If you’re someone who loves getting in the holiday spirit before the calendar hits December, then you need to put Lansing’s Silver Bells in the City on your bucket list this winter.
Over 80,000 people come to the city to enjoy an electric light parade, music and dance performances, holiday shopping, the lighting of the official State of Michigan Christmas tree, and fireworks.
With the magic feeling of the holidays in the air and lots of fun events to participate in, Silver Bells in the City is a fun time for attendees of all ages. Plan for a full night of activity and take advantage of all the event has to offer.
I have personally been to the festival eight times – four years as a marching band parade performer and four years as an attendee while my sister was in the band.
If you’re planning on attending Silver Bells in the City, here’s our helpful guide for what you need to know.
Getting to Know Silver Bells in the City
Since its beginning in 1984, Silver Bells in the City has been one of the best extravaganzas around for Michiganders to get into the holiday spirit.
What began as a modest event with a few thousand attendees has now become a full-blown celebration of winter with plenty of great events, good food, and good vibes.
Tips for Attending Silver Bells in the City
Silver Bells in the City is such a fun event that thousands of people look forward to every year. But because there are thousands of people attending, it’s helpful to have a plan to make the evening a fun, safe one.
Getting to Silver Bells in the City
With 80,000 people coming into town, you can imagine that parking is a hot commodity. Luckily, some of the City of Lansing parking ramps and surface lots are free. If you don’t want to mess around with trying to find parking, here are some alternative options:
- Carpool – Meet up with friends and family outside of the city and carpool in for the festival. This saves the hassle of finding your friends in the crowd, and you only have to find one parking space.
- Take CATA – Ride the bus for just a small fee or use a CATA fixed-route pass, and receive a boarding pass for use on all Silver Bells route buses throughout the event. Children 42” tall and under ride for free.
- Park & Ride – Park in the Michigan Historical Museum parking lot and ride a special CATA Silver Bells route to the parade and entertainment sites.
- Take a cab – Avoid parking altogether by taking a cab or Uber downtown.
When is Silver Bells in the City?
The 39th annual event takes place on Nov. 17, 2023.
Where is the event?
The event takes place in downtown Lansing.
How much does the event cost?
Events like the fireworks display and parade are free, but bring money for refreshments and shopping at Silver Bells Village.
Plan Ahead and Arrive Early
Some of my favorite memories from Silver Bells in the City were before the event even started. I would meet my family members for an early dinner/happy hour at one of the many restaurants downtown.
We would beat the crowds to find a parking space, and enjoy some holiday spirits and quality time before venturing out into the crowds.Katie Kelly
If you’re meeting up with anyone downtown, have a plan for where to meet so that you don’t have to rely on cell phone service. Keep in mind that as soon as the parade is finished the crowds stream towards the Capitol, making it difficult to move in the opposite direction.
If you’re meeting someone after the event, consider meeting on a side street or a couple of blocks from the Capitol.
Make Sure to Dress Warm
Silver Bells in the City is a rain-or-shine event, I can’t reiterate this enough. Dress warmly.
In eight years, I never truly felt like I got this right. I have always felt cold. (Granted, during my marching band days there were only so many layers that could go under our uniforms.)Katie Kelly
If you plan on grabbing dinner at a restaurant, dress in layers so you can add warmth when you go out for the parade. Warm boots, gloves, and a hat are your friends! Hand warmers are a nice bonus too.
By preparing for cold, rain, snow, or whatever else Mother Nature tries to send your way, you won’t hamper your enjoyment of the night’s events.
Be A Parade-Watching Pro
It inevitably happens every year. As crowds grow, the parade-goers crowd into the street to get a better view.
As the parade approaches, police officers and parade volunteers have to force the crowds back for their own safety, and the safety of the performers, as floats and marching bands go by.
As a former color guard member of a marching band, I have one request: please stay back on the sidewalk. Marching bands in this parade often dance down the street. Members may move closer to the crowd at times, and color guard flagpoles sometimes swing out during routines.Katie Kelly
Please help parade performers by keeping children safely back on the sidewalk. And if you see children around you, consider allowing them to stand in front so they can see the Christmas magic more easily.
Enjoy All of the Wonderful Holiday Events
There are many events and activities as part of Silver Bells in the City and the best way to make the most of your time at the event is to make plans to enjoy it all.
Shop at Silver Bells Village
If you haven’t started your holiday shopping, Silver Bells Village is the perfect spot to start. The village features vendors from throughout the state and is set up on the 100 block of E. Allegan Street between Grand Avenue and South Washington Square.
Start off by getting some refreshments like food truck goodies, cinnamon-roasted nuts, cotton candy, kettle corn, and baked goods. Once you’ve got your snack in hand, take a leisurely stroll and take a look at the many fine items available for sale. These wonderful items include jewelry, woodwork, holiday decorations, soaps, and more.
Even if you’re not up for shopping til you drop, you can still ring in the holidays with the event’s annual Christmas ornament. The ornaments are a great keepsake, especially if you attend every year, and are crafted by a local artist.
See the Spectacular Electric Light Parade
The holidays are all about celebrating with parades and Silver Bells in the City gets visitors into the holiday spirit with the Electric Light Parade.
The parade starts at 6 p.m. at the corner of South Washington Square and Lenawee Street. The streets will sparkle as thousands of lights make their way through the streets of downtown Lansing Michigan.
Several marching bands also take part in the parade and compete for Best Illuminated Band Awards, so there’s plenty of illumination and music in the air.
Watch the Official Tree Lighting
Beginning around 7:25 p.m., the Official State of Michigan Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony. This year’s magnificent tree is a 63-foot spruce that’s harvested in St. Johns. There’s just something exciting about the countdown to the lighting and the brilliant colors once the tree is fully lighted.
Take Part in the Community Sing
Starting just after the tree lighting ceremony, downtown gatherers are invited to take part in a community sing as Jacob Moran takes the stage. Moran is a Lansing-area native and recently competed in “American Idol.”
Marvel at the Firefly Drone Holiday Light Show
If you thought the tree lighting and community sing were fun, make sure to stay put and watch the Firefly Drone Holiday Light Show. This is a recent addition to the Silver Bells festivities and sees 200 drones lighting up the night sky and creating marvelous displays, all set to music. The light show begins around 7:35 p.m.
Stick Around for the Fireworks Show
What’s a winter celebration without some fireworks? Assuming the weather cooperates, this awesome fireworks display is the perfect way to end a night of fun. The display starts around 7:50 p.m.
Enjoy the Festivities Virtually
If going out for the festivities is not your cup of tea, stay in and have a Silver Bells party of your own! The parade is broadcast live from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Fox 47 and local Comcast Channel 12.
Make It a Weekend of Holiday Fun
After a night of fun events at Silver Bells in the City, you won’t be able to take the smile off your face. But guess what? The fun doesn’t have to end on Friday. Stick around the Lansing area and take part in other wonderful events going on.
Celebrate Silver Bells in the City the morning after all the festivities by participating in this fun 5K. Runners can run or walk a marked 5K course winding through downtown Lansing or participate virtually.
All runners will get a medal, a T-shirt, and a commemorative bib. Feel fill to get into the holiday spirit by dressing up too.
See the Wonders of the Wonderland of Lights
For years, the Wonderland of Lights at Potter Park Zoo has delighted visitors of all ages. Thousands of lights adorn the pathways and animal exhibits in unique holiday displays. Enjoy cookies, crafts, and animal encounters, with live entertainment.
Make Plans to Attend Silver Bells in the City
Rain or shine, cold or warm, making plans to attend Silver Bells in the City is one of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit this winter.
With thousands of lights shining brightly, a warm drink in your hand, music in the air, and plenty to see and do, you won’t want to miss a single minute of the fun.
So pull out your winter coat, call your friends and family, make plans to meet up, and go have fun. By the end of the night, the only question you’ll ask is, when is next year’s event?
Thanks to Katie Kelly for her contributions to this article.