Now that the winter season has firmly settled into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we thought it the perfect time to make sure our local community is up-to-speed on all things happening around town that would be amazing experiences for kids & families. If building a snow fort isn’t quite enough to keep your youngsters occupied, believe it or not, there’s a wealth of unmissable, active opportunities both indoors & outdoors here in Marquette. With both physical and mental activities in mind, read on below for a packed list of our personal recommendations on some local shenanigans.
In this article
An obvious first choice here in Marquette is the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum, located right downtown on Baraga Ave, next door to Dead River Coffee Roasters (we recommend a quick detour for the adults here first, you’ll thank us later). Intended for children ages 1-13, The Children’s Museum has been a staple installation in the Marquette area for over 25 years, featuring an impressive selection of programs and interactive exhibits. Notably, the Children’s Museum is also an advocate for sustainability and repurposed materials, so think twice before discarding any outgrown toys or items in your own home before checking out UPCM’s Wish List for some wholesome donation opportunities. UPCM recommends purchasing tickets for your visit ahead of time, but gladly accepts walk-ins when there’s space available. You can find individual tickets, as well as yearly family and grandparent memberships easily through their tickets portal on their website.
We’re sure you’ve already taken advantage of this one, but just in case you haven’t heard, Marquette Cinemas is a perfect choice for that classic, family movie-going experience you might be looking for. In addition to offering a wide range of showtimes and a healthy selection of films every week, Marquette Cinemas is also great for groups and birthday parties! A private room that you can cut cake in and decorate as much as you like, in addition to a free movie poster for the birthday celebrant makes this an attractive option for a few hours of fun and entertainment. See which movies are playing – and at which times – by downloading Marquette Cinemas’ app or by visiting their website.
Located within the Masonic Square Mall on Washington St. downtown, you’ll find HOTplace Clayworks, a “community clay studio”. With no experience necessary, HOTplate is a blank canvas for creativity & hands-on curiosity for you and your family. Things might get messy, we won’t lie, but you’ll be sure to take home some fun memories – as well as a few new pieces of decor or tableware for your home. All of HOTplate Clayworks’ finished products are non-toxic and food-safe, so that personalized, painted & hand-crafted hot cocoa mug your kid takes home at the end of the day? An extra special way to keep them warm this winter season. Find out more about HOTplace Clayworks’ workshops, classes, and memberships by visiting their website.
Theater in Marquette
The Marquette area has always been known for its live entertainment, and believe us, that isn’t by accident. There’s passionate communities and musicians and performers all working tirelessly year-round to bring their best work to our town, and the best part is, it’s an amazing way to spend time with your family. The Marquette Symphony Orchestra is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year with their next concert happening in March, Kaufman Auditorium continues to be a thriving local stage for high school band concerts & theater performances and there’s even a growing number of local productions happening at the Masonic Theater downtown. The Forest Roberts Theatre, located on NMU’s campus, is also a great place to seek out some of the best plays & musicals happening this winter. If you’re detecting an interest in your kids for getting involved in theater themselves, we’d highly recommend checking out the upcoming auditions for the Superior Arts Youth Theater production of Seussical this January! All in all, live entertainment is a massive opportunity for fun year-round in Marquette, but definitely don’t wait to get started!
Located on Presque Isle, near the Superior Dome, Vender Bender Arcade is a great spot for a few hours of classic arcade fun. Pinball machines, racing games, shooting games, as well as a few machines that hand out special prizes, Vender Bender is open 12-8pm practically every day for your family to enjoy. We recommend checking out their Facebook page for their occasionally updated hours, as well as for any news on new machines coming into the arcade.
If you’re looking for a bit more of a… unique virtual arcade experience, we recommend checking out the Edge of Reality VR Arcade. With so much potential for wondrous moments & hilarious chaos, this arcade is a weather-free way to enjoy some intriguing play time with your family. Kids & adults alike are encouraged to wander through Edge of Reality’s various games & breathtaking virtual experiences for something truly unique to the Marquette region. Make sure you book a VR station in advance of your visit, but once you’re plugged in, you’re free to switch between games and virtual reality worlds at-will. The staff at Edge of Reality are experts in virtual reality, so if you’re new to the experience, we recommend leaning on their expansive professional knowledge to help guide you through your first immersion.
This one’s a bit further outside of Marquette, but it’s such a wonderful snowy adventure, we couldn’t help but include it here on this list! The UP North Lodge, located along County Rd. 557 just west of Gwinn (about 30 mins from Marquette), is running their horse-drawn sleigh rides all winter long for individuals, families and parties. Reservations are required for this one, but expect a lovely, 30-minute ride through some gorgeous Northern Michigan scenery. After your ride, you’re invited to warm up near a fire, snag some hot cocoa and even stay a bit longer for dinner at the Lodge. A must-not-miss family activity this winter, if you’re asking for our opinion.
Speaking of the snowy outdoors, we absolutely cannot omit some general outdoors winter activity on this list. Skiing or snowboarding down Marquette Mountain, ice fishing on Teal Lake, cross-country skiing on any of the incredible trails around town… all of these activities and more are available practically right out of your door for the family to enjoy here in Marquette. If you’re looking for a specific recommendation, the Rippling River Resort is accepting winter cabin reservations all season long, and makes for an incredibly unique overnight experience near snowmobiling trails, mountain skiing, snowshoeing, fishing and the like.
Every Friday from 6-8pm, the NMU’s Rec Center offers an indoor, family friendly, introductory rock climbing experience. Youth children are encouraged to attend the open session, where there’ll be interactive games and activities to participate in. Additionally, there’s also the Toon Busters or Vertical Pursuits climbing events, which are designed to appeal to slightly more experienced youth rock climbers. These two sessions cost roughly $65 for participation, however the introductory open climb remains free for those curious youngsters. Click the link in this heading for more information on the different courses, and for registration!
If you’re looking for something a little more long-term to get your kiddos involved with, Studio Dance Arts is a great option for indoor activity. With a focus on dance, choreography & performance, their school typically runs a 35-week selection of various programs for both curious and competitively-natured kids. There’s a pre-school & kinderdance program, a recreational program for grades 1-12, a gymnastics & cheer program and a dance discovery program. With most programs culminating in a lovely year end recital performance, there’s an amazing opportunity for parents to enjoy the creative work as well. Consider stopping by Studio Dance Arts by visiting their location in the Westwood Mall, or gather more details about their various programs by checking out their website.
If you’re interested in enrolling a child into a class, of sorts, the YMCA of Marquette is looking for new participants in any of their youth programs. There’s karate, gymnastics, general fitness, basketball, volleyball and something called ninja parkour, which sounds like the right place to send any of your children that may be otherwise destroying all of your furniture. Additionally, from our sources to you, there’s also a ‘parent’s night out’ program, which involves drop-off swimming, Nerf gun battles and other shenanigans for a few hours of supervised childcare while the adults or parents are off on a much-needed date night. Although, if you asked us, the idea of pelting a bunch of high-energy youngsters with Nerf projectiles sounds like a successful date night as well, so you might want to ask if you can join in on that one…especially if they are, you know, actually destroying your furniture at home.
Dedicated to nurturing the youth skiing communities in our Northern Peninsula, the Superiorland Ski Club is a great first choice for supporting your children’s early interests in cross country skiing. We’d recommend starting off with their ‘Ski Cats’ program (intended for children ages 5-10), but as soon as your energetic youngsters are ready, there are also programs available for Middle Schoolers & High Schoolers for all skill levels between 11 and 18 years of age. Additionally, there’s also a more competitive youth Race Team program for ages 14-19 that competes in both state and regional qualification races. If cross country skiing is a generational activity for your entire family, there are family-based memberships, and plenty of volunteer opportunities to get involved. Learn more about Superiorland Ski Club by visiting their website!
Overall, there’s so much to do and see here in Marquette, and we’re just totally blessed to have such an amazing variety of activities for kids and families during any of these northern seasons. While this list could never completely host every single activity possible in the Marquette area, we believe this to be a great starting point for your own research and brainstorming. You can also visit Travel Marquette’s article on Things to do with Kids for more ideas. We’d love to share any additional tips you may have with the rest of our readers. Until then, go have some fun in the snow!