Thanks to the Alpena Area CVB for partnering with Awesome Mitten for the 2022 Winter Bucket List.
If you’re looking for a unique outdoor adventure for your family this winter, the Alpena, Michigan area may be the weekend winter getaway you’re looking for. Close to home, family-friendly, and affordable, check out our recommendations for a winter weekend getaway to the Alpena, Michigan area.
Pick an Activity (or Three) to Enjoy
When you’ve only got a weekend to experience all that the Alpena, Michigan area has to offer in the winter months, it’s best to be prepared. Picking out your top three winter activities to enjoy before you arrive can help you to best maximize your fun in Northeastern Lower Michigan this winter!
Our top winter activity recommendations include:
Fat Tire Biking
When you want a winter getaway in Alpena Michigan that is unique and fun, we think fat tire biking fits the bill. Combining a mountain bike frame with wide low-pressure tires allows you to ride on any terrain or surface. Snow-covered trails in Alpena provide just the excitement you are looking for.
Some of our favorite places to enjoy fat tire biking in Alpena are:
The Chippewa Hills Pathway, known locally as “Chip”, is demanding. It has the most dramatic changes in elevation of any trail in Northeast Lower Michigan. Multiple loops provide lots of options, and you can curate your ride to the needs of your family or riding partners. The 14 miles of trails wind through thick forest, cedar swamps, and over hilly terrain that challenges even the most experienced rider.
Norway Ridge Pathway
Are you looking for a family-friendly trail for your biking pleasure? Norway Ridge Pathway has miles of well-marked trails in three loops. Magnificent scenery and wide wooded paths, with towering red pines, make for a great ride. Volunteers maintain the trails for skiers as well so be mindful and stay out of the groomed cross-country ski tracks.
Rockport State Recreation Area
Located on Lake Huron, Rockport State Recreation Area is a 4,000-plus acre park including a limestone quarry, tons of fossils, and a series of sinkholes. The terrain offers plenty of challenging variety for any biker. Be sure to check the map before you take off on your ride, the park is rugged and game trails can be mistaken for riding trails.
If you prefer to use a rail trail, North Eastern State Trail (NEST) travels for 71 miles from Alpena to Cheboygan. The surface is covered in crushed limestone and the flat terrain makes it a perfect family ride. The leg from Alpena to Cathro is 6.4 miles through fields, farmland, and woods. It is a quiet trail with few places to stop on this leg, so use the restroom at the trailhead parking lot before you begin your ride and carry water.
While fat tire biking provides plenty of exercise and family fun, be sure to leave time during your weekend getaway for some of the other outdoor activities the Alpena area has to offer.
Fat Tire Bikes Alpena
Currently, Alpena is a BYOB for fat tire biking – bring your own bike! But if you’re new to fat tire biking and can’t wait to try it out, there is a fat tire bike shop in Alpena that will make sure you have what you need for this amazing winter adventure.
Cross Country Skiing
With more than 100 miles of groomed trails and 13,000 acres of state parks to enjoy, you could spend many weekends enjoying them all.
Norway Ridge Pathway
Just five short miles south of Alpena, Norway Ridge Pathway has 8 miles of cross-country ski trails groomed by volunteers. It is a great place for families. Plenty of flat terrain allows every member of the family to enjoy their winter day out. This is a serene trail through red pine forests and along sandy ridges. The well-marked trails provide hours of skiing for beginner to intermediate skiers on three scenic loops.
Chippewa Hills Pathway
For those who appreciate well-groomed trails, through the dense forest, Chippewa Hills Pathway is one of the finest. Varying terrain makes it a pleasure to ski on. The trail is nine miles long but not all parts of it are appropriate for cross-country skiing. The path offers four well-marked loops. Crisp cold air and forest smells provide a great backdrop for a family adventure.
Alpena Golf Course
Alpena Golf Course Cross Country ski trail is open when the weather cooperates. You are not allowed to ski on the greens, so keep to the outer areas and the groomed trail. Rolling terrain makes for an enjoyable time.
Strapping on a pair of snowshoes is something easy for the whole family to do together. Alpena has miles of great trails for outdoor fun, or you can just walk in the snow almost anywhere. You don’t need special skills to enjoy this activity, you just need snow and that is something Michigan has in abundance. Here are some family-friendly destinations for snowshoeing.
Rockport State Recreation Area
Rockport State Recreation Area is a huge park with lots of potential for snowshoeing. Just park your vehicle and start walking. There are some groomed trails to follow and the variety of terrain means it is never boring.
Located on the Thunder Bay River, Island Park is a 17-acre hidden gem. Reached by crossing a covered bridge, you leave the world behind when you enter this wildlife sanctuary. Well-defined trails make snowshoeing here enjoyable and a peaceful experience. This is a serene place and if that is what you are looking for, you will leave feeling relaxed and at peace.
Besser Natural Area
Just 20 minutes to the north of Alpena, Besser Natural Area not only provides virgin white and red pines along a sandy Lake Huron shoreline, but the ability to snowshoe for a mile through the former village of Bell, which is now a ghost town. This is a not-to-be-missed experience. Bring your camera. You will want to take pictures.
Negwegon State Park
In Michigan, you can snowshoe on any state land. Negwegon State Park has more than 4,000 acres of rustic land that meanders over open meadows, mature forests, and even an undeveloped sandy beach. Hours of snowshoeing await with 12 miles of trails in three separate loops.
Snowshoe Rental Alpena
Don’t have your own snowshoes? No problem! You can rent snowshoes in Alpena for your next great adventure! Check out Harborside Sport for snowshoe rentals.
What could be better for a hardcore fisherman than including some time on one of the many lakes loaded with fish in the Alpena area. You can pick up the supplies you need at Clem’s Bait and Tackle and Buck’s Bait and Tackle. Dress for the weather, it can be very cold on the ice.
If you are looking for a shallow lake (25 feet) with clear water Long Lake fits the bill. It is the longest of the “long lakes” in Michigan. Fish you may catch include largemouth, smallmouth, and rock bass, yellow perch, northern pike, white fish, and sunfish.
New to ice fishing? You can get an ice fishing guide on Long Lake. Check it out!
If you are looking for a challenging lake to fish in, Grand Lake is seven miles long and about 20 feet deep at its deepest. The variety of fish in this lake is staggering, sunfish, walleye, black crappie, bluntnose minnow, bullhead catfish, Northern Pike, rainbow trout, and three kinds of bass just to name some of them.
To enjoy one of the largest lakes in Michigan, head to Hubbard Lake. This lake is known for its walleye, jumbo perch, and smallmouth bass. A fine place to fish no matter what the weather.
If you dream of catching a six-pound bass, Fletcher’s Pond (Floodwaters) is the place to go. They are known for their monster pike. Pan fish and perch are abundant. A flooding of the Thunder Bay River, the waters are filled with stumps which make a perfect fish habitat.
Indoor Winter Activities
If you’re finding your nose a little numb from the cold, Alpena also has some amazing indoor things to explore. Do your active outdoor sports in the morning, take a lunch break at one of the great restaurants in Alpena, and then enjoy some of these indoor activities.
If you want a museum the whole family can enjoy, the Besser Museum offers art, history, and science. The museum includes a digital dome planetarium theater which is a big favorite with children and families.
The museum has a permanent art collection in the Wilson Fine Art Gallery and two galleries dedicated to local northeast Michigan artists. The history section includes the Avenue of Shops which takes you on a journey to Alpena in the 1890s, and the Alpena Flyer, an automobile produced in Alpena from 1910-1914 and in its prime considered one of the top ten cars in the world. Enjoy the museum’s Season of Light with trees decorated to represent different traditions and cultures.
There are lots of interesting exhibits the entire family will enjoy during your Alpena winter getaway!
Art in the Loft Gallery
For a taste of what the local, regional and national art scene is like, Art in the Loft Gallery offers exhibitions that change regularly. They also offer learning opportunities, culinary and visual workshops, and more. They are open to the public.
More Great Outdoor Activities
Now that you’ve warmed back up, you can head back outside and enjoy a few more outdoor activities. These are great sights to see in Alpena and should mean a chance to get out and experience them – without being out all day.
Covered Bridge at Duck Park
Built by a local builder to connect Duck Park to Island Park, The Covered Bridge at Duck Park is certainly scenic, and crossing over to the serenity of Island Park is what you need to do if you have come here to see the bridge. Wildlife is abundant in the Alpena Wildlife Sanctuary, which surrounds the island, and there is no telling what you might see.
Little Red Lighthouse
When it comes to lighthouses, the Little Red Lighthouse is the only one of its kind in the United States. Made of steel, this light serves a useful purpose, marking the harbor since the early days when the marker was just a lantern on a post. It is located in the City of Alpena Marina and it is worth a visit for the gorgeous views of Lake Huron from the break wall. Bring your camera, it is that unusual. Bald eagles nest along the shoreline behind the light, so keep your eyes peeled for these graceful raptors.
Ice Tree at Starlite Beach
What exactly is an ice tree? The Ice Tree at Starlite Beach is a man-made work of art. It is created with a hose going up through the middle of a steel structure. Warm water flows out and it freezes over the metal frame, and a cut pine tree is placed inside. After weeks of flowing and freezing water, it becomes pretty large and very impressive with a picturesque backdrop of Lake Huron in the distance.
Plan Your Menu
Now that you’ve chosen a few winter activities to enjoy during your weekend getaway to Alpena, it’s time to fuel your body for all the fun you’re going to have. Pick a few of these Alpena restaurants to enjoy during your weekend getaway!
Depending on where you stay, you may need to look for breakfast in town and after a morning of activities, you will have worked up an appetite.
Cabin Creek Coffee
Need to come in from the cold? Looking for a great cup of coffee? Look no further. Cabin Creek Coffee has a complete espresso bar and serves both hot and cold coffee and tea, hot chocolate, and smoothies.
If you need some food with your drink, they serve sandwiches, wraps, flatbread pizza, strata, toasted pitas, salads, and soup. If you’re here for breakfast, homemade baked goods are on offer as well as breakfast sandwiches. Their cub’s menu has a selection that appeals to kids 10 and under.
If you enjoy what you drink, you can take home coffee beans in one of their 20 blends and flavors.
Black Sheep Pub
Indulging in an English or local beer along with typical English pub food is the perfect way to warm up after a day of outdoor activity at Black Sheep Pub. Fish and chips, chicken curry, shepherd’s pie, and sandwiches with names like Big Ben and Westminster, let you know you can expect something out of the ordinary and maybe just a little British.
Don’t worry if British food isn’t your thing, plenty of burger options, overflowing appetizer plates, and a pizza menu to satisfy any pie lover are served. The staff is friendly, and the food is plentiful, so feel free to work up a big appetite before you drop in. But they do have menu options for smaller appetites and vegetarians.
Don’t forget to check out their Facebook page to see what live entertainment options are being offered on the weekend you are visiting.
If you are craving comfort food after your exhilarating day of activity, HopSide Brewery is the place to go. That, together with a rotating selection of craft beers, is what they are known for.
The beer is brewed on-site and is the perfect accompaniment to the food menu. You choose the flavor you are in the mood for and tell your server how to present it. Will it be a sandwich, a pizza, or nachos? Some options are buffalo chicken, Philly, or BYO (build your own).
Appetizers, dessert, and a kid’s menu are also offered. The atmosphere is relaxed, and it’s the perfect place for a family to chill and discuss what the plans are for tomorrow.
JJ’s Steak & Pizza House
If you want to get a good meal at a drive-thru, JJ’s Steak & Pizza House is the place to go in Alpena. If you want to sit, relax and take your time with your meal, you will feel very welcome in their dining room as well.
Are you having a hard time deciding what you are in the mood for? The huge menu here will surely have something to tempt you whether you’re looking for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Are they an Italian, Mexican, American, or Asian restaurant? Yes to all of the above!
Craving pizza or pasta, burritos or rice bowls, steak or ribs, a turkey dinner, or a juicy burger, you can have it here. The menu is family-friendly and caters to just about any type of comfort food you may be in the mood for.
Peruse the Local Wares
Alpena has a nice selection of local shops to tempt you. Browsers are always welcome and encouraged. No weekend in Alpena would be complete without visiting one or more of these great shops.
Bob’s Bullpen Comic Shop
This shop combines a lot of different elements working together under one roof. Thus, the name Bob’s Bullpen Comic Shop, because that’s what happens in a bullpen. The owner, Bob, is a lifelong comic lover, professional comic artist, and the store is his dream. If you are a comic lover too, you will find a lot to tempt you.
That would be enough reason to visit, but you can also dine at the Bull Dog gourmet hot dog restaurant, or play games in the 2 Bit Operation arcade. You can order your dog any way you would like, keep it simple, or you can have it loaded, like the Posen Potato Dog with Coney Sauce, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Nacho Cheese, Bacon, Chives & Pepper on a Specialty Bun, oh my.
Free gameplay comes with a value meal, so your next stop will be the 80s themed arcade for family fun.
The Rabbit Hole
This new shop is located in downtown Alpena in the former St Bernard’s Church rectory. The Rabbit Hole is an eclectic mix of the owner’s artwork and painted furniture, the owner’s daughters’ photography, and a curated selection of gift items.
The artist works in acrylics and uses the 148-acre family farm where she lives as inspiration for many of her pieces. In the shop, she took those canvasses and recreated them on metal. She uses her creativity to turn castoff furniture into pieces of unique art.
If you enjoy shopping for the unusual, go down the rabbit hole like Alice in Wonderland did and go home with something special to treasure.
Chippewa Valley Leatherworks
Are you looking for a small leather crafting shop that also features a vintage mercantile where you can find some one-of-a-kind vintage clothing as well as items from other local artisans? At Chippewa Valley Leatherworks each leather item you purchase here was cut, sewn, and pieced together by hand by the owners.
Nothing beats the Michigan-made quality of handcrafted leather items, whether you are looking for a wallet, leather apron, bracket, dangle earrings, keychain, or tote, it will be of exceptional style and quality. Shopping here is a great way to support local artisans.
Cedar and Threads
For a family-owned shop that offers great items for men, women, and kiddos, too, Cedar and Threads is the place to go. You will be treated like a member of the family as soon as you enter the shop.
They offer clothing, gift items, accessories, and locally produced items like a full line of Svede’s Old World remedies that still work today.
Make a Reservation for Fun
Now that you’ve planned your days, it’s time to find a place to call home during your visit to Alpena this winter. We have some suggestions to make sure you have a goodnight’s sleep and are ready for all the great winter activities Alpena has to offer!
Dew Drop Inn
Dew Drop Inn If you are looking for clean, comfortable, and affordable accommodation, this is the place to stay. No frills, but the rooms do include a small fridge to store your drinks and leftovers. High-speed internet is provided, 100 channels of television as well as four different room options depending on what you need.
If you like the personal touch of a small family-run motel, this is a perfect choice. Located on the outskirts of town, the location is quiet, so getting a good night of sleep is no problem.
Alpena Resorts With rooms that were renovated in 2020, this motel has a lot of positives. An indoor heated pool and spa are a big attraction, especially for the kids. The fitness room will appeal to the adults, as well as the guest laundry, and included breakfast.
Rooms come equipped with Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV with cable, microwave, coffee maker, mini-fridge, and other necessities. Rooms are spacious and well decorated and come with different bed options. You won’t be disappointed with your room or the bed.
Additional Alpena Lodging Options
There is no shortage of family-friendly lodging options in Alpena. Find one that fits your family and your budget for the perfect home-away-from-home this winter!