Find the snow and dive into these Northern Michigan winter festivals in 2020.
Northern Michigan Town Festivals
This two-weekend-long festival in Houghton Lake is proof we Michiganders don’t let winter slow us down. In fact, the event’s lineup gives you most of what you’d expect at a summer celebration, including carnival rides, outdoor concerts and an ice slide. Of course, you can also partake in some cold-weather staples like an ice fishing competition (it is an ice fishing festival after all) and—if you really want to prove your northern mettle—the Polar Bear Dip. Always the last two weekends in January. (2020 marks the festival’s 70th anniversary, and the theme is groovy!)
We’re not surprised one of Michigan’s northernmost cities has given rise to one of the country’s largest and longest-running winter festivals. The annual Winter Carnival in Houghton includes elaborate and massive snow sculptures, sleigh rides, a winter queen pageant, a beard-growing contest, a broomball tournament and plenty of other antidotes to cabin fever. February 5–8, 2020.
This day is jam-packed with activities for all ages. Go bowling with frozen turkeys at Beulah Park during the chili cookout, test your snowball-throwing accuracy at the target competition, watch the Winterfest parade and wrap the day up with fireworks and a bonfire on the beach. Always the second Saturday in February.
The second annual fest will have more than 30 ice sculptures, live carving demos, ice bowling, sled dogs, a chili cook-off, carriage rides and more. February 7–8, 2020.
For more than 90 years, this event has had one of the most packed lineups of any Winterfest in the North. Outside, enjoy sledding, curling, figure skating, several hockey games and a broomball tournament. Then get toasty during the Chocoholic Frolic. February 14–15, 2020.
This small-town festival keeps it earnest and low-key with an all-ages perch-fishing contest on Big and Little Glen Lakes, a chili cook-off and an outdoor party on the deck at Boonedocks. All proceeds benefit the Glen Lake Schools Scholarship Fund. February 15, 2020.
Established in 1965, this festival celebrates the true “Up North” spirit. Look for treasures at the craft show and watch as sled dogs overtake the town in the largest sprint sled dog race in the state. February 15–16, 2020.
You’ll want to get here early and stay all day, as Interlochen Center for the Art’s annual family-friendly festival celebrates all things winter with activities, performances and workshops both inside and out. February 15, 2020.
Photo by Angela Brown
Northern Michigan Ski Resort Festivals
First-time skiers and snowboarders are front and center at this internationally celebrated event designed to introduce youngsters and newbies to the world of winter sports. Best of all, Crystal Mountain’s full-day local festivities are completely free. January 19, 2020.
Pack as many friends, family members, neighbors and anyone else you can find into your car and head to Schuss Mountain. Everyone skis or rides for $69 per carload. January 20, 2020.
Reconnect with familiar faces and make new friends at this weekend party that’s rich in old-school, family-friendly charm. Warm up at the community bonfire before heading out for a nighttime cross-country ski, a torch-lit snowshoe walk and cardboard sledding. Then head back in for drinks, dinner, live music and dancing. End the night with fireworks. January 24–26, 2020.
Canadian March Break at Boyne Mountain
This spring break, give a nod to our northern neighbors. Boyne Mountain is set up for family fun with scavenger hunts, zip line tours, snowshoe suppers, tubing and more. March 16–20, 2020.
Spring Carnival at Caberfae Peaks
The ski and snowboard events at this annual winter party are geared toward the brave, with a big air contest and “rail jam” at Jibber’s terrain park. But if you’re favoring a low-key weekend, head straight to the bottom of the hill to enjoy food, drinks and live music at the outdoor bar and grill. Try to snag a prize for best-dressed at the “Halloween in the Spring” costume parade. March 14, 2020.
The flagship event of this Mardi Gras celebration is no doubt the Soaker Cup—a downhill ski run where thrill-seekers attempt to coast across an unfrozen section of Lake Nubs. For those who prefer to not risk taking an unplanned dip, there’s also a full day of games, ski races and music. March 21, 2020.
Photo by Angela Brown
Northern Michigan Food and Wine Festivals
Chateau Chantal has been making ice wine for more than 20 years. In celebration of the remarkable wine, family-friendly festival events will range from snowman building and ice sculptures to outdoor fire pits with roasted treats. The winery’s walking trail will be open for snowshoeing. The festival will culminate with a multi-course ice wine education dinner on Saturday, including a tour of the cellar and winemaking process. Samples of several ice wines and pairings will be available all weekend along with a specialty dessert item. Entrance to the festival is free, with a fee to sample the wines and attend the wine dinner. January 25, 2020.
This favorite winter beer festival is in its sixth year, featuring brewers from across the state for an afternoon of beer, live music and more. Tickets include a 5oz. commemorative sampling glass plus six drink tokens for sampling. Proceeds benefit the Friends of Ludington State Park. January 25, 2020.
Sample all the incarnations of the grape that’s become one of the all-stars of the Northern Michigan wine scene, while touring the rolling wine country of Old Mission Peninsula. Tickets earn you samples at multiple tasting rooms, a souvenir glass—plus the good cheer of other riesling lovers. Designated driver tickets available. February 15, 2020.
Taste the Passion
Not to be outdone, this two-day annual winter tour of the Leelanau Peninsula’s celebrated wine trail pairs local wines with sweet and savory small plates and pop-up shopping. Get in on the “Snow Fun” photo contest and put yourself in the running for event swag, which includes a complimentary souvenir glass. Grab a lodging package and make a weekend out of it. Designated driver tickets available. February 8–9, 2020.
With a focus on locally sourced foods, Traverse City’s dining scene has emerged as one of the most dynamic in the state—so much so that it can be hard to keep up with all the inventive menu changes and recent restaurant openings. Catch up on everything you’ve been missing. Three-course menus will be available for $25 or $35 per person at dozens of participating downtown restaurants. February 23–29, 2020.
Now 14 years old, this annual party at Timber Ridge bills itself as TC’s “original winter microbrew event.” Enjoy craft brews, wine, and cider from more than 20 local breweries; food from local vendors; plus live entertainment at two hike-in music stages in the middle of the woods. March 7, 2020.
Northern Michigan Winter Races
Proceeds from this 5K/10K race support conservation and education work at the wooded wetlands of the Grass River Natural Area. The $25 registration ($30 the day of) also gets you a free soup lunch at Short’s Brewing Co. on race day plus after-race snacks and refreshments. January 11, 2020.
This feel-good winter event is about as straight up as it gets: simply show up, rent a pair of snowshoes if you don’t have your own, then hit the trail for a lighthearted 5K or 10K through the hilly terrain of TC’s Timber Ridge Resort. Many participants are first-timers, so don’t be shy. Though if you want to learn a thing or two about good form, watch for the handful of serious snowshoe racers who use the Bigfoot as a qualifier for February’s U.S. National Championships. January 25, 2020.
One longtime organizer calls this premier cross-country ski event “the biggest family reunion on the planet,” and with more than 40 years of history, we don’t doubt it lives up to its billing. Test your endurance on either the 20K or 50K course. Or if you prefer to focus on the scenic Antrim County surrounds, try the non-competitive 10K event. Proceeds benefit the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation. February 1, 2020.
VASA Festival of Races
The North American Vasa has been a Traverse City tradition since 1977. Whether you’re a newbie to the sport of cross country skiing or a seasoned racer, young or not so young, “The Vasa” has something for you. In recent years, the festival has welcomed the addition of fat bike races and a snowshoe race. Timber Ridge Resort hosts the event. February 8–9, 2020.
Even if you don’t know much about sled-dog culture, every Michigander owes it to themself the experience of taking in at least one running of the UP200. The 230-mile contest—the state’s flagship sled-dog event—is actually just one of three races that take place over four days, meaning you’ll have multiple opportunities to take part in the cacophonous start-and finish-line festivities—and all the celebrating that happens in Marquette in between. The UP200 is an Iditarod qualifying race. February 13–17, 2020.
“Pond” might not be the most accurate term when describing the setting for this annual outdoor hockey tournament in St. Ignace. The games, after all, are played on a frozen coastal stretch of Lake Huron. But when you have more than 200 teams battling it out across 75 rinks for one of the most coveted prizes in amateur hockey, you’ll need the extra real estate afforded by a Great Lake. February 13–16, 2020.
Check out the beer tent with live music, snowmobile races, sled rides for the kids and a slice of snowmobile history at the vintage sled show. February 21–22, 2020.
This two-hour endurance event is held entirely on the multi-use trails around Mt. McSauba Recreation Area and North Point Nature Preserve in Charlevoix. The course consists of a fast and challenging 2-mile loop along the lake shore and through rolling and wooded terrain. The riders to complete the most laps in two hours are the champions. February 22, 2020.
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