Wander Through Winter Gardens

Midland’s Dow Gardens wears a fresh coat of snow so well, you'll barely miss 22,000 bulbs that bloom here every spring. (Okay, maybe a little.) But, walk its groves of towering pines, stop to pose for pictures by architectural bridges and tranquil water features, and see these gardens in a whole new light: glistening in snow and ice. You can even reserve a spot for their Christmas Walks for the chance to stroll the candlelit paths at night.

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Explore a Frozen Forest

Tucked inside Dow Gardens’ 110 acres, you’ll also find its Whiting Forest — and a 1,400-foot Canopy Walk that stands the longest in the country. See icy branches and snow-covered spruces from right within the treetops, and take it all in on a glass-floored overlook, four stories high above ground. Warm up by the fire at Whiting Forest Cafe with a cup of locally sourced specialty coffee (and bring a few bags of their signature house blend back home).

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Snuggle Up on a Sleigh

The only thing better than seeing one of the “Most Magical Christmas Towns and Villages Across the World”? Dashing through it on a horse-drawn carriage! Find Fantasy Carriage Company (just south of Zehnder’s) or Frankenmuth Carriage Company (by the Bavarian Inn Glockenspiel) and take in all the holiday lights on your tour of Little Bavaria!

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Get Ready To
Bundle Up
+ Venture Out

On snowshoes or skis, skates or fat bikes — even shivering on frozen waters in a shanty — wintertime in the Great Lakes Bay promises some pretty unforgettable excursions!

Find Snowy Adventures

Cross-country ski through the early-morning powder within Bay City State Park, snowshoe 19 miles of Chippewa Nature Center trails, fat bike a few scenic loops within Midland City Forest, or lay fresh tracks down at any of these pristine spots.

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Lace Up Your Skates

On top of its toboggan runs, Nordic skiing trails, and sled hill, Midland City Forest boasts an ice rink with a fire pit you can warm up at after your skate. In Bay City, the Nickless Family Community Pavilion comes with Wenonah Park's sweeping waterfront views — and a 36-foot holiday tree — while the Hoyt Park rink in Saginaw has a warming house, plus sledding and snowboarding slopes.

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Shanty Up

Whether you’re ready to head out on the ice alone or you’d rather have a little help navigating these frozen waters, Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay boasts some of the best ice fishing for walleye around. Get tips from local anglers for targeting winter walleye here, or sign up for one of Mark Martin's Ice Fishing Vacation Schools.

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Pick Your Path Enjoy 100 miles of powder-coated paths along the Great Lakes Bay Regional Trail and 142 of winter birding — with sightings from bald eagles to long-eared owls — along the Saginaw Bay Birding Trail. Venture Out +
Drydock Beer Garden | @jaclynjeane
Wind Down at a
Cozy Winter
Beer Garden

Drydock Beer Garden in Bay City has its own fleet of toasty outdoor igloos — and they only pop up on special winter beer garden weekends. Time your trip just right to sip under the stars — with heat lamps, fire pits, and brews that'll warm your bones!

Uncover Unique Finds

The world’s largest year-round Christmas store. Michigan’s largest antique center, and a sprawling, 100-store outlet mall. A European shopping district comprised of 40 specialty boutiques, and a charming village of unique shops stretched out over six historic buildings. These shopping outings (and so many more) are all here to enjoy; wear your comfiest kicks so you can cover as much ground as possible!

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Find Your Comfort Food

From spots serving up dishes like heavenly carbonara and hearty Bolognese to laid-back joints known for wood-fired pies or fall-off-the-bone barbecue — there’s no shortage of winter comfort food here. And if you don't really feel like dining in, grab takeout and cozy up at your hotel!

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Drink Coffee in a Cozy Igloo

Head to Harless + Hugh Coffee in Bay City for the chance to sip your specialty drink in outdoor digs. Try the gingerbread caramel latte prepared with house-made syrups — and drink in all the free smells from a chimenea in the courtyard. Or, beeline to Grove Tea Lounge in Midland to savor a Cinnamon Plum Tea or Matcha Latte in a heated, lighted bubble tent.

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Populace Coffee
Populace Coffee | @populace_baycity
Treat Yourself To
A Comforting Cup

Need a few more ideas on where to go to grab a great cup of coffee? These dozen-or-so local shops have you covered — including a roaster Food & Wine called Michigan's best.

Author
Blair Cook

A Great Lakes Bay native, Blair is the Founder at Brandscape — a boutique creative company specializing in content. Her favorite part? Sharing stories about the Pure Michigan places she loves!