Fishing at Houghton Lake
Picture yourself in that tiny red shack waiting for a nibble.

Fish is the Dish

Wussed out on the Polar Bear Club’s annual New Year’s Day plunge into Lake Michigan? You can still prove your cold-water mettle this weekend, although you’ve got to go north to do so. Head for Michigan’s Lake Houghton, and you’ll find yourself in the chilly epicenter of one of the Midwest’s largest winter festivals. The resort community is expected to draw thousands of celebrants to its icy shores for the 62nd annual Tip-Up Town. The fest—named for a flag-like ice fishing contraption that tips up when there’s a catch on the line—features the yearly Polar Bear Dip as well as ice-sculpting demonstrations, helicopter and snowmobile rides, and a softball-on-ice tournament. Activities also include night ice-skating, a giant ice slide for the kids, and an adult beverage tent with live music for their parents. The frozen lake, Michigan’s largest inland lake, becomes something of an honorary municipality during the festival, complete with a mayor sworn to promote “hilarity, tomfoolery and good will.” Show up on Saturday morning and you can catch the Grand Parade, kicking off at 10 a.m. and traveling east from Houghton Lake Heights along M-55. Fireworks are scheduled for dusk that evening. Can’t make it this weekend? Tip-Up Town happens again January 27 through 29.

GO Tip-Up Town Festival in Houghton Lake. 800-676-5330,

While you’re in the area: If you want to ski by the stars (and with the help of an LED headlamp), the trails at Higgins Lake will be open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening. Rent a headlamp for $5 at Cross Country Ski Headquarters (9435 N. Cut Rd., Roscommon, Michigan; 989-821-6661, to explore the trails by moonlight.

Where to stay: The Riviera Resort (104 Hillside Ave., Prudenville, Michigan; 989-366-5122, has lake views from suites in the 123-year-old main lodge, which has been run by the same family for over half a century; nightly rates start at $75. The Sunset Resort (3723 E. Houghton Lake Dr., Houghton Lake; 989-366-5512, lets guests in the main lodge and in separate cabins use the resort’s ice-fishing shanties for free; two-night weekend rates are $130 (lodge) and $275 (cabins).

Where to eat: For comfort food prepared by a husband-and-wife team in a log cabin setting, try Powell’s Restaurant (3257A W. Houghton Lake Dr., Houghton Lake; 989-366-8721). And for one of the more unusual theme restaurants in the Midwest, try the Little Boots Country Diner (6633 W. Houghton Lake Dr., Houghton Lake; 989-422-3253), known for huge and tasty hamburgers and boot-centric décor that includes beverages served in, wait for it, plastic boots.


Photograph: Courtesy of the Houghton Lake Tourism Bureau