No matter where you live in Northern Michigan, it seems to be easier to plan summer activities than winter activities. However, there are plenty of winter things to do in Traverse City. Below are 25 of the best winter activities in Traverse City and places to visit for couples and families with children.
Best Traverse City Winter Activities to Do Indoors
Howe Ice Arena and Centre Ice Arena
Ice skating is a popular Traverse City, Michigan, winter activity, and the city has two arenas: Howe Ice Arena and Centre Ice Arena. Both offer an open skate, twilight open skate, and hockey for all ages. You can rent whatever skates, pucks, and sticks that you need. While Howe Ice Arena in the Grand Traverse County Civic Center is only open between September and March, Centre Ice Arena is open all year.
X-Golf Traverse City
Just because it’s cold or snowy outside doesn’t mean that you have to give up golf. You can continue to play and work on your form at X-Golf Traverse City, the area’s premier indoor golf venue. It has state-of-the-art golf simulators that make each swing realistic and accurate. The coolest part is that you can play some of the best golf courses in Michigan and around the world.
The Coin Slot
For more indoor games, check out the arcade at The Coin Slot in downtown Traverse City. It has Frogger, Donkey Kong, Centipede, Galaga, and other classics. There are billiards and several pinball and Skee-Ball machines too. While you play, you can choose from the city’s biggest selection of beer, wine, cocktails, cider, and hard seltzer.
Tours at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons
Visiting The Village at Grand Traverse Commons has become one of the favorite things to do in Traverse City in winter, especially among out-of-towners. This former Traverse City State Hospital has a unique and abundant history, and you can get a full tour of the grounds. If you’re brave, consider booking the after-dark experience or the private escape to the asylum. There’s even a tour that includes tastings of wine and beer.
The Village Farmers Market
Every week, local farmers in the Traverse City region sell their harvests at The Village Farmers Market. You can find eggs, mushrooms, fish, meats, winter greens, homemade treats, and more. From November through April, they set up shop in The Mercato corridor. It’s the best way to get fresh, seasonal ingredients and foods.
Movies and Theater Performances
Downtown Traverse City is no stranger to indoor entertainment in the way of films and performances. The State Theatre and Bijou by the Bay are two venues that offer a classic movie experience. The State Theatre is the Motion Picture Association of America’s top theater in the world.
Opened in 1892, the City Opera House is one of only seven remaining historic Victorian structures in the state and hosts professional artists and community events. The Old Town Playhouse is an amateur theater that was built in 1960 and has a main stage and studio theater for a range of performances.
If you want the most updated movie experience, consider the AMC Classic Cherry Blossom 14. The theater has a premium IMAX theater. It’s located close to Grand Traverse Mall, which offers tons of indoor shopping.
Best Outdoor Things to Do in Traverse City in Winter
For the ultimate winter outdoor experience, you can’t go wrong at Mt. Holiday. Formed in 1949, it features some of the best skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing. You can go on winter zip line Traverse City adventures over the ski slopes. The line has 10 stations and extends for more than 4,000 feet.
Hickory Hills Ski Area
With eight downhill ski runs for all skills levels, Hickory Hills Ski Area has an abundance of Traverse City winter activities. Also, there are nearly 2 miles of cross-country trails, including a half-mile loop. You can warm up in the lodge, which has a snack bar.
Grand Traverse Commons Natural Area
The Village is located within 480 acres of protected parkland. As such, the Grand Traverse Commons Natural Area is a beautiful place for a winter walk, especially after a snowfall. It’s the biggest park in the area and has 140 acres of unpaved trails. Because of that, it’s popular for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and other winter activities.
Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails
Providing miles of walking and hiking, the TART Trails have several attractive things to do in Traverse City in winter. The 7-mile Boardman River Trail that connects the North Country Trail to Mayfield Pond Park is open for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The same goes for the series of loops at Vasa Pathway. The 17-mile Leelanau Trail from Traverse City to Suttons Bay offers cross-country skiing.
Winter Sports Singletrack
You can enjoy cross-country skiing, fat biking, and snowshoeing on the more than 9-mile Winter Sports Singletrack. Groomed by the Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association, the trail is open from December through March.
Mission Point Lighthouse Park
Although you can’t tour the lighthouse during the winter, Mission Point Lighthouse Park remains open all year. The miles of trails are great for fat biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just enjoying the scenery. Markers and maps are posted at each trailhead for your convenience and safety.
Best Traverse City Winter Festivals and Events
Ladies’ and Men’s Shopping Nights in December
As winter approaches, downtown Traverse City hosts a Ladies’ Shopping Night with special discounts and refreshments for women as they shop for the holidays. The following week, the city holds Men’s Shopping Night with similar offerings.
Winter Warm-Up in January
One of the first true Traverse City winter events is the Winter Warm-Up. It involves visiting 10 wineries for special food and wine pairings in celebration of the new year. At the first winery, you get a souvenir wineglass.
Downtown Chili Cook-Off in January
One of the tastiest things to do in Traverse City in winter is to attend the Downtown Chili Cook-Off. This annual event is a fundraiser for the Downtown Traverse City Association and helps fund free community events throughout the year. Local restaurants compete in several chili categories, and you get to vote for your favorite.
North American Vasa Festival of Races in February
Since 1977, Traverse City has hosted the North American Vasa Festival of Races. Anyone can participate in the cross-country skiing races, including beginners. The races vary in length from about 3.5 miles to 31 miles. There are snowshoe and fat bike races as well as a host of other festivities too.
Traverse City Restaurant Week in February
For another tasty event, partake in Traverse City Restaurant Week. This culinary experience offers three-course meals at about 40 restaurants for as cheap as $25 per person. The restaurants offer carefully crafted menus that display their talents.
Suds & Snow in March
Before the weather starts to warm up, adults can check out Suds & Snow. This Traverse City winter beer fest is held every year and involves an afternoon of beer, cider, and wine from local craft breweries and wineries. Food trucks and restaurants in the area offer an array of foods. There’s live music also.
Best Wineries, Breweries, and Tours in Traverse City in Winter
Visiting Chateau Chantal is one of the all-inclusive Traverse City things to do in winter. This winery and bed-and-breakfast offers the full package with cellar tours, five-course wine dinners, a trail around the grounds, and scenic views from the tasting room. You can expect seasonal entertainment during your visit or stay.
The Filling Station Microbrewery
With something for patrons of all ages, The Filling Station Microbrewery is a one-of-a-kind venue in Traverse City. It serves some of the highest quality handcrafted beers in the area, and they pair perfectly with the housemade wood-fired pizzas. You can enjoy a meal and brew inside or on the patio with live music and an occasional passing train.
Traverse City Wine and Beer Tours
If you want the best of both worlds and don’t want to worry about driving, Traverse City Wine and Beer Tours has you covered. It offers a variety of join-in and private Traverse City winter wine tours on Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula. You can even book tours to other parts of Northern Michigan.
Best Winter Activities Near Traverse City
Incredible Mo’s in Grawn
If you want something fun for the whole family outside of Traverse City, go to Incredible Mo’s. This entertainment venue has an array of activities, including a playroom for toddlers and traditional and cosmic bowling. On some nights, it hosts live music, team trivia, and karaoke events. Best of all, it’s the location of Escapology, which offers a premium escape game experience.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
For cross-country skiing and winter activities outside of Traverse City, target=”_blank”Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a popular spot in between Glen Arbor and Empire. In particular, the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is ideal for skiing and snowshoeing, but there are many trails. You can climb and sled down the dunes as well.
Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville
Another Northern Michigan destination for winter zip line and snow tubing experiences is Crystal Mountain. It offers a host of winter activities, including skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, and ice skating. Michigan Legacy Art Park and outdoor laser tag are available all year. On top of that, there’s an indoor pool and plenty of retail shops and restaurants.
45 North Vineyard & Winery in Lake Leelanau
One of the few wineries that offers winter activities, 45 North Vineyard & Winery has a 3-mile recreational trail loop that it grooms for fat biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. After a day in the snow, you can head into the tasting room to warm up with a glass of handcrafted cider or wine.
Explore Traverse City, Michigan, in Winter… and All Year Long
Aside from the best things to do in Traverse City in winter, the city offers activities, events, and things to do in Traverse City any time of the year. Check out some of these cheap and free ideas things to do in Traverse City with children. Also, there are lots more Traverse City vineyards and wineries to explore.
Winter Things to Do in Traverse City photos shared by @traversecitytourism on Instagram