by Robin B
We partnered with Gaylord Michigan Tourism Bureau for this winter weekend adventure and they provided hotel accommodations. We thank them for the hospitality. All opinions are my own.
Extreme Tubing, sleigh rides, elk sightings – not to mention skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and more, it’s no wonder Gaylord is a winter mecca of fun for the entire family. A visit to Gaylord offers a smorgasbord of indoor and outdoor fun for everyone.
Gaylord, located off Hwy I-75 at the northern end of the lower peninsula, it is a little over a three-hour drive from Kalamazoo. With an average 180 inches of snowfall annually and the Swiss-style architecture lining Main Street – there’s so much to do and see in this aptly named “Alpine Village”.
Where to Play
Try out some Tubing at Treetops Resort. Reserve a one-hour session and get ready for some thrilling fun speeding down a hill and take the tow rope to head back up the hill to do it over again. Reservations are required and make sure to book in advance since this is a popular activity. We loved this family-friendly event and the staff were awesome with families to spin them as much or little as wanted. Plus, being towed back up the hill was a bonus for our tired legs. Note: Children must be 42 inches or taller for tubing.
Looking for a more slow-paced experience? My favorite, a Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride around the old-fashioned way in a horse-drawn sleigh. You’ll explore Treetops’ remote Project Nature property on a 25-minute horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow-covered forest. You’ll have time to enjoy some hot cocoa and a bonfire before and after the sleigh ride to warm those fingers and toes!
As ski novices, we were happy to know you don’t have to be an expert skier to enjoy the phenomenal slopes at the resorts in Gaylord. Treetops Resort offers 23 downhill runs. After just one ski lesson, our children were perfecting the ‘pizza slice’ technique and couldn’t wait to return the next day to ski again. With oodles of wide, gentle trails on property, there’s plenty of room for new skiers to get things off to the right start at a relaxed pace in the natural terrain of the surrounding forests at the Otsego Club & Resort.
Take a break from the cold and head over to the Call of the Wild Museum and Gift Shop. See a beautiful displays of whitetail deer, majestic elk, moose, black bear, timber wolves, coyotes, and much more. Make sure to grab a scavenger hunt list for the kids before starting the tour.
We love finding a souvenir from a vacation and the museum has a huge gift store with Michigan-made products and souvenirs. Visit the website for hours and museum admission pricing. This all-season museum has Go Carts and Adventure Golf available in the summer.
On the off chance the weather wasn’t cooperating, the family can still get plenty of skating in at the Otsego County Sportsplex. Open to the public, the Sportsplex has a hockey-size ice rink with generous public skating hours. Kids love to swim? The Sportsplex offers two indoor pool. They have a zero-depth pool with shooting water that is bit warmer – great for toddlers! Also, an Olympic size lap pool with a miniature water slide.
Adjacent to the Sportsplex you’ll find The Energy Outlet Playground & Pavilion. The name says it all if little ones need to burn off some energy. Visiting in the warmer months? Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the beautiful gardens surrounding the playground.
Take a quick detour and head to Aspen Park for some snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or hiking. This all-season park is only a few minutes from Gaylord’s downtown (on Commerce Blvd.) and offers plenty of opportunity to explore nature with its two miles of paved walking in a forest setting.
Adjacent to the park is the Elk City Park – home to over 60 elk. Chances are good you’ll see some elk roaming around the grounds. Several elk came up to greet us, making for a wonderful photo opportunity.
Explore the Sturgeon River on a guided winter rafting trip with a chance to see wildlife in their natural habitat. A short drive north of Gaylord is Big Bear Adventures offering a 1 ½ hour guided paddle tour. In the summer months, Big Bear Adventure has plenty of family fun activities with a ropes course, bumper boats, 18-hold adventure golf and more.
Where to Stay
Here are a few options for families to create lasting memories while staying in Gaylord this winter.
We couldn’t have been more impressed with our lodging experience than at the Historic Otsego Club & Resort. A formerly private ski facility, the Otsego Club & Resort was opened to the public for skiing in December 2017.
While checking out the sprawling property and marveling at the view of the slopes from the main lodge, Bob Wilson, Resort Sales Manager, pointed out the unique location of the Otsego Club & Resort property atop the Sturgeon River Valley offers breathtaking views throughout the entire resort.
The Otsego Club & Resort offers a variety of room options and layouts to suit all including chalets, lodge rooms and a loft lodge which are cozy rooms allowing kids to climb up the ladder to their own twin bed(s).
We had dinner on-site the Duck Blind Grille restaurant – all while watching snowboarders take off down the hill. The Grille offers a complete kid’s menu. You’ll want to order the kid’s specialty dessert – a chocolate chip skillet dessert – my children gobbled up this sweet treat in short order!
Make sure to check out the list of Specials for ‘Stay & Ski’ options to make a truly memorable getaway.
Treetops Resort offers an all-inclusive feel – with standard room-size accommodations (perfect for a family of four) or spacious condominiums. All rooms offer a patio or balcony. We didn’t need to leave the property to try all of the activities. We were delighted to find out the outdoor pool was heated and indeed open for a quick dip – a fun novelty during the cold winter weather.
Reservations: (866) 348-5249 or visit online for the current resort lodging or ski deals.
Where to Feast
A favorite destination for locals and visitors is the Alpine Tavern & Eatery, located one block south of Main Street in downtown Gaylord. This eclectic restaurant was packed upon our arrival, but we were quickly at a table and the food was served expeditiously and didn’t disappoint. The house-made white chicken chili hit the spot.
We stopped at the Porter Haus, Old US Highway 27 South, a few minutes out of town for lunch. Give the Fried Pickles appetizer a try – our children were unsure, but gobbled them up. For a fun dessert, we tried the s’more sampler – you can ‘roast’ marshmallows at your table – a huge hit and highly recommended!
Another option for breakfast or lunch is Diana’s Delights, located downtown. Breakfast is served all day and they offer a wonderful assortment of bakery items, such as a gooey pecan roll.
No visit Gaylord is complete without a stop to the Alpine Chocolat Haus. With a variety of gourmet chocolates and candy it is hard to make a decision – truly, our family was the equivalent of a ‘kid in a candy store’. A must is their signature Chocolat Haus Chips – potato chips covered in chocolate. I’ll admit I was skeptical – but they delivered and are highly addictive.
TIP: The retail store is located right on Main Street. Right around the corner is the Alpine Chocolate Haus kitchen, where the chocolate delicacies are created. Call ahead (989) 732-1077 to arrange for a tour of the kitchen. Tours are $3 per person and you’ll have an opportunity to watch your own chocolate-covered treat be made right on the spot to sample. The tour lasts about 20-25 minutes.