The busy summer tourist season is over, but Leelanau lights up for the holidays with Santa’s arrival, community tree lightings, and holiday markets.
The Sleeping Bear region offers plenty of indoor and outdoor activities to get you in the holiday spirit. Shop Small Business Saturday, gather with family for your favorite tree lighting or give the gift of local art, wine, and food.
Glen Arbor Holiday Markets
The Glen Arbor Arts Center gets the party started 5-7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17 with its annual holiday open house. The event includes holiday music from Suttons Bay Ukulele Orchestra, refreshments, and a bonfire. Peruse the Small Works exhibition for the perfect gift or visit the pop-up holiday store for handmade gifts.
The Small Works Holiday Exhibition features local art for $150 or less from 16 artists working in glass, mixed media, paint, print, and photography. The exhibition runs through Dec. 14. Be sure to explore the festive holiday forest while you’re there.
On Saturday, Nov. 25, the annual Glen Arbor Holiday Marketplace returns to the Town Hall. This holiday market runs 10 a.m.-4 p.m. with unique gifts and artisan goods from 24 vendors. Plus, families and children are invited to meet Santa & Mrs. Claus 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the M22 Wine Patio, 6298 W. Western Ave.
Glen Arbor PJ Party and Tree Lighting
If you don’t feel like getting dolled up for Black Friday shopping, Glen Arbor and Leland welcome you in your pajamas. The fun kicks off 7-9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24 during the “Better than Black Friday” PJ party in Glen Arbor. Come as you are and shop special sales and offers at area businesses and galleries.
Cheer on the entries in the Bed Parade 9-9:30 a.m. along Western Avenue then grab breakfast or continue shopping. Downtown businesses offer weekend sales during their normal hours. Leland’s PJ Party runs 8-11:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24.
The festivities continue after dark with the Tree Lighting & Caroling at 6:15 p.m. outside the Glen Arbor Town Hall. Join in the caroling led by members of Glen Lake Church. Stay for the popular Holiday Market Preview Party from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Town Hall.
Glen Arbor Art Classes
Glen Arbor Arts Center has several class options to help you escape the stress of the season or create a personalized gift. Check the website for details or to register for The Art of Wreathmaking, 4 p.m. Nov. 20; Embroidered Design on Clothing, 10 a.m. Nov. 27; and Painting Pets in Pastel, 10 a.m. Dec. 2.
Northport Nutcrackers and Tree Lighting
Santa will light up Northport’s infamous tree at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25, preceded by a day of community activities.
The festivities include a Santa and Mrs. Claus brunch fundraiser, holiday arts and crafts fair, gingerbread house competition, cookie decorating, holiday wreath making, soup cook-off, make-and-take snow globes and more. Warm up at the hot cocoa and cookie fundraiser or enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides and caroling prior to the tree lighting.
The celebration continues throughout December with free carriage rides, holiday lights hikes, Kids Crafternoons, and Leelanau Township library children’s programs. Northport Nutcrackers are on display throughout town until Jan. 5.
Empire Artisan Marketplace
Head down M-22 for more local shopping at Empire Artisan Marketplace 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 25 at Empire Township Hall, 10088 W. Front St. This holiday market features unique, quality handcrafted items created and sold by local artists.
Light Up Leland
The Old Art Building in Leland has several holiday events planned. The property, at 111 S. Main St., features a display of holiday trees decorated by classrooms, community members, and businesses plus other lights to brighten up those dark December nights.
Light Up Leland, the annual kick-off to the holiday season, takes place Nov. 24 with a morning PJ Party, special sales, family activities, and a 6 p.m. parade. Santa leads the way from Christmas Tree Corner to the Village Green to light up Leland for the season.
Other Old Art Building events include Family Art Night 5-6:30 p.m. Dec. 8 and The Haunting of Old Ebenezer with Stone Fruit Collective on Dec. 1. And mark your calendar for Dec. 16 when Christmas at the Old Art Building: A Variety Show Spectacular will warm your heart with caroling, comedy, and festive music.
If shopping isn’t your thing, join the #OptOutside campaign and spend Black Friday – or any day – hitting a trail instead. Spending time in nature is better for your health and the planet. Hike a trail in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore or explore a Leelanau natural area.
The quaint communities across Leelanau Peninsula glow with lights and good cheer during the holidays. Check out events in Frankfort and Suttons Bay and make plans to escape to one of these Hallmark-esque towns for a relaxed holiday celebration.