Michigan Winter Getaways: 12 BEST Spots for a Michigan Winter Vacation
Need a break and looking for Michigan winter getaways?
If cabin fever is setting in and you’re itching to find that perfect winter getaway spot, Michigan has got you covered.
Wintertime in Michigan is more than just snow and ice. Full of glittering towns fit for a snow globe, a winter vacation in the Great Lakes State is the closest you’ll get to your very own holiday TV special.
From quiet beach towns that take on a special twinkle in the winter months to small cities that come alive in the cold weather; Michigan is a great spot to spend a winter vacation in the snow.
With a wide array of resorts, hotels, cabins and cottage rentals available, options abound for a cozy winter getaway.
Check out some of our favorite destinations for wonderful winter vacations below and start planning some chillingly beautiful vacations in Michigan.
Winter Vacation Adventures in Michigan
If you already have a favorite winter activity or are looking for something new to try, look no further than a Michigan ski resort or explore one of the locations on the interactive Michigan Beach and Travel Map to experience Michigan in winter.
In addition to opportunities for hitting the slopes, Michigan’s ski resorts offer every type of winter activity you could imagine, including ice skating, dog-sledding, crosscountry skiing, winter sleigh rides, snow tubing, and more.
Most Michigan vacation destinations on our interactive Michigan Travel Map have an assortment of winter activities for you; you could ride the snowmobiling trails or try riding a fat tire bike. Farther north, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you might even discover a frozen waterfall worth a climb.
Home to Northern Michigan University and gorgeous views of Lake Superior, Marquette is guaranteed to make you fall in love with the Upper Peninsula. Even though Marquette is the largest city in the U.P., the charming and close-knit town will remind you of returning home.
Enjoy holiday shopping and warm cocoa to ring in the season. Marquette offers some of the best retail in all of northern Michigan, with so many small businesses to make you smile, including some fabulous new craft breweries and gastropubs.
A snowy winter landscape will welcome you to the north. The cold won’t last long once you get your blood pumping with some exciting outdoor fun. You’ll quickly warm up with an adrenaline rush when you try waterfall ice climbing, hiking or even fat-tire biking.
With so fun outdoor activities, Marquette is the perfect spot for your Michigan winter vacation adventure.
You’re in Copper Country now. Also known as the gateway to Michigan’s famed Keweenaw Peninsula, Houghton is one of the biggest cities in the Upper Peninsula. Set on the banks of the Keweenaw water way that connect Portage Lake to Lake Superior, this beautiful town is simply stunning in the winter.
Truly a winter wonderland, Houghton is full of gorgeous forests and frozen beaches. If you’re really lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights from some favorite local viewing spots like McLain State Park on the shores of wild and wonderful Lake Superior.
One thing’s for certain: you won’t be short of any snow here. With an average snowfall of more than 200 inches per year, take the opportunity to ski, sled, snowshoe, and snowmobile your way through winter break.
Let Houghton bring out your inner Yooper. Experience the Upper Peninsula as a local with fresh pasties, craft beer, and even dogsledding.
Learn more about Michigan’s Western U.P. in our Western U.P. Travel Guide.
Munising and Grand Island
You may recognize Munising from the famous Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, but the rest of this city is equally picturesque.
Surrounded by the Hiawatha National Forest and the Grand Island National Recreation Area, Munising is home to some of the most beautiful winter views in the entire state of Michigan, as well as one of the top winter attractions in the in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula: the Grand Island Ice Caves.
Grand Island, located about a half-mile off Munising’s coast in Lake Superior, has towering sandstone cliffs, and sea caves that freeze and create dramatic ice formations. The only way to access Grand Island during the winter season is across the ice by snowmobile, snowshoe or skis. Please Note: Travel over the ice is at your own risk.
Of course, there’s so much more to do here than just bask in the beautiful wintery scenery. Munising’s downtown is full of wonderful small businesses, including restaurants serving the best whitefish you’ll ever have in your life.
Traveling to southwest Michigan – home of Lake Michigan’s Harbor Country – is just as magical in the wintertime.
New Buffalo is a quaint community surrounded by the majesty of Lake Michigan’s rolling landscape. Although the famous bluffs are covered with snow, New Buffalo is the perfect getaway for vacationers seeking the quaint and cozy small-town atmosphere.
The charming downtown is full of antique shops and breweries, but New Buffalo’s growing wine industry has been noted: this southwest Michigan spot has been cited as one of the best wine regions in the U.S.
Although there are plenty of wonderful restaurants and retail destinations, the friendly small town feel will warm you up in the winter chill.
Looking for something more nautical for your winter getaway? Try a classic West Michigan summer vacation – with a twist. The coast of Lake Michigan is just as fun in the winter cold.
Bundle up well to fend off Lake Michigan and journey to this classic Michigan beach town. You’ll love it: South Haven is a burst of color in the white winter snow.
Besides the land and water-based trails, South Haven’s tall red lighthouse on the South Beach shoreline is a must-see destination. It takes on a a whole new look in the winter months. You’ll marvel at it as it glitters with ice and snow: it’s a holiday ornament come to life.
Located on Lake Huron, Michigan’s “Sunrise Side” sometimes seems like the road less traveled. However, if you’re planning a winter vacation to Alpena, you’ll definitely be back.
Alpena is called the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes, and for good reason. Any maritime enthusiast will appreciate the lighthouses and lake-front trails, but Thunder Bay is also home to shipwrecks sure to give you a chill.
First-class local museums pay homage to the area’s rich connection with the Great Lakes shipping industry and the surrounding natural areas; be sure and check out the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan and the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, one of the best musuems in Michigan.
In addition, the historic downtown shopping district with cozy cafes and restaurants set in centuries-old brick buildings, is a lot of fun to explore.
For the more adventurous, elk viewing carriages and sleigh rides are the perfect way to spend snowy nights, and Alpena offers them both.
Manistique and Kitch-iti-kipi
If you’re looking for attractions to light up your holiday season, the East Breakwater Lighthouse in Manistique is a must-see destination. Right off of the northern coast of Lake Michigan, you’ll feel like you’re on the edge of a frozen world.
Manistique’s beauty will enchant you. Take advantage of it by visiting the many wildlife areas, state parks, and boardwalks. Fayette Historic State park will serve as a reminder of Michigan’s industrial origins, while the Kitch-iti-kipi (The Big Spring) is a testament to the amazing natural landscape.
Michigan’s largest natural freshwater spring, Kitch-iti-kipi is 200 feet across and 40 feet deep with more than 10,000 gallons a minute gushing up from cracks in the limestone surface of the spring’s bottom. It’s simply breathtaking any time of the year.
Discover more about this beautiful area in our Guide to the Central Upper Peninsula.
Can’t decide between spending time in nature or downtown? If you’re in charming Cadillac, you don’t have to choose.
This bustling little spot south of Traverse City is sometimes by-passed for splashier vacation locales, but don’t let it fool you. Cadillac is a great little vacation getaway spot, a lot of fun, too.
This historic downtown shopping area really takes you back in time, in a good way: there’s boutique and gift shops; bookstores and toy stores, and a slew of local cafes and restaurants.
Outdoors lovers will appreciate its’ location on picturesque Lake Cadillac, and it’s set right between the Huron Manistee National Forest and Roscommon State Forest.
Nearby Caberfae Peaks is a great low-key ski resort, too – perfect for a quick getaway.
Ludington’s winter landscape is a work of art in itself.
Located right off of Lake Michigan, the ice begins to overtake the shoreline for a breathtaking view. With three lighthouses in the area worth exploring: Big Sable Point Light, Little Sable Point Light and the North Breakwater lighthouse at Stearns Park Beach, it is an outdoors enthusiast’s dream.
If you’re looking for something more cultured, there’s plenty more art to be seen in Ludington.
Take a snowy trek through the Waterfront Park and Sculpture Garden, or visit one of the many galleries for more local scenery.
Stop in one of the restaurants and cafes lining the streets, but don’s miss the famed “House of Flavors” This renowned ice cream spot is open in the winter, too because it’s never too cold for an ice cream cone.
It’s the top Michigan winter getaway destination.
Traverse City is a fun getaway any time of the year, and in the winter it becomes perfectly enchanting, when the crisp white snow piles up, set off by the deep blues of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay.
In the winter months, travelers flock to the city for the warm winter feelings prompted by the city streets lined with lights and festive feeling of the downtown area.
Traverse City and the surrounding areas are great winter destinations for wine and craft beer and spirits enthusiasts, too: there are new spots popping up regularly that are open in the winter months, too.
There’s simply so much to do in Traverse City in the winter: hiking the nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan shoreline; snowmobiling and skiing, or simply exploring the shops, cafes and breweries along Front Street.
Even though the museums, large retail district, and top restaurants can have a cosmopolitan feel, Traverse City still gives you the sparkling nostalgia of a small town. Be sure and check out our Guide to the Best Restaurants in Traverse City, told from an insiders perspective.
Sault Ste. Marie
Go way up north for a hybrid holiday: Sault Ste. Marie is the quintessential northern Michigan experience, but with a close-up view of Canada.
In beautiful Sault Ste. Marie, you’ll bear witness to the most stoic winter beauty Michigan can offer. You’ll marvel at the Soo Locks, where you can go freighter watching, and take in the wild and wintery Lake Superior shoreline.
It’s an outdoors recreation heaven, where you can try ice fishing or snowshoeing. Travel to the Tahquamenon Falls State Park, a popular spot for hikers throughout the winter months.
Just a short jaunt over the might Mackinac Bridge, the Soo is a fun Michigan winter getaway.
Where can you find the next best thing to a northern European winter vacation? Right here in Michigan!
Holland is one of Michigan’s favorite (not so hidden) gems, with travelers reveling in the Dutch culture and traditions. But even with a distinct lack of Tulips, Holland in the winter should not be missed.
At Holland State Park, you can catch a glimpse of the iconic “Big Red” Lighthouse covered in snow and standing fierce against the winter gales of Lake Michigan.
Wander the streets in downtown Holland; the cozy shops and cafes are so inviting. Their Kerstmarkt, held in early December, is a European outdoor style market with holiday items, performances, and amazing cuisine. For a traditional holiday fit for a fairytale, travel to Holland to make wonderful memories.
About the Author
Nora Rhein is a student at Wayne State University majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Theatre Management. She writes for publications like The South End student newspaper and Ease Up Magazine. She also serves as the Low Brass Section Leader in the Warrior Marching Band, and loves to explore Michigan’s beautiful parks with her greyhound, Skyrocket.
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