The days may be short and dark during a Michigan December, but the holiday season is full of bright possibilities in Grand Rapids. Each year, residents and visitors from afar journey to enjoy brilliant light displays, and delightful Christmas holiday events in Grand Rapids.
For a traditional European Christmas Market in West Michigan head to the Christkindl Markt. New to Grand Rapids in 2023, the Christkindl Markt is full of festive decor, artisan gift stalls, food vendors, and holiday entertainment.
Awesome Mitten Creator Corinne Bass loved her experience at the market:
“I visited the Christkindl Markt in downtown Grand Rapids, and you should too!
If you want to feel like you’re wandering around a little European Christmas Village, this is the place for you. There are dozens of local businesses to support, from upcycled wool sweaters to Michigan Christmas cutting boards.
Come hungry—there are plenty of food options! I tried the traditional Raclette, a toasted baguette filled with melted Alpine cheese, spring onions, baby gherkins, and Dijon mustard—but there’s more where that came from!🤤
Here’s a list of tasty treats you’ll find at Christkindl 👇
- Sausage and Potato Pancakes
- Hot Soup
Not to mention the fudge and candy! You’ll also get to drink Glühwein out of an adorable Christkindl mug! Remember to bring your mug back with you next time you go for cheaper refills on beer, Glühwein, cider, and hot chocolate.
Warm up to hot cocoa and enjoy live, festive music while immersing yourself in the holiday spirit. ❄️”Awesome Mitten Creator Corinne Bass
The City of Grand Rapids welcomes the big man himself every year with a festive parade that takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving. This annual event has long delighted the hearts of people of all ages in Grand Rapids.
It consists of local marching bands playing Christmas carols, a parade of reindeer strolling through the town, young people singing holiday tunes, and of course, Santa Claus arriving in his sleigh to greet the people of Grand Rapids.
After the parade is complete, children are invited to meet with Santa Claus and share their wishes for the holiday season.
The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is transformed during the holiday season into a breathtaking attraction that pays homage to the many winter holidays that celebrate the need for light during the darkness.
The exhibition begins each year in late November and extends through early January, giving you the opportunity to find the right time to visit during the hectic holiday season.
In the indoor atrium, you are able to wander through the most magical and beautiful Christmas trees that are decorated in an elegant and traditional fashion, as well as explore the cultural exhibits that are located in the Railway Garden.
Those who want to step outdoors into the chilly night air will be rewarded with lighted wintertime walks and new displays to discover around every corner.
For a holiday event that you can enjoy without having to leave the comfort of your own vehicle, consider The Christmas Lite Show in Comstock Park. This drive-thru light show in Michigan is one of the most popular of its kind in the Grand Rapids area.
It begins at the LMCU Ballpark with a route that stretches for more than 2 miles. You will enjoy more than 1 million lights along the way, with attractions including animated displays and mystical lighted tunnels.
As an alternative option, this drive-thru attraction offers a Memory Lane Train. Families can book a ticket on this open-air train and enjoy unique transportation through the light show.
For 25 years, this light show has been helping families make holiday memories in Grand Rapids. It typically begins in late November and concludes on New Year’s Day.
Woodland Mall’s Santa Arrival
Nothing quite beats the excitement and anticipation of meeting Santa at the local mall, and Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids does not disappoint. Each year, Woodland Mall welcomes the arrival of Santa with a miniature parade that winds through the mall’s courtyard area.
The event traditionally takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving and includes performances by the local dance team, character meet-and-greets, and of course, Santa’s magnificent and magical arrival on an electric train.
Once Santa is situated, he is ready to meet all of the youngsters who want to share their wish lists and have their annual photographs taken.
“The Nutcracker” at DeVos Performance Hall
Each year, the Grand Rapids Ballet performs the traditional holiday show “The Nutcracker” for audiences in West Michigan. The performances typically take place over two weekends in December, allowing you to find a time that is right for you.
This captivating performance has become a tradition in its own right in Grand Rapids, with many people returning year after year to be swept away into the magical, dreamlike world of “The Nutcracker.” Blending modern composition with classical music, this rendition is not to be missed.
Holiday Concerts & Performances
Every year, it seems that there are new and exciting holiday concerts and performances to enjoy in Grand Rapids. With so many special events to choose from, it could be hard for you to narrow down which tickets you want to purchase to elevate your holiday celebrations.
Examples of holiday concerts and performances that take place each year include:
- Trans-Siberian Orchestra concerts
- Grand Rapids Symphony holiday performances
- Candlelight Concerts of holiday songs
- Cirque Dreams Holidaze
Mingle with Kris Kringle is a holiday parade that traditionally takes place the first weekend of December in Cedar Springs.
Sponsored and organized by the Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, this parade attempts to incorporate families, residents, businesses, and charitable organizations into one fabulous holiday event.
The parade provides an opportunity to see Santa Claus and spend some time with him, but it also includes a variety of other elements, such as cookie decorating, story time with Mrs. Claus, character greetings, petting farm visits, ornament hanging, and more.
The holiday fun culminates with a nativity story and a tree-lighting ceremony before giving young children a chance to get their pictures taken with Santa Claus.
The story of the first Christmas is hard to imagine, especially since it took place more than 2,000 years ago. CranHill Ranch in Rodney attempts to bring the nativity to life through its Living Nativity performances.
The Star of Wonder: Journey to the Manger presentation is a free, family-friendly event that welcomes anyone who is interested in witnessing and imagining what it might have been like on that first Christmas night in a simple manger in Bethlehem.
This drive-thru event is presented during the first weekend of December, and it includes live performances by actors and animals. Lights and narration throughout the experience ensure that everyone experiences the story and enjoys the moment as they focus on the reason for the season.
The BYOB Holiday Lights Trolley is an innovative holiday event designed for adults in the Grand Rapids area who want to add a touch of spirit to their festive celebrations. The trolley tour will take you to a variety of holiday events in the area via a vintage trolley car.
Some of the stops on the tour may include holiday light displays in local neighborhoods, the Christmas Lite Show, the Grand Rapids Christmas tree, and more. The stops vary based on the tour, so no two experiences are the same.
NOTE: This tour experience is reserved for guests over the age of 21 because all riders are allowed to bring their favorite alcoholic beverages to enjoy throughout the evening.
Horse-drawn carriage rides are available every weekend in downtown Grand Rapids no matter the time of year. However, there is no better time to embark on one of these nostalgic and magical excursions than during the holiday season.
The carriage rides begin near the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, and you will enjoy a peaceful, quiet journey through the streets of downtown. At Christmastime, the holiday lights look particularly enchanting, especially if there is snow falling softly around them as you enjoy the tour of the city.
Both half-hour and one-hour rides are available, and while there is sometimes walk-up availability, reservations are recommended.
In the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, locals and visitors can glide through the holiday season at the Rosa Parks Circle Ice Rink. This seasonal ice rink opens up in late November or early December, depending on weather conditions, and usually closes by the middle of January each year.
With holiday lights illuminating the rink and Christmas carols creating a lively ambiance, the young and the young at heart can enjoy a timeless tradition.
If you are hoping to incorporate this into your holiday plans in Grand Rapids, plan ahead. Reservations are highly recommended, as there is very limited walk-up availability on any given night.
Enjoy the Best Christmas Holiday Events in Grand Rapids
As you twirl and whirl your way through another holiday season in Grand Rapids, be sure to soak up the moments at these fantastic community events.
These festivities are designed for people of all ages — from the youngest kids who need to read their wish lists to Santa to those who still have that twinkle in their eye thinking of the magic of Christmas Eve.
No matter what you love to do or who you enjoy spending your time with, you are sure to make magical memories at these Christmas holiday events in Grand Rapids. Plus, there are tons of other winter things to do in Grand Rapids Michigan.