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 18 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 6pm. After the parade, cheer as the state’s official Christmas Tree is lit around 7:25pm. Next up, join in on a community singalong led by former American Idol contestant, Jacob Moran, of Dansville. Weather permitting, the evening will end with 200 drones synchronized to music, followed by fireworks illuminating the sky over the capitol.
November 18 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 wonderful holiday shopping. All the festivities will center around a Michigan-grown Norway spruce decked with ornaments and illuminated by thousands of shimmering LED multi-colored lights. Santa and some friends will turn it on at 7pm. If all of that isn’t reason enough to join in, special guests this year include Glee star, Darren Criss, and former member of John Legend’s team on The Voice, Zania Alake.
November 21 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 21, 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 6:30pm 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 glow at 7:00pm. Kids can share their Christmas lists with Santa from 7:15 pm – 9:00 pm so have your camera ready.
November 25 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, and hot chocolate. Don’t miss the luminaries, plus the grand reveal of the holiday lights downtown. Enjoy it all amidst brisk shoreline weather and a soundtrack of holiday tunes.
November 26 Aglow on the Avenue Parade in Ludington
How about a little holiday fun in what is typically a summer beach destination? This is a favorite event of the Christmas holiday on the lakeshore. First, take advantage of Small Business Saturday, and shop with local merchants. Then, the parade kicks off at 6pm, with lighted entries ensuring that Downtown Ludington streets are aglow with holiday cheer and excitement to usher in the season. There will also be a tree lighting, carols, visits with Santa, Christmas tree sales, and an arts & crafts area at Legacy Plaza. The celebration features the Ludington High School band and choir.
November 26 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. Santa will ride up right outside the Lyric Theatre to meet and greet kids. Also available is the mailbox to Santa, so children can write their letters and drop them off anytime during the month of December. Be sure to shop, drink and dine your way through town leaving some dollars behind with local businesses. At 6pm gather with friends, neighbors and strangers, to sing carols and enjoy the lighting of the tree on Main Street. The public is then invited to attend an ecumenical chili dinner in the Holy Childhood Parish Hall at 150 W Main Street, just adjacent to the tree, where you can also enjoy homemade cookies and hot cocoa.
December 2 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 7pm. It’s the Star Line Ferry to St. Ignace, or you can take a flight on and off, weather permitting.
December 2 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.
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. Bundle up with friends and family as illuminated floats, tinsel-strewn trucks and colorful carolers transform Third Street into an enchanted scene from the North Pole. Afterwards, head over to Black Rocks Brewery to relive your favorite moments.