When winter comes and the days are short, the key to not only surviving but thriving is having a positive mindset and embracing everything the season has to offer—inclement weather and limited daylight included.
Over the years, residents have found creative ways to stay busy and active to get through the winter months’ cold, wind, snow, ice, and darkness, and many have become annual traditions or even ways of life. Some of these traditions are annual events, and others are wintery activities that can be done any time there’s snow on the ground or ice on the lakes.
No matter what you do during the colder months in Door County, one thing’s for sure: winter is no time for slowing down.
Merry-Time Festival of Trees (November–January)
From mid-November through early January, the Door County Maritime Museum puts on a display of festive and beautiful Christmas trees decorated by local businesses, organizations, and residents. Guests can visit the museum to see dozens of trees, which are raffled off to lucky winners when the exhibit ends in January.
On the first day of the event, November 13, kids can visit with Santa, who will arrive in style on the historic tugboat John Purves.
Jacksonport Polar Bear Plunge (January)
Each New Year’s Day at 12 p.m. sharp, hundreds of people gather at Lakeside Park in Jacksonport to take a freezing-cold swim in Lake Michigan. It’s part continuation of NYE celebrations, part welcoming in the new year, and part plain-old fun and tomfoolery.
Fruit Loop Run (February)
The Fruit Loop Run is a one-of-a-kind footrace that doesn’t take itself too seriously but offers up some serious fun.
Participants dress up in their finest winter-inspired costumes, line up at the starting line, and run a grueling 1/53 marathon—yes, that’s a 1/53 marathon or a 1/2-mile run. The race is all in good fun, and everyone enjoys an Olympic-style awards ceremony and breakfast of Froot Loops after the race.
The race is part of the Fish Creek Winter Festival.
Fire & Ice Festival (February)
Sturgeon Bay’s Fire & Ice Festival kicks off Friday night with candlelight hiking and skiing at Crossroads at Big Creek.
On Saturday, the marquee event takes place: the city-wide ice and snow carving competition. Carvers and sculptors compete in groups based on skill level to create intricate and beautiful works of art out of snow and ice, using both manual and electric tools.
Saturday’s daytime events are followed by dinner, an auction, and live music, and fireworks over the water will close out the night.
Holiday or Anytime Shopping
Door County’s shopping scene is second to none.
From Sturgeon Bay’s three separate shopping districts to the independent shops across the county selling local arts, crafts, specialty foods, local wine and spirits, clothing, outdoor gear, Christmas decor, and other goods, there’s no shortage of places to find unique and amazing items for yourself or friends and family.
In addition to our lesser-known ice sports, winter sports opportunities are not hard to come by in Door County. Everyone has a favorite, but any one of these can get your heart pumping and make you sweat, even on the chilliest of winter afternoons.
Cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ATVing, fat tire biking, and winter hiking are all big pastimes up here and offer the chance to see the peninsula and Washington Island from a different point of view and at different speeds.
Winter Sojourn to County Parks & Preserves
Door County is known for its awe-inspiring views of the Lake Michigan shoreline, and in wintertime, the landscape transforms.
The lake freezes over, jagged cliffs become encased in ice, and snow blankets the ground. Scenes around the county are a beautiful and otherworldly sight to behold. Bring the camera—and maybe some snowshoes, depending on the snowfall.
Visit county parks, the Ridges Sanctuary, Land Trust properties, and other spots to get your wintertime nature fix. Be sure to exercise caution when exploring snowy or icy cliffs, bluffs, and overlooks.
The next time you’re in Door County seeking some excitement and revelry to beat the winter doldrums, give these ideas a try, and don’t be afraid to brave the elements.
Quite often, the cold, snow, and ice can enhance the experience—imagine ice skating on a quiet pond as the snow falls or running full speed into Lake Michigan alongside hundreds of other revelers, the cold and wind biting at your skin and reigniting your spirit. There’s nothing quite like it, and there’s nowhere quite like Door County in winter.
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