Cities and villages throughout our state are unique and inviting all year long, but especially during the holiday and winter season. Tradition and creativity swirl together in events that draw in visitors and remind residents why they love their community. Families look forward to their hometown celebrations every year, and as children grow to adulthood, they merrily continue the custom with their own young ones.
These holiday celebrations are as varied as the sizes of Michigan cities. In Detroit, the holiday season begins with America’s Thanksgiving Parade. Hundreds of thousands of people line Woodward Avenue to watch larger than life floats, colorful helium-filled balloons and amazing marching bands, while millions more tune in on TV. Another Detroit favorite is Noel Night, held in Midtown’s Cultural Center area. Thousands of people gather for free musical performances, art, and holiday shopping at places like the Detroit Institute of Arts, Charles Wright Museum of African American History, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Some cities extend their holiday revelry over several weeks. In Allegan, December’s Festive Fridays have long been filled with small town holiday fun, including a parade, Downtown Stocking Hop, and horse-drawn wagon rides. With assistance from the League’s PlacePOP service, this year’s activities got a new twist with pop-up retail shops offering everything from sweets and jewelry to art, music, and Christmas decorations. In Bay City, Sundays become an extra special day throughout November and December. Sundays in the City offer great holiday memories with strolling carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides, holiday movies at the State Theatre, the Festival of Wreaths, and Santa Bucks good for discounts at local businesses.
Other cities pack a ton of fun into a shorter time period. For one magical night, the Chesaning Christmas Candlewalk puts a special glow on the village. The streets are lined with luminaries, and options range from live Christmas music and roasted chestnuts to cookie decorating, a Festival of Trees, and holiday shopping. Manistee’s celebration allows you to take a step back in time. Their Victorian Sleighbell Parade & Old Christmas Weekend features carolers dressed in Victorian style attire, bagpipers, a reindeer meet and greet, and a parade highlighted by draft horses pulling a 30-foot Christmas tree down River Street followed by beautiful fireworks. Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown Kindlefest centers on the city’s farmers market. The free outdoor holiday market showcases local and regional artisans and farmers selling hand-crafted ornaments, toys, and gifts, as well as German food and beverages. Guests can also enjoy live music, fire pits, s’more roasting, and a colorful Lantern Parade through the neighborhood.
Putting things into motion is the theme at other holiday events. Grand Rapids gets people moving with the annual Whoville 5K. Runners get a chance to race the Grinch to Mt. Crumpit. The sweet finish in Whoville features hot chocolate and chocolate fountain goodies. Fowlerville’s Christmas in the ‘Ville also gets people on their feet with their 5K Dashing through the Snow and 1K fun walk for kids. Hot air balloons are also on the move as they fill the night sky with a glow that can be seen for miles.
New Year’s Eve
Michigan communities also shine when it comes to ringing in the New Year. On the west side of the state, Ludington’s Lighted Ball Drop is part of their Light Up the Lake event. Guests can enjoy family-oriented parties, an entertainment tent with music, a fireworks display, and an amazing ball that’s more than six feet in diameter and lit by 6.000 LED lights. In the U.P., Marquette’s family-friendly Downtown Ball Drop draws in people from miles around to share in the magic of the twelfth strike marking the beginning of 2016. Midland’s Midnight on Main festivities include a craft beer garden, live music, and an outdoor game pit area featuring human foosball. The highlight of the night is the Times Square-style ball drop capped off with a climactic fireworks display. Traverse City puts their own unique flavor on celebrating the New Year. Their amazing street party, complete with live music and entertainment, ends with the New Year’s Eve CherryT Ball Drop, where a massive illuminated cherry is lowered to signify the coming year.
Triumph Over the Winter Doldrums
Snow falls for months in Michigan, but we don’t let it get us down. We find lots of ways to enjoy the fluffy white stuff! Plymouth starts off the new year with the Plymouth Ice Festival, a world-class event that’s exciting and fun for the whole family. Amazing ice sculptures line the streets of downtown Plymouth. Enjoy carving competitions, dueling chainsaws, and a dazzling fire and ice display along with live music, wintertime festival food, and a Hot Spot to warm up in style. Ice is also a big feature at the Oakland County Fire & Ice Festival in Rochester. The weekend is filled with cross-country skiing, dog sled rides, ice sculpture gardens, snow tubing, showshoeing, and a spectacular fireworks show.
Need to work off some of those holiday cookies? Try these action-oriented events. In Traverse City, the Bigfoot Snowshoe Race 5K & 10K heads out over a super hilly off-trail run with plenty of logs to jump and branches to duck. It’s also the Midwest qualifier for the National Championship Snowshoe Race. Mackinaw City turns snow into art at their Winter Fest. Amateur and professional snow sculpting competitions delight visitors, along with sleigh and wagon rides, outhouse races, ice fishing contest, chili cookoff, and more. And the Indian River Winterfest is a community-wide celebration of the winter season. Guests can enjoy everything from a snow art competition and ice bowling to races with ice kayaks and snowmobiles.
All of these holiday and winter activities give us – and you – even more reasons to say “We love where you live!”