Michigan is known for its unique winter climate, thanks to its proximity to the Great Lakes. The lake effect makes temperatures fall dramatically and brings some of the highest annual snowfall averages of anywhere in the United States.
As a result, if you’re looking for the best winter things to do in Michigan, there are many Michigan towns to visit in winter for snowy fun.
Here are 20 places to visit in Michigan in winter that you won’t want to miss!
Best Upper Peninsula Towns to Visit in Winter
The city of Houghton lies on the Keweenaw Peninsula and is all about outdoor sports! The city is home to miles of natural trails and green spaces. During much of the year, these spots are popular attractions for hikers and bikers.
During the winter, you’ll find people hitting the nature parks for cross-country skiing. The trails offer breathtaking views of the forest and water, so you’ll always see something new and interesting.
You can find equipment rentals and ski groups if you’re looking for some pointers. After you use cross-country skis for the first time, you’ll understand why it has a special place in the community.
Marquette is one of the most famous towns in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula because it’s home to Presque Isle Park. This Michigan city park is one of the top tourist destinations in Michigan.
The peninsula reaches out into Lake Superior and is virtually untouched with views of the surrounding water and forest that you can’t find anywhere else. Though the waters are far too cold for swimming during the winter, you’ll still find visitors flocking to Presque Isle Park to enjoy the unparalleled views.
Presque Isle Park’s “black rock” cliffs, forest paths, and beaches are popular destinations for hikers, bikers, or anyone looking to explore. Here, you’ll get the chance to view rare native plants and wildlife, such as deer and snowy owls.
There are plenty of attractions in the best Michigan towns to visit in winter, but not many offer the chance to explore ice caves. Munising lies on the shores of Lake Superior, and its breathtaking natural sites draw visitors throughout the year for hiking, biking, skiing, swimming, and more.
The biggest draw, though, is undoubtedly the Eben Ice Caves that form annually in the Rock River Canyon Wilderness just west of the city. As water drips through the gorge and freezes, it forms breathtaking ice walls that you can view from various angles or climb.
If you’ve never tried ice climbing before, you’ll find some groups that will help you rent equipment and learn the ropes. Climbing enthusiasts and nature lovers alike will enjoy this one-of-a-kind activity in one of Michigan’s most scenic places.
Explore more things to do in Munising in winter!
On the shore of Little Bay de Noc, you’ll find the city of Escanaba. Like most Upper Peninsula towns, it experiences a lot of snowfall in the winter and very low temperatures. As such, it’s an incredibly popular spot for Upper Peninsula winter sports.
But, Escanaba is known as a popular tourist spot throughout the year. Its proximity to the lake and reputation as one of the safest harbors in the Great Lakes draws thousands of travelers every year. During the summer, the port city is a great spot for boating and water sports.
Falling winter temperatures don’t keep the locals from going outside, though. It’s a popular spot for snowshoeing on plenty of natural trails. Visitors will find spots to rent snowshoes and equipment throughout the city. If you’ve never tried snowshoeing in Michigan before, you can find guides and groups to help you get started.
Beautiful Northern Michigan Towns to Visit in Winter
If you’ve never heard of fat tire biking, don’t let the name throw you off. This popular winter sport is practiced across Michigan, and it’s a special part of Alpena, which features numerous bike paths.
Fat tire bikes are made to take on winter terrain, so you can ride through snow, ice, and whatever else the elements throw your way. This sport is extremely popular in Alpena during the winter, which is also home to the Annual Fat Tire Bike Race.
Alpena is home to some breathtaking natural trails that perfectly showcase the surrounding forests and other sights. You’ll find plenty of places throughout town where you can rent equipment and learn about the best local trails.
Any winter sports enthusiast should have Alpena on their list of winter travel destinations in Michigan!
You might think that ice fishing is a bit outdated, but it’s still a hugely popular practice in Cadillac Michigan. What’s more, you might be surprised by the exciting opportunities ice fishing presents.
It’s certainly a one-of-a-kind experience, one that all winter sports enthusiasts — no matter how much angling expertise they have — should get under their belt. Lake Cadillac is one of the best spots in the state for ice fishing, with varieties like crappies, panfish, bluegills, sunfish, and winter perch.
The lake’s unique climate usually makes ice fishing a possibility before Christmas, with catches worthy of a mantelpiece. The fish here are also known for offering a great challenge, requiring strength and skill to conquer. If you love fishing, you need to experience this unique version of the sport.
There’s plenty of wildlife throughout Michigan, but not many places that actually maintain their own elk herd! The city of Gaylord has been supporting a herd of more than 1,000 wild elk for many years. They have their own habitat of 105,000 acres in Pigeon River County State Forest.
Here, tourists come from miles around to view the majestic elk, sometimes up close. Binoculars are available to buy just for this activity! It’s the perfect opportunity to view the animals in their native habitat.
Strictly regulated hunting is also permitted for the purpose of reducing the environmental impact of the herd. Dedicated hunters may have the chance to get a hunting license for the year, with the county issuing between 100 and 200 licenses annually.
Petoskey is a well-known city that lies on the coast of Little Traverse Bay. It has become famous for its many ski resorts, each of which offers a unique experience.
Despite having fewer than 6,000 residents, Petoskey boasts three ski resorts that it proudly claims are the best in the Midwest. These include Boyne Mountain Resort, Nub’s Nob, and Boyne Highlands. Between these three resorts, you will find 168 trails with a wide variety of terrain types for every skill level.
There’s something for everyone in Petoskey whether you have years of experience or have never used skis before. Also, these Michigan ski resorts offer unparalleled views of the surrounding mountains and Little Traverse Bay.
Traverse City is a popular year-round tourist destination for many reasons. It has an abundance of beautiful beaches and vineyards, but the draw continues into winter. During the cold months, one of the best winter things to do in Traverse City is visiting The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.
This historic area features a collection of renovated old buildings that are now used for businesses, shopping, dining, and more. It’s an excellent place to do your holiday shopping and find unique gifts.
The Commons is situated at the edge of a 480-acre nature park, which is a popular spot for hiking, biking, and sightseeing. Because of that, it draws visitors from all over Michigan to enjoy fine dining, shopping, and outdoor activities.
Best Places to Visit in West Michigan in Winter
Anyone who knows anything about Michigan has heard of Grand Rapids, and the city remains a popular tourist destination even during the winter months. Grand Rapids is home to many amazing museums that provide entertainment even when the temperatures are chilly outside.
Some of the most popular museums in this Michigan city include the Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts, Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, and African American Museum and Archives. The city is home to the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, an outdoor art installation that’s on the list of the world’s Top 30 Must-See Museums.
If you love art and history, Grand Rapids has endless attractions to offer. It’s impossible to be bored while visiting this historic and culturally rich city!
Snow and ice have nothing on the City of Holland Michigan. This beautiful town is home to the biggest municipal snowmelt system on the continent. In other words, the streets are heated so that you can shop, walk, and dine in comfort, no matter the time of year.
The goal is to keep the charming downtown area pedestrian-friendly throughout the winter. The area is a thriving hub of local businesses with plenty of dining and shopping options. Much of the surrounding architecture dates from the Victorian and Midcentury eras, including the Holland Museum.
As you’re walking quaint downtown Holland, you can enjoy an exhibit of outdoor statues that tell the story of the Dutch settlers who founded the city and gave it its name. Many of the statues display important moments in American history too.
On the shores of Lake Michigan, St. Joseph experiences frigid winters, but the scenery is so fantastic that tourists flock here anyway. One particular attraction is the frozen lighthouses.
The St. Joseph North Pier Outer Lights is a beloved local landmark. The pier itself dates from the 1800s, while a pier extension and lighthouse were built in 1907. Every winter, both structures become encased in ice and look like ice castles on the shore.
Although the lighthouse hasn’t been in use for more than a century, its white lights are still a beloved sight in St. Joseph. Few sights are more memorable than the frozen pier and lighthouse standing guard on the edge of the lake as they have for more than a century, even encased in ice!
Muskegon is a well-known port town known for its many outdoor athletic opportunities. Throughout the year, tourists come to enjoy sailing, hiking, biking, and fishing. However, Muskegon really shines during the winter months.
The city is home to the Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park, one of the only places in the country where amateurs can learn to luge! The sports complex lies just off Lake Michigan’s shores, the perfect backdrop for winter sports.
This Olympic sport is only for the adventurous because it involves high speeds and a lot of adrenaline. The 850-foot track allows visitors to reach a maximum speed of 30 mph. The park is home to skiing, skating, and snowshoeing facilities as well, and both equipment rentals and lessons are available.
Awesome East Michigan Winter Destinations
Dearborn is one of the most populated cities in Michigan. With a population of more than 109,000, it’s no surprise that it has plenty of attractions.
One of the most popular is the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. This museum, started by Ford himself, is a study of America’s history and culture via many distinct collections. The museum has developed over the decades and serves as a place of education and technological development.
History lovers will enjoy learning from its many exhibits, some of which were assembled at the very start. Many of the exhibits are interactive, letting visitors handle the items on display and learn their significance and operation. And, of course, there’s a dedicated exhibit of classic automobiles.
For nearly a century, the institute has been dedicated to collecting rare and important artwork for the purposes of education and sharing knowledge. You’ll find some astounding exhibits here from every country and era.
Many of the exhibits rotate, which means there is always something new and exciting. From ancient art to modern photography and other media, the FIA’s collections are something that everyone should experience for themselves. Additionally, the institute hosts regular events and admission-free Saturdays.
It seems pretty amazing, but ice climbing is a popular winter activity throughout Michigan! This is the next step up from rock climbing or bouldering since it’s done on a wall of ice. Michigan is the perfect place to find rock-hard ice walls that offer a fun, unique outdoor challenge.
The facility even offers simulated altitude training for those with aspirations of mountain climbing. If you love adventurous outdoor sports or just want to experience the thrill, stop by Fenton for a Michigan ice-climbing experience like no other.
Most of us don’t think of water parks during the winter. But, the town of Frankenmuth is home to an enormous indoor water park that makes swimming a possibility any time of the year!
If winter swimming isn’t on your agenda, check out the many wonderful shopping opportunities in Frankenmuth. Known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria, it features a pedestrian-friendly shopping district designed with Bavarian architecture. This European-inspired, Bavarian village has unique shops and boutiques that are perfect for finding gifts and other oddities.
Best Places to Visit in Mid-Michigan in Winter
Jackson Michigan is a wonderful community located in the middle of the state. One of its best attractions is the Peter F. Hurst Planetarium. It’s partnered with the Ella Sharp Museum, one of the leading museums in the state of Michigan.
The planetarium hosts regular public shows under its 30-foot dome, including live star viewings, private shows and lectures, and special events. Audiences of all ages are welcome to learn about the stars while observing the heavens as they never have before.
Meanwhile, the museum’s regularly changing exhibits offer other fascinating insights into the culture and history of both Jackson and the wider world.
As the capital of Michigan, Lansing is a well-known city. In the winter, it offers unique attractions, some of which you may have never experienced before!
During winter, Lansing’s Hawk Island Park becomes a winter wonderland that’s all about snow tubing. The community creates a special course designed for tubes — 16 feet across and 60 feet long with a gradual drop of 600 feet!
When you arrive, you’ll find equipment available for rental. Concessions are also available, including hot cocoa, s’mores, chips, and candy. Everyone is welcome to enjoy their snacks beside the bonfire as well.
Midland is home to Midland City Forest, a beautiful city park that offers activities throughout the year. This 520-acre green space draws visitors for outdoor sports among the abundant hardwood and evergreen trees.
In the summer, it’s a haven for hikers, bikers, runners, and even equestrians. When winter arrives, you’ll find visitors flocking to Midland City Forest for 7.5 miles of groomed snow trails. These are perfect for toboggan runs, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. In addition, the park has an outdoor skating rink.
Explore More in These Michigan Towns in Winter
If there’s one thing Michiganders understand, it’s winter. Snow and ice don’t stop local residents from enjoying the natural beauty. Here are just a few of our favorite winter things to do in Michigan:
- 6 Excellent Indoor Winter Things to Do in Michigan
- 27 Frosty Places for Snowshoeing in Michigan
- 32 Michigan Winter Festivals You Won’t Want to Miss
- 26+ Best Trails for Cross Country Skiing in Michigan
- 14+ Unique Things to Do “Near Me” in Southcentral Michigan This Winter
- Warm Up This Winter with the Best Winter Things to Do in the Thumb Area of Michigan
- 7 Winter Things to Do in Northern Michigan (Lower Peninsula)
- 12 Awesome Winter Things to Do in the Upper Peninsula
- Top 10 Winter Things to Do in Mid-Michigan
- 12 Winter Things to Do in Southwest Michigan
- 12 Unique Winter Things to Do in West Michigan
No matter where you go in Michigan for a winter vacation, you’ll find winter attractions and things to do!