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Winter Fun from January to March in Southeast Michigan

Whether your family loves stage shows, LEGO exhibits and laser tag or skiing, hiking and looking at ice sculptures outdoors, kick off 2013 right with these 13 cool activities

The number 13 gives some people the chills. But, the way Metro Parent sees it, 13 is the perfect way to beat the chill in southeast Michigan – or, for adventurous types, outright bask in it. Bundle up the kids to glide across the ice, zip down a ski hill, scope out snow monkeys, get crafty in nature or watch chainsaws transform hunks of ice into glistening masterpieces. Then, warm up to some Motor City automotive marvels, jaw-dropping LEGO architecture, the smells (and tastes) of an honest-to-gosh chocolate factory and even Elmo kicking out the jams.

In fact, whether metro Detroit gets hit with snow squalls or unseasonable thaws, there's so much to do, the next three months are scarcely enough time to contain it all. So, even if you suffer a touch of ophiophobia (2013 is the Year of the Snake in the Chinese zodiac), there's no excuse not to brave the elements!

1. Skiing and snowboarding

Consider this your chance to conquer a bunny hill. January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, and Discover Michigan Skiing makes it an affordable gamble at $20 for cross-country skiing, $30 for downhill skiing and $40 for snowboarding. Locally, this program, which spans Jan. 2-31, 2013 and is open to ages 7-plus, is at Mount Holly, Pine Knob Ski & Snowboard Resort in Clarkston and nearby Mount Brighton. While not hosting the promo, Alpine Valley in White Lake is another spot to learn the ropes. Snow guaranteed. Check out the Metro Parent roundup for even more ski and snowboard destinations near southeast Michigan.

2. Play centers and fun spots 

Cabin fever setting in? Time to let the rug rats blow off some steam – at local indoor fun centers. For tykes, check out pint-sized play nooks, like trailblazer Jungle Java, now with locales in Canton, Clinton Township and Farmington Hills. Other nifty picks for small fries include Rochester Play!, Tiny Town Play Lounge in Northville and Detroit Kid City in Southfield, offering a scaled-down Motown. Got older kids? A day at C.J. Barrymore's in Clinton Township gives 'em a golf range, bowling, arcade and laser tag. For even more, check out the Metro Parent roundup of best family fun play centers in southeast Michigan.

3. Detroit auto show and AutoRama

Salty roads and black ice are the seasonal enemies of our vehicular arsenal. However, gearheads know there are two safe winter havens when it comes to wheeled wonders. The first, of course, is the almighty North American International Auto Show, returning to Detroit's Cobo Center Jan. 19-27, 2013. Browse 500 cutting-edge vehicles – and swing by for the Jan. 25 WXYZ TV Family Day for music, giveaways and fun. Prefer kicking it old school? AutoRama, the quintessential hot-rod show, roars into Cobo March 8-10, 2013. See customs, trucks, 'cycles and more; plus there's Disney and WWE celebs, Toy-A-Rama and Spongebob Squarepants for kids.

4. Check out a museum exhibit

Imagine Ford Field, home to the Detroit Lions, in the same room as the Empire State Building and St. Louis Arch. It's reality at the LEGO Architecture: Towering Ambition exhibit, in Dearborn's Henry Ford Museum till Feb. 24. 2013. There's a Duplo play area for tykes, too, and Double Dare-style challenge Saturdays Jan. 5-26. Other hot picks: Try Bodies: Human Anatomy in Motion at the just-opened Michigan Science Center in Detroit, Kid Rock Music Lab and three other new exhibits at the Detroit Historical Museum – or explore the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum for $5 after 5 p.m. Thursdays.

5. Factory tours all over town

Have you ever seen a brand-new truck, stuffed animal or sea of sweets roll off the assembly tracks? Take a tour! The Ford Rouge Factory Tour gives an inside view of the iconic Detroit auto plant that's still churning out F-150s (9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, closed Jan. 28; $15/adults, $11/kids). Chelsea offers two free tours: Chelsea Teddy Bear Company (11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday) and Jiffy Mix Plant (by reservation, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday starting Jan. 3). And don't miss the Morley Candy Makers and Sanders Candy Factory in Clinton Township, home of Pecan Torties and cream puffs (9 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, free).

 

6. Outdoor ice skating

Whatever your ability, lacing up skates and taking to the ice is essential wintertime fun. Brandish your blades of glory – or rent a pair for just $3 – at Detroit's dazzling jewel, The Rink at Campus Martius Park, where 2013 hours are in swing till March 3 (11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday and noon-8 p.m. Sunday; $7/ages 13-49, $6/kids and seniors). If the lakes freeze over, you'll also find skating at six area Huron-Clinton Metroparks: Independence Oaks (Clarkston), Kensington (Milford), Lake St. Clair (Harrison Township), Lower Huron (Belleville) and Stony Creek (Shelby Township).

7. Theater and stage shows

In case you missed the playbill, we're in the heart of theater season here – and the line-ups are dandy. In early 2013 at Ann Arbor's Wild Swan Theater, it's Under the African Sky Jan. 24-26, Jack and the Beanstalk Feb. 14-16, Skipwrecked March 14-16 and Peter Rabbit March 21-23, 2013. PuppetART in Detroit hosts Snow Queen Saturdays till Jan. 26, then West African folktale Oh, Ananse! in February and Dream Tigers in March. Tinkerbell Visits Storyland is still at the Northville Marquis Theatre this month, and watch for the Velveteen Rabbit in March. And if you're hankering for the blockbusters, hit Detroit's Fox Theatre for Yo Gabba Gabba! Live! Get the Sillies Out! Jan. 12 and Sesame Street Live: Elmo Makes Music Jan. 24-Feb. 18.

8. Zoo, deer and two dog shows

It really is all happening at the zoo – during the ever-popular Wild Winter Weekends. In 2013, the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak hosts an "Arctic Adventure" Jan. 12-13, "African Adventure" Feb. 9-10 and a "Winter Safari Social" March 9-10. Each one includes mingling with critters, kids' music, zookeeper chats, crafts and more. Or feed fallow deer at the Belle Isle Nature Zoo in Detroit (11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday). Love pooches? Mark your calendar for The Michigan Winter Dog Classic at Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi Jan. 17-20, 2013 and The Detroit Kennel Club Dog Show, Cobo Center March 2-3, 2013.

9. Sports action

Granted, the NHL has canceled about 43 percent of its 2013 season (at least) – but whether or not our Red Wings get back in the game, there's plenty to see. Pistons basketball is going strong at the Palace of Auburn Hills till April 17, 2013. Or get your fix at two Central Collegiate Hockey Association events: The U-M/MSU rivalry Feb. 2 and Hockey Day in Michigan Feb. 16 (only $44 for a family four-pack!) – both at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Or why not roller derby? Detroit Derby Girls have winter bouts Jan. 5, Feb. 2 and March 2; Bath City Roller Girls in Macomb County go at it Jan. 19, Feb. 9 and 19 and March 16. That should help tide you over till the Tigers' April 5 home opener.

10. Unique movie experiences

Soak up cinema the way your parents did: at an old-fashioned neighborhood movie joint. A few are still hoppin', complete with tasty eats. The meticulously restored Redford Theatre in Detroit, a 1928 gem with twinkling "stars" in its domed plaster ceiling (its 85th birthday is Jan. 27!), is a great one: See Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (Jan. 4-5, 2013) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Jan. 18-19), plus Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory March 8 – complete with a pre-show on its original organ. In Ann Arbor, Michigan Theater hosts family oldies, like The NeverEnding Story Jan. 13, Kung Fu Panda Feb. 17 and The Princess Bride March 3. Plymouth's Penn Theatre often also offers a monthly kids flick. Or keep the car heater on and catch a budget double-feature at the Ford Drive-In in Dearborn.

11. Nature centers and outdoor activities

Pick a park. Any park. Odds are, especially if it has a nature center, you'll find crafts, activities and events galore. That includes the 13 Huron-Clinton Metroparks: Hit Hudson Mills in Dexter Jan. 26, 2013 for Chillin' at the Mills and try snowshoeing, Klondike racing, snow snake tossing and lots more, or swing by Wolcott Mill for "Fun on the Farm" this month. By March, maple sugaring programs kick off. Clarkston's Wint Nature Center also keeps busy, with winter 101 for tots Jan. 12, a "Winter Star Party" Feb. 2 and "Cabin Fever Campfire" March 2. And bring your sled to Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor for free fun – visit raptors and, on select dates, the frogs, turtles, snakes and rabbits at the Critter House.

12. Wintertime festivals

Elephant ears and dunk tanks give way to winter sports and chilly art at local fairs. The January frosty fun crown goes to the Plymouth Ice Festival, returning Jan. 18-20, 2013 with more than 100 majestic carved creations blooming in the "Sculpture Garden" in Kellogg Park (plymouthicefestival.com). Lyon Township hosts a one-day Winterfest on Jan. 19, packing in everything from hockey and sledding to an arctic splash and "old-fashioned jump-rope making" (lyontwpfestivals.com). Other goodies: The fifth Fire & Ice Festival in Rochester,  Motown Winter Blast in Detroit and Utica Ice Festival (both Feb. 8-10) and parades to celebrate St. Paddy's Day (Corktown in Detroit March 10 and Royal Oak.

13. Indoor pool and water park fun

Arctic plunges not your thing? The water's fine (and much warmer) inside! Goldfish Swim School opens "family swim hours" for 4 months-12 years select times in Ann Arbor, Birmingham, Farmington Hills, Rochester and just-opened Okemos. All-new Aqua-Tots in Troy has lessons just for special needs kids Jan. 21, 2013 and a parents' night out in February – plus lots of classes (register in advance). At the hotel/water park combo Best Western Sterling Inn, pair a staycation with 2,300 square feet of fun, including a three-story waterslide. And don't forget about your community offerings: Find slides and other fixings at the public pools in Canton, Livonia, Macomb Township and Warren – all under one weather-proof roof.

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