Most kids love a trip to the zoo, but it’s sometimes a little less fun in the winter months Michigan. Many of the animals are keeping warm indoors, so parents may have to get a little creative with their animal viewing opportunities. Consider a trip to Thunder Bay Resort in Hillman, Michigan for an enchanting Elk experience.

Much of the magic happens on the way out to where the Elk reside. Imagine the quiet of a green pine forest frosted with snow and the familiar clump of horses’ hooves as you make your way through by sleigh. If not enough snow has fallen then the sleigh becomes a carriage, but still skillfully guided by these majestic creatures. Tell the kids to keep their eyes open for wildlife along the way out, you just might see a few deer keeping pace nearby, or catch a glimpse of a hawk or owl.

Along the trip, experienced tour guides tell you all about the herd of Northern Elk and how they came to reside in this particular Michigan locale. Unlike some dolphin or whale-watching experiences where you never know if you will see any animals, these beautiful creatures reside in an area that is fenced off and come along the trail to feed. You’ll likely see bull elk, cow elk, and even a few calves.

Bring your camera for some amazing photo opportunities, but even better is the rare opportunity to see the Elk so clearly and closely. You’ll likely lock eyes with at least one, and be awed by the large dark marbles that gleam back at you. In most cases, the sleigh will stop at a certain point so that those who choose to get a closer look can hop out.

After seeing the Elk, the sleigh or carriage continues on to a large rustic lodge. You be greeted by warm, friendly staff, and a blazing hot fire in the gorgeous stone fireplace. Pick a table and sit down to enjoy stories of the history of the venue and a 5-course gourmet meal. The food is cooked on century old wood-burning stoves and features hearty chicken soup, Baja salad, shrimp scampi, crown pork roast, and scrumptious sorbet. There’s also an opportunity for the grownup “kids” to try a variety of locally-produced wines.

Excursions may be booked for just the ride and dinner, or can include overnight accommodations for one or two nights. The ride and dinner runs just over a hundred dollars per person, and is limited to kids nine and over. Lodging varies based on the type of room and number of people in your party. Different options can accommodate anywhere from 2-8 people. Some rooms feature a whirlpool or fireplace.

In the non-winter months the resort is home to a splendid golf course so if you don’t want the evening to end, the clubhouse is usually open for a while after the ride to hang out with new friends or old. It’s a uniquely Michigan experience.

Author: Lisa Diggs

Lisa Diggs is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, business consultant, avid traveler, and founder of The Catalyst Company, LLC, Michigan Positivity Project, and Buy Michigan Now.