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Destination: Petoskey Area

By Bill Semion

You know the old saying: It’s all about location, location, location. This gorgeous Petoskey region, collectively called Boyne Country after its premier resort facilities, is perfectly situated to make a great northern Michigan location for gatherings. It also offers guaranteed fun postconference activities, paired with great meeting facilities, small and large.

The region stretches from Boyne City in the south through Harbor Springs and the famed Tunnel of Trees along M-119, to Good Hart and Cross Village in the north, to the lakes near Alanson in the east, to that blue horizon of Lake Michigan on its sunset shoulder. It’s one of Pure Michigan’s best locations.

But don’t think that even with all we’re about to detail, that the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau is sitting on its laurels—or its golf courses, its huge meeting spaces, its renowned restaurants, shopping and waterfront views, and that genteel, country elegance that the entire area exudes.

“Not no way, not no how,” says the bureau’s longtime Executive Director Peter Fitzsimons.

“We’re one of the largest convention and visitors bureau regions in the state geographically,” explains the Michigan CVB sage. “We like to think of ourselves as a natural resource-based, outdoor recreation area where we set the stage for people to enjoy themselves. We have hiking, biking, skiing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, golfing, performing arts …” and he went on to describe loads of other activities that lure legions of visitors there year around. 

City Charms

“If you’re sitting in downtown Petoskey, you’re within 20 miles of 18 championship golf courses,” he says. Then there’s the city’s historic Gaslight District, home to dozens of fashionable shops, many with twin locations in places such as Palm Beach, Florida. Chic Bay Harbor, and its summery Inn at Bay Harbor nearby on Lake Michigan, is the latest iteration, he continues.

“Our area has historically been defined by summer resort communities that have been home to ‘old money’ since 1875. What that means is a lot of services have grown up to support the lifestyle, so we have very fine shops, restaurants and one of the best regional referral hospitals in the north. Those types of things aren’t readily seen in a small town,” Fitzsimons says. “You get a sense here that there’s something different about the area.”

Let’s begin with an elegantly compact venue that’s been here for more than a century, and now owned by Stafford’s Hospitality. Stafford’s Bay View Inn, which was built in 1886, in the historic Bay View Community, is just down the hill from Petoskey proper. 
Bay View grew out of the 19th-century Chautauqua movement. Clustered around it are the Victorian gingerbread houses that are occupied only in warm weather months. That gives Bay View its allure, and a never-ending charm that wows first-time visitors and returnees alike. 

That rubs off on the Bay View Inn, which is open all year for both lodging and dining, including its famous Sunday brunch offered May-October. Its architecture fits right in to offer that Victorian-style elegance, as well as gorgeous views overlooking Little Traverse Bay. 

“Our group sales team can provide an all-inclusive event for meetings and groups,” says Becky Babcock, marketing director for Stafford’s Hospitality. “This includes lodging and dining reservations at any of our locations. We also offer their years of expertise and gracious hospitality.”

The facility won Best Small Inn with Meeting/Event Space in the Michigan Meetings + Events Best of 2019 readers’ choice awards.
It offers all the amenities planners need. Its largest private space includes a dance floor, an outdoor meeting space in its garden, with room for up to 250 theater-style, as well as an indoor room for up to 130. 

Stafford’s Perry Hotel downtown was built in 1889 and is the only one of 20 luxury resort hotels left that once occupied the town and that didn’t burn in an early 20th-century fire. The Perry offers 75 uniquely decorated rooms.

“It’s not your traditional hotel,” Babcock says. “It’s unique and historic, and we’ve taken a lot of time to preserve its history. If you walk into the lobby, you walk into a grand, maroon place with a fireplace and sitting area, almost like a parlor. You feel like you’re walking into someone’s cottage.”

Stafford’s Hospitality also operates the Weathervane Restaurant in Charlevoix, and The Pier, in Harbor Springs, which locals refer to simply as “Harbor.” Its Crooked River Lodge is in nearby Alanson.

If you want it all, head to Boyne Resorts for any season. There are more than 400 guest rooms and the ability to handle groups up to 600 for starters, says Trisha Olach, director of sales for Boyne Resorts in Michigan. 

Locally, that means Boyne Mountain, (called The Mountain for short) in Boyne Falls, Boyne Highlands (The Highlands) in the hills in Harbor Springs, and The Inn at Bay Harbor (The Inn).

The Boynes and Nubs

“One of Boyne’s biggest focuses overall is doing team-building or activity components for your programs. We’re the best in the state for things to do outside of your actual meeting,” Olach says. “Each resort has its own personality.

“The Mountain is more of our sports center, with paintball, hiking and biking trails, seven lacrosse fields, and it’s popular with fly-in groups because we have our own airport,” Olach continues. There’s also kayaking on Deer Lake, and the only red clay tennis court in the United States. Boyne also offers its huge full-service spa.

“The Inn at Bay Harbor is our luxury property on Lake Michigan. We like to keep groups there at around 100. There’s a full-service spa, waterfront dining, and we always talk about our million-dollar view of sunsets over Lake Michigan,” she says.

“Our Young Americans Dinner Theater at The Highlands is a huge sellout throughout the summer.”

When it comes to golf, there are three courses at The Inn on Little Traverse Bay. Two at Boyne Mountain, in the shadow of that property’s great ski runs. Plus, there are five courses at Boyne Highlands, in and around the hills above Harbor Springs.

If you’re a downhill maven, you’re already familiar with the Boynes, and Boyne Highlands across-the-street neighbor, Nubs Nob.
There also are miles of cross-country ski opportunities in the region that include trails at the Boynes, state forest trails, and preserves managed by the Little Traverse Conservancy, which groups can book.

At Boyne Highlands, planners can schedule a wintertime Aonach Mor moonlight dinner—a sleigh ride and meal at the ski area’s North Peak warming house.

A similar activity at Boyne Mountain whisks participants up a chairlift at night, where they don snowshoes for the hike back to the lodge and dinner at Stein Eriksen’s restaurant.  While event attendees are reviewing the latest PowerPoint presentation, the rest of the family can relax at Boyne Mountain’s Avalanche Bay, Michigan’s largest indoor water park.

At the Inn at Bay Harbor, arrange for a private wine tasting or cocktail-making event, or even a chef-led cooking class on the sous vide method. Its 116 guest rooms have undergone major improvements and now are ready for groups. The changes complement the resort’s two renovated restaurants as well as the spa, café and lobby.

Summer team-building adventures include kayak trips on the Boyne River from Boyne Mountain, Segway tours, and horseback treks.
Among the amenities at Boyne Highlands are the Country Club of Boyne and night skiing. And if you’ve never experienced a swim in a heated outdoor pool on a winter’s night, this is the place to do it. Groups of up to 10 also can book a chef’s table experience at the country club to sit in the kitchen and watch their food being prepared while chatting with the chefs. 

Gaming Fun

Petoskey’s Odawa Casino offers a hotel, gaming, and lots of meeting and group lodging options, says Suzanne Sipe, CMP, Odawa’s assistant director of hospitality. The hotel features 137 guest rooms, 10 of which are suites.

“Our hotel and casino are two different buildings. We have four meeting rooms at the hotel, from our board room for up to 14, up to our larger space, which is two rooms with an air wall that accommodates up to 150 depending on the setup,” Sipe says. There is free parking for events, and free shuttles to the casino.

“At the casino, we have a large space that can accommodate up to 500 at rounds for dinner. The room has 18-foot ceilings and a stage that’s nice for productions. We also can use a couple of other locations. We do private events at Sage, which is our fine dining restaurant, and the Ozone night club.”

With so much to offer, you’re now beginning to get the picture why the Petoskey area welcomes so many, and why they keep coming back.

The visitors bureau’s Fitzsimons likes to say that his job is to remind past visitors here of all the area’s assets. “There’s a lot of competition out there from other communities,” he says. “But once people get here, it’s a memorable experience. Our history with the number of repeat visitors floors me. Once we get ’em, we tend to have ’em back.” 

Get Connected

Boyne Resorts | 800.462.6963

Odawa Casino | 877.442.6464

Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau | 800.845.2828

Stafford’s Hospitality | 800.737.1899