The gift giving season is upon us, and 2020 is a year like no other. Presents take on a whole new meaning when you might not see your loved ones this holiday season. This is the year where a gift of experience might be most welcome, and thankfully, Michigan is ready to deliver.

“Giving the gift of travel, or the present of an amazing Michigan experience, is such a personal gift” said David Lorenz, Vice President of Travel Michigan, part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “This year, it is more important than ever to support our locally owned businesses across the state.”

While keeping safe, and following all protocols, you can still give an experience that captures the true spirit of Michigan this holiday season. From ski passes, to gift cards for winter gear, to ways to experience Michigan culture in whole new ways, gift giving just got a whole lot more creative, and locally focused.

“This year, giving the gift of travel, will be giving a gift in multiple directions,” said Lorenz. “The person giving the gift will have that knowledge that they are giving something really special, thoughtful, something from the heart for somebody that they really care about.” They’ll also know that they are supporting tourism throughout our beautiful state.d

Giving the gift of travel, or a present of an amazing Michigan experience, is such a personal gift. This year, while it is more important than ever to support our locally owned businesses across the state, it is also important to think about our closest friends and family, and to look forward to all the potential that 2021 might hold. It’s also good to note that because of the uncertainty facing us, most everything you book travel wise is super flexible. If you need to change dates, times, or locations, you most likely will be able to.

A gift incorporating a Michigan travel experience, will not only endow the receiver with an incredible experience, it also will help the people and business who are providing the service.

“Normally, when you think about giving a gift, you just think about that transaction that you are making for your loved ones,” said Lorenz. “Typically, we don’t think about that business that is doing that work as well. That business, that is just trying to survive this year.”

As the holiday gift giving season is upon us, it’s the perfect time to think about giving something that is a bit more active, and maybe embracing the winter season in the process.

“We have 10 million people in the state,” said Lorenz “If we all try to be more intentional about the types of gifts that we are giving, we might be able to keep our businesses afloat, until they can do it in their normal fashion.”

We’ve put together a list of just a few Michigan travel experiences that might top your tree, or make the perfect gift to give this year and into 2021.

“I think this might be the most important holiday gift giving season we’ve ever had, in our lifetime, or at least in this generation,” said Lorenz. “It’s so very simple to make a positive impact.”

Cross-country skiing

Nordic skiing at Al Quaal Recreation Area in Ishpeming. Photo by Aaron Peterson


We have over 40 different ski hills to enjoy around Michigan, so giving the gift of a trip down the snowy slopes is an easy one. No matter the level of expertise on skis, there is something for every level of skier here in Michigan.

You can purchase lift ticket vouchers direct from your favorite ski hill. Be sure to look for package deals, and to give the gift of rental skis if needed as well. Here’s a pretty complete list of Michigan ski areas.

Have a beginner skier who’s interested in learning more? How about a few lessons to increase confidence and shooshing ability. During the month of January, local ski areas are partnering with Michigan McDonald’s restaurants to offer a great deal to learn to ski, snowboard or cross country ski. Fill out the form, and for $35 for downhill ski or snowboard, and only $20 for cross country, you’ll get rentals, a lift ticket or pass, and a beginner lesson. Find the form here, and get ready to go.

Most Michigan ski resorts offer ski school for young children, and group or private lessons for teens and adults.

Want to experience multiple ski resorts this year for one low price? Check out the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association White Gold Card. You’ll gain access to 31 ski areas for just $299. Although the 2020/2021 season is sold out online as of now, cards do become available periodically, check the website here to see if something has come up. You can purchase the cards at the participating ski hills, as well as at select retail sites, see the complete list of both here. And plan ahead for next year, this is a heck of a deal.

Want to gift some new equipment? Check out Shaggy’s Copper Country Skis, for skis made right here in the Mitten. Note: the company is currently manufacturing PPE’s alongside the skis, you can order on the website.

Check out 10 of the best cross country trails in Michigan

Boyne Mountain, Boyne Highlands and Nubs Nob all announce opening dates

Michigan’s Mount Bohemia makes the list of best ski resorts in North America

After 78 years, private ski club opens to the public

Nub’s Nob unveils new Winter Garden Cafe for ski season

Ski Safe: Michigan ski area pandemic guide 2020/2021

Get the latest snow reports from across Michigan here.

Give the gift of Michigan travel this holiday season

Tubing is a fun way to embrace a Michigan winter. (Gus Chan / The Plain Dealer) The Plain Dealer

Other winter sport experiences to gift

Want to give the gift of outside, but maybe skiing isn’t the right fit for your recipient? There are plenty of other winter sports in Michigan you can gift this year.

There are lots of snow tubing hills to be found across Michigan, and a variety of experiences to be had while whizzing down the frozen tundra. All are pretty sure to induce hysterical laughter, because there is something just extra fun about tubing.

Some favorites include Extreme Tubing at Treetops Resort in Gaylord, where the hill is incredibly steep, fast, and frankly, just a bit scary. It’s also one heck of a ride, and by the end, you’ll be both screaming and laughing. Sessions run 55 minutes, and reservations are highly recommended.

Timberlee Hills in Traverse City claims to be the biggest tubing hill in Michigan, and is a verifiable free for all. No set lanes, no height restrictions, and a super simple tow system makes for classic good old fashioned fun. Check for opening dates.

Shanty Creek offers eight tubing lanes located on Summit Mountain in Summit Village, and you purchase your tickets by the hour. Line up with friends and family for safe, socially distanced tube races, or go down together in a big pile. Book online here 48 hours in advance, or call 866.695.5010 to inquire about availability.

Cannonsburg Ski Hill just north of Grand Rapids offers snow tubing in two hour increments, serviced by a magic carpet to whisk you up the hill. Get more information and watch for opening dates here.

Near Kalamazoo? You must check out Echo Park. They’ve recently expanded their tubing hill, and have a tow rope to take you to the top. In addition to tubing, they offer tobogganing as part of your ticket package. The best deal here is a season pass for only $50, which offers unlimited runs all season long.

The ultimate in winter sports can be found along the Lake Michigan lakeshore at the Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park. You can luge, ice skate, skate, or cross country ski here. Luge tickets must be purchased ahead, and these do sell out quickly. Coaches will spend time teaching you the tricks and techniques to successfully heading down the run, and then you’ll get to freeslide down the run. The one of a kind ice skating trail offers a 1/4 mile figure-eight loop through the white pine forest, that is lit at night. Rentals are available for skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skates. Luge equipment is included in your lesson.

Winter rafting down the Sturgeon River near Gaylord is a totally unique gift to give, and most likely totally unexpected. We’ll speak from experience when we say that it is one of the best winter experiences anywhere in Michigan. Experienced guides will lead the way, and you’ll coast along an incredible arctic wonderland, of snow covered trees, bubbling water, and sometimes deer or elk coming by for a visit. Sturdy rafts provide a comfortable, steady ride, and as long as you are bundled up, you’ll be just fine on this journey. A completely new way to be on the water.

Fat tire biking can be found at various spots around Michigan. Crystal Mountain has 12 miles of trails to explore, and you can rent and ride their bikes to nearby Iron Fish Distillery to enjoy cocktails and pizza at the Iron Fish Base Camp of heated tents they have set up this winter.

Marquette is one of the premier destinations for mountain biking in the summer, and fat tire biking in the winter. Check out trails, rental equipment and more here.

a large christmas tree outside

The Christmas Tree at Campus Martius Park in Downtown Detroit. (Photo by Tanya Moutzalias | MLive)

Maybe shopping and a stay?

As Dave Lorenz said during our interview, “everyone is being super flexible right now”. Always ask before you book a hotel or experience, but most places have a very flexible change policy in place right now. So feel confident making plans, with the knowledge that if you must change them, it won’t be a problem.

Giving a night or a weekend away is always something to look forward to, maybe now more than ever. There is a great list of trip ideas all around Michigan to be found here, from urban adventures to hidden gems.

Traverse City is offering escape packages from January to May, that combine discounted lodge with special coupons to use on dining, wine and beer tasting, shopping, and outdoor activities. Kalamazoo also has some great packages to explore.

Culture cards from various Michigan cities are a lovely way to encourage exploration.

The Detroit Card can be purchased, and the recipient can then use it any of the more than 100 participating Detroit retailers. The Culture Pass GR allows you to visit the zoo, Public Museum, and other attractions for a discounted rate. Or you can visit the Detroit Zoo. and make a difference wherever you go.

Beer of the Week: Blackrocks

Snow partly covers igloos in front of Blackrocks Brewery in Marquette, Michigan on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019. Joel Bissell | MLive.comJoel Bissell |

Other Michigan travel news:

Igloos, shanties, huts and more: Where to dine this winter in Michigan

Where to find tasty tamales all across Michigan

20-plus Michigan diners that could use some love right now

The ultimate Michigan holiday playlist

Winter cocktail kits to-go

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