December is a month of sweet deals in Northern Michigan. Here are 10 reasons to head Up North now, including great vacation deals, cozy scenes and holiday fun!
Memories can be made over ski turns when your holiday gift to each other is a gathering-time vacation. Maybe even have a big meal catered; Boyne Highlands, Harbor Springs, where Alpine Village condos sleep up to 12, offers special lodging rates (November 28–December 18) if guests book holiday parties. boyne.com.
The Thunder Bay Resort in Hillman is never so popular as at holiday time, when horse-drawn sleighs take you past an elk herd en route to wine tasting and dinner. thunderbayresort.com.
Picking out a pine
Cutting a fresh tree in the pine grove is a highlight of December packages at Stonewall Inn Bed and Breakfast in Frankfort—and the tree is free! stonewallinnbb.com.
Small-town holiday festivals
Manistee’s Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend (Dec. 4–7) is one not to miss for its roasting chestnuts, trombone bands and parade-ending spectacle of a massive Christmas tree—decorated and standing upright—hauled down main street by a muscular team of draft horses. Book: the Ramsdell Inn, in the center of it all. ramsdellinn.net.
Sit awhile by the parlor fire at Big Bay’s Thunder Bay Inn, a half-hour north of Marquette, and owners will regale you with tales of the chats one-time owner Henry Ford had here with buddies like Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone. thunderbayinn.net.
Cheap skiing and snowboarding
Get six lift tickets for the price of one at Boyne Mountain or Boyne Highlands on December 12, and stick around for the Holidazzle Parade the next day at Bay Harbor (boyne.com). Crystal Mountain offers its annual five-for-one deal December 19.
Take advantage of Stafford’s Perry Inn shopping package in Petoskey (all December except 5–6). Highlights of the $269, two-night package include $40 in Stafford’s dining dollars and $50 in merchant money. staffords.com.
Over-the-top decorations you don’t have to put up or take down
Ludington’s B&Bs are especially festive in December. Try the Candlelight Inn and snuggle under Victorian kissing balls while enjoying complimentary evening desserts, or opt for the Cartier Mansion, which also offers regular Sunday tours (ludingtonbedandbreakfast.com). Daytime, head to Ludington State Park to wander trails on wooden snowshoes you make in a December class. 231.843.9261.
The thin crowds and intimate settings of winter mean winemakers themselves may pour your samples and offer tips on great wine gifts. The scent of mulling wine—a staple at wineries like Shady Lane Cellars in Leelanau County—warms visitors on the most blustery of winter days (lpwines.com). Expand your tasting territory by trying wine from grapes grown just north of the 45th parallel at wineries on the rapidly growing Bay View Wine Trail, in and around Petoskey. bayviewwinetrail.com.
Fat tire biking
It means two-wheeling need not stop when snow flies; things just start getting fun. Rent a fatty at Sleeping Bear Surf and Kayak, in Empire, and explore the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail and Crystal Mountain, Thompsonville, which offers both rentals and a six-mile trail groomed especially for the bikes. crystalmountain.com. And don’t miss the Vasa’s new groomed snow bike singletrack! Rent a snow bike from Einstein Cycles or from one of the many options around Northern Michigan.