December brings festive holiday cheer and winter fun to Michigan. From dazzling light displays, European-style Christmas markets, and figure skating shows to snowshoeing, tubing, and cozy sleigh rides, there are so many wonderful ways to celebrate the season.
Here are my top recommendations for making the most of December in Michigan.
1. Shop European Christmas Markets
Germany’s famous Christmas markets come to Michigan! Shop artisan vendors, savor German food and sweets, and revel in festive music and cheer. Top markets include:
- Alpine Christmas Market: Held annually at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, enjoy live music, ornaments, and goodies.
- Wunderbar Together Christkindlmarkt: Authentic German food, music, shopping, and activities take over Cadillac Square.
- Chriskindlmarkt: Modeled after Nuremberg, shop over 50 vendors, witness an ice carving demo, and enjoy German cuisine.
- Royal Oak Kindlmarkt: A traditional German market with spiced gluhwein, tasty bites like schnitzel, unique artisan gifts, and family fun.
Get into the holiday spirit with these magical markets! The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes transport you to Europe.
2. See a Fabulous Holiday Production
Catch some holiday-themed theater, dance, or music guaranteed to delight:
- “The Nutcracker” Ballet: See this enchanting Christmas classic performed across Michigan by talented local ballet companies.
- Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Rock out to their electric light show paired with holiday music classics like “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24.”
- Handel’s Messiah: Be swept up by the inspiring choral masterpiece performed by symphonies, choirs and opera companies.
‘Tis the season for festive shows, concerts and performances! These make for unforgettable shared memories with family or date nights.
3. Go Tubing, Skiing or Snowboarding
Take advantage of Michigan’s winter wonderland by zipping down snowy slopes! Top spots include:
- Caberfae Peaks: With 34 runs, a beginner’s area, terrain parks, and excellent grooming, Caberfae is a fabulous family-friendly option.
- Crystal Mountain: Michigan’s largest resort offers 58 downhill runs, extreme terrain parks, cross country skiing, and lively après ski.
- Mt. Brighton: Conveniently located near Ann Arbor and Detroit, Mt. Brighton has 26 slopes, a tubing park, and night skiing.
- Snow Snake Ski & Golf: Super fun small resort with terrain parks, a ski school, and the ability to ski and golf in one day!
No matter your skill level, grab some hot cocoa and embrace winter with an exhilarating day on the slopes!
4. Tour Decked Out Holiday Lights Tours
For gorgeous views of towns adorned in holiday splendor, take a special Christmas lights tour:
- Grand Rapids Holiday Lights Tour: See the lights via open-air carriage, horse-drawn wagon, or by foot on these fantastically festive 90 minute tours.
- Michigan Star Clipper Dinner: Ride vintage rail cars while enjoying a delicious full holiday dinner and live entertainment as you view the light displays.
- Holly Trolley Tour Of Lights: Board this Christmas trolley to travel through downtown Holly’s charming lights, roasting chestnuts, caroling, and holiday cheer.
Warm up with hot cocoa while soaking in the magical sights on these merry and bright tours!
5. Go on a Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride
Snuggle under a cozy blanket for an enchanting ride through snow-covered scenery on an old-fashioned sleigh:
Choose from 30 or 60 minute rides on a beautiful sled pulled by their magnificent draft horses along winter trails. Meander through picturesque snowy fields and forests on a private horse-drawn sleigh ride at this family-run dairy farm.
Take a rustic wood and aluminum sleigh ride pulled by heritage horses through this historical farm’s scenic countryside. Sleigh rides create nostalgic winter memories perfect for families, couples, and holiday dates. The clip clop of hooves completes a romantic winter night!
6. View Fantastical Ice Sculptures
Watch artists carve frozen works of art and transform giant blocks of ice into impressive sculptures at Plymouth Ice Spectacular on Main Street, marvel at over 140 ice creations. Even see a frozen Nativity scene!
Zeeland Ice Fest has mermaids, dragons, and more line the “snowmelt walking path” downtown. Enjoy horse-drawn carriages too. You can also go to the Ice Carving Exhibition in Frankenmuth to watch pros carve incredible ice sculptures throughout December.
The stunning, ephemeral artistry of these ice masterpieces impresses all ages. Interactive activities let kids and families sculpt their own too! Dress warmly.
7. Go Snowshoeing on Scenic Winter Trails
Snowshoeing allows you to journey into peaceful natural areas buried in powder. Top trails:
- Hartwick Pines State Park: Wind through a magical snow-covered forest of old growth pines on 7.5 miles of trails. Rentals available.
- Sleeping Bear Dunes: The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive transforms into a lovely 1.5 mile snowshoe loop with overlooks of Lake Michigan.
- Milliken State Park: Right in the city, this park offers over 5 miles of trails along the Rouge River to explore via snowshoes.
- Porcupine Mountains: With over 25 miles of wilderness trails, “The Porkies” deliver awe-inspiring Upper Peninsula beauty.
Snowshoe under starry skies, then warm up with a mug of hot chocolate back by the fire. It’s a serene winter adventure!
8. Experience an Enchanting Holiday Train Ride
All aboard vintage trains decked out for the holidays complete with Santa, carols, and cheer:
- The Polar Express Train Ride: Kids wear pjs for the magical trip to the “North Pole” with cookies, caroling, and a special gift from Santa.
- Santa Trains at Henry Ford Museum: Ride in a historic train car with Santa as he greets kids and families. Make crafts and enjoy story time too.
- Christmas Dinner Train: Delight in a delicious holiday meal aboard a decorated train while taking in charming lights.
These joyful Christmas train experiences create priceless family memories. All ages adore the holiday splendor, music, and jolly ol’ St. Nick aboard trains.
9. Take a Sleigh Ride Through the Countryside
Experience stunning rural scenery from your seat snuggled under a blanket aboard an open sleigh. Top spots for picturesque rides include:
- Echo Valley Ranch: Their magnificent draft horses pull you on private 30 or 60 minute rides along the ranch’s peaceful snow-covered trails.
- Post Family Farm: At this charming farm, you’ll take a nostalgic 20 minute sleigh ride through the rural winter wonderland out to their holiday tree forest.
- Country Christmas Evening: Historic Charlton Park offers family-friendly evenings with horse-drawn sleigh rides, caroling, roasting chestnuts, cocoa, and a vintage village aglow.
Sleigh rides evoke simpler times and create special seasonal memories. Kids and adults alike delight in the clip-clop magic aboard these winter rides.
10. See a Fabulous Skating Spectacular
From national touring productions to beloved community shows, dazzling figure skaters make the holidays brighter:
- Disney on Ice: Skate along to Frozen, Moana, Toy Story, and other Disney classics during this family extravaganza.
- Art of Skating: Watch competitive artistic roller skaters pull off incredible leaps, spins, and footwork in glittering costumes.
- The Plymouth Ice Spectacular: Local skaters perform this annual favorite along with national competitors, complemented by fabulous ice sculptures outside.
With colorful costumes, uplifting music, and feats on ice, these performances radiate holiday spirit and delight audiences of all ages.
11. View Wild Winter Animals on Safari
Safari zoo drives offer unique chances to see animals like reindeer, bison, elk, and bobcats adapting to winter:
- Reindeer Encounter: Drive through a forested park to glimpse feeding reindeer and learn about their lives from staffers.
- Wildlife Drive: At the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, spot reindeer, wolves, bison, elk, and more on their expansive winter habitat.
- Elk Encounter: Wind through wooded areas on snowy roads spotting bull elk and their large herds native to Northern Michigan.
Seeing magnificent animals in their wintry habitats creates wonderful family memories and kids adore it. Finish up sipping hot cocoa!
12. Marvel at Magnificent Holiday Light Displays
From magical gardens aglow to spectacular neighborhood displays, these stunning light shows make the perfect holiday outing:
Historic St. Clair shines with hundreds of thousands of lights along the St. Clair River – great for strolling. You can visit Frederik Meijer Gardens for indoor and outdoor light displays dazzle, plus enjoy fire pits with s’mores and live music.
Bundle up with some hot cocoa and watch your family’s faces glow at these magical holiday light displays!
December overflowing with winter magic, dazzling light displays, European Christmas markets, festive shows, and snowy activities. What will top your Michigan winter bucket list?