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5 Unique Winter Activities To Do in Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor Sledding Survey

Winter family fun in Ann Arbor.

When the weather outside is frightful, Michigan residents don’t retreat indoors. Enjoy the winter wonderland in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County, combining outdoor excitement with exercise. These five unique winter activities will keep you active all season and keep any signs of cabin fever or winter blues away!

1. Outdoor Ice Skating in Ann Arbor Parks

Many of us have been ice skating at an indoor rink, but there’s a unique charm to lacing up your skates and gliding across the ice beneath a cold winter sky.

  • For a rugged and adventurous outdoor experience, explore the skating rinks at parks in the Allmendinger, Burns Park, and Northside neighborhoods, all part of the City of Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Department. Please note that the outdoor rinks are weather-dependent, and park staff will close the outdoor rinks on days when Mother Nature is less cooperative. Remember to bring your skates when venturing to these rinks, which can be conveniently purchased at used sporting goods stores like Play It Again Sports.
  • While not fully outdoors, Buhr Outdoor Ice Arena offers a covered outdoor ice rink that provides skate rentals and open skate sessions, complemented by on-site amenities, including concessions, a heated lobby, locker rooms, and skate-sharpening services. Embrace the winter festivities with periodic hockey games, and don’t miss out on the themed dress-up skate parties held every other Friday evening! Learn more about the Buhr Outdoor Ice Arena and the public skating schedule by clicking here.
  • The Veterans Memorial Park Ice Arena is an ideal starting point for individuals not yet ready for outdoor ice skating, particularly when the weather prevents the use of outdoor rinks. The arena offers a range of activities, including open skating, lessons, hockey, special events, and more. The skating season at the Veterans Memorial Park Indoor Ice Arena runs from mid-September to early May.

2. Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing 

Winter in Ann Arbor MI.

cross-country skiing trail in Ann Arbor, MI.

Take advantage of the Ann Arbor area’s trail systems that are perfect for strapping on cross-country skis or snowshoes. 

  • Rolling Hills provides over 3 miles of meticulously groomed cross-country ski trails. Here, skiing equipment is available for rent, contingent on sufficient snow coverage. Trail options cater to all skill levels, offering a shorter trail and a longer trail with varied terrain.
  • At Hudson Mills Metropark, you can explore 6 miles of groomed trails specifically designed for classical skiing, subject to weather conditions. The course boasts diverse terrain suitable for skiers of all levels. The Activity Center adds to the experience, featuring a heated lounge, vending machines, and public restrooms. Please note that dogs are not permitted on the ski trails.
  • Independence Lake beckons cross-country skiers with over 3 miles of groomed trails suitable for both classic and skate skiing. Traverse through picturesque prairies, pine forests, and along the lake, providing a scenic and varied experience. This trail system caters to both beginners and experienced skiers.
  • While the trails at Park Lyndon may be too winding and narrow for most skiers, they offer an ideal setting for snowshoeing enthusiasts. Immerse yourself in the peaceful serenity of this winter wonderland while exploring the park’s extensive network of nearly 50 miles of trails.

Additionally, equipment rentals and purchases are available at Outdoor Adventures Rental Center through the University of Michigan, Sun & Snow Sports, REI, and Play It Again Sports.

3. Winter Bird Watching

Explore the wonders of bird watching, a delightful activity suitable for all ages and abilities. Bundle up, grab your binoculars, and explore these local birdwatching hotspots. 

  • Bird Hills Nature Area, Ann Arbor’s largest natural expanse at 146 acres, offers hilly woods for hikers and a captivating bird-watching experience. From songbirds to raptors, it’s a must-see for nature lovers and bird enthusiasts alike.
  • Within the heart of Ann Arbor, Nichols Arboretum beckons with its serene winter landscapes. Stroll through well-maintained trails and discover a diverse array of winter birds amidst the Arb’s picturesque scenery.
  • Furstenberg Nature Area, along the Huron River, is a haven for winter bird watchers. With its wooded trails and open spaces, this area provides an ideal setting to observe birds in a natural setting.
  • For guided birdwatching, explore The Washtenaw Audubon Society, which offers frequent walks in Ann Arbor and field trips across southeast Michigan. Trips range from local spots to more distant locations like Whitefish Point and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Participate in annual events hosted by The Audubon Society, including The Christmas Bird Count. You can even join bird walks in Ann Arbor scheduled for December 30, 2023, and January 1, 2024. Click here for more information.

4. Sledding at Local Hills

Experience the enchanting winter wonder of Ann Arbor with a delightful family adventure—sledding!

  • Rolling Hills Sledding Hill in Ann Arbor is a top sledding spot featuring a 275-foot hill with fenced return paths for a safe climb back up. The facility offers parking, restrooms, and a warming space with a gas fireplace. Inner tubes are available for rent, and night sledding is possible with added lights. Roped-off lanes are cleared for an easy ascent. Entry involves a fee ($6 for county residents) or an annual pass option ($30/calendar year). 
  • The sledding hill behind Leslie Science and Nature Center is a hidden gem! This location within Leslie Park overlooks the golf course and is coupled with convenient parking. Don’t miss the additional sledding runs at the nearby Leslie Science & Nature Center, offering diverse options for winter fun.
  • Veterans Memorial Park has a big sledding hill behind the Veterans Memorial Park Ice Arena. With ample parking, visitors can enjoy convenient access to restrooms and the snack bar when the ice rink is open.
  • Huron Hills Golf Course features a range of hills scattered across its west side along Huron River Drive. While the hills are generally smaller, the abundance of them provides ample space for sledders to enjoy without crowding.

5. Ice Festivals in the Ann Arbor area

Attend vibrant ice sculpture festivals in the Ann Arbor area and witness talented artists transform ice blocks into intricate masterpieces.

  • The Dexter Chamber hosts the annual Dexter Ice Fest at Monument Park in downtown Dexter, conveniently situated just 10 miles northwest of Ann Arbor. Indulge in a cup of coffee or cocoa as you stroll through the park, marveling at over 60 captivating ice sculptures meticulously crafted by Ice Dream Sculptures and sponsored by local businesses. The festival will take place on January 20th, 2024. Even if you miss the festivities, fret not — the enchanting ice sculptures will remain on display until February 3rd!
  • The Plymouth Ice Festival is a multi-day, family-friendly extravaganza, conveniently just 20 miles away from Ann Arbor. The event features ice carving displays, ice festival bingo, and everything beautiful downtown Plymouth has to offer. Save the date for the much-anticipated festival, scheduled for February 2-4, 2024. Stay informed on all the latest updates by following Plymouth Ice Festival’s official Facebook page.

Want to talk more about winter activities going on in the Ann Arbor area, or have any questions about real estate in the Ann Arbor area? Give us a call at (734) 845-9700 or fill out the form below.

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