Winter Fun from January to March in Southeast Michigan

Whether your family loves shows, exhibits and laser tag or skiing, hiking and looking at ice sculptures outdoors, kick off 2018 with these 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, and the smells (and tastes) of an honest-to-gosh chocolate factory.

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. 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 and $35 for downhill skiing or snowboarding. Locally, this program, which spans Jan. 2-31, 2018 and is open to ages 7-plus (10-plus for snowboarding), 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. And, if skiing or snowboarding isn’t your thing, test your nerve on one of the sledding hills in 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, with locales in Canton, Clinton Township and Farmington Hills. Other nifty picks for small fries include Rochester Play!, Boogie Babies in Rochester Hills and Detroit Kid City in Southfield and Clinton Township, 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. 20-28, 2018. Prefer kicking it old school? AutoRama, the quintessential hot-rod show, roars into Cobo March 2-4, 2018. See customs, trucks, ‘cycles and more.

4. Check out a museum exhibit

Young car enthusiasts will have the unique opportunity to look under the hoods of some of the most memorable vehicles at the Henry Ford Museum during its Engines Exposed exhibit, which is open Jan. 13-Feb. 28, 2018. Other hot museum picks: Ancient Rome: Age of the Caesars at the Cranbrook Institute of Science (opens on Feb. 3, 2018), the Kid Rock Music Lab 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. The Jiffy Mix Plant in Chelsea offers tours by reservation (9 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday). And don’t miss the Morley Candy Makers and Sanders Candy Factory in Clinton Township, home of Pecan Torties and cream puffs (times vary).

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 $4 – at Detroit’s dazzling jewel, The Rink at Campus Martius Park, which is open through March 4, 2018 ($8/ages 13-49, $7/kids and seniors). If the lakes freeze over, you’ll also find skating at four area Huron-Clinton Metroparks: Kensington (Milford), Lake St. Clair (Harrison Township), Lower Huron (Belleville) and Stony Creek (Shelby Township). And you can find even more places for ice skating fun if you check out Metro Parent’s complete list of indoor and outdoor rinks in southeast Michigan.

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 2018 at Ann Arbor’s Wild Swan Theater, it’s Frog and Toad in January, Under the African Sky in February and A Thousand Cranes in March. PuppetART offers a January performance of Oh Ananse at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in Detroit. The Velveteen Rabbit is at the Northville Marquis Theatre in March. And if you’re hankering for the blockbusters, hit Detroit’s Fox Theatre for Sesame Street Live, running Jan. 25-Feb. 3, 2018.

8. Zoo, deer and dogs

The Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak will host its Wild Winter events again this year on Jan. 20 and Feb. 3. You can feed fallow deer at the Belle Isle Nature Zoo in Detroit (11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m., daily). Love pooches? Mark your calendar for The Michigan Winter Dog Classic at Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi Jan. 18-21, 2018.

9. Sports action

There’s plenty to see this year. Pistons basketball is going strong at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit till April and so are the Detroit Red Wings. That should help tide you over till the Tigers’ March 29 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, is a great one. In Ann Arbor, Michigan Theater hosts family oldies and newer favorites. 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 Indian Springs Jan. 13 for a winter adventure hike. By March, maple sugaring programs kick off. Madison Heights’ Red Oaks Nature Center and Clarkston’s Independence Oaks County Park also keeps families busy with educational winter events in January, February and March. 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. 12-14, 2018 with majestic carved creations, entertainment and more. Other goodies include the 11th annual Fire & Ice Festival in Rochester (Jan. 19-21, 2018), Meridian Winter Blast in Detroit (Jan. 26-28, 2018) and Utica Ice Festival (Feb. 9-11, 2018) and parades to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day.

13. Indoor pool and water park fun

Arctic plunges not your thing? The water’s fine (and much warmer) inside! Goldfish Swim School has family swim for 4 months-12 years select times at its many area locations. Aqua-Tots has lessons just for special needs kids. At the hotel/water park combo 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, Macomb Township, Warren and more – all under one weather-proof roof.

This post was originally published in 2012 and is updated regularly.