Northern Michigan is full of winter fun for families

Northern Michigan is a picturesque summer destination with its stunning Sleeping Bear Dunes and blue Lake Michigan waters. The area is equally picturesque dressed in winter white.

Two of my favorite resorts, Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville and Traverse City’s Shanty Creek Resort, offer skiing and plenty of other family fun in the snow-snow tubing, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, snow biking, paintball, even dog sledding-at rates much more affordable than you’ll find in Colorado.

Best of all, both places understand that fun comes in lots of forms. At Crystal Mountain, we’ve had a great time just relaxing with friends in one of the townhouses. The gorgeous spot was voted one of the 50 best places to stay and ski in North America by Condé Nast Travelers in North America in 2011. Ski and stay packages this winter start at $122 per adult.

At Shanty Creek, visitors can ski free with Santa on Christmas Day and several days will feature “sardine specials”: one price per carload for as many people as you can cram into the car.

The Traverse City area also celebrates all things snow with two national events this winter.

On Feb. 8-9, Traverse City’s Turtle Creek Casino and Hotel hosts the U.S. 27 Motorsports Snocross National-that’s motocross on high-performance snowmobiles. The same weekend features the North American Vasa Festival of Races, a cross country ski race.

If all of that outdoor activity gets to be too much, head indoors to the History Center of Traverse City between Dec. 15 and Jan. 1 for the Festival of Trains, a collection of model train layouts that fills several rooms of the center.

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