Glimmering light displays, seasonal cocktails, and visits with Santa mark the holiday season in Detroit, Michigan. As a born and raised Metro Detroiter who celebrates every Christmas with my family in Dearborn, I’ve rounded up 15 of the most joyfully festive things to do in Detroit and its surrounding communities during the holidays.
Disclosure: This guide to holiday events in Detroit contains some affiliate links. When you click on one of these links, make a purchase, or book your hotel, I may earn a commission.
Table of Contents
- Ice Skate At Campus Martius Park
- Shop Small And Local In Downtown Detroit
- Celebrate The Festival Of Lights At Cadillac Square
- Stroll Through Parker’s Alley
- Grab Christmasy Cocktails To Go From Sippin’ Santa At The Skip
- Watch A Holiday Show
- Dine Inside Lumen’s Igloos At Beacon Park
- Sip Christmas-Themed Cocktails From Miracle Pop-Up
- Attend Holiday Nights In Greenfield Village For Yuletide Cheer
- Walk Through The Detroit Zoo’s Wild Lights
- Drive Through The Twinkling Wayne County Lightfest
- See Meadow Brook In Its Holiday Glory
- Visit Rochester’s Big Bright Light Show
- View The Magic Of Lights
- Have Yourself A Merry Renaissance Christmas
- Where To Stay In Detroit For The Holidays
- Also, If You Are Visiting Detroit For The Holidays …
- How will you be celebrating the holidays this year?
Ice Skate At Campus Martius Park
With Detroit’s Christmas tree setting a festive backdrop, ice skating around the outdoor Frankenmuth Rink at Campus Martius Park is a family-friendly holiday activity. Also one of the best things to do in Detroit at night during the holiday season, the rink is open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays through early January. For the Frankenmuth Rink’s hours and admission costs, please refer to the Downtown Detroit Partnership.
Shop Small And Local In Downtown Detroit
Unfortunately, small shops featuring Detroit-area vendors known as the Downtown Detroit Markets won’t be back at Cadillac Square in 2020. Instead, holiday shoppers will find seasonal window art installations at 1401 Woodward Ave and retail pop-ups at the following locations:
- DOSE Collective, 1419 Woodward Ave — Luxury retail shop with products such as Detroit-themed goods, women’s apparel, floral arrangements, and gifts from more than 20 small businesses.
- Former Vintage, 1301 Broadway — Streetwear resale shop specializing in rare 80s’ and 90s’ sneakers, jerseys, and “throw-back” goods.
- Krispy Addicts, 1425 Woodward Ave — “Detroit’s dopest clothing boutique” sells street stylish clothing and accessories.
- PLAYGROUND DETROIT, 1435 Farmer St. Suite 117 — Pop-up market of artwork, gifts, and other exclusive products from more than 20 emerging Michigan artists and creators. It is open to the public during limited hours Thursday through Sunday and by appointment Monday through Wednesday.
- Spun Sugar, 1232 Library Street — This cotton candy company serves more than 55 flavors of gourmet cotton candy made with organic sugar, plant-based dyes, and natural flavoring.
Celebrate The Festival Of Lights At Cadillac Square
To celebrate Hanukkah, the Menorah in the D at Cadillac Square will be lit for its 10th annual lighting on Dec. 10. In addition to streaming the lighting of the 26-foot menorah, home viewers are invited to a virtual after-party on Zoom and may sign up in advance for a Menorah in the D box filled with Hanukkah goodies. For more information about the annual Jewish Family Festival and Menorah Lighting Ceremony, visit the Menorah in the D website.
Stroll Through Parker’s Alley
While shopping at Parker’s Alley, behind the Shinola Hotel, enjoy local performers from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays through Jan. 2. You may see stilt walkers, dance troupes, acrobats, or bucket drummers!
Grab Christmasy Cocktails To Go From Sippin’ Santa At The Skip
Shoot a lusciously chocolate-flavored “Rudolph Shoots the Curl!” made with herbal mint and dark chocolate liqueurs and amaro or sip the tropical Shaka Kalikimaka at home with seasonal to-go cocktails from this festive tiki pop-up at The Skip. You’ll find The Skip in downtown Detroit’s street art-filled alleyway The Belt conveniently near the Z Deck parking garage. To keep up with all its Sippin’ Santa happenings, visit The Skip’s website.
Watch A Holiday Show
Dressing up for a holiday show at the Fox Theatre is a time-honored tradition in Detroit. However, in 2020, you can watch the Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker in your favorite holiday pajamas at home. Debuting on Dec. 19, the Great Russian Nutcracker will be available to view on-demand through Jan. 21. To purchase tickets for streaming the ballet at home, visit the 313 Presents website.
Dine Inside Lumen’s Igloos At Beacon Park
Share a cheese and charcuterie board as you sip a winter sangria or Griffin Claw Flying Buffalo inside Lumen’s chateau or an igloo. Surrounded by the twinkling holiday light display at Beacon Park, this is the ideal spot to dine in Detroit’s winter wonderland. To see the restaurant’s hours and full food menu, visit Lumen’s website, and make your reservation on OpenTable.
Sip Christmas-Themed Cocktails From Miracle Pop-Up
Don your ugly Christmas sweater and head to The Oakland in Ferndale to pick up your seasonal cocktail served in kitschy Christmas-themed glassware. You can order your Miracle cocktails for pick up or delivery here.
Attend Holiday Nights In Greenfield Village For Yuletide Cheer
Join Santa, live reindeer, and carolers to step back in time for one of the most unique Christmas experiences in the United States. Annually held at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village features homes and shops decorated for Christmas, holiday cooking demos, skilled artisan demonstrations, live music, and holiday vignettes in period attire. To purchase tickets and find more information about Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village, visit The Henry Ford’s website.
Walk Through The Detroit Zoo’s Wild Lights
Through Jan. 3, see more than five million LED lights illuminating trees, buildings, and 280 sculptures — including 230 of animals — at the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak. This family-friendly holiday display takes about 1.5 hours to walk through, but plan to spend extra time to enjoy a hot chocolate on the Polar Patio. To purchase tickets online and learn more about Wild Lights, visit the Detroit Zoo’s website.
Drive Through The Twinkling Wayne County Lightfest
Beginning at Merriman Hollow Park in Westland, drive through 4.5 miles filled with more than 45 colorful, twinkling holiday light displays of 100,000 lights along Hines Drive in the Detroit area’s Wayne County. The Wayne County Lightfest runs from Nov. 25 through New Year’s Eve. However, it is closed on Christmas. For hours, admission, and more information, visit the Wayne County website.
See Meadow Brook In Its Holiday Glory
The holiday season is a wonderful time to visit the historic Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester. Usually, the estate is decorated for the holidays with 50 Christmas trees — including a tree completely made of poinsettias. Though the annual Holiday Walk has been canceled for 2020, you can still visit Meadow Brook for the Winter Wonder Lights, an interactive holiday light experience through Dec. 20. For more information and to purchase tickets for the Winter Wonder Lights, visit Meadow Brook’s website.
Visit Rochester’s Big Bright Light Show
Visit Rochester through Jan. 31 to see the downtown businesses aglow with one million bright and colorful holiday lights after 5 p.m. each night. For ideas of what to do while in Downtown Rochester during the Big Bright Light Show, visit the Rochester DDA website.
View The Magic Of Lights
Animated holiday light displays are aglow at DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston for a 1.5-mile drive-thru light show through Jan. 2. For more information and to purchase advance tickets for the Magic of Lights, visit the Magic of Lights website.
Have Yourself A Merry Renaissance Christmas
At the Michigan Renaissance Festival fairgrounds in Holly, celebrate with a half-mile stroll through a dazzling spectacle of holiday lights and music. This festive event features dancing trees, socially-distanced photos with Santa, a holiday gift shop, and fire pits where you can warm up on chilly winter nights. For more information and to purchase tickets for Hollydazzle: A Renaissance Christmas, visit the Michigan Renaissance Festival website.
Explore this map to pinpoint these featured holiday events and attractions around Metro Detroit!
Where To Stay In Detroit For The Holidays
Whether you are visiting from out of town or are a local wishing to spend Christmas in Detroit, I recommend an overnight getaway at one of the city’s downtown hotels.
In December 2018, I used my Marriott Bonvoy rewards membership to nab a fantastic deal during the holiday season at the Courtyard by Marriott. Conveniently located near downtown’s holiday attractions, I was just a short walk from Greektown in its white and blue holiday lights and garlands, too. You can click here to book your stay at the Courtyard by Marriott Detroit Downtown. Also, be sure to read other travelers’ reviews.
If your holiday plans are centered around visiting Detroit’s downtown holiday attractions, shopping, and dining, I also recommend staying at the new Shinola Hotel or the boutique Detroit Foundation Hotel.
Also, If You Are Visiting Detroit For The Holidays …
I recommend downloading this guide to the Detroit area’s holiday events and attractions. Not only will you be able to access this list of festive activities while on the go, but the downloadable version is also embedded with GPS coordinates to help you map your walking or driving route. Additionally, GPSmyCity offers even more self-guided walking tours and GPS-embedded travel articles for Detroit. In case you are wondering what GPSmyCity is and how to use the app, I’ve created this handy guide explaining why it’s such a helpful resource for travelers.
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How will you be celebrating the holidays this year?
Tell me about your holiday plans in Detroit or elsewhere in the comment section below!