November brings falling leaves, Thanksgiving celebrations, and the start of the holiday season to Michigan. There are many exciting festivals happening across the state this month for families to kickoff the holidays.
From Christmas tree lightings and parades to craft bazaars, food fests, and cultural events, you’ll find festive fun the whole family will enjoy.
1. America’s Thanksgiving Parade
Kick off your holiday season with Detroit’s time-honored Thanksgiving Parade marching down Woodward Avenue. This massive parade features fabulous floats, balloons, marching bands, celebrities and Santa arriving in style.
Families will love seeing the larger-than-life parade balloons inflated the evening before on Woodward. Grab your seats early Thanksgiving morning with coffee and donuts in hand to see the floats, performers and that big man in red himself! It’s a magical Michigan tradition.
Come prepared with chairs, blankets and warm clothes. If you have little ones, arrive early to secure front row seats.
2. Grand Rapids Santa Parade
West Michigan families have celebrated the annual Santa Parade in downtown Grand Rapids for over 60 years. This nighttime parade features colorful floats, dance teams, bands, characters, music, and the guest of honor Santa Claus.
Kids’ eyes will light up seeing the whimsical floats pass by with lights, music, and excitement filling downtown. My favorite floats are always the nutcracker and reindeer entries. The holiday cheer is palpable at this Michigan favorite!
Come prepared with some hot cocoa and blankets. Arrive at least an hour early for a good spot along the route.
3. Rochester Home for the Holidays
Families love attending Rochester’s Home for the Holidays festival to enjoy carolers, craft shows, reindeer petting zoo, festive foods, Santa visits, marshmallow roasting, tree lighting and dazzling parade all packed into one magical holiday weekend.
The charming streets of downtown Rochester provide the picture-perfect backdrop. Kids will delight in writing letters to Santa at Kringle Market, meeting reindeer up close, and seeing special characters. And parents will enjoy live music, holiday shopping, and all the hometown feels.
Catch Santa’s grand arrival by helicopter at Great Oaks Plaza. Allow time to stroll Kringle Market and see reindeer.
4. Magical Christmas Lights
One of Michigan’s premier holiday light displays, Magical Christmas Lights features over 1 million dazzling lights arranged in spectacular LED scenes and structures across a 2 mile drive-through.
Families will delight seeing larger-than-life holiday scenes like nutcrackers, snowmen, reindeer, tunnels and more. Tune your radio to holiday music to enhance the experience. Make sure to bring some hot cocoa or apple cider along for the ride! It’s become my new favorite holiday tradition.
Upgrade to a limo or carriage ride for extra special experience. Weekdays tend to be less busy than weekends for the drive-through.
5. Ford Wayne Toyland Parade
Lively floats, costumed characters, marching bands, equestrian units, and Santa help kick off the holidays at the annual Ford Wayne Toyland Parade. Families line Michigan Avenue in downtown Wayne with hot cocoa in hand to enjoy the free festivities.
Kids will get a thrill seeing colorful floats from local businesses, dance groups, music performances, giant balloons and candy tossed from participants. Stick around after the parade for Santa visits, food, and more holiday fun. It really puts you in the Christmas spirit!
Come early to secure a spot right on Michigan Avenue. Bring a bag for kids to collect tossed candy and treats.
6. Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland
No Michigan holiday trip is complete without visiting Bronner’s, the World’s Largest Store dedicated to all things Christmas. This sprawling complex houses an unbelievable selection of ornaments, trees, lights, decor and holiday merchandise across 27 acres.
Families will love exploring the different Christmas sections. Kids can even meet Santa and get free coloring books! The glittering lights and displays help capture that holiday magic.
Wear comfy shoes – you’ll walk miles inside! Budget extra time to fully explore. The Season’s Eatings Cafe is great for a break.
7. Festival of Lights
Families adore East Lansing’s dazzling Festival of Lights featuring hundreds of thousands of twinkly lights festooning downtown. The illuminated display includes lovely lighted trees, animated window scenes, a glowing archway and more lighting up the streets.
Kids’ eyes will shine seeing the colorful lights. Take an old-fashioned carriage ride then grab some hot cocoa and snacks from nearby shops. End your night watching the festive free light show along Grand River Avenue!
Go on a weeknight to avoid crowds. Catch the light show on the hour.
For those looking to celebrate Oktoberfest later into the fall season, Noktoberfest in Kalamazoo offers the perfect opportunity. Modeled after the traditional Oktoberfest held annually in Germany, Noktoberfest brings Bavarian-style beer, food, music, and entertainment to West Michigan each November.
Taking place at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center over two days, Noktoberfest transforms a huge indoor space into a lively biergarten filled with the sights, sounds, and flavors of Oktoberfest. Beer lovers can sample over 140 craft beers, ciders, and meads from 40 Michigan breweries, allowing attendees to taste a wide range of Michigan’s top brews.
With its wonderful selection of Michigan beers, lively entertainment, and authentic food, Noktoberfest allows attendees to celebrate fall, German heritage, and the state’s craft beverages well into November. It’s a beloved tradition in Kalamazoo for good reason!
9. Grand Rapids Comic Con
For comic book fans, sci-fi enthusiasts, gamers, and pop culture nerds alike, the Grand Rapids Comic Con delivers an epic celebration each November.
Taking place at the DeVos Place convention center downtown, Comic Con transforms Grand Rapids into a hub for all things comics, movies, TV shows, anime, gaming, and more for three full days.
With over 300 vendors and artists, attendees can browse comic books, graphic novels, apparel, toys, original art, and collectibles. Comic creators and voice actors also appear for autograph sessions and Q&As. Fans may meet Power Rangers, Star Wars characters, Pokémon cosplayers, superheroes, and other colorfully-costumed folks wandering the convention.
Whether you are a Marvel or DC fanatic, love anime, get into steampunk culture, or simply enjoy seeing creative cosplay, Grand Rapids Comic Con offers three days of fandom overload.
10. Kalamazoo Reptile & Pet Expo
For a truly unique family event, the Kalamazoo Reptile & Pet Expo brings the wonders of reptiles, amphibians, arachnids, and unusual pets to West Michigan each November.
Hosted at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center, this two-day event allows kids and adults to see and learn about animals from around the world.
Throughout the Expo, attendees can visit reptile and pet exhibits to see snakes, lizards, frogs, spiders, scorpions, hedgehogs, parrots, and more. Knowledgeable owners and handlers teach visitors about the different species while supervising hands-on interactions. Kids love getting to pet a gentle snake or watching a giant tortoise amble by.
Expert breeders and rescue groups also have booths providing information about proper pet care and ownership responsibilities. The Expo offers a judgement-free place for pet enthusiasts to share knowledge.
For families that already own pets like geckos or bearded dragons, the Expo has an expansive selection of supplies from tanks to feeders. Attendees can even shop for a new cold-blooded friend from the range of reptiles available from ethical breeders.
From beloved holiday parades and light displays to Christmas craft shows, holiday foods and activities for kids, there is plenty of festive fun to embrace this season. Enjoy kicking off your holiday traditions at these merry Michigan festivals!