Start the Holiday Season Right in Northern Door County

Northern Door prepares for yuletide outside and in.

Northern Door prepares for yuletide outside and in.

The first time I spent Thanksgiving with my husband’s family in Tomah, Wisconsin, they took me to their town’s holiday parade. I remember that it was bitter cold, and to prepare I dressed in layer after layer of long underwear, wool socks, a wool sweater and a warm coat. The family clan trudged from the car toward the lighted Main Street together, younger cousins bounding through the cold. We joined a group of people across the street from the family’s church. They greeted us warmly and handed out slightly wrinkled packets of paper held together with a staple. Before I knew it, we had arranged ourselves in rows next to the sidewalk, and a few strong voices raised the first few lyrics of a well-known Christmas carol. Parade-goers shivering on the curb near us turned and smiled. I flipped my packet of carols to the right one and joined in, my weaker voice indistinct from the choir. We sang tune after tune until the parade reached our corner, then clapped and cheered for the floats like everyone else. After Santa Claus rode by marking the end of the parade, we sang a few more carols to send people home. My feet were nearly numb, but my heart was still singing when we handed in our packets.

My husband and I return to Tomah every year for Thanksgiving, and we have sung carols on Main Street many times. Though this small town is not my community, the small gesture of sharing music brings me closer to my family and the essence of the holiday season. Northern Door County is fortunate to have small but mighty communities who organize holiday gatherings that celebrate for the right reasons, and visitors and locals alike can come away feeling warmed to the core.

Capture the Spirit Festival in Sister Bay kicks off the season the last weekend of November. Equal parts celebration and benefit, the gathering preserves the meaning of the season. Enjoy the anticipation of the annual holiday lights on Friday afternoon, and give back to the community and surrounding area by donating new or gently used warm clothes for those in need. Stroll among the twinkling bulbs and pet a real live reindeer. Visit the fire station on Saturday afternoon and decorate cookies, then browse the Friends of Gibraltar Holiday Art Fair at the Village Hall benefitting the school. Local businesses will be in on the festivities with special sales and unique gifts to jump-start your holiday shopping. 

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 13 minutes (9 miles)

Cost: Free to attend


Egg Harbor Holly Days bears the same early-season cheer. Also taking place Thanksgiving weekend this year, start the weekend right with an afternoon wine tasting at Main Street Market. The Egg Harbor Historical Society provides festive carriage rides that leave from Mojo Rosa’s on the Friday and Saturday afternoons. At 4:30 on Friday, the holiday tree will be lit and everyone is invited to sing carols and enjoy cocoa and cookies. 

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 14 minutes (9.2 miles)

Cost: Free to attend


Ellison Bay’s service club serves piping hot, delicious chili the evening of the tree lighting the Sunday before Thanksgiving. 

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 21 minutes (14.1 miles)


The first weekend of December Baileys Harbor hosts Harbor Holiday, a feel-good shindig packed with holiday activities. A drive through town on Highway 57 is magical this time of year as nearly 50 families and businesses participate in the annual Christmas Tree Tour. Door County North Rotary Club puts on its Holiday Fair in the Town Hall where local vendors offer special holiday gifts. Proceeds benefit young people and the local environment. The Ridges Sanctuary presents a wreath-making workshop, complete with boughs and trimmings. The parade at 4:45 brings the whole gathering together with caroling and a party at the Town Hall. The party moves down the street to Door County Brewing Company later on when Chicago Farmer brings the concert hall alive with soulful solo folk music. Visit Baileys Harbor’s indoor Farmers Market on Sunday.

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Walkable in 1 minute – most events take place across the street

Cost: Free to attend; Wreath making $20

No matter how you celebrate the holiday season in Northern Door, reserve a cozy hearth-warmed room at the Blacksmith Inn to be your headquarters.