Text: R. Collins
With March’s arrival, it’s now or never to take advantage of West Michigan’s bountiful winter activities. Whether tucked around a cozy outdoor firepit with a hot drink in hand to beat the last dregs of cold or relishing in the remaining snowfall of this year by partaking in one of west Michigan’s many sledding hills, there’s much to do out and about our region in the winter, even as snow begins to thaw. Below, we’ve compiled just a few tried-and-true favorites and information on their hours, current goings on, and more.
Blandford Nature Center | 1715 Hillburn Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Best for: Snowshoeing, upcoming sugarbush season activities, farm activities, and produce.
If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand—and feet—at snowshoeing, the Blandford Nature Center on Grand Rapids’ west side offers snowshoe rentals for its miles of approachable trails on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. ET, until March 6th. Rentals are available in the auditorium on the east side of their Visitor Center and must be returned by 3:00 p.m. ET.
Besides snowshoeing, this comprehensive natural and educational resource offers a variety of activities, from historical onsite buildings dating back to 1853 and family education activities like tree tapping to fort building, and an onsite farm for fresh produce and animal interactions.
Upcoming is Blandford’s Sugarbush season activities, like the “Backyard Sugaring” class, which teaches visitors how to collect and cook maple syrup from backyard maple trees, and the “Blandford Date Night: Sunset and Sugarbush,” which sets visitors on a lighted path down Sugarbush Trail and over to a lesson in sap-to-syrup making, followed by an evening drink around the fire. During the Sugarbush Festival itself, the historic buildings of Heritage Village are open with interpreters, making them a picturesque and interactive historic moment tucked in nature.
The Blandford Nature Center’s Visitors Center is open from Monday through Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. ET. Admission for non-members is $3.00 and member admission is free.
Cannonsburg Ski Area | 6800 Cannonsburg Rd NE, Belmont, MI 49306
Best for: Small downhill skiing and tubing, and fat tire biking
This intimate west Michigan resort offers nine lifts and 21 ski and snowboard runs from beginner to advanced; as well as ski, snowboard, and helmet rentals for those trying things out. Whether one prefers to ascend via chair lift, tow rope, or magic carpet, Cannonsburg Ski Area has them covered, and for a more a family-geared snow outing, they have a tubing program for linking up with friends and family or riding solo.
Each ticket is good for two hours and carries participants to the top of the hill via magic carpet. A $5.00 all-day ticket for Cannonsburg’s trail series will offer fast paced action for fat tire biking, or relaxed meandering via snowshoe and cross-country skiing. As with tubing, these activities are subject to weather conditions, so make sure to check with the resort before committing.
Hill hours are Monday through Friday, from 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET and Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET. Tubing hours are Wednesday through Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET and Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET.
Grand Rapids Public Museum | 272 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Best for: seasonal planetarium features and exhibits, inspiring gift shop.
The three floors of historical and educational exploration offered at the Grand Rapids Public Museum also offer timely and seasonal exhibits for visitors of all ages. Among the many current exhibits on view is “Under the Arctic: Digging into Permafrost,” which posits visitors in the role of climate science researchers to explore real ice age fossils, ancient ice cores, and engineering challenges posed by a thawing Arctic environment.
At the museum’s Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium, visitors are treated regularly to shows typically lasting just under an hour. Currently, the planetarium is featuring the Telly Award-winning presentation “Ice Worlds,” which explores the delicate balance between ice, water, and life on Earth.
The feature spans Artic and Antarctic regions to examine thriving ecosystems and how their survival relates to our own, and beyond Earth, to ice laden landscapes and natural systems on other planets and moons in our solar system. “Under Starlit Skies” also focuses in on planets and moons and other far reaches of the solar system, but this feature—with live presenter—teaches viewers tips and tricks for finding planets and stars in their own back yard.
After a day adventuring through the museum and planetarium, make sure to stop at The Curiosity Shop, which is packed with unique, thoughtful gifts for yourself, friends, and family. Advanced ticket purchases for museum admission are required, with additional tickets available for select exhibits and planetarium features. The museum is open Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET and Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET.
Burchfield Park | 881 Grovenburg Rd, Holt, MI 48842
Best for: sledding, trail hiking, disc golf
This 540-acre park circling the Grand River in the Lansing area offers plentiful opportunities for boating, fishing, trail hiking and biking, and when weather permits, sledding or snow tubing on two of its hills fit for kids and adults. There is a vehicle entrance fee for those seeking to explore the natural sights at Burchfield, which include the scenic woodlands, riverbanks, and well-stocked fishing pond. Those in search of activities or games can utilize two, disc golf courses, a softball diamond, canoe and kayak rentals, playgrounds, and more.
For timely information on sledding, check in on the Ingham County Park weather conditions page. Also note that snow tubes are available for rent for $3.00, weather permitting, on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, while the hill remains open for sledding Monday through Sunday.
Heated outdoor dining
Of course, we can’t forget the multitude of bars and restaurants throughout west Michigan keeping patrons warm with outdoor heated dining options. In the Grand Rapids area alone, dozens of destinations like New Holland Brewing Company’s The Knickerbocker, Brewery Vivant, Outside Coffee Co., and Long Road Distillers are sporting comfortable outdoor options.
Additionally, some of Saugatuck’s best breweries have offered outdoor experiences and creative libations this winter, as have Lansing guard of brewers, such as Lansing Brewing Company and its bonfire area, and fan favorite The Peanut Barrel, which has been serving up quality pub fare since the 1970s and features outdoor dining with heaters throughout the winter.
Mulligan’s Hollow Ski Bowl for ski and snowboard slopes and lessons.
600 Y Dr, Grand Haven, MI 49417
Hawk Island Park for snow tubing, and hiking Riverwalk trails.
1601 E Cavanaugh Rd, Lansing, MI 48910
Mt. Misgah for exploring two miles of wooded dune trails and high bluffs, along with snowy views of the beach and lighthouse.
2238 3rd Ave, Holland, MI 49424
Provin Trails for hiking or cross-country skiing.
2900 4 Mile Rd NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525