In the post-holidays, pre-spring stretch of the year, it's easy to fall into a winter routine — shoveling the snow off your driveway, scraping the ice off your car, and counting the days until that beautiful first day of spring. The good news is the days are slowly but surely getting longer. But while you wait, why not make the most of the coldest time of the year? From outdoor excursions to activities that improve your health and vigor, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the season.
Enjoy downtown Detroit during Winter Blast. Ice sculptures, free skating, heated tents, and live entertainment are all in and around Campus Martius Park. Going on 11 years, this is a fun event in the heart of the city that can be enjoyed by all ages. Did we mention heated tents? And while Winter Blast has plenty to offer, some of us just want to use this wonderful excuse to get downtown to get drunk with the rest of the metro Detroiters who are piling into the city. Bar Blast, sponsored by Metro Times, is the official afterparty of Winter Blast. It takes place Feb. 7 and offers continuously running shuttles through downtown, Foxtown, and Greektown from 9:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Go sledding. Balduck Park on the east side is a longtime sledding destination for generations of Detroiters — and your best bet for sledding in the city proper. Then there's tobogganing, a throwback version of sledding, with a few local toboggan runs in metro Detroit. Often iced and elevated, the potential for speeds up to 60 mph are realistic while tobogganing. Our recommendation is to check out Kensington Metropark in Milford.
Explore six miles of cross-country ski trails at Hudson Mills Metropark. Sure, it lacks the action of downhill sports, but the gentle pace of cross-country offers light exercise, and groomed trails afford excellent chances to catch a glimpse of elusive winter wildlife.
Catch a flick at the Detroit Film Theatre. You won't find show times for any Hollywood blockbusters at this theater, but you will find Japanese animated flicks like The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and non-fiction films like Frederick Wiseman's National Gallery. Settle in for a Sunday matinee or make either Saturday night show times a date — either way you're sure to see something remarkable at the DFT.
Go ice skating. Whether you glide like a pro or can barely move on ice, if there's a frozen pond near your residence it's always fun to kill a few hours circling around on skates. Better yet, if you have a group of friends, get a pick-up game of hockey going — at least in the winter you won't have to worry about motorists driving by. Need extra incentive to head downtown for some al fresco exercise? We'll bet the words "rinkside bar" will do the trick. Earlier this winter we talked with Campus Martius Park's president, Bob Gregory, about this year's amped-up offerings, the bar being one of them. Plus, is there anything more romantic than holding hands with your significant other while ice skating in the middle of downtown Detroit on Valentine's Day?
Geek out at Offworld Arcade. Recently launched in the newly renovated St. Vincent building, this monthly event pairs excellent music (Wade Kergan from Hello Records DJ'ed the other month) with dozens of standalone classic video games. It's more of a social event than you'd think, and just the sound of all the machines being played at once is weirdly exciting, even if you're not a nerd. Learn more at offworldarcade.com.
Relax in a hot tub. There are plenty of ways to warm up: getting a guest pass to the saunas and steam rooms at the Warren Community Center, renting a private room at Southfield Family Sauna & Tub, or hitting the Schvitz Health Club (on certain nights). But it doesn't get any grander than Ann Arbor's Oasis Hot Tub Gardens, where heated changing rooms lead out into ceiling-free rooms with 18-foot-high walls, containing gardens, fireplaces, waterfalls, and different sizes and shapes of tub, in which water can get to 102 degrees.
Go back in time at the Henry Ford Museum or Greenfield Village. Lift up the hood of antique cars and learn about engines, celebrate Black History Month throughout February, and remember Abraham Lincoln mid-April — the Henry Ford Museum always has something going on. Pro tip: If you're thinking about a trip to either of these Dearborn attractions, find a friend or family member who already has a pass because things can get a little pricey.
Chill out at Vodka Vodka. MT's annual ode to vodka returns for its sixth year, coming Saturday. Feb. 7 to the Royal Oak Music Theatre, a new venue for the event. Expect plenty of food, DJ entertainment, and vodka — more than 60 types of vodkas, in fact. Find out more at mtvodkavodka.com.
Browse the trove at John K. King Used & Rare Books. John King on Lafayette Boulevard is not a store to browse in; it's a surreal environment to get fully lost in for many hours. Have you been inside the arcanely arranged pulp room lately, asked to visit the rare book room, or dove into the boxes of ephemera lying around? Don't expect to be able to call or text a friend inside there — it's like a tomb.
Go BMX racing inside an old Meijer store. Now here's a creative way to keep the sport of BMX alive in the cold months and reclaim an abandoned department store at the same time. While the name is a bit of a misnomer — it's located two and a half hours away in Greenville — the folks at Rock City BMX have been operating this indoor track since 2010. Read more at rockcitybmx.com.
Make a splash at Michigan's indoor water parks. If you don't mind making a day trip, Michigan has a few indoor water park options within driving distance. Many are attached to hotels, so you could make it a whole weekend. Try Zehnder's Splash Village Hotel and Indoor Waterpark in Frankenmuth, Splash Universe Indoor Water Park in Dundee, or the Best Western Sterling Inn in Sterling Heights.
Spend the day at the DIA. For kids and adults, the Detroit Institute of Arts is a magical place. Sure there's the art, but there are also great attractions like drop-in workshops, lectures, Family Sundays, classes, and even the Kresge Court. In March, an exhibit about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera opens, and you won't have to feel guilty about wasting a beautiful day indoors. It'll probably still be gross out by then.
Fire up the barbecue. It's like that joke about how you can spot Michiganders in Florida: They're the ones wearing flip-flops when it's 70 degrees. Similarly, we often look for the first excuse to roll out the grill. One Detroiter we know, Quincy Holmes, has even grilled when it's 15 degrees out. That's commitment, baby.
Gawk at beautiful cars. This is Detroit. And love or hate the auto industry, it will always be the Motor City. Every January, auto enthusiasts from the general public mix with industry folks at the North American International Auto Show to inspect current and concept cars with the unbridled enthusiasm as a child on Christmas morning. If custom cars are more your style, Autorama rolls into Cobo from March 6 – 8.
Explore man-made "mountains." Really, no man-made ski slope in metro Detroit is composed of refuse. They may be artificial, built on fill like Mount Brighton, or on mine tailings, like Mount Holly, but they give area ski and snowboard enthusiasts a chance to hit the powder without punishing the odometer.
Warm up with hot food to go. You got up an hour early to shovel or blow snow. You dug out your car or truck. Your nerves are jangled from windblown snow and black ice. On the way home, you just want something hot. Thank goodness you live in metro Detroit. Whether it's a box of fried chicken from Meijer or some goodies from the hot table at Bozek's, we have what it takes to fill you up with warmth.