July 27, 2017

Michigan with Kids: 10 Winter Must-Do’s in the Upper Peninsula

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Up until last week, I had never been to Michigan. To be honest, I was quite hesitant when I was invited in late-January for a visit by Travel Michigan to experience winter activities, like snowshoeing, dog sledding and snowmobiling. I was constantly checking the temps on my iPhone. It was cold, like really cold. Fortunately, I talked myself off the ledge, hopped on a plane to Sault Ste Marie and had the most amazing time experiencing the best that winter has to offer in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP).

If you and your family love being outdoors in the winter, then head up to Michigan. Here are 10 must-do’s with your kids when snow is on the ground in the UP:

Go Dog Sledding.

Go Dog Sledding.

1. Drive or Ride in a Dog Sled: In McMillan, MI, I was able to mush my own team of sled dogs at Nature’s Kennel. It was completely awesome. I was nervous at first, of course, but that fear quickly subsided as I enjoyed the crisp air and peace of the quiet forest and fluffy white snow. Best of all, kids as young as 10 can drive their own team of dogs. I also rode as a passenger. Here’s a short video.

Explore Tahquamenon State Falls Park on Snowshoes.

Explore Tahquamenon State Falls Park on Snowshoes.

2. Explore the Forest on Snowshoes: We spent one morning at Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Paradise, MI where we put on our snowshoes and trekked through snow that was knee deep in some places. A guide took us through the forest, pointing out the tracks of little animals and the different types of trees. Kids should stay in the back as adults make a path through the snow.

Tahquamenon Falls

Tahquamenon Falls

3. Visit a Frozen Waterfall: The day we went snowshoeing, we also had the chance to visit Tahquamenon Falls, which was almost completely frozen. Only a very small section of the waterfall was moving as everything around that area was encased in ice. Ice climbing is quite popular on sections of frozen waterfalls, though I don’t think I’m quite that fearless.

Ride on a Fat Bike.

Ride on a Fat Bike.

4. Ride on a Fat Bike: I’d never heard of fat biking until I arrived in Michigan. Essentially, you take a mountain bike frame and put on four-inch wide tires. There’s less air in the tires, which makes for a bouncy ride, but lower air pressure also makes it easier to cut through the snow. Kids should try to bike in the tire treads of the bike in front of them to make for a better ride.

Spectate at a Sled Dog Race.

Spectate at a Sled Dog Race.

5. Watch a Dog Sledding Race: While in Michigan, we were fortunate enough to spectate at the UP200, a 200-mile sled dog race that runs over 1.5 days. We watched from the starting line as 13 teams started their races into the wilderness. I was excited and the dogs were pumped, as you can see in this short video. Another Michigan sled dog race, the CopperDog 150, is coming up later this month.

Go for a Ride on a Snowmobile.

Go for a Ride on a Snowmobile.

6. Hop on the Back of a Snowmobile: Michigan has more than 6,000 miles of snowmobile trails and Marquette is a very snowmobile-friendly town. In fact, many of the restaurants have “Snowmobilers Welcome” signs in front of their establishments. Kids as young as 10 or 12 can drive their own snowmobiles (following a safety training session). Or, kids can sit behind an adult on a snowmobile.

7. Catch Fish on a Frozen Lake: Many of Michigan’s lakes, including Lake Superior, are very frozen this time of year, so head out onto the lake, cut a hole and pop in your short rod. Visit a bait shop ahead of time to find out where the fish are biting and ensure the lake you plan to fish is safe when you go. Kids will love reeling in fish from a hole in the lake. 

Visit a Lighthouse.

Visit a Lighthouse.

8. Visit One of Many Lighthouses: Michigan is known for its abundance of lighthouses, and we had the opportunity to explore the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse. While typically closed in the winter months due to the frozen lake, there are many lighthouses throughout the state that remain open and are a wonder to explore with your kids.

Exploring Marquette.

Exploring Marquette.

9. Explore a Quaint, Small Town: I love small towns. I love the people, the historic districts, the wonderful restaurants, and Marquette did not disappoint. The softly falling snow, the cute storefronts, like Higgins BINGO Supplies. I loved it all, and I was even able to get a Blueberry Cosmopolitan at The Vierling in downtown Marquette, then walk back to the Hampton Inn Marquette for hot cocoa and cookies. It’s hard to beat that.

10. Go Skiing or Snowboarding: Of course, just like many other areas across the country that receive snow, you can also go skiing or snowboarding while in the UP. Michigan ranks second in the nation for number of ski areas in the state, including Mount Bohemia, a ski area for experienced skiers only. In fact, you’ll even find signs there that read “no beginners allowed.”

Have you ever been to Michigan in the winter? Let me know in the comments section below about some of your favorite things to do as a family.

Disclaimer: I was recently a guest of Travel Michigan to explore Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and loved every minute of dog sledding, snowshoeing, fat biking and snowmobiling. However, all opinions expressed here are my own. 

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