Glimmering light displays, seasonal cocktails, and visits with Santa mark the holiday season in Detroit, Michigan.
As a born and raised Metro Detroiter, I celebrate every Christmas with my family in the Detroit area.
To spread the holiday cheer, I’ve rounded up more than 25 of the most joyfully festive things to do in Detroit and the metro area during the holiday season!
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.
Festive Things to Do in Detroit During the Holidays
Attend the Detroit Tree Lighting 2023
The holiday season officially arrives in Detroit with the annual ceremonial lighting of the Motor City’s Christmas tree at Campus Martius Park in Downtown Detroit. This year’s 64-foot, Michigan-grown Norway Spruce will twinkle with more than 25,000 multi-color lights!
Taking place from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, the 20th annual Detroit Tree Lighting is being billed as “Merry & Bright: 20 Years of Holiday Lights.”
This festive event that kicks off the holiday season in Motown will feature live music and performances by Olympic figure skaters, including 2022 gold medalist Nathan Chen, and local skating clubs.
Also set to take the stage are Detroit-area musicians, Wicked actress Talia Suskauer, “Little Boo Thang” singer Paul Russell, and Michigan native Miko Marks, an Americana and country singer.
Holiday merriment continues with horse-drawn carriage rides, visits with Santa, holiday shopping, hot cocoa, and food trucks!
For more information about the Detroit Tree Lighting Ceremony, please refer to the Downtown Detroit Partnership.
See One of the Fox Theatre Holiday Shows
Dressing up for a holiday show at the historic Fox Theatre is a time-honored tradition in Detroit.
Holiday shows at the Fox Theatre for the 2023 holiday season include:
- Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, Nov. 8
- Cirque Holiday Dreams, Dec. 1-3
- A Magical Cirque Christmas, Dec. 8
- Nutcraker! Magical Christmas Ballet, Dec. 10
- Brett Eldredge Glow LIVE, Dec. 15
- Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis, Dec. 17
- The Illusionists – Magic of the Holidays, Dec. 21-23
To purchase tickets for these holiday shows visit the 313 Presents website.
Holiday Shop at the Downtown Detroit Markets
This holiday season, you can shop small and local at the Downtown Detroit Markets from Nov. 9 through Jan. 7.
These small gift shops in glass huts at Cadillac Square feature more than a dozen Detroit-area vendors and artisans.
With unique and artisanal items including home décor, specialty and vintage apparel, gourmet food items, toys, and more, you are sure to find stocking stuffers and gifts to put under your Christmas tree.
Once you’ve finished shopping in the outdoor market, step inside the Cadillac Lodge. The heated tent’s ski-lodge aesthetic is a cozy space to sip hot cocoa or seasonal cocktails.
For the full list of participating vendors and market hours, please refer to the Decked Out Detroit website.
Have Fun Playing in the Monroe Street Midway’s Magical Winter Playground
One of the newest Detroit winter attractions, the Monroe Street Midway offers free winter fun for all ages!
Located across from Campus Martius Park, this magical winter playground features sledding on a 20-ft-high, 80-ft-long arctic slide!
With winter bumper cars, a nine-net hockey puck-putt course, and an indoor arcade, you’ll have an arctic blast of a time from Nov. 9 through Jan. 7.
For the Monroe Street Midway schedule and more information visit the Decked Out Detroit website.
Visit Santa at 1001 Winter Wonders
Step inside 1001 Woodward Avenue to a magical winter wonderland right in the heart of Downtown Detroit!
Running Nov. 16 through Dec. 24, this holiday event is one of the best (and free) ways to visit Santa in the Motor City.
During your visit to 1001 Winter Wonders, share your Christmas wishlist and capture a memorable family portrait with the jolly ol’ elf.
Photos with Santa are free at this joyous holiday attraction, but dress warm to stand in line for your holiday photo op!
For more information and 1001 Winter Wonders hours, visit the Decked Out Detroit website.
Ice Skate at Campus Martius Park Rink
With Detroit’s Christmas tree setting a festive backdrop, ice skating around the outdoor rink at Campus Martius Park is a family-friendly holiday activity.
The rink officially opens with a Santa Skate Party from noon to 4 p.m. on Nov. 18. It will remain open daily, including holidays, through March 3.
As one of the best things to do in Detroit at night during the holiday season, the rink remains open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays from Nov. 18 through Dec. 30.
For the Rink at Campus Martius Park hours, admission pricing, and skate rental costs, please refer to the Downtown Detroit Partnership.
See Beacon Park’s Holiday Lights While Dining in a Chalet
The 1.2-acre Beacon Park is illuminated in 125,000 dazzling holiday lights beginning Nov. 17, and one of the best ways to view them is while or after dining in a private, heated chalet at Lumen.
My husband and I dined in one of these chalets with our friends before Christmas in 2021. Inside the chalet, we shed our coats, and the heater kept us toasty and warm — except for when our server entered and exited!
If you plan to dine in one of Lumen’s chalets, I recommend wearing a warm, long-sleeve top like a sweater. This should keep you warm enough to dine without donning your coat inside the chalet, but you’ll want to bundle up again before strolling through Beacon Park.
After a delicious dinner of seasonal modern-American fare and craft beverages, you can wander through the interactive holiday light installations and stop for festive photo ops. In 2021, one installation was a swinging bell, and another was the oversized ornament pictured below.
For the restaurant’s current hours and menu, check out lumendetroit.com. Also, you’ll need to make reservations online for Lumen’s private chalets that accommodate 4-6 diners. You’ll also need a credit card handy to complete your reservation as chalets have a $35 food and beverage minimum per person due when reserving your chalet.
Sip Tiki Christmas Cocktails at Sippin’ Santa Pop-Up Bar
Shoot a ginger-and-macadamia flavored Ginger Snapped or sip the tropical Jingle Bird cocktail at this festive tiki pop-up bar at The Skip!
This Christmas pop-up bar runs from late November through New Year’s Eve and is one of 20 fun-and-festive holiday pop-up bars in Metro Detroit.
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 the Detroit Thanksgiving Parade
With lively marching bands, animated floats, celebrity appearances, and larger-than-life, helium-filled balloons traversing the three-mile parade route along Detroit’s historic Woodward Avenue, America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade® presented by Gardiner-White is a marvelous holiday spectacle.
The parade has also been a cherished Detroit holiday tradition for the past century. It all began in 1924 — the same year that Macy’s began its Thanksgiving parade in New York — with a horse-pulled Mother Goose float, four papier-mâché heads, and seven marching bands, according to the Detroit Historical Society.
Over the past 100 years, nursery rhyme character Mother Goose has never missed a parade, and she makes her appearance again this year on the Detroit News’ float alongside Humpty Dumpty and nimble Jack jumping over the candlestick.
Parade-goers can also expect to see Kermit, Big Bird, and Captain Underpants float down the parade route. New this year, a “Building Today for a Better Tomorrow” float measuring 100-feet long and 28-feet high will join the nine floats unveiled in 2022.
America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade also features appearances from local and national celebrities. Past Grand Marshals have included Olympians, professional athletes, politicians, and even singer/actress Jessica Simpson back in 2001.
Of course, the holiday magic culminates with the arrival of Santa Claus on his custom sleigh with eight reindeer.
The parade begins at 8:45 a.m. Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23) at the intersection of Kirby Street and Woodward Avenue. It typically lasts 1.5 hours as the parade marches down Woodward Avenue to Congress Street in Downtown Detroit.
For more information about the parade including where to find parking, please refer to The Parade Company.
Celebrate Hanukkah at the Menorah in the D Lighting
To celebrate Hanukkah in Detroit, the Menorah in the D is annually lit at Cadillac Square. This year’s Menorah Lighting Ceremony will be held on Dec. 7.
For more information about the annual Menorah Lighting Ceremony visit the Menorah in the D website.
Listen to a Holiday Concert at Orchestra Hall
If you love traditional Christmas carols or the popular Christmas movies Home Alone and Elf, celebrate the holiday season with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra!
Holiday concerts in 2023 at Orchestra Hall include:
- Voctave: It Feels Like Christmas, Dec. 8
- The Snowman, Dec. 9
- Home Alone in Concert, Dec. 13
- Home for the Holidays, Dec. 15-17
- The Music of the Nutcraker with the DSO, Dec. 20
- Elf in Concert, Dec. 22-23
For more information about the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s holiday concerts and to purchase tickets, visit the DSO website.
Observe the Motor City Kwanzaa Kinara Lighting
The world’s largest Kwanzaa Kinara will be lit Dec. 26 at Campus Martius Park.
Standing at 30 feet tall, the Motor City Kwanzaa Kinara is “a new seasonal monument for the celebration of African American life, community and culture to Downtown Detroit’s holiday landscape, alongside the Christmas tree and Menorah.”
The Motor City Kwanazza Kinara will remain on display throughout the seven days of Kwanzaa.
Metro Detroit Holiday Events in Wayne County
Greenfield Village Holiday Nights
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.
Ford House Christmas Events
Throughout the holiday season, the grounds of the historic Edsel and Eleanor Ford estate in Grosse Pointe Shores will be decorated for a host of tours and holiday events that allow visitors to step back in time.
To purchase tickets for a Ford House Christmas and other holiday events visit the Ford House website.
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 late November through New Year’s Eve. However, it is closed on Christmas.
For hours, admission, and more information, visit the Wayne County website.
Oakland County Holiday Festivities
Glenlore Trails Aurora
Bundle up for a wintry walk through an illuminated forest this holiday season! At Glenlore Trails Aurora, your nighttime stroll takes you through an immersive holiday light display.
This holiday trail walk in Commerce Township runs Thursday through Sunday from Nov. 17 through Dec. 30, but it is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, and Christmas Eve.
Though this is a kid-friendly holiday event with a special visit from Santa on Dec. 7, I had a blast walking through the trail with my best friend in 2022. We interacted with the holiday scenes, posed for fun photos, and sipped warm, boozy beverages from a concession stand along the trail.
In 2023, adults who would like to partake in this fun holiday trail walk without kids can do so on Dec. 15. This Adult Night for ages 21+ will also feature live music. It’s the perfect occasion for a festive night out with friends or for a holiday-themed date night!
In addition to the concession stand with hot chocolate and adult beverages, there will be a taco truck this year serving tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and loaded waffle fries.
For more information and to purchase tickets for Aurora, visit the Glenlore Trails website.
Magic of Lights at Pine Knob Music Theatre
Animated holiday light displays are aglow at Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston for a 1.5-mile drive-thru light show from Nov. 17 through Dec. 30.
For more information and to purchase advance tickets for the Magic of Lights visit the Magic of Lights website.
Miracle Pop-Up Bar at The Oakland
Don your ugly Christmas sweater and head to The Oakland in Ferndale for the Christmas-themed cocktail pop-up bar Miracle. Surrounded by kitschy Christmas decor, you can sip a spiked egg nog of brown butter and cinnamon-infused Pierre Ferrand Cognac, Amontillado Sherry, vanilla, cream, sugar, eggs, almond milk, and nutmeg.
Before you go, make your reservations online (strongly recommended), arrive early to park in downtown Ferndale, and look for the Art Novelty Company sign of this modern speakeasy.
Jingle at Ale Mary’s Beer Hall
Dine in an igloo for a view of the holiday lights all aglow in downtown Royal Oak, or pull up a seat inside the bar, where wrapped presents hanging from the ceiling, colorful twinkling lights, and Christmas drinkware create a vibe as jolly as Saint Nick himself.
The holiday season is certainly merry at Jingle. The Ale Mary’s Beer Hall holiday popup offers a menu of seasonal cocktails, including the refreshing, cranberry-flavored Jingle Juice pictured below.
To keep up-to-date on the Jingle hours and offerings, follow Ale Mary’s Beer Hall on Instagram.
Detroit Zoo’s Wild Lights
From Nov. 24 through Jan. 7, see more than 500 light displays as millions of LED lights illuminate trees, buildings, and hundreds of sculptures 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 sipping a hot chocolate on the Polar Patio.
To purchase tickets online and learn more about Wild Lights, visit the Wild Lights website.
The Rink at Royal Oak Outdoor Ice Skating
The outdoor skating rink at Centennial Commons Park in Royal Oak is set to return for the 2023-2024 winter season.
To warm up off the ice, you can roast marshmallows over a fire, huddle around fire pits and heaters, sip hot chocolate, pop into the Royal Oak Public Library Warming Center, or visit one of the 50 local businesses — including restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues — within a short walk from the rink.
Since the park is located in Royal Oak’s social district, you can even go to a local bar and sip your to-go cocktail by the skating rink.
For information regarding hours, pricing, parking, and additional events visit The Rink at Royal Oak website.
Big Bright Light Show & Holiday Happenings in Rochester
If there is one Metro Detroit suburb that does Christmas like a small town in a Hallmark Channel movie, it is Rochester. In this Oakland County city, downtown businesses are aglow with one million bright and colorful holiday lights each night throughout the holiday season.
The Big Bright Light Show in Downtown Rochester kicks off on Nov. 20 with musical performances, visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus, and “Lagniappe” or local merchants providing a little extra to show appreciation to their customers.
For ideas of what to do while in Downtown Rochester during the Big Bright Light Show visit the Rochester DDA website.
Canterbury Village Holiday Stroll
The Canterbury Village in Lake Orion transforms into a magical winter wonderland during the annual Holiday Stroll. This merry holiday event runs Nov. 22, Nov. 24 – 26, Dec. 1-3, Dec. 8-10, Dec. 15-17, and Dec. 21-23.
As you walk through Canterbury Village, you’ll be dazzled by nearly a million twinkling lights, performances by professional carolers, and greetings from beloved holiday characters, including Frosty the Snowman, The Grinch, and Frozen’s Olaf, Elsa, and Anna.
This family-friendly holiday event features a 7-minute holiday light show choreographed to classic Christmas carols. Kids’ sing-along caroling, s’mores, hot chocolate, visits with Santa, and an outdoor pub serving beer, cider, wine, and cocktails add to the festivities.
For more information about the Canterbury Village Holiday Stroll and to purchase tickets visit canterburyholidaystroll.com.
Meadow Brook Hall Holiday Walk & Winter Wonder Lights
The holiday season is a wonderful time to visit the historic Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester.
With the mansion decorated for the holidays, you’ll see more than 50 Christmas trees — including a 10-ft tree made of 150 poinsettia plants — during the Holiday Walk, which runs Tuesday through Sunday from Nov. 24 through Dec. 23.
It takes about an hour to stroll through the estate’s 110 rooms, where you’ll also see twinkling holiday lights and flickering fireplaces.
The Holiday Walk is a marvelous daytime event, but Meadow Brook Hall is also worth a visit after dark when the mansion is aglow in a dazzling holiday light display. The self-guided tour of the Winter Wonder Lights also features music and concessions.
For more information and to purchase tickets for the Holiday Walk and Winter Wonder Lights visit Meadow Brook Hall’s website.
Macomb County Holiday Events
Blake Farms Holiday Festivities
If you’re looking for the ultimate Christmas wonderland for a Hallmark-worthy family gathering or date night, Blake Farms is the place to go this holiday season from Nov. 19 through Dec. 23.
At the family-owned Blake Farms in Armada, about an hour’s drive northeast of Detroit, you can cut down your own Christmas tree, go ice skating, sip holiday cocktails, visit Santa, and shop for festive holiday gifts all in one place!
First, grab a cup of hot cider, then hop on the wagon for a ride out to Blake’s 100-acre Christmas tree field. After you hunt for the perfect fir or spruce, you’ll cut it down yourself. Don’t worry — a complimentary saw will be provided and your tree will be safely hauled back and expertly shaken, baled, and drilled.
Then enjoy all the holiday festivities at the farm! You can glide around the outdoor skating rink, shop the holiday market, get cozy sipping hard ciders, or dine in an igloo at Blake’s Tasting Room.
To learn more about all of the holiday festivities at Blake Farms, check out the Blake Farms website.
Explore this map to pinpoint these featured holiday events and attractions around Metro Detroit!
Where to Stay in Detroit During the Holiday Season
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.
If your holiday plans are centered around visiting Detroit’s downtown holiday attractions, shopping, and dining, I also recommend staying at the Shinola Hotel or the boutique Detroit Foundation Hotel.
Take this Detroit Holiday Guide on the Go
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.
Also, 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.
Read More Detroit & Michigan Travel Posts
We have more local guides to Detroit and nearby destinations in Michigan including:
- 27 Best Michigan Cider Mills to Visit this Fall
- Ann Arbor Weekend Getaway
- 7 Romantic Ann Arbor Date Ideas for Foodie Couples
- Five Local Places to Eat Lunch in Ann Arbor
- Saugatuck, Michigan Dining Guide
More Posts to Get You Into the Holiday Spirit
- 20 Festively Over-the-Top Christmas Pop-Up Bars in Metro Detroit
- 10 Magical Midwest Christmas Getaways
- Cranberry Orange Margarita Recipe
- 37 Festive Cranberry Holiday Cocktails
- Coffee Lover’s Gift Guide
- Wine Traveler’s Holiday Gift Guide
- 25 Cool Travel Gifts for Him Under $25
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