The holidays have arrived in West Michigan and there’s no shortage of ways to celebrate.
Whether you prefer markets for buying the last of your gifts for loved ones; concerts putting Christmas music and other holiday hits in the spotlight; annual shows that are practically traditions at this point; meals to enjoy together; brilliant holiday light displays; Chanukah, Kwanzaa and more.
Plus, a few local spots are offering New Year’s Eve plans already, but even more options will be announced by the time you’re reading this. Head to Revue’s website for more current information!
However you love to experience the holidays, here are our top picks.
Grand Rapids Annual Christmas Tree Lighting
Rosa Parks Circle
Dec. 1, 5-8 p.m.
Head downtown for the annual Grand Rapids Christmas Tree Lighting. There’s open skating at Rosa Parks Circle, s’mores to roast, free hot chocolate, local entertainment, and cultural booths highlighting how holidays are celebrated around the world!
A Very Phabies Christmas
Dec. 1-2, 7 p.m.
The Stray invites you to this variety-style show celebrating the release of Phabies’ new single “Pink Christmas Tree”. This night of music, comedy, and holiday cheer will include performances by Tiny Breakfast Improv, Brie Stoner, Storytime with Jack Droppers, Marley Kaye and more. Plus, beer, coffee, wine and food to order!
Elf in Concert
DeVos Performance Hall
Buddy was accidentally transported to the North Pole as a toddler and raised to adulthood among Santa’s elves. Unable to shake the feeling that he doesn’t fit in, the adult Buddy travels to New York in search of his real father. This holiday season, relive this heart-warming holiday classic on a giant screen as every note of John Debney’s wonderful score is performed live to picture by the Grand Rapids Symphony, conducted by Duo Shen.
Outdoor Holiday Market
Saugatuck Center for the Arts
Dec. 2, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Come to this market for nearly 40 local Friendors (that’s what they call a vendor who’s also a friend) in SC4A’s Outdoor Plaza & Pavilion featuring high-end crafts, home decor, wearables, jewelry, paper goods, artisan baked goods, greens, and much more. While you shop, enjoy one of the specialty holiday beverages from the bar and just try not to sing along to your favorite holiday numbers being played overhead.
Rockford’s 79th Annual Santa Parade
Dec. 2, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Welcome Santa to town for the holiday! Parade starts at 11 a.m. at Lewis & Main Street. They will go South on Main, turn on Courtland, and continue down Monroe Street. It’s free to attend and dog-friendly. Santa will be in the Rotary Pavilion following the parade to visit with children until 2 p.m.!
Lindsey Stirling - Snow Waltz Tour
Van Andel Arena
Dec. 5, 8 p.m.
For over a decade, Lindsey Stirling has enchanted audiences across the globe by performing a certain spellbinding magic with her electronic violin, dreaming up an exquisitely composed yet boldly inventive sound entirely her own. On her new album Snow Waltz, the classically trained musician/songwriter/dancer/author finds herself fully in her element, sharing a selection of holiday classics and original songs that evoke intense emotion through her immersive arrangements and mesmerizing melodies.
Grand Rapids Holiday Sip & Shop
The Goei Center
Dec. 7, 6-9 p.m.
The Grand Rapids Holiday Sip & Shop is a community-driven event, bringing together local makers and artisans, holiday customers and the nonprofit Treetops Collective, all for a one-night-only shopping occasion. The goal is to draw the community together by generating exposure and revenue for handmade small businesses and creating awareness and a contribution for Treetops Collective.
(Uptown Shop Hop. Courtesy Photo)
Annual Uptown Shop Hop
Uptown Grand Rapids
Dec. 7, 3-9 p.m.
Join the 25th annual Uptown Shop Hop, as the district of five thriving neighborhoods comes alive with extra special holiday experiences. FREE Jolly Trolley rides will transport you through Uptown as you holiday shop, eat, drink, and make memories! Merriment includes free trolly rides between districts, streetside entertainment, and surprises guests and goods all night long. Shop Hop is a great way to knock out that shopping list with memorable gifts that will support the livelihoods of local and independent makers and businesses, right here at home.
Holiday 2023 Expo
Holland Civic Center
Over 130 artists, makers and small businesses will be sharing their wares for all your holiday shopping at this juried expo. They will have face painting, Santa for photo ops, interactive activities throughout the day, food trucks, a bar and concessions, and more! Wrap up your holiday gift shopping season by supporting your small businesses and artisans while shopping local.
Holiday Owl Blankets & Brews
Blandford Nature Center
Dec. 9, 3-5 p.m.
Come out and make a beautiful no-sew owl blanket this holiday season, while enjoying a local brew. Blandford will supply everything needed to make a blanket, no skills required. Wildlife Staff will be showing educational owls up close while participants cut strips and tie knots to make their blanket, all with one drink included.
Ugly Sweater Party
Dec. 9, 8 p.m.
Mark your calendars for the most fun Ugly Christmas Sweater Party of the year! Join GR pop-punk band Midwest Skies! with Years Later, Live for Tomorrow, and Lame Ass Dads for a night of incredible music, great drinks and food, and ugly sweaters. Proceeds are going to The Helen Devos Children’s Hospital and the Humane Society of West Michigan.
Grand Menorah Lighting
Dec. 10, 5 p.m.
Come celebrate the FIRST night of Chanukah together as a community with the lighting of the giant menorah in Calder Plaza. Plus, watch a master ice carver sculpt a beautiful ice menorah, a grand fire juggling show, Gelt Drop, lively Chanukah music, sufganiot (donuts), hot delicious latkes, crafts and more.
Holiday Classics Organ Concert
Grand Rapids Public Museum
The GRPM is concluding its 2023 Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ Concert Series with themed Holiday Classics organ concerts performed by iconic Crystal Falls organist David Wickerham. Deck the halls this season with cheerful holiday songs on the GRPM’s 1928 Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ and classics such as Jingle Bells, Silent Night, The First Noel, and more.
3rd Annual Wonderland: A Christmas Formal
Embassy Suites by Hilton
Dec. 16, 8 p.m.
New, improved and better than ever, Liz Della Croce of The Lemon Bowl and Zeke Fowle of Pirate Club present their exclusive holiday soiree, where they celebrate life, luxury, and give thanks for cherished family, friends, and colleagues. Expect incredible food, top-shelf cocktails, formal attire, music from DJ Sanjay, new VIP sections and much more.
BRUNCHMAS on Bridge St.
New Holland Brewing - The Knickerbocker
Since 2018, MI Drag Brunch has been giving high energy performances in some of the hottest brunch destinations around, and turning up a party with thousands of new and old drag fans alike. Celebrate the holidays with Brunchmas—each ticket includes a meal, welcome drink and 2-hour performance.
DeVos Performance Hall
Dec. 19, 7:30 p.m.
Chip Davis, founder and creator of Mannheim Steamroller, will celebrate over 35 years of his annual Christmas concert tour, making it the longest running concert tour in the entertainment industry. A Grammy Award winner, Mannheim Steamroller has sold more than 41 million albums, with over 31.5 million in the Christmas genre, ever since he revolutionized the making and marketing of holiday music in 1984.
University of Michigan Health-West Holiday Pops
DeVos Performance Hall
Join us for this long-standing holiday tradition with Bob Bernhardt, the Grand Rapids Symphony, the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, the Grand Rapids Youth Chorus, Embellish Handbell Ensemble, and frequent GRS soloist Shayna Steele! Hear your seasonal favorites including “Joy to the World,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” John Williams’ selections from Home Alone, a “Christmas Sing-Along,” and the “Hallelujah” Chorus from The Messiah.
Paint & Sip - O Christmas Tree
Dec. 23, 6:30 p.m.
Get festive with your paint and sip just two nights before Christmas! Holiday music will be on, the bar will be open, the space is all decked out for the season, and a talented (and fun) artist will walk you through every step of this pleasant Christmas tree scene.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra - The Ghosts of Christmas Eve
Van Andel Arena
With more than 10 million albums sold, TSO has inspired generations of fans to rediscover the multi-dimensional art form of the rock opera, especially through their annual holiday blowout in Grand Rapids. On the road, they have become one of the world’s top acts, with Billboard magazine naming TSO as one of the top touring artists of the past decade.
Community Kids Kwanzaa
Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives
Dec. 30, 2-5 p.m.
The GRAAMA celebrates Kwanzaa every year, but they’ve begun putting the focus on the youth to bring families together for a community celebration. Expect fun, games, crafts, movies, stories and food, celebrating the seven principles of Kwanzaa: Unity, self-determination, collective work, responsibility, purpose, creativity and faith.
(Christkindl Market. Photo by Bryan Esler for Experience GR)
FUN ALL SEASON LONG
Grand Rapids Downtown Market
Through Dec. 23
This year, the Grand Rapids Downtown Market is hosting its very first Christkindl Market, starting November 17 and running right up to Christmas Eve. Heavily inspired by traditional European Christmas markets, the event will feature an illuminated winter wonderland with holiday retailers and experiences including uniquely decorated vendor booths with handmade gifts, German Style beverage hall, live entertainment, curling experiences, holiday lights, caroling, Santa, children’s activities, and much more. Head to the market’s website for more details on specific events throughout the season!
Christmas Lite Show Drive Thru
West Michigan’s largest, animated drive-through light show is back for “Another Year of Magic!” This season marks their 26th year of entertaining people of all ages, and they’re excited to see you. Enjoy nearly two miles of Christmas magic with over a million lights, animated displays, lighted tunnels, and more—all from the comfort of your car. Or, remove any barriers by taking the hayride-style Memory Lane Train, which seats up to 24 adults.
BYOB Holiday Lights Trolley
This Christmas party on wheels is coming back to Grand Rapids! You’ll meet at a festive neighborhood bar for check-in, to meet your tour guide, and grab a quick snack as prep for a gawker ride through GR’s yuletide lights. Bring your own beverages for the vintage trolley ride.
Holiday Movies On Screen
The holidays are all about coming together, and one great way to do that is to head to Wealthy Theatre for a classic holiday movie played up on the big screen. December 5 is Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. December 17 is an It’s A Wonderful Life matinee. December 19 is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. And while we’re at it: December 16 is not a movie, but rather the Amaze & Amuse Christmas Spectacular, with comedy magician Trino and award-winning juggler Will Juggle.
Meet Live Reindeer!
Flowerland of Comstock Park, Dec. 2, 12-3 p.m.
Ada Village General Store, Dec. 15, 2-6 p.m.
Kentwood Library, Dec. 19, 4-5 p.m.
(Christmas Light Show at LMCU Ballpark)
NEW YEAR'S EVE
(more events to come)
New Year’s Early Eve (Dec. 30) | Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
New Year’s Eve Ballroom Bashes | Amway Grand Plaza/JW Marriott
NYE Party w/ Melophobix | Turnstiles
NYE: Y24K | General Wood Shop
NYE at GLC | Gun Lake Casino
Bass Country NYE | The Intersection
Grand Rapids Griffins | Van Andel Arena
New Year’s Fest | of Kalamazoo