Fun ways to beat the winter doldrums in Port Huron

Lucy Freed enjoys holiday lights around the neighborhood
When it’s cold out and dark by the time you head home from work, it’s tempting to throw sweatpants on, call it a day, and stay inside. After a while, though, the coziness gets a little boring and you start aching for a change of scenery. If you’re a Port Huron resident, grab your coat and be a tourist in your town, or if you’re an out-of-towner, come see why Port Huron provides the perfect day trip, even in the winter.

Indoor views 
The blue water never gets old, but you may not want to be outside to watch the ships go by. The views from Freighters with its floor to ceiling windows are as good as it gets, unobstructed no matter where you’re sitting. They alone are enticing enough to stop in, but the food at Freighters is also noteworthy.

Try the Zip Chick, lightly breaded chicken in a buttery wine sauce with not just a few toppings spread here and there, but tons of artichoke hearts, mushrooms and capers, making for a creamy, salty dish. You’ll be fighting your tablemates for the last bite. For under $4, you can’t pass up the Faygo Floats. It’s not the same as eating an ice cream cone while walking by the water in the summertime; it might be even better.

Even on a frigid winter's day, the Blue Water Bridge is a sight to see.While you’re there, stop by the adjoining Blue Water Convention Center to see if there are any shows. Upcoming events include Girl on Fire, a bridal expo, and a Valentine’s craft show, to name a few. McMorran Place also has wintry events coming up:  Chilly Fest, a murder-mystery dinner/show, hockey games, the International Symphony Orchestra, a Broadway Princess Party, a show by the Port Huron Figure Skating Club, Port Huron Civic Theatre’s production of Willy Wonka, and more. For full lists: www.bluewaterconventioncenter.com/upcoming-events  and www.mcmorran.com/calendar

History fitting for the weather

Did you know Port Huron is home to Michigan's "strangest" museum-- dedicated to ice.If you can’t beat them, join them (the icicles, that is). It’s hard to imagine, but ice used to be a luxury. In 1886, there were over 65 million tons of ice harvested in the United States.

Port Huron was a large part of the industry, which is shown throughout Knowlton Ice Museum of North America’s 10,000 square feet. The late owner, Mickey Knowlton, owned Port Huron’s Party Time Ice Company on 1755 Yaeger Street in 1969. If you browse the museum at 317 Grand River Ave., you’ll find artifacts from his time as a milk man; dolls that his wife collected; a list of Port Huron ice companies dating back to 1871; videos of ice houses; pieces of ice delivery gadgets; tools like picks, scorers, horse-drawn wagons, and creepers (shoes worn to stop sliding on ice); some of the earliest ice boxes; and more.

The more than 6,000 artifacts will leave you amazed at something you had previously taken for granted, and the museum itself is very well-maintained and interesting. Reader’s Digest named it the strangest museum in Michigan. It is open on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Warm up with a drink
Many Port Huron bars and restaurants have specialty cocktails to help you warm up. During colder months, the Vintage Tavern swaps out some of its summery, bright drinks and sangrias for items filled with apple schnapps and cinnamon whiskey. Their hot toddy, the classic winter drink, has a welcome twist with pear Absolut, prickly pear tea, honey, lemon, and candied ginger. 

If you’re bar hopping on this track, the closeby Black and Blue Brewery is worth a stop for both its beer and arcade games to switch up the activities.

For a nonalcoholic option, head to Kate’s Downtown. Every winter, customers flock to the eatery for the Michigan Cure, which has steamed apple cider, Vernors, and honey with a cinnamon stick. 

“We love to keep things new and fresh by always trying to create something tasty, and we want you to be excited to try the seasonal items,” owner Kate Voss says.

Listen up!
If you’re into live music, it’s not hard to find in Port Huron. While large acts may pass up the area in favor of big venues in Detroit, it is filled with smaller, intimate shows and local acts. 

“I look for bars hosting musicians throughout the winter,” says Matt Brooks, founder of ELEVEN19 and The Roost and all-around Blue Water enthusiast. “It’s a great way to stay warm, hang out with friends, and support the local music scene.”

Lynch’s Irish Tavern is a go-to for locals looking for tunes and is jam-packed with performances and activities throughout the winter. Stop in any day of the week and you’ll run into something to do. They have bands or DJs on Fridays and Saturdays at 9 p.m., a pianist Sundays and Tuesdays at 6 p.m., open mic nights Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m., and karaoke on Wednesdays around 10 p.m., after a free comedy show at 8 p.m. There’s also trivia on Mondays at 8 p.m. and a magician Thursdays at 8 p.m.

If you’re a music lover, The Outpost is also a good bet. Catch acoustic music on Thursdays at 8 p.m.; and live music on Fridays and Saturdays at 9 p.m. And if you want to do the singing, it has karaoke four days a week (Sunday through Wednesday, 9 p.m.). 

Speaking of live music…

Warm up with a cup of soup

Visitors to the Raven Cafe can relax while having a cup of coffee, or sampling a soup.The Raven Cafe has live music every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The Keel has mentioned The Raven Cafe before for its music, coffee, and beer, but we can’t mention winter favorites without including the cafe’s soups! Nothing is better on a cold day than hot soup, and the Raven cleverly offers a flight with mini portions of four of its nine options. Patrons can choose from baja chicken enchilada, chicken noodle, lobster bisque, herb tomato bisque, beef chili with beans, mushroom Brie, pumpkin with roasted apples and bacon, and vegetarian black bean, or French onion if you’re not interested in the flight. All samplers served with good conversation. While at The Raven, purchase a blind date with a book, books concealed in butcher paper with brief plot points written in Sharpie, and take it home to get comfy by the fire. 

Don't forget the souvenirs
When taking a wintry trip to Port Huron, think of all the money you’re saving on flights and hotels. You would buy yourself something to take home if you were on vacation, right? So treat yourself to something on your staycation. Go on, you have permission.

The Grand Trunk Marketplace is an eclectic store filled with more than 40 vendors who have their own mini-stores. You can Grand Trunk Marketplace is an easy place to spend a day, checking out the many unique items.find everything in the stalls from vintage home decor to handmade art and trendy clothing. There’s something for everybody, and it is more than just shopping, it’s entertainment as you browse through the aisles, unsure of what to expect and what you’ll find. 

Art Studio 1219 is the place to be to tap into your creative side and pick up something truly unique. You could spend at least an hour perusing the building, which has eight galleries. The space provides an opportunity for artists to sell their pieces, and doing your shopping here is as "shop small" as you can get. They are having a special Veteran’s Art Exhibit until the end of the month. Art Studio 1219 also hosts workshops and classes, many centered around its pottery studio. Visit https://studio1219.com/ for information on workshops and upcoming exhibits

Still looking for more? Stop by the Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce, 512 McMorran Blvd., where they have plenty of ideas to keep you busy and wanting to return for more.
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