16 Michigan Traditions to Start with Your Family This Fall and Winter

By Nicole Collier

September 26, 2022

Do you feel it? The air is getting crisp. The leaves are changing colors. And stores are already dragging out the holiday stuff. Autumn has arrived—and with a new season comes a host of new traditions that you can share with your family.

MICHIGAN—This time of the year, I always think about all the fun traditions that my family and I had when I was a kid. They were mostly centered around your regular holidays, but they had a lasting impact. Even now, as a full-fledged adult, the memories always bring a smile to my face.

Why? Because now that I’m the parent, I get to play a role in creating those traditions. 

Here are some fun ideas to try as the spooky season and winter (ugh) arrive in Michigan:

Fall 

Have fun raking. 

As the leaves change colors, grab your family and head out to the yard for a party. Rustle up the biggest pile you can, dive in, and toss some leaves in the air. You can make it even more fun by assigning a color to each family member and seeing who can rake up the biggest pile.

Attend a festival. 

There are only a few short months between the warmth of summer and several feet of snow—so get in on the brisk-yet-tolerable weather soon at one of Michigan’s many fall festivals. From the International Festival in Holland to the American Speed Festival in Pontiac, here’s a list of some of the best festivals that you can scribble into your calendar between now and winter.

Pick a pumpkin.

It wouldn’t be pumpkin spice season without pumpkins—and this tradition is a family favorite: Head down to the patch and pick a pumpkin for each family member. Here’s a link to some of the best patches across the state. Baba Mary’s in Canton is one of our personal favorites. 

Carve a pumpkin.

Melted wax adds a layer of fun to decorating pumpkins.

After a day at the pumpkin patch, head home and find cool ways to decorate your harvest—like with colored wax. Our family has been known to turn it into a bit of a competition every year.

Take a walk. 

This might be the easiest idea on the list. Enjoy the shifting seasons with a family stroll. Grab your shoes (and maybe even invite the grandparents) to take in Michigan’s sights and sounds.

Dress up.

We’re a Spiderman family.

Family Halloween costumes can be a super-fun tradition. Planning is all a part of the fun, and everyone can participate. The pictures and memories will bring laughs for years to come. 

Give thanks.

Did you know that Thanksgiving wasn’t declared a holiday in Michigan until 1829? Make up for the lost time by being extra thankful this year. As a family, take time to share what you’re thankful for—at least once a week during a meal. Make sure to include your family on the list. 

Check out the parades.

As a kid I always watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while my mom made our Turkey Day dinner. Detroit is also known for putting on quite the parade every year. If you can’t make it there in person, you can still make a fun gathering out of watching it on the TV with your family. 

Winter 

Hit the sled hill.

Sledding is always a fun family outing.

It’s one of the most familiar winter traditions out there, but there are so many ways to make it extra fun. Try splitting up the family into teams—maybe it’s parents versus the kids—and race!

Are your knees already aching from thinking about lugging your tube or sled back up the hill? Consider spending a day over at the Cannonsburg Ski Area near Grand Rapids or Hawk Island in Lansing. Both have automatic lifts—and tube rentals that make it even more convenient. 

See the bright lights.

There’s nothing like the bright lights and decorations to get you and the family in the holiday spirit. Pile into the car with some hot cocoa, popcorn and snacks—and hit the road to find the best light displays. Browse around your local neighborhood for free, or spend $5 to check out a stunning, four-mile display with more than 100,000 lights at the Wayne County Light Fest.

Volunteer.

There may be no better way to bond with family than to give back to others. Check in with your local food pantry, shelter, or humane society to see how you and your family can help today. A few hours of weekend volunteering can lead to some lasting memories, and a great tradition.

Movie night.

I know you’ve seen all the families with matching pajamas. It’s not as cringeworthy as it looks. So, grab a set for everyone—even the dog. Then have a matching family movie night together. 

Build a snow family. 

Whether your kiddos are into Frozen or not, this family tradition is still pretty cool. Bundle up and head out into the cold to make each member of your family into their own frozen masterpiece. Add some of their most recognizable clothing items for a special touch.

All-Seasons

Visit the grandparents.

Check your schedule and mark off a time once a week—maybe once a month—and plan a fun outing with just your kids and the grandparents. It’s a great way for them to connect, make memories, and for parents to sneak in a little break, too. My son always looks forward to these. 

Schedule a coffee date.

At least once a week, my six-year-old son and I go out together to grab a cup of coffee. We’ve been doing this since he was in a stroller—and he always orders hot chocolate or tea. We use the time to reconnect, play board games while we sip, and just talk. It’s our special thing. Pick a local shop and try it. One of our favorites is the Crafted Gift Shop and Beanery in Belleville. 

Read before bed.

Make a tradition out of ending the night with a good book. Poem books and novels with short chapters are fun, because they give you a chance to pick up the tradition again every night. Get the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in on the fun, too. Try a FaceTime or Zoom call. 

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