Winter gets a bad rap — it’s cold, there’s plenty of snow, and well, it’s cold! But where better to make the best of the season than in The Mitten? From dog sledding to beer festivals to hot tubbing, here is our list of 25 Things to do this winter in West Michigan.
Ice Skate at Rosa Park Circle
For less than $5, you can relish in the winter-time magic of ice skating in the city center, complete with the sparkling lights of the plaza’s surrounding trees. Don’t own skates? No problem. Admission price includes skate rentals.
Cross Country Ski
Get a full-body workout, burn calories and enjoy the stunning beauty that is West Michigan winters by strapping on some cross country skis and hitting the trails.
You don’t have to book a flight to Alaska to experience the sport of dog sledding. An hour and a half north of Grand Rapids in Cadillac, Shemhadar Dog Sled Adventures offers guests the opportunity to be a musher for a day.
World of Winter Festival
The World of Winter Festival, presented by Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. and running from January 17-February 16, gives Grand Rapidians a chance to enjoy this most magical (and coldest) of seasons. Featuring free activities, such as snow yoga and ice sculpture tours, it might just make you appreciate the subzero temperatures.
Fill your thermos with hot chocolate or coffee and hit one of your favorite West Michigan trails for a winter hike. Just be sure to bundle up.
Add some more adventure to your hike with a pair of snowshoes! There are several parks across West Michigan that provide snowshoe rentals. Check out Pigeon Creek, Blandford Nature Center, and Gillette Nature Center in PJ Hoffmaster State Park.
Dust of your old toboggan and hit your favorite sledding hill. Not only is this a fun way to spend an afternoon with your friends or little ones, but it’s great exercise, too. Can’t you feel your calfs burning already as you pull your sled back up the hill?
The beauty of ice fishing is that the partaker isn’t limited by access to a boat. An ice fisher can access any part of a frozen lake, so long as it is safe to traverse. If you are a novice, book a guided tour with Werkman Outfitters to learn the ropes.
Winter Beer Festival
Do you dream of sipping an IPA at your favorite brewery on a hot summer day? Tide yourself over at the 15th Annual Winter Beer Festival. Featuring nearly 150 Michigan breweries and live music, tickets to the event are $55.
Lake Michigan Shore Winter Wine Festival
Gather with your fellow wine lovers at the Holland Civic Center for this celebration of lakeshore wines featuring 15 local wineries. Tickets are $25 pre-order, $30 the day of, and includes 10 drink tickets and a wine guide.
The nation’s first-ever community-wide festival of laughter returns each year just in time to usher us across the threshold from winter to spring. Buy tickets to a headlining show with nationally renowned comedians such as Jim Gaffigan, Jeff Foxworthy and Maria Bamford, attend a local stand-up showcase, or relish in the beautiful chaos that is improv comedy. Proceeds from the event benefit Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids
Visit Lake Michigan
No doubt the greatest of all the lakes (not that we are biased or anything), Lake Michigan is a sight to behold when touched by the frosted magic of winter. Bundle up, grab your camera, and spend an afternoon photographing and traversing the otherworldly landscape.
Downhill Ski or Snowboard
Whether you’re a novice or fancy yourself ready for the Olympics, Michigan offers snow-lovers plenty of opportunities to hit the slopes. For a weekend trip, head up north to Boyne Mountain, Crystal Mountain, Caberfae Peaks; or, spend the day at Cannonsburg.
Winter calls for a lot of evenings getting cozy on the couch. If you’re binging a favorite show or devouring a podcast, use that time to keep your hands busy and knit something! Studies show that knitting can help reduce depression and anxiety. The Michigan Fibre Studio in Eastown offers a beautiful selection of yarn and classes ranging from novice to advanced.
Join a Workout Class
Studies show that shorter days and cold weather can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, which exercise is proven to combat. Join a workout class and get those wonderful endorphins flowing to take care of your mind and your body. Check out Funky Buddha Hot Yoga, the YMCA or Beer City Barre.
Take a Cooking Class
Visit Frederik Meijer Gardens
West Michigan’s only botanical gardens and sculpture park continues to offer visitors a one-of-a-kind experience throughout the year. Walk the stunning sculpture trail, warm-up in the five-story Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory, or check out a world-class exhibit in their indoor gallery.
Go to the Movies
Is there any better time to crank your oven up to 350 and fill your house with the sweet smell of baking? Check out these delicious desserts, or this recipe for ricotta puff pastries and creme brulee.
Visit Blandford Nature Center
This beloved nature has just over 2 miles of beautiful trails, a farm, wildlife and various activities throughout the season, such as snowshoe hikes, winter fort building, kombucha workshops and more.
Visit the Grand Rapids Art Museum
Step out of the cold and enjoy an afternoon at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. David Wiesner & The Art of Wordless Storytelling is on display until January 12; Bill Mayer: The Shape of Things is on display until February 12. Several exhibitions, including A New State of Matter: Contemporary Glass and Design Highlights from the Permanent Collection open in January and February.
Attend a Griffins Game
Show your home team pride and cheer on the Griffins; Grand Rapids’ home town AHL team is in its 24th season and has tickets available for games through to April.
Go Hot Tubbing
If you don’t have your own — or have a friend who has one — Oasis Hot Tubs on Alpine has themed hot tub gardens (thing Novia Scotia, Borneo Rainforest, Japan) guests can reserve for 1-2 hours.
Volunteering can be a great way to counter the effects of the winter blues, as it is shown to reduce anxiety, depression and stress. West Michigan offers plenty of opportunities to lend your time or talents. Consider packing sack dinners at Kids’ Food Basket, lending a hand with housekeeping at Gilda’s Club or sitting on a committee for the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.
Spend a Day at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex
Visitors to West Michigan’s only winter sports complex can luge on a 750 ft. luging trail designed by an Olympian; snowshoe trails with spectacular views of Lake Michigan; cross-country ski through Muskegon State Park; and, skate the stunning 1/4 mile ice skating trail that snakes through beautiful woodland.