West Michigan is a long way from the North Pole, but there’s no shortage of yuletide-inspired shindigs throughout December. From unique Christmas shopping options to extravagant holiday events, here’s a shortlist of holly, jolly happenings.
Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World
Through early January
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, 1000 East Beltline Ave. NE, Grand Rapids
meijergardens.org, $9-$12, children under 2: free
Get a taste of holidays around the world at Meijer Gardens. This large exhibition houses over 300,000 lights and over 40 international displays of holiday cheer. You can experience a variety of events, including the 19th Annual Holiday Gift Show, the Original Dickens Carolers and other holiday gatherings.
Uptown Holiday Shop Hop
Uptown Grand Rapids
A "shopping extravaganza" throughout Uptown (neighborhoods of East Fulton, East Hills, Eastown and Wealthy Street) with free trolleys, strolling carolers, live entertainment, and refreshments. Take advantage of special deals and giveaways at Uptown shops, and enjoy festive offerings and happy hours from participating restaurants during the event.
UICA 27th Annual Holiday Artists’ Market
Steelcase Town Hall, 901 44th St. SE, Grand Rapids
Dec. 4: Member Preview: 5:30 p.m., Public: 6–9 p.m., Dec. 5: 10 a.m.–7 p.m., FREE!, uica.org/ham
Looking for a homegrown gift? You will find jewelry, home goods, art, cards, toys and accessories created by local artists at UICA’s annual Holiday Artists’ Market. There’s also live music, food and beverage vendors, and a chance to support local artists this holiday season. With 60+ participating artists, you are sure to find the perfect gift for friends, family and yourself!
Grand Caroling Events
Welsh Auditorium, 303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
Dec. 4, 11, 18, 6–7 p.m., Free!
Ever want to bundle up the family and go caroling door-to-door in your neighborhood? Me neither.
But how about joining a crowd of hundreds at the steps of the venerable Welsh Auditorium downtown to sing holiday tunes, led by some amazing choral groups? Now you’re singing a different tune.
Grand Caroling happens on the first three Fridays in December, where you can shake off the winter blues and croon to your heart’s content. The event and song books are free.
The song leaders are the West Michigan Gay Men’s Chorus, Grand Rapids Sweet Adeline’s Chorus, Grand Rapids Women’s Chorus and the Girls Choral Academy.
A Classic Rock Christmas
DeVos Performance Hall, 303 Monroe Ave., Grand Rapids
Dec. 21, 8 p.m., $28.50–$38.50, decemberpeople.com
Start a new holiday tradition with this rock ‘n’ roll-infused event. Combining classic rock music with Christmas hits, A Classic Rock Christmas showcases December People, musicians coming together from bands like Boston, The Sammy Hagar Band and The Tubes. One dollar from each ticket goes to the Heart of West Michigan United Way 2-1-1 Program, which offers Kent County residents assistance in locating food, housing, utilities and other services.
Grand Rapids Symphony presents Cirque de Noel
DeVos Performance Hall, 303 Monroe Ave. NE, Grand Rapids
Dec. 22-23, 7:30 p.m., $32, devosperformancehall.com
Join the Grand Rapids Symphony for another holiday season by attending this display of musical and physical artistry. Enjoy the talents of Cirque de la Symphonie — aerialists, contortionists, acrobats and so on — synced with seasonal holiday and classic favorites performed by the Grand Rapids Symphony.
Hark Up Christmas Concert 2015
DeVos Center for Worship and Arts, 2300 Plymouth Ave. SE, Grand Rapids
Dec. 4–6, $12–$35, harkup.com
For those looking to get both holly and jolly, Dec. 4-6Hark Up Christmas 2015 takes over DeVos Center for Worship and Arts. This year’s presentation, Sing a New Song — A Christmas of Hope, features a children’s choir, multi-cultural dance team and a full string group, as well as a “multimedia interactive element.”
Traditional Holiday & Tree Lighting Celebration
City Centre & Celery Flats Historic Area, 7900 S Westnedge, Portage
Dec. 7, 7 p.m., FREE!, portagemi.gov
For those in search of holiday lights, caroling and tasty treats, this wintry Portage tradition is likely the place to be. The annual event starts at the City Centre, near the Portage District Library. The gala then follows a horse-drawn wagon, complete with jingle bells and carolers, on a short walk down the Portage Creek Bicentennial Trail to the Celery Flats Historical Area, where the holiday celebration takes place. And, yes, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there greeting visitors at the historic schoolhouse. Hot cider and hot cocoa are available for $1. Proceeds from the sales will benefit area charities.
Winter Holiday Festival
The Olde World Village, 13215 M 96, Augusta
Dec. 5-6, 10 a.m.–6 p.m., facebook.com/winterholidayfest
Get transported back in time at this Dickens-themed holiday event. The old-timey Christmas vibe is amped up with carolers, stage shows and maybe some snow activities. There will also be plenty of food and arts and crafts vendors. Era-appropriate attire is encouraged, so grab your top hat and break out your best 1800s gear. Who needs the mall?
Eighth Street Marketplace, 150 West Eighth Street, Holland
Dec. 4–5, 11–12, kerstmarkt.wordpress.com
Kerstmarkt is a Dutch word meaning “Christmas Market.” This European-style, open-air market is back in Holland, bringing the Netherlands to the Tulip City.
Find your Christmas tree, unique handcrafted gifts, authentic Dutch treats and remarkable imported gifts, such as handmade clothing, toys, ornaments and art.
America’s Tallest Singing Christmas Tree
Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts, 425 W. Western Ave., Muskegon
Dec. 3–5, 7 p.m., $15, frauenthal.org
Celebrating 31 years of Christmas tradition, the Mona Shores High School Choir – backed by the school’s orchestra – ushers in the holiday spirit with its classic show, drawing more than 5,000 people each year. The Singing Tree stacks members of the choir in a beautiful arrangement of Christmas-tree lights and cheer. More than 200 volunteers decorate the colossal 67-foot-tall tree and top off the production with shrubbery imported from Germany.