7 of the Most Festive Things You Can Do in Grand Rapids This Holiday Season

7 Festive Grand Rapids Christmas Events You’ll Be Happy You Made Time For

You might find me in a mall or a chain store shopping for gifts at some point in December, but hours spent in big box stores aren’t the Christmas memories I crave.

But bring in caroling, fresh-cut Christmas trees, small shops, concerts and carriage rides and you’ve found the way to my Christmas heart.

I’m sharing my personal festive list here in hopes that it’ll help you plan a holiday to remember.

Merry Christmas season, Grand Rapids!

01Give it a twirl under the lights at Rosa Parks Circle Ice Rink

It doesn’t get much better than this. Show up after dark and skate under the Christmas lights to get a healthy dose of merry.

Is Rosa Parks Circle Ice Skating Open?

Rosa Park Circle is open, weather permitting from December 4, 2019 – February 23, 2020.

Open skate hours:

Mon – Sat: 10:00 am – 9:45 pm
Sun: 11:00 am – 8:45 pm

Adults: $3.00
Youth: $1.00
Payments Accepted: Credit card, cash, check
(Admission price includes skate rental.)

02Trees, Trains, and Dickens Carolers at Meijer Gardens

Meijer Gardens Shows off Christmas Trees  from Around the World

A ticket to Meijer Gardens during the holidays unlocks festive photo opps and experiences not found elsewhere in Grand Rapids.

Plan to spend a few hours onsite – even more if you’re going to wander the outdoor paths lined with lights.

Christmas & Holiday Traditions Around the World

Grab a camera and wander through the 46 international holiday displays (mostly Christmas trees) lining the halls of Meijer Gardens. Don’t forget to pop into the train garden – a model train runs on elevated tracks throughout the area while smaller trains chug through nature-inspired replicas of iconic GR area landmarks and buildings.

Do You Want to See Strolling Carolers or Reindeer?

Acapella Christmas carols in 4-part harmony? You bet! The strolling carolers are part of the experience when you visit on Tuesdays from 6 – 8 pm Dec 3, 10, and 17.

Reindeer visit the Gardens on Saturday afternoons in December (Dec 7, 14 & 21.)

When can you see the Christmas Trees?

The trees and holiday displays are up through January 5, 2020.

03Drive Through Nearly 2 Miles of Lights at the Christmas Lite Show

All the Lights in One Place

Anyone driving 131 North by 5/3 Ballpark at night will get an eyeful – and might just have to stop off and drive through the Christmas Lite Show.

Before you que up there are a few things you’ll want to know about the almost 2-mile long light show experience:

  • Tickets are $25 for regular passenger vehicles (cars, vans, trucks, etc).
  • You can ride through the lights on a special Memory Lane Train (special ticket required).
  • Unless you’re doing a special event you have to stay in your car the whole time.
  • They can accomodate a lot of cars.
  • Your visit will last 30-60 minutes depending on traffic and how quickly you drive through.

04A Dance for all Times – the Nutcracker is a Classic for a Reason

Yuka Oba-Mushciana and Josue Justiz in Val Caniparoli’s The Nutcracker.
Photo by Ray Nard Imagemaker.

Ticketmaster Still Has Nutcracker Tickets

Nutcracker tickets went on sale in July but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.

From December 13 – 22, the Grand Rapids Ballet puts on nine top-notch performances in DeVos Performance Hall for you to enjoy.

05Choose & Cut Your Own Tree at a Local Christmas Tree Farm

How Sturdy are Those Branches?

Over the past few years we’ve sampled Christmas tree farms like some people coffee shop hop.

The neat thing? Every mom and pop Christmas tree farm has it’s own flavor and it’s cool to support local businesses.

If you want a cheap tree don’t go to one of the more established farms – you’re likely going to find the best prices at a hobby farm on a side road in the country.

But if you’re looking for experiences, wagon rides, and a fun place to bring your dog while you pick out the best fir tree, hit up one of the spots on the Map of Christmas Tree Farms near Grand Rapids.

We’ve been to almost all of them and can say, yep, they’re good.

06Uptown Holiday Shop Hop + Tree Lighting

12/5/19: Uptown Holiday Shop Hop + Tree Lighting = Full On Holiday Cheer

Cancel all of your other plans, you need to be a the Uptown Holiday Shop Hop on Thursday, Dec 5.

A free trolley runs from 4 – 10 pm that night, connecting shoppers to the four participating neighborhoods (East Fulton, East Hills,  Eastown, & Wealthy St) with their unique shops and festivities. My experience in years past- the shuttle is fantastic, the people are friendly, the mood is light, and shops are brimming with samples, goodies, deals and little delights you won’t find anywhere else.

Pro Tip: Study the map before you head out and plan your night. You can’t hit it all – although I’d love to try!

Here are a few of the evening’s highlights that made my list:

  • Fulton Street Farmers Market – featuring Michigan vendors with food, unique gifts, and festive decor, plus delicious food from El Caribe Food Truck, and Queen Elsa from 4- 6 pm.
  • Harmony Brewing Company is serving delicious Harmony beer in their parking lot during Shop Hop along with a community tree lighting at 7:30 pm.
  • Urban Exchange is holding their annual holiday doggie photo booth with Snuggy Claus, Santa Paws, Santa’s Little Helper and two more surprise furry guests (hint…one of the guests is companion to a grumpy green dude).

07Merry + Bright  – Holiday Carriage Rides are the Cherry on Top

Holiday Carriage Rides – Choose from Downtown GR or Downtown Rockford

Cozy up, clickty clack. Watch the streets and lights of downtown go by from your nastalgic perch.

Both downtown Grand Rapids and downtown Rockford offer holiday carriage rides in 2019. The difference? GR carriage rides need to be booked in advance and command a fee. In Rockford, the carriage rides are complimentary and happen at scheduled times throughout the month of December.

Book Downtown GR carriage rides: They fill up fast during the holidays. Rides are available on:
Friday and Saturday evenings beginning at 7pm. Sunday through Thursday and earlier times on Friday & Saturday by appointment only. Book by calling 616-498-6090.

Downtown Rockford Carriage Rides: The Rockford Chamber of Commerce sponsors horse-drawn carriage rides each year. This year, carriage rides are offered from 5:30-8:30 pm on Thursday & Fridays:Dec 12 & 13, 19 & 20, 2019. These complimentary rides start at Rockford Rotary Pavilion (50 Squires Street Square NE.)

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