Skip to Content

9 Unique Spots for Michigan Winter Family Vacations: Memory-Making Winter Fun

best michigan winter family vacations

BEST Michigan Winter Getaways for Families: Winter Vacation with Kids

Best Michigan Winter Vacation Spots for Family FUN

When the snow begins to fall across Michigan, it’s time to gear up for some Michigan-style winter fun and start thinking about family getaways filled with outdoor adventures.

Lucky for you, we’ve got an inspired vacation idea or two for you.

Sure, you can be like the other families and head for some warm weather to escape the cold. Go ahead and plan your family weekend to Orlando Florida and Disney World theme parks or a basic sand beach in Los Angeles or San Diego California. Your family would surely enjoy a beach resort – who wouldn’t?

But, if you’re ready to up your game and make some family travel memories that will last a lifetime, think about heading to Michigan in the winter. It’s the pristine, snowy playground of family destinations dreams and a perfect winter vacation for families with kids of all ages.

Years from now, your kids will be telling tales of dog sledding through the Upper Peninsula or watching ice castles form on the Great Lakes…the winter family trip of legend.

michigan winter family getaways

Memory-Making Michigan Winter Family Vacation Ideas

Whether a fun family road trip into a wintry landscape means relaxing at a cozy bed and breakfast with a warm whirlpool tub, taking a sleigh ride across a snowy field of rolling hills, or skiing down a perfectly-groomed mountainside, you can find a perfect winter getaway in Michigan.

With a wide range of fun winter activities, there’s an opportunity for all to experience the captivating feelings of the winter season in Michigan.

Experiencing the frosty weather here is better than anywhere else: from the icy blue water of Lake Michigan to the stunning frozen shoreline of Lake Huron to the wild and wintry Lake Superior, the beauty of Michigan in winter is truly unique.

Best Winter Vacations for Families

Michigan’s striking winter landscape is natural beauty at its best.

Luckily for us, there are plenty of destinations – that combine outdoor fun with warm winter comfort, fit for kids and adults.

Winter is the perfect time to explore Michigan’s beauty- so why not bring the whole family along?

Read on to discover NINE must-see winter vacation destinations in northern Michigan and beyond for families.

crystal mountain near frankfort mi

Crystal Mountain

Although Crystal Mountain, near Frankfort MI, is one of the Midwest’s best resorts for all four seasons, they do winter especially well, and most of their activities are family friendly. With dozens of specials, packages, and activities, there won’t be any opportunity for boredom here.

It’s great winter fun to see the sprawling beauty of the mountain while flying high in their chairlifts. These rides give you stunning views of the three surrounding counties and a snowy hike on the way down.

It’s also easy to enjoy Horse Drawn Surrey Rides that will take you through the cold weather in style. Use of the ice-skating rink in the center of Crystal’s village is complementary to houseguests, and crafts like Build-A-Buddy give your kids a creative break when they’re ready for a break from the cold weather.

Winter Fun at Crystal Mountain

Of course, it wouldn’t be Crystal Mountain without skiing. They offer dozens of runs for every skill level, so no matter the age, you can get out on the slopes. For beginning skiers, Crystal offers both private and group lessons and clinics that will have you ready to glide down a mountainside in no time. Their “Nanny McSki” program is industry-recognized and offers both lessons and childcare.

If downhill isn’t your thing, you can try cross-country skiing and explore 25 km of Nordic trails.

On top of these fun winter activities, there’s still more: you can also try fat tire biking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, laser tag, archery, and hiking the gorgeous Legacy Art Park. There’s truly something entertaining for everyone here.

When you’re done with your day full of winter fun, you can relax with a family campfire in Barr Park. And with more outdoor dining and seating options at their wonderful restaurants, food trucks will also be available during busier times, satisfying even the pickiest of eaters.

Lodging options include cottages, bungalows, rooms, and condominiums of all sizes. Best news of all? Most are pet-friendly, so you can bring your furry friend along to enjoy the winter getaway, too. As Midwest mountain resorts go, this is one of the best.

Family Winter Vacation Fun in Traverse City MI

We all know that Traverse City is a perfect summer vacation spot, but here is some good news: this beautiful city on Grand Traverse Bay is equally magical in the winter, and is one of the top winter destinations in the Midwest.

Surrounded by the natural beauty of Lake Michigan and the nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes, Traverse City comes alive in the wintertime with a host of fun activities.

From exploring the downtown restaurants and boutiques to discovering the hip new breweries – there is something for everyone in Traverse City. Make a day of exploring Front Street- the main street filled with fun shops, unique boutiques, and delightful cafes and restaurants offering everything from Cornish pasties and craft beers to cappuccino and fudge!

If you’re into wine, take a ride up Old Mission Peninsula and explore the wine trail. Here, you can dine and try some award-winning wines in the tasting rooms; many are family-friendly.

If you’re seeking outdoor winter fun, the Traverse City area offers everything from downhill skiing and snowboarding to cross country skiing and hiking to sledding and ice skating.

If you’re seeking indoor activities for kids, the Great Lakes Children’s Museum offers little ones an opportunity to learn about the Great Lakes through hands-on activities, including a water table.

Great Wolf Lodge

Forget about beach vacations in the winter: the indoor swimming pools, lazy rivers, and water slides will have you thinking you’re on your own paradise island.

Famous for being fun for the whole family, the Great Wolf Lodge hasn’t disappointed this year. They offer accommodations and activities all focused on the celebration of winter while making a promise to keep guests safe during the ongoing pandemic.

To enjoy one of the most popular indoor water parks in Michigan, day passes can be purchased in addition to your stay. When you’re done splashing in Thunder Bay, Alberta Falls, or the many other water attractions, you can relax in the Cool Cabanas.

You can also consider adding the “T’was The Night Before Snowland Package” when you book your stay and get goodies like ornaments, storybooks, blankets, and hot cocoa. Snuggle up with everyone and enjoy the cozy accommodations when you’ve spent all day having fun.

Visit Petoskey, MI in the Winter

Beautiful Petoskey holds just as much excitement in the winter as it does when you’re hunting the beaches for the elusive Michigan state stone in the summer.

With resorts like Boyne Mountain, Boyne Highlands, and Nub’s Nob, it’s easy to find comfort while having fun outside. At these resorts, you can find skiing, flying down the shills on a snow tube, horseback rides, and more.

The beautiful grounds of Kiwanis Park, a must-see summer picnic spot, is a wonderful place to sled. Enjoy rushing down the sledding hills with the wind in your face with free access daily.

Downtown Petoskey is home to the Gaslight Shopping District, with over 170 unique places to shop for holiday gifts. Although many businesses are shortening their hours, you still have a chance to get your Petoskey retail fix. If you’re making a quick stop in town, this would be the perfect place to make some winter memories.

Need even more winter fun? The Petoskey Winter Sports Park is a free park offering sledding, outdoor skating, and concessions.

Mackinac Island in the Winter

Looking for a remote winter experience with your family for your winter vacation?

While the ice begins to freeze on the Great Lakes, there’s still time for a seasonal getaway to Michigan’s island gem.

Take a ferry over to Mackinac island to explore their magical winters, sure to enchant every age.

It may come as a surprise, but Mackinac Island does not close in winter; it simply slows down. While Ferry service to Mackinac Island does scale back in November, you can still catch a ride to the island from St. Ignace (on the U.P. side of the Mackinac Bridge) almost every day, at least until the water freezes over. Check with ferry operators for schedules.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and The Homestead

Want to experience some pure Michigan natural beauty in the winter?

Look no further than Michigan’s favorite national park, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Glen Arbor.

Take some time to get outside and explore the winter landscape up north.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore may be a top summer destination, but the dunes are just as beautiful in the winter. Your family can enjoy activities like skiing, hiking, sledding, ice fishing, and snowshoeing on the many trails and hills in the park.

A variety of accommodations are available nearby including lodges, cabins, or campgrounds. Pitching a tent at the Platte River Campground can give you the authentic adventure experience of the dunes.

But if you’re not into roughing it, the park is a stone’s throw from lodges in Traverse City, or try The Homestead; a cozy resort tucked away in the middle of the dunes along the Lake Michigan shore. Stay at The Homestead, one of our favorite resorts in Michigan, where you can ski, snowboard, and spend time exploring the endless miles of hiking trails.

Choose from a wide variety of lodging: you’ll find everything from spacious homes and condos to pet-friendly guests rooms.

The Homestead is one of the most picturesque resorts in Michigan, with ski runs overlooking Sleeping Bear Bay and cross-country ski trails through the heart of the dunes. We love the Snow Sports school, which offers ski and snowboard lessons to both guests and the general public, too.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula

If you’re seeking a truly peaceful winter getaway and the chance to take in the natural beauty of Michigan in a quiet setting, then head toward Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Set along the stunning shoreline of Lake Superior, the Pictured Rocks is one of Michigan’s most-visited attractions in the summer and fall months.

In the winter as the snow accumulated and the cold weather sets in, the crowds thin out and the park’s remote landscape becomes a winter wonderland. Bundle up and discover a perfect time to explore the amazing ice formations.

The Upper Peninsula is a perfect destination to try some of Michigan’s favorite winter outdoor activities including snowmobiling, downhill skiing and snowboarding, ice climbing, winter camping, and ice fishing.

Whichever destination you choose, you’re guaranteed to have a wonderful winter experience with your family. There’s nothing that compares to the beauty and stoicism of a Michigan winter, and in addition to these beautiful spots, winter is a great time to explore a Michigan state park.

We’ve all got cabin fever, so give your family the best family winter vacation they’ve ever had and take them up north for snow much fun.

Tahquemenon Falls

Just two hours north of the Mackinac Bridge, in Michigan’s easter Upper Peninsula, is Tahquamenon Falls. It’s a popular tourist destination in the summer, with two sets of waterfalls, the Upper Falls and Lower Falls rushing in the root beer-colored Tahquamenon River.

In the wintertime, it’s a pristine and peaceful spot to get away and take in the beauty of winter, surrounded by living Christmas trees. There’s winter camping at the Tahquamenon Falls State Park Lower Falls campground and you’ll also find a free Track Wheelchair available for use.

Spend some time hiking the miles of trails surrounding the Lower Falls: you’ll find four miles of marked trails including a family-friendly guided snowshoe hike.

You’ll also find 130 miles of snowmobile trails in the Tahquamenon area, you can information about snowmobile rentals here. If you really want a once-in-a-lifetime winter vacation experience, try a ride on a dog sled.

Natures Kennel Sled Dog Adventures is a must-visit if you visit the Tahquamenon area in the winter. Driving through the snowy forest pulled by a sled dog (or sled dogs) is an exhilarating way to experience winter, and Nature’s Kennel’s sled dog trips are fully guided.

They also provide guests with the option to either drive their team or ride in the sled driven by a guide. Please note that you must be at least 10 years of age to drive their team, children under 10 can ride in the guide’s sled.

Alpena

It’s one of Michigan’s best-kept secrets, tucked away in northeast Michigan along the shores of Lake Huron.

A popular vacation destination for families in the summer and fall, it’s just as beautiful in the winter.

Surrounded by the Great Lakes, inland lakes, rivers, and natural forests, there’s a lot of outdoor fun to be had here.

You can choose from snowshoeing, snowmobiling, winter hiking, ice skating, ice fishing, cross country skiing, sledding, or fat tire biking; there are endless miles of trails to explore. Besser Natural Area, and Rockport State Recreation Area are two spots you’ll want to check out, just north of the city. This is a great country for snowmobiling, too: head for the North Eastern State Trail, a 71-trail with gorgeous scenery of Michigan backcountry.

Spend some time exploring historic downtown Alpena, you’ll find cute shops and cafes, including our favorite, Cabin Creek Coffee. This family-owned coffee house has a full coffee bar (delicious espresso) and a sandwich menu, too.

Of course, no winter visit to the Alpena area is complete with a sleigh ride over snow-covered hills and some Elk-viewing. Head for Hillman and the Thunder Bay Resort, just a short ride west of Alpena. Here, you’ll walk directly into your snow globe world as you cuddle up under warm blankets and dash through the snow.

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.