When wintertime hits, tourism takes a little slowdown.
Although there are exceptions across the state of Michigan, such as travelers flock north for skiing and other winter pursuits, or into the cities to experience museums and culture, much of the state’s most popular attractions see fewer crowds. That means it’s a great time to visit these places yourself. You can take more time, soak it all in, and experience cities and destinations in a new and different way.
Sure, it’s Beer City USA, a major concert venue, and a magnet for artists, but that’s not all Grand Rapids has to offer. Nearby is Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. In the winter months, you’re encouraged to walk the grounds – especially to see the newest sculpture exhibition – warm up in the tropical conservatory (mask requested), or attend one of their classes or events. There are multiple dates for Children’s Winter Garden Explorations as well as a Family Fun Day traditionally held in February. There are indoor activities as well, such as story time for kids, an orchid show, and a morning tea.
One of the most quaint and picturesque beach towns on Michigan’s west coast, Saugatuck is a popular destination for travelers in the summer months. Come winter, if the conditions are just right you may find yourself looking at ice volcanoes and ice balls on Oval Beach. By far, the two best winter season activities are snowshoeing through Saugatuck Dunes State Park and climbing the 302 steps to the well-deserved panorama at the summit of Mt. Baldhead. Warm up with a Michigan craft brew at one of the local establishments after your outdoor escapades.
Ludington State Park remains open during the chilly months, inviting adventurers to experience a winter wonderland. In addition to hiking trails, one of the top attractions is the lighthouse: Big Sable. The iconic black and white lighthouse can be reached via a 1.8 mile (one way) path. Even in winter, the lighthouse stands ready to welcome visitors and be a beacon to vessels on Lake Michigan. Nearby is one of the most photographed lights, as well as the most visited, on Lake Michigan. The North Breakwater Light off of Stearns Park Beach in Ludington takes on a completely different garb thanks to the freezing temperatures. There’s a one-mile break wall leading to the structure, which can be climbed in the summer.
Part of the renowned Henry Ford Museum – also worth a day visit – Greenfield Village allows you to experience the sights, sounds, and sensations of early America through the launch of the Model T. History is all around you, not just in appearance but in demonstrations. Winter is definitely quieter and less populated – probably a more realistic representation of historic times. During December, there are Holiday Nights leading up to Christmas, where carolers sing, the scent of chestnuts waft through the streets, and historic homes open their doors for travelers to share in their holiday traditions.
Also known as Inspiration Point, this scenic turnout also known as Arcadia Overlook requires a little leg workout, but the view is worth it – even in the winter. Imagine a scene of white hills and trees, ice and dull blue waves. It’s located off M-22 between Manistee and Frankfort, little northern Michigan towns that also deserve a visit.
Waterfalls captivate us anytime, anywhere, any season. This very popular summer and fall destination is just as gorgeous in the winter, and perhaps even more serene. The falls are a combination of frozen and moving water, while the banks stand guard in snow-covered glory.
Between Huron City and Port Hope is Whiskey Harbor, an inlet with a Prohibition past. There’s a one mile walk that you can take to reach the beach. Nearby, there’s Albert E. Sleeper State Park and Port Crescent State Park, which have broad, sandy beaches and rolling dunes. Again, there’s a network of hiking trails to explore, which you can do by snowshoe, boot, or cross-country ski. The Thumb of the Mitten is a destination in and of itself; you don’t accidentally cross this region, you need to visit it intentionally. Lake Huron will reward you.
Check out these other eight Michigan destinations that are hotspots in the summer but cool down come wintertime for a completely different experience.