tubing in traverse city–new year’s eve northern michigan style

“You have very well-behaved children,” said a man nodding to the table and smiling as he walked out of the restaurant on New Year’s Eve. I could only smile. I felt guilty taking credit for the seven children round the table. In truth a friend of mine and I had just taken his kids, mine, and friends of our kids tubing at Traverse City’s Holiday Hills.

I’d never been tubing. My friend’s teenager describes it, “It’s like a roller coaster when your stomach goes up and down.” She could hardly contain her glee. Her smile took over. All the seriousness that burdens a teenager’s countenance dissolved until all that remained was childlike delight. Always a beautiful girl, she was the picture of joy describing how much fun tubing is … and then I saw that joy again every time she came down that hill today.
We tried to get 10 folks together to qualify for the Holiday Hills group rate. With only 9 of us and on a holiday, we were looking at $13 each per hour (the lowest rate is $9, $24 for two hours). Shanty Creek Resorts has similar pricing, $12 for standard hours, $15 on holidays.  They also have a nice $20 two-hour rate, which might have been fun if it weren’t 10 degrees. There’s also Timberlee, which has $12 for one hour and $20 for two.

I was very impressed with the tubing process. The tubes have a long strap with a rubber loop at the end. You sit in your tube and an operator puts the loop on the pony-tail tow rope. The tow rope pulls you up to the top and then you slide down a curvy bit that is, as my daughter explains, like a water slide. Your tube glides to a stop. You get out and join friends waiting for a turn at the top of the big hill.

Caterpillar style, triangle, spinning, straight. There are lots of ways to go down the hill. Holiday Hills has runs scooped out, so the tubes stay along a prescribed track. It’s fast, steep and my stomach did feel the roller-coaster dippity doo.

The kids squeal and giggle all the way down. Courage builds. Little guys ask for a big spin or to go on their own. Dads and daughters. Friends holding each other’s feet. Long trains of folks come screaming down the hill and rock back. The last run of my joyful teenager? Arms out like she was flying … pretty sure she was.

Afterwards, we stumbled into a restaurant after discovering that Don’s Drive-in was closed. (Incidentally, Don’s management, we were among other cars turning around in your parking lot at 6 on New Year’s Eve …) We settled into a table for 9. Chocolate milkshakes, cocoa and fries all around. Brothers, sisters, old friends and new ones told tales of the hill and giggled. Well-behaved? Indeed. So much so that I almost took credit for them … and then added, if only to the man’s back, “I’ll share your compliments with their parents.” I looked at my friend and smiled.

For an hour tubing on that hill we all felt like children. Joyful, content. It was a New Year’s Eve full of promise. And isn’t that what New Year’s Eve is supposed to be … 

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