The holidays are an extra special time of year in Michigan. From shopping at charming Christmas markets to seeing dazzling light displays, there are so many ways to get into the holiday spirit across the state.
With family-friendly activities, festive events, and plenty of holiday cheer, you’ll be able to make magical memories this Christmas in the Great Lakes State.
1. Visit Bronner’s CHRISTMAS Wonderland
Address: 25 Christmas Ln, Frankenmuth, MI 48734
No Christmas in Michigan is complete without a visit to Bronner’s CHRISTMAS Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store located in Frankenmuth. At over 300,000 square feet, this shop truly is a wonderland filled with any and all things Christmas.
Take your time walking through the ornament room with over 50,000 options, the nutcracker room, and the many themed sections like Christmas Bake Shoppe and North Pole. Try a sample of fresh fudge before picking up all your decorating needs and gifts.
The kids will love seeing the animated Christmas displays throughout the store. With Christmas music playing and such an extensive collection of décor, a trip to Bronner’s will leave you filled with that special holiday magic.
2. See a Magical Performance of The Nutcracker Ballet
Attending a performance of the beloved holiday ballet The Nutcracker is a Christmas tradition for many families. Michigan has several prominent ballet companies that put on spectacular productions each December.
Take the kids to see the Grand Rapids Ballet Company’s show at the majestic DeVos Performance Hall or enjoy the classic Russian choreography of the Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker.
For a truly grand experience, don’t miss seeing Michigan’s leading opera company, the Michigan Opera Theatre, perform this Christmas classic at the Detroit Opera House with live orchestra accompaniment.
Dressing up and watching the magical story of young Clara’s adventures with dancing sweets come to life on stage helps capture the spirit of the season.
3. Marvel at 5 Million Holiday Lights at Nite Lites at Misselwood
For an incredible display of Christmas lights, head over to Nite Lites at Misselwood in Beverly, Massachusetts. This drive-thru experience features over 5 million colorful, twinkling lights perfectly illuminating Misselwood’s magnificent estate and gardens over one magical mile.
You’ll drive past dancing fountain lights, illuminated tunnels, and a 50-foot illuminated Christmas tree as favorite holiday tunes fill the air. It’s a very family-friendly event with free hot chocolate, cookies, and a chance for kids to meet Santa after completing the circuit.
Watching the extensive Christmas light displays sparkle against the night sky is a sight to behold and one of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit in Massachusetts.
4. Experience a Vintage Christmas at Greenfield Village
Go back in time this Christmas season with a visit to Greenfield Village for their olde-fashioned holiday experience. At this living history site, you can see what Christmas was like in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries.
Carolers fill the streets while model railroad displays circle the Christmas tree and Santa greets kids in a reindeer-powered sleigh. You can take a horse-drawn carriage ride to see the historic homes decorated for Christmas with traditional greenery, ribbons, feathers, and more.
There’s ice skating on the real ice rink, craft demonstrations from St. Nick’s woodshop, and musical performances on antique instruments. With bonfires glowing and snow gently falling, Greenfield Village truly transports you to Christmas past.
5. Go on a Christmas Lights Trolley Tour
One of the best ways to see sparkling holiday light displays is aboard a festive trolley tour. The Milford Historical Society offers Christmas Lights Trolley Tours through local neighborhoods to see the incredible illuminations.
Guests are picked up and dropped off right at the historical museum in charming downtown Milford, with transportation provided by the Holly Hotel’s Holiday Trolley. An enthusiastic Christmas elf guides you through the dazzling lights and holiday décor for 90 minutes of yuletide joy.
You’ll hear fun holiday trivia and music while seeing Milford’s historic homes lit up in their holiday finest. Hot cocoa keeps you cozy during this laid-back Christmas lights tour.
6. Skate on an Outdoor Ice Rink at Campus Martius Park
Address: 800 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226
Lace up your skates and experience an iconic Christmas tradition at Detroit’s Campus Martius Park – outdoor ice skating! From November through February, the park’s fieldstone paths get converted into a dazzling rink right in the heart of the city, surrounded by gorgeous holiday decorations.
Glide across the ice while admiring the towering Michigan Christmas tree sparkling with 19,000 multi-colored lights. The park’s twinkling string lights overhead add to the magical ambiance.
Warm up afterwards with a cup of hot chocolate or cider and roast some chestnuts or s’mores at one of the fire pits. The outdoor ice rink brings free, festive fun to downtown Detroit all winter long.
7. Go on a Picturesque Christmas Train Ride
Few things feel more nostalgic and festive than riding a vintage train decked out for Christmas. The Ionia County Historical Society offers Polar Bear Express rides in vintage train cars along the rails from Ionia to Owosso.
The train is lovingly decorated inside and out with beautiful old-fashioned trimmings, evergreen garlands, and Christmas lights. Kids can meet Santa and his elves aboard the train and enjoy hot cocoa and cookies too.
The cozy 1.5-hour ride past winter scenery is the perfect way to relive the magic of Christmases past. Other charming Christmas train rides in Michigan include the Little River Railroad Holiday Express in Coldwater and the Steam Railroading Institute’s North Pole Express in Owosso.
8. Enjoy a Winter Wonderland at the Detroit Zoo’s Wild Lights
Address: 8450 W 10 Mile Rd, Royal Oak, MI 48067
Get into the holiday spirit surrounded by beautiful creatures at the Detroit Zoo’s dazzling Wild Lights event. After the sun goes down, the zoo gets illuminated by millions of twinkling lights, transforming it into a magical winter wonderland.
You can stroll past trees draped in colorful spotlights and flowers shining in an array of hues. The spectacular light displays include a dancing waterside show, giant walking reindeer, archways glittering with lights, and a tunnel of rainbow lights synchronized to hip holiday tunes.
Sip hot cocoa and enjoy carousel rides, ice sculptures, animated light shows, and a chance for kids to meet Santa. Wild Lights brings out all the child-like wonder of the holidays at the Detroit Zoo.
9. Go Christmas Caroling with Historic Fort Wayne Volunteers
For an old-fashioned dose of Christmas spirit, you can go caroling with volunteers dressed in Victorian costumes at Historic Fort Wayne. This yearly event offers a unique chance to sing classic carols while strolling the starlit grounds of the fort.
Carolers go door-to-door through the barracks, hospital, and commandant’s house serenading the “residents” who often sing along or perform as soldiers, nurses, or townspeople. The Fort Wayne Conservancy Choir also performs while volunteers serve chestnuts, cider, and cookies.
Kids are given battery-operated candles to light up the darkness with a magical glow. For an evening of community, nostalgia, and yuletide magic, join the carolers at Historic Fort Wayne.
10. Indulge in a Christmas Tea at The Whitney
Address: 4421 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
A charming tradition that brings a taste of Victoriana to the holidays is enjoying Christmas tea at The Whitney restaurant in Detroit. This historic mansion built in the 1890s gets lavishly decorated each December for their Holiday Tea service.
You’ll dine on a tiered display of finger sandwiches, scones, desserts, and the signature tomato bisque while taking in the exquisite holiday decor. Santa Claus even makes an appearance to pose for pictures and hear Christmas wishes.
Kids get cocoa and cookies and a special gift. With live piano, costumed characters, and the elegant atmosphere, a seated tea at The Whitney is one of the most elegant ways to experience the holidays in Detroit.
11. Experience an Old-Fashioned Holiday on Mackinac Island
Stepping onto Mackinac Island around the holidays feels like walking into a snowglobe of Victorian Christmas charm. Downtown gets decorated with traditional wreaths, ribbons, and greenery during their Christmas on the Island festival the first weekend in December.
Gorgeous horses pull decorated carriages down snowy roads past historic inns and shops lit by old lanterns. You can enjoy island pastimes like evening sleigh rides under the stars, caroling, ice skating, holiday high teas, and relaxing by a fireplace under a wool blanket.
The lively Lilac Tree Hotel and Spa hosts a Gingerbread Tea Party and Stable House at the renowned Grand Hotel has a grand holiday brunch. The festive spirit of the season permeates this magical island getaway back in time.
12. Drive Through the Wayne County Lightfest
For over 30 years, metro Detroit families have been driving through Hines Park to see the spectacular Wayne County Lightfest. This beloved tradition features a 5-mile route winding through the park with enormous illuminated holiday displays.
You’ll slowly drive past colorful arches, giant snowflakes, glowing trains, Santa’s workshop, cascading waterfalls, and intricate winter landscapes all choreographed to holiday music. Tune your radio to the Lightfest station as you get immersed in the glowing magic along the road.
Pack some hot cocoa to stay warm during this nostalgic winter dreamscape. With more than 100 displays, Lightfest is one of the biggest and best holiday lights experiences in Michigan.
Christmas in Michigan is full of wonderful traditions, beautiful lights, and festive seasonal activities. However you choose to celebrate Christmas in Michigan, let your heart be full of the magic of the season.
As the chilly air gets crisp and snow gently covers the ground, find ways to bundle up and embrace the simple pleasures of winter. The holidays remind us to slow down, and Michigan offers so many cozy opportunities to do just that.