View images from Marquette-based photographer Shawn Stockman-Malone’s “North Country Dreamland,” an award-winning, time-lapse compilation she created in 2012 at lakesuperiorphoto.com or facebook.com/LakeSuperiorPhoto.
EMBRACE THE DARK SIDE
There’s something ancient, even primal, about gathering around a crackling fire at night as waves lap on a remote Lake Michigan shore and stories about mythical women of the sky are being told under more stars than you’ve likely ever seen. It’s even more magical when this getaway gathering is Dec. 20, and tales about celestial legends like Solstice, the Goddess escorted to earth by great bears Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, are being spun during peak Ursid Meteor shower week by star lore historian Mary Stewart Adams, program director of the Headlands International Dark Sky Park (emmetcounty.org/darkskypark).
“The eve of Winter Solstice 2013 edges us into the darkest time of year, known in some traditions as the entrance into the womb of the Great Mother, Earth,” notes Adams, who routinely shares such insights with local, national and international audiences. “This program considers women in the world of stars.”
Enjoy it free rain, snow or shine from 6-8 p.m., along with off-season hotel rates just two miles west in downtown Mackinac City (emmetcounty.org).
You’ll all have a hand in preparing the miniature Beef Wellingtons, the smoked salmon Madeleines, the English pudding and the gingerbread cream tea scones at what’ll no doubt be the simplest holiday tea you’ve ever thrown. That’s because the prep work happens in the cozy Tuscan-style kitchen of Le Chat Gourmet in Eaten Rapids. December and January classes have you creating Christmas in Provence, an Italian fireside feast or a gourmet rack of lamb. Make it a weekend by booking rooms at the cozy, nearby English Inn (lechatgourmet.com; englishinn.com).
JUST SAY MUSH
If you and your friends aren’t likely to make the Iditarod, driving an Iditarod team in practice is pretty darn exciting in itself. Plus, “play with puppies” is even on your schedule when you sign up for a half- or full-day chance to drive a team, or opt for the full moon ride at Nature’s Kennel in the Upper Peninsula town of McMillan. Catch the local vibe over hot chocolate and Schnapps and regionally-famed dinners at lakefront Chamberlin’s Ole Forest Inn, which offers dogsled packages with an overnight stay (natureskennel.com; chamberlinsinn.com).
MAKE SOME TRACKS
Revel in the pristine beauty of nationally-renowned Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore during a guided snowshoe hike. Arrive at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire early to snag the lender pairs any Saturday during winter months from 1-3 p.m., then pick up tips about how to trek from the outing’s National Park Ranger. Post-hike, make a break with favorite pals to a private mountaintop retreat at The Homestead Resort and Spa in nearby Glen Arbor (the wise pre-book hot bamboo massages and dinner at Nonna’s for authentic Italian cuisine, thehomesteadresort.com).
SOLVE A CRIME
Bonding is assured when you’re working together to solve the who-dun-it professionally performed each December weekend (7-10 p.m.) over a five-course dinner and drinks on the circa-1870 Old Road Dinner Train. Climb aboard in Blissfield on a segment of the original Erie & Kalamazoo Railroad Line and journey through Southeast Michigan’s rolling countryside. Just don’t get so swept up by the scenery you end up the victim of a devious plot — there are shops a-plenty to browse back in the historic Village of Blissfield, a Michigan Main Street packed with antiques galore (murdermysterytrain.com).
JUST SAY SPA-AHHH
Book the “All Girls Spa Getaway Weekend” at Cobblestone Manor, a luxury historic inn in Auburn Hills, and you’ll be thinking “Slumber parties were never like this.” Hour-long massages and manicures, aromatherapy baths, a cheese and cracker tray to savor with wine by the fire and candlelit breakfast come morning make saying goodbye hard to do. A minimum of six gals is required (cobblestonemanor.com).