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 13 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.
Ice Skate At Campus Martius Park
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. 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 Rink at Campus Martius Park hours and admission costs, please refer to the Downtown Detroit Partnership.
Shop Small And Local At Downtown Detroit Markets
Small shops featuring Detroit-area vendors known as the Downtown Detroit Markets fill Cadillac Square in downtown Detroit. Once you’ve finished shopping, step inside the Cadillac Lodge. The heated tent’s ski-lodge aesthetic is a cozy space to sip hot cocoa or seasonal cocktails.
Celebrate The Festival Of Lights At Cadillac Square
To celebrate Hanukkah, the Menorah in the D at Cadillac Square will be lit for its 11th annual lighting at 5 p.m. on Nov. 28. In addition to the Menorah Lighting Ceremony with in-person viewing and live streaming this year, there will be an after-party. For more information about the annual Jewish Family Festival and Menorah Lighting Ceremony, visit the Menorah in the D website.
Sip Christmasy Cocktails 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 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 historic Fox Theatre is a time-honored tradition in Detroit. In 2021, you can see the family-friendly holiday spectacular Cirque Dreams Holidaze. With 300 unique costume designs, awe-inspiring acrobatic feats, classic holiday characters, and Broadway renditions of beloved Christmas carols, Cirque Dreams Holidaze is sure to dazzle audiences during its five-performance run Dec. 3 through Dec. 5.
Other holiday shows at the Fox Theatre this holiday season include:
- Amy Grant & Michael W. Smith on Dec. 9
- A Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Stage with three performances on Dec. 11
- A Magical Cirque Christmas on Dec. 12
- Mannheim Steamroller Christmas on Dec. 18
To purchase tickets for these holiday shows, visit the 313 Presents website.
Drink Holiday Cocktails At The Miracle Pop-Up
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.
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 Wild Lights website.
Tour Decked-Out Edsel And Eleanor Ford Estate
From Nov. 18 through Jan. 9 the grounds of the historic Edsel and Eleanor Ford estate will be illuminated with a wintry, starry-sky-themed light display. Both immersive and interactive, Starry Lights will feature animated projections and vintage video footage of the Ford family. Daytime tours of Ford House decked out for the holidays run from Nov. 26 through Jan. 9. To purchase tickets for Starry Lights or a Holiday House Tour, visit the Ford House 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 late November 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. Decorated for the holidays, you’ll see 50 Christmas trees — including a tree completely made of poinsettias — during the Holiday Walk. At night, take a self-guided tour of the holiday light display Winter Wonder Lights with music and concessions. For more information and to purchase tickets for the Holiday Walk and/or Winter Wonder Lights, visit Meadow Brook’s website.
Visit Rochester’s Big Bright Light Show
Visit Rochester from Nov. 22 through Jan. 3 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 from Nov. 19 through Jan. 1. For more information and to purchase advance tickets for the Magic of Lights, visit the Magic of Lights 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 Shinola Hotel or the boutique Detroit Foundation Hotel. Otherwise, you can find more Detroit accommodations by exploring the map below.
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. 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.
More About Detroit And Nearby Destinations
We have more local guides to Detroit and nearby destinations in Southeast Michigan including:
- Metro Detroit Takeout & Food Delivery Guide
- One Day in Ypsilanti: Where to Eat, Drink & Shop
- 7 Ann Arbor Spots That Aren’t Your Average Coffee Shops
- 7 Romantic Ann Arbor Date Ideas for Foodie Couples
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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!