This year, Northern Michigan towns are getting creative when it comes to hosting safe holiday events. Some are offering virtual tree lighting celebrations and drive-thru parades, while others will have in-person events following social distancing guidelines.

Traverse City

The holiday season kicks off with the Tree Lighting Ceremony on Friday, Nov. 20. This event will be done as a broadcast so you can enjoy it safely from home. Prepare for the event with Michigan This Morning broadcasts on 9&10 and Local 32 from 5–9 a.m, The FOUR 4–5 p.m. and 9&10 News broadcasts 5–6:30 p.m culminating with the LIVE broadcast of the tree lighting. Santa will light up downtown as you watch from home during the 9&10 and Local 32 6 p.m. news broadcasts.

The festivities continue on Saturday, Dec. 12 from 5–9 p.m. with the Strolling Light Parade. This season, the Downtown Traverse City Association is making it interactive—travel to the parade instead of it coming to you. Twelve nonprofit organizations will be scattered throughout downtown, each displaying their own rendition of the popular holiday song “Twelve Days of Christmas.” Vote for your favorite entry onsite or online. Proceeds will benefit the Downtown Relief Fund and participating nonprofits. Each vote will cost $1 with the option of making a larger donation. The winning entry will be the Honorary Grand Marshall of the 2021 Light Parade.


Light Up Leland for the Holidays has been canceled. However, you can still enjoy holiday lights at the Leland Library, Village Green and Christmas tree corner. The Old Art Building is hosting a Festival of Lights instead of its annual HollyPOP market. The front yard will have 25 evergreens to walk through (free) from Nov. 27 until the end of December.

Suttons Bay

During Holiday in the Village on Saturday, Nov. 28, stores will be adorned with lights and holiday finery. Caroling at the corner starts at 5:30 p.m. followed by Santa’s arrival by firetruck. Santa will light the village Christmas tree and he’ll have gifts for children. Drop your letter to Santa in his special mailbox by Bahle’s. Downtown merchants will be open with extended hours. Please follow social distancing guidelines and wear a mask.

Glen Arbor

The Tree Lighting & Caroling event will be pre-filmed then shared online on Thanksgiving weekend. The Glen Lake Chamber purchased new LED lights that will be strung up by the Glen Lake Fire Department this month. Members of Glen Lake Church’s worship team will perform carols, and a local resident will provide professional video support. The event will be pre-recorded then posted on for all to see on Thanksgiving weekend. In addition, the Glen Arbor Arts Center is lighting up its neck of the woods during Light Up Glen Arbor. On Saturday, Dec. 5 they will light the path from Lake Street to GAAC and present the community tree. The tree will remain lit for the season, though New Year’s Day.


The Soup Cook-Off and parade are canceled this year, but the chamber is calling on local businesses to spread holiday cheer through light displays that all can enjoy while social distancing. Local residents are also encouraged to participate in this Light Up the Night event by decorating their homes.

Boyne City

The Drive-Thru Santa Parade & Holiday Open House will take place on Friday, Nov. 27. The parade is from 6–8 p.m. at Veterans Park. It will be stationary (the floats will stay in one spot and you’ll be the ones moving!). The floats will be set up around the loop in Veteran’s Park. Cars can enter from State Street and drive the loop to view the floats, with Santa at the end. Downtown businesses will offer specials during the festivities.

Harbor Springs

On Saturday, Nov. 28 the 105th annual Christmas Tree Lighting at 6 p.m. is going virtual on Facebook Live.

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner