Overindulging on Thanksgiving is to be expected—from the excessive food consumption to the chemical reaction of tryptophan found in the turkey that is said to make us tired or sluggish. Getting outside for some fresh air and a little exercise can boost your energy level and mood. There are plenty of places around Petoskey to stretch your legs, so ease yourself off the couch, grab the family, and head out for a little post-dinner jaunt to burn off some of those excessive calories.

Twinkling lights will decorate SkyBridge Michigan this year for its second winter season, get your tickets in advance! Photo courtesy of Boyne Mountain Resort.

As if a trek across the 1,200-foot-long SkyBridge at Boyne Mountain (touted as “The World’s Longest Timber-Towered Suspension Bridge”) isn’t memorable enough, the holiday seasons will offer an illuminating experience unlike anything else. Starting Wednesday, November 22, this modern marvel will be adorned with an impressive holiday light installation of 150,000 twinkling lights (through New Year’s Eve). Stretching between McLouth and Disciples Ridge peaks, and 118 feet above the ground, this unique attraction is accessible via chairlift. After crossing the bridge, walk along a looped paved path to soak up this marvel from all angels while soaking up breathtaking views of the Boyne Valley. The SkyBridge is open from 8 am to 9 pm, year-round. Weekend tickets for adults are $30 when purchased online ($35 at the window), with special pricing for seniors and children. Tickets are good for the entire day, so make the most of it! For indoor fun, plan a visit to the Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark at Boyne Mountain (open to the general public with advanced tickets, 11 am to 5 pm on Thanksgiving).

Emmet County is home to Michigan’s very first Dark Sky Park (now there are three), and The Headlands near Mackinaw City is a hidden gem. Take a leisurely stroll along the Dark Sky Discovery Trail, a one-mile paved route from the entrance to the designated Dark Sky Viewing Area. The path features “cultural docents, indigenous artwork, and regional photography that interpret humanity’s relationship with the night sky over the centuries and across a variety of cultures.” While Thanksgiving is a few days before the next full moon (Monday, November 27), consider sticking around after dark and see if any celestial wonders light up the sky from the Lake Michigan shoreline viewing area. The Headlands is free and open 24/7 year-round, making it a great place to visit and revisit with family and friends.

Bear River Valley Recreation Area Trail also has many spots to check out the river a little more closely – some even have viewing platforms. Photo by: Michigan Barefoot Memories.

The Bear River flows for more than 15 miles, from Walloon Lake to where it empties into Little Traverse Bay in downtown Petoskey—a North Country Trail designated “Trail Town.” Explore the 36-acre Bear River Valley Recreation Area, including its 1.5-mile pathway that winds alongside the river and ends just two blocks from the city’s historic Gaslight District. This is an ideal place to walk, bike, or even snowshoe and cross-country ski during the snowy winter season. Keep your eyes open for birds and other wildlife, soak in the natural wonders, and be sure to seek out the small waterfall that graces the area. Entrances to the park are located on West Lake Street and Sheridan Street.


The Spa at Boyne Mountain offers many amenities to choose from like manicures. Photo courtesy of Boyne Mountain Resort.


While not open on Thanksgiving, there are several great indoor activities that will keep the family entertained throughout the weekend.

  • Take in a few frames at BC Lanes in Boyne City or Northern Lights in Harbor Springs (which also offers pool tables, video games and laser tag).
  • Spend the afternoon (or a day) relaxing at The Spa at Boyne Mountain and The Spa at Inn at Bay Harbor—where a wealth of pampering treatments like massages, manicures, and facials are offered. You’ll also find a variety of classes—yoga, barre, and sound healing, as well as indulging food and beverage add-ons.
  • The Lyric movie theater in downtown Harbor Springs shows several family films during the holiday season like Napoleon, Wish, Trolls Band Together, and Hunger Games. Visit their website for dates and times for showings in their three theater spaces.
  • Crooked Tree Art Center in downtown Petoskey is hosting its Holiday Bazaar through December 20, with countless one-of-a-kind gifts handmade by local artisans and artists. You’ll find everything from knits and jewelry to prints, pottery, ceramics, ornaments and so much more.


Holly Jolly Boyne event has a festive parade to watch! Photo by Michigan Barefoot Memories.


Get a jumpstart on the holiday festivities by taking in the Annual Village Lighting on Wednesday, November 23 (the day before Thanksgiving) in downtown Walloon Lake. This free community event includes visits from Santa, Mrs. Claus, and their reindeer as well as performances from the Petoskey Steel Drum Band, free hot chocolate, a vendor pop-up shop, and other festivities and the lighting of the Christmas tree.

Downtown Boyne City sparkles during its Holly Jolly Boyne celebration on Friday, November 24 from 5-9 pm. Local businesses stay open late to welcome families before the 6 pm parade followed by Santa’s lighting of the holiday tree at Old City Park.

Petoskey will “Light Up the Night” on Saturday, November 25 with their annual Holiday Parade kicking off at 6 pm. It features the Petoskey High School Marching Band, local non-profits, fun and festival floats, and of course, Santa.

For 108 years, the village of Harbor Springs has kicked off the holiday season in a magical way, with its Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony. Join in the festivities at 6pm on Saturday, November 25.


About the Author: Dianna Stampfler is the president of Promote Michigan and the author of the best-selling books “Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses” and “Death & Lighthouses on the Great Lakes.” She loves traveling around the Great Lakes state, with Hemingway country being among her favorite destinations.