Looking for the best winter things to do in Metro Detroit? Here’s a sample of the winter fun that you can have in southeast Michigan’s winter wonderland…
Metro Detroit is the jewel of southeastern Michigan and the most populous city in the state. Detroit is home to the big three automakers, professional sports teams, and some of the best musical talents the world has ever seen. From Motown Records to the Model T, Detroit has produced some of the nation’s most culturally significant entertainers and manufactured products.
The Detroit Lions, Red Wings, and Pistons all host professional sporting events during the wintertime in and near the Motor City. But there is a whole lot more to do in Detroit during the winter than attend sporting events.
If you are planning a stay in Metro Detroit this winter, the following are some of the more entertaining options to make it a truly memorable trip.
Fox Theatre and Detroit Theater District
Detroit is all about music and live theater and has the nation’s largest theater district located outside of New York City. The Fox Theatre in the downtown area is among the very best in the nation.
The 5,000-seat venue features Victorian styling with gilded balconies and exceptional natural sound quality. Some of the world’s best touring acts and off-Broadway shows routinely come to the Fox Theatre and always leave impressed with its history and quality.
If you want to continue enjoying music outside of the Fox, Detroit’s theater district offers many great options. A short drive up Woodward Avenue can put you right in the heart of it with a wide range of nightclubs and small theaters offering a wide range of music and stage shows.
Most are in affordable locations and many have hosted legendary acts, from Harry Houdini to Michael Jackson and beyond.
Thanksgiving Day Parade & Lions Game
If you are a fan of parades and early winter holidays, the annual America’s Thanksgiving Parade is on par with those televised on national TV prior to the annual Thanksgiving Day feasts and football events, and is one of the best holiday events in Metro Detroit!
The Detroit Lions is the NFL team that has hosted the holiday game for many decades. The Lions still host an annual holiday game at Ford Field in downtown Detroit. The holiday parade and game make for a terrific day of fun.
Detroit Art and Museum Venues
Detroit has many great venues to learn about history and culture. The Detroit Institute of Arts provides a museum, arthouse film theater, and live performances on occasion. It is a family-friendly venue that offers discounted admission for local residents but still is affordable for visitors.
You can view a variety of art from many prominent and lesser-known artists. The Detroit Institute of Arts hosts one of the nation’s largest collections of art and offers tours and interactive games and events. You even can enjoy dining and shopping in downtown Detroit at Kresge Court and use the Wi-fi to share your selfies and great pictures with your friends and family.
The Lincoln Street Art Park repurposes a former industrial area into a local artists showcase. You can view murals, sculptures, and even live artists and musicians when the winter weather is warm enough.
The Lincoln Street Art Park is a free and collaborative project that is supported by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Detroit Recreation Department.
The outdoor art site is open every day of the year, including rainy or snowy winter days in Detroit. The location includes a seating area and a small library for your perusal. It is an all-ages venue that puts a decidedly urban outlet for art.
Greenfield Village in Dearborn
Henry Ford was a significant influence in Detroit as well as the world and had a fondness for history. Ford’s love of history and historical artifacts resulted in his founding of Greenfield Village in Dearborn.
Greenfield Village provides lifelike recreations of historic times and places over a very large campus donated by Henry Ford. Greenfield Village gives you a first-hand feel for what it was like to live in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with period-correct buildings, equipment, and even costumed performers.
It is the kind of place where you can visit Thomas Edison’s actual laboratory from Menlo Park. That is because Henry Ford bought the culturally significant lab where the light bulb and many other world-changing inventions were created. Ford made sure the lab is in the same condition that it was when Edison and his creative team made many significant breakthroughs.
You can enjoy Greenfield Village through the winter months and especially during the Holiday Nights held in the evenings during December. The holiday fun includes free carousel rides, ice skating with free skate rentals, carolers, and demonstrations of holiday cooking.
You can view decorated homes and shops, watch artisans at work and even buy a Christmas tree to take home. The holiday festival concludes with a fireworks display.
February Black History Month Visit
February is Black History Month in the United States, and Detroit is one of the most significant American cities for African-Americans.
A visit to Detroit during Black History Month would be especially beneficial with a stop at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The museum is one of the first of its kind and helps to affirm Detroit’s significance for people of African-American descent.
The museum was founded in 1965 during the height of the civil rights crusade then cascading across the land. The Charles H. Wright Museum has served as one of the nation’s leading sources of artifacts, history, arts and culture relating to the experiences of African-Americans in the United States.
The continually updated curations help to illustrate and teach visitors about the diverse histories and cultures of African-Americans, including origins in Africa.
Detroit Zoo and Sea Life Michigan Aquarium
The Detroit Zoo is the largest in Michigan and is host to a wide range of exotic species and other animals. It is open 362 days a year, which makes it a great destination throughout the winter months.
The cold-weather exhibits include the Polk Penguin Conservation Center and an Arctic Ring of Life that enables the often cold winter months to support unique exhibits during even the coldest winter days.
A newly added ice rink is situated within close view of the penguin exhibit so that you can enjoy the great winter fun while skating.
Another outstanding wintertime attraction is the Sea Life Michigan Aquarium in the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets. The Sea Life Michigan Aquarium contains more than 5,000 aquatic species, including those occupying the Great Lakes. You also get close-up views of sharks, jellyfish, stingrays, sea horses, and more.
Belle Isle Nature Center
As an extension of the Detroit Zoo, the Belle Isle Nature Center makes another excellent winter destination.
The Belle Isle Nature Center has lots of parking, clean bathrooms, vending machines for drinks and snacks, a small lounge area, outdoor spaces, programming throughout the year, and plenty to keep kids occupied on a cold day, or any time of the year.
Awesome Mitten writer Stefanie Caloia shares all about her fun winter visit to the nature center with her kids.
Your child probably never expressed a desire to act like an ant, but that’s exactly what they’ll want to do at the Belle Isle Nature Center.
It was the first thing to grab my kids’ attention when we entered the building: the play area made to look like an ant colony. The tunnels were small enough for me to say, “Looks like this is just for you guys – I’ll sit out here!” My diligent workers tended to their new home while I sat next to the cozy fireplace and even got a little of my own work done.
Eventually, we left the nest to enjoy the other parts of the nature center and learn about different species commonly found in Detroit.
We traveled through a sewer and emerged to find turtles, snakes, mudpuppies, and frogs. A window-lined cove gave us a view outside where birdseed fed squirrels, a trio of deer, and a variety of birds including blue jays and a plump red cardinal.
We learned about pollinators and met more insects – this time real live bees. We made animal tracks in a sandbox and learned to distinguish varieties of scat (a fun new word for two boys who find “poop” hilarious).
The exhibits led us in a loop around the nature center. Before we knew it, we were back to the colony where the worker ants played for a while longer, storing away food and digging more tunnels.Stefanie Caloia
Belle Isle Holiday Stroll
A wintertime trip to Detroit can be downright romantic if you and your significant other take a trip to Belle Isle. The annual Belle Isle Holiday Stroll offers family-oriented fun and recreation with a holiday theme.
The short days and long nights of December through New Year’s Day help to make the holiday stroll even more fun and attractive with holiday lights and decorations against a snowy backdrop.
While on the stroll, you can enjoy the Belle Isle treasures and enjoy an audio tour while driving in your own vehicle. Because you are doing the driving, the stroll is free while helping you and your passengers to stay comfortable on potentially cold evenings on Belle Isle.
The Holiday Stroll is in its fourth decade and is always popular among locals and visitors.
Campus Martius Park
Campus Martius Park has earned several accolades for public space design, administration, operations, placemaking, and programming, and was awarded “Top Public Square” by USA Today in 2021.
Visitors can enjoy a variety of winter activities in Detroit’s Campus Martius Park, including ice sculptures, ice skating, local musicians, and marshmallow roasting throughout the winter months.
If you feel hungry during your visit, stop by the Fountain Bistro to enjoy exquisite French dining in a casual ambiance while taking in the stunning views of Campus Martius Park. In the winter, half a million glittering holiday lights adorn The Rink at Campus Martius Park and Detroit’s Christmas Tree.
A list of the best winter things to do in Metro Detroit has to include ice skating at Campus Martius Park… in fact, The Rink at Campus Martius Park is considered to be one of the best outdoor ice skating rinks in Michigan, bringing guests from all over the state each winter. Rental skates are available if you don’t have your own.
More to Explore in Metro Detroit This Winter
While it is fun to explore downtown Detroit and the downtown areas of its suburbs, there is so much more to explore in Metro Detroit during the winter months. Metro Detroit cross country skiing trails are prevalent throughout the area, and Michigan snowshoeing areas are popular places for outdoor winter fun.
If you’re looking for a bit more thrilling adventure in Michigan this winter, check out some of the best downhill skiing near southeast Michigan, or grab your toboggan and hit one of the best sledding hills in the area!