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12 Winter Things to Do in Southwest Michigan: Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, South Haven, & More

In many places, winter is a time of year when things shut down and everyone huddles at home. But that’s not the case in Michigan! If anything, the dropping temperatures and falling snow are a sign that things are about to pick up.

Southwest Michigan is known for its high snowfall, so it is a great place to be during the winter. Whether you are looking for winter sports, cultural activities, holiday celebrations, or something else, there is always something to do, even when the temperature drops outside. 

If you are looking for winter things to do in Southwest Michigan, here are the top Michigan winter fun activities that should be on your list! 

Holland - Winter In Southwest Michigan

Winter Things to Do in Kalamazoo

Take Part in the Annual Kalamazoo Polar Plunge

If you are feeling brave, take a trip over to Kalamazoo to be a part of the annual Polar Plunge. This event takes place in late winter when the ice starts to melt — but it’s still pretty cold!

Every year, hundreds of participants leap into freezing outdoor water to raise money for the Michigan Special Olympics. It takes some real courage, but many people love the adrenaline-inducing leap into the subzero water.

A party for all the participants follows immediately, so you will have plenty of opportunities to warm up while enjoying games, food, and camaraderie.

Go Ice Skating

There is nothing like ice skating the way it was meant to be — outside on a winter day under a clear blue sky. The outdoor ice rink at Millennium Park in Portage, MI offers skate rentals and skate sharpening services. There are also concessions and a locker room as well as other on-site facilities.

Needless to say, this is one of the most popular outdoor rinks in Michigan throughout the winter! When you are ready to leave the ice, feel free to explore the rest of the park, including the nearby bike trail. This is the perfect spot for family-friendly outdoor fun during the Michigan winter.

Millennium Park Skating Rink, Portage - Michigan Ice Skating Rinks, Winter In Southwest Michigan
Millennium Park Skating Rink | photo via @rddoan

Enjoy Outdoor Winter Sports

Southwest Michigan is an extremely popular spot for outdoor sports and winter activities, even (and maybe especially!) during the winter. 

Travel to Kalamazoo and you will find people hitting the slopes for skiing and snowboarding at Bittersweet Ski Resort, no matter what the temperature is. Meanwhile, there are also many opportunities for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Throughout the area, you will find places to rent every kind of winter sports equipment and take a learning course. You can even rent fat-tire bikes to explore the snow! Ask anyone in the area and they can tell you about the best local places in Kalamazoo for tubing, sledding, and tobogganing, too.

Bittersweet Ski Resort, Otsego - Southern Michigan Downhill Ski, Winter In Southwest Michigan
Bittersweet Ski Resort | photo via @hailno_98_photo

Visit Christmas Card Lane – Kalamazoo

If you love all things Christmas-related, make sure to take a trip to Kalamazoo this December. Here, you will find Christmas Card Lane, a tradition that has been going strong since 1965.

Homes throughout the neighborhood put up larger-than-life Christmas cards, festive light displays, and more. Today, there are more than 40 Christmas cards on Christmas Card Lane, drawing visitors from miles around. 

Winter Things to Do in South Haven

Visit the Mistletoe Market in South Haven

Christmas markets are a beloved part of celebrating the holidays in many places around the world. This market features art from local artists based all over Southern Michigan. Visitors will find everything from gift baskets to art pieces for sale, making this a perfect place to shop for holiday gifts.

The market also offers the chance to meet the artists and learn about their work! You can also find gourmet food items at the market, so you’re guaranteed not to leave empty-handed.

Winter Market In Holland, Holland - Winter In Southwest Michigan
Winter Market in Holland | photo via @paulareneeartstudio

Visit a Michigan Beach in Winter

Visiting a beach during winter might sound odd, but it is worth it! Though the water is too cold to take a dip in the winter, the beaches around Michigan remain popular throughout the season thanks to the beautiful ice formations.

The best Michigan beaches continue to draw tourists and locals alike, who bundle up and hit the dunes. Many of these ice formations have their own special names, such as pancake ice and ice volcanoes.

Whether you explore a South Haven beach along Lake Michigan or venture further south to enjoy the beauty of Warren Dunes State Park, visiting West Michigan beaches and lighthouses in the winter is a unique and awe-inspiring experience.

North Beach, South Haven - Winter In Southwest Michigan
South Haven North Beach | photo via @marcus_the_pacifist

Winter Things to Do in St Joseph

Attend Light Up The Bluff

Holiday light displays in Michigan are one of the best parts of the winter, and Southwest Michigan isn’t lacking for them!

The first Friday of December marks the start of the annual Light Up The Bluff event in St. Joseph. On that night, visitors can attend a community tree lighting that kicks off the season. The local high school choir provides musical accompaniment. Then the light display is turned on through Lake Bluff Park.

This holiday light display in southwest Michigan features more than one million lights! If you can’t make it to the tree lighting, don’t worry — the event lasts until February. 

Light Up The Bluff, St. Joseph  - Winter In Southwest Michigan
St. Joseph | photo via @cheersmilwaukee

Raise a Glass at the St. Joseph Winter Beer Fest 

What’s better to warm you up in a frigid Michigan winter than some local craft beer? This outdoor event takes place in January and features craft beer from breweries all over the state.

Visitors pay a single entrance fee and can spend the day sampling different locally-made beers from all over Michigan. This popular event draws visitors from all over the region. Any craft beer lovers will enjoy bundling up and hitting the icy streets of St. Joseph to taste the best of local Michigan brews.

The participating breweries change yearly, but you might be able to find returning favorites!

Winter Village, Baroda - Winter In Southwest Michigan
Winter Village | photo via @jodonnell03

More Winter Things to Do in Southwest Michigan

Visit a Winter Village in Baroda

Take a trip to Baroda this year and you’ll find a winter village complete with heated tents, outdoor fire pits, and plenty of activities. This attraction is the perfect combination of indoor comforts and outdoor adventures.

Visitors take a walk around the nearby trails or kick back in front of a fire to sip a holiday beverage. Hosted by a local winery, the event also features guided tastings and has plenty of options for food and drinks. Some of the featured beverages include hot mulled cider and hot chocolate with cream wine.

Meanwhile, visitors are also invited to bring their own gear and hit the nearby trails for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.

Winter Village, Baroda - Winter In Southwest Michigan
Winter Village | photo via @chick.a.go

Attend a Polar Party in Bridgman

If the post-New Year blues are getting you down, take a trip over to the town of Bridgman to join in their annual Polar Party. This event takes place in the late winter and features tons of events for adults and kids alike.

Hosted in a giant igloo, the party offers visitors the chance to play games and even watch an outdoor movie in the snow. Kids may even get the opportunity to meet Disney princesses Anna and Elsa (and Kristoff, too!).

An onsite ice bar offers an extensive drinks menu, so there is plenty to eat and drink for visitors of every age. 

Dutch Winterfest, Holland - Winter In Southwest Michigan
Dutch Winterfest | photo via @downtownholland

Rent a Fat Tire Bike

If you have never heard of a fat tire bike, you must be new to Michigan! These super fun off-road bikes are a must for exploring the outdoors during the winter.

You can find rentals all over Southwest Michigan, including in Allegan, where visitors have the chance to explore property alongside the Castle in the Country Bed and Breakfast. These 65 acres are the prime place to enjoy whizzing along the snowy countryside on a fat tire bike.

If it is your first time, you are in for an adventure — there’s a reason why fat tire bikes are considered an unmissable winter sport experience in Michigan!

Visit The Dutch Winterfest – Holland

Have you ever wanted to travel abroad without even leaving Michigan? Then the town of Holland’s annual Dutch Winterfest should be on your list of the best winter things to do in Holland!

This event, in the tradition of classic European Christmas markets, features open-air shops, gourmet food, and many gifts to buy. Meanwhile, kids will get the chance to visit with Santa Claus (or Sinterklaas, as he’s known here) and even pet some reindeer.

You’ll also find live musical performances and plenty to eat and drink. Make sure you get there in time for the annual tree-lighting ceremony! 

Dutch Winterfest, Holland - Towns To Visit In Winter, Small Business Saturday, Winter In Southwest Michigan
Dutch Winterfest | photo via @downtownholland

More Winter Things to Do in Michigan

With the potential of 4-5 months of accumulating snowfall each year, Michigan is a winter wonderland. Southwest Michigan boasts many unique winter things to do along Lake Michigan’s shoreline during the winter months like cross-country skiing, skiing, winter beer fest, or dinning in an igloo, but there are so many more winter things to do in Michigan if you travel beyond this region!

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