After all the countless hours spent inside complaining about the cold, it's time to man up and face it head on. Ice-cold temperatures and snow piles are good for sculptures, sports, sledding and gathering. Spike your warm drink and find the safety in numbers—outside, where everyone's getting all tundra trendy.
ROCKFORD ICE FESTIVAL
Rockford isn't messing around. Example? Free hot cocoa. The masterminds behind this festival focus on live ice carving with loads of other cold weather distractions. Come see ice guru Randy Finch or play nine holes of ice miniature golf or interactive ice games—last year included baseball and hockey fun—all ice style. Join in on a scavenger hunt for sculptures while enjoying the town's offerings. "Some stores have fun with guessing the melt date or they put things inside sculptures for guessing. There's lots of interaction with downtown merchants," said Jeannie Gregory, executive director for the Rockford Chamber of Commerce. Look for music and entertainment, contests and prizes and, if the weather cooperates, ice-skating. Reds on the River will have its own special live carving demonstrations and you can melt away hunger with a chili cook off in the pavilion. Notable additions this year include the marriage of the Rockford Sweetheart Splash into the festivities and the Ice Festival Ball on Friday that kicks off the event with dinner and dancing. "There's a lot of prep work before sculptors even work on the ice to get it as beautiful and clear as it is," Gregory said.
Rockford Ice Festival
Feb. 8, 9 & 10
Celebrating its 29th anniversary, Snowfest spices things up with the popular Battle of the Bowls chili and soup cook off. Slurping on hot liquids while braving the cold is key to survival. Quench your thirst at the heated beverage tent on Western Avenue, which features local bands Orange October and Whoopee Kat. Enjoy activities such as a halftime game of Broomball during a Muskegon Lumberjacks hockey game, Kidsfest, and a Euchre tournament. What did mom always say? Move around and you'll keep warm. You can do just that during the Snow Cornhole and Snow Volleyball Tournaments. They take place at the same time along with the Battle of the Bowls on Saturday. Snowfest is, "a great way to feel like a kid even when you're not a kid anymore," said Public Relations Director Cece Riley, who knows firsthand how fun the Snow Cornhole can be. "I played in it last year. That is a blast."
Jan. 29-Feb. 2
GRAND HAVEN WINTERFEST
Expect a cameo appearance from Frosty the Snowman at Winterfest. "It's the best thing happening on the lakeshore in the middle of winter," said Kevin Galbavi, president of Winterfest. Featured entertainment includes eclectic sled races, snow angel contests, a euchre tournament, a snowboard and ski competition, a polar plunge and kids' day (where gerbils and crafts combine) and so much more. This is four days of freaky and frigid fun. A popular event is the Winterfest Luau Extravaganza, located inside a heated tent more than 300 feet long. "It will be over 80 degrees in there," Galbavi said. "Last year we had coat check for 1,100 coats and we ran out of room."
Grand Haven Winterfest
Free (most events)
ICE SCULPTING COMPETITION
Watch the chainsaws, chisels, torches and hand tools in motion while the ice flies at this annual event that partners with the National Ice Carving Association. This Collegiate Invitational Ice Sculpting event features a competition on Friday that is simpler and smaller, while gearing up for a freestyle competition on Saturday that's more intricate and lasts for four hours. "It's loud and exciting," says Kara de Alvare, interim marketing director for Downtown Holland. "The blocks of ice that they start with are 300 pounds, which I found to be incredible." Heated sidewalks make trudging through slush and snow a thing of the past. Visitors can eat at coffeehouses and restaurants and do some shopping while watching the carvers at work. "It's an art form people aren't familiar with. It's fun to guess what the pieces are as they are taking shape." This collegiate competition is like a practice for nationals that take place in Frankenmuth in January. One year, 8th Street Grille commissioned a giant hamburger piece to look like people were taking a bite out of it.
Ice Sculpting Competition