Downtown Grand Rapids was recently named America’s Jolliest City and with good reason. Generous residents and plentiful jobs coupled with oodles of Christmas events and tree farms, make for a jolly city indeed. It’s also gorgeous during the holidays. Dressed up with beautifully decorated storefronts and thousands of twinkling lights that adorn buildings and trees throughout the city, Grand Rapids is truly a winter wonderland.
The city center is especially beautiful at night, when you get the full impact of all of the lights. There are so many ways to explore all of the downtown holiday lights, but here’s a suggested route to help you hit the highlights:
Start here: Park in or near the Ellis Parking Lot at the Monroe St/Lyon St intersection. The waving Santa on the Ellis Parking Ramp building and lighted trees in their lot will start your evening off with a smile.
Head south on Monroe. Take a peek at the front window of the Chop House, which is decorated for the annual Window Wonderland competition. (Keep your eye out for other decorated storefronts as you walk around - click here for a map and more info on the Window Wonderland competition.)
Across the street, the front of the Amway is elegantly outfitted - but just wait: you’ll see their truly dazzling display a little later in the walk.
At the light, take the diagonal onto Monroe Center St NW, where you’ll find more than 50 trees and lampposts glimmering with hundreds of miniature white lights, creating a wonderful small-town feel in the middle of the city.
Halfway up the block, stop at Rosa Parks Circle and take a minute to watch (or join) the ice skaters.
This magnificent tree, glimmering with thousands of multicolored lights, sits between the GRAM and Rosa Parks Circle. It’s a great photo op!
Go back the way you came on Monroe Center St. At the light, cross over and head south on Monroe. Just before the Comerica Bank building, you’ll find this beautiful “crystal” tree in Louis Campau Square, flanked by 5 ornamental pear trees each decorated with 1000 blue lights.
Continue south on Monroe, take a peek at the lights on the Plaza Tower apartments’ trees (at the corner of Monroe/Fulton), then turn left and head east on Fulton towards Van Andel Arena, lit up with this festive holiday bow.
Cross at the light and head north on Ottawa Ave NW, then take your first left onto Monroe Center St, strolling back down along the tree-lit street, take another moment to enjoy the massive Christmas tree outside of the GRAM and Rosa Parks Circle, and return to the intersection of Monroe Center St., Pearl St. and Monroe St. At Monroe, cross over and head west on Pearl. Gaze up at the Amway Grand Plaza’s skywalk, wearing its beautiful winter coat of shiny blue lights.
Continue south on Pearl and look down the street to see their south entrance draped with hundreds of lights in a display that will make your heart smile.
Head inside the Amway Grand Plaza and take in the exquisite decorations and towering Christmas tree in the lobby. Then put your feet up in the Lumber Baron Bar and raise a toast to the wonder and merriment of downtown Grand Rapids during the holidays.
If you’re driving around downtown, there are more decorations a little farther from the city center. Jefferson Street, between Fulton and Oakes, has pretty multicolored lights.
Various kinds of garland and other trimmings decorate the street lamps along Ionia (between Logan and Fulton), North Monroe, and Bridge Street (Monroe to Seward)—all pretty at night but some (without lights) are a little easier to see in the daytime.
To make the most of the holiday season in Grand Rapids, be sure to check out our other posts in this series: