If you’re spending your holiday break in the area, you’re likely looking for some things to do. Whether you’re with the family, your spouse, or flying solo there are quite a few traditional festivities as well as new and exciting things to do this winter. We even picked out some great stops for a little Christmas shopping!

The Petoskey Steel Drum Band delights at the Harbor Springs Holiday Merchant Open House as well as the Petoskey Holiday Open House each year. Photo credit: Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau.

1. Attend a Holiday Open House

Harbor Springs, Petoskey, Alanson, and Boyne City all have some sort of Holiday Open House or Jolly Event to get your festive juices flowing. Harbor Springs and Boyne City host the Petoskey High School’s Steel Drum Band which is always a treat as they pull the band through town on their ‘decked out’ double-decker performance trailer. If you haven’t heard of them it is a treat! Think the classic steel drum sounds like you’re on a tropical beach but with singing and dancing to popular and holiday songs.

Meander a downtown and sip a warm beverage! You won’t regret it, but dress warm!

Here’s this year’s dates on each:


Walk down The Highlands Enchanted Trail for a whimsical experience. Photo credit: The Highlands.

2. Experience the Holiday Lights

There are many places to see the pretty twinkle lights, some organized and some not. You may feel like just taking a stroll through one of the following. Check out our recent Holiday Lights Blog for complete information or click one of the links below:

American Spoon in Petoskey offers a great selection of jams, spreads, mixes, sauces and more for creating the perfect gift. Photo credit: Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

3. Holiday Gift Shopping

Pick a downtown and go from store to store browsing some local goods and souvenirs. My favorite stops for holiday shopping:

Photo credit: The Lyric Theatre

4. Watch a Holiday Movie at Harbor Springs Lyric Theatre

The Harbor Springs Lyric Theatre is a great experience for a small-town theater. With three unique cinema rooms, you will truly be impressed with how they are decorated and the level of cleanliness you will see. They will be featuring the Polar Express as a matinee option on the day of the Harbor Springs Tree Lighting Ceremony! Don’t forget to grab a Tom’s Mom’s Cookie at the concession stand – now that is something you won’t get at your hometown theater.

Skiing at Boyne Highlands Resort near Petoskey, Michigan.

5. Take a sleigh ride to a moonlit dinner – The Highlands

The Highlands in Harbor Springs offers a unique experience with limited availability called Aonach Mor Moonlight Dinner. You begin the evening with a sleigh ride to the top of North Peak. Once you disembark you will be escorted inside for a three-course dinner by candlelight while listening to live acoustic guitar. There are dates available before and after Christmas Day and they have special holiday reservations for New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day this year.

Although the street is not closed off as seen here at the Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony, seeing the tree take its place in the middle of the street for the holiday season is quite something. Photo courtesy of Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau.

6. Visit a Christmas Tree in the middle of Main Street

One sight that you will not want to miss in the area is the Christmas tree in Downtown Harbor Springs. Each year it is donated by someone locally and is then harvested by the City of Harbor Springs and hauled down Main Street on a very large flatbed truck and erected in the street. How do they prop that large of a tree up? They have created a system that holds the tree and houses the electric connections within a manhole on Main Street just next to Johan’s Pastry Shop (where they hold the Farmer’s Market during the warmer months). That section of the road isn’t closed either, you can drive around the tree (slowly) to carry on down Main Street.

Photo credit: Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

7. Learn to Ski

For those who haven’t learned already, you should most definitely cross this off your bucket list this holiday season. It is so much easier to accomplish than you think. Take your pick from one of the three amazing ski resorts in the area: Boyne Mountain, The Highlands, and Nub’s Nob.

Photo credit: Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

8. Go Sledding

Yes, sledding, that thing that brings children so much joy but can still be just as much fun for adults too! There are several great hills in the area that are B.Y.O. sleds. Kiwanis Park in Harbor Springs, Winter Sports Park in Petoskey, and Avalanche Mountain Preserve in Boyne City are a few. Pond Hill Farm in Harbor Springs also offers a sledding hill where they provide sleds/tubes too. And did I mention all of these places are free? Talk about a fun way to plan your day without spending a bunch of money.

Looking to up your sledding game a bit? Although at a cost, Boyne Mountain and The Highlands offer snow tubing, and it is a ton of fun. The best part about this is you don’t have to hike back up the hill each time allowing for more fun. They have rope tows that tow you and your tube up.

Photo credit: Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

9. Gaze at the Stars on a Clear Night

A seemingly simple concept but, the Petoskey Area is home to spots that allow for the darkest skies for great night sky viewing. There is even a dark sky park just north of Harbor Springs called Headlands International Dark Sky Park. Check out a guide to get the most out of the Dark Sky Park here. Aside from this park, you can also check out Wilderness State Park just near there that is far away from the light pollution of the cities and provides great star viewing on a cloudless night.

Photo credit: Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

10. Ice Skate – Outside or In

Although very weather-dependent there are a few outdoor ice rinks in the area that are a great way to enjoy the fresh air! Petoskey Winter Sports Park and Boyne City’s Avalanche Mountain Preserve are outdoor ice rinks. An indoor rink that has open skate times is the Petoskey Ice Arena! Check their Facebook page for updates on open skate hours or give them a call directly.


Will we have a beautiful blanket of snow by the holidays? We hope so! There’s so much fun to be had once there is a bit of snow on the ground.


About the author

Ellen Auten is a native of the area and loves to promote the next fun thing to do in the Petoskey Area – but also loves giving out local favorites and learning opportunities for all. She hopes to help in your planning process for your next trip to the Petoskey Area of northern Lower Michigan.