Best Things to Do with Metro Detroit Kids This Winter

The snow may be flying and Jack Frost is definitely ready to nip at your nose, but that doesn’t mean you have to put all of your family’s fun on hold.

Winter in metro Detroit and Ann Arbor is a great time to get out of your house and enjoy activities that you really can’t do any other time of the year — and we’ve rounded up the best of the best seasonal options in this handy guide. 

Scroll through it to find details on cool wintertime activities such as prime sledding hills and family road trips. Plus, we’ve got suggestions for indoor and outdoor activities this time of year, fun ways to celebrate MLK Day, Valentine’s Day and other winter holidays — and of course, some ideas to have some winter fun at home, too.

Bookmark this guide and return to it anytime you need winter fun inspo. Oh! And don’t forget to share your family’s fun with us on Instagram by using #MPMoment. Enjoy! ❄️

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Photo credit: The Rink at Campus Martius Park from Downtown Detroit Partnership

Of course you could just hibernate until spring, but something parents all know is that too much idle time spent inside makes for rambunctious and bored kids, or at least too much screen time and snacking.

Luckily, metro Detroit and Ann Arbor offers some really great options for fun. We rounded up some simple ideas every family should try to help get your winter bucket list started off right.

Hit the slopes

Fun Fact: Michigan ranks No. 2 in the nation for its number of ski resort areas. Most are up north if you’re willing to make the trek, but you’ll find spots closer to Detroit, too. Consider Pine Knob Ski & Snowboard Resort in Clarkston, Alpine Valley in White Lake or Mt. Brighton Ski Resort in, well, Brighton. All are great options for a swish swoosh down the snow-covered slopes.

Go ice skating at Campus Martius 

You’ll find ice rinks all over metro Detroit, but the granddaddy of them all is no doubt the outdoor rink at Campus Martius Park. Rent skates or bring your own and whirl around the rink situated in the heart of downtown, which makes for gasp-worthy views. Think an urban winter wonderland, if you will. When the little ones need a break, grab a cup of hot chocolate or do some shopping at the nearby outdoor market.

Explore Bowers School Farm’s Winter Park 

Spend a brisk day on this Bloomfield Hills farm enjoying its winter park, running through Feb. 26. Let the kids meet the barnyard animals, roast s’mores over bonfires while keeping warm, shop local fares, go sledding and tubing, fill up on comfy foods or ice skate at the rink. And keep an eye out for the special Saturday activities like ice carving. 

Trek to Frankenmuth 

If you missed the holiday hubbub for which Frankenmuth is famous (or made a point to skip it), don’t worry. Frankenmuth is a happening hot spot all winter long. Bundle up the whole family and make your way to Michigan’s little Bavaria. Go sledding, check out the ice rink, keep cozy by splashing around at one of the indoor water parks, or just marvel at the snow-covered hills and roofs — they’re like something out of a Disney fairytale. Find more winter getaways worth the drive from metro Detroit.

Take a trip to the zoo

A trip to the zoo may feel synonymous with summertime, but the Detroit Zoo is open year-round and ready to welcome you and the kiddos throughout the winter months. In fact, now through April 16, the Natural History Museum in London’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit is on display featuring 100 shots representing the best of nature photography and photojournalism.

Stroll the Matthaei Botanical Gardens on the U of M Campus 

You may not think of a botanical garden when you think wintertime, but think again. The Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum on the University of Michigan campus is open to the public year-round and boasts an outdoor garden space featuring bonsai, native plants and perennials, and an indoor conservatory chock-full of plants from around the world. Or bundle up the tots and take them over to the children’s garden or stroll the nearly three miles of trails.

Attend a winter festival

Elephant ears and dunk tanks give way to winter sports and chilly art at local fairs. The  frosty fun crown goes to the Plymouth Ice Festival, returning Feb. 2-4, 2024 with majestic carved creations, entertainment and more. Other goodies include the Winter Blast in Royal Oak (Feb. 2-4, 2024) or the Frost Festival in Rochester (Jan. 19-20, 2024).

Go for a wintertime hike

It can be tempting to keep cozy on the couch all winter long, but before you tap that “next episode” button, consider bundling up the kids and heading to your favorite park or trail for a hike and a bit of fresh (albeit brisk) air. A wintertime hike means less crowded trails, and it’s the perfect time to spot things you may have missed during the summer months, like bird nests sitting high up in the trees. Don’t let the early sunset deter you. Grab a few flashlights or lanterns to guide you while you listen for the sounds of owls and other nocturnal creatures.

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Photo credit: Feld Entertainment

Want to escape the solitude of home without having to stay outdoors? Try an indoor playground or trampoline park. Need more adventure, we’ve got info on local escape rooms and axe-throwing spots, too. It just goes to show: You don’t even have to like snow to find something fun this time of year.

Cheer at a Red Wings Game

Got a sports-loving kid that you’ve been meaning to take to a pro game? The Lions’ season may be over, but the Detroit Red Wings’ regular game schedule runs through mid-April. Grab tickets for the family, head to Little Caesars Arena and cheer on the home team. Detroit is Hockeytown after all.

Take a factory tour

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 (advanced tickets required) and The Jiffy Mix Plant in Chelsea is offering virtual tours this year.

See a show

The theater season is even more lively during the winter season. You can catch Disney on Ice Presents Magic in the Stars at Little Caesars Arena (Feb. 15-18, 2024).

Visit a play place

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! and Boogie Babies in Rochester Hills. 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.

Visit an indoor water park

Arctic plunges not your thing? The water’s fine (and much warmer) inside! 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 these indoor water parks in Michigan and beyond.

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Photo credit: iStock/TARIK KIZILKAYA

Now that the hubbub of the holidays is over, the inclination may be to hibernate until that first spring thaw. But don’t sleep on wintertime — it has its perks. From science experiments and homemade crafts and family outings, discover fun ways to get the kids up and make memories at home.

Set up a hot cocoa bar

Enter winter’s answer to the summertime sundae bar: the hot cocoa bar. Heat up the almond milk and the 2% and lay out your family’s favorite toppings for a hands-on sweet treat that’s guaranteed to be a household pleaser. Can you hear the mini marshmallows, whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles calling? Yum.

Build snow castles

No shade to Frosty, but when that next fluffy snow falls, instead of a snowman, encourage the kiddos to build snow castles in the yard. Good ol’ fashioned buckets will do the trick, of course, or you could spring for a castle making kit. And, who knows, maybe they’ll want to go all out and build a whole scene where Frosty is the king of his own castle.

Organize a winter-themed scavenger hunt

Help the kids plan and execute a real-life scavenger hunt. You can find premade lists online and print those, or create your own with must-finds like animal tracks, a smoking chimney, a melting snowman, a pile of firewood, a lost mitten, or (ew!) yellow snow. Take snaps along the way.

Erupt a snow volcano

No doubt you remember those science fair volcanoes from when you were in school. Well, this is the same idea, except the mess isn’t on your dining room table. Help your future geologists mold a volcano out of snow, and then whip out the baking soda, vinegar and food coloring for an experimental explosion.

Enjoy snow ice cream

Yes, snow is generally safe to eat but it’s probably best to plan for a big snowstorm and catch your flakes midway through the dump (after the air has gotten a good scrubbing) in a clean container. We rounded up these fun snow ice cream recipes.

Make a DIY snow globe

Who says snow globes are just for the holidays? Carry the magic into the new year by helping the kids make their very own glittery globes. It’s super simple. All you’ll need is a small plastic figurine, a glass jar, glitter, glycerin, super glue and cold water.

  • Glue the figurine to the inside of the jar’s lid.
  • Fill the jar with cold water.
  • Mix in a couple teaspoons of loose glitter.
  • Add a few drops of glycerin (this will keep the glitter from floating to the bottom too quickly).
  • Screw the lid onto the jar and glue it closed.

Make frozen bubbles

For an experiment that’s equal parts fun and educational, help the kids make frozen bubbles. First, unearth the bubble mix left over from summer or make your own. Then use straws or wands to blow, blow, blow. It works best on days when temps reach single digits. For a different take, try making frozen marbles: Simply fill a balloon with water and food coloring, put it outside to freeze, then cut off the balloon.

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Winter plays host to a ridiculous amount of holidays — so many that it can be hard to plan for them all. We’ve got you covered. Here, you’ll find guides to help you plan upcoming winter holidays such as local events and at-home activities. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – Jan. 15, 2024

Honor the civil rights crusader by attending a local event in your area or giving back with a community service project. You can learn more about MLK and other influential Black figures by attending a Black History Month event.

Groundhog Day – Feb. 2, 2024

Six more weeks of more winter or will we have an early spring? Groundhog Day is a silly holiday that the whole family secretly loves. You can celebrate with these fun at-home ideas.

Lunar New Year – Feb. 10, 2024

2024 is the Year of the Dragon and families can celebrate with these local events. We also rounded up Lunar New Year books for kids.

Valentine’s Day – Feb. 14, 2024

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