It happens rarely. The nation’s No. 1 Destination for Snow doesn’t so much as have a dusting of white flakes for weeks. If these no-snow days fall during your planned getaway to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, don’t stay home! You can pack hours with fun, relaxation and some of the best memories ever in our snowless winter paradise.
Here are a dozen of our best “No Snow. No Problem” winter vacation ideas.
1. HIKE TO WATERFALLS AND LIGHTHOUSES
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to over 300 waterfalls. When outdoor temperatures dip below freezing between November and March, these roaring waterways become massive, silent ice sculptures.
Remember, when hiking on snowless trails there may be icy patches, so wear traction cleats on your boots. Here are nine must-see waterfalls this winter.
Another no-snow hiking adventure is exploring our three Great Lakes shorelines. These lakes are natural “snow machines," so be sure to check the weather before you go. Plan to visit the historic lighthouses. They are especially picturesque when crashing waves coat them in ice.
2. GO SAND SLEDDING ON THE DUNES
Two great places to catch dunes in the U.P. are along US-2 on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior's Grand Sable Dunes near Munising. Bring a sandboard, sand sled or a flattened cardboard carton to go flying down the hillside. This is a ride of a lifetime! Stay clear of the dune vegetation when you spot where you will go down the dune. We need to protect it. Also, make sure you can stop before reaching the frigid water. The ride takes just minutes to reach the bottom. However, it can take upwards of an hour to climb back up.
3. PACK A WINTER PICNIC
Going on a picnic isn't just for warm days. Whether it's with family and friends or on a date, plan a winter picnic. Community and state parks offer scenic places to spread a blanket or set up a portable table and chairs.
Stop by a local deli or pasty shop to pick up hot or cold beverages, sandwiches or hearty snacks. Bakeries are good sources for desserts. If you are extra adventurous, cook a hot meal over a campfire, charcoal grill or cookstove. Don’t forget your favorite outdoor games to make more laughter and memories.
4. EXPLORE GORGEOUS VIEWS ON A FAT TIRE BIKE
Fat tire biking is one of the fastest-growing winter sports in the U.P. You don’t need snow to do it — although it is a lot of fun with it! You can find designated fat tire bike trails from Sault Ste. Marie to the Porcupine Mountains containing miles of calorie-burning climbs and coasting through tremendous scenery. If you don’t own a bike, no worries. Plenty of bike shops and trails rent them.
5. DO A WINTER TREASURE HUNT
Immersing your toddlers to teens in the natural wonders of the U.P. is one of the best reasons to vacation here. Not having snow makes it easier to find some of our best treasures. Make a list of items you can find outdoors. Include pine cones, acorns, leaves, stones, beach glass, animal tracks and more. Decide before you go whether you will photograph or gather up your finds (bring a bag). Find a wooded trail or beach and start hunting!
6. TURN PINE CONES INTO BIRD FEEDERS
Plan one of your snowless hikes through one of the U.P.’s many pine forests. Gather a bag of fallen pine cones and bring them back to your hotel. To make your bird feeders you will need a rectangular plastic container, string, peanut butter, a knife or spoon and birdseed. Consider getting a high-grade mix that has sunflowers, cracked corn, dried fruits and peanuts. Tie a looped string at the top of the cone, smother the cone with peanut butter and roll it into the seeds. Take the bird feeders to a nearby trail or park and hang them in the trees or bushes.
7. REEL IN THE TASTIEST FISH ICE FISHING
Snow or no snow, once the water freezes on U.P. inland lakes and the Bays de Noc, you can drop a line through the ice. Ice fishing season is typically between December and March but check with local bait shops to confirm ice conditions. Many anglers claim the flavor of their cold-water catches is exceptional. See this for yourself when you reel in walleye, whitefish, northern pike, perch and panfish. Get tips, suggestions for places to fish and links to fishing reports and regulations on our ice fishing page.
8. SHARE STORIES AROUND THE CAMPFIRE
Invite family or friends to join you around a crackling campfire or bonfire for an evening of storytelling. Bring roasting sticks, hot dogs and the makings of s’mores.
To get the tales flowing, use these story starters:
How did mom/dad, grandma/grandpa or aunts/uncles meet?
What was your worst or best vacation?
What are your favorite childhood memories?
Tell about a time you got in trouble.
What is the most daring thing you have ever done?
9. SEE MESMERIZING STARS AND NORTHERN LIGHTS
Some of the darkest skies in the world are over the Upper Peninsula. This makes it one of the best places for stargazing and, when atmospheric conditions are right, for watching the Northern Lights.
A premier, free place for viewing is Keweenaw Dark Sky Park. The headquarters are at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge near Copper Harbor.
10. GO ICE SKATING WITH THE FAMILY OR ON A ROMANTIC DATE
Lace up your skates to figure-eight and glide at the U.P.’s indoor rinks. Visit Marquette's Lakeview Arena, Iron Mountain's Mountain View Ice Arena and Ironwood's Pat O'Donnell Civic Center. Or go to the historic Dee Stadium where they have free skate sessions. It also has a History of Hockey Exhibit on how Houghton is the birthplace of professional hockey. Michigan Tech University John J. MacInnes Student Ice Arena, also in Houghton, offers twice the indoor fun. It offers public skating. plus opportunities to cheer for the renowned Huskies during home hockey games.
11. TRY THE BEST CRAFT BEERS AND SPIRITS
Snow-free roads and highways make it even easier to go from one U.P. town to the next in search of new craft beers, spirits or cocktails. Our beverage crafters create their liquid art from locally grown fruits, honey, grains and hops. They age them to perfection. Then fill your glass with beverages as crisp as a U.P. fall evening to as robust as a Lake Superior winter gale.
12. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE U.P.’s WORLD-CHANGING HISTORY
Time doesn’t stop in the U.P. But you’ll easily see how our cultures and history have shaped who we are over the centuries. Several of our hundreds of museums and historic sites are open in the winter months. You will want to include these in your itinerary: A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum of Michigan Tech, Beaumier Upper Peninsula Heritage Center, Fayette Historic State Park and Townsite, Keweenaw National Historical Park, Mackinac Island, Webster Marble: Inventing the Outdoors Museum and the U.P. Military Museum.
MORE TIPS FOR PLANNING YOUR NO-SNOW STAY
One reason locals love living in the Upper Peninsula is that the weather is rarely boring. No snow when you arrive can become over-your-boots deep by nightfall. Use these winter tips to plan your trip. Then book your stay. Snow or no snow, a toasty room, hearty meals and the best of times await.