Are you looking to add a little flair to your family’s winter bonding time? There are plenty of December winter wonders in Michigan and beyond that are guaranteed to spice up your wintertime fun.
Here, learn about three activities – including two different types of skiing – that the kids will love. Then, dress warm and pack out the car for an out-of-town family outing.
Close to home: Huron Meadows Metropark (Brighton)
Just north of Ann Arbor off of US-23, Huron Meadows Metropark transforms once the snow starts falling from a golf and picnicking destination to a winter oasis.
One of the perks of Huron Meadows is that the flakes don’t need to be flying for your family to enjoy snow there – as long as the temps are low, the park maintains a 1.5-mile loop, Buck’s Run, that’s coated with man-made snow.
“We’re unique in southeast Michigan for a few reasons,” explains Jerry Cyr, park operations manager for Huron Meadows and Hudson Mills Metroparks. “We’re one of the only places around here that makes our own snow, when the weather conditions are right. Huron Meadows also offers two types of skiing – classic and skate-style.”
While Cyr points out his own preference for classic cross-country skiing where the grooves are already created for you along the trail, families may want to try skate-style for something new.
“Skate-style skiing has a different motion, it’s quicker and it almost looks like you’re skating on the snow,” he says. “The skis and poles are different, too.”
Along with the 1.5-mile loop, there are 15 miles of tracked trails for classic skiers and 11 for skate-style, mostly throughout the golf course.
Cyr suggests families new to skiing try cross-country first – it’s easier for beginners as opposed to skate style and it’s got another benefit, notes Cyr: “The trails go right through the woods. It’s absolutely beautiful.”
Still, families can’t go wrong no matter what type of skiing they choose.
“It’s a great opportunity to just get out and play,” Cyr says.
A day trip: Niagara Falls (Ontario, Canada)
Made up of three waterfalls that meet dramatically on the border between the U.S. and Canada, pummeling 6 million cubic feet of water over the edge every minute, it’s no wonder Niagara Falls has become a top tourist attraction.
But those crowds wane in the winter, while the falls’ beauty becomes even more breathtaking.
“Winter is prime time for exploring Niagara Falls in a completely different way than most people ever get to see,” explains Andrea Czopp, vice president of operations for Destination Niagara USA. “The falls look like something straight out of Disney’s Frozen, with the water creating these magical sculptures out of snow and ice.”
The mist created by the falls clings to tree branches and when the weather is cold enough, freezes, casting a crystal-like sheen over the whole scene.
Stay until the sun goes down to see Niagara Falls illuminated – those lights go on at 4:30 p.m. in December; on Fridays, there’s also a fireworks display at 9 p.m., with the exception of Dec. 23-29, when they’re nightly.
Even farther away: Jackson Hole (Wyoming)
Colorado and Utah often get all the attention when it comes to great ski resorts in the West, but Jackson Hole, Wyoming, offers incredible skiing with additional perks for families: free lift tickets and rentals for kids 14 and under.
Rent a condominium or home for four nights or more and your kids will get free ski passes and rentals for each paying adult.
See their website for additional discounts for families (hint: book lodging, flights and lift tickets at the same time for up to $200 off airfare per person) and for information on their Kid’s Ranch, a place just for children and teens to learn to ski and to hang out sans mom and dad.
Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls State Park