“Outside the snow is falling and friends are calling, yoo-hoo. Come on, it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you.”
— Leroy Anderson, Composer of “Sleigh Ride”
I remember the first time my dear college friend Maryann invited me and my family to a sleigh ride at a local state park. Despite being all bundled up, my young children were excited to make nests in the hewn straw sleigh bed and we all echoed Anderson’s verses as bells on the prancing Percherons jingled. No one cared about the blustery weather; inside of this magical snow globe, it was all about how many flakes you could catch on your tongue.
In this age of social media, a classic sleigh ride is a way to turn back time.
“A sleigh ride forces people to actually slow down and talk to each other without interference from the outside world,” says Scott Ward, who holds the reins for winter rides at Boyne Highlands and discourages cell phone use by joking, “‘Or on the way back, you might get to pick up what the horses leave behind.’”
Traditional horse-drawn sleigh rides offered at Boyne Highlands commence at the Cross Country Center on Saturdays for both day and overnight guests, notes communications director Erin Ernst (800-462-6963; boyne.com).
“People like a simple ride,” she adds. “We provide blankets and take guests around the golf course terrain, weather and snow level permitting, typically near the end of December through mid-March.”
OTHER SPOTS TO SING A CHORUS OR TWO
Near the Huron River, the Kensington Metropark features hilly terrain that’s ideal for sleigh rides, which are offered noon-4 p.m. on Saturdays or can be chartered privately at the Farm Center in Milford (810-227-8910; metroparks.com/Kensington).
“The experience is magical in the sense that the sleigh feels like it floats along as you listen to the sounds of the horses and may even see eagles, osprey and deer in the woods,” notes farm manager Debbie Cavallaro, adding, “Sleigh bells came to be when horses and carriages were the only mode of transportation, so one driver could hear another coming in the dark.”
Sleigh rides and reindeer sightings (with Santa not too far behind) are top visitor attractions at Antler Ridge Farm in Williamsburg, too, where Dave and Sandy Hoxie also offer daily glides during the Christmas season, snow level permitting (231-645-3647; facebook.com/antlerridgefarm).
In Lachine near Alpena, Darrell and Lee Spragg’s majestic Belgian horses transport passengers in a picturesque sleigh through winding, scenic forest trails to a winter cook-out where bring-your-own treats like hot dogs and s’mores can be savored before making the return run (989-379-4403).
Scott and Eric of Cook Family Farm in Gaylord also host 40-minute sleigh ride glides over the hills and through the woods before their Belgian teams bring guests back to the country cabin for hot chocolate and fresh-baked cookies (989-731-1332; cookfamilyfarm.com).
And in Leelanau County, just 20-miles west of Traverse City, Tom and Kathy Cyr of Black Horse Farm welcome groups of up to 12 riders per sleigh for 11/2-hour winter wonderland trips featuring scenic vistas of Glen Lake and Lake Michigan (231-334-4705; blackhorsellc.com).
“Many come for the nostalgic experience,” shares Tom, who’s been in the business for nearly 40 years. “Some of the prettiest rides are in a blizzard. We start off in the barn where young children can pet the horses; their faces speak louder than words. And a returning blind passenger once helped me drive the sleigh…Those are the moments that remind you how special this job truly is.”