Knee-deep snow, near-Arctic temperatures, invigorating exercise, a satisfying meal at the end of the day: The way to turn winter blahs into a love for that frozen season is to get up, get out and get going whether it’s on skis, ice skates, snowshoes or a snowmobile — then top off the outing with a hearty spread prepared with care. Following are my Top 5 winter activities that are anchored by a wonderful restaurant.
Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub. You can drive or snowmobile to Tahquamenon Falls State Park and then enjoy a mile-long trek and a long descent to the Upper Tahquamenon Falls. The partially frozen cascade with huge ice formations lining the gorge is a stunning sight and one of the most popular winter attractions in the Upper Peninsula. Located in the trailhead parking lot is this brewpub where you can order a pint of Lumberjack Lager and a famed Yooper delicacy, a large pasty stuffed with beef, potatoes and vegetables, wrapped in a flaky crust and topped with gravy (tahquamenonfallsbrewery.com).
Terrace Inn. Located between Petoskey and Harbor Springs, Bay View is a community of Victorian cottages that was established in 1875 and is shuttered every fall. In the winter Nordic skiers and horse-drawn sleighs take to its deserted streets to enjoy this unusual turn-of-the-century setting, often ending at Terrace Inn (theterraceinn.com). The historic hotel is located in the middle of Bay View and open on January and February weekends, warming hungry skiers with entrees such as planked whitefish or homemade ravioli stuffed with squash and sage brown butter.
Fountain Bistro. In the winter, Campus Martius Park in the heart of Detroit becomes a giant ice rink surrounded by towering buildings and the beautiful Woodward Fountain. Overlooking the festive scene is this French-inspired restaurant (fountainbistro.com) where you can watch ice skaters gliding past your table while feasting on seafood risotto, a heaping bowl of slow-cooked Arborio rice with saffron, lobster, shrimp, scallops and mussels.
Art’s Tavern. Opened in 2012, Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail currently stretches from charming Glen Arbor to the Dune Climb in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and is groomed for skiers and snowshoers. The scenic route includes views of Lake Michigan, towering dunes and the century-old storefronts of historic Glen Haven. Just a few blocks from the Glen Arbor trailhead is this friendly tavern (artsglenarbor.com) where they have been pouring drafts since before prohibition. Sure there’s a smoked trout and cheese plate on the menu, but what’s going to fill you up after that nine-mile snowshoe to the Dune Climb is one of Art’s 10 specialty hamburgers.
Cawthorne’s Village Inn. Come winter, Mackinac Island can only be reached by a small plane or a snowmobile from St. Ignace. The island’s wooded interior features groomed cross-country ski trails and snowy roads traveled by horse-drawn sleighs. Afterwards pop in at Cawthorne’s Village Inn and refuel with cedar planked Michigan whitefish or a slice of their famous cherry pie made from the recipe that won a national cherry pie baking contest in 1947. Since the Grand Hotel manages the venue, you know the food won’t disappoint (grandhotel.com/dining).
Jim DuFresne is a Clarkston-based travel writer and the main contributor to MichiganTrailMaps.com.