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Warm Up This Winter with the Best Winter Things to Do in the Thumb Area of Michigan

When wintertime rolls around, there is no shortage of fun activities to partake in the thumb of Michigan. Winters in the Mitten State can be cold and snowy, particularly in January and February, but snow and cold shouldn’t stop you from having fun.

Longtime Michiganders know the best way to pass the winter months is to embrace the cold, get outdoors, and have fun. With access to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter hiking, as well as other great winter things to do, Michigan’s Thumb is a true Winter Wonderland. 

If you’re in Huron, Lapeer, Macomb, Sanilac, St Clair, or Tuscola County searching for fun things to do in Michigan’s Thumb this winter, this list can give you the lowdown on all the must-do winter activities.

Best Winter Things to Do in the Thumb: Winter Sports

If you’re all about skiing, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and sledding when winter comes around, Michigan’s Thumb offers no shortage of activities or places to go. During the winter, the outdoor paths are ideal for cross-country skiing, and sledding for the kids is always a wonderful way to spend the weekend.

Downhill Skiing

For downhill skiing, check out nearby Pine Knob Ski Resort in Oakland County or Mt. Holly in Holly, which also offers perfect trails for snowboarding as well as skiing.

Mt. Holly Ski And Snowboard Resort, Holly - Winter In Fenton, Southern Michigan Downhill Ski, Winter In The Thumb Area
Mt. Holly Ski and Snowboard Resort | photo via @mthollyskischool


There are many sledding hills throughout the Thumb Area that provide snow enthusiasts with a thrilling ride down on their favorite toboggan, sled, or saucer! A few of our favorite sledding hills in the Thumb include:

  • the hill next to the “Tank” by Judge James H. Lincoln Memorial Park in Harbor Beach 
  • “kindergarten hill” across from St. Huberts Sacred Heart Church in Bad Axe
  • the hill behind the little league fields at Pigeon Recreation Park in Pigeon
  • sledding hill in East China Township Park on Recor Rd in St Clair
East China Township Park, St Clair - Winter In The Thumb Area
East China Township Park | photo via @heather_daisy

Cross Country Skiing

One of the best winter workouts and a great way to explore the Thumb in winter is to grab your cross country skis (or rent a pair) and hit one of the many trails across this region. Some of our favorite cross country ski trails in Michigan’s Thumb region include:

Cross Country Skiing, Boyne Falls - Winter In Alpena, Winter In The Thumb Area
Cross Country Skiing | photo via Brandi O’Granning


If you’re new to riding in the Thumb region, the Thumbs Up Snowmobile Club is a terrific place to start. The group has worked hard to build and develop more than 50 miles of trails throughout the Thumb. They’ve partnered with the DNR to create trailheads and signage that are accessible throughout the Thumb region.

There are ice racing and snowmobile racing events all throughout the region.

Snowmobiling, Houghton - Best Things To Do In Alpena, Snowmobiling In Michigan, Winter In The Thumb Area
Snowmobiling | photo via @portagelakecabins

Ice Fishing

Fishing doesn’t stop in the winter in Michigan’s Thumb region. After the water has frozen, ice fishing attracts people from all over the world to the area’s ice-fishing shantytowns.

If you’re really trying to soak up the Pure Michigan experience, you’ve got to try some ice fishing in the Thumb this winter. Whether you’re an experienced angler with all the right equipment or you’re a newcomer looking for someone to show you the ropes, you’ll experience something truly special.

The Great Lakes Bay region is a year-round destination for passionate anglers and by mid-January, the ice is typically safe to fish on. Once you’re out on the ice, you can try your hand at catching walleye, bluegill, perch, pike, and other species. 

If you’re a newcomer to ice fishing, companies like Walleye King offer guided trips in Saginaw Bay. They’ll provide everything from the shanty to the fishing equipment and even give you a ride out to the fishing spot.

Ice Fishing - Winter In Alpena, Winter In The Thumb Area
Ice Fishing

Best Winter Things to Do in the Thumb: Winter Getaways

Whether you’re looking for a romantic winter getaway or somewhere to let the kids burn off some energy and avoid cabin fever, the Thumb and its nearby neighbors in Bay County have several winter getaway destinations that you should consider…

Explore Frozen Port Austin

Located just south of Lake Huron near South Haven, Port Austin is a quaint town filled with shops, restaurants, and lodging options. As winter approaches, Port Austin takes on a new level of beauty,  throughout the winter, there are numerous activities to enjoy in the Port Austin area.

In the winter, Port Austin is dominated by the gorgeous, frozen Lake Huron. If you’ve ever kayaked to Turnip Rock, the reef light, or more leisurely excursions down the coast, you’ll be fascinated to observe how the winter chill has changed these same places. The break wall covered with layers of ice and snow is also a can’t-miss sight!

Aside from the frozen shores of Lake Huron, there are innumerable unimproved roads, frozen rivers, and streams that serve as good snowmobile routes, parks with groomed cross-country skiing paths, and limitless opportunities for photographers seeking to showcase the region’s lesser-known features.

Port Austin is a great winter travel destination, whether you want to ice fish, kiteboard, hike, snowshoe, cross-country ski, or snowmobile.

Turnip Rock, Port Austin - Winter In The Thumb Area
Port Austin | photo via @greenglobefilms

Visit Frankenmuth in the Snow

Known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria, Frankenmuth is a popular tourist destination in the winter and offers something for everyone, and it’s not hard to see why, as visitors are instantly transported to a place that resembles a quaint German town.

Bavarian Inn Restaurant

If you’re craving a great, stick-to-your-ribs meal, check out Bavarian Inn Restaurant for their world-famous family-style chicken dinners. Once you’re done eating, check out the lower level of the restaurant for delicious homemade baked goods and unique gifts.

Bavarian Inn Restaurant, Frankenmuth - Winter In The Thumb Area
Bavarian Inn Restaurant | photo via @carmenfelicita

RiverPlace Shops

If you want to do some holiday shopping, check out downtown Frankenmuth or the RiverPlace Shops. The River Place shops consist of more than 40 attractions and shops, so you’re likely to find something for everyone if you’re searching for gifts. For a truly unique experience, try going on a tour of the town with a horse-drawn carriage ride. 

Riverplace Shops, Frankenmuth - Winter In The Thumb Area
RiverPlace Shops | photo via @riverplaceshops

Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland

If you’re all about Christmas, you can’t go wrong by visiting Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. If you’re looking for decorations, you’ll find a wonderland filled from wall to wall with everything you’re looking for. It’s easy to spend at least a couple of hours pouring over different sizes and styles of ornaments, Christmas trees, and other decorations.

Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, Frankenmuth - Small Business Saturday, Winter In The Thumb Area
Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland

Bavarian Inn Lodge

If you’re looking to get out of the cold, there is no shortage of indoor activities. If you want family fun, book a few nights at the Bavarian Inn Lodge. There you’ll find an indoor water park, a mini-golf course, and other fun activities. Plus, it’s within walking distance of the Bavarian Inn Restaurant and all the shops.

Indoor Attractions

Other fun indoor activities include the Great Lakes Escape Room, where you and your friends can put your puzzle-solving skills to the test. If you love history, check out the Michigan Heroes Museum or the Frankenmuth Historical Museum.

Michigan Heroes Museum, Frankenmuth - Terrific Museums, Winter In The Thumb Area
Michigan Heroes Museum | photo via @adamkostus

Experience Winter in Genesee County

Just because it’s wintertime doesn’t mean you have to count down the days until summer comes again. By embracing the snow and the cold, you can have plenty of fun during a Michigan winter, especially in Genesee County.

By visiting Flint, Fenton, Flushing, and other county towns, you have access to plenty of fun experiences for you and your family. Since it’s just about an hour’s drive from Metro Detroit, you don’t have to trek far to have fun.

For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum

If outdoor fun is your thing, check out the For-Mar Nature Preserve and Arboretum in Burton. Spread out over nearly 400 acres, you can hike numerous trails, check out a collection of gardens, and spend time getting back to nature as you see an exciting array of wildlife.

For-Mar Nature Preserve &Amp; Arboretum, Burton - Cross-Country Skiing In Michigan, Winter In The Thumb Area
For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum | photo via @mfsimages

Flint Institute of Arts

If you’re keen on staying warm instead, spend some time admiring art at the Flint Institute of Arts. If you’ve got young kids and you’re looking to keep them entertained, check out the Sloan Museum at the Courtland Center, Longway Planetarium, or the Flint Children’s Museum. This will be a great way to keep them entertained, especially if there’s a snow day.

Flint Institute Of Arts, Flint - Winter In Flint, Winter In The Thumb Area
Flint Institute of Arts | photo via @rachel_swantek_mott

Flint Restaurants & Coffee Shops

And what’s winter without warming up with some good food? If you’re looking for coffee, try Cafe Rema or the Foster Coffee Company, both in Flint. For something truly unique and delicious, try the Flint Crepe Company.

Stay Warm in Bay County

If you’ve got youngsters at home, it’s easy for them to catch a little cabin fever, especially if they’ve got short attention spans. The good news is there are plenty of fun family places to go in Bay County that will keep them entertained.

Antique Toy & Firetruck Museum

You can start by checking out the Antique Toy and Firetruck Museum in Bay CIty. This is the world’s largest firetruck museum and houses more than 12,000 collectible and antique toys as well as more than 60 motorized firetrucks. If you’re looking to keep kids entertained, you can’t go wrong with a room full of toys.

Antique Toy &Amp; Firetruck Museum, Bay City - Winter In The Thumb Area
Antique Toy & Firetruck Museum | photo via @discoveringlifeadventures

Delta College Fitness & Recreation Center

If your kids are begging to go to the pool, try visiting the Delta College Fitness and Recreation Center, which has a slide, three pools, and a lazy river; more than enough water activities for your kids to play to their heart’s content.

Delta College Fitness &Amp; Recreation Center, University Center - Winter In The Thumb Area
Delta College Fitness & Recreation Center | photo via @michigan.marcy

Bay City State Park Winter Festival

If you’re looking for a little bit of everything in one spot, check out the Bay City State Park Winter Festival. This is an annual day-long event in February that offers all kinds of activities. Festival-goers can enjoy ice fishing, snowshoe hikes, wildlife watching programs, and, of course, plenty of tasty food.

Enjoy Port Huron in the Winter

Port Huron is full of fun things to do in the winter months. With festive winter events such as the Festival of Trees and annual Chilly Fest, there’s always something to do in Port Huron to beat the winter blues.

McMorran Complex

During the winter months, McMorran becomes a hub of activity. Two ice arenas and a big theater are part of the complex. The theater hosts movies and theatrical shows throughout the winter, as well as concerts and other activities. The Port Huron Civic Theatre also uses the theater for its shows, which are usually entertaining. The ice arenas host a range of activities throughout the winter, from hockey games to open skating to large concerts involving well-known performers ranging from rock bands to comedians. 

Mcmorran Complex, Port Huron - Winter In The Thumb Area
McMorran Complex | photo via @bkopanski

Glacier Pointe Ice Complex

McMorran isn’t the only location to have a good time; the Glacier Pointe Ice Complex has ice skating, and there are several outdoor skating rinks across the region where you can unwind and enjoy the fresh air.

Enjoy the Best Winter Things to Do in the Thumb of Michigan

As many longtime Michiganders know, the winters can be bitterly cold and seem like they last a lifetime. But with so many fun things to do and places to explore, a little cold shouldn’t stop you from getting out and having fun.

Whether you’re bundled up tight for outdoor activities like cross-country skiing, skiing and snowshoeing, or you prefer to stay inside by checking out a local coffee shop, shopping, or visiting a museum, Michigan’s Thumb region can be a wondrous place in winter. The only limit to your fun is your imagination.

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