Whether you’ve lived here for years or you’re just visiting, you might be wondering what there is to do in Michigan in the winter. In fact, there are tons of indoor and outdoor activities to do across the state for the entire winter. If you’re looking for where to go in the winter in Michigan, almost anywhere is a great destination. What you will consider the best family-friendly Michigan winter vacation destination, though, depends on what you want to do.
For instance, there are some fun events in Michigan during the winter months in Mackinac Island, Traverse City, Frankenmuth, and other cities. However, you’ll find a host of winter adventures throughout the state. Here are the top family-friendly Michigan winter vacation havens on our list.
Best Places for a Family-Friendly Winter Vacation in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
When it comes to winter, there’s no better place to take a family vacation than the Upper Peninsula. This part of Michigan is (obviously) famous for being snowy because it gets up to 200 inches every year. Take a look at these places to visit.
One of the coolest things about spending a winter vacation in Bessemer MI is that it’s home to two major ski resorts, which are more like villages of their own. On the western side of the city, Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort offers skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snow tubing, ice skating, and ice fishing. On the east side of the city, Blackjack Mountain — Big Snow Resort has skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and other outdoor winter activities.
If you need a break from the slopes, Bessemer has plenty of shops and restaurants. Also, a short 15-minute drive southwest is ABR Trails. It has more than 45 miles of trails for skiing, snowshoeing, and skijoring. On-site luxury homes and rustic cabins are available too.
Your family can enjoy several places in Marquette MI during the winter. At Marquette Mountain Ski & Bike Area, nearly two dozen trails are open for skiing and other winter sports. One of the trails has a 600-foot drop. For a slower pace, stop by Presque Isle Park. The 323-acre peninsula sticks out into Lake Superior. You can go hiking and fishing at several points along the shoreline, and playground and picnic facilities are available.
One unique feature in Marquette, Michigan, is the ore docks, which are structures used for loading iron and other ores onto cargo ships. The one near Presque Isle Park is still in operation. Closer to downtown, though, the Lower Harbor Ore Dock was closed in the 1960s. Southeast of Marquette, you can explore the Eben Ice Caves in Deerton. Water seeps through the rocks of Rock River Gorge and freezes every winter. The area is part of the Rock River Canyon Wilderness in the Hiawatha National Forest.
If you want to go snowmobiling in the Upper Peninsula, there’s no better city than Munising MI, the “snowmobile capital of the Midwest.” Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has designated routes for snowmobiles on roadways and frozen Lake Superior. Additionally, it’s a popular destination for sledding and ice fishing. For more winter sports, check out Valley Spur for skiing and snowshoeing.
You can even go ice climbing on the numerous frozen waterfalls in the area, including Miner’s Falls, Munising Falls, and Wagner Falls. There are plenty of lighthouses in and around Munising as well, and you can ride a snowmobile to visit them in the winter. Just beyond Grand Island Harbor Rear Range Light to the west, kids will love the small town of Christmas. Holiday signs, stores, and Santa figures welcome the entire family.
The highlight of Paradise, Michigan, is Tahquamenon Falls State Park. During the winter, the waterfalls freeze to create a spectacle of icy spikes. There are many opportunities to go snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing on the park’s hiking trails. The park also offers year-round camping with heated bathrooms.
A Family-Friendly Michigan Winter Vacation Experience on Mackinac Island
You might think that Mackinac Island is only a summer vacation retreat, but it makes a charming winter vacation destination too. The quaint streets are far less crowded this time of year, so it’s a great place for a slow-paced family getaway. You can walk the trails for majestic views of Lake Huron, the Straits of Mackinac, and the Victorian homes that line the streets. In addition, you’ll have opportunities for snow golf, bonfires, sledding, horse-drawn carriage rides, and winter events.
Best Winter Getaway Spots for Families in Northern Michigan
South of Mackinac Island, Boyne Falls is a special spot for snow sports in Northern Michigan. It’s the home of one of the largest resorts in the region: Boyne Mountain Resort. This resort is the definition of a family-friendly vacation destination because it offers activities for all ages. There’s fat tire snow biking, SNO-GO biking, skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and snow tubing. The resort offers ice skating, zip lining, rides over the slopes, and horseback riding during the winter as well.
If you want a change of pace with indoor fun, take advantage of the Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark. It features pools, hot tubs, and water rides and slides. There’s even an arcade, and of course, the property has lodging, dining, and shopping.
Traverse City, MI
With a wide array of family activities, Traverse City is the ultimate Michigan vacation spot at any time of the year. Although fewer people flock to the city during the winter, it offers excellent getaway experiences, including holiday festivities in December. Many of the Traverse City wineries and breweries in Traverse City offer seasonal tastings and events, and the Great Wolf Lodge is an indoor water park with pools, slides, and rides for everyone.
Furthermore, there are several places where you can ski, snowboard, snow tube, sled, zip line, and more, such as Hickory Hills Ski Area, Mount Holiday, and local parks. For a winter adventure outside of Traverse City, you can walk the snow-covered trails and climb the dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which rests along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
The main attraction in Thompsonville MI during the winter is Crystal Mountain, a resort with plenty of snow sports for families. There’s snowmobiling, ice skating, snowshoeing, fat tire snow biking, and cross-country skiing. However, the archery, outdoor laser tag, carriages pulled by Belgian horses, and spa and wellness center set this resort apart from the rest. Also, you can wander through Michigan Legacy Art Park, a 30-acre preserve with poetry stones and more than 50 sculptures that represent Michigan history.
East Tawas, MI
Sitting along Lake Huron, East Tawas is an often overlooked Northern Michigan city for winter vacations. Nevertheless, it offers a welcome escape from the everyday grind. You could go ice skating or play ice hockey at Tawas Bay Ice Arena.
On the other hand, you could enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and other snow sports on the Corsair Trail and Highbanks River Trail in Huron National Forest. Tawas Point State Park has cross-country skiing, hiking, and winter camping too. Nordic Sports sells all of the snow gear and equipment that you could need.
Best Places for a Michigan Winter Family Vacation in Mid-Michigan
In Southern Michigan, you can step into a whole different world in Frankenmuth. Known as Little Bavaria, this city features several indoor winter activities for families who dislike the cold. In particular, it’s the home of Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, which is a 320,000-square-foot holiday store that sells all manner of Christmas decor and gifts as well as holds holiday events throughout December.
Frankenmuth has the Great Lakes Escape Game, Frankenmuth Historical Museum, and Zehnder’s Splash Village water park as well. Moreover, the Bavarian Inn Restaurant & Lodge has a water park, arcade, and mini-golf course.
Lansing & East Lansing, MI
Exploring local indoor and outdoor activities with your family in Lansing is a fantastic way to ward off the winter blues. You can learn about the state’s culture and history at Michigan History Center, go snow tubing at Hawk Island Park, experience hands-on science exhibits at the Impression 5 Science Center and gaze at the animals and wonderland lights at Potter Park Zoo.
In East Lansing, you can ice skate on the Munn Ice Arena on the Michigan State University campus. During December, you can participate in the Winter Glow festival.
Grand Rapids, MI
As the second-largest city in Michigan, Grand Rapids is another wonderful place for families that like a mix of attractions and fun in the snow. You can go ice skating at Rosa Parks Circle outdoor rink or Griff’s Icehouse indoor rink. There are opportunities to go ice fishing on one of the many rivers and lakes or go skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and more at Cannonsburg Ski Area to the northeast or Millennium Park and Beach, one of the largest urban parks in the country, to the west.
There are several attractions with indoor winter fun and special events too, including Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, Grand Rapids Public Museum, and Grand Rapids Art Museum. Additionally, there are many chances to enjoy live music and entertainment in Grand Rapids.
Situated on Lake Macatawa, Holland is a charming Dutch town with a slew of family-friendly activities. The town has more than 1,800 acres of parks for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and fat-tire snow biking. Riley Trails Park, the Mount Pisgah Dune Climb and Boardwalk, and the Sanctuary Woods Preserve offer something for all ages and abilities.
At the Holland Community Aquatic Center, everyone can have indoor water fun with slides, a zip line, water cannons, diving boards, and more. For a slower pace, walk the cobblestone sidewalks while you shop downtown. If you visit at any time from November through January, you could attend one of the several Dutch WinterFest and holiday events.
More Michigan Winter Things to Do
Alongside these top Michigan winter vacation spots, there are lots of other things to do in Michigan in winter, including the unique experience of a Polar Express train ride. Enjoy a safe and enjoyable family-friendly Michigan winter vacation this year at one of these unique winter destinations in Michigan, then tell us about what you like to do during the winter in Michigan!