Dynamic Variation:

Winter Activities in Grand Rapids

Whether you love to play in the snow or you prefer to stay warm and cozy, Grand Rapids is the winter destination of your dreams. From skiing and snowshoeing to stage shows and festivals, Grand Rapids has you covered … indoors and out!

Holiday Events

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Holiday Magic

Grand Rapids gets a head-start on celebrating the winter holidays even before winter officially begins. The Gentex Santa Parade kicks off the season on Nov. 19, when floats, marching bands and jolly old St. Nick take to the streets of downtown GR … for the 101st year!

From there it’s a never-ending cascade of fun and festive events through the beginning of 2023:

University of Michigan Health-West: Christmas & Holiday Traditions at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park presents 46 unique cultural displays from around the world, an awesome railway garden, and visits from carolers, live reindeer and Santa himself. Make time for a winter walk through the beautiful grounds adorned with 350,000 lights and see an immersive, awe-inspiring light experience in the outdoor amphitheater. Nov. 22-Jan. 8.

Now in its 25th year, The Christmas Lite Show is a drive-thru experience featuring animated displays, lighted tunnels and more than one million colorful lights over a two-mile course. Board the Memory Lane Train to see the show from a different perspective. Nov. 23-Dec. 31.

CARE Ballet’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas brings the classic tale to life on stage for an hour of family entertainment. The audience can join Santa on stage after the performance for photos at East Grand Rapids Performing Arts Center Nov. 25-27. Care Ballet hosts a Tea Party with Mrs. Claus on Dec. 4 featuring delicious treats, activities, prizes and story time.

“Wee” are Thankful at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park invites youngsters to participate in a Thanksgiving-themed hunt and listen to stories about thankfulness and sharing. Nov. 25.

Santa’s Reindeer fly in to local garden center stores before they hitch up for their sleigh ride with Santa – see them at Flowerland-Wyoming Nov. 25, Flowerland-Kentwood Nov. 27 and Flowerland-Comstock Park Dec. 3.

All aboard The Santa Train on the Coopersville & Marne Railway for a 90-minute ride with the Big Guy and Christmas-themed tales from a storytelling princess. Saturdays & Sundays from Nov. 26-Dec. 18.

The Festivus Light Tour is a bus tour of the city’s most spectacular holiday light displays that includes quick stops at City Built Brewing Co. and Brewery Vivant, where you can grab some cans or bottles to go. Nov. 26, Dec. 3, Dec. 17 & Dec. 23.

Hip Hop Nutcracker is a new take on Tchaikovsky’s 130-year-old ballet, as Maria-Clara and the Nutcracker prince go on a dream adventure in a colorful and contemporary New York City. At DeVos Performance Hall Nov. 27.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze features an ensemble of aerial circus acts, sleight-of-hand jugglers, breath-catching acrobats and more, as storybook characters come to life on stage with dazzling music, sets and scenery. At DeVos Performance Hall Nov. 29.

Walker Winter Fest includes photos with Santa, live reindeer, holiday crafts, hot cocoa and cookies and ice skating at the Walker Ice & Fitness Center Dec. 1.

The Grand Rapids Symphony presents its annual Holiday Pops concert blending favorite seasonal melodies and traditional carols at DeVos Performance Hall Dec. 1-4.

The Critter Barn in Zeeland hosts a Live Nativity with animals, shepherds, lights and angels; the animal farm is decorated with festive decorations and lights. Dec. 1-31.

The Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at downtown’s Rosa Parks Circle takes place the evening of Dec. 2, complete with seasonal activities and attractions.

The BYOB Holiday Lights Trolley includes stops at some of the area’s best holiday light displays, plus music, fun, trivia and prizes along the way. Adults only because you can bring your own alcoholic beverages to enjoy on the trip. Select dates Dec. 2-30.

Tinsel, Treats & Trolleys is a family event in Ada Village – about 15 minutes east of downtown GR – that includes a historic bridge lighting, trolley rides, Santa’s Village and more. Dec. 2.

Lowell’s Christmas Festivities features an arts & crafts sale and book sale, plus a live nativity, Santa visits and a night-time parade. Dec. 3.

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra returns to Van Andel Arena for its annual holiday visit on Dec. 4. The Ghosts of Christmas Eve: The Best of TSO and More celebrates 20+ years of America’s rock holiday sensation.

And on Earth, Peace is a GVSU Arts Holiday Celebration featuring the university’s choral ensembles, orchestra and musical guests performing Gerald Finzi’s In Terra Pax alongside other sounds of the season. At Fountain Street Church Dec. 5.

Grand Rapids Public Museum treats listeners to Holiday Classics performed on its 1928 Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ. Dec. 9.

Grand Rapids Ballet presents The Nutcracker, a holiday tradition featuring one-of-a-kind sets and choreography along with live accompaniment from the Grand Rapids Symphony. Dec. 9-11 & 16-18. The ballet also hosts Clara’s Nutcracker Party on Dec. 11, when your child can meet Nutcracker characters, do arts and crafts, have brunch and more.

Kent Philharmonic Orchestra’s Christmas for All Ages is a musical celebration of the season at St. Cecilia Music Center on Dec. 9.

The Les Clay Christmas Concert at Cornerstone University celebrates the season through music and dance, and promotes African art and artists throughout West Michigan. Dec. 10.

Joe Taylor Park is decorated with banners celebrating all December holidays for the Baxter Holiday Celebration, which also includes festive music, warm fire pits, hot chocolate and cookies, and the lighting of the community Christmas tree. Dec. 10.

Amaze & Amuse: A Modern Day Magic Show Christmas Spectacular features mind-blowing magic, comedy and lots of audience participation with a holiday twist. At Wealthy Theatre Dec. 10.

The Michigan Ballet Academy Ballet partners with local ballet schools to present their version of The Nutcracker at East Grand Rapids Performing Arts Center Dec. 16-18.

For KING & COUNTRY: A Drummer Boy Christmas brings the Grammy Award-winning musical duo to Van Andel Arena for a remarkable night of holiday spirit. Dec. 17.

Celebrate the holiGAYS with a Jingle Bell Drag Brunch at New Holland Brewing-The Knickerbocker Dec. 18.

The Polar Express in Concert is a presentation of the beloved film set to a live performance of the movie score by the Grand Rapids Symphony. Nov. 18-20.

Holiday Dreams Cirque! Is a jaw-dropping, modern holiday show incorporating cirque artists, comedy, daredevils, music, holograms, interactive lasers and more at Forest Hills Fine Arts Center Dec. 21.

Chevy Chase Live: Christmas Vacation is a screening of the 1989 film National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation followed by a live discussion and audience Q&A with star Chevy Chase and his wife Jayni. At DeVos Performance Hall Dec. 21.

The Grand Rapids Symphony presents Sandi Patty: Christmas Blessing featuring the Christian music icon and her astonishing voice in concert. At DeVos Performance Hall Dec. 22.

The Candlelight Holiday Concert at Fountain Street Church is a live, multi-sensory experience featuring music from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker and other familiar holiday songs. Dec. 23.

Bring the kids to Early New Year’s Eve at Grand Rapids Children’s Museum – it’s a day full of fun & festive activities. Dec. 30 from 9am-4pm.

Say goodbye to 2022 with a guided afternoon beer tour of Founders Brewing Co., City Built Brewing Co. and Kusterer Brauhaus – or an evening beer tour of The Mitten Brewing Co., Creston Brewery and Arvon Brewing Co. Dec. 31.

The New Year’s Eve Gothic Circus returns to the Betty Van Andel Opera Center Dec. 31.

Holiday Shopping

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Seasonal Shopping

Find something for everyone on your list at Breton Village Shopping Center, RiverTown Crossings Mall, Tanger Outlet Mall, Woodland Mall and the Ada, East Grand Rapids, Lowell, Rockford and Uptown shopping districts. Be sure to come back for all the post-holiday sales!

Pick up gifts for beer lovers at Beer City USA breweries and the online GrandRapidsStore.com.

Visit Grand Rapids Downtown Market for all your holiday meal fixings – fine meats and seafood, baked goods, sweets and more.

Check out this list of 60+ specialty stores for one-of-a-kind treasures you won’t find anywhere else.

Mark your calendar for artisan markets and neighborhood shopping celebrations:

Holiday Food & Drink

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A Couple Drinking Craft Beer at Dusk Outside
Cheers to Craft Beer, Friends, and Great Food

Indoor and outdoor dining is available throughout the area.

Photo by Experience Grand Rapids

Season’s Eatings (& Drinkings)

It’s such a busy season, be sure to take time to relax and let someone else do the cooking (and brewing and distilling) once in a while. Browse our restaurant, brewery, cidery, coffee shop and distillery lists for something that’s sure to hit the spot.

Enjoy a delicious meal in the Grand Outdoors – or, at least, a heated enclosure offering a clear view of the outdoors. Dozens of local restaurants and breweries have created outdoor dining spaces that will keep you comfortable even in winter.

Share some holiday cheer with friends at eight of 40+ local breweries and earn a FREE Beer City Brewsader® t-shirt. (It makes a great gift, but you’ll probably want to keep it for yourself.)

Visit the Downtown Refreshment Area to view holiday lights and decorations while enjoying drinks and food from participating vendors. Other Refreshment Areas around the region offer similar opportunities.

Attend the 15th Annual Wine, Beer & Food Festival at DeVos Place Convention Center to sample more than 1,000 wines, beers, ciders and spirits from around the world plus delicious food from the area’s finest restaurants. Nov. 18-19.

Put on your best holiday onesies, Santa suits, ugly sweaters and elf costumes to join the 6th Annual 12 Bars of Christmas Crawl in downtown Grand Rapids. Dec. 3.

Get ready for the Winter Beer Festival in LMCU Ballpark, featuring hundreds of beers from Michigan’s finest breweries, plus music, ice sculptures, fire pits and more. General public ticket sales start Dec. 1 for the Feb. 25 event.

World of Winter

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January 7 - March 6, 2022

Experience and enjoy winter in a whole new way during the World of Winter Festival in downtown Grand Rapids. See 20+ large-scale outdoor art installations and 50+ amazing ice sculptures, enjoy musical performances, play games, stroll the city and more  – all FREE! Jan. 6 - March 5.

Show Stoppers

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Really Big Shows

Grand Rapid Civic Theatre presents Mary Poppins, a heartwarming musical tale perfect for the holiday Season. Nov. 18-Dec. 18.

The Power of Poison at Grand Rapids Public Museum is a family-friendly exploration of poison’s paradoxical roles in nature, human health and history, literature, and myth. All season long.

The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited includes iconic puppets, historic costumes, TV clips and more celebrating the mind behind The Muppets. At Grand Rapids Art Museum through Jan. 14.

Comedy is alive and well in Grand Rapids this winter. Laugh along with:

There’s something for everyone at these DeVos Place shows:

Broadway Grand Rapids presents SIX, the Tony Award-winning musical that transforms the six wives of Henry VIII from Tudor queens to pop icons in a euphoric celebration of 21st century girl power. Jan. 10-15.

Rethinking Monuments: American Sculpture in its Time, 1850-2000 is a Grand Rapids Art Museum exhibition that curates sculptures from four Michigan museums to explore the way artists think about and make changes through time. Opens Jan. 13.

Once On This Island is a musical journey to the Caribbean for a reinvention of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale The Little Mermaid. At Grand Rapids Civic Theatre Jan. 20-Feb. 5.

The Harlem Globetrotters bring their amazing basketball skill and outrageous athleticism to Van Andel Arena for a non-stop LOL good time Jan. 22.

The PBR: Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tractor Supply Classic is two hours of pyro, music and the most intense bull riding action the world has to offer. At Van Andel Arena Jan. 27-28.

Dancing with the Stars Live 2023 brings your favorite dance pros and special guests to the DeVos Performance Hall stage for a brand new celebration of dance and fun. Jan. 30.

Grand Rapids Ballet presents Shakespeare’s classic love story, Romeo and Juliet, featuring world premiere choreography and live accompaniment from the Grand Rapids Symphony. Feb. 17-19.

WWE Raw returns to Van Andel Arena with all your favorite WWE stars in bruising action. Feb. 27.

Live Music

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Daryl Hall and his Daryl’s Hall House Band play DeVos Performance Hall Nov. 23.

Male a cappella group Straight No Chaser returns to DeVos Performance Hall on their 25th Anniversary Tour, Nov. 26.

Winter Jam 2023 comes to Van Andel Arena with contemporary Christian acts Jeremy Camp, We The Kingdom, Andy Mineo, Anne Wilson and more. Jan. 19.

  • St. Cecilia Music Center hosts world-class talent this winter:
  • The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Jan. 19
  • Singer-songwriter Patty Griffin, Jan. 29
  • Mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile, Feb. 5
  • Jazz supergroup ARTEMIS, Feb. 16
  • Grand Rapids Symphony performing Beethoven’s First, Feb. 24

Pops Knockout with Caroline Campbell features the acclaimed violinist in concert with the Grand Rapids Symphony at DeVos Performance Hall. Jan. 21.

Rachmaninoff 3 + Sergi Babayan includes a Grand Rapids Symphony performance of Rachmaninoff’s towering Piano Concerto No. 3 as well as two Villa-Lobos pieces. At DeVos Performance Hall Feb. 3-4.

MANIA The Abba Tribute recreates the music of the enduring Swedish supergroup live on stage at DeVos Performance Hall, Feb. 5.

Country singer Cody Johnson comes to Van Andel Arena with special guests Randy Houser and Jesse Raub Jr. on Feb. 16.

Grand Rapids Opera presents The Last American Hammer, a bluegrass-infused tale of a one-man militia raging against the “tyranny of federal overreach.” At Irwin Seating Company Feb. 17 & 19.

Blues-rock superstar Joe Bonamassa brings his Spring Tour 2023 to DeVos Performance Hall Feb. 24.

Check out the winter schedules at GLC Live at 20 Monroe, The Intersection, Midtown (formerly Listening Room GR) and The Pyramid Scheme for 70+ concerts across a variety of genres.

Winter Sports

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Snowshoeing has been around for almost as long as civilizations have interacted with deep snow. Historians believe snowshoeing traces its roots back…

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One of the great thing about Grand Rapids is the city’s close proximity to wildlife, nature, and beautiful outdoor scenes. You can easily find…

Winter weather brings new opportunities to explore and enjoy our natural landscape. Hike the trails at Blandford Nature Center and area parks to savor every shift of the season, as snow comes and goes and comes again.

Check out the area’s best snowshoe trails (and find out where to rent or buy a pair) for a scenic, at-your-own-pace workout.

Skiing more your style? You can tackle 21 downhill runs at Cannonsburg Ski Area, just 20 minutes from downtown. Bittersweet Ski Resort (20 runs) and Mulligan’s Hollow (six runs) are 30 minutes or so away. All three offer excellent cross-country trails, as do numerous close-by parks and nature areas.

Cannonsburg is also a favorite with snowboarders, thanks to a terrain park filled with 80+ jibs and jumps. Bittersweet and Mulligan’s Hollow are also popular snowboarding spots.

Outdoor ice skating in downtown’s Rosa Parks Circle begins Nov. 25 and runs through Feb. 26 (weather permitting). The admission price – $4 for adults, $2 for age 17 and under – includes skate rental. You can walk up or reserve a spot online to ensure priority access.

Want to take the kids sledding? Our favorite fun (and free) sledding locations include Richmond Park, Belknap Park, Johnson Park and Cascade Township Park.

If you love fat tire biking, you’ll love the groomed trails at Cannonsburg Ski Area, Indian Trails Fat Bike Park and the Merrell Trail in Rockford.

Ice fishing is a major pastime here – grab your auger and head to one our many inland lakes and river bayous.

Get your heart and your legs pumping at these popular events:

Cheer on the action at a Grand Rapids Griffins hockey game or Grand Rapids Gold basketball game. Check out the Meijer State Games of Michigan (Feb. 17-19) to see athletes compete in more than 20 winter sports, indoors and out. 

Kids Stuff

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Bring the kids for Wintertime Walks at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park – these outdoor discovery walks let young ones investigate the Children’s Garden in new ways. Select days from Dec. 3-31.

CoCoMelon Live! Is a Broadway-style musical production that encourages kids and parents alike to get out of their seats to sing and dance along. At DeVos Performance Hall Dec. 20.

The Pigeon Comes to Grand Rapids: A Mo Willems Exhibit is a journey into the magical worlds of the beloved children’s book creator. At Grand Rapids Children’s Museum through Jan. 7.

YouTube sensation Stephen Sharer brings his Share The Love Music Tour to DeVos Performance Hall on Jan 8.

John Ball Zoo hosts Animal Adventures: Surviving in the Wild! exploring the survival techniques of a snake, chinchilla, tarantula and rat, complete with live animal presentations, animal stories and art projects. Jan. 21-23.

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum presents Molly of Denali, a nationally acclaimed exhibit based on the animated PBS series. Opens Jan. 28.

Van Andel Arena hosts Disney on Ice: Let’s Celebrate, featuring more than 50 unforgettable Disney characters skating through 14 of the greatest Disney stories ever told. Feb. 2-5.

Save on Attractions with Our Culture Pass

Receive admission into many cultural attractions around Grand Rapids as well as additional exclusive discounts with our $24.00 Culture Pass.