Petoskey: A Guide to a Premiere Northern Michigan Ski Town

With hills rising all around and a snow belt dumping white stuff from above, Petoskey-ites did the right thing: created the best ski town within a thousand miles. Barely 15 minutes from the downhill trifecta of Boyne Highlands, Nub’s Nob and Boyne Mountain resorts, Petoskey’s snow-trimmed Victorian rooftops and glowing gaslights frame a hip winter village of inventive restaurants, funky boutiques and a vibrant arts community.

But Petoskey's midwinter moxie isn’t exclusive to ski bunnies and powderheads cutting angles on the diamond runs; shoppers, gastronomes and winter retreatists young and old bundle up to hit the sidewalks by day or night, keeping Petoskey humming even in the coldest months.

Approaching town along U.S. 131, winter visitors gain an incremental perspective: Glance through the bare black hardwoods at Walloon Lake’s prestigious North Arm, roll past the Wal-Mart and the casino, and suddenly crest the hill to a panoramic vista of Little Traverse Bay and Petoskey glittering on its southern edge.

Within a few square blocks in this tidy downtown, you can find authentic tamales, spicy Tom Kha and foie gras terrine, sip ‘The Hemingway’ at a centuryold mahogany bar, or rock out to the Rolling Stones with a pitcher of Pabst and a litter of busted peanut shells underfoot. The scope of local merchants is a similar medley of today and traditional: Genteel accessories like cashmere scarves and fine cigars are as readily available as skinny jeans and leopard-print lampshades. Bibliophiles can lose afternoons in the vaults of two splendid independent booksellers, and those needing a coiffure can get pretty at several sleek salons.

Should you need to massage the right side of your brain, trundle over to the Crooked Tree Arts Center and get cultured with a diverse rotation of exhibits. Petoskey is a town with manifold personality for those who ski, sip, shop or simply sit and chill, so read on for the winter what-to-do …

What to Eat

Quell your après-ski munchies with old school pub fare, fiery Thai or fine French cheese; it’s all here.

Jesperson’s: 312 Howard St, 231-347-3601

This centennial lunch counter and pie shop is a tasty time warp: Grab yourself a hot meatloaf sandwich or a lofty slice of coconut cream pie, and live awhile in a simpler, place. Inspired breakfasts, too.

City Park Grill: 432 E. Lake St., 231-347-0101

Hammered metal ceilings and an iconic mahogany bar complement the eclectic international bistro menu. Live music most nights after 10 p.m.

Chandler’s: 215 Howard St., 231-347-2981

Creative modern cuisine, mixological masterpieces and the best wine list in town. Call ahead for reservations.

Mitchell Street Pub: 426 E. Mitchell, 231-347-1801

Owner Larry Rochon, longtime record store guru, fi lls this dimly lit watering hole with funky taxidermy, Motown curios and an unrivaled vintage rock soundtrack. Oh yeah, the food rocks too.

Thai Orchid: 433 E. Mitchell, 487-9900

Didn’t think you’d fi nd legitimate Bangkok noodle dishes, duck curry or homemade Tom Kha soup north of the 45th parallel? Think again.

Where to Sleep

Stafford’s Perry Hotel: 118 Lewis, 231-347-4000

Downtown Petoskey’s architectural centerpiece, this lavish 19th-century hotel boasts expansive views of the bay. Grab a nightcap and hear local musicians at the Perry’s Noggin Room Pub.

Stafford’s Bay View Inn: 2011 Woodland Ave., 231-347-2771

A warm fireplace greets guests at this historic inn nestled among gingerbread cottages at the entrance to the Bay View community. You’ll find comfy beds, fine linens and a fantastic weekend brunch.

Bay View Terrace Inn: 1549 Glendale Ave., 800-530-9898

For those wanting a cozy, vintage experience, this 37-room Victorian hotel, built in 1911, is situated within the ornately gabled Bay View community just a few minutes north of downtown Petoskey.

The Appletree Inn: 915 Spring St., 231-348-2900

Great for those seeking a swim or a hot soak after adventures in the snow, this lovely independent hotel offers full spectrum amenities without sacrificing charm.

Where to Shop

Shop the cool boutiques of Petoskey’s Gaslight District for snow gear, good books, culinary curios or designer threads.

Bearcub Outfitters: 421 E. Lake St., 231-439-9500

This groovy gear and outerwear shop stocks Patagonia, North Face and all the necessary clips, compasses and carbon fiber poles to tackle the cold. Snowshoe rentals available.

Bondurant: 206 Howard St., 231-439-9181

Ladies lose half a day in this Euro-chic boutique where your still-smoking charge card can procure vintage jewelry, stylized bookends, fur-trimmed boots and fancy French lotion all in one fell swipe.

Symons General Store: 401 E. Lake St., 231-347-2438

An old-timey wonderland of all things delicious: specialty foods, American farmstead and international artisan cheeses and a serious wine cellar that hosts monthly wine and cheese tastings.

Cutler’s: 216 Howard St., 231-347-0341

Home cooks will feel like kids in a candy store here: Cutler’s has everything for your kitchen and then some.

McLean & Eakin Booksellers: 307 E. Lake St., 231-347-1180
Horizon Books: 319 E Mitchell St., 231-347-2590

Every cool town needs a spirited independent bookstore. Petoskey has two.

What to do Outside

Sleigh Rides through Bay View

A wholesome Rockwellian foil to boutique shopping and pub crawls—don your hat and mittens, and let the ponies pull you around in a tricked-out Victorian sleigh. Sleigh rides depart from the Bay View Terrace Inn (800-530-9898) and Stafford’s Bay View Inn (231-347-2771) on Saturday evenings.

Winter Sports Park: 1100 Winter Park Ln., 231-347-1252

Punctuate your afternoon in P-town with an hour of ice skating or sledding at the Winter Sports Park; this enormous rink offers plenty of room to triple axel while the downy fl akes drift all around you. Bring your own blades or rent them on site.

What to do Inside

Crooked Tree Arts Center: 461 E. Mitchell, 231-347-4337

This converted church serves up strong exhibitions and local art, and even offers cooking classes. The renovated Ross Stoakes Theatre hosts plays and concerts.

Petoskey Film Series:

Adjacent to Crooked Tree, the Petoskey Public Library’s Carnegie Building hosts a fi lm series showing both whimsical and cerebral international selections.

Winter Blues Festival: February 15-21, Downtown Petoskey

The whole town is bathed in blue light for this soulful midwinter fête. Catch great blues performers at the Crooked Tree Arts Center and City Park Grill, watch a nocturnal torchlight parade, or test your snow-sculpting skills at a giant snowman building contest.

More Links to Fun in Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Bay Harbor and the Little Traverse Region!