When wintertime comes around, the Great Lakes Bay region of Michigan comes alive with numerous holiday events and attractions. With so many events around the region, there’s no shortage of fun to be had, whether you’re keeping warm inside or taking in the festivities outdoors.
Best Christmas-y Things to Do in Saginaw
A big part of kicking off the Christmas season every year is getting and setting up a Christmas tree at home. If you’re looking for a live tree, Kluck Nursery is the place to go. This tree farm offers locally grown, quality trees.
The tree experts there will make a perfect cut at the bottom so you have a straight tree at home, they’ll tie it up for you, and Kluck also offers tree recycling when the season ends.
While you’re there, check out the annual yule fire, which burns the day after Thanksgiving until the end of the season.
Any fan of Christmas events and traditions loves ringing in the holidays with a performance of The Nutcracker. The Temple Theatre has hosted the Moscow Ballet in years past with a performance that delights fans of all ages.
It’s easy to get into the holiday spirit watching the Rat King, the dancing fairies and the Kissy Doll take over the stage. The theatre has also hosted open auditions for kids 6-18 to perform in some of the roles of children in the show.
Those looking to celebrate the season can take a trip back to Bethlehem to see the story of the nativity. Visitors can hear shepherds talk of the angels’ proclamation and see the baby Jesus asleep in the manager.
While you’re in Saginaw, check out the annual Holidays in the Heart of the City event. It begins with a tree lighting ceremony and ends with fireworks.
Past events have included free concerts, free admission to the Saginaw Children’s Zoo, a downtown farmer’s market, free horse-drawn wagon rides, visits from Santa, and marching bands.
Elf, the story of a human raised by elves starring Will Ferrell, has fast become a beloved Christmas movie. This musical at Pit and Balcony Theatre in Saginaw tells that story in musical form as Buddy the Elf travels to New York City to seek out his father.
Kids will delight in the story, but it also tells an important story about family and the meaning of Christmas.
Best Holidays Things to Do in Bay City
For youngsters wanting to see Santa, this is the perfect event to kick off the holidays in downtown Bay City. The Man in the Red Suit puts on a special performance and meets with eager children.
There are also refreshments, food trucks, and a tree lighting ceremony. Attendees can pay a small fee for carriage rides and free ice asking is also available.
Best Christmas-y Things to Do in Midland
The annual Midland Santa Holiday Parade has welcomed the holiday season every year since 1985 the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The parade has a different theme every year.
The parade route begins at Midland High School and ends on Main Street, at which point judges declare the parade float winners.
For lovers of Christmas trees, this is a must-attend event. At the Festival of Trees, you’ll see more than 100 fantastically decorated Christmas trees. Wreaths are also donated by members of the community and raffled off to event attendees.
Believe it or not, this event brings over 5,000 guests every year. Proceeds from the event support the Junior League of the Great Lakes Bay Region, which promotes volunteerism.
Folks looking to do some holiday shopping can do so during this event in downtown Midland, where they can enjoy some great savings from local businesses and even take free horse and carriage rides.
For fans of the Christmas song, or the 1960s TV special, this a great way to usher in the Christmas season. Fans of the TV special will recognize all their favorite characters, including Rudolph, Santa, Hermey the Elf, and Yukon Cornelius.
Kids will delight in the show as they learn the important life lesson that being different makes you special. There are multiple performances in November and December, so you catch it multiple times if you want to.
After taking in the sites and sounds of Midland’s annual holiday parade, you can warm up and visit local businesses for some hot drinks. Each participating business puts its own spin on steamy, hot cocoa and you can enjoy a complimentary cup of each one while browsing local shops.
You can also vote for which cocoa you like best, giving one local shop bragging rights for a year. Between the parade, and the cocoa, and the chance to shop, you can get a lot done and have a lot of fun in one day.
Santa’s Reindeer Farm
Kids of all ages will delight in visiting this Midland farm during the hustle and bustle of the holidays. For youngsters who delight in the magic of Santa Claus, they’ll get a chance to see how The Big Man preps himself and his reindeer for their big Christmas ride.
Kids can meet Santa and his reindeer in training at this event and even drop off their letters to Santa. Kids 4 and younger are free, but for $12.75, older kids will also get to meet Santa and take home an ornament they make with the resident woodworker.
For those wanting to celebrate the season with something active, check out the Jingle Bell Fun Run Walk in downtown Midland. This free, one-mile begins on the corner of Ashman and Main Streets and is put on with fun in mind.
The race isn’t timed and participants are encouraged to dress in festive gear including Santa hats, Christmas sweaters, and festive socks. Every racer gets a jingle bell necklace to wear, so the spirit of the holidays is definitely in the air. Dogs and strollers are encouraged, making this a fun event for the whole family.
Christmas at the Pines
Visitors can celebrate the season at the Pines of Dow Gardens where they’ll see a rolling winter landscape and beautiful trees at the National Landmark. Attendees can delight all of their senses with stories of Christmas past, refreshments, and the smell of fresh garland.
Best Holiday Things to Do in Bridgeport
For those looking to celebrate Christmas a little differently this year, check out the annual Pioneer Christmas at the Bridgeport Historical Village, an annual tradition for over 30 years. Pioneer Christmas activities include kids’ activities in the schoolhouse, a sing-a-long in the old town hall, and crafting at the Hannay House.
In past years, Santa has handed out candy to kids and the Nativity Scene is also presented. While you’re there, you can also check out pioneer artifacts, and some of their preserved model cars.
Best Christmas-y Things to Do in Frankenmuth
No Christmas celebration in the Mitten State is complete without a trip to the state’s biggest Christmas store. Across two acres you’ll find anything and everything you could possibly ever want or need to decorate for the holidays. More than half of the store is stretched wall to wall with ornaments of all shapes, sizes, and interests.
Even if you’re not looking to stock up on decor, odds are you’ll walk out with something you can hang on your Christmas tree or add to your collection of decorations.
This annual Frankenmuth Christmas market promises all new changes and will take place on three consecutive weekends starting the day after Thanksgiving.
The market is modeled after those traditionally held in Germany, and brings together talented artisans who sell all sorts of homemade goods and gifts. With more than 40 vendors every year, you’re sure to find the perfect gift for family and friends.
Holiday Light Displays in the Great Lakes Bay Region
Another fun part of welcoming the holiday season is checking out light displays. Around the Great Lakes Bay Region, you can see fantastic displays. In Midland, you can visit Dow Gardens and participate in the Christmas Walk. There you’ll see bright lights and Santa’s reindeer while sipping on a warm drink.
Drive-thru Light Tours
Many towns in the Great Lakes Bay Region have drive-thru light tours, including the Little Bavaria Little Driving Tour in Frankenmuth. But holiday light tours can also be self-made if there are areas in your community that go all out with Christmas decorations, make a point to have a fun family night driving around looking at lights.
Check social media and your local area’s event websites to check the dates and times of any light tours. Make sure to stock your car with everything you’ll need, including a full gas tank, warm blankets, and warm beverages. Having some Christmas music playing in the car as you drive around is a nice touch too.
Best Christmas-y Things to Do in Chesaning
Another awesome display of lights in the Great Lakes Bay Region can be found in Chesaning at the Candle Walk. The streets are lined with brightly colored lights, gingerbread houses line the storefronts and the walking path in Cole Park is lined with inflatable decorations.
Near the village offices, visitors will find numerous craft and food vendors. If the weather cooperates, there are also horse-drawn carriage rides and live reindeer on display.
Chesaning visitors can also check out the annual tree lighting and a newer, unique event: the golf cart parade. At Showboat Park, holiday-decorated golf carts are on display, and prizes are awarded for the best-decorated golf cart.
More Winter Fun in East Michigan
With so many wonderful and fun Christmas events going on in the Great Lakes Bay Region, the only limit on the fun you’ll have this holiday season might be your schedule. No matter where you live or where you are, chances are good that you’re not too far from a fun holiday event, holiday shopping destinations, or winter things to do in East Michigan.