For Whom the Bell Tolls: All Aboard the Downtown Trolley

Flags fluttering in the breeze off the bay, ice cream drips dropping on colorfully chalked sideways, and the flip-flopping of sandals going in and out of shops and eateries—these are some of the quintessential sights and sounds of a Northern Michigan summer.

Amidst these tried-and-true tells of the season, another sight and sound has returned to our bustling area—the Downtown Trolley—complete with a fresh coat of paint and a fully functional bell to inform of arrivals and departures. A sight and sound of summer indeed!

For over a decade, the trolley has been ferrying locals and area visitors around Petoskey to experience the town from a unique perspective. The trolley’s loop includes historic stops, tasty stops, and scenic stops—a variety to please every rider.

This quaint public transport cruises around from 10AM to 6:30PM, hitting six different stops every day except Tuesday. Take a ride to the Bay View Library, the picture-perfect Downtown Gazebo, which regularly hosts musical performances (some scheduled and others spontaneous!), Kilwins Chocolate Kitchen on US 31, the Petoskey Marina, Magnus Park, or the stately Perry Hotel.

Each stop is a notable Petoskey site, and the team of knowledgeable trolley drivers loves to share their town’s history, lore, and the best-kept secrets. Be ready to learn some hot tips, takes, and fun facts about this vacationer’s paradise!

This season, Downtown Petoskey is fortunate to not only have committed and engaged individuals at the wheel but also three invested community “Stop Sponsors” to support the trolley during its summertime voyages: Kilwins, the Bay View Association, and the Perry Hotel. As a “Stop Sponsor,” each of these locations serves as a regular trolley pick-up and drop-off point.

Since 2015, the Bay View Association has been a dedicated trolley stop, emphasizing the organization’s commitment to preserving and celebrating area history and pastimes.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the younger generations staying at Bay View also find the trolley to be an enjoyable facet of Petoskey’s character and charm. It is an experience they can cherish with friends and family and forever associate with their visit to the Little Traverse Bay Region. The Downtown Trolley is also a meaningful educational tool for older youth to learn about public transit in a safe environment, nurturing independence and the ability to navigate one’s surroundings.

“For the older population, the Downtown Trolley is a charming reminder of the past,” said Michelle Hansen, Director of Donor Relations and Communications at Bay View Association. “It evokes a sense of nostalgia, connecting them to the simpler, more relaxed pace of earlier times.”

Taking a trolley ride is a beloved activity for area residents and visitors, fostering a sense of community as a way to bring people together.

“By sponsoring the Downtown Trolley, we not only support a valuable community service but also contribute to the continuity of a beloved local tradition that enhances the cultural and social fabric of Petoskey,” shared Michelle. “The trolley is very popular in Bay View, and we are grateful to help preserve this wholesome experience.”

The Perry Hotel, in the heart of Downtown Petoskey, is another “Stop Sponsor,” and Assistant General Manager of the property, Drew Smith, shared his thoughts about keeping the trolley alive in the downtown district:  

“In our eyes, it is essential for the Perry to support the trolley because time and time again, guests comment on how exciting it is to have this amenity. It’s not just because of the friendly and knowledgeable driver team or the convenience of not needing to walk or park or the opportunity to learn a piece of local history, but it’s all of those things combined that create an experience that sets our city apart.”

The trolley has been near and dear to the Perry Hotel for some time, as Stafford’s Hospitality was instrumental in Downtown Petoskey getting a trolley in 2012. Every summer, guests staying at the Perry Hotel love hopping aboard to ride around town and soak up the scenery.

“Many communities have trolleys and other means of transportation, however there are few that have a free opportunity for a knowledgeable advocate to bring visitors to some of the area’s most notable locations,” added Drew. “The trolley is a remarkable feature that makes our downtown special and sets our community apart.”

From now until Labor Day, grab a seat on the Downtown Trolley, let the bay breeze blow across your sun-kissed skin, listen to the bell toll, and experience Petoskey’s beauty and treasures in a brand new way!

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