Michigan hotspots provide cold-weather fun

Winter offers a healthy dose of activity

By: Jennie Miller | C&G Newspapers | Published January 19, 2011

 Cross-country skiers take to one of the state’s many trails.

Cross-country skiers take to one of the state’s many trails.

Photo provided by Travel Michigan

Hibernating is for the bears.

Winter weather doesn’t have to force us to stay indoors and under the covers, counting the minutes until spring. As the flakes fall, Michigan offers healthy opportunities statewide to get out and enjoy the season, with activities from cross-country skiing and snowmobiling to ice fishing.

“It’s a great frustration for me — here we are in this great four-season state, and so many people sit back in the wintertime and just complain that it’s cold out,” said Dave Lorenz, spokesperson for Travel Michigan. “The only way you’re going to enjoy it is if you get out there.”

Day trips, weekend getaways and extended-stay vacations are all in the cards despite the frigid temperatures, because of the vast array of offerings in the state.

“We offer in Michigan everything from the great wilderness hikes and snowshoe hikes in tremendous forested areas and along beautiful vast shorelines, everything from that to the high-end resorts with world-class spas and all the things you can do in between,” Lorenz said. “When you have that variety of activity, it’s important to get out there and enjoy it. Get out and enjoy life and live it fully. We have just about everything for the out-of-doors enthusiast, and with our unique collection of resort areas, you can really find everything you’re looking for in just a short drive. You can find something unique in every area of the state.”

Ski resorts like Crystal Mountain, Boyne Highlands or Nubs Nob offer skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing. Some places, like Boyne, Shanty Creek and Double JJ Ranch, in Rothbury, offer dog-sledding tours. Places around the state also offer tobogganing, snow tubing, ice fishing and snowmobiling.

“Perhaps at night, you can head to a spa and sit around a fire and a sip of wine or whatever,” Lorenz said. “Quite literally, in any direction you look in the state, you can find a variety of activities you’re looking for in just a tank’s drive. You can quite literally start in Monroe and go all the way up to Copper Harbor on snow trails that are groomed for the state. The (Upper Peninsula) is considered the mecca for snowmobiling for the thousands of miles of trails.”

Lorenz also suggested a day in Detroit enjoying the many cultural opportunities the city has to offer, such as the Detroit Institute of Arts and The Henry Ford, followed by a nice dinner at a hip new restaurant.

A resource with thousands of attractions, destinations, websites, deals and discounts is available through Travel Michigan, at www.michigan.org.

“It’s a tremendous source,” Lorenz said. “People can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook and get a lot of ideas from travelers that are out there just sharing their experiences, too.”

One of those travelers, Ron Rademacher, has traversed the state off the beaten path. Forced to avoid freeways while touring craft shows showing off his rustic furniture, Rademacher discovered some beautiful and fascinating areas across Michigan that not many people were aware of.

He founded the website www.michiganbackroads.com to share his discoveries with others, offering insight into the small towns and everything in between.

“There is not a single mention of Traverse City on there,” he laughed. “It’s all focused on what people can find within a simple day trip. … When people go on a road trip, they’re interested in what to do, where to eat, where to stay, where to shop. It’s all laid out, so you’ll be able to find those things. … A lot of times, people just want to get away for a day; they just want to take a day and go somewhere. These places I write about, they are very nearby, and sometimes (people) never knew it’s there.”

For winter travelers, Rademacher recommends Hidden Lake Gardens, near Brooklyn, which he said features several completely enclosed environments that depict everything from the desert to a tropical rainforest.

“You go in these domes, and you completely forget that it’s freezing outside,” he said. “My wife makes me take her there every other year to get away from the Michigan weather.”

Rademacher also mentions Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings, a nature center where he said no motors of any kind are allowed and you can hike and cross-country ski.

“They’ve got seven or eight different trails. They’ve got a lake. They’ve got a bog. There’s a river,” Rademacher said. “You can go there and get all the outdoor activity you want.”

He also loves the annual ice spectacular in Plymouth, set for Jan. 21-23 this year.

“It might be one of the best ice festivals that goes on in the whole state — there is nothing like it anywhere in the Midwest,” Rademacher said.