After all the breaks and holidays we experience toward the end of the calendar year, the months of January, February, and March can feel like we’re slogging through knee-high snow against a blowing wind, figuratively speaking, of course. We are looking at several weeks of no vacations, few engagements, and lots of time indoors.
Or, are we? Winter does lend itself to more downtime and quiet evenings; however, the winter season reveals new possibilities and invites us to partake in new activities that can only be enjoyed at this time of year. What can you do, and where can you go in Michigan to relish – or get through – winter and have fun during those snowy days?
Hit the trails by snowshoe, ski, or motor.
Michigan has a network of 6200 miles of groomed trails for snowmobiles around the state. Many of the trails interconnect, so you can go a long way and stop at several little Michigan towns along the route. If snowmobiling isn’t your thing, then you can revisit many of the hiking trails from summer and fall to either snowshoe (make sure you’re prepared) or cross-country ski. State associations can provide you with more detailed trail maps and directions.
Get the kids outside as much as possible, too. Kids are happier – and let’s face it, adults are, too – when they spend time among nature and out of doors. Their innate curiosity is a perfect match for exploring and learning about the natural world. There’s something called the 1000 Hours Outside challenge, which encourages parents to get kids outside for a thousand hours of more in a year. That’s more than three hours outside a day. Being outside has many benefits for kids, including better health, greater cognitive development, improved sensory skills, increased attention spans, and better moods. If they are too young or not as interested in snowshoeing, skiing, or snowmobiling, you can always go sledding or snow tubing instead.
Visit a popular summer destination.
Many destinations that are all the rage in the summertime are just as beautiful in the winter, though different and less crowded. National and state parks, for instance, remain open for visitors, although welcome centers and certain areas may not be open or are off limits. Winter gives the landscape a completely different feel, and you’ll have the sense that you’re in a new and different place even if you’ve been there before. These eight destinations around Michigan make for some great stops, but so do these tours in the Upper Peninsula and Southwest Michigan.
Support indoor businesses and attractions.
Due to business and travel restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many indoor attractions such as museums and restaurants cannot be open to visitors or patrons at this time. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy what they have to offer, though.
Many museums have pivoted their approach to engaging the public and host virtual programs and tours. Large museums such as the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Michigan Science Center, the Detroit Institute of the Arts, Cranbook Museum of Art, the Sloan Museum, Air Zoo, the Michigan History Museum, and The Huron Experience offer cultural and historical experiences through video content. Many local museums, such as the Great Lakes Children’s Museum in Traverse City, have weekly science experiments, story times, and crafts hosted by staff members virtually for children to enjoy and from which to learn.
You don’t need to limit yourself to Michigan, either. Whatever your interest – national parks, aviation, steam engines, art, American history, space travel, natural history, music – you can find a museum that provides digital content related to that interest… and it can be from anywhere in the world. That’s one of the most incredible byproducts of this pandemic: the creativity. We can see more of the world through our computers than ever before. It’s not the same as being there and seeing something in person, but it whets our appetites for when we will be able to travel more easily again. We will go visit these places.
As for restaurants, you can get by with outdoor dining at some – more easily done in the summer – or call and order take-out. Restaurants would be happier serving guests in person, but they still appreciate your choosing to order food and drinks (remember, curbside pickup for alcoholic beverages is allowed now in Michigan) from them to keep them going. Food trucks, a fad that began long before the pandemic, are in their element right now and have continued to offer their delicious fare, regardless of the season.
Make comfort food.
Every season has classic dishes, tastes, and scents that epitomize the season itself. In the summer it’s fresh fruit, meat grilling on the BBQ, and Caesar dressing. In the winter, our attention turns to rich tomato sauces, hearty meat pies, and sizzling soups with a side of crusty bread smothered with melted butter. Are you hungry yet? After spending all that time outdoors enjoying the beauty of Michigan’s winter, you’re bound to need something delicious to refill the tank. The crockpot and the instant pot are your best friends when it comes to a ready-to-eat, hot meal. These delightful soup recipes, easy-to-make crockpot dinners, and chocolate desserts can help give you a start on a menu.
Whip up some hot chocolate.
There’s nothing more comforting than curling up with a favorite warm blanket and a mug full of hot chocolate on a cold winter day. These recipes have got you covered. Better yet, bring a thermos of hot cocoa with you on the trail for a cozy pick-me-up when you take a break.