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7 Winter Towns & Things to Do in Northern Michigan (Lower Peninsula)

Michigan is one of the most versatile places to visit if you enjoy getting the most out of what each season has to offer. Whether you’re in the mood to visit a local beach covered in snow, head up to a ski lodge, go ice fishing, or explore a scenic winter drive, winter in Northern Michigan has something for just about everyone.

Here are a few of our favorite winter things to do in Northern Michigan on the south side of the Bridge…

Visit Traverse City in the Winter

Traverse City is one of the most well-known vacation destinations and attractions throughout the state of Michigan. Located in the northwest region of the lower peninsula, Traverse City is home to two Michigan bays and some of the most beautiful views that the state has to offer. 

Traverse City - M-22, Towns To Visit In Winter, Winter In Northern Michigan
Traverse City | photo via @dzwphoto

Winter Getaways

If you love staying active, even during the coldest months of the year, the best winter things to do in Traverse City deliver. From skiing and tubing to enjoying a getaway at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa or one of the best boutique hotels in Traverse City, you can have plenty of fun during the wintertime in Traverse City.

Grand Traverse Resort And Spa, Traverse City - Winter In Northern Michigan
Grand Traverse Resort and Spa | photo via @spagrandtraverse

Outdoor Winter Recreation

From renting snowmobiles to exploring the nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with a professional snowshoe hiking experience is just one of the many ways to get the most out of visiting Traverse City, Michigan during the winter months. 

Winter Family Fun

Oh, and if you are in Traverse City on a Saturday morning, consider visiting the downtown State Theatre for a cheap movie showing. Every Saturday morning at 10 a.m., the State Theatre offers both live-action and animated films or shows for just $.25 per child. 

State Theatre, Traverse City - Winter In Northern Michigan
State Theatre | photo via @therevelrose

Eat & Drink

During the coldest months of the year, visit Traverse City to spend time at local lighthouses and bay restaurants solely for the view. Enjoy exploring Traverse City wineries, hopping the best craft breweries in Traverse City, while also exploring chili cook-offs and even the annual Yeti-Fest in nearby Sutton’s Bay. For even more wineries check out Old Mission Peninsula.

Sutton's Bay - Winter In Northern Michigan
Sutton’s Bay | photo via @saylikforbes

Find Adventure in Petoskey During the Off-Season

Petoskey is often recalled by name due to the popular stone found by the same name. The Petoskey stone is known as a variety of the mineral Calcite. Petoskey stones are considered stones formed by the ancient fossilization of various coral such as Hexagonaria.

Today, the stones can most commonly be found on different beaches, including both Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Petoskey stones are commonly discovered throughout Petoskey, Michigan, Traverse City, and even Alpena

Off-Season Beaches

You can find Petoskey stones while simply walking the various beaches and bays in northern Michigan, or even by exploring nearby tourist shops and roadside stands. However, you may find it a bit cold to go searching for Petoskey stones in the dead of winter, especially when there is plenty of snow and ice covering the ground.

Petoskey State Park, Petoskey - Winter In Northern Michigan
Petoskey State Park | photo via @jenniferwinnell

Skiing in Petoskey

Petoskey is not only known for its historical stones, but also for the ski adventures it provides. Currently, Petoskey is home to more than 160 downhill runs, making it one of the most suitable skiing destinations in Michigan during the winter. From Nub’s Nob to Boyne Highlands, there is plenty of action for anyone who enjoys skiing, recreationally as well as professionally. 

Boyne Highlands

Boyne Highlands offers 55 downhill runs, which also includes one of Michigan’s longest ski runs, coming in at over 1.25 miles. There is also night riding, zipline adventures, and a 13-foot halfpipe, in addition to a complete tubing park, cross-country skiing areas, and even complete instruction for ski and snowboarding. 

Boyne Highlands, Harbor Springs - Northern Michigan Cross-County Ski, Cross-Country Skiing In Michigan, Winter In Northern Michigan
Boyne Highlands | photo via Brandi O’Granning

Boyne Mountain Resort

Located about 30 minutes from Boyne Highlands, Boyne Mountain Resort has been offering skiers and riders an opportunity to enjoy some great terrain since 1972. With 75 trails spread across three mountains, this area is perfect for beginners, intermediate, advanced, and expert skiers alike.

In addition, ice skating, snow tubing, cross-country skiing, fat tire biking, snowshoeing, and Avalanche Bay indoor waterpark make this a family-friendly winter destination in Michigan!

Boyne Mountain, Boyne Falls - Winter In Northern Michigan
Boyne Mountain | photo via Brandi O’Granning

Nub’s Nob

For a more family-friendly visit, check out Nub’s Nob, which includes 3 separate peaks for a total of 53 slopes that are suitable for any skill level. Learn how to ski and snowboard at Nub’s Nob, rent equipment, or even enjoy night skiing with the whole family. 

Nub's Nob, Harbor Springs - Winter In Northern Michigan
Nub’s Nob | photo via @whatkatefinds

More to Explore

For even more adventure, visit the Petoskey State Park or explore Tap 30 Pourhouse, where you can explore 30 unique beers on tap in addition to an extensive, yet seasonal menu. 

Enjoy Everything Winter Has to Offer in Gaylord

Gaylord, Michigan, is known as a top destination for nature lovers year-round, even during the coldest and snowiest months of the year. Anyone who has a penchant for nature and spending time outdoors is sure to find something to do in Gaylord.

Skiing in Gaylord

For the adventurous type who enjoys skiing and getting outdoors, even after the temperature has dropped, head over to Ostego Resort or Treetops Resort, two major skiing destinations for anyone spending time outdoors in Gaylord.

Treetops Resort, Gaylord - Cross-Country Skiing In Michigan, Winter In Northern Michigan
Treetops Resort | photo via @dronephotographer2020

Outdoor Adventures

Whether you are trying out elk viewing on state land, hiking, or even biking, Gaylord is an ideal destination for those who simply can’t get enough of the great outdoors. Visit Gaylord’s City Elk Park or Aspen Park to get the full experience of Gaylord while also getting a chance to see the mysterious and majestic elk of the area. 

Gaylord's City Elk Park, Gaylord - Towns To Visit In Winter, Winter In Northern Michigan
Gaylord’s City Elk Park | photo via @kmagnes

Indoor Fun

One of the biggest attractions located in Gaylord includes the Call of the Wild Museum & Gift Shop, open year-round. Visitors are welcomed with real displays of black bears, coyotes, whitetail deer, moose, and even majestic elk. The Call of the Wild Museum is a great place for the whole family, especially if you are interested in learning more about the habitat and behavior of winter animals in Michigan. 

Call Of The Wild, Gaylord - Terrific Museums, Winter In Northern Michigan
Call of the Wild | photo courtesy of @lorakasik

Spend Time Decompressing in Alpena this Winter

Alpena, Michigan is one of the most visually appealing and well-known destinations in Northern Michigan. While originally a logging town, Alpena has since been transformed into a thriving tourist destination that still provides plenty of manufacturing jobs to go around for those who reside in the town year-round.

There are many great winter things to do in Alpena, making it a great winter vacation destination!

Explore the Outdoors

Although the sandy beaches of Alpena may be too cold to truly enjoy during the brisk winter months, there are plenty of other ways to make the most of your time in the area. Alpena’s Island Park & Wildlife Sanctuary is 17 acres and is surrounded by the Thunder Bay River itself.

Although some of the paths and woodlands may be closed off or inaccessible during the wintertime, the park itself also includes a viewing platform that can be accessed year-round (and is handicapped-accessible). 

Island Park &Amp; Wildlife Sanctuary, Alpena - Towns To Visit In Winter, Best Things To Do In Alpena, Winter In Northern Michigan
Island Park & Wildlife Sanctuary | photo via @karfar

Frozen Lighthouses

If you want to take a break from nature walks, consider stopping by the numerous lighthouses that Alpena has to offer. Some of the most well-known lighthouses in and around Alpena include Alpena Light, Old Presque Isle, as well as New Presque Isle.

New Presque Isle Light, Presque Isle - Winter In Northern Michigan
New Presque Isle Light | photo via @eldonmcgrawmedia

Experience History

For the history buff, you shouldn’t miss stopping by the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, where you can explore old shipwrecks through interactive dive tubes for the ultimate experience. With more than 10,000 square feet, the heritage center has something for everyone to explore. 

Enjoy Winter in Ludington

Located in Mason County, Ludington is another prime location for those interested in a scenic outdoor getaway. In addition to plenty of nature trails and summer-centric outdoor activities, there is plenty to do during the wintertime here as well.

Outdoor Recreation

Near downtown Ludington, tourists and residents alike can take advantage of both winter snowshoeing as well as winter hiking trails and adventures. Explore groomed trails, nature preserves, and more during your winter vacation in Ludington.

Frozen Lighthouses

Touring lighthouses in Ludington is another way to take in the beautiful scenery that Michigan has to offer, even during the winter months. Ludington has numerous lighthouses to offer, including Big Sable Lighthouse, North Breakwater Lighthouse, and Little Point Lighthouse. 

Big Sable Point Light, Ludington - Winter In Northern Michigan
Big Sable Point Light | photo via @_sovereign_photography_

Craft Beer

When you are ready to wind down, head into downtown Ludington to explore its craft beer scene. Ludington is currently home to numerous brewing companies and festivals, which are active year-round. 

Experience Mackinaw City in the Winter

You have likely heard of the Mackinac Bridge and Mackinac Island, even if you are not a Michigander or a full-time resident of Michigan. However, how much do you know about Mackinaw City, the city just south of the bridge itself?

If you are looking for a quiet northern Michigan getaway, consider staying a night or two at a local Mackinaw City hotel once the crowds of summer have dispersed.

Mackinac Bridge - Winter In Northern Michigan
Mackinac Bridge | photo via @inspiredbymovement

Eat & Play

Exploring some of the most well-known Mackinaw area restaurants, such as Key Hole Bar & Grill, The Dixie Saloon, and Chippewa Room at Audie’s Restaurant is a favorite pastime for visitors.

There are various Michigan lighthouses to visit as well as a full winterfest during select weekends for additional entertainment and adventure. 

Explore Ocqueoc Falls this Winter

Michigan is known for its beautiful lighthouses, lakes, and even its waterfalls. However, many waterfalls located in Michigan are located in the Upper Peninsula. During the winter, the waterfalls in the UP are not always as accessible, nor do they provide any other activities to enjoy. 

If you want to traverse gorgeous waterfall sights, consider heading over to Presque Isle, just a short drive from Rogers City, where you will find Ocqueoc Falls. Did you know that Michigan’s largest waterfall in the lower peninsula, Ocqueoc Falls, is also the only universally accessible waterfall in the entire country? 

Ocqueoc Falls &Amp; Bicentennial Trail - Winter In Northern Michigan
Ocqueoc Falls | photo via @iamjustlibby

More Winter Fun in Michigan

During the winter months, there is no need to stay inside and hibernate, as Michigan’s Lower Peninsula has plenty to offer. From snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and exploring scenic locations, there is never a dull moment or season in Northern Michigan.

Whether you are visiting Northern Michigan in winter for its frozen lighthouses and winter wineries or if you are looking for a way to relax and decompress in nature during the wintertime, the options are virtually endless when you are surrounded by The Great Lakes!

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