Originally published December 5th, 2013, dates and prices have been updated to reflect 2016.
The Holiday Season is upon us once again. Not only is it my most favorite time of the year, but it’s also my most favorite time to call Michigan home. When it comes to Christmas, Michigan knows how to do it right. With so many amazing activities going on, there’s something for everyone. Every year my family makes it a point to get back to Michigan so that we can enjoy the holidays, not only with our families, but by taking in all that Michigan has to offer. I decided to share with all of you my top five picks for “must see” Christmas attractions in the Metro Detroit area to get you in the holiday spirit!
1. Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo
I’m a huge fan of Christmas lights. The bigger the display, the happier I am. So, for me, Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo is a complete must. The zoo comes to life with millions of bright LED lights everywhere you can imagine. The displays are always rather elaborate and absolutely breathtaking. While you stroll through the zoo taking in all the lights, stop and listen to some live entertainment at various parts of the park. If you have some kiddies with you, visit the arts and crafts stations for some great little gifts they can make and take home, or go grab a seat by a storyteller and listen to a Christmas tale. There’s also ice carving and Lego train displays sure to bring awe to everyone. For an additional fee there’s seasonal refreshments, like some amazing hot chocolate, as well as souvenirs and pictures with Santa. If you’re into shows there are three running during Wild Lights. There’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 4-D Experience,” a 10-minute film based on the hit animated television show Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Tickets to Wild Lights are $10 in advance for anyone 2 and up and $13 at the gate. Gates open at 5:30pm and remain open until 9:00pm on weeknights and Sundays and 10:00pm Fridays and Saturdays. Wild Lights is going on November 18-20, 25-27, and December 1-4, 8-11, 15-23, and 26-31. For more information check the site here.
2. Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village
The first time I ever went to Holiday Nights I honestly didn’t know what to expect. We had been given free tickets and I really knew nothing about it. I went with an open mind, of course, and ended up loving every minute of it. It was very cold but well worth bundling up for. Holiday Nights gives attendees the feel of going to Christmas celebrations in a town from long, long ago. There are little holiday shops and old time buildings set up throughout the village where you can see how Christmas was in the past, plus get some little goodies for friends and family (or for yourself!). There are constant events going on at the four performance stages set up around the village, including old time Christmas carolers, bands, and a fife and drum corps. If your feet start getting tired from walking around, why not hop in a horse-drawn wagon? Or, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, take a Model T for a spin. Santa also makes an appearance every night and even brings his live reindeer with him! The best part? In my opinion, it’s the amazing fireworks they have at the end of the evening, complete with a massive sing-along of popular Christmas carols. Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village is going on December 2-4, 9-11, 16-18, 20-23, and 26-30 from 6:30pm-10:00pm. Some nights are sold out so be sure to check the night you want in advance! Ticket prices range from $16.50 to $26, depending on membership and age, and there are also dinner packages included. Check here for more information and to order tickets.
3. Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland
If you’re from Michigan, it’s most likely that you’ve heard of Bronner’s since you were a little kid. But, if you have yet to check it out in person, now is the time! Yes, it’s a store that is Christmas all year long, but there’s something extra magical about going this time of year. Bronner’s has over 6,000 types of Christmas ornaments, ranging in every theme you can possibly think of. How can you NOT find something you love!? They also have 400 styles of Nativity scenes, miles of Christmas lights, and every shape and size artificial Christmas tree you can think of. The store has its own chapel, open daily for viewing and meditation. No matter what your religious background is, it’s a very beautiful chapel worth checking out. If you do go visit, be sure to stick around for the evening when the whole area comes to life with a beautiful ½ mile long light display. I promise you’ll be glad you made the trip! For directions, visit the Bronner’s site.
4. Campus Martius Park
I know the city of Detroit doesn’t always get the best rep but, what many people don’t know, is it has a little Christmas gem right in the middle of downtown. That gem is Campus Martius Park. The park is there year round but it really comes to life at Christmas time. It is one of the best ice skating rinks in the Metro Detroit area. Not to mention, the beautiful Christmas lights and 60 foot tree surrounding it make the rink seem like a magical place. The rink is open Monday-Thursday 11am-10pm, Friday 11am-midnight, Saturday 10am-midnight, and Sunday 12pm-8pm. Admission is $8 for adults and $7 for children 12 and under and seniors 50 and older. If you need to rent skates, they have those for just $3. They even have shoe check and skate sharpening, both for an additional fee. For a list of what’s going on at the park and for more information, visit their site here.
5. Lake Shore Drive
As a kid growing up in Metro Detroit, one of my parents’ favorite things to do was get in the car and drive around looking at the Christmas lights in the area. We saw a lot of great displays but the area that always blew me away was Lake Shore Drive in Grosse Pointe. The houses are so huge and impressive to begin with that when you add lights to them, they become like something out of a movie. Some of the houses have a theme for their light displays, others are set to music, and all are incredible. The best part is that it doesn’t cost you anything to drive around, perhaps with some hot chocolate and Christmas music, and take it all in.
If you live in the Metro Detroit area, or want to make a little road trip, I highly recommend doing at least one of these activities this holiday season. I promise you won’t regret it at all! Can you think of another activity worth noting? Feel free to share in the comments section! From my family to yours, have a truly merry Christmas and a fantastic New Year.
Kati Bethuy, Contributing Writer