Known as a “Winter Wonderland,” there is nothing quite as magical as a Pure Michigan winter. While you can explore the icy wilderness by sledding, cross country skiing and other fun events, it may get repetitive after a while. See our list below to find out unique ways to enjoy the snowy season.
Want to see how you hold up against Olympic athletes? Now you can at Muskegon’s Winter Sports Complex!
The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex offers skating rinks, snowshoe trails, the Midwest’s longest cross-country ski trail and a luge track. Designed by U.S. Olympian Frank Mansley, you descend on a 30-pound steel sled and speed along the track’s icy curves and hills at nearly 30 mph. One of only four luges in the United States, all participants receive training and equipment before your sliding time. The sports complex also has universal accessibility and adaptive sports for all of its wintertime activities so everyone can have fun in the snow. For times, tickets and more, check out their website here.
Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh! Just like the infamous song, you too can enjoy a sleigh ride through Northern Michigan’s winter wonderland.
Located at 4284 Hayes Tower Rd in Gaylord, riders can enjoy the sights and sounds of the beautiful winterscape through the Cook Family Farm. Each carriage can hold up to 12 adults and the ride is approximately 40 minutes long, with each rider being treated to hot chocolate and cookies afterward. You can purchase your tickets and reserve your spot on their website here.
More towards the west at 6841 Brown Bridge Road in Traverse City, Ranch Rudolf offers horse-drawn sleigh rides from December until March. Riding along the Boardman River, each ride is approximately 45 minutes long. You can reserve your spot and check out more winter events to do at the farm here.
River rafting and the freezing temperatures of Michigan winters don’t seem to go together. However, that’s what makes winter river rafting so special for Michiganders. Offered by a few Michigan companies, this magical experience has riders raft down the river with a guide that steers the raft. We recommend water and windproof clothes, along with hats, scarves, gloves and boots. While you are in the raft, you don’t need to worry about being soaked- just be mindful of a few droplets that might splatter on you when you are paddling.
Jordan Valley Outfitters, located in Charlevoix, was the first livery in Michigan to offer winter rafting trips. To help warm up their rafters, you will stop halfway for hot chocolate or hot apple cider and a chance to stretch your legs. A great opportunity to spot wildlife in the Jordan River Valley, this relaxing scenic trip is fun for all ages. To book your time and for more information, check out their website here.
Winter is a time for skiing and ice skating- but what about dog sledding? Experience the thrill of the race at events like the UP 200 in Marquette, the CopperDog 150 in Calumet and the Kalkaska Winterfest. However, if you want to experience it up close, you can.
Dog sledding trips are a popular pastime in Michigan. Cadillac and Munising are some of the most popular destinations for this sport, and the trips are typically available from mid-December through the end of March. A sled will usually hold one adult and you typically learn about the history of dog sledding and the dogs. Grab your scarf and gloves, and mush on!
Michigan is known for its beautiful nighttime skyscapes, with a beautiful rendition of the stars and the chance to see the northern lights. In the hustle and bustle of the city, it can be hard to see the stars. This is why dark sky parks were created. Natural areas that protect true darkness, Michigan has six state-designated dark sky parks. The Headlands International Dark Sky Park is the only park in Michigan with international dark sky status. One of the closest dark sky parks to Detroit is Port Crescent State Park.
Otherwise, the Great Lakes area is another great stargazing location. Surrounded by complete darkness and with the moon bouncing off the snow, it is a perfect backdrop for dark sky events. If the weather is cold enough, you may be able to even view Michigan’s infamous blue ice phenomenon. When the Great Lakes freeze over, the ice shards glitter a hue of blue in the day and a brilliant white at night, allowing for your own magical winter moment.
Hike to See Frozen Waterfalls
Michigan’s natural winter celebration would be incomplete without an ice sculpture or two. As the waterfalls become frozen, they create their own natural ice sculptures, caves and more. Ice climbers test their skills and climb the walls, while other explorers peek behind to see what kind of temporary cave the ice made.
While Michigan’s most notable waterfalls are in the Upper Peninsula, you can still experience some of the winter magic a bit closer to home. Ann Arbor’s Barton Nature Area is home to the Barton Dam. When the dam freezes over, it becomes a massive wall of ice. As a tip, park at the entrance on Huron River Drive and walk under the railroad bridge to snag the best views.