Make Traverse City Your Family Happy Holiday Place

Especially in the weeks before the holidays, there's so much to do in and around Traverse City. Bring the whole family for shopping, dining and all the winter activities this gorgeous Michigan region is famous for.

Do you need a little Christmas, right this very minute? Yearn to go walking in a winter wonderland?

Well, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Traverse City, a glorious place to soak up the holiday spirit and find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list. Some even consider it the most wonderful time of the year.

“It’s so beautiful and the lights are already going up — everything is twinkling and shining,” reports Jillian Manning, public relations manager of Traverse City Tourism.

Late fall and winter in this gorgeous Up North region offer up plenty of outdoor activities like hiking, biking and snowshoeing, as well as skiing, snowboarding and tubing at four distinct areas. (“A good way to burn your kids’ energy before dragging them around downtown shopping,” Manning laughs.) And there’s lots to keep the non-sporting set entertained indoors as restaurants, tasting rooms and breweries carefully follow safety protocols to keep everyone safe from COVID-19.

“Everything is open and operational,” Manning says. “Retailers are super exited to see visitors and help them find the perfect gift or souvenir.”

Downtown Traverse City is the heart of the shopping experience with dozens of boutiques, gift shops and eateries. Some highlights:

  • Toy Harbor is the kind of good, old-fashioned toy shop we rarely see any more, with an impressively curated collection of educational games, science experiments, arts and crafts, kites and creative toys. “It’s been around since I was a kid,” says Manning, “and it was always a good day if Mom or Dad took you there.”
  • Cherry Republic is a tasty spot to find gifts and gourmet goodies that pay homage to the fact that Traverse City is the Cherry Capital of the World.
  • Families that love books are in for a real treat with Traverse City’s plethora of bookstores. Try Brilliant Books for its unique collection of bookish gifts, and Horizon Books, which makes a special point of celebrating Michigan authors.
  • Keep your children looking spiffy throughout the winter at Sweet Pea (which also has a special section of Christmas books and gifts) and Liana’s, where you’ll find the latest fashions for both kids and women.
  • Among the hot styles and cool gift ideas at Daisy Jane is a special Fair Trade section of works created by artisans around the world. It’s a sister store to the popular Molly’s on the nearby scenic Leland Peninsula.
  • There’s nothing like a homemade gift to really express love. And that’s easy to accomplish at paint-your-own-pottery studio Handz On Art. Since there’s a seven-day turnaround to allow pieces to be fired in the kiln, they ship virtually anywhere. “It’s a really good way to keep the kids entertained and create a special keepsake at the same time,” Manning says of the spot.
  • The scenic areas outside Traverse City proper also offer up distinct shopping opportunities. Both Frankfort and Bellaire have classic, quaint downtowns that would make Currier and Ives swoon. When you’re ready for a break, check out the local, award-winning food and drink at Short’s Brewing or Stormcloud Brewing; both welcome families.

Come one, come all

In addition to their first-rate accommodations and breathtaking scenery, Traverse City and environs offer many incentives to visit. The popular Fab Fall package continues through Dec. 11 with special savings and deals all over the area. Also of note:

  • Shop Your Community Days (Nov. 12-14) when each purchase you make garners a donation to a local non-profit. Manning calls it “a great way to show your love of Traverse City.”
  • The Downtown Strolling Light Parade (Dec. 12, 5-9 p.m.), in which 12 different nonprofits take over downtown corners with dazzling light displays. Spend a buck to vote for your favorite entry, which benefits the Downtown Relief Fund, and you may be randomly picked as the honorary grand marshal of the 2021 Light Parade!
  • All sorts of special deals and incentives await shoppers on Black Friday (Nov. 27) and Small Business Saturday (Nov. 28) and throughout Thanksgiving weekend.

“All the retailers really pull out all the stops for holiday decorating,” Manning says. “It’s interactive and so much fun.”

Learn more about all Traverse City has to offer (and plan your own trip) at


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