Photo credit: Petoskey News Review
While often thought of us just a summer destination, the Straits of Mackinac is known to roll out the white carpet during the winter season with special events and outdoor activities like hiking, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
The season kicks off on Friday, December 1 at 5pm with the Christmas Parade starting at 5pm at the Marina parking lot and traveling north on Huron Avenue to Central Avenue, to Nicolet Street and ending at Indian Pathways Park for the lighting of the city Christmas tree.
Christmas in Mackinaw is planned for Saturday, December 2 from 2-4pm at the Mackinaw Area Historical Society Heritage Village, just west of downtown. Between Noon and 4pm on Saturday, a series of fun-filled family events are offered including sleigh or hay rides (12-2), a Christmas program at Heritage Chapel (3pm), crafts at Freedom School (2-2:45pm) and visits with Santa at the 1869 McGulpin Point Lighthouse (1-3pm). All programs are free, but donations are welcome.
On Saturday, December 16, the 2nd Annual Antique Snowmobile Mighty Mac Bridge Crossing will take place, starting in Mackinaw City and traveling five miles across the Mackinac Bridge to St. Ignace. This is the only time of the year that sleds are allowed on the bridge and certain rules and regulations apply. The Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway is organizing the event and has details available online at www.snowmobilemuseum.com.
The award-winning Headlands International Dark Sky Park is hosting several events over the next few months, including:
- Winter Solstice at the Waterfront Event Center (Thursday, December 21 at 4pm);
- Prepare for the Celestial Highlights of 2018, including the Total Lunar Eclipse the following week (Saturday, January 27 from 5-7pm);
- Catch the Total Lunar Eclipse as it sets into Lake Michigan west of Headlands (Wednesday, January 31 from 5:30-8:45am).
The 25th Annual Mackinaw City Winter Festival is scheduled for January 19-20. Highlights of this event include both amateur and professional snow sculpting competitions, sleigh and wagon rides, outhouse races, a poker walk, arts and crafts, a chili cook-off, Euchre tournament and more.
Just 30 miles south of Mackinaw City, Big Bear Adventures in Indian River offers 90-minute guided winter rafting trips along the Sturgeon River—note as the fastest in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Offered for group up to 12, with three trips a day, seven days a week, this is a great way to experience the winter season in a unique way. Big Bear also offers cross country ski and snowshoe rentals, and will help coordinate packages for all their seasonal activities.
Throughout the winter season, trails for hiking, snowshoeing and even snowmobiling welcome visitors to the area. While there is no access to the regular parking lot at Historic Mill Creek, you can park near the entry area and the hiking trails from there – at no charge. Wilderness State Park offers not only winter hiking and cross-country skiing along 20 miles of trails in addition to snowmobiling, but overnight accommodations in rustic cabins or in your own tent area allowed.
Mackinaw City is centrally-located to provide snowmobile access to the Straits area. Utilize the north central State Trailhead located off of Crossing’s Drive to experience the DNR’s groomed routes, connecting Mackinaw to Cheboygan, Petoskey, Gaylord, Rogers City, Alpena and places south. The Mackinac Bridge Authority offers a ride for you and your sled north across the Bridge for $10 plus $2 additional for an extra passenger to access the trails north of the Bridge.
For lodging reservations throughout the remainder of the fall and into the winter season, visit MackinawCity.com/stay/.