Christmas preparations in the region start in autumn when local churches, clubs, and artists' cooperatives begin staging the holiday arts and crafts fairs for which the region is justly famous. By December, it’s hard to find a weekend without some event that brings crowds of shoppers into Downtown Traverse City. The town’s shopping season starts in mid-November with a light parade, the arrival of Santa Claus and the lighting of the community Christmas tree.
Nearby, a festive holiday tradition takes place each December in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, a unique retail/residential district. “Tis the season for joy at “Holiday in the Village”. This weekend-long celebration is filled with music, carriage rides, Santa Claus and shopping specials.
Just as popular with visitors are the late-night shopping sprees held in Traverse City’s downtown: Ladies Night, followed by Men's Night, all featuring entertainment, food and drink specials in addition to the usual in-store sales.
Villages such as Suttons Bay are also bursting with holiday spirit. Join the fun during their Holiday Festival in early December. Activities include a nighttime stroll down luminaria-lined streets while enjoying refreshments, hors d'oeuvres, local wines, restaurant specials and over 50 decorated trees.
Exciting as the shopping may be, it’s only part of this charming area’s holiday celebrations. The arts culture is thriving in Traverse City and shines particularly brightly during the holidays. You'll find new and traditional live entertainment at several venues around town.
Traverse City’s ornate 19th century City Opera House features a variety of holiday performances beginning at the end of November and playing until mid-December. Shows include At the Stroke of Midnight: A Holiday Original Musical, Voice Play: Warm Up – A Holiday Special and A Sister’s Christmas Catechism.
On the second weekend of December the Traverse Symphony Orchestra presents its hugely popular “Home for the Holidays” concert at Lars Hockstad Auditorium with The Grand Traverse Chorale and Children’s Choir -- as well as the audience -- join the symphony in this program of treasured Christmas classics, carols, medleys, and holiday favorites.
A different sort of musical event is held in December at the Left Foot Charley Winery in Traverse City. It’s “Phil Kline's Unsilent Night,” a free “participatory sound sculpture” in which attendees participate by bringing their own boom boxes, laptops, iPhones, iPads and other portable music devices and create a “roving swarm” of sounds as they wander the grounds.
New Year’s Eve isn’t forgotten here, either. For the past five 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. It’s a family-friendly event where attendees pay their admission by bringing donated items for local food banks.