January usually finds Northern Michigan nestled under a thick white blanket — the perfect canvas for our favorite snowsports. And while getting outside and embracing the cold is one of the best ways to stave off the winter blues, what can you do when the white stuff is hard to come by and gray skies are weighing us down? We put our heads together and came up with some fun things to do this winter to keep both your mind and body active. We’ve got this, people!
Note: We’ve provided links to some Northern Michigan locations, but these ideas can be used no matter where you live!
Learn A New Indoor Sport
If you’re looking for fun things to do this winter that don’t require snow or an iced-over lake, take your activity indoors! There are lots of fun ways to stay warm and dry while still staying active.
- Learn to Curl at the Leelanau Curling Club. This 2-hour class is a great group activity for families or even coworkers looking for a team-building activity. Dress warmly and prepare to laugh a LOT!
- Pickleball fever seems to be spreading across the nation with players both young and old. When the weather is cold, head over to the Grand Traverse Bay YMCA where you can drop in or reserve a court in advance.
- Bowling never goes out of style, does it? If you’re in Traverse City, you can hit the lanes at Lucky Jack’s. Looking for a more intimate experience? Check out the professional-grade bowling alleys and arcade game room at the Northport Pub & Grille.
Get Outdoors (Even Without Snow)
While snow and cold temps are required for skiing, skating, snowboarding, and ice fishing, there are still plenty of fun things to do this winter outside sans snow.
- Go hiking on the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail or on any of the Park’s other walking trails.
- Take a fat-tire bike ride on the TART Trails. Don’t have a fat bike? You can rent one from Brick Wheels or Suttons Bay Bikes.
- Go river rafting along the Pine River or take a paddle along the Crystal River. Kayaks and canoes are available to rent at Crystal River Outfitters in Glen Arbor.
Have Some Fun!
Laughter is the best medicine any time of year, but when the serious lack of Vitamin D is getting you down, then you really know it’s time to be among fun-loving people again! Try any or all of these ideas when you’re looking for things to do this winter.
- Attend a local trivia night! At the Cherry Public House you can catch the fun each Sunday evening with our very own Quizmaster Whoot.
- If you’re in need of a few laughs, don’t miss Blotter Thursday at Glen Arbor Wines, where they read the latest escapades from the Leelanau Enterprise’s blotter.
- There’s nothing better on a winter night than being inside a cozy pub or restaurant listening to live music. Catch Chris Skellenger, Patrick Neimisto, Luke Woltanski, Mary Sue Wilkinson and others at the Cherry Public House. Check their Facebook page for updated info.
- Host a game night. Put on a pot of white chicken chili or make homemade pizzas (try these delicious and healthy tortilla pizzas from our friends at Brys Estate), and then play some classic games like Yatzee or charades, or try your hand at the super popular Catan or enjoy a relaxing evening with The Hygge Game, which includes “300 thought-provoking questions designed to spark meaningful conversation.”
Expand Your Mind
It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of binge watching the latest not-to-miss series, but when your brain needs to come up for air, why not use this time of year to stop by one of those museums you’re always meaning to visit? And if you’re going to finally tackle that growing stack of books on your nightstand, why not include a friend?
- Visit a museum either on your own or with the kiddos. The Dennos Museum Center on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College always has interesting exhibits for adults, while the Great Lakes Children’s Museum is a magical place for kids ages 1 to 8 to learn all about our Great Lakes. If you’re looking for some local history, be sure to schedule a trip to the Leelanau Historical Society, where you can learn about the traditional arts of the Anishinaabek and more.
- Take in a lecture at NMC’s International Affairs Forum, or if you live in a larger metro area, check out the offerings at your local university. The National Writers Series in Traverse City offers a wonderful opportunity to interact with bestselling authors.
- Join a bookclub, either online or — better yet — in person. Can’t find a book club near you? Start your own! Even two people can make a great book club. You can take turns meeting at each other’s house or meet up for coffee or wine at a local spot. And if you need some ideas on what to read, the NYT Bestsellers List is always a great place to start.
Try New Food & Drink
Restaurants in Northern Michigan are always full to overflowing during the summer months, so winter is the perfect time to get out and enjoy some new cuisine, while also supporting local restaurateurs during the shoulder seasons.
- Traverse City Restaurant Week will run from February 26 to March 4 this year. Enjoy special offerings at your favorite eateries, or try somewhere new!
- The Cherry Public House in Glen Arbor is keeping things interesting this winter with daily specials, seasonal offerings, music and trivia.
- Warm up with Sips & Soups on the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail January 28 and 29. For just $30, attendees will receive a 1.5 oz pour of hand-selected wine paired with 3 oz of delectable soup from each of the participating wineries.
There’s no better way to lift your own spirits than by lifting the spirits of someone else! When you’re looking for things to do this winter, consider doing things for others.
- Leelanau Christian Neighbors is supported by 200 volunteers and is always looking for more helping hands.
- 5Loaves2Fish works out of Leland and provides lovingly made meals to those experiencing homelessness and food insecurity in Leelanau County and Traverse City.
- Goodwill Northern Michigan can always use help preparing food and servicing meals to those staying at their inn.
- Grand Traverse Dyslexia Association can help train you to become a tutor to work part time in an environment that offers hope, tools, and encouragement to students who struggle to read, write, and spell proficiently.
When you’re looking for things to do this winter, don’t be afraid to get creative — literally! Using the right side of your brain can help relieve stress and release endorphins, much like physical exercise. Give it a try!
- Learn to knit or crochet. These days you can easily learn the basics of knitting and crocheting through a Youtube video, or if you live near Cedar, check out the wonderful yarn shop Wool & Honey, which hosts learning events all through the year.
- Join a community choir like the NMC Grand Traverse Chorale or share your singing talent at your place of worship.
- Try out for a local theater production. The Glen Arbor Players use a readers’ theater format — perfect for those who might be intimidated by memorizing lines!
- Take an art or crafting class. We are excited about the offerings at Tinker Studio on Old Mission Peninsula. Owned by Cherry Republic’s very own Rick Burbee along with wife Mary Kay and daughter Elizabeth, this charming studio offers year-round painting and mixed media classes.