Door County isn’t usually thought of as a winter tourist destination. Few travel to this land of snow and ice from November through April. But, Winter is my favorite time of year in Door County. As a Door County local, I can help you have a successful visit to Door County in Winter. That’s where this post comes in. These are some of the best things to do in Winter in Door County.
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30 Best Things to Do in Winter in Door County
When it comes to Winter activities in Door County, snowshoeing is hard to beat. Snowshoeing doesn’t take much skill, and it’s a great way to get into the Door County backcountry. You can explore places that most people can’t get to when the snow is deep.
Just about anyone can snowshoe, and you can snowshoe just about anywhere. It doesn’t require groomed trails or tons of skill.
Some of my favorite places to snowshoe are Potawatomi State Park, Newport State Park, the Legacy Preserve at Clay Banks, and Crossroads at Big Creek.
Need a pair of snowshoes? Snowshoes are surprisingly affordable. Here are a few models that I like:
If you’re not ready to purchase your own set of snowshoes yet, you can rent them at several places in Door County such as Nor Door Sports and Cycling and Crossroads at Big Creek.
2. Cross-country Skiing
Cross-country skiing takes a little more skill, but it’s still something that most people can do. Gliding across groomed trails is a great way to spend a day or an afternoon.
Some popular places to cross-country ski are Peninsula State Park and Crossroads at Big Creek. Both of these spots have groomed cross-country skiing trails.
If you’re in the market for cross-country skis, here are a couple of decent sets:
- Whitewoods NNN Cross Country Ski Package. This is an all-in-one package that offers everything you need to get started.
- Rossignol Evo XT Skis. These are just the skis. You will have to purchase boots and poles separately.
Cross-country ski rentals are available from several sources in the county, including Nor Door.
Sledding is great. You get the fun of traveling over the snow without the effort. Well, until you have to go back uphill again.
Two popular places to sled are Hill 17 at Peninsula State Park and Big Hill in Sturgeon Bay.
Want to make the other sledders jealous? Show up with a classic, old-school wooden toboggan.
4. Ice Fishing
Door County is an ice fisherman’s paradise. Whether you prefer going after bluegill on inland lakes or pursuing perch, whitefish, or walleye in the waters of Green Bay, you can find ice fishing here to suit your desires.
You don’t even need to purchase all the equipment to ice fish. Hire an ice fishing guide, and he’ll take you out to productive waters, all set up with equipment. Just make sure you have good boots and ice crampons.
Hiking can still be a fun activity in winter in Door County if the snow isn’t too deep. In early and late Winter, it often isn’t.
Many of the county’s favorite hiking trails become too dangerous in the Winter. They can be quite icy.
Your best bet for finding a good hiking trail is to stop at a state park in Door County and ask the front office which trails are good in Winter. And, a pair of decent hiking gaiters can make all the difference between a comfortable day out in the snow and cold, wet feet.
6. Fat Tire Biking
Fat tire biking in Door County is getting popular. People love riding these special bikes with big, wide tires during the winter. One of the most popular places for fat tire biking is the Ahnapee Trail.
The Ahnapee Trail is a fantastic spot for this activity. It’s a trail that winds through picturesque landscapes, making it perfect for exploring on fat tire bikes. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, you can enjoy the beauty of Door County uniquely. So, if you’re looking for an exciting winter adventure, try fat tire biking on the Ahnapee Trail!
Snowmobiling is another thrilling winter activity you can enjoy in Door County. The county’s scenic trails transform into snowy wonderlands during the winter months, making it a haven for snowmobile enthusiasts.
With a growing network of well-maintained trails, Door County has become a top destination for snowmobilers. These trails take you through enchanting forests and alongside the frozen waters of Lake Michigan, offering breathtaking views. Snowmobiling is a great way to experience the natural beauty of the area in winter.
Whether you’re a seasoned rider or a beginner, you’ll find suitable trails that cater to different skill levels. Local clubs often groom the trails to ensure safe and enjoyable rides, even for families with children.
Winter in Door County is not just about outdoor adventures; it’s also a time for lively festivals and events that bring the community together. Two notable events to mark on your winter calendar are the Sturgeon Bay Fire and Ice Festival and the Fish Creek Winterfest.
Door County’s winter landscape provides a stunning backdrop for photographers of all levels. Whether you’re a professional with high-end equipment or an amateur armed with just a smartphone, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to capture the beauty of the season.
- Snow-Covered Scenery: The pristine, snow-covered landscapes of Door County offer endless possibilities for striking winter shots. From snowy forests to frozen lakeshores, the region’s natural beauty takes on a whole new charm in the winter.
- Ice Formations: The cold temperatures create unique ice formations along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Photographers can capture the intricate patterns and textures of ice caves, icicles, and frozen waves, resulting in mesmerizing images.
- Sunrises and Sunsets: Winter skies often produce vibrant colors during sunrise and sunset. The contrast of warm hues against the snowy landscape makes for breathtaking photographs. Peninsula State Park and Cave Point County Park are excellent locations for capturing these magical moments.
- Wildlife Encounters: Despite the chill, Door County’s wildlife remains active. Keep an eye out for opportunities to photograph winter birds like snowy owls and bald eagles, as well as deer and other animals against the snowy backdrop.
- Festive Lights: The holiday season brings charming, twinkling lights to Door County’s villages. Capturing the festive decorations and warm glow of local businesses can result in delightful winter scenes.
- Local Landmarks: Iconic landmarks like Cana Island Lighthouse and Eagle Bluff Lighthouse take on a serene beauty in the winter. Photographers can explore these sites and find unique angles to capture their historic charm.
10. Northern Lights
While Door County may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about the Northern Lights, it occasionally offers a chance to witness this mesmerizing natural phenomenon. When the conditions are just right, the colorful dance of the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, can be seen in the night skies.
One of the prime locations for catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights in Door County is Northport. Situated on the northern tip of the peninsula, Northport offers relatively low light pollution, making it an ideal spot for stargazing and Northern Lights hunting.
12. Ship Watching
Winter is a fantastic time for ship-watching in Door County, especially in Sturgeon Bay. During this season, the ships come into Sturgeon Bay for what’s known as their “Winter layup” before they depart once again for their next journeys. This unique maritime tradition provides an awe-inspiring sight for visitors and locals alike.
As the icy grip of winter takes hold, the ships seek shelter in Sturgeon Bay’s safe harbor to undergo essential maintenance and repairs. It’s a necessary break from their year-round travels across the Great Lakes. The Winter layup period typically lasts for several months, offering ship enthusiasts ample time to observe these massive vessels up close.
One of the most impressive sights during the Winter layup is the lineup of ships along the bay. These majestic vessels stand side by side, creating a breathtaking view against the wintry backdrop. The juxtaposition of these industrial giants with the tranquility of the snow-covered landscape is a sight to behold.
Whether you’re a maritime history enthusiast or simply appreciate the grandeur of these ships, Sturgeon Bay in the middle of Winter layup is a must-see. You can observe the crews working on the vessels, witness the maintenance activities, and gain a deeper understanding of the vital role these ships play in the region’s economy.
13. Visit a Winery
Exploring Door County’s wineries in winter is a delightful experience. While the grapevines may be dormant, the tasting rooms are warm and inviting. Many wineries offer seasonal wines that capture the essence of the season, from spiced reds to cozy dessert wines.
Sipping on a glass of wine while surrounded by the winter landscape’s serenity is a peaceful way to spend an afternoon. Plus, you can learn about the winemaking process and even pick up a bottle or two as unique gifts or souvenirs. Door County wineries provide a perfect blend of warmth, hospitality, and winter flavors.
14. Visit a Distillery
Visiting a Door County distillery in winter offers a unique and warming experience. Step inside from the cold and discover the art of crafting spirits. Distilleries often create special winter-themed cocktails, using locally sourced ingredients and seasonal flavors.
The cozy ambiance and the aroma of aged spirits infuse the space, making it an inviting respite from the chill. It’s a chance to sip on handcrafted spirits, learn about the distillation process, and perhaps even bring home a bottle of their finest. Winter in Door County becomes all the more memorable with a visit to a local distillery, where warmth meets craftsmanship.
15. Visit a Brewery
Winter in Door County offers a unique opportunity to explore its vibrant craft brewery scene. Step into a local brewery, and you’ll be greeted by the cozy ambiance of wood and warm lighting. Breweries often release seasonal beers that celebrate the flavors of winter, from rich stouts to spicy ales.
Savoring a pint of these distinctive brews by a crackling fire or in the company of friendly locals is a quintessential winter experience. Whether you’re a beer connoisseur or just looking to unwind, Door County’s breweries invite you to raise a glass and savor the flavors of the season in a welcoming and relaxed setting.
16. Sleigh Rides
Embrace the enchantment of winter in Door County with a magical sleigh ride through snow-covered landscapes. Wrapped in warm blankets, you’ll glide through serene woods and open fields, guided by gentle, majestic horses. The rhythmic jingle of sleigh bells adds to the wintery symphony as you take in the crisp, clean air and the pristine beauty of the season.
Whether it’s a romantic outing or a family adventure, a sleigh ride is a timeless way to experience Door County’s winter wonderland. It’s a journey that transports you to a bygone era, creating memories that sparkle like freshly fallen snow.
17. Spa Day
Escape the winter chill with a rejuvenating spa day in Door County. The cozy, tranquil spas provide a haven of relaxation amidst the snowy landscape. Indulge in soothing treatments like hot stone massages or hydrating facials, all while enveloped in warmth and comfort.
The contrast of the cold outdoors with the cozy spa ambiance heightens the experience. Sip on herbal tea by a crackling fire, and let go of stress as skilled therapists pamper you. Whether it’s a solo escape or a couples’ retreat, a winter spa day in Door County is a perfect way to unwind and embrace the serenity of the season.
18. Go to Church
Attending church in Door County during the winter months is a heartwarming experience. The historic churches nestled amidst snow-covered landscapes exude a tranquil charm.
As you enter, the scent of burning candles and the warmth of the congregation welcome you. Winter hymns resonate through these sacred spaces, echoing the sense of community and faith. The snowy surroundings offer a serene backdrop, enhancing the spiritual connection.
Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, these winter church services provide solace and a sense of togetherness, making your Door County winter getaway a time for reflection and spiritual renewal.
19. Winter Camping
For the adventurous souls, winter camping in Door County offers a unique and exhilarating experience. Peninsula State Park, Potawatomi State Park, and Newport State Park welcome intrepid campers even during the snowy months. Picture yourself nestled in a cozy, snow-covered campsite, with the quietude of the winter woods as your companion.
Glistening stars above and the hush of the snowfall create a serene backdrop for this outdoor adventure. Proper gear and clothing are essential, but the rewards are boundless – from the thrill of a crackling campfire to the solitude of the winter landscape. It’s a chance to connect with nature on a profound level, making winter camping in Door County an unforgettable journey for those seeking the extraordinary.
20. Visit a State Park
Visiting Door County’s state parks during the winter unveils a pristine, snow-covered wonderland. The parks, including Peninsula State Park, Potawatomi State Park, and Newport State Park, offer a serene escape for outdoor enthusiasts. Trails that were once bustling in summer now transform into quiet pathways through frosted forests and along frozen shorelines.
Winter activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking are popular, providing opportunities to witness the region’s natural beauty in a whole new light. The crisp winter air and the peaceful ambiance of the parks create a sense of tranquility and solitude that’s perfect for those seeking a serene escape in the heart of nature.
21. Eat at Supper Club
Experiencing a Door County supper club in winter is like stepping into a cozy retreat. These timeless establishments offer a warm and welcoming ambiance, with crackling fireplaces and dimmed lighting. Savor traditional supper club fare like prime rib or fish fry, accompanied by classic cocktails.
However, it’s important to note that many supper clubs modify their hours or close for the season during winter months, so it’s wise to call ahead and confirm their availability. When you find one that’s open, you’ll discover an authentic taste of Door County’s culinary traditions and hospitality, making it a memorable part of your winter visit.
22. Visit Cave Point County Park
Cave Point County Park in winter is a mesmerizing wonderland. Along the Lake Michigan shoreline, where the high waves crash against the rocky cliffs, you’ll witness nature’s artistry in action. The combination of freezing temperatures and splashing waves creates breathtaking ice formations on the foliage, turning trees and shrubs into glistening sculptures.
However, as you explore this icy paradise, it’s crucial to be cautious. The ground can be treacherously slippery, so sturdy footwear is a must. But the beauty of Cave Point County Park in winter is undeniable, offering a unique and enchanting experience for those who venture to witness its frozen splendor.
23. Go to the Beach
Visiting Door County’s beaches and shorelines in winter unveils a magical world of frozen wonder. Along the Lake Michigan and Green Bay coastlines, you’ll encounter exquisite ice formations that transform the landscape into a crystalline masterpiece. Glistening ice sculptures cling to rocks and driftwood, and frosty sand sparkles in the winter sun.
It’s a serene and enchanting experience, where you can have the shoreline all to yourself. However, remember to dress warmly, as the winter winds can be brisk. Exploring these icy shores offers a unique perspective on Door County’s natural beauty, making it an unforgettable winter adventure for those who seek the extraordinary.
24. Take an Art Class
Winter in Door County is the perfect time to nurture your artistic side by taking an art class. Many local studios and galleries offer a variety of workshops and classes that cater to all skill levels. Whether you’re interested in painting, pottery, or sculpture, there’s something for everyone to explore.
The serene winter ambiance provides an inspiring backdrop for your creative journey. The cozy studios and expert guidance help you unlock your artistic potential while immersing yourself in the beauty of the season. Whether you’re a seasoned artist or a beginner, taking an art class in winter can be a fulfilling and enriching experience that adds a touch of creativity to your Door County visit.
25. Christmas Shopping
Exploring Door County during the holiday season is a shopper’s delight. Charming boutiques and galleries adorn the streets with festive decorations and offer a unique selection of gifts. You’ll find locally crafted treasures, from handmade ornaments to artisanal foods, making for thoughtful and one-of-a-kind presents.
Stroll through quaint villages like Ephraim, Fish Creek, or Sister Bay, where boutique stores exude warmth and holiday spirit. The smell of fresh pine and the sound of carolers complete the magical atmosphere. Christmas shopping in Door County is not just about finding the perfect gift; it’s a heartwarming experience that captures the essence of the season.
26. Cheer for the Packers
On Packers game day in Door County, the atmosphere at local sports bars is electric. Fans gather in these vibrant venues, donning their green and gold attire, creating a spirited camaraderie. The cheers and chants for every touchdown are deafening, while screens broadcast every thrilling moment.
Sports bars offer hearty Wisconsin fare, like brats and cheese curds, perfect for fueling the excitement. It’s a place where strangers become friends, sharing the ups and downs of the game. The Packers are more than a team; they’re a way of life in Wisconsin, and experiencing a game at a local sports bar is a quintessential part of that tradition.
27. Go Ice Skating
Embrace the magic of winter with ice skating in Door County. Sister Bay and Sturgeon Bay both maintain picturesque outdoor ice rinks that transform into frozen wonderlands during the season. Strap on your skates and glide gracefully over the smooth ice, surrounded by the crisp winter air and the snowy landscapes.
Sister Bay’s ice rink is a charming spot for families and friends to enjoy. Sturgeon Bay’s rink, nestled in Martin Park, offers a serene setting for skaters of all ages. Whether you’re a seasoned skater or a beginner, these rinks provide a delightful way to experience the beauty of Door County in winter. So, bundle up and hit the ice for a memorable winter adventure.
28. Sample Some Cheese
No visit to Door County is complete without savoring its exquisite cheeses. Renard’s Cheese is a must-visit, offering an array of artisanal cheese varieties that capture the essence of the region. From creamy goat cheese to aged cheddars, their selection delights the palate.
Sampling cheese in Door County is a culinary journey that showcases the rich dairy heritage of the area. Explore local markets and creameries to discover a wide range of flavors, from classic to unique creations. Whether enjoyed on a scenic picnic or as a savory souvenir, Door County’s cheese offerings are a delicious reflection of its culinary tradition.
29. Check out Christmas Lights
During the holiday season, Door County transforms into a twinkling wonderland adorned with captivating Christmas lights. Stroll through charming villages like Fish Creek or Ephraim, where storefronts, streets, and trees are adorned with festive decorations. But the real magic happens in Sturgeon Bay, where some ships elegantly dress up with enchanting Christmas lights.
30. Attend a Fish Boil
In Door County, winter brings a unique twist to the beloved tradition of the fish boil. Gather around a roaring outdoor fire, where locals and visitors alike share the warmth of camaraderie. The snowy landscape adds a picturesque backdrop as the enormous kettle comes to life, filled with fresh-caught fish, potatoes, and onions.
As the chef masterfully boils the ingredients, the flames leap into the night sky. The grand finale, the “boil-over,” is met with cheers from the crowd. Savor the flavorful feast indoors, as the winter chill gives way to the cozy comfort of this iconic Door County culinary experience. A winter fish boil is a hearty and heartwarming way to embrace the season.
More About Door County in Winter
Door County is a great place to spend some time in the Winter. Make sure to check out our hub post on Winter in Door County to learn more about where to stay, where to eat, and what to do in Door County in Winter.