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Canterbury Village of Lake Orion, Michigan
Canterbury Village is a destination spot located in Orion Township (Lake Orion), Michigan. With no entrance fee, the grounds are free to walk. So whether you actually intend to spend money or not you can take in the view of stone turrets, colorful little houses, and blooming flowerbeds. It's an easy way to spend a summer afternoon or a winter evening during the Christmas season.
If you have the time then stop in for Yates' cider and donuts, ride the carousel, order a burger or pizza from the C-Pub, visit "Always Christmas", and browse the stores in the back of the Village.
"Olde World" Canterbury Village is a shopping experience with a style you won't easily find elsewhere. With bona fide castles and century-old cottages now home to little shops, the historical feel is what brings many of its fans back over time. Though the specific stores and restaurants change over the years, it holds a steady place in many hearts.
Canterbury Village is often equated to its biggest store, Always Christmas. This year-round Christmas store once rivaled Bronner's -- Michigan's other Christmas shopping extravaganza. Sadly the large building that housed the full, multi-level store was sold several years ago. However, Aldridge's Always Christmas still exists, though on a slightly smaller scale.
It's still filled with ornaments from balls to beaded to, well, the just plain odd. Many people go to Always Christmas exclusively to shop for the ornaments tailored to a specific personality, ones you just can't find anywhere else: fishing, professions, sports, wicker, hunting, Victorian, bugs, and so on.
Of note is an entire building dedicated to Department 56 village displays. It could take you hours to browse the detail of each and every one, from The Original Snow Village to Halloween themes. These Department 56 houses and shops aren't simply set out. They're truly displayed. Styrofoam steps of ice and blue saran-wrap rivers and picket-fence bridges run through the tiny towns, which are alive with battery power.
The heart of Canterbury Village is the row of quaint, original-to-the-site cottages at the back, all hosting unique stores and services. While this may be the most frequently changing aspect of the village, many interesting and fun businesses have come and gone and continue to occupy the spaces.
For example, sister shops Celtic Connection and Highland Fling were open to customers since 1999, only closing their doors recently in 2016. As the names might suggest, you could find all things Irish and Scottish in here - including kilt rentals.
Home decor and unique trinkets are a large part of what shoppers will find when browsing the Canterbury Village cottage shops. Stained glass and mosaic art have both featured at various times throughout the decades. At one point a tea store filled with china and lace sold Victorian style accessories for self and house. For years The Enchanted Cottage, which sponsored a village-wide fairy door hunt, was the place to go for lovers of fantasy and believers in magic. They supplied everything you needed to build unique fairy gardens or homes.
While the venue has never been known for selling traditional merchandise (think what you might buy at an average mall), that doesn't mean it's empty of more practical items: a used book store often ran a $1/book sale, antique shops have showcased vintage gowns while thrift stores offered more modern day clothing, and plenty of made-in-Michigan businesses over the years have come to Canterbury Village and provided crochet hats, homemade soap, local jams, and more. Many of us also still fondly remember the Canterbury Village toy store from when we were children!
Services at Canterbury Village have ranged from photography to floral arrangements to clock repair. One constant popularity is the wedding business. There is a chapel on site, and of course the castle has banquet halls (and a grand staircase for a descending-in-her-gown bride). Relatively new is Canterbury Village Tours with walking tours of the village, exploring the history of the land and its buildings as well as recognizable names associated with the area.
It's heartbreaking that so many businesses have found it necessary to close their doors at this locale. What makes Canterbury a peaceful place for walkers and lookers - its relative solitude and quiet - is enough to break most any small business.
You simply cannot visit a place such as Canterbury Village and not develop a sweet tooth for nostalgic candies or a sudden craving for donuts and ice cream. This is thanks to the many sweets shops that have populated the village for its lifespan. Whether it's winter and you're craving hot chocolate and fudge or it's summertime and you need a cold slush drink to cool you down -- they've got you covered.
As a child, it was a favorite weekend activity of mine to drive up to Canterbury and visit the candy store for a couple pieces of chocolate. The roasted almond smell pulled me right in every time. I would always leave with .10 cent suckers in my hands.
In addition to candy, it is not uncommon to find a fudge shop in Canterbury Village at any given time. Perhaps the most well-known of them was Sweet Lane Fudge Factory, which made their many flavors of fudge right there in the store each day as well as serving ice cream straight from the local Cook's Dairy Farm.
Nowadays come visit the Yates Cider Mill shop located in Canterbury Village. While it sure can't beat going to the real mill, this Yates store serves the same apple cider and delicious donuts that you're used to. In addition, they also sell candy and souvenir items such as postcards.
Need some "real" food after all that sugar?
The Clansman Gaelic Pub is the easiest (and sometimes only) place for a bite to eat. While it's called a pub, fear not families -- it's a friendly, cozy restaurant. Though, yes, there is a bar for those of you looking to grab a drink. But burgers on pretzel buns, the spicy Dragon Chicken Sandwich, homemade chips, pizza, and Friday fish give plenty of choices.
Alternately, if able, take a seat in the King's Court Castle Grille for fine dining in an elegant environment. Yes, you're in the castle! Traditional chicken dinner specials are available here during parts of the year.
Weekend events are what keep Canterbury Village a local attraction as opposed to simply a shopping center. Regular Mom 2 Mom sales, antique expos, handmade shopping events, and more are held on the grounds.
Many holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Easter, inspire formal dinner in the King's Court Castle. During Christmastime itself "breakfast with Santa" can be attended on Sundays in December. And special "adult only" events even pop up now and then, such as a New Year's Eve bash or a murder mystery dinner party.
But apart from shopping opportunities and dining, keep your eye open for festivals. A smattering of past events have included a winter/ice fest, a bike week, Easter egg hunts, a Scottish festival, and Oktoberfest.
Ultimately it's up to you to decide what you believe in, but "Is Canterbury Village haunted?" is a common question asked around the place - and the Motor City Ghost Hunters say yes! They came out for a full-night investigation after receiving reports from Uniquely Yours of a ghostly image in a photo and strange happenings around the store. Other shops and some employees of the C-Pub backed up these claims with stories of their own experiences around Canterbury Village.
You can listen to the audio findings, watch the video of flashlight communication, and read the reports by the Motor City Ghost Hunters for Canterbury Village here.
Worth a Visit
Only you get to decide whether a trip out to Canterbury Village for a day is worth your time. But if you live nearby in Michigan, give it a chance! The village is most active and decorated at Christmas, of course. More festivals occur during the summer. It's up to you!
But despite ever-changing businesses, event cancellations, and the down-sizing of the Christmas store, for locals in Lake Orion you really cannot beat Olde World Canterbury Village for cheap and easy entertainment on a slow weekend.
May there be many more years ahead for this historical shopping spot!