After the past couple of years we’ve had, I’m really looking forward to basking in the joys of the holiday season from start to finish. Each year, Santa seems to start visiting towns earlier and earlier, but this time I’m happy about it. If you are too, and want to start harnessing the Christmas spirit, attend a November celebration. Your own community may be hosting a sing-along, tree or street lighting, or a parade, but if not, these are some of the best in the state. Don’t forget to pop into small shops and enjoy a bite in a local eatery while you’re nearby. Every dollar we spend in our state really counts this year!
November 19 Silver Bells in the City in Lansing
Lansing locals love it, yet this is almost a party for the whole state with the Capitol as a backdrop. You can start off by shopping at the Silver Bells Village, which is made up of local vendors. Then pick your spot for the Electric Light Parade, which begins at 6 pm. After the parade, cheer as the state’s official Christmas Tree is lit, and join in on a community singalong led by former NBC’s The Voice contestant, and Detroit’s own, Zania Alaké. This year, weather permitting, the evening will end with an amazing Firefly Drone Light Show illuminating the sky.
November 19 Annual Detroit Tree Lighting at Campus Martius Park
The Motor City does take on a certain unique charm during the holiday season, and it really begins with this unforgettable night. You can enjoy spectacular live entertainment with Olympic figure skaters, skating clubs, and award-winning local performers, not to mention horse-drawn carriage rides, holiday shopping, hot chocolate giveaways, food trucks, and visits with the very busy Mr. Kringle.
All the festivities will center around a Michigan-grown, 65-foot Norway spruce that is taller and brighter than any previous year. It will be decked with ornaments and illuminated by 20,000 shimmering LED multi-colored lights when Santa and some friends turn it on a 7 pm. If all of that isn’t reason enough to join in, Detroit’s Queen of the Blues, Thornetta Davis, will be on hand with vocals that will knock your socks off.
November 22 Lagniappe in Rochester
Traditionally, a lagniappe is some kind of small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase. However, if you head to Downtown Rochester on November 22, it’s much more than that. Indeed, from 6pm-9pm, the merchants will be offering customers tokens of appreciation for their support throughout the year. Elves have been covering the buildings downtown with over 1.5 million lights that have yet to shimmer. The annual Big, Bright Light Show debuts on this Monday evening. The program will begin at 6:45pm on E. Fourth Street with help from the Mayor, Channel 7’s Dave LewAllen and a special appearance by the man in red, Santa Claus himself. The lights will officially go allow at 7:00pm. Kids can share their Christmas lists with Santa from 7:15 pm – 9:00 pm so have your camera ready.
November 26 Holiday in the Park in South Haven
While much of this event takes place in Dyckman Park, be sure to spend some time just kicking around South Haven, enjoying the scene. At the park, the festivities include a Santa Paws Pet Parade, pictures with Santa, Mrs. Claus, and their elves, ice skating, campfires, smores, hot chocolate and coffee, and a dessert truck. Don’t miss the luminaries, plus the grand reveal of new holiday lighting in the downtown. Enjoy it all amidst brisk shoreline weather and a soundtrack of holiday tunes.
November 27 Aglow on the Avenue Parade in Ludington
How about a little holiday fun in what is typically a summer beach destination? is a favorite event of the Christmas holiday on the lakeshore. The parade starts at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27, and the lighted entries ensure that Downtown Ludington streets are aglow with holiday cheer and excitement to usher in the holiday season. Welcome Santa and Mrs. Claus, and take the kids to a 7 p.m. meet-and-greet event at Sandcastles Children’s Museum following the parade. A tree lighting will also take place in Legacy Plaza in the heart of the downtown district.
November 27 Annual Christmas Tree Lighting in Harbor Springs
For over a century, townsfolk have been gathering together in Harbor Springs for the lighting of a community. Over the years, the celebration has definitely grown, and you are invited to join them. The kids may start off the day with a visit to the Lyric Theatre for a first run Disney movie. At approximately 12:30 pm Santa will ride up right outside the theatre to meet and greet the kids. Afterwards be sure to shop, drink and dine your way through town leaving some dollars behind with local businesses. Then at 6 pm gather with friends, neighbors and strangers, to sing carols and enjoy the lighting of the tree on Main Street.
November 29 Candle Walk and Tree Lighting in Frankenmuth
As the home base for Bronner’s Frankenmuth is understandably tied in many of our minds to the Christmas season. Either that, or its all those German nutcrackers that make us think of Michigan’s Little Bavaria. While it may be Christmas all year round at Bronner’s, and you should definitely pop in while there, this annual event kicks off the season. It starts at 6 pm at the River Place Shops, where you can enjoy carols sung by the Gemütlichkeit Club, while indulging in some free hot cocoa and cookies. Listen to the Christmas story as told by local clergy and accompanied by music from the St. Lorenz Choir. Then grab a candle and start the walk to the Chamber Platz for the lighting of the community Tannenbaum, otherwise known as the Christmas tree. Santa will be visiting with children at the Visitor Center beginning at 6:30 pm, and The Curbside Singers will belt out some holiday favorites before the tree is lit.
November 30 Winter Snow Fun Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting in Marquette
This summer destination takes on a totally different look and feel as winter descends. Usher in the holiday season along the shores of Lake Superior. This downtown tradition transforms Third Street into an enchanted scene from the North Pole, featuring numerous festively decorated floats, marching units, bands, and even a festive cement mixer. The United States Postal Service will be collecting letters to Santa along the parade route. Following the parade, the fun will continue with the tree lighting ceremony and photos with Santa Claus at Marquette Commons. Afterwards, head over to Black Rocks Brewery to relive your favorite moments.
December 3 Tree Lighting on Mackinac Island
If you crave a little bit of Dr. Suess’ Whoville, it’s hard to imagine a more magical destination to find it than on Mackinac Island. Yes, Virginia, you can still go to Mackinac in the winter. The annual Christmas Tree Lighting downtown on Main Street ushers in the winter season on the island. Gather with those hardy locals at 5:30 pm across from the Star Line Dock #1 for caroling and good cheer. The last ferry boat leaving the island is at 6:30 pm. It’s the Star Line Ferry to St. Ignace, or you can take a flight on and off, weather permitting.
December 3 Sinterklaas Eve in Holland
Of course if an event is taking place in Holland, you can expect it to have a fun Dutch twist. This special celebration features Sinterklaas, the benevolent Dutch St. Nicholas. Head to the holiday Kerstmarkt, which is a delightful European-style market with festive items, delicious food, hand-crafted goods and demonstrations. It’s located at 8th and Pine streets. There, children can follow Sinterklaas, who traditionally arrives on a horse. They’ll learn about the tradition of Sinterklaas, pose for photos and even get a special surprise from his helpers.
Wherever and however you choose to kick off your holiday season, I wish you kindness, patience, joy, and merriment.