Michigan is full of awesome winter activities, and Alpena Ice Fest is definitely on that list. This free, public event in Northeast Michigan offers a day of winter fun for the whole family. From ice sculpting and demonstrations to food and entertainment, here’s everything that you need to know to plan your visit.
The 2023 Alpena Ice Fest is scheduled for Saturday, February 11.
About Alpena Ice Fest
Held in mid-February, Alpena Ice Fest is a bit of a throwback event to the Winter Carnival that the city held between the early 1930s and 1960s.
During that bygone era, hundreds upon hundreds of people would ride the “snow train” into Alpena Michigan from Detroit, to experience toboggan riding, watch elaborate ice-skating performances, and create a lifetime of memories.
Those moments of joy were the inspiration for Alpena Ice Fest. The first of these events was held in February in 2022, and it’s expected to become a new tradition for future generations. The event is organized by Thunder Bay Arts and a collaboration with many community partners.
Alpena Ice Fest Activities at Mich-e-ke-wis Park
The Alpena Ice Fest art, culture, and outdoor activities start in the morning at Mich-e-ke-wis Park on Thunder Bay. The Alpena Farmers’ Market will remain open later than usual, providing bathrooms and warm shelter from the cold weather.
One of the most interesting things to do at the festival is watch the dueling ice sculptors from Ice Creations of Napoleon Ohio. Plus, there will be dozens of other ice sculptures on display, including some by local sculptors and artists spread throughout the park and Downtown Alpena.
Also, there will be ski demos to watch, Siberian husky sled dogs to meet, a snow hill to sled down, prepackaged s’mores to eat by a huge bonfire, and horse-drawn wagon rides to enjoy. You can even do some ice bowling and take a selfie with the Ice Frame sculpture.
If you want to get in touch with your competitive side, you can join some contests — amateur snowman and snow angel building, cross country skiing and snowshoeing, and amateur fat tire biking.
Fire & Ice Downtown Alpena Activities
After the festivities at Mich-e-ke-wis Park, you can head into Downtown Alpena to enjoy the evening Fire & Ice event. Along with seeing the ice sculptures, you can sit on the Ice Throne in Culligan Plaza to experience the feeling of being ice royalty.
And, you can complete a scavenger hunt, which features a couple dozen questions about Alpena Ice Fest and the city itself. You can fill out the form and submit it for a chance to win money to spend while shopping downtown.
Speaking of shopping, the stores downtown will stay open later than usual so that you can see what’s new, get a look at the displayed ice sculptures, and warm up for a bit. Additionally, you can warm up next to burn barrels (or fire bowls) located around Pocket Park and Culligan Plaza.
While warming up by the fire, you can sip on a Fire & Ice-themed cocktail, hot toddy, or hot chocolate from a downtown bar or restaurant. There’s even plenty of live music to listen to.
Where to Eat While Attending Alpena Ice Fest
You’re sure to work up an appetite while exploring everything that Alpena Ice Fest has to offer. Along with burgers from Fat Freddie’s food truck, Downtown Alpena is home to numerous restaurants. Below are some of our favorites.
Cabin Creek Coffee
If your warm beverage of choice while walking around Alpena Ice Fest is coffee, Cabin Creek Coffee has exactly what you want. This family-owned coffeehouse has a full espresso bar that serves specialty coffees — cappuccinos, lattes, and mochas — and chai teas.
Blended iced coffees and smoothies are available if you like drinking cold beverages despite the weather. You can get sandwiches, strata, and flatbread pizzas as well.
The Black Sheep Pub
No matter the size of your appetite, The Black Sheep Pub is a delicious place to go. This English pub puts an American twist on pub lunches and dinners.
From chicken wings and chicken baskets to burgers and prime rib, there’s so much to choose from. Along with a hearty meal, you can drink English and craft beers.
Mango’s Tequila Bar
One of the hottest places to dine in Downtown Alpena is Mango’s Tequila Bar. This fun, colorful restaurant has a lunch buffet and a full dinner menu.
You can choose from house-made tortillas and salsa, Mexican specialties, and American classics. And, the full bar makes tequila specialties — including infamous margaritas — and has beer on tap.
Red Brick Tap & Barrel
Red Brick Tap & Barrel is an excellent spot for upscale burgers, entrees, sandwiches, and tacos. But, don’t let that fool you because there are plenty of new flavors to try — such as chipotle salmon tacos, seafood mac and cheese, and Wagyu beef burgers.
Plus, the bar has a wide variety of drinks — specialty cocktails, an extensive selection of bourbon and whiskey, and craft beers.
Established in 2018 by five local friends, HopSide Brewery is a fun, relaxing place for comfort food and tasty local brews. While you can order appetizers and burgers, why not try something more unique?
The unique part is choosing a flavor combo and how you want to eat it — on a toasted sandwich, nacho plate, pizza, wrap, or salad. Some of the flavor combos include Buffalo chicken, Mexican, Hawaiian, and Philly.
To go with your meal, you can order one of many beers — such as the Sweet and Sour cream ale, the Blue on Black cream ale, the Sunken Treasure Irish stout, and the It’s Always Oktoberfest German Marzen.
Alpena Ice Fest Lodging Options
So that you don’t miss a minute of Alpena Ice Fest, we recommend that you stay in town for at least a couple of nights, turning your visit into a wonderful winter getaway in Alpena Michigan. Here are a few hotels and inns that we love for winter weekend accommodations near downtown.
Renovated in 2020, Alpena Resorts features spacious and well-decorated rooms with various bed options. Inside, the rooms have microwaves, coffee makers, mini fridges, Wi-Fi access, and cable TV.
Other motel amenities include breakfast, guest laundry facilities, and a fitness room. On top of that, there’s a spa and indoor heated pool, which kids love.
Big Bear Lodge
A friendly mom-and-pop spot, Big Bear Lodge is a relaxing place with comfortable, cozy rooms and kitchenettes. Each room is equipped with cable TV, a coffee maker, a microwave, and a refrigerator.
In addition, you get an amazing view of Thunder Bay from the lodge, and there’s a beach, playground, and public park across the street.
Dew Drop Inn Motel
For affordable, clean, and comfortable lodging, stay at the Dew Drop Inn Motel. It’s located on the outskirts of town, so your stay will be quiet. You have four room options to choose from, and each room comes with a small fridge, 100 television channels, and high-speed internet access.
Additional Alpena Lodging Options
Whether you’re on a couple’s getaway or a family weekend vacation for Alpena Ice Fest, there are many lodging options in Alpena Michigan. Holiday Inn Express & Suites and Ramada By Wyndham are two more examples. Find the best accommodations for your perfect winter trip!