Sure, Traverse City is a beautiful summer beach town with an amazing food and drink scene. But thanks to local boutiques, small-town holiday celebrations and plenty of ways to enjoy the snow, it’s also a beautiful winter beach town. (Just trade your swimsuits for ice skates once the bay freezes over.) These are some of the most festive things to do in Traverse City during the holidays in 2019.
Meet Santa Claus
Grand Traverse Bay winks in the background as happy families make their way from the Christmas tree set at the corner of Cass and Front streets to Santa’s House at City Centre Plaza a block away. Santa arrives in Traverse City on November 23, 2019, for the light parade and tree lighting.
Hear the Angels Sing
Traverse City is a VERY musical place, and that’s never more obvious than during the holiday season. The Traverse Symphony Orchestra presents “Home for the Holidays with The Accidentals” December 7–8, 2019, and the delightful “Christmas Up in Northport” put on by the Northport Community Band and Village Voices is always a can’t-miss show (December 15, 2019).
Find more events, like Old Town Playhouse’s upcoming performances of Elf, The Musical, in the MyNorth Calendar.
Do a Little Wassailing
Traverse City is in the heart of Michigan’s loveliest wine region, and it’s hard to think of a better way to enjoy the holiday season than taking a wine-tasting jaunt out to the beautiful vineyards on Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas. Since many wineries have special winter hours, be sure to check ahead—or use the services of one of the area’s many wine tour operators! Here’s your Northern Michigan wine guide.
Explore “Christmas in the Village” at the Grand Traverse Commons
December 8–10, 2019, the shops and galleries of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons hold a three-day celebration filled with special sales, music in the halls, a tree lighting, horse-drawn carriage rides and a special performance by Traverse City West Senior High School Choirs: Mix and Mingle to Some Holiday Jingles.
See an Enchanted Nutcracker
The renowned Interlochen Center for the Arts is one of America’s leading music and performance schools, numbering among its famous alumni such stars as Nora Jones, Tom Hulce and Jewel. Each year, staff and students at Interlochen present a major ballet performance as a holiday treat for the community. This year’s selection, presented December 12–14, is Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.”
Make Merry in Small Towns
Every community in this part of Michigan has its own special holiday celebrations and shopping events throughout November and December. Discover the best holiday events in 14 communities in MyNorth Holidays (plus tons of local gift ideas!).
Buy Something Nice for Someone You Love
The Traverse City area has become one of Michigan’s most popular holiday shopping destinations—partly because of the wide range of boutiques, galleries and shops in the Grand Traverse area, but also thanks to the many community shopping festivals and events. Downtown Traverse City hosts a myriad of holiday shopping events each year, including Ladies’ Night on December 12, 2019, and Men’s Night on December 19, 2019. The Downtown Cocoa Crawl on December 8, 2019, is a family favorite.
Figgy Pudding, Anyone?
Famed as a “foodie town,” Traverse City wouldn’t be Traverse City if the holiday season didn’t include some fantastic feasts. Ring in the New Year with a seven-course extravaganza at 123 Speakeasy or enjoy a wine-paired, multi-course meal at the elegant Inn at Black Star Farms.
Wonder at a Midnight Clear
The essence of Traverse City is the great outdoors, and the most magical way to experience winter here is by venturing outside on a clear, starry night. Take skis or snowshoes—or just a good pair of walking boots and explore the luminous beauty of it all. If you’re lucky, and pick a dark spot like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore or Mission Point Lighthouse Park, you may even have a chance to spot the Northern Lights.
Watch the Cherry Drop
Ring in the New Year at the Cherry-T Ball Drop, an annual New Year’s Eve street party featuring a massive illuminated cherry that is lowered to signify the coming year. Live music and entertainment are all part of this fun winter party in Downtown Traverse City. And in typical “Up North” fashion, the price of admission is in the form of canned goods that are donated to local food banks and shelters.