Festivals and More Fun Things to Do Up North This Winter

Try out these activities and happenings on your next trip to Traverse City, Mackinaw City, and beyond.
Waterfalls in Winter. Winter view of Tahquamenon Falls with snow on the trees surrounding the waterfall. // Photograph by Michael Herbon, DNR Photo Ambassador.

As the “water-winter wonderland,” Michigan truly has it all. In the summer, we’ve got the lakes and all the activities that come along with being on the water. In the winter, the state turns into a scene right out of a Charles Dickens story — and this reigns especially true for the U.P. and communities Up North.

In fact, many metro Detroiters find themselves traveling beyond the Zilwaukee Bridge this time of year to take in the sites and sounds of a Michigan winter, and if you’re one of them, start planning your winter recreation itinerary now with some of these festivals and activities happening Up North in the winter of 2023.

Winter festivals Up North   

Mackinaw City Winter Festival

2023 is the 30th year for this wintertime festival. Enjoy outhouse races, a kids’ obstacle course, a chili cook-off, and much more. Jan. 21. No cost for admission. Downtown Mackinaw City area; mackinawcity.com.

Snow Jam and Chili Challenge

The Piazza at The Village in Traverse City hosts this annual event, which includes live rock music by Q100s, bonfires, frozen yard games, and of course, a chili cook-off. Jan. 21. $5-$25. The Piazza at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, 715 Cottageview Drive, Traverse City; thevillagetc.com. 


This Finish-American celebration kicks off with the Tori markets followed by a costume parade, outdoor games, a polar bear dive, and much more. Jan. 28. No charge for admission. Finlandia University, 601 Quincy St., Hancock; finlandia.edu.  

Skiable Feast

Enjoy cross-country skiing along the trails of northern Michigan and stop at five food and beverage stations to sample the eats along the way. Must be at least 21 years old to participate. All levels or skier are invited. Jan. 28. $105 per person, $15 ski rental. Treetops Resort, 3926 Wilkinson Road, Gaylord; treetops.com.

Traverse City Comedy Fest

This annual fest brings more than 40 local and national comedians together for more than 20 shows over three days. This year’s roster of comedians includes Josh Adams, Ann Duke, Esteban Touma, and many others. Feb. 2-4. Ticket prices vary by show. Various locations in the Traverse City area; tccomedyfest.com.

Ice Fest 2023

Take a walk through downtown Harbor Springs for ice carving demonstrations, ice sculpture displays and other wintertime activities. Fab. 10-11. No cost for admission. Downtown Harbor Springs area; facebook.com. 

Winterfest in Downtown Beulah

Back for its second year, this fest is full of fun activities including an outhouse race, chili contest, poker run, and parade. More details coming soon. Feb. 11. No cost for admission. Downtown Beulah area; clcba.org.  

Winter Wonderland Weekend

This annual event offers everything from specials at local restaurants to activities for kids and ice sculpture demonstrations to a scavenger hunt downtown. Be sure to stop by Sports Park for bump jumping and cardboard sled races. Feb. 17-20. No charge for admission. Downtown Petoskey area; petoskydowntown.com.

Other fun activities to try

Stay at Shanty Creek Resort

Book your stay at this Northern Michigan resort and enjoy all kinds of wintertime activities including alpine tubing, dogsledding, fat tire biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Visit shantycreek.com for more information.

Visit Tahquamenon Falls State Park

The Upper Falls is one of the largest waterfalls this side of the Mississippi River at 200-feet-wide and with a drop of nearly 50 feet. Four miles downriver, find the Lower Falls, which is made up of five smaller waterfalls. They develop ice in the winter, so you’ll get a unique view of the popular attraction. A state park pass is required. Visit michigandnr.com for more information.  

Learn how to luge

Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park offers one of only four ice luge tracks in the United States for guests to learn how to participate in the Olympic game. You’ll reach speeds of up to 30 miles an hour and have the option to try it in at night. Skiing and snowshoeing are also available. Visit msports.org for more information.

Tackle Michigan’s tallest vertical skiing drop

Advance skiers can take on more than 100 acres of terrain that includes the longest ski run and highest vertical drops (700 feet) in the Midwest at Mount Bohemia. After you hit the trails, relax in the Nordic Spa, which offers hot and cold water exposure. Visit mtbohemia.com for more information.

Tour Mackinac Island on foot

If Mackinac Island is on your list of must-dos on your trip Up North, consider booking Chad’s Wonderful Winter Walking Tour. During these tours, local resident Chad Bennet leads you on a customized route around the island to see some places of interest. Visit mackinacisland.org for more information.

Take a sleigh ride through the snow

Fantail Farm is a 120-acre farm that has been owned by the Zanker Family since 1966. Their herd of draft horses earn their keep by taking farm guests on a winter sleigh ride along the farm’s trail system. Visit fantailfarmllc.com for more information.