As the end of 2017 approaches, we are reaching the most wonderful time of the year! Grand Rapids starts to look like a winter wonderland as rain turns to snow and homes and storefronts start decorating with lights and holiday decor. Whether you’re shopping, entertaining guests, or filling up your family’s break with memorable outings, there’s no place more magical than Grand Rapids in the winter! Here are just a few ideas to help you unwrap the holiday season with fun, memorable activities.

Light displays during Light Up Downtown in Grand Rapids
Light Up Downtown is happening Friday, December 1st at Rosa Parks Circle.
Photo Courtesy of Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc.

Make Memories

Take a sleigh ride through downtown Grand Rapids or along the scenic lakeshore! If you book a ride with Common Gentry Carriage Co., you pay by the half hour, and you can opt for a guided tour or a silent night. After your carriage drops you off, walk over to Rosa Parks Circle and ice skate for great prices. Kids ages 17 years old and younger skate for $1, and adults skate for $3. Buy a season pass if you know you’re skating regularly. The rink is now open, and the official season kick-off celebration, Light Up Downtown, is on Friday, December 1 at 5PM. Witness the tree lighting, listen to carolers, and watch the Western Michigan University synchronized skating team christen the ice for the 2017/2018 skating season!

Meet Santa, Mrs. Claus, and their reindeer at the Holiday Open House on December 3 from 1PM - 4 PM. Attendees will also enjoy holiday stories and the music of local choirs at this fun and free event hosted by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

People ice skating at Rosa Parks Circle in Grand Rapids
Rosa Parks Circle's 2017 skating season is now open! $3 for adults, $1 for kids, and $1 for skate rental.
Photo Courtesy of Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc.

If you’re looking to be wowed by the city’s theatrical talent, grab your tickets to see Annie at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre. Tickets are $18 - $37 and can be purchased via the theatre's online box office. Other winter performances include the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Katy Perry, and Christmas with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith at Van Andel Arena. The Grand Rapids Griffins have a promising hockey season ahead, and tickets are usually between $15 and $35 each. The DeVos Performance Hall also has a full calendar of exciting events featuring the Grand Rapids Symphony, the Grand Rapids Ballet, and Broadway Grand Rapids.

Do you think Christmas lights are the ultimate holiday decor? Head to the ballpark, but not for a baseball game! The Christmas Lite Show at Fifth Third Ballpark is celebrating its 20th year of lights and magic. From now until December 31, take your carload to see thousands of lights every night from 5:30PM - 9:30PM.

Light display at the Christmas Lite Show 2016 in Grand Rapids
Take in the sights at the Christmas Lite Show at Fifth Third Ballpark.
Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids.

Shop Local

On Saturday, December 2, stop by the Steelcase Town Hall and find unique local artisan gifts at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts’ 29th Annual Holiday Artists Market, sponsored by Steelcase. Even if you miss these shopping events, shop Grand Rapids any day at neighborhood boutiques, antique shops, malls, outlets, and more. For those looking for unique, locally-made gifts, check out these local artisans making handmade gifts that are perfect for you and your loved ones.

Handmade cards at the UICA Artists' Market in Grand Rapids
Shop the 29th Annual Holiday Artists Market for handmade gifts from local artisans.
Photo courtesy of the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts.

Amuse(um) Yourself

Take the family on a Winter Time Walk through the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. The guided walks are Tuesday and Saturday mornings until early January and are free with admission into the gardens. While you’re there, check out the Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World Exhibit, which will be open until January 7. If you know some kids who love fantasy, take them to the Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, open now!

Christmas trees at the Frederik Meijer Gardens Holiday Traditions from Around the World event in Grand Rapids
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park's Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World is a beloved annual exhibit.
Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

With all of these great, seasonal activities, you’re sure to skate, sing, shop, and enjoy this time of year in West Michigan. Looking for more fun? Head over to the Experience Grand Rapids Holiday page for more ideas.

What is your go-to holiday activity to unwrap the season with family? Comment below with more ideas, and enjoy!