Christmas on Mackinac Island

All season long, from April through October, Mackinac Island caters to visitors from all over the world. It’s the USA’s Best Summer Travel Destination. Among the Best Places to Visit for Fall. And one of the Most Tourist-Friendly Cities in the country.

Come November, the 500 year-round residents of Mackinac Island have the place mostly to themselves for the winter.

What do the people of Mackinac Island do when there are no tourists around? They do what people in other communities do. They get together with family and friends. They enjoy the outdoors. And, in December, they celebrate the holidays.

You might be surprised, but Mackinac Island is one of HGTV’s Top 10 Christmas Towns. Here’s how they share the Season’s Greetings…

Mackinac Island Tree Lighting

Typically held on the first Friday in December, the Mackinac Island Tree Lighting takes place right in the middle of Main Street downtown. The residents of Mackinac Island surround the tree and spread holiday cheer with Christmas carols and hot cocoa. The tree lighting is often live streamed on the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau’s Facebook page.

Homemade crafts at Mackinac Island Christmas Bazaar

Mackinac Island Christmas Bazaar

The annual Mackinac Island Christmas Bazaar is typically held that same first weekend of December. The sale of crafts and homemade knickknacks raises money for Mackinac Island churches and the Mackinac Island Medical Center. It’s a great time for kids to visit with Santa Claus and for out-of-towners to get a behind-the-scenes look at the community that makes one of the world’s most beloved travel destinations click. While most Mackinac Island shops and restaurants are closed during the offseason, several of them open up during the Christmas Bazaar Weekend.

A lighted turtle drops from the sky above the Christmas tree on Mackinac Island's Main Street as a crowd gathers on New Year's Eve

Mackinac Island’s Great Turtle Drop on New Year’s Eve

Many people enjoy spending the week between Christmas and New Year’s on Mackinac Island. Several Mackinac Island hotels open to accommodate visitors who want to join the New Year’s Eve festivities that include hayrides and the Great Turtle Drop, when a lighted turtle gets lowered down onto Main Street.

Santa Claus rides through downtown Mackinac Island on the back of a fire truck during the annual Christmas Bazaar Weekend

How You Can Celebrate the Holidays on Mackinac Island

Even though the prime tourism season ended with Mackinac Island’s Halloween Weekend, you can still visit throughout the winter, of course. Mackinac Island State Park remains open all year for outdoor winter recreation including cross-country skiing, hiking and fat biking. And you can get to Mackinac Island in December either by boat with the Mackinac Island Ferry Company or by plane with Fresh Air Aviation.

While the offseason is an opportunity for Mackinac Island residents to take a break and relax – and celebrate the holidays – you are certainly welcome to join the fun!


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