November 28, 2023

Beat the Winter Blahs

8 great ways to combat cabin fever with your crew
By Ross Boissoneau | Feb. 1, 2020

It seems regardless of winter’s weather — whether we’re talking frozen lakes or muddy trails, mounds of powdery snow or sleet-filled roadways — a malady hits around this time each year. The frigid temperatures, short days, and lack of sunshine can leave even the hardiest souls feeling trapped and bored. If you and your family are suffering from cabin fever, we can help, right here, right now. Behold: Eight excellent reasons to extract yourselves from the house. 

Exercise Your Brains
Head to Traverse City’s latest escape room for an hour of brain-bending fun. Escape Routes challenges groups of four to 10 (kids over age 12 are welcome with adults) to collect and decipher the clues to escape from the room they find themselves locked in (for safety’s sake, the room isn’t actually locked) in one hour. Escape Routes offers two games: The Photo Shoot finds the group seeking clues to the murder of photographer Dr. Picaloo, who was helping Detective Brown in another murder investigation. The mission, should your crew choose to accept it, is to find the name of the murderer before he returns. In Zane’s Basement, you’ve got to figure out how to uncover the address of Zane’s hostages by solving the puzzles left in his basement. Cost is $28 per person with discounts for military and students. Find it at 221 Garland St., Suite 1, above the Workshop Brewing Company. (231) 421-9270,
Family Fest Full o’ Freebies
The Village of Walloon Lake is hosting its third Annual Walloon Winterfest on Saturday, Feb 22, from 1pm to 4pm. The family-friendly event includes a day full of activities indoors and out for, as they say, “kids of all ages.” There will be complimentary ice skate rentals in a variety of sizes for the whole family and free ice skating at the ice rink located in the Village Green Park. Afterward, warm up inside Tommy’s Walloon with a complimentary hot chocolate bar (and some for-purchase local beers and wines). Got a gear-head with you? The Petoskey Snowmobile Club will hold its second annual Vintage Snowmobile Ride, which begins at the Petoskey Snowmobile Clubhouse (4172 Evergreen Trail, Petoskey) and ends at Barrel Back Restaurant; the vintage sleds will be showcased just outside. Spring for a well-worth-it lunch by Barrel Back’s immense fireside or save those pennies and go for the free bean soup they’re serving up at the Bean Pot. If luck is on your side, you might score some more freebies in the WinterFest drawing — one prize is a two-night stay at the tony Hotel Walloon. Headquarters for the events are Barrel Back Restaurant, The Village Green Park, and Tommy’s Walloon. Search “Walloon Lake Winterfest” on Facebook.
Sunday Funday Waterpark Deal
The weather outside is frightful, but the seven indoor waterslides and four pools at Avalanche Bay Waterpark are so delightful. And from 2pm to 9pm on Sundays, your whole family can splash around all of them for a super discount: $20 per junior (kids ages 3 to 10) and $25 per adult. Tiny Splashers, age 2 and under, are always free. Brave kids can test their skills on the Rip Zone Surf Simulator or drop into The Big Couloir while Mom and Dad float the lazy river. Insider tip: Ask about Mommy & Me Mondays. On select Mondays, if you buy one adult morning pass ($31, valid 10am–2pm), junior swims for free! (Note: Bigger broods don’t fare quite as well; it’s $27 for each additional child.) Find Avalanche Bay at Boyne Mountain Resort. (866) 976-6972,
Frozen Water Tours, Workshops & Legos
Learn about, celebrate and enjoy the bounty of area waters at the Benzie County Water Festival Feb. 9–15. The weeklong host of events include everything from a potluck panel discussion (Feb. 11 at Grow Benzie) to a kid-fabulous workshop at Cognition Science & Discovery Center in Beulah to a frozen water tour, a guided tour that includes Crystal Lake and Cold Creek and ends at the new Five Shores Brewing in downtown Beulah. Things come to a head(waters) on Saturday, Feb. 15, with the Betsie Bay Frozen 5K, a fun run/walk around Betsie Bay from Elberta to Frankfort. Lego-crazy kids can become an expert builder with the help of Lego experts (Legxperts?) at the Benzonia Public Library. Non-Lego fans can enjoy stories and activities at Betsie Valley District Library in Thompsonville. Learn more at or search “Benzie County Water Festival” on Facebook.
A Coke and a Smile
You can’t go back to the future, but you can take your family back to some Happy Days in Grayling. Dawson & Stevens Classic ’50s Diner and Soda Fountain is a feast for young eyes, thanks to a warehouse worth of Coca Cola trinkets and collectibles — cars, buttons, signs, mirrors, vintage coolers, pennants, totes, bottles, and even the Coke polar bears — covering the place. But the vintage and contemporary treats this diner dishes up are equally delightful. The menu features great  eats like shrimp baskets and olive burgers but also shakes, malts, sodas, and brown or black cows, just like you (or your own parents) remember. Find it at 231 E. Michigan Ave. in Grayling. (989) 348-2111 or search “Dawson & Stevens Classic 50s Diner” on Facebook.
Hot Time in the Cold Town
At the Harbor Springs Ice Fest, you can warm up at the chili cook-off, or cool down as you watch the ice boats sail, the ice sculptures sparkle, or the ski bike (yup, exactly what it sounds like) demo. The second annual ice fest takes place Feb. 7–8 in downtown Harbor Springs. It will also include ice bowling, live ice carving demonstrations, a dueling chainsaw demonstration, plus sled dogs, carriage rides, live music, a fire-pit with s’mores, and “find-Frosty” action for the kids. The chili cook-off takes place 2pm to 4pm at the Holy Childhood Parish Hall, with cash prizes for the winners. For a full schedule of events, or to register for the Chili Cook-Off, go to
Uncommon in Roscommon
As you’ve seen, it’s easy to find fun in winter. Like the Higgins Lake & Roscommon Chamber’s Winter Fest, taking place Feb. 14 and 15. For the low, low price of $5 (kids 5 and under are free), you can partake in a bevy of activities. Kick off the good times at a nacho bar by Bob’s Butcher Shop and specials at the Silver Dollar Pub & Grill, perfect to start or finish off a night of skiing and snowshoeing. Saturday starts with the pancake breakfast, then the snowmobile radar run and the crazy cardboard classic at Pioneer Hill. Don’t forget the fishing derby, chili cookoff, and the broomball competition at North State Park. Horse-drawn wagons, auctions and raffle, and a kids carnival, too. Like they say, it’s snow much fun., (989) 275-8760.
Color Your Kid Creative
You don’t have to be the next Picasso or Rembrandt, but if you are, that’s great. No one judges at Handz On Art, where everyone’s an artist. The Traverse City pottery studio welcomes all ages to select the ceramic piece that speaks to them — from plates, puppies, and princesses to Santas, frogs, and dolphins — then decorate to their heart’s content. The studio has an astonishing number of paints, stencils, and stamps, plus plenty of books for inspiration. After decorating projects, they’re fired in the kiln (and picked up at a later date). Refreshments are welcome, from juice boxes to adult beverages — hence, a hot spot for birthday parties and bachelorette parties. The studio is open Tuesday–Sunday and by appointment. Cost is based on the piece. Find it at 144 Hall St., (231) 941-5071


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