Over the Christmas holidays, Mike and I — between visiting family in Michigan — surprised the boys with a few days of skiing at Boyne Highlands, located near the top of the mitten in what we call Northern Michigan. (Not the Upper Peninsula, mind you. Still the mitten.) Given that it was December and the midwest and #climatechange…it rained the first day. But the resort is so charming — like good, old-fashioned family fun — that we ended up having a blast. (And the cold rolled in the next day, giving us two pretty glorious days of skiing, too.)
1. Staying At The Boyne Highlands Resort (Ski-In/Ski-Out)
We loved the old-world vibe of the Boyne Highlands Resort. It was insanely family-friendly — easy to rent skis, easy to ski-in and out; it has a ski valet for the easy storage of your skis, and large rooms with little balconies (our suite had one king bed and two twins — perfect for families). It’s also one of the most affordable ski resorts we’ve ever found.
The food was also surprisingly good (and healthy!). The buffet breakfast was kiiiind of amazing — omelettes to order for Mike and I (and whatever crap Pax picked out)….
…and the vibe in the downstairs bar was exactly what we wanted after a long day of skiing: roaring fireplace, not too fancy. And we could still find fresh salads (in addition to the typical pub food and homemade chili).
2. Cookie and Hot Cocoa Breaks at 4PM
The Boyne Highlands Resort has this charming tradition of serving cookies and hot cocoa every day at 4PM. And they’re delicious. Our favorite? A sugar cookie with dried Michigan blueberries in it — YUM. Needless to say, we planned our activities around Boyne Highland’s version of ‘tea time’.
3. The Actual Skiing at Boyne Highlands
Michigan has a ton of gray skies, especially in the winter, but there’s one thing you can usually bet on: if it’s bitter cold…it’s usually sunny, too. (Strange but true.) And the skiing at Boyne Highlands is solid midwest skiing, meaning that we found plenty of fun slopes to zoom down. (And the night skiing is always a fun perk.)
It’s similar to skiing in the Poconos (maybe a little bit smaller, depending on the resort), but without the insane crowds.
4. Hunting For Petoskey Stones At Petoskey State Park
The day it rained ended up being a glorious day. Instead of skiing, we drove to Petoskey State Park and hunted for Petoskey Stones.
It turns out that they’re much easier to spot when wet (and, obviously, not snow-covered). Petoskey stones are seriously cool — they’re actually rocks that contain fossilized coral, from when Michigan was covered by ocean (the Denovian period, according to Wikipedia). And they’re pretty distinctive, once you know what to look for.
And if you’ve never worn full ski gear to the beach, well…you’re obviously not from Michigan.
5. Zipline Adventure Tour
Just for something different, we tried Boyne Highland’s Zipline Adventure Tour. It’s roughly 3 hours of ziplining all across the mountain (actually a good way to see the entire thing). The ziplines are fun, but not so crazy-high that you are fearing death.
That said, I insisted on going first, just to “check” the lines. And YES: Everyone made fun of me. #PROTECTMYBABIES. But the guys who took us ziplining were tons of fun. If you saw my IG stories (oh! I still have them up under “Boyne Highlands“), they were teaching us to turn upside down, do flips, etc., It was a total blast.
Also, we were ziplining as a private group. I didn’t book it that way, but it turns out that this activity is MUCH more in-demand during the summer. Wimps. That wouldn’t happen in the UP. #michiganjokes
6. Aonach Mor Moonlight Dinner
The surprise hit of the vacation was this prix fixe, Aonach Mor Moonlight Dinner. I think it’s supposed to be a romantic evening, but we took the kids. Ha! Anyway, they whisk you to the top of the mountain in a snowcat, then serve you this very old-school fancy dinner. We’re talking french onion soup, filet mignon, fondue for dessert. It’s all by candlelight, and on a clear night, there’s a view of the Mackinaw Bridge. There’s a guy with a guitar and fire pits outside for roasting marshmallows — my kids were like THIS IS THE FANCIEST THING WE’VE EVER EVER DONE. (Haha – it’s not.) But because it’s Michigan, Boyne Highlands in particular, it’s more special and charming and delicious than…fancy. So in that way, it is the perfect fancy dinner for kids, and mine were so freaking appreciative. That said, Mike and I alone would’ve had a blast, too.
On second thought, it’s probably not the best environment for young kids who need to run around. Quiet and seated kid shenanigans? Fine.
We’re just entering this weird new stage where our kids will actually…sit and talk to us at restaurants. It’s so bizarre and it JUST started happening so I don’t want to jinx it, ya know??? (Seasoned Moms, weigh in here — too good to be true? Will this continue???)
That said, on the way back down the mountain, they offered to have the kids ride up in front of the snowcat. It was too dark for a good pic (even with Mike’s mad manual-focusing-skills) but you can see the general level of excitement.
7. Nights At The Resort
Even if we didn’t have anything planned, Boyne Highlands has a ton of stuff to do. There’s a pretty epic hot-tub and outdoor pool situation (even the large pool is heated enough that I was happy swimming around), and they constantly have fires going outside, with plenty of S’mores-making kits on hand. There’s a ton of winter events (found here), as well as a spa for massages, etc.,
Our apres-ski schedule tended to be beers at the bar, S’mores at the firepit, a little dinner, a little swimming, then bed. It was perfect.
If you Midwesterners are ever in need of a little family re-charge, I highly recommend checking out Boyne Highlands. It’s such a fun way to both bond and relax.
ps. This was in no way sponsored — we just had a blast.
pps. Photo credits: Mike. I swear he was there!