Tag Archives: Christmas

Our Top Ten Traverse City Blog Posts for 2014

Since 2014 is now behind us, it’s time to take a look at past Traverse City Blog posts to see which ones were the most popular with our readers. And here's the list!

Aerial view of Power Island

Aerial view of Power Island

1.    Now You Won’t Need a Boat to Get to Power Island!

This year’s most widely viewed post was a pretty clear winner; it received 4,010 views. Judging from their comments, it was a pretty diverse group of readers, too. Some viewers were surprised to know that there was an island park in the middle of the West Grand Traverse Bay, and were glad to know that even people without private boats could now visit it. Others were unhappy that the secret was out.

Carter Road (photo courtesy of Karen Duda Sila)

Carter Road (photo courtesy of Karen Duda Sila)

2. Where Our Facebook Fans Recommend Viewing Christmas Lights

The number-two favorite was a late contender: it came in mid-December, when the Traverse City Blog asked our Facebook Fans where the best Christmas lights in the area could be found. A whopping 3,539 people read this one, and many used it as a guide to their own nighttime holiday explorations.

The Great Lawn at the Grand Traverse Commons

The Great Lawn at the Grand Traverse Commons

3. Grand Traverse Commons Tours: a Popular Visitor Attraction

Another popular post: this one about the guided tours being held in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons garnered 2,243 viewers, many of whom promptly went out and signed up for tours of the former asylum and its grounds. The tours have proven so popular now that the Village has started offering bus tours, too!

Cherry Blossoms in Leelanau

4. When will the Cherries Blossom?

The truth is, we don’t know – but we usually have a pretty good idea. And people are always asking us about the annual date for the cherry blossoms – especially in 2014, when the long cold winter and cool spring had a lot of folks worried, so our post about cherry blossom time attracted 2,215 views.


5. Area Restaurants Open on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day 2014

It’s another thing people always seem to want to know about: where can you find a restaurant meal on Christmas Even or Christmas Day? Most local restaurants close for the holidays so their employees can enjoy Christmas with their families, but there are always a few that stay open, so our blog post about Christmas attracted 1,523 viewers.

Spring fishing at Hannah Park

6. Is It Spring Yet? Well, Fishing Season Has Started, Anyway!

It was probably another side-effect of the long winter, but by April anglers were so eager to get their lines into the water that they were out before the ice had entirely melted! That inspired us to talk about the wonderful fishing opportunities available in the Traverse City area, a post that brought us 1,515 views.

A patient doggie in downtown Traverse City

7. Bringing Fido on Vacation: TC is a Pretty Pooch-Friendly Town

Another bit of useful information -- for some travelers, at least. Where can you stay in Traverse City if you’re bringing your dog along with you? What parks and beaches are dog-friendly, and what kind of shopping or dining experiences are open to you? We tried to answer some of those questions, a post that brought 1,350 views.

8. Traverse City’s Most Unique Restaurant — And Who’s Open for Thanksgiving Dinner?

Just to show what an important question this is, our eighth most popular post (at 1,198 views) wasn’t even written in 2014 – it’s from 2010, and has quite a bit of outdated information in it. That’s the trouble with the Internet; stuff hangs around forever! Now that we know how badly people want to know the answer, we’ll try to provide some reliable updates.

Looking west from Cedar.

9. My Favorite Fall Color Drives

Everybody has his or her own opinion about the best drives, hikes, beaches, shops, bars and restaurants to be found in the Traverse City area, but when writer Mike Norton offered his list of scenic fall drives, there were 1,173 people who thought they ought to check out what he had to say. Did they all follow his advice? Probably not!

Fat Biking on the Vasa Trail

Fat Biking on the Vasa Trail

10. In Traverse City, Fat Bikes Make Cycling a Four-Season Sport

Last winter’s big story was the proliferation of Fat-Tire Biking as a winter sport in and around Traverse City, especially on the area’s many winter trails. Our blog post on the issue, which included information about rentals and pricing, got 1,147 views, which made it the Number 10 post of the year.

So, then… what was YOUR favorite blog post of 2014?

Come to think of it, what would you like to see us blog about in 2015?

Merry Christmas -- and Happy Snowshoeing!

My daughter Liz (and some bearded guy) snowshoeing  near Sabin Pond on the Boardman River.

My daughter Liz (and some bearded guy) snowshoeing near Sabin Pond on the Boardman River.


If you like snow  (and I do!) this is turning into a great winter. There’ve been lots of lovely lake-effect flurries, with big fat flakes tumbling out of a sunny blue sky, and the weather’s been cold and dry enough to keep it all from turning into heavy wet glop.

I was thinking all these things over the weekend while shoveling the driveway out for the third time -- and I have a very long driveway. But it’s been such great fun to wriggle into the snowsuit, put some Christmas music on the iPod and spend a couple of hours piling snow up on either side. Maybe I’ll be tired of it by March, but if you’ve got to have winter you might as well have snow to play in!

Living Nativity

Living Nativity

Speaking of Christmas, one of the most touching displays of reverence for this beautiful holiday can be spotted tonight on the south side of Grandview Parkway, when Bayview Wesleyan Church presents its 40th annual Live Nativity display. Each year costumed volunteers silently reenact the birth of Christ at night on the lawn in front of the church, surrounded by live sheep, goats and other farm animals. My kids always loved it -- especially the animals! (Tonight’s display will be from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.)

The kids are grown now, of course. While my son Jacob and I were shoveling the driveway, his girlfriend was trying out snowshoes for the first time. She’s from Dallas, so the sheer amount of snow we’re getting was a novelty for her -- there was much laughing and shrieking going on as she learned how to navigate without doing a faceplant into a snowbank.

Actually, it doesn’t take a lot of skill or training to use snowshoes. They’re easy to slip on and off, and they’re less likely to suddenly slide out from under you than skis. That’s why I seem to find myself doing more snowshoeing than cross-country skiing these days. Apparently, I’m not the only one; snowshoeing has become America’s top snowsport choice. Last winter over 5 million Americans strapped on a pair of snowshoes and went for a winter hike, and the sport has grown by around 17 percent each year over the past decade.

Traverse City is full of great places for snowshoeing, and one of the best is just south of town on the Muncie Lakes Pathway.  This scenic DNR trail system along the Boardman River, with its rolling forested terrain and small lakes, is a microcosm of the area’s natural beauty and its special winter delights.

On the Muncie Lakes Pathway.

On the Muncie Lakes Pathway.

The nice thing about the pathway is that it provides a variety of loops and distances so you can easily customize a snowshoe excursion to meet your own endurance and ability levels.  Distances range from an easy two-mile hike to treks of up to 8 or 9 miles, and it’s always possible to take off cross-country and boldly go wherever you like.  A couple of nice side trips along the pathway include snowshoeing along the frozen Muncie Lakes and out across the ice to visit the small islands that dot the lakes, and accessing overlooks of the Boardman River and valley from high bluffs.

At the Pelizzari Natural Area

At the Pelizzari Natural Area

Some of my other favorite trail systems include the trail system at Mission Point at the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula, the Pelizzari Natural Area off Center Road, the Lost Lake Pathway near Interlochen, the 3,500-acre Sand Lakes Quiet Area near Williamsburg and the Vasa Pathway, one of the finest cross-country ski trails in the Midwest. Inside the city, the 300-acre Grand Traverse Commons features great skiing and snowshoeing in parklike grounds among century-old, European-style buildings and stands of old-growth pines.

Young snowshoer at Sleeping Bear.

Young snowshoer at Sleeping Bear.

But seriously, some of the best snowshoeing in the area is at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which has eight marked trails, some leading up to panoramic overlooks high above the Lake Michigan. I just found out about one that I haven’t tried yet, and as soon as I’ve had a chance to check it out I’ll give you a report.

If you’ve never tried snowshoeing before, the National Lakeshore offers a great way to experience it as a first-timer. Starting this weekend, park rangers will be holding regular guided .  snowshoe hikes every Saturday at 1 p.m. through the end of February.  Just meet up at the park Visitor Center in Empire, where you’ll get a crash course in snowshoeing before heading out to the trail -- and if you don’t have snowshoes, they’ll loan you a pair at no charge.  You’ll have to purchase a park entrance pass if you don’t already have one, and you should make reservations since the hikes are limited to 30 participants.  Call 231-326-5134, ext. 328 for details and to make reservations.

There are a lot of places in the area where you can rent snowshoes for a small fee, by the way. Brick Wheels, the Don Orr Ski n’ Beach Haus, GT Cycle and Timber Ridge RV & Recreation Resort are several outlets that have snowshoe rentals available.

Beautiful, Beautiful Winter ! (And Where to Eat on Christmas)

Green, white and blue on West Grand Traverse Bay...

Green, white and blue on West Grand Traverse Bay...


These are the days that make you glad you live in a place where there’s such a thing as winter. Maybe not a place where winter can last for six months, of course…

But this morning’s sunrise over the steaming Bay was a beautiful thing of lavender, rose and gold, with deep blue shadows in the hollows of the hills. And now I’m looking out the window at a sky of flawless blue, the trees laden with thick white icing – and it’s so cold that even the snow thrown up by the plow it still pleasantly clean.

Christmas is coming! In the Norton house, three of the four Advent candles are burning on the wreath, including the rosy gaudete candle that signifies rejoicing. And on Saturday, Karen and I spent the day soaking up the season with a visit to the cookie sale at Trinity Lutheran Church to visit old friends, and and afternoon trip to the Village at Grand Traverse Commons to watch their St. Lucia celebration.

DSC_4589 - CopySt. Lucy, as she’s known to us English speakers, was a young girl who was put to death in AD 304 for refusing to surrender her virginity.  Since her feast day is observed in December – on what used to be shortest day of the year -- and because her name comes from the Latin word for light – celebrations of St. Lucy have often involved candles; that’s particularly true in Scandinavia, whose winters are even longer than ours. There, St. Lucia Day traditionally involves a young girl dressed in a white dress and a red sash (to symbolize Lucy’s martyrdom) wears a crown or wreath of candles on her head as she hands out gifts of rolls and cookies.

For the last few years, the Village at Grand Traverse Commons has held a lovely St. Lucia celebration featuring lots of crafted baked goods, charming young girls with robes, sashes and candles on their heads (thankfully, electric ones!)  and carols played by the Northwind Flute Choir. It’s just a nice quiet anti-hectic way to get oneself in the Christmas spirit – especially on a day like Saturday, when the snow was floating down as thick as cottonballs and people were taking advantage of the free horse-drawn carriage rides around the castle-like buildings of the Village.

They were in need of a little extra serenity on Saturday, too. All morning long, there had been farmers and gardeners selling late-season vegetables and herbs in the Mercato (the splendid little indoor shopping district in the quarter-mile-long lower level of Building 50) and a television crew from HGTV had been filming a segment for the show “You Live in WHAT?” about all these people living, working, shopping and playing flutes in what had been, after all, an enormous mental asylum.

Horse-drawn carriage rides in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

Horse-drawn carriage rides in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

Like downtown Traverse City and many of our surrounding communities, the Village works hard to let people know that wintertime can be beautiful and bustling at the same time. They have their own Christmas tree lighting, and next week there’s a last-ditch shopping event called “Procrastinators United.” No St. Lucia girls or flutes this time, but those free carriage rides will still be available!

Before I forget, though, it’s time to publish our annual list of Traverse City restaurants where you’ll be ably to get dinner on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or both. As always, it’s probably incomplete – I’m glad to make corrections if you just let me know. In the meantime, it’s time to stop procrastinating!

Area restaurants open on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day 2013

West Bay Beach Holiday Inn Resort     Chef Derek : 383-5844

Christmas Eve Dinner-Open 11:30am-10pm.

Christmas Day Buffet:

Hours: Noon -5pm

Adults-$25.95, kids 12yrs + under $12.95, 5 yrs.

Great Wolf Lodge      Amanda Carlson: 941-3600 XT 788

Hours: 7:00am-11am. Reservations are not necessary.

Christmas Day Breakfast Buffet:

Adults-$11.99, kids 4-10yrs. $6.99 3yrs. & under 3 are free.

Christmas Day Dinner Buffet:

Hours: 4pm-9pm

Adults-$24.99, teens 11-15yrs. $14.99, kids 4-10yrs. $8.99, under 3 are free.

Grand Traverse Resort & Spa     Jillian: 534-6800

Aerie Restaurant:

Christmas Eve Dinner-Open 5pm (last seating at 8:45pm)

Christmas Day Brunch:

Hours: 11am-6pm Reservations are highly recommended.

Adults (ages 12 yrs.+)-$29.95, kids 5-12yrs-$14.95, 5 yrs. & under are free.

Advance reservations are highly recommended. Call 231-534-6800

All lounges/bars are closed. State law prohibits the sale of alcohol on Christmas Day.

Sweetwater Café: Bill 534-6000

Breakfast 7am-2pm



*Shanty Creek Resorts   Kathy: 533-8621 XT 7100 *reservations are recommended.

Lakeview Restaurant:

Christmas Eve Dinner Buffet  5-9pm

Adults-$27, seniors $25, kids 9-12 yrs. $14, 5-8 yrs. $12, 4& under are free.

Christmas Day Breakfast Buffet:

Hours: 8am-11am

Lunch: Noon-2pm

Christmas Day Dinner Buffet:

Hours: 5pm-9pm

Adults-$27, seniors $25, kids 9-12 yrs. $14, 5-8 yrs. $12, 4& under are free.

*Cambria Suites-Reflect   Scott: 778-9000

Christmas Eve  (order off menu)

Breakfast                      Lunch               Dinner:

Hours: 7am-11am          11am-4pm         4pm-9pm

Christmas Day (order off menu)

Breakfast                      Lunch               Dinner:

Hours: 7am-11am          11am-4pm         4pm-9pm

*Leelanau Sands Casino Christine   534-8100

Christmas Eve

Big Dex’s Pizzaria CLOSED

Christmas Day (Order from the menu)

Hours: 5-10pm

Turtle Creek Casino    534-8888

Christmas Eve

Bourbon 72 will be closed.

Seasons Buffet 9am-10pm

Christmas Day

Bourbon 72:

Hours: 5pm-10pm Prime Rib/Crab Legs buffet Adults $29.95, Kids 5-12 yrs $19.95 under 4 free

Seasons Buffet:

Breakfast-8am-10:30am Dinner 5pm-10pm

*Free Community Meal: Phil’s on Front- Open noon-6pm, 231-929-1710

Open on Christmas Eve but closed Christmas Day:

*Amical-Serving lunch 11am-3pm, 231-941-8888

*Apache Trout Grill- Serving lunch 11am-2pm, cocktails 2pm until 5pm

*Bagger Dave’s serving lunch and dinner (off menu) 11am-6pm

*Cracker Barrel-Serving breakfast & lunch 6am until 2pm, 231-933-9244

*Firefly-Open 11am-5pm, 231-932-1310

*Maddy’s Tavern-Open 11:30am-5pm, 231-276-6244

Harrington’s by the Bay-Open 11am-6:30pm, 231-421-9393

*La Senorita-Open 10am-8pm, 947-8889

*Minerva’s-Serving lunch 6:30am-2pm, 231-946-5093

*Poppycock’s-Open 11am-3pm, 231-941-7632

*The Boathouse-Serving dinner 4pm-9pm, 231-223-4030

Midwesterners and Weather, Free Skiing on Christmas, and a Chance to Do Something Good

Snow falling on hemlocks at Old Mission this weekend.

Snow falling on hemlocks at Old Mission this weekend.


Finally, some real snow! I took a long walk along the escarpment above the Mission Point Lighthouse on Sunday afternoon, strolling through the cozy hemlock forest as the snow fell gently around me. It was a profoundly beautiful experience.

But really, winter is such a tease.

One day we’re getting a nice fall of snow, the next day a warm wind comes up from the south and melts it all away... One day it’s cold and bright, the next day it’s muggy and dark…

Obviously, there’s nothing new about any of this – we Midwesterners love to complain about the weather. It’s either too hot or too cold, too rainy or too dry, too sunny or too overcast... We don’t give it a second thought; it’s part of our ritual conversation.

The Cass Street Bridge in downtown Traverse City, on a snowy morning.

The Cass Street Bridge in downtown Traverse City, on a snowy morning.

Frankly, I never thought much about this regional peculiarity of ours until my son brought it to my attention during one of his infrequent home visits. He’d been living in the Seattle area (where the weather doesn’t change very much from one day to the next) and as soon as he was back here in Flyover Country he started noticing what a persistent motif it is in Michiganian conversation.

“Out there nobody talks about the weather,” he said. “Here, everybody has an opinion about it.”

Precisely. Everybody likes to express opinions. But we live in an intolerant age, when you can’t feel safe talking with strangers about politics, religion, economics or history because you don’t know how they’ll react. But weather’s a different story. As long as you don’t venture into the question of why the weather is the way it is, you can express all kinds of opinions about it.

Here in the area around Traverse City, the weather is rarely a life-or-death subject, anyway. I can’t think of a place in the world less vulnerable to Mother Nature’s unpleasant side. No earthquakes, no tornadoes, no hurricanes – just the occasional blizzard or thunderstorm, and the occasional summer drought. It’s a mild place with a mild climate about which we regularly (but mildly) complain.

There’s no denying that the drought thing has been a problem lately. We’ve had some dry summers and  nearly snowless winters over the past few years, and it’s obvious that the water in the Great Lakes is as low as it’s been in a long time. (Of course, I’ve been here long enough to remember when the water was too high – clifftop houses over in Leland were falling into the water, and my neighbors were building huge breakwalls along the shore to keep the same thing from happening to them. And I remember old-timers telling me not to make a big deal out of it, because they remembered when the lakes had been very low and you couldn’t get boats in or out of the harbors.)

Right now, of course, the folks who do the most worrying are the ski resorts. They have to have enough snow to make their slopes look nice and white, but not so much snow that people can’t conveniently reach them by car. And although most of them can now manufacture their own snow, it won’t do them any good if the weather isn’t cold enough to keep it from melting. This past weekend, for instance, the folks over at Shanty Creek Resorts had been hoping to open some of their runs – but they had to delay because the weather had just been too warm. It’s not such a big problem right now, but becomes increasingly critical as we get closer to the all-important Christmas Vacation season, when most people take their ski vacations and ski resorts do 90 percent of their business.

Last winter on Schuss Mountain, at Shanty Creek Resorts

Last winter on Schuss Mountain, at Shanty Creek Resorts

Fortunately, things are looking distinctly snowy this week, so I’m hoping Shanty Creek gets a nice fluffy white Christmas present. Which would be nice, since they’re preparing a nice Christmas present of their own.

Every year, the resort holds a “Ski Free with Santa” promotion where they give away free lift tickets (for a family of four, a $150-$200 value) to anyone who comes to their ski slopes on Christmas Day – but this year they’re asking guests to bring non-perishable food items to the ticket window when they come to get their free tickets. All the donated food will be given to The Father Fred Foundation here in Traverse City, which will distribute it to local families in need.

The Father Fred Foundation is a non-denominational charity providing food, clothing, household goods, and financial assistance to families and individuals in crisis who live in Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Leelanau counties. Its work is carried out by the efforts of a small staff and more than 160 volunteers. Its funding is entirely dependent on the generosity of the local community, since the Foundation doesn’t accept state or federal funds.

"We have had a double digit increase in the number of visits to our pantry this year. It’s an ongoing trend as families try to make ends meet,” said Joan O’Neill, the Foundation’s communications manager. “When Shanty Creek came to us with the idea of giving their guests the opportunity to help local families in need, we thought it was a wonderful gesture.”

Of course, you can get your free ticket even if you don’t bring anything. But really, who wouldn’t? When somebody does something nice for you, you pass it along, right?

That’s as Midwestern as, well,  complaining about the weather.

Carols at the Lighthouse, Candles in Your Hair -- Celebrating the Holidays in Traverse City

Celebrating St. Lucia's Day at the Grand Traverse Commons


It’s not easy wearing lighted candles on your head.

Nevertheless, every year in mid-December a young girl in a long white robe wanders the grounds of Traverse City’s former mental asylum delivering warm sweet rolls to holiday shoppers. And yes, in keeping with an old tradition, she wears a wreath of lighted candles in her hair in honor of St. Lucy, an early Christian martyr whose feast falls on Dec. 13.

It’s all part of the annual Santa Lucia Day in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, the unique residential/retail development  in what was once this Michigan town’s mental institution. Accompanied by flute music and carrying trays of fresh rolls from the local bakery, the young St. Lucy stand-in is one of the highlights of the holiday season in Traverse City.
Not so long ago the picturesque summer resort towns on Michigan’s northwestern coast pretty much emptied out after Labor Day, leaving the exhausted natives with lots of time on their hands to contemplate the prospect of another long, quiet winter. They responded by putting a great deal of energy and creativity in their holiday observances.

These days, thanks to a growing population and a thriving winter recreation industry, the Traverse City region is quite lively even in midwinter. Fortunately, many of the traditional celebrations are still going strong – and a few more have even been added.

Christmas preparations here start as early as October, when local churches, clubs and artist’s cooperatives begin staging the holiday arts and crafts fairs for which the region is justly famous. Several really good ones have already taken place – the annual fair at Trinity Lutheran Church was several weeks ago, and this past weekend was the Dennos Museum Center’s Holiday Art Fair and the craft sale at East Junior High.

But there’s still more to come. This coming Saturday, for instance, is the annual Dickens Christmas Arts & Crafts Bazaar at First Congregational Church and the 25th  Annual Immaculate Conception Craft Show. And on the following weekend, there’s  juried show held by ArtCenter Traverse City, the 5th  Annual Craft Fair  at Traverse City Christian Middle/High School, the Thistle & Thread Holiday Art Show at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center and the craft show at Christ the King parish in Acme.

Another great holiday art fair is the Dec. 1 “Merry Marketplace” at the Old Art Building in the village of Leland, where local artisans and growers offer fresh and dried holiday wreaths, jewelry, specialty foods, pottery, ornaments, cards and hand-knitted items.

Gift-buying plays a big part in most holiday preparations, and in Traverse City’s charming downtown district  they start the shopping season on Nov. 30 with a big outdoor extravaganza that involves carol-singing, the lighting of the community Christmas tree, and the arrival of Santa Claus on a bright red antique fire engine. Downtown merchants have also cleverly devised separate men’s and women’s shopping nights that include refreshments and prize drawings. Similar fun events are held Nov. 23 in Leland and Glen Arbor (where you get special deals if you shop in your pajamas!) and Dec. 1-2 in Suttons Bay.

Each year, residents of the village of Northport, near the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, decorate the Grand Traverse Lighthouse for Christmas as it was celebrated by the families who lived there in the early 20th century. The annual Christmas at the Lighthouse celebration is held this year on Dec. 2, and includes refreshments and entertainment by local musicians.

The Wellington Inn, all decked out for Christmas

One of Traverse City’s most charming Yuletide events is the annual “Inn at Christmastime” open house at the Wellington Inn, where local florists and artisans literally ‘deck the halls’ of this beautifully restored 1905 neoclassical mansion with a spectacular display of holiday designs and decorations. This year’s event will be held Dec. 9 and Dec. 16.

An entirely different kind of holiday tradition is on display at the History Center of Traverse City, housed in the former city library. It’s the annual Festival of Trains, a delightful event that attracts thousands of visitors each year to watch dozens of working model train layouts created and operated by local model train aficionados. This year’s festival will be Dec. 15 to Jan. 1.

Traverse City is an intensely musical community, thanks in part to the nearby presence of the Interlochen Center for the Arts. Each year, students and staff at Interlochen put on a holiday special for the community. This year’s Dec. 13-15 presentation is a traditional favorite --Coppelia, a lighthearted ballet about a feisty village girl, her fiancé and a mischievous toymaker's clockwork doll.

The town’s ornate 19th century Opera House also puts on a full schedule of holiday music in December, from a Dec. 2 concert by the Celtic-influenced Canadian Leahy Family to a Dec. 5 program featuring the Empire Brass and special guest star Elisabeth Von Trapp -- including a “Sound of Music” medley in which the guitar solo Edelweiss flows into an extraordinary rendition of Stille Nacht.

On the weekend of Dec. 8-9 the Traverse Symphony Orchestra presents its hugely popular “Home for the Holidays” concert, with conductor Robin Fountain leading performers and audience in a program of treasured Christmas classics, carols, medleys and holiday favorites.

New Year’s Eve isn’t forgotten here, either. For the past four years, hundreds of people have gathered for the annual CherryT Ball Drop, a three-hour “street party for charity” that culminates with the lowering of a large illuminated cherry over downtown Traverse City.

Stand by for a Full Calendar of Christmas Art Fairs, Sales and Bazaars!

Winterberries, cedars, and a tamarack about to lose its needles
Winterberries, cedars, and a tamarack about to lose its needles


I can't believe how long the fall colors are hanging on in Traverse City this year. This has got to be a month later than usual, and although some of the maples are losing their leaves there are still so many beautiful vistas to be enjoyed - especially out on the Old Mission peninsula.

On Sunday, I took advantage of the mild weather to take a stroll at the Pyatt Lake Natural Area near Bowers Harbor, a lovely place at almost any time of the year, but especially beautiful in the fall and the winter. At the edge of a wide boggy meadow I can across a splendid thicket of winterberry - a deciduous holly that produces clumps of bright red fruit in the fall. It was such a festive sight that I couldn't help taking a photo.

Speaking of festive things, I got a lot of responses from people about last week's post, where I mentioned the superb Holiday Art Fair at the Dennos Museum Center, and that reminded me of all the other fairs and bazaars coming up.

I know it's hypocritical of me, but although I 'm always ranting about the way those big department stores start putting up their Christmas decorations earlier and earlier each year, I never seem to have the same problem with the multitude of holiday-themed arts & crafts bazaars that are on tap throughout the Traverse City area during what they now insist on calling The Holiday Season..

The fact is, I love these things - whether they're done by schools, churches, arts groups, fraternal organizations. Partly it's because they genuinely showcase the work of local artists and artisans (and we've got a HUGE number of those) and because they usually are held to benefit some good cause, but also because I'm charmed by their ever-present atmosphere of  small-town friendliness and innocence.

Oh, and the cookies. There are almost always cookies. And I'm a sucker for cookies.

So it doesn't really bother me that some of them start even before Halloween (the first one, up at Traverse City East Junior High, was held last week). My only complaint is that I wish we could have them all in one place for an enormous Christmas Craft Fair that could last for several days, with lights and music and other entertainment going on - something with an Old World medieval fair feel to it, perhaps. I think it would be awesome!

Be that as it may, here's a listing of the various fairs and bazaars and sales that I know about. If you happen to be in Traverse City when one or two of them are scheduled, stop by and buy something. Even if it's just a plate of cookies. It's fun!

Nov. 5: 29th Annual Bellaire Holiday Gift Fair 10am - 3pm
A great little small-town fair held at Bellaire's high school -- just down the hill if you happen to be staying at Shanty Creek resorts!

Nov 5:  Dickens Christmas Arts & Crafts Bazaar   9am-3pm

This popular holiday craft fair at First Congregational Church features handicrafts from 60 area artists as well as baked goods, preserves, gourmet delicacies, confections, handcrafted gifts and seasonal decorations. Come and enjoy the festive and friendly atmosphere and get an early start on your Christmas shopping. Vendor raffle. 6105 Center Rd, Traverse City. (231) 947-6698

Nov 5:  24th Annual Immaculate Conception Craft Show  8:30am-3:30pm

More than 70 exhibitors will participate in this show at the parish Centennial Hall and the nearby middle school of Immaculate Conception. There also will be a bake sale, luncheon, and raffle. 720 2nd St., Traverse City.  (231) 946-4211

Browsing through Blown-Glass Ornaments at a Christmas Craft Show
Browsing through Blown-Glass Ornaments at a Christmas Craft Show

Nov 12:  4th Annual Craft Fair  9am-3pm

Over 100 exhibitors will be on hand for this juried show at Traverse City Christian Middle/High School located at 753 Emerson Rd. Crafts, silent auction, lunch, bake sale & door prizes.(231) 929-1747

Nov 18, 19:       ArtCenter Traverse City's annual Holiday Art & Craft Show

The Artcenter Traverse City Winter Show will be held Friday from 4-9 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Holiday Inn West Bay. This is an all new  juried and invitational show, with emphasis on quality works in photography, fiber, glass, painting, jewelry and much more. (231) 947-3700

Nov 17-20:  Festival of Trees by Zonta of TC

This annual festival at the Hagerty Center  features a charming display of professionally decorated trees and wreaths. Each year, it's completely new. Open Thursday from 4-8 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday  from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  There's a silent auction, and a gingerbread house competition, too. Admission $5, students $3, preschool age free.  www.zontatc.org

Nov 19:  Christmas Craft Show-Alden  9am-4pm

The Torch Area Artisans Guild will hold its annual craft show in the Helena Township Community Center at 8751 Helena Rd. in Alden.  A wide variety of local crafters offer their wares for sale to the public, and refreshments are also available. 231-331-6583

Nov 18:  Suttons Bay Holiday Evening Stroll   5-9pm

A fun and festive way to start your holiday shopping in the cute-as-a-bug village of Suttons Bay. Many shops will be serving wine & hors d'oeuvres.

Nov 25:  Leland PJ Party: Where the Holidays Begin     8am-10am

A fun event in the Leelanau Peninsula port of Leland, where shoppers get the best deals if they come in their pajamas!

Nov 25: Glen Arbor PJ Party Sale   5-7a.m.

I don't know which of these two towns stole the idea from the other (actually, I DO know, but I'm not telling) but Glen Arbor has a PJ Party, too - and this one is in the wee hours of the morning. Honestly, if you get up this early, you deserve a discount! In the evening there's a tree-lighting and carols at the township hall, and a preview of the next days" Holiday Marketplace, which is held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 231-334-3238

Nov 26:  Empire Artisan Marketplace  12pm-5pm

This annual show is held in the Empire Township Hall.For more information, contact Andrea Henry at 231-228-7800.

Dec  3:  Merry Marketplace-Leland   10am-4pm

Christmas arts and crafts show featuring local artisans with holiday gift packages, fresh and dried holiday wreaths, jewelry, specialty foods, pottery, ornaments, cards and hand knit items at the Old Art Building in the Village of Leland. 231-256-2131.

Dec. 2: Santa's Arrival & Holiday Open House

This little throwback to the good old days starts at 5 p.m. with music and caroling (with the Interlochen Arts Academy Chamber Choir) at the corner of Cass & Front, followed by the 6 p.m. arrival of Santa Claus and the lighting of the downtown Christmas tree. From then on, there's shopping, with sales, specials and prizes at participating stores, plus horse & carriage rides, live entertainment and lots of other fun.

Dec. 8: Ladies' Night

Extended store hours for the ladies to shop in downtown Traverse City. Participating stores offer food and refreshments from 5 to 9 pm. And hey, you can enter a drawing to win prizes.

Dec. 15: Men's Night

No need to panic! An evening of shopping has been designated just for the Men in Downtown Traverse City. Participating stores will offer sales, specials, refreshments and food from 5 to 9 pm.