Friday Five: Five Ways to Celebrate Halloween in Northern Michigan

Fall is a spectacular time of year in Northern Michigan. There are the traditional trips to the cider mills, the hayrides on weekends, the bountiful autumn harvest, the lazy afternoon walks through fiery orange forests. But when Michiganders seem to really dive in and embrace the season is at the end of October, with the arrival of Halloween.

This year, there are more opportunities than ever to dress up, head out and party down for the holiday Up North. The multitude of choices can be overwhelming, so we’ve compiled a list of recommended stops to make your Halloween weekend this year truly “spooktacular.”

Dare to be scared. Read these Northern Michigan ghost stories and local myths.

Visit Traverse City’s “Naturally” Haunted Places

There are plenty of man-made haunted houses to visit in the area (try the Grimfell Asylum at the old Circuit City building in Traverse City, for one), but why not check out a local spot with a reputation for real supernatural activity?

Ghost Busting at the City Opera House with M.A.P.I.T.
Last year, a local operative known as M.A.P.I.T. (Michigan Area Paranormal Investigative Team) conducted a private night-time investigation of the City Opera House in Traverse City. This year, they’ll take a public group back in with them for a second sweep of the building. On Monday, October 25, you can shadow M.A.P.I.T. as the team seeks answers to why “I love you” was caught on audio in the basement last year, why a door swung closed when asked if the spirit was there to protect the building, and the cause of strange loud noises heard in the catering area. A $50 tax-deductible restoration donation to help maintain the facility will be charged. Call the City Opera House to register at 231-941-8082.

Grand Traverse Lighthouse Ghost Tour
The Grand Traverse Lighthouse, located in Northport in Leelanau County, has long been one of the area’s most notorious haunted landmarks. Lighthouse keepers and museum staff have reported numerous encounters with the paranormal over the years, including ghost sightings, strange voices and unexplained sounds. Each October, they host official “Ghost Tours” to the public featuring stories about the lighthouse’s former inhabitants and a chance for visitors to have their own interactions with the building’s spectral guardians. Tours are offered every Friday and Saturday through the end of October at 7 p.m. and include shopping and refreshments after the tour. To purchase a $5 advance ticket (required), call 231-386-7195.

Hit the Trick-Or-Treating Circuit

There’s perhaps no Halloween tradition more time-honored than collecting candy from strangers in a pillowcase. If you have children, or young relatives or neighbors, these are some well-established spots to take them that are both safe and fun.

Downtown Halloween Walk
Downtown Traverse City is one of the most popular spots in the area for young trick-or-treaters. On Friday, October 29, participating businesses will hand out candy and host special Halloween activities in their stores from 3:30-5:00 p.m. Be cautious when driving through the downtown area, though – the foot traffic is especially heavy during this time. For more information, visit

Trunk or Treat
The Wellston Booster Association will host a special “Trunk or Treat” event on Sunday, October 31 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. at the Norman Township Hall in Wellston. Children can go from car to car collecting Halloween goodies at the event. Participating vehicles should arrive between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. – no moving vehicles are allowed in the designated area after 5:45 p.m. There will also be a costume judging contest in the hall at 6:30 p.m.

Go See a Concert – In Costume

There are numerous concerts taking place every weekend of the year in Northern Michigan. However, there’s only one weekend where you can enjoy those concerts in full-blown costume. (One weekend that’s socially appropriate, anyway.) Here’s where to do it this year.

Steppin’ In It at the Loading Dock
Michigan favorites Steppin’ In It will rock the Loading Dock (205 Lake Avenue) in Traverse City on Friday, October 29 and Saturday, October 30 starting at 10:30 p.m. both nights. The sextet is known for their high-energy live shows featuring an infectious mix of blues, folk, jazz and roots dance music. On Saturday, the show will include a special costume extravaganza; attendees are highly encouraged to dress up. Cover at the door both nights is $5. For more information, call the Loading Dock at 231- 941-4422. Visit

Short’s Halloween Party
Join Short’s Brewery for their annual Halloween costume party on Saturday, October 30 at 8:00 p.m. The evening will feature a live performance from Code Brown, a Detroit-based Ween cover band, and special brew Funkin’ Punkin’ on tap. Short’s will also be hosting a costume contest at the event, with the best costume winning a mug club membership for one year. Cover for the party is $2. For more information, visit

Exercise with the Undead

Because really, exercising with the living is so passé.

5K Zombie Run
“Have you ever watched a zombie movie and yelled ‘RUN!!!’ at the victims? Think you could do any better?” So goes the tagline for Traverse City’s hugely popular 5K Zombie Run, which allows runners to register as either an “Infected” or a “Survivor.” Survivors are given a one-minute head start at the beginning of the race, then the Infected are unleashed to pursue their prey. Medals are awarded to the top three overall male and female runners, as well as males and females who place first in their age group. The event also features a costume contest, music and post-race refreshments. All proceeds benefit TART Trails. For more information, or to register, visit

Plan a Fright Night In

As this list demonstrates, there is no shortage of Halloween activities to enjoy in Northern Michigan. However, for those chilly October nights where a sofa by the fireplace seems more inviting than heading outdoors, you can still scare yourself silly in the comfort of your own home. You just need a few supplies.

Scary Movies
“The Exorcist.” “Halloween.” “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Everyone knows the classics, and this time of year, the only way to not see these horror films is to keep the television turned off. But if you’re looking to branch out from the staples, or to try out a few famous titles you never got around to, the Boston Globe has compiled a stellar list of the “Top 50 Scariest Movies of All Time.” Rent a few of these thrillers, and you’ll be well on your way to sleeping with the lights on.

Cider in October is a must. For the non-alcoholic variety, stop by Oryana Food Co-Op in Traverse City to pick up a jug of Northern Natural Organics Apple Cider. Consisting of a gourmet blend of organic apples including Swift, Gala, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Northern Spy and Rome, this cider is the real deal. For a more adult take on the beverage, take home some Cinnamon Girl Hard Cider from Left Foot Charley in Traverse City, or snag one of the many varieties of hard cider offered at Tandem Cinders in Suttons Bay.

The Sara Hardy Farmers Market in downtown Traverse City is your one-stop shop for local produce, baked goods and sweets each Saturday. The market only goes until the end of October before shutting down for the winter, so now is the time to pick up a peck of Honey Crisp or SweeTango apples, load up on fresh-made salsa or try a new flavor of locally produced soup. The market is located in the downtown parking lot between Cass and Union Streets and goes from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. For more information, visit

The Friday Five is a weekly list of the top things to do, see and experience in Northern Michigan. Have a topic suggestion for the list? Email [email protected]