Exterior of the Nickless Family Community Pavilion


Zooming down a six-story family raft ride inside Michigan's largest indoor waterpark or zipping down one of Michigan's last-remaining toboggan runs together — there are plenty of places to find affordable family fun this winter in the Great Lakes Bay, both inside and out!

Whether you'll pay a priceless visit to the world's largest Christmas store, look out over 54 acres of forest dripping in ice crystals and dusted in snow on the country's longest canopy walk, or stop by to see Santa and his reindeer at two iconic Santa Houses — frosty outdoor adventures and cozy indoor escapes make the ultimate pair when planning your Pure Michigan winter family getaway!


Winter Outings

Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens (Midland) Overlook 54 acres of frosted-over forest from sky-high in the treetops on the United States' longest canopy walk — 1,400 feet long and elevated up to 40 feet! Huddle together for memorable family photos inside giant wooden pods along the paths, or kick back in cargo nets suspended in a grove of spruce trees! Be sure to warm up by the roaring fire inside Whiting Forest Cafe — featuring a light food menu, locally roasted specialty coffee, and hot chocolate for the kids, too!

Dow Gardens (Midland) Explore this garden for all seasons together, taking in 110 acres dotted by architectural bridges your kids will love to climb over and towering pines that'll "wow" them all around. Be sure to time your visit to one of Dow Gardens' Christmas Walks — where you'll stroll the snow-dusted paths to the sound of live carolers, meet Santa and his reindeer, sip hot cocoa in the historic barn, and warm up at the conservatory by a towering poinsettia display!

Chippewa Nature Center (Midland) Take a guided snowshoe hike or cross-country ski as a family along 19 miles of trails that wind through this 1,200-acre wonderland, made even more beautiful by a freshly fallen snow.

Midland City Forest Winter Sports Park (Midland) Racing on one of Michigan's last remaining toboggan runs, speeding down a groomed-daily sled hill, cross-country skiing several loops of trails, or ice skating on a lighted rink after a quick warm-up by the on-site fire pit — this action-packed (but still so scenic) winter sports park will have the whole family entertained for hours!

Nickless Family Comunity Pavilion (Bay City) Free family ice skating under a covered, illuminated pavilion inside waterfront Wenonah Park at the heart of Downtown Bay City! Enjoy for free anytime on your own skates, or rent them for just $5 during set pavilion skating hours — and grab a hot chocolate to warm up with on the ice!

Hoyt Park (Saginaw) Winter ice rink for skating or hockey — complete with warming house, hot chocolate, and skate rentals! Enjoy on-site sledding and snowboarding hills and consider your iconic winter family day made!

Emerson Park Ice Hockey Rink (Midland) Outdoor, lighted, regulation-size hockey rink open to all skaters — year-around and free of charge — during normal park hours.

Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides (Frankenmuth) Join Fantasy Carriage Company just south of Zehnder's of Frankenmuth or meet up with Frankenmuth Carriage Company beneath the Glockenspiel Tower for these magical rides through Michigan's Little Bavaria. Snuggle up while you're whisked through the streets — lined in twinkling holiday lights and lush with festive greenery — and feel like you've just stepped inside a life-sized snow globe!


Indoor Waterparks

Zehnder's Splash Village Hotel & Waterpark (Frankenmuth) Michigan's largest indoor waterpark and one of "30 Top Indoor Waterparks around the World" (U.S. News & World Report, 2018), where you'll wash off the winter chill inside two distinct waterparks and plummet down a six-story family raft ride together! Rent a private cabana — complete with flat screen TV and food and beverage service — and watch the whole family wave "bye-bye" to winter blues!

Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Lodge (Frankenmuth) Escape to this indoor waterpark featuring four indoor pools and three whirlpools — one of each reserved for the grown-ups! Ride everything from body slides to twister slides, and, when it's all said and done, spend some quality time together at the largest family fun center inside any Midwest hotel! And, did we mention indoor mini golf? Buy wristbands for unlimited play and challenge each other to the 18-hole course 'til little hearts are content!


Indoor Escapes

Alden B. Dow Museum of Science & Art (Midland) Explore 14,000 square feet filled with hands-on, family fun galleries inside the Hall of Ideas and watch for rotating exhibitions; many are part of national or global tours! Let the kids create their own masterpiece on an interactive art wall, design and launch a virtual fireworks show, sing inside the Karaoke Studio, and even make music using light beams! And, be sure to swing by Spark!Lab® Smithsonian, where everyone can be an inventor!

Mid-Michigan Children's Museum (Saginaw) Designed exclusively with kiddos under 10 in mind, cover every colorful inch of this 16,000-square-foot, immersive play-and-learn museum — where ten hands-on galleries from the Art Mart to Aunt Sugar's Farm make for a great day of exploratory play!

Delta College Planetarium and Learning Center (Bay City) Take your kids on the ultimate space vacation when they discover our solar system alongside a family from another star system during shows like "Perfect Little Planet", and watch for the full lineup of family-friendly shows offered inside this state-of-the-art Dome360 theater! 

The Dow Event Center (Saginaw) Bring the whole family to this sprawling, 7,600-person arena that's played host to everything from Disney On Ice to Sesame Street Live!, Shrine Circus to The Harlem Globetrotters.

Stardust Lanes (Saginaw) 25 lanes built for open bowling, plus a rentable VIP Suite with six lanes for private, boutique bowling! Let the kids play 60+ arcade games for a huge selection of prizes while you relax at the Taproom — featuring eight flat screen TVs and 41 craft beer handles on constant rotation! Top it all off by sharing a pizza served on house-made-daily dough and consider everyone's evening a hit!

Escape Rooms (Frankenmuth, Midland) From Great Lakes Escape Game in Frankenmuth to Code Breakers Escape & Puzzle Rooms in Midland, work together to solve the many riddles of these mystifying rooms and get out before time runs out!

Saginaw Spirit OHL Hockey (Saginaw) Heart-pumping, glass-pounding Ontario Hockey League action and fun for the entire family — with a season played from September to March inside The Dow Event Center. Book a Saginaw Spirit hotel package for extra savings and added perks!


Family Fun Centers

Bavarian Inn Lodge Family Fun Center (Frankenmuth) The largest family fun center inside any Midwest hotel — featuring 160+ of the newest arcade games, 18-hole indoor mini golf, and a children's play village. Take a break from the action at the on-site Ratskeller restaurant — where bathing suits and bare feet are welcome — and try live family karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights!

Zehnder's Splash Village Hotel & Waterpark Arcade (Frankenmuth) 2,000 square feet packed with 40-plus of the latest and greatest arcade games, alongside an enormous selection of prizes.

Kokomo's Family Fun Center (Saginaw) Colossal fun zone featuring everything from classic arcade games to high-tech, high-def video games — with a Treasure Island redemption center where you can claim all the prizes from your day of play! Don't split without challenging each other to the Lazer Runner — a futuristic game of laser tag that'll have the whole family's adrenaline pumping!

Valley Lanes Family Entertainment Center (Midland) Bowling to indoor bumper cars, Lost Pirate Adventure Golf to a Lazer Maze Challenge, arcade games to escape rooms and a Hologate Virtual Reality experience — you won't want to miss one bit of this action-packed spot!

Ultimate Mirror Maze Challenge (Frankenmuth) Navigate your way through seemingly endless hallways lined with hundreds of mirrors, and enjoy this tricky, brain-teasing maze as many times as you'd like; the experience is never the same twice!

The Vault Laser Beam Challenge (Frankenmuth) Imagine yourself in a spy movie as you race against the clock to make it through this wild maze without touching the web of laser beams that surround you!

The Playground (Midland) Indoor playground and cafe — with a full coffee bar for the adults — where little ones will love to slide, climb, roll, swing, and simply have a ball!


Festive Holiday Family Traditions

Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland (Frankenmuth) Where could it be more magical to see Santa than inside the world's largest Christmas store? Bring the kids between the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve to meet him at this jolly, joyful spot — and set aside time for a drive down 25 Christmas Lane, where they'll "ooh" and "ahh" at 100,000+ twinkling lights, illuminated every night of the year!

Midland Santa House (Midland) An extraordinary Santa House featuring a slanted roof designed for reindeer take-offs, beautifully trimmed windows and trees, a fieldstone fireplace, and a massive Santa Chair where the big guy receives wish lists from little ones! Meet Santa's reindeer on select nights when they fly in for a special treat, and top off the merriment with a ride on The Northern Star miniature trackless train — your chance to see Downtown Midland aglow in holiday lights and trimmings!

Nate & Mary Ida Doan Santa House (Bay City) Tucked inside a cozy log cabin at Veteran's Memorial Park, let your little ones peek inside from the colorfully lighted front porch of this Santa House for a glimpse inside his workshop! See Santa's miniature train chug its way around the room — with tracks mounted high up by the ceiling — and enjoy all the brilliant displays of toys and lights while you wait for your turn to meet the man in the big red suit!

Santa's Village - The North Pole USA (Chesaning) A 25,000-square-foot Christmas wonderland, complete with 175+ beautifully trimmed trees and a festive model train display! Enjoy holiday carnival rides, Christmas-themed crafts, and visits with Santa himself — followed by a ride down the giant slide or a whirl on the Kris Kringle Carousel!

Family Holiday Festivals (Multiple Cities) From Saginaw's Holidays in the Heart of the City to Bay City's Sundays in the City and more — everything from free horse-drawn carriage rides to featured holiday films and luminary-lined streets are yours to enjoy at our favorite Michigan holiday festivals for families!



COVID-19 Update:

As we welcome you back, we’ll be doing our best to keep you in the loop on what’s open & closed in the Great Lakes Bay Region. Just look for the orange banners below on our partner listings as you start planning for your next trip!

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While we all navigate this new normal, some experiences may be slightly different, and some businesses may only be partially reopened. Please check with the individual businesses for their reopening status, new hours of operation, and updated policies before visiting!