Halloween has come and gone. Thanksgiving is right around the corner. And Christmas comes just a few weeks after that – 31 shopping days, to be exact. 

Of course, not all shopping days are created equal. Nor do all places to shop offer the same magical experience. 

Take downtown Traverse City, for example. A streetscape featuring brick sidewalks, historic Victorian storefronts, and trees with twinkling lights makes for a charming holiday atmosphere that makes you feel a part of the season. With more than 150 unique shops, galleries, and restaurants offering top-notch service and quality, there are lots of opportunities to discover one-of-a-kind gifts that are just right for everyone on your list. 

Plus, you can’t beat the deals this time of year. You can take advantage of specials throughout downtown Traverse City on Black Friday & Small Business Saturday. Or, do your holiday shopping and enjoy in-store perks on Ladies’ Night Thursday, Dec. 7, or Men’s Night Thursday, Dec. 14.

Shopping in downtown Traverse City is a big part of the holidays. But it’s far from the only way to get into the spirit of the season. 

Here are eight more ways to have some classic holiday fun this year:

Dining at Crystal Mountain

Thanksgiving Day Dinner 

Make Turkey Day a holiday from your kitchen and reserve a seat for a Thanksgiving feast. There are delicious options all over the Traverse City area on Thursday, Nov. 23, from endless buffets with all the traditional fixings to special multi-course menus at some of the best restaurants in northern Michigan. Enjoy a few days of resort life centered around the Thanksgiving Day Buffet at Crystal Mountain Resort or the Thanksgiving Buffet at Aerie Restaurant & Lounge at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. Or, experience a downtown hotel getaway complete with a mouthwatering meal, perhaps the Delamar hotel’s Thanksgiving at Artisan TC, the Thanksgiving buffet at Minervas in the Park Place Hotel and Conference Center, or the Thanksgiving Dinner at Hotel Frankfort’s Nautical Grill.

See Santa Claus Come Into Town 

The Downtown Traverse City Light Parade, Santa’s Arrival & Tree Lighting is the perfect kickoff to the holiday season. You get to watch Santa light the giant tree on Front Street and enjoy a magical parade of lights with floats, music and more. Then, you can visit Santa at Rotary Square and whisper your wish in his ear. Best of all, this night of holiday joy is totally free! It all happens from 5:30-9 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18. Or, head to Crystal Mountain on Friday, Nov. 24, and see Santa light the tree to kick off the Holiday Trail Celebration that includes horse-drawn surrey rides and lots of other indoor and outdoor resort fun for kids and adults of all ages.

Experience a Small Town Celebration 

Mingle with reindeer. Sing carols. Write letters to Santa. Those are just some of the classic yuletide activities to enjoy during Holiday in the Village of Suttons Bay on Saturday, Nov. 25. Similar celebrations are planned across the Traverse City area, from Light Up Leland on Friday, Nov. 24 and the Northport Tree Lighting on Saturday, Nov. 25 to Light Up Cedar on Sunday, Nov. 26 and the Frankfort Community Tree Lighting on Saturday, Dec. 2.

Downtown TC Tree

Browse a Holiday Bazaar 

Just as downtowns in the Traverse City area have a special vibe that makes holiday shopping so charming, so do the pop-up markets that appear this time of year. Come get some shopping done while sampling delicious hors d’oeuvres at the Holiday Open House on Friday, Nov. 17, at Crystal Mountain, or peruse premier handmade goods from more than 100 vendors during the Traverse City Shop and Sip on Saturday, Nov. 18, at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. You also can admire the small works of northern Michigan artists at the Glen Arbor Arts Holiday Open House on Friday, Nov. 17, and explore the wide range of craft vendors with tables at the Glen Arbor Holiday Marketplace from Nov. 24-25. Ditto for the Holly Berry Art & Crafts Fair on Saturday, Nov. 25, at Frankfort High School, where you can shop for unique items and go on a free horse-drawn carriage ride, too.

Watch the Nutcracker 

Relive the classic tale of Clara and her magical Nutcracker, performed by the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy Dance Division. The production goes on stage at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7-9 at the Interlochen Center for the Arts just south of Traverse City.

Christmas Dinner 

Enjoy a three-course holiday feast at Artisan TC, the fine dining restaurant inside the Delamar resort hotel in downtown Traverse City. Reservations are available on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with a special dinner for New Year’s Eve, too. Other holiday events at the resort hotel include a Breakfast with Santa event on Saturday, Dec. 16, and Sunday, Dec. 17. And on Sunday-Thursday throughout the holiday season – and all winter – the Delamar’s Snow Days Day Pass is available for non-guests to enjoy hotel amenities including a year-round outdoor heated pool with poolside fire pits, complimentary S’mores kits, a hot cocoa bar and more.

CherryT Ball Drop

New Year’s Eve Wine Dinner 

How about closing down 2023 with a five-course meal where each plate is paired with a delicious wine from Black Star Farms? The Traverse Wine Coast destination in Suttons Bay, just north of Traverse City, hosts a New Year’s Eve Wine Dinner on Sunday, Dec. 31. For a more casual holiday experience, bring the whole family to Black Star Farms Brunch With Santa on Saturday, Dec. 2, featuring photo ops with the jolly old elf himself.

Watch the Ball Drop 

Ring in 2024 at the CherryT Ball Drop in downtown Traverse City on Sunday, Dec. 31. The annual celebration put on by the National Cherry Festival features live entertainment starting at 10:30 p.m. with fireworks and a 600-pound cherry dropping from the sky at midnight! The party attracts 8,000 to 12,000 people per year and has raised more than $100,000 for charity.


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