While the weather outside has turned cold, venues across the city are cooking up performances and exhibits to warm the soul – and the senses – indoors. From family-friendly Broadway productions to intimate holiday orchestrals, the arts are alive and well in Grand Rapids this time of year, making a trip into town well worth the winter drive. 

As you’re plotting out your holiday calendar this month, give the movie theater a pass, and take a look at these upcoming events and performances. You’ll be glad you did.

Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony, Downtown Grand Rapids
Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony in Downtown Grand Rapids. Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids.

1) Friday December 2nd, 5 pm - 7 pm: Light Up Downtown

It wouldn’t be the holidays in Grand Rapids without the tree lighting ceremony in Rosa Parks Circle. Stop by and join at 5 p.m., just outside of the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Take in a performance of the Western Michigan University's synchronized ice skating team, get your photo taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus, enjoy an evening of free ice skating, and so much more.

2) December 1 - 4 & 22 - 23: GR Symphony's Holiday Pops & more

For a more intimate outing, snag tickets to one of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s holiday shows. Catch a performance of Wolverine Worldwide Holiday Pops December 1-4, featuring holiday favorites like Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. 

If the kids are coming along, you won’t want to miss the Holiday Pops Spectacular matinee on Saturday, December 3. Pre-concert festivities include caroling, games, crafts, family photos, an instrument petting zoo, and more. 

Or, for something truly unique, don’t miss the December 22 and 23 performances of the multi-sensory Cirque de Noel.

3) Now through January 8: Meijer Gardens: Christmas trees, Carolers, Santa visits, Reindeer, and more

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is known for its annual Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World, which features over 40 holiday-decked trees and displays – including its beloved Railway Garden exhibition. This year, regular Santa visits, Dickens Carolers, and even Santa’s reindeer will be visiting the exhibit.

The Gardens offer extended holiday hours, remaining open until 9 p.m. on December 19-23, and 26-30. Santa and the carolers are visiting December 6, 13, and 20. 

Bringing the kids? If you bring them by between 1-4 p.m. on Saturdays, they can pet Santa’s reindeer in the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden.

Nutcracker Ballet Dancers
Grand Rapids Ballet's performance of the Nutcracker. Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Ballet.

4) December 9-11 and 16-18: Grand Rapids GR Ballet's Nutrcracker (of course)

It wouldn’t be December in Grand Rapids without Grand Rapids Ballet’s annual Nutcracker performance, playing at DeVos Performance Hall. And yes, there are a few tickets still left – but be sure to buy them in advance before they’re gone!

5) November 18 - December 18: Civic Theatre’s Beauty & the Beast

Feeling romantic? Snuggle in to another classic family favorite, performed live by some of West Michigan’s best talent, and adorned by meticulously hand-crafted costumes and set designs. Tickets have been selling fast, so you’d better get them while you can.

Want sneak peek of the performance? Watch this video of “Belle” (played by WMU Musical Theater student Alyssa Meeuwsen) sing “Home” backstage as part of a recent kickoff performance.

Boy holding Red Ryder BB Gun in the Christmas Story, Broadway Grand Rapids.
Treat your whole family to A Christmas Story the Musical. Courtesy of Broadway Grand Rapids.

6) December 27 - 30: A Christmas Story the Musical on Broadway

Yes, you heard that right: the Musical. Need we say more? 

Catch this hilarious musical, as performed by the professional Broadway troupe, thanks to Broadway Grand Rapids. Leg lamp and pink bunny pajamas included. Hint: don’t lick the flagpole.

Discover more holiday events and activities with our guide to unwrapping the season in Grand Rapids