Sonic Runway At World Of Winter Grand Rapids
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World of Winter Grand Rapids 2024: Everything You Need to Know

With a goal of making Grand Rapids Michigan a more winter-friendly city, the World of Winter festival provides free outdoor art and entertainment for all ages.

This Michigan winter festival certainly brings light and joy to the cold winter months while it runs from January through early March! For 2024, art instillations will be on display from January 12 – March 10.

Grand Legacy Mural Immersive Experience At World Of Winter Grand Rapids
Grand Legacy Mural Immersive Experience at World of Winter Grand Rapids | photo via Leah Tennant

World of Winter Grand Rapids 2024 Highlights

  • 4 tips before you go
  • 5 must-see World of Winter locations
  • Special events to enjoy at the festival

4 Tips Before You Go

1. Plan your visit around the amount of daylight or darkness you prefer.

Although all the outdoor art can be viewed during the daylight, most of the displays really come alive in the dark. Use an online sunset tool like this one that shows the exact time of sunset and the last light on the day you plan to visit.

Visiting around sunset is a great strategy for the best of both worlds — seeing some displays in the lingering daylight and others against the backdrop of a dark sky.

2. Map out your path.

Review the World of Winter map for all of the art exhibits beforehand so that you don’t miss any of your favorites. Check out the highlights below from my recent visit.

3. Bundle up.

Winter in Michigan can be harsh, especially in the evening after the sun goes down. Our family of both adults and children bundled up in snow pants, winter coats, boots, hats, gloves, and scarves to stay warm.

4. Consider pairing World of Winter with an indoor activity.

While you’re downtown, make the most of your experience. Consider visiting a local museum during the day or indulging at one of the many amazing restaurants in Grand Rapids before exploring World of Winter.

Our family loves a visit to the Grand Rapids Public Museum, which is conveniently located by the Blue Bridge.

Permafrost At World Of Winter Grand Rapids
Permafrost at World of Winter Grand Rapids | photo via Leah Tennant

5 Must-See World of Winter Grand Rapids Locations

While there are displays all throughout downtown Grand Rapids, the heart of the World of Winter exhibits tend to be located along these pedestrian bridges and surrounding areas.

  • Blue Bridge
  • Ah-Nab-Awen Park
  • Gillett Bridge
  • Calder Plaza
  • Sixth Street Park

If you want to see most of the main outdoor art exhibits, start in Ah-Nab-Awen Park. The two bridges and Ah-Nab-Awen Park are all easily within walking distance from each other.

Walking to Calder Plaza and Sixth Street Park add another mile each way to your route. It’s an invigorating but challenging walk in the cold.

Our kids, ages 5 & 8, did surprisingly well walking for an hour and a half in the cold, although they were definitely tired by the time we got back to the car.

For an easier walking experience, you may want to consider driving around to different locations or making multiple visits to the festival and seeing new areas each time.

Blue Bridge

An iconic spot for Grand Rapids photography, the Blue Bridge provides a picturesque location for showcasing lively art installations. The 2024 exhibits include:

  • Permafrost: A set of three glowing Mastodons crafted from glass and metal provide colorful art and a history lesson. Scan the QR code by Permafrost to learn about the local Mastodon discovery recently made in Grand Rapids!
  • Massimals: A family of five brightly colored wooden bears, Massimals is a great exhibit if you visit during daylight hours.
Stargate At World Of Winter Grand Rapids | Photo Via Leah Tennant
Stargate at World of Winter Grand Rapids | photo via Leah Tennant

Ah-Nab-Awen Park 

The rolling hillside of Ah-Nab-Awen Park provides plenty of space along the Grand River to showcase World of Winter art. The 2024 exhibits at Ah-Nab-Awen Park include:

  • Stargate: A truly mesmerizing work of art, a projector displays slowly morphing visuals on the Stargate sculpture in time with ambient music.
  • Night Walkers: Eight inflatable large frogs have made their way to Ah-Nab-Awen park. Each frog has a lighted sign with fun facts and a button to press to light up the instillation. A fun interactive exhibit any animal fans will enjoy.
  • The Singing Tree: The Singing Tree’s dangling lights flash in response to singing voices or any random noises. Howling like a wolf lit up the tree the most out of any noises we made!
Night Walkers At World Of Winter Grand Rapids
Night Walkers at World of Winter Grand Rapids | photo via Leah Tennant

Gillett Bridge

With lighted, curved archways accenting the Grand River, the pedestrian Gillett Bridge is another prime art spot at the World of Winter festival. In 2024, you can see:

  • Grand Legacy Mural Immersive Experience: Stroll under the Gillett Bridge to take in the sights of detailed murals while listening to a recorded narration of Grand Rapids’ rich history.
  • Sonic Runway: Walk in time to the music under the strobe lights of the Sonic Runway. A fun exhibit sure to be a hit for all ages!

Note: Sonic Runway features flashing strobe lights. Visitors with epilepsy and light sensitivity should use caution with this instillation.

Sonic Runway At World Of Winter Grand Rapids
Sonic Runway at World of Winter Grand Rapids | photo via Leah Tennant

Calder Plaza

Featuring the iconic La Grande Vitesse sculpture, Calder Plaza provides another amazing location for art installations. Plus, several of the World of Winter special events take place here. Exhibits in 2024 include:

  • The Shoveler: A life-sized push puppet with a shovel and pile of snow, the Shoveler makes a charming kinetic art instillation.
  • Dandelion: Walk inside a musical dome and delight in an immersive 10 minute light and music show.
Manidoo Bawating At The World Of Winter Festival In Grand Rapids, Michigan
Manidoo Bawating at World of Winter | photo via Leah Tennant

Sixth Street Park

On the east side of the Grand River, Sixth Street Park is a great place to walk along the paved Riveredge Trail and to enjoy some local art. The 2024 art instillations include:

  • Manidoo Bawating: With a name that means “Spirit of the Rapids,” this lighted steel sculpture honors the symbols of the indigenous Anishinaabe people local to Grand Rapids.
  • Kalopieron: Step inside an interactive human-size kaleidoscope made from galvanized steel and illuminated with LED lights. Fascinating to experience either in the daylight or at night.
  • Icicle Lanterns: Sustainably made from reclaimed silk, these lighted icicle lanterns make a delightful display among the park’s trees.

Special Events Throughout the Festival

In addition to the outdoor art displays, these special activities and events add even more fun to your visit:

  • Scavenger Hunt: Download the GooseChase app, create a team, and complete photo challenges and trivia questions. 
  • Performing Arts: From a Fire & Ice show to a Circus Wonderland, World of Winter hosts some fantastic performers.
  • Games: Check out the Ice Park or the Human Hungry Hippo Tournament for icy fun and games.
  • Black History Walking Tours: Learn about remarkable African American people, places, and events in Grand Rapids on various dates.
  • Valent-ICE: This is a week-long display of dozens of ice sculptures throughout the city.

Check out the whole World of Winter special events calendar to plan your visit.

A Unique Way to Spend a Winter Evening

If you are looking for a way to add some festive fun to a cold winter evening, the World of Winter Grand Rapids festival is sure to brighten your night.

One Comment

  1. thanks for sharing as I no longer can get out into the winter scenes with my wheelchair! I LOVE seeing these amazing photos of the ARTs in Grand Rapids (or anywhere actually)

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