13 reasons why you can have the best Grand Rapids winter ever

From beer to ice skating, comedy, drama and politics, you'll find something that suits your fancy this winter in Grand Rapids.
It's cold, it's dreary, it's full of slush. In one of the cloudiest cities in the country, we Grand Rapidians tend to succumb to the winter doldrums between December and March. But have no fear, our great city has plenty to offer us this season; from beer to ice skating, comedy, drama and politics, you'll find something that suits your fancy this Grand Rapids winter.
11th Annual Winter Beer Festival
So, I'll admit it, last year we were freezing our butts off as we sampled local beer from over 100 Michigan breweries and brewpubs. But with this year's Super El Nino calling for a mild winter, waiting in line at Fifth Third Ball Park's parking lot should be much more enjoyable. Throw in brews crafted especially for the event and rubbing elbows with some of the best in the biz, and you've got the season's most anticipated beer-vent. What's not to love?

Rosa Parks Circle Ice Skating
What Grand Rapidian doesn't covet this virtual winter wonderland? Open December 4 through March 6 for ice skating, admission is only $1 for youth (17 and under) and $2 for adults, with free skate rental included with your admission fee. With most locals hitting up the spot at least once in this chilly season, you don't have to be a pro to lace up and enjoy the scenery.

Gilda's LaughFest
Tickets go on sale on January 15 and the lineup of talented comedians — from Kathy Griffin to Marlon Wayans — is set. Grab your tickets and start anticipating this 10-day festival of comedy, improv, music, dance, speakers, films and showcases, benefitting Gilda's Club Grand Rapids. LaughFest runs March 10-20.

UICA's Oscar-Nominated Short Films
After the Academy announces its nominations for the 88th Academy Awards on January 14, 2016, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts will begin showing the nominated short films, and will continue showtimes through mid-February. So duck inside, away from the cold to catch a series of films that are sure to garner attention this awards season. They even have popcorn.

Brewsader - The Beer City Passport
Beer helps keep us warm…right? Nonetheless, all of the 23 participating breweries in the Beer City Passport book have indoor seating. Grab a friend, visit a few breweries this weekend and be sure to ask for your stamp. Collect eight stamps, and you'll receive a free Brewsader t-shirt from the GoSite at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Because who doesn't appreciate a great piece of Beer City swag?

Fat Tire Bikes
Don't let the cold and snow keep you from exercising and exuding your sweet, hipster vibes. Hop on a fat tire bike and cruise over pretty much anything on four-inch thick tires. They're even great on trails.

MadCap's Hot Chocolate
Single origin, fair trade and downright rich. What a great way to warm your frost-bitten fingers. And the hip, downtown ambience doesn't hurt.

boldSOCKS on S. Division
This newly opened niche venture offers socks…and just socks, to keep you warm and stylish this winter.

Cooking Classes at the Downtown Market
We can't all eat root vegetables and take-out all winter long. Pop over to the Downtown Market to cleanse your palate with some diverse cooking classes that are sure to add some skills, and ingredients, to your repertoire. Must-attend classes include "Gimme Some Dim Sum," "Winter Nights in Germany" and "Dixie Fixin’s and All That Jazz."

New (and first female) Mayor
This month, Grand Rapids' new mayor, Rosalyn Bliss, was sworn in. After 12 years of George Hartwell's leadership, the city will welcome new, bipartisan direction from its first female leader. She'll also inject some youthful energy to our burgeoning city (she turned 40 just before she was elected in August).

Spicy tacos and tequila flights. I can't think of a better way to warm up after a cold winter stroll down Ionia. Check out Grand Rapids' newest Latin food venture, which blends Mexican and Central American cuisine traditions with Midwestern ingredients, from the creative voice behind Tacos el Cuñado in the Downtown Market.

Cannonsburg Ski Area
Who could forget our quaint little ski resort, just north in Belmont, MI? Complete with terrain parks, tubing and even a bunny hill, you don't have to go far for a day of skiing or snowboarding this season.

Blue Man Group
Escape the dreary, dog days of winter with a colorful performance. The Blue Man Group visits Broadway Grand Rapids on February 2-3.

What are your favorite winter traditions? Let us know in the comments below, on our Facebook page or @rapidgrowth
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