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, 2020 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.
Of course, if skiing or snowboarding isn’t your thing, you can always 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, Clinton Township and Dearborn 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. Southeast Michigan Auto Show and AutoRama
Salty roads and black ice are the seasonal enemies of our vehicular arsenal. However, gearheads know there are two winter havens when it comes to wheeled wonders.
This year, the Southeast Michigan Auto Show takes the winter spot of the North American International Auto Show, which has moved to the summer months, Jan. 3-5, 2020, at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.
Prefer kicking it old school? AutoRama, the quintessential hot-rod show, roars into Cobo Feb. 28-March 1, 2020. See customs, trucks, ‘cycles and more.
4. Check out a museum exhibit
Take a look at African-American artwork during the Personal to Political exhibit at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (on display through April 5, 2020).
Other hot museum picks: Robot Revolution at the Cranbrook Institute of Science (open through July 3, 2020), 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 factory 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.-3 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 $5 – at Detroit’s dazzling jewel, The Rink at Campus Martius Park, which is open through March 8, 2020 ($10/ages 13-49, $8/kids and seniors).
If the lakes freeze over, you’ll also find skating at two area Huron-Clinton Metroparks: Lake St. Clair (Harrison Township) and Stony Creek (Shelby Township).
You can find even more places for ice skating fun in 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 2020 at Ann Arbor’s Wild Swan Theater, it’s Frog and Toad in January, Under the African Sky in February and The Tale of the Mischievous Bunny in March.
8. Zoo, deer and dogs
The Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak will host its Wild Winter events again this year on Jan. 18 and Feb. 1. You can also 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. 16-19, 2020.
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.
You can also see Detroit City Football Club at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck starting in March and catch the Tigers’ home opener on March 30.
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.
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. 10-12, 2020 with majestic carved creations, entertainment and more.
Other goodies include the 12th annual Fire & Ice Festival in Rochester (Jan. 17-19, 2020) and the Quicken Loans Winter Blast in Detroit (Feb. 7-9, 2020). You’ll find plenty of parades to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day, too.
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 while 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.