Leelanau News and Events

Thanksgiving Weekend In Leelanau: Little Shops, Lit-Up Trees, Quirky Village Traditions

By Ticker Staff | Nov. 24, 2021

Leelanau is about to light up. This weekend anticipate Santa and reindeer spottings, tree lightings, and a flurry of holiday markets and craft shows. The mom-and pop shops will be open late — some very early — for gifts and party provisions. Before or after picking out a tree (see you at Kolarik’s?!), locals will revel in some curious holiday customs. It’s Leelanau County after all.

Here’s the quick rundown on how villages will usher in the season this year, for your post-Turkey Day merrymaking:

One must rise before the sun on Friday Nov. 26 and make a dash for downtown Glen Arbor to get the biggest shop-small deals (these run 6am to 8am only). The consolation prize? You can stay in your pajamas.

Those-in-the-know stroll the business district in their nightwear on Black Friday for the PJ Party, a longstanding Glen Arbor tradition. (Rest assured, shops continue their Thanksgiving weekend sales during normal hours, too. Head here to see the participating merchants and eateries.) Glen Arbor’s wacky winter wonderland also includes the Bed Parade, back for 2021. For this spectacle, organized by Becky Thatcher Designs, locals don beds with cheery decorations and roll them down Western Avenue. The parade starts at 9am Friday, Nov. 26. The evening’s tree lighting is at 6:15pm outside the town hall with carols led by members of Glen Lake Church. The tree is lit by Leonard Thoreson, who has lived in Glen Arbor all his life.

On Saturday, Nov. 27 shop 24 vendors at the Glen Arbor Holiday Marketplace located in the town hall from 10am-3pm (there is a first peek Friday evening after the tree lighting; masks are required inside). Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at the M22 Glen Arbor wine patio from 11am-1pm with photo ops and kid-and-adult friendly refreshments.

The arts-and-crafts tour continues in the village of Empire, with its annual Artisan Marketplace at the Empire Town Hall, Nov. 27 from 10am to 4pm. Shop local artisans and makers, plus score homemade tamales to-go for a welcome break from turkey leftovers.

Did you know Leland has a Christmas Tree Corner? It’s a thing — aka the Village Green, on Main Street, across from the post office — and if you’re there before 6pm Friday, Nov. 26, you’ll catch the fire truck heading up Main Street to light the corner’s many trees. Afterward, Santa and Mrs. Claus will stroll the Green with treats for the kids. (Note: The treat for parents starts far earlier that day, at 8am, when select Leland shops open to host special early bird sales.) If you have not basked in enough small-town glow yet, march over to the Old Art Building lawn where the keepers of the iconic building (about to celebrate its 100th year!) will switch on the holiday lights this Friday at 6pm.

Santa’s bringing his reindeer to Cedar on Nov. 26 for a short but sweet Light Up Cedar celebration that begins with a few furry friends from his team at 5:30, sees a holiday street illumination at 6pm, and then Santa himself at 6:30pm for the community tree lighting. Local shops will stay open till 7pm. The town will be aglow in good old-fashioned vibes and, as only the hosts of Leelanau’s four-day polka party can do, extend the fun with firepits and a live band outside Cedar River Coffee Company. 

Suttons Bay’s Holiday in the Village kicks off Saturday Nov. 27 at 1:30pm with a free showing of The Polar Express at The Bay Theatre. Over 50 trees now deck the downtown district, each decorated by students and local organizations. Stores will be adorned with lights and holiday finery (plus extend their business hours).

Starting at 3:30pm "Johnny Bum’s Christmas Tree Lot" (a.k.a Pharmacy Plaza) will welcome revelers to drop off Toys for Tots, write a letter to Santa, snap selfies with a quaint antique fire truck and sip cocoa around the fire. At 5:30 sharp be at the corner of M-22 and Jefferson Street for the jolly one’s arrival via fire truck to light the tree and Mrs. Claus’s reading of a classic story.

You need a cheat sheet for the epic lineup of quaint — and mostly free — family fun at Northport’s daylong Tree Lighting Festivities: Letters to Santa/story time at the Leelanau Township Library kicks it all off at 11am. Next up, cookie and gingerbread house decorating (at Northport Pub and Grille) and ornament making (at the village office). Sip cocoa or a cold one at The Mitten Brewing Co. outdoor patio while listening to carolers and awaiting a spin around the block on the horse-drawn wagon. Late afternoon, meet Santa’s reindeer at Around the Corner Food and Fun, then revel in the Northport Band and Village Voices performance back at The Mitten. 

You’ll be ready, by then, for the 5:45pm Blessing of the Tree, Santa’s arrival, and a stunning, Griswold-worthy tree lighting. (Those who have seen the Northport fireworks know they take such spectacles seriously). All the while, village merchants will be open (with charming community-painted Nutcrackers as sentinels at each door) and the tiny artists’ haven supports not one, but two Saturday venues for fine arts and crafts: at Village Arts Building and Willowbrook Mill. The merriment keeps going until 11:30pm with a DJ and karaoke at Northport Pub and Grille.

Pictured: Glen Arbor's Bed Parade; Suttons Bay decked out for the holiday, Memories Captured by Lisa Baird

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