Traverse City is the perfect place to indulge in a holiday shopping adventure. Instead of struggling through the crowds and waiting in endless lines at the mall, why not relax in Michigan’s most beloved city and explore its many exquisite shops, boutiques and galleries? Wherever you go, you’ll find charming shops, friendly service and handcrafted, one-of-a-kind items that will make you a gift-giving legend!
Traverse City’s charming downtown district has over 150 fascinating boutiques, restaurants and galleries, and its picturesque nineteenth-century architecture gives it the kind of small-town flavor that makes you want to stay around just to enjoy the feeling.
Just around the corner, on Union Street, is the small but captivating Old Town district, and a few blocks to the west is the Grand Traverse Commons, which features indoor shopping in the castle-like buildings of a former mental asylum.
An entirely different experience awaits anyone who takes the trouble to drive to one of the picturesque freshwater port towns that surround Traverse City. To the west is the Leelanau Peninsula, with laid-back little villages like Suttons Bay, Leland and Glen Arbor -- chock-full of charming shops, dramatic views and cozy little eateries. To the east is Antrim County, where the picturesque villages of Elk Rapids, Bellaire, and Alden are secret jewels of the shopper’s art.
Christmas shopping opportunities here start early, when local churches, clubs and artist’s cooperatives begin staging the holiday arts and crafts fairs for which the region is justly famous. One great example of these is the December 1 “Merry Marketplace” at the Old Art Building in the village of Leland, where local artisans and growers offer fresh and dried holiday wreaths, jewelry, specialty foods, pottery, ornaments, cards and hand-knit items.
Gift-buying plays a big part in most holiday preparations, and in Traverse City’s charming downtown district they start the shopping season on November 30 with a big outdoor extravaganza that involves carol-singing, the lighting of the community Christmas tree, and the arrival of Santa Claus on a bright red antique fire engine. Downtown merchants have also cleverly devised separate men’s and women’s shopping nights that include food, drink and prize drawings – so you can shop and have some fun without giving away any surprises! (Ladies’ Night is December 6 and Men’s Night is December 13.)
Meanwhile, there’s a lot going on at the Grand Traverse Commons, where the Annual Christmas in the Village celebration starts with a December 1 tree-lighting celebration, moves into a December 8 open house (focusing on stocking-stuffers), and culminates in a traditional Italian “Santa Lucia” festival on December 15 with horse-drawn carriage rides.
The village of Suttons Bay holds an annual Holiday Open House (November 18) where shops and businesses express thanks to their customers for their patronage with an afternoon of refreshments and entertainment, as well as a three-day Holiday Festival (November 30–December 2). On November 23, the nearby towns of Glen Arbor and Leland hold fun “pajama party” sales where shoppers can take advantage of special bargains if they happen to be wearing their pajamas – and are up early enough!