We've all been there. You're visiting family for the holidays, and, sure, the recipe-sharing and reminiscing are wonderful! But then, with vacation time left and nothing left to do, you end up restless and overrun with in-laws, wishing you had put those last few lonely vacation days sitting in your time bank to better use.

Well, not this year, and certainly not in the Great Lakes Bay, where festive holiday events and football field-sized Christmas stores are the stuff vacation dreams are made of! With a little insider know-how, you can make the most of the season, and transform the vacation time you have left into the times you remember most!

Unused Vacation Time: Tips For Families

Little Girl At Bronners'

Holiday gatherings can be half heaven, half heartache for parents: Wonderful homes (not childproofed), gorgeous décor ("No, no! Don't touch that!"), and relatives (aka: cheek pinchers.) Here's where to spend the rest of your family vacation smiling, genuinely:

  • Inside Saginaw's 16,000-square-foot Mid-Michigan Children's Museum, kids are encouraged to romp, play and enjoy hands-on fun for just $7.50 (or free, for little ones less than 2 years). They'll love the permanent galleries, but you can also check out special Children's Museum events during your stay.
  • Enjoy all-things-festive at the World's Largest Christmas Store, Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth. Bring your camera, Santa visits daily from November 27 - December 24. Afterward, select a family ornament, and have it hand-painted in front of your eyes! (Psst! Have a child with a unique name? Stock up on personalized gifts for Jaque, Jil and teacher, Mrs. Smyth.)
  • Dine at Frankenmuth's infamous Bavarian Inn Restaurant or Zehnder's Restaurant. (How to choose? Flip a coin, they're both amazing.) 
  • Tuck in for Daily Pretzel Rolling at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant! Offered daily (except holidays) at 2:30 p.m., the 45-minute experience is just $4.99 per person. 
  • Ditch the winter blues with over 50,000 square feet of wet-n-wild family fun at Zehnder's Splash Village! Day passes (10 a.m. - 8 p.m.) are $38.
  • Get in on some cool action at a Saginaw Spirit hockey game! Ticket prices vary, but Children under 3 (who will sit on your lap) can enjoy the game for free!

Unused Vacation Time: Tips For Girls' Getaways


Hey, ladies!

Q: What's worse than seeing a group of fun-loving females, looking bored on vacation?
A: Being a group of bored females on vacation.

Girls just want to have fun! Get to it!

  • Set your sights on Birch Run Premium Outlets, and hunt down name brands and deals during Deer Widows Weekend, November 13 - 15! Prepare for big crowds (80,000 +) and BIG savings.
  • For the Shabby Chic(s), stroll the streets of Bay City together, sampling coffee houses, cafes and antique shops. WARNING: Bay City's new Harless + Hugh Flea could blow your mind, and so could the latte art at their coffee house!
  • Relaxation sounds nice, but how? Located in a charming farm house, Saginaw's Ana Luis Salon & Day Spa offers multiple day/spa packages, and (as if that weren't enough), the nearby Shapers Aveda Lifestyle Salon does, too!
  • Grab your girls and the nearest bottle of Moscato, and head to Frankenmuth's Primed to Paint studio where you'll have all the makings to take home your own masterpiece. You can even bring in your own adult beverages to keep the creative juices flowing! Classes are $20 - $25 for a 12×12 canvas and $25 - $30 for a 16×20 canvas and include all the supplies!

Unused Vacation Days: Tips By Holiday Season Dow Gardens Poinsettia

Whether you're in the Great Lakes Bay around the time of cornucopias or cut-out cookies, save these dates to make your whole vacation memorable:

  • Sundays, November 15 - December 20: Enjoy free horse-drawn carriage rides, strolling carolers and holiday beauty during Bay City's Sundays in the City. And catch a classic holiday movie, too, at the historic State Theatre, at 1 p.m. & 4 p.m. during Sundays in the City.
  • Friday, November 20: Don't miss Old Town Saginaw's holiday extravaganza, Holidays in the Heart of the City, with a lighting ceremony, holiday market, free trolley, wagon and pony rides, and 8:30 p.m. FIREWORKS!
  • Sunday, November 21: Midland's Santa Parade is sure to be sweet fun with a "Candy Canes and Carols" theme this year, beginning at 10 a.m.!
  • Friday, November 27: Enjoy free cookies, cocoa and a lighting ceremony- the Holiday Celebration & Candlewalk at Frankenmuth River Place Shops.
  • Friday & Saturday, November 27 - 28: Bring the whole family to Chesaning's Christmas Candlewalk for free horse-drawn carriage rides, Festival of Trees, Nativity Challenge, Gingerbread House Walk, live holiday music, and Santa Claus visits... even an Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest and Candle Crawl Pub Crawl!
  • Saturdays & Sundays, November 28 - December 20: Visit Santa's Village at The North Pole USA (ahem, Chesaning's Saginaw County Fairgrounds) - a weekend-only, indoor Christmas Wonderland with train rides, huge slides, crafts, shows, and, of course, Santa.
  • Tuesday, December 1: Midland's Courthouse Lighting Ceremony, 7 p.m. Free hot cocoa, cookies, and Santa arrives in his sleigh to open the Midland Santa House, open thereafter seven days a week through December 23. (Bring your camera, and take a family photo with Santa - and possibly live reindeer - for free!)
  • Thursday - Saturday, December 10 - 12: Experience a free and festive Christmas outing at Dow Gardens Christmas Walk & Poinsettia Display, 5 - 7:30 p.m. Stroll candlelit pathways, enjoy carolers, and warm up in the Conservatory amid a dramatic Poinsettia Display (also open to the public December 1 - 30, 9 a.m. - 4:15 p.m., $5.)