If a white Christmas is top of mind when you imagine the perfect holiday, your chances are good if you plan a trip to a quaint town in Michigan. When I think of perfect Michigan Christmas towns, I picture evergreens wrapped in sparkling twinkle lights, covered with a dusting of fluffy snow. Local shops decorated in red and green trimmed ornaments and offering unique gift items are also a plus.
Listed in no particular order, I encourage you to visit some of these quaint Michigan towns during Christmastime. You’ll be in the holiday spirit in no time.
Marquette, located in the upper peninsula on Lake Superior, showcases the magic of the holiday season. First, kick off the season’s wonder at the annual Winter Snow Fun Holiday Parade & Tree Lighting, where illuminated floats add sparkle to the night. Then, sing along with the carolers on Third Street, which the town has transformed into an enchanted scene from the North Pole.
Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from Thanksgiving Day through year’s end, bundle up to watch the dazzling Holiday Lasers on the Ore Dock. The show lights up the Ore Dock with the season’s colors, incorporating Christmas themes, abstract materials, and natural pieces of Marquette.
Downtown Marquette has an eclectic collection of shops and boutiques, perfect for checking items off your Christmas list. So get in the holiday mood with a successful shopping spree, whether you’re looking for outdoor gear, gourmet chocolates, jewelry, or locally made gifts.
To learn more about Marquette in winter, check out this article: This Quaint Midwest Town Is Filled With Olympic Experiences And Spirit.
Pro Tip: Sawyer International Airport is the closest airport, about half an hour from downtown Marquette. Other area airports include Delta County Airport in Escanaba and Ford Airport in Iron Mountain.
2. Harbor Springs
Located about 10 miles north of Petoskey, on the shores of Little Traverse Bay, is Harbor Springs. It’s where you’ll find galleries and shops, making it the perfect place to finish your Christmas shopping.
The Highlands at Harbor Springs is a great place to get away for the holidays and decompress. For those who love the outdoors during the winter, the resort features 53 trails of downhill skiing, including the longest run in Michigan at 1.25 miles. With more than 20 miles of groomed trails, the cross-country skiers in your group will have plenty to do too. Tubing, snowshoeing, and fat-tire snow biking will also tempt the winter outdoor enthusiast.
When I’m in Harbor Springs, I love to dine a Willow, where the ingredients drive the menu. They serve modern American farm-to-table cuisine. I hesitate to mention specific dishes, as the menu is constantly evolving and my favorite grilled peach salad isn’t on the menu in winter, but the steaks are top-notch here year-round. The presentations are also worth mentioning — every plate is Instagram-worthy.
Stop by Tom’s Mom’s Cookies to get some award-winning cookies for Santa. The shop offers peppermint cookies during the holidays. Tom’s Mom’s was even featured on Food Network’s Food Finds program. The cookies are that good. If you can’t visit during the holidays, you can still enjoy Tom’s Mom’s Cookies through online ordering.
Wondering what Harbor Springs is like throughout the year? Check out Quaint Harbor Springs, MI: The Best Things To See And Do In Every Season.
Situated between Lake Michigan and Lake Charlevoix in northern Michigan, the quaint town of Charlevoix showcases charm year round. Get yourself in the holiday spirit by attending Charlevoix’s Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting.
Bundle up for an adventure at Mount McSauba on one of the weekly candlelight hikes; follow a trail of candles along a snowy, wooded path to find a roaring fire and hot chocolate waiting for you at the end.
Snag all your favorite Michigan-made goodies and gifts during Charlevoix’s Holiday Open House. If you miss the open house, you’ll still find many local shops downtown where you’ll find the perfect gift for your entire list. For example, the foodie on your gift list will enjoy something from American Spoon, while you are sure to find something to please the fashionista at Color Wear.
The Hotel Earl, within walking distance of downtown Charlevoix, is the perfect place to stay while celebrating Christmas. The hotel, designed by architect Earl Young, offers the same characteristic local charm found in his famous mushroom houses. The original stone fireplace in the lobby and turrets are specific details of Young’s designs. But, with all the historic charm, you’ll find modern conveniences in this recently renovated hotel.
Charlevoix is also a great summer fun destination. Read How To Spend The Perfect Weekend In Charming Charlevoix to learn more.
Ready to book your getaway?
To keep up your energy level for all that Christmas shopping, you will need sustenance. Frankenmuth is known for its chicken dinners — head to the Bavarian Inn Restaurant for German-style dinners or Zehnder’s for the American version. Both restaurants have lovely holiday decorations. In addition, the whole town is decorated for Christmas by Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store.
Unless you appreciate Michigan winters’ snow and outdoor chill, you might decide indoor activities are more fun. So prepare for Christmas at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, the perfect indoor holiday activity. While Bronner’s celebrates Christmas year round, I find exploring here particularly memorable during the Christmas season. We purchased some collegiate-themed ornaments to add to our tree, but they have thousands of decorations, no matter your tree’s theme.
Bronner’s also features the Silent Night Chapel on their 27-acre property. On Christmas Eve, 1818, in Oberndorf, Austria, “Silent Night” was first sung chapel; Bronner’s Silent Night Memorial Chapel is a replica of that chapel. The chapel is open during the Bronner’s store hours, and they don’t charge admission.
Pro Tip: You won’t find parking meters in Frankenmuth, so most parking throughout the town is free.
5. Mackinac Island
Situated in Lake Huron, between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas at the eastern end of the Straits of Mackinac, Mackinac Island is a bit more difficult to reach in winter. But the Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry continues to operate until the route freezes. Shepler’s Ferry is seasonal, from mid-April through the end of October. Check their schedules online. You can take Fresh Air Aviation to the island when the route freezes.
With quaint inns and hotels, Mackinac Island is a quintessential Christmas destination. Locals and visitors attend the annual Christmas tree lighting, where you can join in the carols and warm up with some hot cocoa. The ferry offers a later service on the night of this event.
If you don’t make it to the island in time to snag gifts for friends and family at the Christmas Bazaar Weekend, some local shops remain open year round, so you’ll still be able to finish your Christmas list with some unique items.
Before you visit, this article will provide information for planning your trip: Mackinac Island: 9 Things To Know Before You Go.
Pro Tip: You won’t find public restrooms open from November through April. Those at Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry Company Dock Number One remain open if the ferry runs.
Gaylord, located in northern Michigan, is about an hour south of the Mackinac Bridge. With its Alpine Village architecture, this quaint town transports you to the snowy streets of a land across the ocean.
Gaylord’s downtown scene is brimming with holiday decor, festive lights, and snow-topped chalet-inspired buildings. It’s like a town from a Hallmark Christmas movie, complete with unique shopping and dining stops.
Stay at the Treetops Resort if you’re looking for family activities, like the Guided Headlamp Snowshoe Hike or an intimate date night with the Winter Sleigh Ride Dinner. If you prefer not to stay, you can register for the activities only.
If you’re interested in winter sports in Michigan, including Gaylord’s snowmobiling fun, discover more here: 9 Fantastic Sports To Try In Michigan’s Winter Wonderland.
Pro Tip: The region typically averages 152 inches of snow annually. If you want to check out the current conditions, look at one of Gaylord’s Snow Cams.
Nestled amongst the forests of northeastern Michigan, on Lake Huron and the Inland Waterway, Cheboygan is a bustling town brimming with holiday cheer.
Santa will come to town just before the annual Cheboygan Parade of Lights. Take the grandkids along so they can search throughout the Cheboygan Children’s Trail for candy canes hidden by the Grinch. Make new friends or reconnect with old friends during the Cocoa Crawl downtown, and catch a glimpse of the Christmas Tree Ship as it departs from Cheboygan heading to Chicago.
While in town, check the holiday schedule at the Cheboygan Opera House. They offer a variety of Christmas-themed films and music performances.
Check out 7 Adorable Michigan Towns To Visit On Lake Huron to discover more about Cheboygan (and six other towns).