A winter playground in Marquette, MI

With a fresh blanket of snow, the adventure begins

A winter trip to Marquette had long been on our travel list, but life had always seemed to get in the way. Once the kids were a little older, we decided to drive the few hours from our home to experience the untamed snow-covered landscape we’d only seen in photos online. We were looking forward to escaping the city for a few days and sharing the natural beauty of the northwoods with our kids, and experiencing a few thrills that we hadn’t had since we were kids ourselves.

Winter Wonderland

Presque Isle Park, the jewel of Marquette, seemed like the perfect place to take the kids snowshoeing. After parking at the pavilion, we strapped on our snowshoes and set off on the trail. The road through the park is closed in the winter and the whole area becomes a winter wonderland begging for adventurous visitors to explore its frozen coast and dense forest. We hugged the shore so the kids could see the ice formations along the lake. Crunch, crunch, crunch, we went until we got to Blackrocks. We paused to take in the view and watch some talented adrenaline-seekers on fat-tire bikes popping wheelies and climbing over boulders in the snow.
“I wanna do that!” Joey shouted, pointing at the cyclists kicking up powder as they churned their way through the snow.
We promised him that we would look into renting some—if not this trip, then the next one.

“We hugged the shore so the kids could see the ice formations along the lake. Crunch, crunch, crunch, we went until we got to Blackrocks.”

Winter Warm Up

After a short snowshoe hike in the park, we headed into downtown Marquette to warm up for a bit. A bright red storefront with Babycakes over the front door drew us in. The sweet smell of pastries and cinnamon wafted over us as we entered. Our twins, Annabelle and Joey, were mesmerized by the huge muffins and giant chocolate-covered confections in the bakery case. Another family was just leaving one of the booths by the window, so we parked ourselves there for a quiet moment to recharge, watch the snow gently fall, and plan the rest of our day. The kids really wanted to get back out in the snow and who could blame them? After some hot cocoa and coffee and hearty muffins to fill us up, we donned our Stormy Kromer caps and headed out for some more fun in the snow.

More to Explore

Later that afternoon, after the kids had their fill of making snow angels and tossing snowballs at each other, we headed to the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum before dinner. The completely interactive museum had our 10-year-olds wide-eyed. The giant human body exhibit caused fits of giggling as they climbed through the grumbling stomach and slid down the large intestine. Animal lover Annabelle decided we had to stop by the “Creature Kingdom” to say hello to the turtles in the touch tank before leaving.

Famished after a full day of play, we headed to Aubree’s Pizza and Grill for dinner. Marquette was still full of hustle and bustle. Dozens of hungry explorers were trekking through town to their favorite spots after a long day of fun outdoors. Many still had their ski gear on, and Mike and I looked at each other with knowing smiles, anticipating the twins’ excitement when they learned we were going to hit the slopes tomorrow.

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To Ski or to Skate

The morning light crept slowly into our hotel room, gently nudging us awake. I looked out the window and saw clear skies and the sun gleaming on the picture-perfect blanket of snow curling around the lakeshore. We headed downtown for brunch at The Delft Bistro. Once a movie palace of yesteryear, this modern farm-to-table spot has a huge movie screen in the center of the restaurant playing classic films. We ordered an epic spread of pancakes and French toast for the twins, and chicken & waffles and short rib eggs benny with spicy Bloody Marys for us, and toasted to another day of discovery.

After brunch, I dropped off Mike and Joey at Marquette Mountain for a day of skiing, while Annabelle and I headed to the outdoor skating rink at Marquette Commons. We laced up our skates and were off. I grew up skating on a pond near my childhood home and Annabelle was a natural. Before long, she was gliding across the ice, while I was trying to keep up! After several hours, we packed up our skates, grabbed some sweet treats from the Donckers chocolate counter, and headed to the mountain to meet the boys.

"We laced up our skates and were off."

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Conquering the Slopes

The mountain was packed with smiling children—little ones scooting down the bunny hill, getting their snow legs ready for the bigger hills, and teens tearing down the hill at top speed, grinning with equal fervor. I was a bit rusty and it was Annabelle’s first time, so we made our way to the gear shop to get suited up and secure some lessons. After we perfected our “pizza” and “French fry” moves with the patient instructors, we were ready to hit the lift.

Marquette Mountain has more than 10 different runs, some groomed, and some backcountry, so there were plenty of options for all of us. Mike and Joey had been racing each other down some of the shorter runs all morning. Now, Joey playing the role of big brother—all 10 minutes older—took Annabelle off to show her the ropes on the beginner runs, while Mike and I took the lift to the top to check out the view. The wintry landscape below was dotted with snow-covered evergreens, with the snow-dusted city just beyond, and the frozen expanse of Lake Superior stretched out to meet horizon. It was almost like being inside a snow globe. As we zipped down the hill, the cold fresh air tingled as it rushed past my face and I breathed in the deep crisp scent of evergreens. No amusement park can make you feel this alive, I thought. This was what winter was all about, adventuring together, with family. I smiled, knowing this trip was one the twins would remember for a lifetime. Maybe they would event start the tradition with their own families when they were grown. But for now, it was our time to enjoy the beauty of the winter landscape with our own kids, and I was glad we were here making memories together as a family.

“This was what winter was all about, adventuring together, with family.”

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What does your Marquette winter family vacation look like?
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