Fun Things To Do in Ann Arbor in the Winter

For both outdoors lovers and people who prefer to stay warm inside.

By Alexis Howard January 24, 2023
Fun things to do in Ann Arbor in the winter

As University of Michigan students enjoy the first big snowfall of the year, now is the perfect time to share why I love being a student here this time of year. And yes, I know what you’re thinking. I’ll be the first to admit that it gets cold in Michigan! But to the prospective students out there worried about winter weather: Please do not let that deter you from considering U-M. Once you invest in a warm winter coat, I promise that you’ll be all set to experience everything that the university and surrounding community has to offer year-round.

Here are my favorite ways to have fun in Ann Arbor in the winter months:

Outdoor Activities

Ann Arbor is an absolutely beautiful city in the winter. Downtown lights up with twinkly lights and snow falls peacefully to dust campus buildings. For those who crave wintry adventure, here is a list of my favorite things to do outside during the winter in Ann Arbor:

Go for a walk in the Arb

Nichols Arboretum, also known as “The Arb,” is one of the best nature areas on campus. It is home to a variety of hiking trails and located next to the Huron River, making it a peaceful and charming place for a wintry walk.

Make a snowman in the Law Quad

My favorite part of campus (and my favorite place to take prospective students and their families on tours) is, without a doubt, the Michigan Law Quad. The Law Quad is stunning year-round: a large area of grass surrounded by stunning, historic buildings on all four sides. In the winter, it’s especially pretty as the snow sparkles off the buildings and glowing light fixtures. I highly recommend taking a break from studying to spend some time in the Law Quad. Find a few friends and make a snowman!

Sledding in Ann Arbor

If you’re like me and you love to sled, you’ll be in luck in Ann Arbor. In addition to a variety of local parks that you can visit, students also like to sled at Palmer Field, located near many of the residence halls on campus. If you’re looking for a fun way to enjoy the snow, I highly recommend checking out Palmer Field or a local Ann Arbor park.

Open skate at Yost Ice Arena

While technically an indoor activity, skating at the famous Yost Ice Arena on campus is a great way to enjoy winter sports. Yost Arena, which is home to the Michigan hockey team, hosts open skating on select Sundays throughout the winter semester. I have personally skated at Yost a few times during my years at U-M, and every time it is such a great experience and I always leave with a fun new memory.

Rec Sports Adventure Leadership Trips

Finally, if you’ve ever wanted to go dogsledding or try out ice climbing for the first time, Rec Sports Adventure Leadership Trips are for you. U-M’s Rec Sports offers a variety of unique trips each semester, which are a great opportunity to go out of your comfort zone and try something new with the support of new friends and an organization that provides all the gear you need to get started!

Indoor Activities

While there are certainly many ways to enjoy the natural beauty of Ann Arbor winter, don’t worry if this isn’t your cup of tea. For readers out there who dream of cozy fireplaces and prefer to stay warm, here are some of the best ways to relax and have fun indoors during Ann Arbor winters:

Visit the University of Michigan Museum of Art

The University of Michigan Museum of Art, or the UMMA, is a free art museum in the heart of campus. Students and the public alike can visit free of charge to see a variety of rotating exhibits. I had a class in the UMMA during my first year, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an afternoon outing.

Cheer for the Michigan Wolverines at athletic events

Winter is an exciting time for Michigan Athletics. As a member of the Michigan Hockey Band myself, I absolutely love the energy at Yost Ice Arena. Michigan students have the opportunity each year to purchase season tickets to both men’s hockey and men’s basketball games. With that said, there are many other incredible teams competing during the winter, and students get free admission to these athletic events with their student ID. Personally, I’ve attended women’s basketball games as well as gymnastics, wrestling, and swimming meets. Not only are these events a lot of fun, but they also frequently have giveaways for things like free food and T-shirts. Check out U-M Student Engagement to learn more.

Find free food at a UMix event

Most Fridays throughout the semester, U-M’s Campus Involvement hosts an event called UMix. Each week is different, but UMix events usually feature free food, crafts, giveaways, and activities like large inflatables. My favorite UMix memories are designing license plate wall decorations with friends and making our own stuffed animals. (I picked a squirrel!!)

Explore SMTD and community performances

The University of Michigan, and particularly its School of Music, Theatre, and Dance (SMTD), is home to incredible creative talent. SMTD offers a variety of concerts, recitals, and theatrical performances throughout the winter semester. I also recommend checking out local community performing arts organizations such as the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, the Ann Arbor Concert Band, and the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre.

Attend other events on campus

While I’ve shared some recurring opportunities on campus, make sure to keep an eye out for other exciting events happening throughout the winter months. One of my favorites is the annual Mock Rock event hosted by the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. Mock Rock is an energetic evening full of musical and theatrical performances by representatives from varsity athletic teams and the Michigan Marching Band. The event is also a fundraiser for organizations doing good in the local community. This year, Mock Rock will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 7 from 7-9 p.m. at Cliff Keen Arena.

Alexis Howard
Alexis Howard

Alexis Howard is a senior from Pinckney, Michigan studying public policy through the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy with a minor in Spanish through the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. Alexis works as a tour guide on campus and loves meeting prospective students. Outside of class, she plays trumpet and is a rank leader in the Michigan Marching Band. In her free time, she enjoys trying new vegetarian recipes and admiring the squirrels on campus.