — especially if we're talking doing doughnuts in a parking lot after a fresh snowfall. Though frowned upon in the eyes of the law (what isn't?), this is one of the simple pleasures of living in metro Detroit: All you need is a car with manual transmission, rear-wheel drive, and a set of cheap tires.

Watch the river. OK, maybe this is one a little corny, but the Detroit River is one of the most beautiful things the metro area has to offer. When the weather gets cold enough, the river freezes into beautiful formations, and when spring comes, the ice flows are both gorgeous and cathartic — a sign that warmer weather will indeed one day arrive.

Check out ice sculptures. The eighth annual Fire and Ice Festival in Rochester runs from Jan. 23-25 and has a multitude of wintry things to do: dogsledding, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and a stroll around downtown to view badass ice sculptures.

Build a bonfire. If you live in metro Detroit, you know someone with a huge yard. Get a group of friends, bundle up, buy some beer, find some wood, (and a legal fire pit, of course), and experience a bona fide Michigan winter evening with only the flames to keep you warm.

Hit the bowling lanes. If anything, this will at least get you out of the house. No matter how dumpy the bowling alley may be, chances are your local spot will be buzzing with activity on a Friday or Saturday night. Plus, bowling alleyes typically have low beer prices.

Give back to the less fortunate. Take time out from your busy schedule and pitch in at a local soup kitchen. This time of year, it's perhaps more important than ever to remember that thousands of people across the city deal with the frigid temps in ways most could never imagine.

Or just stay in. Baby, it's cold outside so cuddle up with a good book, a cup of (spiked) cocoa, popcorn, and a cozy blanket and enjoy a guilt-free night in. Of course, staying in doesn't mean you can't be productive. Even if you still struggle with makng grilled cheese, winter is the perfect time to tackle new recipes. Punch an idea into Google and find something that fits your skill level. Or try getting some serious DIY projects done, cleaning out your closets, painting a room, or rearranging furniture for better feng shui.

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