Who knew that the huge cinnamon rolls at Hilltop Restaurant in L’Anse weigh more than a pound? Or that there’s a statue just up the road along U.S. 41 called “Spider Jesus?”
That a nearby waterfall pierces the icy landscape of the “Grand Canyon of the U.P.” and that the parking lot of Irene’s Pizza in Baraga is a splendid place to watch the sunset over Keweenaw Bay?
“Every small town has something unique about it,” said Tieka Knight, a travel blogger who recently spent a gorgeous winter day exploring the distinctive character of the L’Anse-Baraga area in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “I like to find all those gems.”
Knight discovered snow-covered gems such as Canyon Falls and the Bishop Baraga Shrine on her day trip, and there are many more winter treasures to encounter in places all over Michigan. Whether you follow in her footsteps or blaze a trail of your own, the recipe for a winter day trip is the same: Just find something interesting on the map to visit – maybe a lighthouse or a scenic turnout – search out a few local shops and restaurants, then hit the open road for a day you’ll never forget. With a spirit of adventure, any Michigan town becomes a destination.
A winter day trip is one of many ways to enjoy the season while our state is glistening with snow.
And here are five more things to see and do this winter in Michigan before the snow melts:
Strap on some snowshoes – Snowshoeing is a different experience than speeding down a ski slope or pedaling a fat tire bike through the snow. But that’s not to say it’s not a workout! It might actually be the perfect way to get exercise out in the beauty of a Pure Michigan winter. And most anywhere you go in the state, you can find a place to rent snowshoes. Knight suggests renting from the Escanaba Civic Center and snowshoeing around the Peninsula Point Lighthouse or through Fayette Historic State Park.
Lace up some ice skates – From frozen ponds to outdoor rinks all across the state, there’s plenty of opportunity to get out on the ice and fancy yourself an Olympic champion – or just spend time hand in hand with your special someone. Knight suggests checking out the outdoor ice rink at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids. You can rent skates right there and enjoy an extraordinary setting amidst all the tall buildings. It feels like you’re in a real-life snow globe! Plus, there are lots of places just a short walk away for hot cocoa or dinner. And through February, Grand Rapids is hosting the World of Winter Festival with large-scale art exhibits and ice sculptures.
Visit a waterfall – People usually flock to see the incredible waterfalls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during the summer. But each falls has its own special character in the winter, when the landscape is as beautiful as ever. You’ll feel a bit like an explorer discovering something for the first time! Some parking areas near waterfalls are closed during the winter and some falls can be difficult to reach in the snow. But many falls are easily accessible with parking right on the road. Knight recommends Bond Falls off U.S. 45 near Paulding.
Dine in an igloo – Even now that indoor dining is available again in Michigan, outdoor dining remains a popular winter activity. As a resident of both Marquette and Grand Rapids, Knight has recommendations for both areas: the heated igloos at historic Mt. Shasta Restaurant in Michigamme, the heated “deck rooms” on the deck at Elizabeth’s Chop House in Marquette and the heated igloos at Royals and other restaurants in the East Hills neighborhood of Grand Rapids. “It’s a fun way to experience the outdoors without being cold,” Knight said. “You don’t need a coat or anything.” Whether in an igloo, shanty or some other kind of enclosure, there are .
Take a lighthouse tour – There are so many summer photos of Michigan lighthouses. But these maritime relics remain standing throughout the winter, too. What better place to see them in all their wintry glory than in the Traverse City area? From Point Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfurt to Grand Traverse Lighthouse at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula to Mission Point Lighthouse at the tip of Old Mission Peninsula, the Traverse City area is home to some of Knight’s favorites. “A lot of the colors, especially the red ones, really pop in the white snow,” Knight said. Take a look at these incredible photos of frozen Michigan lighthouses.
There are so many great ways to spend a winter day in Michigan that it’s hard to whittle the list down to just five. The ideas above don’t even include cross-country skiing on the Noquemanon Trail, popularly known as the “Noque,” in Marquette; hiking through woods full of towering, snow-covered evergreens at Hartwick Pines State Park near Cadillac; having the surreal experience of visiting the Eben Ice Caves near Munising; winter rafting on the Sturgeon River near Gaylord; snowmobiling around Grand Marais; or walking the trails at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore west of Traverse City.
Explore all there is to do this winter in Michigan and plan an excursion while the snow’s still on the ground. Note that reservations may be needed for some activities due to pandemic-related capacity limits.