Start doing Southwest Michigan’s winter bucket list
Say so long to your couch, and start crossing off this bucket list of ideas before the spring thaw. Then, return each winter until you finish. Your happy memories will pile faster than snowflakes on a snow day.
When to come for the most winter fun
The same Lake Michigan that makes our warm weather months so popular also creates a winter wonderland. Our annual lake effect snowfall ranges from 80 inches near the lake and 60 inches inland.
The snowiest weeks are from late January through February. The snow removal crews clear our major highways and roads whenever the fluffy flakes fall. Our winter temperatures are rarely frigid. They average in the low to mid-30 degrees Fahrenheit — just right for playing outside!
A dozen ways to have fun
1. Take an enchanting Light Up the Bluff walk
This is an easy way to start checking off your bucket list. From downtown St. Joseph's State Street, a quick walk west will lead you to a stunning sight. In Lake Bluff Park, there are over one million lights. Stroll under arches, past lighted trees, holiday-themed characters and around the illuminated Maids of the Mist fountain.
If you prefer, drive slowly along Lake Boulevard and take in the magical world. The lights brighten nights from early December through mid-February. Then tour around Southwest Michigan to see more December lights displays.
2. Scatter joy with cherished gifts
Whether you are shopping for loved ones or yourself, you can find heartfelt gifts in Southwest Michigan. There are many good options for December holidays, winter birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine's, Leap Year Day, or to beat the winter blues.
3. Sled or snowboard down giant dunes
Wow! The views of Lake Michigan are spectacular at the top of the towering dunes at Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer. It’s a calorie burner climbing up, but oh, the thrill of flying down. An adrenaline rush for all ages, it’s free with a state park recreation passport. Watch this video to see what fun awaits.
4. Cross-country ski in wine country
This is one of the premier winemaking regions in the Midwest and there are so many places to cross-country ski or snowshoe near the snow-covered vineyards. A unique bucket list must-do is sipping craft beverages while skiing or snowshoeing on Mt. Tabor Trails between Round Barn Estate and Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant.
Don’t have skis? Several county parks offer rentals and lantern-lit night skiing is an amazing way to see the stars. Here are the best places to ski and snowshoe.
5. Give your fat tire bike a snowy workout
You don’t have to be a white-knuckle, bone-jarring fat tire cyclist to click this idea off your bucket list. Southwest Michigan has extreme rides and first-timer and intermediate trails.
One trail for experienced bikers is Chikaming Township Park & Preserve in Three Oaks. Combining the three scenic loops, you can ride a total of six miles of twisting single track. There are quick climbs, logs and bridges to keep you craving the next thrill. Try these mountain and fat tire bike trails.
6. Skate through your visit
Once temperatures drop below freezing, the outdoor ice rinks fire up their Zambonies. St. Joseph, Harbert and South Haven offer public skating, private ice reservations and skate rentals. You also can skate year-round at the St. Joseph Garden Ice Arena.
If you don’t want to lace up skates, you can have a wildly fun time zipping around Garden’s rink in an ice bumper car ramming into your family’s and friends’ cars. Here’s a list of our best ice skating destinations.
7. Earn cool prizes, tasting craft beverages
Download this year’s Makers Trail Flight Crew Passport, then, taste your way through several of the area’s over 40 local wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries. The more you visit before May 31, the more Passport access codes you can scan and the more cool prizes you can earn. It’s a fun way to discover new favorite beverages, too, on the Makers Trail.
8. Dine in an igloo
Enjoy winter activities at our Makers Trail spots. Have fun in cozy igloos with pretty lights, sit by fire pits, or relax in heated tents during festivals. Dablon Vineyards & Winery made USA Today’s 10Best list for top tasting rooms in the United States. What better place to try exceptional estate wine than in a private igloo watching the snow gently fall onto the vineyard? Then, visit these winter tasting experiences nearby.
9. Become a River Rocks champion
River Rocks is an exclusive shuffleboard-on-ice game at River St. Joe Farmstead Brewery. Using a broom you push the curling stone “rocks” down one of three chiller-cooled ice lanes towards a target underneath the ice. Anyone can play but only one person or team can claim being champion.
10. Slide down a volcano
Climb up a volcano and slide down its side like lava … then, quickly move before the next eruption! This is one of dozens of hands-on learning exhibits you can explore at St. Joseph’s Curious Kids’ Museum along the top of the bluff or Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone in the Silver Beach Center below the bluff. The next day, pick one of these family vacation ideas to do.
11. Ride a hippocampus
Jazz up your bucket list with something extraordinary. Instead of choosing a horse figure on the Silver Beach Carousel — go for the hippocampus, raptor or clown fish. There are 48 hand-carved and painted figures and two chariots to pick from, including one chariot that is wheelchair accessible.
Another fun bucket list idea is to challenge yourself to ride all 50 in your lifetime.
12. Sing along or laugh uproariously
If your idea of entertainment is passively watching streaming shows or listening to recorded music, add live performances to your winter bucket list. The Acorn in Three Oaks features incomparable talent performing rock, folk, indie, jazz, opera, open mics, dance, drama, and comedy in a turn-of-the-century former corset stay factory. Or thoroughly enjoy more great entertainment while earning artsy prizes, play the Creative Connections game.
Stay over to complete more on your bucket list
A day trip to Southwest Michigan can certainly knock two to three things off your winter bucket list. But staying over for a night or more lets you wake up to finish even more. Easily find a hotel with the amenities and rates you want, including waterfront views and being a snowball’s throw from many of these bucket list ideas. Warm smiles will greet you each time you walk through the door.