For anyone living or visiting Metro Detroit Michigan with kids


The 25 Most Festive Michigan Towns to Visit During the Holidays

most festive holidays in michigan towns

Spending the holidays in “the mitten” can make you feel like you’re in a Hallmark movie — and not just because of the snow. Michigan is full of charming towns that are full of holiday cheer. Did you know there’s even a town called Christmas in Michigan? There’s also Bronner’s — “the world’s largest Christmas store” — in Frankenmuth, America’s tallest singing Christmas tree in Muskegon, a Charles Dickens-themed Christmas festival in Holly, live reindeer in Dearborn, Michigan’s own “Polar Express” train ride departing from Owosso, and the infamous ice skating rink in downtown Detroit.

Here’s a breakdown of the 25 most festive Michigan towns to visit during the holidays — from Metro Detroit to the Upper Peninsula.


Metro Detroit area holiday festivities:

Great news for those with little kids: You don’t have to go far to experience holiday magic if you live in the Metro Detroit area. There are a ton of festive events and displays in the metro area each year! Whether you’re looking for Christmas light displays, photos with Santa, live reindeer, carolers, shopping or even ice skating, the metro area has it all. 

detroit festive cities in michigan
Image Credit: Downtown Detroit Partnership/Facebook

Detroit Holiday Festivities

Is there holiday magic to be found in downtown Detroit? You betcha! 

Bundle up and go ice skating near the city’s official Christmas tree at Campus Martius Park, sip hot chocolate and shop local at the Downtown Detroit Markets in Cadillac Square, step back in time and check out the historic Ford House during one of their holiday events, soak in Detroit’s arts and culture during Midtown’s Noel Night, or celebrate Hanukkah with Menorah in the D.

Royal Oak (and the Detroit Zoo) During the Holidays

Experience the magic of the Detroit Zoo in the middle of winter with Wild Lights — an annual event that runs from the end of November through the first week of January. The zoo is transformed into a winter wonderland with millions of Christmas lights! While there’s no access to the animal habitats during Wild Lights, you can still get the feel of the zoo with more than 280 lighted animal sculptures. There are also seasonal treats like hot chocolate at the event. Make sure to dress for the weather (it’s extra magical on a snowy night)! 

The annual Royal Oak Jingle and Lighted Parade is also a fun event! On top of the awesome lighted parade, the jingle also includes a Cookie Crawl, holiday market, live reindeer, live music, Santa and Mrs. Claus, and more. Keep an eye on this webpage for more information on this year’s event.


​​Dearborn MI During the Holidays

Have you ever seen a real life reindeer?? Create some extra holiday magic for your kids by taking them to Dearborn’s Greenfield Village! Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village is definitely one of the most festive events in the Metro Detroit area. 

Greenfield Village is a part of The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. From their website:

Explore more than 80 acres of Greenfield Village in this glimmering after-hours celebration of America’s most heartwarming holiday. Stroll down Main Street, brimming with holiday goods, food and warm beverages, or take a ride on a historic Model T or horse-drawn carriage. Warm up in historic homes as we open the doors to centuries of favorite family traditions. From the finest tinseled detail to a fireworks-filled sky that marks each evening’s finale, make our holiday story a cherished part of your own.

There are carolers and other live performers, holiday cooking demonstrations, bonfires and more. And, of course, Santa and his live reindeer! While entry to Greenfield Village’s Holiday Nights does require paid admission, it includes ice skating and skate rental, carriage rides, Model T rides, carousel rides, and access to all of the festivities in the village. Check out ticket prices and information from last year’s event here.

The city of Dearborn also hosts its own Winterfest Market each December; learn more here.


Rochester’s Winter Holiday Plans

Want to feel like you’re inside a Christmas storybook? Head to downtown Rochester for The Big, Bright Light Show! The shops and restaurants on Main Street are decked out from roof to sidewalk with more than a million lights! It is truly one of the coolest towns to see during the holiday season. 

To make it extra special, go downtown on one of their event nights, including Caroling in the City or the Downtown Rochester Snow Glow.

Lincoln Park Holiday Festive Decor

Soak in the sights, smells and sounds of the holiday season with Lincoln Park’s annual Fantasyland. Set up to resemble the North Pole, your kids will love seeing what goes into making Christmas magic happen. From their website:

You’ll hear carols being sung by our Fantasyland School childrens’ choir, and the figures in the Shadow Boxes. The aromas of peppermint, cookies and chocolate hang in the air. Be sure to see the trains upstairs in the Lincoln Park Train Club. Make your visit with us even more special by taking a few moments to chat with Santa himself!

dickens festival in holly mi
Photo from the Holly Dickens Festival Facebook page

Holly Puts the Holly in Holidays

With a name like Holly, you know this town is filled with Christmas cheer! Each year the Village of Holly hosts a Charles Dickens-themed holiday festival, the Holly Dickens Festival. Step back in time and be immersed in the world of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”:

Your senses will be filled with smells of roasting chestnuts and hot chocolate, and maybe even a lit gruel! Lose yourself the music of Christmas carols sung on the streets, enjoy the colors and decorations of the shops, and feel the warmth of friends and neighbors as you are greeted on the streets.

The opening weekend of the festival features Santa and a lighted parade; it runs two other weekends in December as well. Dickens characters stroll the streets and there is plenty of other live entertainment as well. Learn more here.

Clarkston’s Magical Winter Holiday Plans

Want to experience holiday magic without leaving your warm car? Check out Clarkston’s annual “Magic of Lights” — a 1.5 mile drive-through Christmas light display. See photos and read more about the previous years’ displays from


Towns within an hour of Metro Detroit

Canterbury Village (Lake Orion)

Canterbury Village is a historic landmark full of unique shops and restaurants. It transforms into a winter wonderland each November for its annual Holiday Stroll. The historic village is lit by about a million festive lights, and there’s even a light show synced to some of your favorite Christmas songs. There are also carolers, live holiday characters including Frosty, Buddy the Elf, the Grinch, and Olaf, a specific Children’s Caroling Corner, holiday treats, photos with Santa, and more. A bonus for adults: The C-Pub outdoor patio offers “a variety of beers, hard ciders, wine, and cocktails surrounded by firepits and the sounds of Christmas carols.”

Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor has a huge Ann Arbor Holiday Art Fair every year, featuring more than 70 local artists, authors, food trucks, crafts and more. 

The city also has an annual Moonlight Madness in the State Street District — a night where the shops and restaurants stay open late, offer holiday specials and spread holiday cheer. The Kerrytown District has a similar Midnight Madness each year:

Enjoy live music in Kerrytown Shops, visit with Santa as he strolls the neighborhood, grab great holiday discounts and sales at participating merchants, and so much more! There’s also the Kindlefest at the Farmers Market in Kerrytown, which includes “music, fire pits, s’mores, a heated tent, beer, spiced mulled wine and food.”


Metro Detroit Holi-Day trips (3 hours or less)


Visit Michigan’s Little Bavaria for a truly magical holiday experience. Frankenmuth is home to Bronner’s — “the world’s largest Christmas store,” and is full of Christmas cheer. There’s now an ice skating rink each year, a musical Christmas tree show, and a ton of activities and events.


Head to the state capital to see the Official Michigan Christmas tree and attend the annual Silver Bells in the City event. Each November on the Friday before Thanksgiving, this annual event brings Michiganders from all over the state to kick off the holiday season. The entire city of Lansing is lit up in Christmas lights, there’s an “electric light parade,” the lighting of the state tree, live music performances, and, of course, Santa. 

Potter Park Zoo in Lansing also hosts the annual “Wonderland of Lights,” similar to Detroit Zoo’s “Wild Lights” event. Learn more here.



Mona Shores High School Choir creates “America’s tallest singing Christmas tree” each December in Muskegon. From the city’s website:

Over 200 enthusiastic performing arts students sing and play an eclectic mix of seasonal favorites from a wide variety of genres while standing in a 67 foot Tree covered with over 25,000 lights…it is simply spectacular!

The city also has an annual Festival of Wreaths, a downtown Cookie Crawl, holiday shopping, and more. The town also goes all out on their decorations down Western Avenue. Check out the city’s festive happenings on their website.


Want to celebrate the holidays as the Dutch do? Visit downtown Holland! Not only is the downtown area adorable when it’s decked out for the holidays, but there are a ton of events and activities: including carolers, photos with Santa and Sinterklaas (the Dutch St. Nicholas), the “Kerstmarkt” (a European open-air Christmas market), holiday theatre and musical performances, and more.

polar express michigan holiday festive towns
Photo courtesy of Owosso


All aboard the North Pole Express! Head to Owosso to travel on Michigan’s own Polar Express, aboard the world-famous Pere Marquette 1225, a 1941 Berkshire type steam locomotive. The train will take you on a journey through a winter wonderland to an old-fashioned Christmas party in the Village of Ashley. It’s a 1 hour, 15 minute train ride each way, and your family will have two hours to explore the Village of Ashley’s Country Christmas. Get tips and learn about the full experience from


Comstock Park

Just past Grand Rapids, Comstock Park hosts the annual Christmas Lite Show — the largest light show in West Michigan. The lite show goes on for 40 nights, and has specific dates and times to either walk or drive through the spectacular display. And it’s much more than just lights — kids can also visit with Santa, ride the “Memory Lane Train” and more. 


The Michigan International Speedway turns into a Drive Thru light show each year. The Nite Lites Show claims to be the largest Christmas light display in the state. Learn more here.


Similar to the Owosso experience, Flint has its own nostalgic Christmas magic with Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad. Board a vintage steam train and take a night ride to the 1800s era Crossroads Village. The village has a ton of decorated historic buildings, a vintage carousel, a ferris wheel, a train shop, cider mill, and more. Costumed villagers make vintage crafts, and there are tons of festive treats and live entertainment. Here are some more details and photos.

If you don’t want to ride the train, Crossroads Village tickets can be purchased separately or you can opt for one of the drive thru nights of the village. Learn more about ticketing here.

Spring Lake

The Village of Spring Lake near Grand Haven hosts the Spring Lake Sparkle each year. The Christmas festivities include over 125,000 lights, Santa’s workshop, Christmas tree sales, Santa’s house, a gift shop, a food court and more. Learn more here and here.

Battle Creek

Battle Creek has a number of holiday events, kicking off with their annual parade each November. The Gilmore Car Museum also hosts an annual Winter Wonderland event:

Guests can expect to drive their cars through the winding roadways within the museum’s picturesque campus, to be dazzled by more than 25 individual themed light displays, lighted historic barns, and decorated vintage-era car dealerships. When the drive ends, the experience continues inside the museum – with the Gilmore’s Festival of Trees displayed among hundreds of spectacular classic cars, a special Christmas Through The Decades exhibit, a visit with Santa Claus, reindeer games for the kids, and available holiday food & beverage items.

Nearby, there’s the Merry Mile: a drive thru light display on the Calhoun County Fairgrounds. 


Michigan Festive Holiday Weekend trips (3+ hours)

St. Ignace

St. Ignace hosts a few different holiday events each year, including a parade at the marina, a “light fight” home/business decorating contest, and more. The charming town on the banks of Lake Huron is fun to visit any time of year, but especially during the holidays.

mackinac island during the winter holidays festive michigan towns
Photo from the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau’s Facebook page

Mackinac Island

There’s nowhere else quite like Mackinac Island in Michigan, and the old-fashioned island is even more magical during the holidays. Star Line still runs a ferry from St. Ignace during the winter, so if you time it right you can check out the lights in town and then explore the magical island or vice versa. Festivities kick off on the island with the Mackinac Island Tree Lighting on the first Friday of December. Then, the annual Mackinac Island Christmas Bazaar runs Saturday through Monday of the first full weekend in December. The bazaar includes:

sales of crafts and homemade goods as well as both live and silent auctions of donated items and services. The weekend includes a bake sale, prime rib lunch on Sunday, ice cream sundae booth, and entertainment provided by the Mackinac Arts Council. Plus, Santa Claus will be there on the fire truck!

Beyond the festivities, Mackinac turns into a true winter wonderland: You can snowmobile, go cross-country skiing, or fat-tire biking. There are also hayrides on the New Year. Several of the hotels, bars and restaurants are still open in the winter.



In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, downtown Marquette hosts an annual holiday parade and tree lighting — and the snowy town seems to transform into the North Pole. 

There’s also The Carters’ Christmas Lights — this local family has been putting on a spectacular walk-through Christmas light display in their yard that’s open to the public for years. Check out their Facebook page to learn more.

Traverse City 

Traverse City kicks off the holiday season with their own downtown light parade in November, which includes Santa and a tree lighting. The typically snow-covered downtown shops and restaurants stay festive all December long, with tons of lights and cute decorations — and the fire department makes sure Santa makes a few more appearances (and they collect letters for him!). And, of course, you can enjoy the giant, real town Christmas tree all season long.

There’s also Christmas in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, which includes live music, carriage rides, Santa, shopping and more.

(Bonus: If you want to stick around until the New Year, the town has a huge celebration each year that includes a “cherry drop” countdown and fireworks.)


Search for more Christmas magic? Celebrate Victorian-style in Manistee! The Annual Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend is held the first weekend in December. The parade includes “horse-drawn entries, bagpipers, reindeer meet and greet and carolers elegantly dressed in Victorian style attire. The highlights of the parade are the draft horses pulling a 30 foot Christmas tree down River Street followed by a beautiful display of luminaries, caroling, and the lighting of the tree.” Throughout the “Old Christmas Weekend” there are carolers dressed in Victorian-era clothing, a food truck court, tours of historic buildings, shopping specials, festive treats, crafts, letters to Santa, live performances and more.

Christmas (Yes, Christmas MI)

Finally, you can’t forget Christmas, Michigan! Located in the Upper Peninsula near Munising, Christmas celebrates the season all year long. Every business in this tiny town has a Santa Claus theme, and as it’s in the snowiest part of the state, it truly turns into a winter wonderland. If your family likes to snowmobile, it’s definitely worth a trip.