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Related Member: St. Joseph Today, The Acorn, Citadel Dance & Music Center, Fernwood Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve, The Golf Club at Harbor Shores, Love Creek County Park & Nature Center, Madeline Bertrand County Park, Michigan Maritime Museum, Round Barn Estate, Swiss Valley Ski & Snowboard Area

Winter is treated as a special occasion in Southwest Michigan. Join us in seasonal celebrations big and small.

When temperatures drop, you may be tempted to curl up at home, but you won’t want to miss all the fun that Southwest Michigan has to offer! We asked locals to list some of their favorite winter activities and traditions. When you’re ready to come out of hibernation, we have plenty to keep you entertained throughout the holiday season. Trade in your wool blanket for a countryside blanketed in freshly fallen snow and end your day socializing in front of a roaring fire.

Snowscapes and ribbons of trails will beckon you to come out and play.

  1. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing - With trails criss-crossing the region, you will find terrain for all ages and abilities at our parks and nature centers:
    • Love Creek County Park in Berrien Springs - This destination appeals to all levels, while offering more challenging cross-country trails to satisfy experienced enthusiasts. Fat tire biking is another option here. Equipment rentals are available.
    • Madeline Bertrand Park in Niles - In addition to a variety of levels, this park offers night skiing. Short days give way to wooded trails warmed by the glow of lanterns in the evening, at this park near the Indiana border. Equipment rentals are available.
    • Harbor Shores Golf Resort - When the golfers flock to warmer climes, winter brings recreational opportunities for cross-country skiing on miles of trails. Try out the beachside loop for lovely views of Lake Michigan. Top off your visit at The Grille at Harbor Shores, the onsite restaurant that serves up inventive twists on comfort food and offers an extensive drink menu. Bring your own cross-country ski equipment as rentals are not available.
  2. Girls Board Ski Alaila Molly LivDownhill skiing and snowboarding - What better way to stay active and social than to spend a day on the slopes? When you need an adrenaline rush, head for Swiss Valley in Jones. This day use area will keep you busy with eleven runs. Swiss Valley hosts a variety of ski programs for all ages and a ski school for beginners. Add two terrain parks for different levels of snowboarding abilities and you have something for everyone. A grab-and-go cafe maximizes your time on the slopes. Picnic with your group next to the fire on the patio. Or relax with specialty drinks and table service overlooking the ski hills in the Chalet restaurant. Snowmaking guarantees a long season. Equipment rental available.
  3. Hiking and sledding the dunes - Often the best days in Southwest Michigan are made from the simplest pleasures. With ample state parks and preserves throughout the region, hiking abounds around every corner. Step into slumbering woods and enjoy trees trimmed in evergreen boughs and sparkling ice. Treat yourself to views of wildlife snacking on winter berries. Gaze for miles at Lake Michigan - waves frozen in motion and sculpted by wind and sand. Marvel at nature’s art, painted in whites and grays, sometimes punctuated with a bluebird sky. Our sand dunes transform into wintertime playgrounds for sledding. Choose a bunny hill, extreme vertical drops and everything in between.

Southwest Michigan loves to dress up in winter white and go out on the town!

  1. Luminary IMG 5242Luminary Festival in St. Joseph - There is no better way to welcome the holidays than visiting St. Joseph during the Luminary Festival. Discover the charm of this Victorian-era downtown, set against the warm glow of 1,000 luminaries that light the sidewalks. Stroll among local businesses, celebrating with refreshments and extended hours. You may even get to join a caroling choir along the way. Late November.
  2. Snowflake Stroll in Three Oaks - If you are searching for an idyllic small town with tons of culture, look no further than Three Oaks. It’s not hard to imagine why the Christmas movie Prancer was filmed here. You will feel like you’ve stepped into a holiday card come to life during the annual Snowflake Stroll in late November. Galleries, eateries and stores all join in the fun offering delicious samples, holiday cheer and live music. Close your evening with a concert at the Acorn Theatre. Late November.
  3. Fernwood Botanical Garden in Niles - The holiday season would not feel complete without spending time at Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve. Decked out in colorful greenery, the conservatory boasts fragrant orchids and a cascading waterfall to provide a decadent escape from the cold weather outdoors. More than 100 kinds of tropical ferns grow in the rocks and nearby beds. Linger by the pond for a glimpse of goldfish and frogs. The calendar is packed with events, from Wine and Wreaths for the crafty, to the popular Breakfast with Santa. Call to reserve ahead. November - December.
  4. Holiday Art Hop in Benton Harbor - Warm up with community spirit. This much anticipated event attracts a loyal following every year. At the Holiday Art Hop you can browse artist studios, watch local kids show off their talents in music and dance, while enjoying complimentary food and drinks with friends. Don’t miss Water Street Glassworks. Stop in and warm up on the catwalk overlooking the hotshop where you can watch artists give shape to their works. Early December.

Capture the magic of the season at these festive events and bring home warm memories of family time in Southwest Michigan.

  1. lightitupLight Up the Bluff in St. Joseph - Getting into the holiday spirit is easy during Light Up the Bluff. Caroling sets a festive mood for the tree lighting. Watch kids’ eyes light up when a million twinkling lights turn on at dusk. Youngsters can walk along the bluff decorated with favorite holiday characters and sing along to favorite songs. Adults will enjoy a festive shopping atmosphere at the Window Wonderland storefronts dressed in seasonal finery. Please note that while the Light Up the Bluff and window event takes place on December 6, the lights and bluff decorations keep the festive spirit alive through mid-February.
  2. Christmas at the Keeper’s House in South Haven - Learn about Great Lakes history and celebrate the holidays at the Michigan Maritime Museum. The museum’s historic Light Keeper’s House gets into the spirit with readings from the children’s book the Christmas Tree Ship. Little ones will delight in sledding, hot cocoa and holiday treats. Parents can catch up on holiday shopping for nautical knick-knacks in the gift shop. The event is free to attend, but donations are appreciated. Mid-December.
  3. IMG 6756 SteamedNutcrackerA Steamed Nutcracker at the Mendel Center in Benton Harbor - A not to be missed Steampunk twist on the traditional Nutcracker ballet. This production spins a tale with a modern message. In its fifth year, A Steamed Nutcracker has quickly become a beloved local tradition. The performance draws on local talent from the Citadel Dance & Music Center. Spectacular set design and music by a 30-piece professional orchestra delivers an unforgettable evening for all ages. Mid-December.

A bonus activity for those want to make it onto the nice list....

...Sippin’ with Santa in Baroda - Sometimes it’s a challenge to find activities that will keep both kids and parents entertained. Round Barn Winery, Distillery and Brewery has solved the problem with their annual event, Sippin’ with Santa. Parents will enjoy holiday shopping and wine sampling, while the kids enjoy fun crafts, cookie decorating and face painting. In the spirit of the season, Round Barn partners with Toys for Tots. Donate a new, unwrapped toy (or a $5 suggested donation) per child and give back to the local community. Early December.

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