Colorful trees along a river in Indiana
Victorian Sleighbell Parade in Manistee, Michigan

Of Bells and Ballrooms

From December 1 to 4, more than 10,000 people are expected to arrive for the 23rd Annual Victorian Sleighbell Parade & Old Christmas Weekend in Manistee, Michigan. The weekend’s festivities get into high gear 1 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Friday, December 2, when the annual Festival of Trees form an evergreen promenade inside the Ramsdell Theater Ballroom. And no, that’s not your imagination, the streets do in fact smell like chocolate: The Sleighbell Chocolate Shoppe makes its once-a-year opening beginning at 3 p.m. at 318 River Street, where 50 varieties of handmade truffles and fudge are available. Nearby, the Manistee County Historical Museum offers free refreshments along with exhibits about the past 100 years of Manistee Christmas traditions. The evening concludes at 7 p.m. with the Guardian Angels Bell Tower Concert, when musicians provide a citywide, al fresco concert by hand-ringing the 111-year-old Meneely Chime at 371 Fifth Street.

On Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in downtown Manistee on River Street, Manisteens gather for the Victorian Sleighbell Parade, which includes people in period costumes, horse-drawn sleds, and Christmas trees hauled down the street. Post-parade, those trees are decked in the annual tree-lighting ceremony; pre-parade, shoppers can browse for crafts at a bazaar at Manistee High School (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.), preemptively run off any excess mincemeat with the annual Jingle Bell Jog (10 a.m.), or embark on docent-guided tours of the historic Ramsdell Theater, Babcock House, and the Manistee Fire House (1 to 4 p.m.). Free surrey rides will be available through downtown Manistee from noon until 4 p.m. If you want to get up and close with animals, Manistee’s sled-dog team will be on display from 2:30 to 5 p.m., along with and the magnificent Black Horse Farms Percherons at River and Division Streets from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

GO Victorian Sleighbell Parade & Old Christmas Weekend; for schedule and details, go to the Manistee County Visitors Bureau, 310 First St.; 231-398-9355,

Where to stay: The Ramsdell Inn (399 River St.; 231-398-7901, was renovated in 2003, restoring the building to its Victorian-era opulence with rooms overlooking the Manistee River and the Manistee Lighthouse; rates start at $109. The Portage Point Inn (8513 Portage Point Dr., Onekama; 800-878-7248, offers old-school amenities and modern conveniences.

Where to eat: The Glenwood (4604 Main St., Onekama; 231-889-3734, has thrived for more 15 years, serving seafood, beef, pasta, an extensive selection of baked goods, and an impressive dossier of domestic, craft, and imported beers. Popular with the locals, the family owned Bungalow Inn (1100 28th St.; 231-723-8000, offers comfort food staples, such as St. Louis–style ribs, lake perch, and slow-roasted prime rib with shrimp.