I always look forward to visiting Michigan in January! Even with the cold weather, there are so many fun indoor and outdoor things to do that make winter in Michigan an unforgettable experience. Here are my top recommendations for activities across Michigan this January.
1. Visit the Detroit Institute of Arts
Address: 5200 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202
Detroit often gets overlooked as a winter destination, but Michigan’s largest city has fantastic museums, theaters, restaurants and more to enjoy during the colder months. One of the nation’s most significant art museums, the DIA houses a collection of over 65,000 works spanning centuries and cultures.
I recommend spending at least half a day wandering its galleries filled with stunning pieces. Don’t miss seeing the famous Detroit Industry Murals by Diego Rivera depicting early 20th century factories.
I like going on Friday evenings when the museum stays open late and offers a lively atmosphere. Grab a drink and check out the Rivera Court to see his impressive 27 panel murals up close.
2. Catch a Broadway Show at the Fox Theatre
Address: 2211 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
This beautifully restored 1928 movie palace hosts touring Broadway musicals, concerts, comedy acts and more. I saw Wicked here last January and was blown away by the ornate interior and intricate details.
From the twinkling night sky ceiling to the shimmering gold terra cotta walls, the Fox is worth seeing even without a show. Showtimes vary, but the Fox offers public tours on Mondays and Saturdays at 10am for just $7 if you want to explore the venue without seeing a performance.
I did the tour to admire the Arabian courtyard auditorium and learn about the Fox’s origins. Our guide offered fascinating tidbits about the architecture, history, and backstage spaces.
3. Stroll along the Detroit Riverfront
Even when temperatures are low, Detroit’s riverfront offers excellent views of the Detroit River and Windsor, Ontario skyline. Bundle up and walk along the Riverwalk path from Hart Plaza to Gabriel Richard Park, stopping at outdoor cafes like Roberts Riverwalk Hotel’s Voyager Bar to warm up with a drink.
The Riverwalk is open daily from 6am-midnight. I prefer going in the evening when the city lights reflect beautifully off the water.
Hart Plaza has a winter skating rink that adds to the scene. Stop by the outdoor fire pits along the way or duck into Atwater Beach’s indoor bar if you need a quick break from the cold.
4. Snowshoeing at Squaw Lake State Forest Campground
Michigan has fantastic options across the state for winter outdoor sports, especially snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Located near Hale in the northern Lower Peninsula, this campground has over 10 miles of scenic trails perfect for snowshoeing. I like doing the 3-mile Squaw Lake Trail that loops around the peaceful frozen lake and pine forests.
I park at the trailhead lot and rent my snowshoes on-site. The staff provides maps pointing out ideal paths based on skill level and distance preferences.
5. Cross-Country Skiing at Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
Within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Empire, this lovely 7.4 mile loop drive is closed to vehicles in winter so you can cross-country ski or hike along it. I did the entire drive on skis and it was marvelous, offering stunning overlooks of Lake Michigan and the dunes.
The road is open for winter activities daily from 8am-5pm depending on weather. I stop at the visitor center to get trail maps and information before exploring. They also rent cross-country ski equipment.
6. Night Tubing at Mt. Brighton
Near Brighton in metro Detroit, this ski resort offers a dedicated tubing hill with lane chutes and lift service. I went tubing here at night under the lights which made it much more thrilling zooming down the hill in the dark.
Tubing costs $30 for 2 hours. Hours are Monday-Thursday 3pm-9pm, Friday 12pm-9pm, Saturday 10am-9pm, and Sunday 10am-7pm. Arrive early on weekends as it gets busy. The lounge at the base has fires and hot drinks making it easy to warm up between tubing sessions.
7. Sledding at Huron Meadows Metropark
Metro Detroit’s Huron Meadows Metropark has a large hill that’s perfect for sledding. I took my nieces and nephews here to sled and they had a blast going down repeatedly. We brought a big thermos of hot chocolate to sip on as we walked back up the hill.
The sledding hill is open daily 8am-dusk as weather permits. A $5 daily metropark pass is required for park entry. Weekdays tend to be less crowded than weekends.
8. Black Star Farms on the Leelanau Peninsula
Address: 10844 E Revold Rd, Suttons Bay, MI 49682
Michigan has a robust wine region that’s perfect to explore during the winter months. Located near Suttons Bay, this winery sits on a historic farm estate with vineyards and equestrian facilities.
I did their tour by wagon ride to learn about winemaking and see the property. We then tasted several of their pinot noirs and rieslings in a gorgeous stone tasting room. I learned so much about the winemaking process and history of the farm on the tour before sampling the stellar wines.
9. Dog Sledding in the Upper Peninsula
Going on an exhilarating dog sled ride through snowy forests with Nature’s Kennels near McMillan was an incredible winter thrill.
The sleds glide surprisingly fast and it’s amazing to see the dogs run. We helped hook up the team before the ride then pet and thanked the hardworking dogs afterwards. Bundled in a snowsuit and boots, I stayed cozy on the sled under wool blankets.
10. Seeing Frozen Waterfalls at Tahquamenon Falls
Viewing the 200+ foot drop Tahquamenon Falls entirely frozen over into towering ice sculptures was truly magical. Located within Tahquamenon Falls State Park in the eastern Upper Peninsula, the icy falls looked like something out of Frozen. The park also has great snowshoeing trails.
The falls are viewable all year. A recreation passport provides park access. Visit the Lower Falls first then hike 1 mile to the even more spectacular Upper Falls.
11. Snowmobiling the Keweenaw Peninsula
Riding a snowmobile along endless groomed wilderness trails in the Keweenaw Peninsula felt like flying through snowy forests and pristine fields. We rented powerful Ski-Doo machines and rode over 120 miles of scenic trails near Eagle River.
Several outfitters like Eagle River Snowmobil Rentals offer rentals and guided tours. I did their Ungroomed Adventure Tour exploring off-trail powder through breathtaking remote areas. No snowmobiling experience necessary!
12. Ice Climbing Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
The 200 foot tall blue and green ice formations along Pictured Rocks make for world-class ice climbing. After an intro lesson, I got to scale the dramatic frozen Miners Castle and surrounding cliffs. The views overlooking Lake Superior were phenomenal.
Pictured Rocks only allows ice climbing during select windows in January/February. Book through outfitters like Down Wind Sports who provide equipment and expert guides.
13. Contra Dancing in Ann Arbor
If you’ve never tried the energetic group folk dance known as contra dancing, the Saturday night dance in Ann Arbor is a blast. Live fiddle music accompanies the fast-paced partner dances. Beginners are welcomed.
No need to come with a partner. Be ready to laugh, meet new people, and get your heart pumping dancing!
As you can see, there are tons of awesome activities and things to do across Michigan in January! From exploring cities like Detroit, enjoying snow sports, touring wineries, checking out wildlife, and unique adventures, a Michigan winter getaway promises plenty of options for fun and excitement.
Layer up to stay cozy and come explore the mitten state this January. Let me know if you have any other recommended activities to add to the list!