20 Best Winter Festivals in Michigan
Nothing says snowy fun like these 20 top Michigan winter festivals.
When the holiday season winds down and the festive lights get stored away, some people retreat into their homes to wait out the rest of the cold gray winter. Others embrace the chill and find ways to celebrate the uniqueness of a Michigan winter.
Communities come together to fight the seasonal blues by hosting festivals that get people excited about the endless fun and possibilities of wintertime. From Sault Ste. Marie to the lower peninsula, from Port Huron to Grand Rapids, you’ll find winter annual events featuring ice carving, winter sports, farmers markets, sleigh rides and fun.
Here are some of the best winter festivals you can find here in Michigan in 2023.
Michigan Winter Festivals in Southeast Michigan and Metro Detroit
WinterFest in Detroit
Head to downtown Detroit for winter fun unlike anything else. Participants are welcome to skate for free at Jack Adams Ice Arena and watch demos from figure skaters and the Detroit Red Wings.
Beyond the ice, this family-friendly event includes plenty to do, including horse and carriage rides, games at the Wintercade, or meet and greets with their favorite “Frozen” characters at the Frozen Forest.
Fire and Ice Festival in Rochester
Every January, downtown Rochester celebrates winter with a whole host of fun events in the city. Participate in fun and games including corn hole, a scavenger hunt, an ice sculpture show and more, then fuel up at the spaghetti dinner hosted at the fire hall, or try something from a food truck.
Stick around after dark to see the Big Bright Light Show or a stellar fireworks display.
Cold Rush in Warren
The annual Warren Cold Rush is an outdoor festival that celebrates all of the things that make winter in Michigan special. Spend an afternoon with the family enjoying the frosty air whether you’re skating on the ice or watching artists carve it. Later on, warm up by a bonfire and share a s’more or two.
Annual Ice Sculpture Festival in Tecumseh
Each year, Tecumseh hosts its Annual Ice Sculpture Festival, where local artists are invited to show off their skills in a particularly wintery medium. Aside from browsing dozens of icy artworks, visitors can participate in crafts and games or observe the sculpting process with a live carving demonstration.
Winter Fun Fest in Washtenaw County
January 21; February 4 & 11
Washtenaw County’s Winter Fun Fest invites residents to participate in winter activities throughout the chilly season. From ice fishing for both kids and adults to unique events like the popular Hunt for the Yeti, there’s fun to be had for everyone this winter in Washtenaw County.
Plymouth Ice Festival – Plymouth
Plymouth’s Ice Sculpting festival is one of the top winter festivals in Michigan, drawing thousands to this charming town in Metro Detroit.
Take a stroll though lovely downtown Plymouth for the Ice Festival and see what makes this town so charming, especially in winter. Walk along the streets that surround Kellogg Park in the heart of downtown Plymouth as you browse over 65 ice sculptures, all crafted by local artists. Take the opportunity to explore the town, do some shopping, stop for a bite to eat, and even participate in additional activities offered during the festival.
Winter Blast in Royal Oak
Spend a weekend full of fabulous and family friendly winter fun in Royal Oak during Winter Blast. This event spans three days and features winter festival classics like live music, ice skating, and ice sculptures, but takes it even farther with a snow slide, zip line, and a learn to ski/snowboard experience.
West Michigan Winter Festivals
World of Winter Festival – Grand Rapids
January 6 – March 5
At World of Winter in Grand Rapids, the community bands together to make the most of the Midwest Winter with engaging activities that are perfect for the cold and snowy weather. The entire downtown Grand Rapids is turned into a winter wonderland, complete with an outdoor ice skating rink and outdoor art in the form of the art installation walking tour.
Perfect for attendees of any age, World of Winter invites people to view public art installations, participate in scavenger hunts, take unique seasonal tours, build snowmen competitively and more.
Don’t miss the Chilly Challenge, a seven-week series of walks through the city, or the House of Cards, a choreographed card display. Also try to catch the Ice Piano Performance on the back lawn of the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
Winterfest in Grand Haven
The Grand Haven Winterfest is a collection of events that bring people together during the coldest part of the year. Here, people enjoy drinks by the bonfire and countless midwestern winter activities to keep spirits bright during the gray winter days.
Compete in snow volleyball or races of all kinds, from cardboard sleds to skis and snowboards. The cardboard sled race makes this worth a a day trip: so much snowy fun!
Ice Breaker Festival in South Haven
We often think of South Haven as a hot summer destination that becomes a bit sleepy and dormant in the off-season, but during the Ice Breaker Festival this coastal Lake Michigan beach town comes to life again.
Community competitions bring people together to go for the win. Then they bond over great food and shared drinks around the bonfires.
Central Michigan Winter Festivals
Zehnder’s Snowfest in Frankenmuth
A trip to Frankenmuth is always one of the top winter vacation ideas, and this festival with live entertainment makes it an even better idea.
Over the years, Zehnder’s Snowfest has gained notoriety across the continent, becoming a must-stop festival to see some truly massive ice sculptures.
Kids will love the petting zoo, crafts, and games, but everyone will appreciate the fireworks show and stellar ice sculptures, making this a winter destination for winter family fun. There’s an outdoor rink for ice skating, and so much more.
Southern Michigan Winter Beer Festival in Jackson
When the gray winter skies have you feeling down, fill up a glass with some golden Michigan beer and chase those blues away. At the Southern Michigan Winter Beer Festival, visitors are invited to do just that.
Over 50 craft breweries participate each year to bring a seemingly endless selection of beer to Jackson, making this a winter bucket list item for any beer-lover in Michigan.
Northern Michigan Winter Festivals
Tip Up Town USA in Houghton Lake
January 21-22, 28
The cold and the snow is no excuse to stay inside. Get up and get out in Houghton Lake for Tip Up Town USA.
Whether you run a 5k, compete in a tug-of-war, race snowmobiles, or hook the biggest fish while ice fishing, it’s all about getting outside and enjoying uniquely winter activities that get your body moving. The Polar Bear Dip is one of the chillest events in Michigan.
Pure Ludington Brrrewfest in Ludington
Instead of curling up under a blanket with hot chocolate, the people of Ludington prefer to face the frost with a cold beer at the Pure Ludington Brrrewfest.
Three breweries in downtown Ludington cooperate to make this massive event happen. Taste a variety of different kinds of beers, wines, and liquors, or just use it as an excuse to meet up and have a drink with some friends.
Alpena Ice Fest in Alpena
In Alpena, the Ice Fest is the spiritual successor to the town’s Winter Carnival of the 30s and 60s. For a full day during the middle of February, Alpena provides a public space for free family-friendly fun, including ice sculptures, demonstrations, entertainment, food and more.
Benzie Winterfest in Beulah
At the seat of Benzie County sits Beulah, a small town with a big personality. Residents here dive into winter with enthusiasm, hosting the Benzie Winterfest in February.
Play, compete, and eat at the Winterfest. From traditional cold weather contests like the chili cookoff to unique competitions like the outhouse race, there’s something for everyone, so bring the whole family.
Upper Peninsula Michigan Winter Festivals
Tahquamenon Sled Dog Race at Muskallonge State Park
You may have heard of dog sled races, perhaps thanks to the fame of the Iditarod race in Alaska, but not all dog sled races are as massive and grueling as that one. Michigan is home to several of these races and the Tahquamenon Sled Dog Race, which takes place every January, is a great place to start if you’ve never seen one before.
Heikki Lunta Festival in Negaunee
The Heikki Lunta Festival is a celebration of all things winter found in Michigan’s upper peninsula. Hosted by the town of Negaunee, this two-day festival is jam-packed with fun winter events celebrating the Finnish Snow God, Heikki Lunta.
Day one features a thrilling competition between skiers and snowboarders and lantern snowshoe tours of the area. Day two highlights winter fishing with a tournament and features plenty of downhill recreation, including sledding and even luge.
Michigan Tech Winter Carnival – Houghton
In the upper peninsula, the Winter Carnival at Michigan Tech is famous and highly popular. For a century this festival has celebrated the unique winters of the UP and its abundant snowfall.
Visitors can view sculptures made of snow and ice, ride on sleighs, and watch Michigan Tech student performances. Just don’t get caught up in all the fun and forget to vote for the winter queen.
Michigan Ice Festival – Munising
Along some of Michigan’s coldest shores, Munising stands as a favorite destination in both the heat of summer and the bitter chill of winter near the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Here you will find Michigan Ice Fest, which invites visitors to participate in winter and embrace all it offers, especially ice climbing. This thrilling sport is unlike anything else and is a great way to stay active and get outside in the cold.
About the Author-
Bella DiMascio is a Content Editor for mymichiganbeach.com. She grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland. She later attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in English: Writing. Creative writing has been a hobby and interest of Bella’s since she was in elementary school. She is thrilled to be using her talents to highlight the Great Lakes State. Outside of writing, Bella enjoys getting outside with her two Australian Shepherds, playing video games, and binging shows on Netflix.