Manistee’s 24th Annual Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend

Holiday spirit is in the air across Michigan, with many festive events on the horizon – including the Victorian Sleigh Bell Parade & Old Christmas Weekend in Manistee. Today, the Manistee County Convention & Visitors Bureau fills us in on this family-friendly event, which is coming up next weekend.

Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire, I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas, Yuletide Carols, One-Horse Open Sleigh, Jingle Bells, Pipers Piping . . .

The images from our favorite Christmas holiday lyrics will be joyfully brought to life at the 24th Annual Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend, December 6 to 9 in the City of Manistee in northwest Lower Michigan.  There are dozens of events, some beginning the previous weekend, some are daily and some are ongoing.  Here’s a sample of what you can expect during that Happy Holidays week.

The highlight of the festival is the Victorian Sleighbell Parade at 5:30 p.m., Saturday December 8. Authentic, true-to-period with Victorian costumes, horse-drawn floats, turn-of-the-century characters and two community Christmas trees, pulled by horse teams down River Street.  Follow the Community Christmas Tree to the end of the parade route for the Tree Lighting Ceremony and Holiday Carol Sing-a-Long. 

The parade follows a days-long schedule of events that begin Friday Nov. 30 with the opening of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” at the Ramsdell Theatre.  Other events include visits with Santa; carriage rides; the Historic River Street Merchant Open House with holiday food and drinks; a Storefront Gingerbread House Competition; Jingle Bell Jog 5k run/walk; Downtown Soup Cook Off; Sleighbell Prince and Princess Pageant; Festival of Trees; Victorian Dessert Concert by the Manistee Choral Society and a special Christmas During Wartime exhibit at the Manistee County Historical Museum.

Don’t miss the “Sled Dog Express” which more than makes up for the absence of Dasher and Dancer and Donner and Blitzen; Cookie Fun; craft show and bazaar; Michigan Audubon Chickadee Christmas at Lake Bluff Bird Sanctuary; Sleighbell Chocolate Shop; guided tours of Manistee’s architectural beauties; Manistee Community Band Christmas Concert; Kiwanis Kops; Muskegon Regional Police Pipes & Drums; Annual Jingle Mingle at the Ramsdell Inn; Victorian church services; “Visions of Sugar Plums” art exhibit from Manistee County’s K-12 students and the Guardian Angels Bell Tower Concert. 

And that’s not all! While you may not associate Opera with Christmastime, a generous donor has provided the where-with-all for the Ramsdell Theatre to simulcast live in HD Metropolitan Opera Theatre productions with shows Dec. 1, 8 and 15.  There are also special events in our charming small towns around the county, like Bear Lake’s Sparkle in the Park, which creates a Holiday Light Show at Waterfront Park.  So you can make your list and check it twice, information and the schedule for all of these events can easily be found at

While our architecture and history bring to mind the olden days of this Victorian Port City on the shores of the Great Lake Michigan, there’s nothing formal or stodgy about the fun and festivities ahead or the warmth and hospitality from our citizens and shopkeepers.  Come join us.  We do small town festivals in a big way.  And dress warmly.  Most likely, Jack Frost will be nipping at our noses.

Will you be heading to Manistee for their Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend celebration? Share with us below! For more holiday-related events in your community, visit

Fall Colors in Manistee County Have Peaked!

Fall colors in areas across Michigan have begun to peak, and Manistee County is no exception! Today, guest blogger Maralee Cook, a Manistee resident, fills us in on how you can still enjoy fall in its prime during a visit to her hometown.

Manistee County’s gloriously hot and sunny summer has become a brilliant, colorful autumn.  The Great Lake Michigan is a deeper blue, the air is cool and crisp, and from the Manistee Pierhead light you can see north up the coast to Frankfort and south to the Point Sable Light.  The trees are topped with leaves in hues you find on an artist’s palette:  lemon yellow, gamboge, scarlet, vermilion, crimson, burnt sienna and more.  They line the shores of Lake Michigan, the banks of over 270 miles of county rivers, and highways and back roads that carry us past miles of charming towns, farmland and orchards on gently rolling hills.  Farm markets and Manistee’s Saturday Farmer’s Market offer bushel baskets overflowing with fall fruits and vegetables.  Colorful mums and bright orange pumpkins wait by the hundreds to come home with you and decorate your front porch for Halloween.  Come for an autumn drive, bike ride, canoe trip or to play golf or fish.  And there are lots of festivals and events during the rest of October, to round out your stay. 

Check out with paper and pencil in hand, ready to mark on your calendar some of our special events.

  • West Michigan Juried Art Show at Hardy Hall in Manistee’s Ramsdell Theatre through Oct. 21.
  • “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” performed at the Ramsdell Theatre through Oct. 21
  • Josh White Jr. live at the Ramsdell Theatre Oct. 26
  • Metropolitan Opera’s performance live in HD of Verdi’s “Otello” Oct. 27 at the Ramsdell Theatre
  • Manistee’s Ghost Ship each weekend in October
  • Scarecrow conventions in Onekama and Arcadia all month
  • Twisted Trails Off Road Park Pumpkin Run and Team Kamikaze
  • Salmon running at the Little Manistee River Weir
  • Fishing continues (always!) in the rivers and lakes

Maralee Cook is a freelance writer living in Manistee, Michigan.

Have you visited Manistee County this year? Share with us in the comments section below!

Our 500th Blog Post: Let’s Take a Trip

Photo Credit - Chris AraceMichigan celebrated a big birthday in January, and this blog’s 500th post gives another great excuse for cake!  In honor of the milestone, we looked at roads less traveled and came up with a 500-mile (OK, 504 miles) “Top O’ The Mitten To Ya”  road trip that encompasses all the natural beauty and relaxation of Pure Michigan.

Start in Muskegon, home to Michigan’s Adventure Amusement and Waterpark.  If the season’s not right for the “Shivering Timbers” rollercoaster (or Muskegon’s 27 miles of beach), explore life as an old-timey lumber baron at the Hackley and Hume Historic Site.

Heading north will lead you to the beaches, trails, lighthouses and dunes of beautiful Ludington, where you (and your car) can cruise Lake Michigan aboard a real steamship.  While a honey badger might not care, the S.S. Badger does.

Next, head northeast to Manistee – home to quaint Victorian shops, the world-class Arcadia Bluffs golf course and Little River Casino.  Manistee County is also one of the best places in the world for rainbow trout and salmon fishing.

Again heading north, stop in at the Sleeping Bear Dunes Natural Lakeshore.  Encompassing 35 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, Sleeping Bear Lakeshore is also home to an 1871 lighthouse and an extensive rural historic farm district.

Now, head east, with a quick detour north to the wine country of Suttons Bay.  You won’t find a parking meter or stoplight, but you will find art, antiques and Ciccone Vineyard & Winery, owned by the family of a little-known entertainer by the name of Madonna.

Head south again for Traverse City.  Grand Traverse Bay is a four-season destination, featuring 180 miles of sugar sand shoreline and extensive snowmobile and ski trails.  Chances are good you’ll find cherry everything, among other delicious eats.

Continue northeast towards Charlevoix, where you can catch a ride on the Beaver Island Ferry and Petoskey, known for its fresh air, historic architecture and lending its name to Michigan’s state stone.

From Petoskey, head south towards the charming Alpine delights of Gaylord, and Grayling, for canoeing, kayaking, fishing on the AuSable and Manistee rivers, and snowboarding, sledding and ice skating in the winter.  Grayling is even a great place for downhill skiing.

Head southwest towards the Traverse City Forest, and on to Cadillac.  In the winter, Cadillac offers 200 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and 34 downhill ski runs with over 485 feet of vertical drop.  Year-round, Cadillac offers 90,000 acres of state and national forest.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and this trip winds down in Big Rapids.  One of Michigan’s better-kept secrets, Big Rapids offers swimming in the summer, gorgeous color in the fall, snowshoe trekking in the winter and lakefront picnic ground in the spring.