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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. Check this page often, we’ll keep adding new events and activities as they’re announced – including the downtown Grand Rapids Santa Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony, ice skating at Rosa Parks Circle and New Year’s festivities. We’re here to help you plan your fun calendar all the way through February 2024!

Holiday Events

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The Christkindl Markt at the Downtown Market is inspired by the world-famous Christmas street markets that originated in Germany in the late Middle Ages and spread to other countries. The Downtown Market is transforming its outdoor space into a European-style Christmas Village lined with artisan…

Holiday Magic

Grand Rapids has a new way to get into the holiday spirit! The Christkindl Markt at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market is a European-style Christmas Village lined with artisan gift and food vendors, live holiday entertainment and festive family fun. It’s bound to become another one of your family’s favorite winter traditions. Nov. 17-Dec. 23.

The University of Michigan Health-West: Christmas & Holiday Traditions exhibition returns to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park with 300,000 lights, 42 international displays, carolers, live reindeer, outdoor experiences and more. New lighting technology makes indoor spaces even more dazzling. Nov. 21 - Jan.7.

The Christmas Lite Show at LMCU Ballpark 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. 22-Dec. 31. Get a sneak traffic-free peek of the Christmas Lite Show on a Winter Wonder Walk (Nov. 11) or Reindeer Bike Ride (Nov. 12).

Cirque Dreams: Holidaze features a world-renowned cast of performers accompanied by an ensemble of aerial circus acts, sleight-of-hand jugglers, fun-loving skippers, breath-catching acrobatics and much more. At DeVos Performance Hall Nov. 30.

The Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at downtown’s Rosa Parks Circle takes place the evening of Dec. 1, complete with seasonal activities and attractions.

For even more incredible light displays, check out our guide to Holiday Lights in Grand Rapids: Downtown & Around Town.

Other local communities also host tree lighting ceremonies in accompanied by festive family fun:

The Grand Rapids Symphony presents Elf in Concert, a giant screen-showing of the holiday film accompanied by a life performance of the movie’s score. At DeVos Performance Hall Dec. 1 & 2.

Electric violinist Lindsey Stirling comes to Van Andel Arena with her Snow Waltz Tour, sharing a selection of holiday classics and original songs in her distinctive style. Dec. 5.

Grand Rapids Ballet brings its acclaimed production of The Nutcracker to DeVos Performance Hall Dec. 8-10 & 15-17. Kids can meet characters from the production at Clara’s Nutcracker Party on Sunday, Dec. 10.

The Blind Boys of Alabama Christmas Show comes to St Cecilia Music Center with their gospel-music approach to holiday standards. Dec. 5.

Sparkle! is this year’s Christmas cabaret show at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, featuring dinner, drinks and performance by an a capella group from the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club. Dec. 7.

Hop on board the BYOB Holiday Lights Trolley for a three-hour tour of the area’s best holiday lighting and décor displays, including The Christmas Lite Show at LMCU Ballpark. Bring your own beverages to enjoy on the ride. A few tickets remain for Dec. 15, 22 and 23, with more available for Dec. 29 & 30.

Fountain Street Church hosts Candlelight: Holiday Special featuring “The Nutcracker” and More, a live, multi-sensory musical experience under the gentle glow of candlelight. Dec. 16.

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis rolls into DeVos Performance Hall with the music that revolutionized the sound of the holidays. Dec. 19.

The University of Michigan Health – West Holiday Pops is a long-standing tradition uniting the Grand Rapids Symphony, the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, the Grand Rapids Youth Chorus, Embellish Handbell Ensemble, and frequent GRS soloist Shayna Steele for glorious renditions of seasonal favorites. At DeVos Performance Hall Dec. 21-23.

West Michigan’s own Sarena Rae and her extraordinary band present a Merry Christmas Concert at Wealthy Theatre Dec. 21.

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra returns to Van Andel Arena for its annual holiday visit the day after Christmas: Tuesday, Dec. 26. The Ghosts of Christmas Eve: The Best of TSO and More celebrates 20+ years of America’s rock holiday sensation.

Meet Santa

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The Ada Santa Parade, hosted by Ada Firefighters, makes its way through the streets of Ada Village on Dec. 2. Stick around to meet Santa – and enjoy cookies & hot chocolate – after the parade.

Lowell hosts its annual Night-Time Santa Parade on Dec. 2, preceded by a day full of festive fun. Lowell keeps the after-dark them going with A Nite of Christmas Cheer on Dec. 8, featuring Santa visits, live reindeer, horse & carriage rides, and more.

It’s the 79th year for Rockford’s Annual Santa Parade, which winds its way through the city’s picturesque downtown. Dec. 2.

Santa has once again landed at Cabela’s for a pre-Christmas meet & greet – and families who visit him there can get a free photo and digital greeting card to share. Nov. 4-Dec. 24. Pre-book up to 7 days in advance.

Bring your kids to see Santa in the picture-perfect, whimsically illustrated Mimi’s Garden at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park Dec. 5, 12 & 19.

Visit The Santa House at LMCU Ballpark for photos, hot cocoa and a letters to Santa drop-off location. Friday, Saturday & Sunday from Nov. 24-Dec. 23, plus Wednesday Dec. 20.

Get up close and personal with Santa and his reindeer at Flowerland Comstock Park (Dec. 2).

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. 25-Dec. 23.

Visit Santa and get a free photo at the Lowell Showboat on the magical Riverwalk Plaza 20 minutes east of Grand Rapids. Dec. 6, 9, 13, 19 & 20.

Meet Santa and his reindeer in Sparta Town Square – then roast s’mores, ride kiddie carts and hop on the Holiday Hayride. Dec. 15.

Take the kids to see Santa at the mall and get some shopping done at the same time: Rivertown Crossings hosts the big guy from Nov. 24-Dec. 24 and Woodland Mall from Nov. 18-Dec 24. Rivertown Crossings and Woodland Mall offer family pet photos with Santa on select days.

The Wyoming-Kentwood Santa Parade travels one mile on South Division Ave., roughly from Supermercado Mexico to Brann’s Steakhouse & Grille. Line the route to see floats and Santa Dec. 9.

Seasonal Shopping

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Local Gifts to Give from Grand Rapids

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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 Gift Shops at Local Attractions for distinctive gifts unique to Grand Rapids.

Trying to entice friends and family to visit you in Grand Rapids? Give them the gift of Culture Pass GR – it’s a three-day pass granting them access to many of the area’s top cultural attractions.

Browse the 20+ artisan food vendors at 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 and shop local consignment stores for great deals on gently used fashions, furniture and more.

Shop for men’s gifts, food treats, home and holiday décor, hand-crafted jewelry, toys and more at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park Gift Show Nov. 4.

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.) Prefer something lighter (and warmer)? Check out these Warm Drinks for Cold Days in Grand Rapids.

Get the Flights of Flavor pass to find the city’s best food & drink pairings – ideal for sharing with friends and family in this festive season. Check in with the pass to earn t-shirts, caps, cutting boards and more. (They’d make perfect gifts, but you’ll probably want to keep them 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.

Need some wine and/or champagne for the holidays (or any day)? Grand Rapids has some great wine shops and wine bars.

Holiday Owl Blankets & Brews walks you through the steps of creating a no-sew owl blanket while enjoying a local beer. Dec 9.

Get a taste of hundreds of Michigan beers at the Winter Beer Festival, also featuring local music and performers, ice sculptures, firepits, food and more. Outdoors in LMCU Ballpark, Feb. 24.

World of Winter

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January 12 - March 10, 2024

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. 12 - March 10.

A few don’t miss events:

Show Stoppers

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Really Big Shows

Grand Rapids Civic Theatre presents Disney’s Beauty & the Beast: The Musical, live on stage for 27 performances from Nov. 17 - Dec. 17.

Actors’ Theatre Grand Rapids presents Oil and Sugar, a Michigan-based thriller of a play about trust as power, art as disclosure, and how processed souls are poised for mutual destruction. Dec. 7-10 & 14-16.

BUGS at the Grand Rapids Public Museum invites all ages to enter the world of insects, marvel at their talents and witness them in action.

Forest of Dreams: Contemporary Tree Sculpture offers unexpected visions of these remarkable organisms through the work of 15 exceptional artists. At Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park through Feb. 25, 2024.

Two exhibits at the Grand Rapids Art Museum offers two very different conceptions of art: Underneath Everything: Humility and Grandeur in Contemporary Ceramics (through Jan. 14) and Uncharted Ways Through: Maps and the Image (opens Dec. 16).

Mania: The ABBA Tribute is an exhilarating, two-hour recreation of one of ABBA’s most memorable concert – a treat for fans old and new. At DeVos Performance Hall, Jan. 6.

If cabin fever is starting to set in, get in the mood for spring and summer at these DeVos Place shows:

  • GR Bridal Show, Jan. 12-13
  • GR Remodeling & New Homes Show, Jan. 12-14
  • GR Camper, Travel & RV Show, Jan. 18-21
  • Michigan International Auto Show, Feb. 1-4
  • West Michigan Golf Show, Feb. 9-11
  • GR Boat Show, Feb. 14-18
  • West Michigan Home & Garden Show, Feb. 29-March 3

Broadway Grand Rapids brings a lavish musical production of Disney’s Aladdin to DeVos Performance Hall, Jan. 16-21.

Clyde’s at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre is a Tony-nominated play about the quest for the perfect sandwich at a truck stop, presented during GRCT’s “Pay What You Want January.” Jan. 19-28.

The PBR Pendelton Whisky Velocity Tour brings the best bull riders from around the world to compete in an exciting event – it’s not a rodeo, it’s live action between the world’s best bulls and bull riders. Jan. 19-20.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a moving Opera Grand Rapids performance leading the audience through the stages we experience after death and our transition to the next life. Feb. 9-10.

Dancing With the Stars: Live! waltzes back into DeVos Performance Hall with your favorite professional dancers from the hit TV series, Feb. 13.

Grand Rapids Ballet presents Sleeping Beauty, one of the most beloved classic ballets, at DeVos Performance Hall Feb. 23-25.

Jewish Theatre Grand Rapids stages The Hatmaker’s Wife, a modern-day fable in which a young woman discovers the secrets of her past with the help of a talking wall. At Spectrum Theater, Feb. 29 and March 2-3, 7 & 9-10.

Laugh yourself warm at a winter comedy show:

Live Music

Dobro master and 15-time GRAMMY winner Jerry Douglas comes to St. Cecilia Music Center Nov. 16.

Opera Grand Rapids presents a Chorus Concert at Fountain Street Church, featuring some of the canon’s most beloved opera choruses and a few contemporary pieces. Nov. 16.

Van Andel Arena hosts hard rockers Disturbed (Jan. 22) and Pantera (Feb. 20), country star Sam Hunt Feb. 22, an Elevation Nights worship concert Feb. 23 and Bryan Adams Feb. 27.

The Grand Rapids Symphony presents a series of concerts in DeVos Performance Hall:

St. Cecilia Music Center hosts two much-anticipated folk-oriented concerts:

Check out the winter schedules at The Intersection, GLC Live at 20 Monroe, Midtown and The Pyramid Scheme for more concerts across a variety of genres.

Winter Sports

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Cheer on the Grand Rapids Griffins hockey team at Van Andel Arena – they play 36 home games from October 13 through April 21.

The Grand Rapids Gold basketball team opens the 2023-2024 season at home in Van Andel Arena Nov. 12 – and plays 23 more home games through March 30.

Witness the debut of the Grand Rapids Rise! This pro volleyball franchise, the city’s first major league women’s sports team, plays its first game at home in Van Andel Arena Jan. 25 – and 11 more home games by the time the regular season ends on May 12.

Van Andel Arena is also the site of the Great Lakes Invitational – two days of hockey action featuring Michigan Tech, Michigan State, Ferris State and Alaska Fairbanks. December 28-29.

Get in on the action of the Meijer State Games of Michigan as a participant, fan or volunteer. The local sports lineup includes indoor archery, basketball, bowling, cross-country skiing, curling, disc golf, fencing, figure skating, karate, luge, pistol shooting, ski and snowboard, and swimming. Feb. 16-18.

Enjoy one of our favorite winter traditions – ice skating under the sun and stars in downtown’s Rosa Parks Circle. Weather permitting, the rink is open Nov. 30-Jan. 4.

Join the Grand Rapids Griffins hockey team on the ice at Rosa Parks Circle for the 34-hour Great Skate Winterfest, with skating, winter sports demonstrations, games and activities. Jan. 27-28. 

Compete in the 13th annual Michigan Adventure Race: Winter Edition at Camp Roger in Rockford. A family division is new this year! Jan. 13.

Get out and explore the Grand Outdoors. 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.

Explore the area’s best snowshoe trails and cross-country skiing trails – and find out where to rent or buy equipment – for a scenic, at-your-own-pace workout.

If downhill skiing is your sport, you can tackle 21 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.

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.

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From the heart of downtown to the coast of Lake Michigan, the Grand Rapids area offers all sorts of opportunities for cold-weather play. Some of our favorite winter pastimes require specialized gear in addition to warm coats, hats and gloves. If you don’t own gear – or you don’t…

Kids Stuff

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Bring your preschoolers to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park for Wintertime Walks – these outdoor discovery walks let young ones investigate the Children’s Garden in new ways. Tuesdays & Wednesdays from Nov. 28-Dec. 27.

Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum brings the popular PBS KIDs TV series to life at Grand Rapids Children Museum. Through Jan. 14.

The Grand Rapids Symphony presents Wild Symphony, a family-friendly concert featuring Dan Brown’s children’s book, A Wild Symphony. A great first orchestra experience! At Forest Hills Fine Arts Center, Jan. 20.

The Kids & Family Expo returns to DeVos Place with physical activities and educational fun encouraging families to play, move and bond. Jan. 27.

For the kid in all of us: The Harlem Globetrotters bring their slam-drunk extravaganza of a slam-dunk basketball show to Van Andel Arena, Jan. 28.

Disney on Ice: Mickey’s Search Party features beloved characters from Peter Pan, Coco, Frozen, Toy Story, Aladdin and The Little Mermaid. Choose from eight performances at Van Andel Arena, Feb. 1-4.

The holiday hustle and bustle can be a challenge for young ones with sensory needs. Sensory-friendly experiences at Blandford Nature Center, the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and the Grand Rapids Public Museum can help them feel more comfortable and included.

Find things to do with kids and teens in Grand Rapids, this season and throughout the year.

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