For those in the Midwest, the holidays aren’t the holidays without a little snow. Luckily, Michigan almost always delivers. But snow or not, these destinations really bring out the holiday spirit.
Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland is filled with numerous types of Christmas decorations — Photo courtesy of Ken Lund
Residents of Frankenmuth never have to say farewell to Christmas because this is one city where the holiday is alive year-round. That’s thanks in part to Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, who tout themselves as the world’s largest Christmas store at 320,000 square feet.
In addition to offering every kind of Christmas décor imaginable, Bronner’s holds holiday events like Santa visits (daily from Nov. 25 - Dec. 24) and holiday sing-alongs (Dec. 22 and 23). Additionally, the local farmer’s market hosts Christkindlmarkt (Dec. 2-4) with holiday food and gift offerings.
Holiday carolers add to the Christmas spirit in Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford Museum — Photo courtesy of KMS Photography
This city is well-known as the home of the Ford Motor Company, and the Henry Ford Museum brings history to life during the holidays. Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village (Dec. 2-4, 9-11, 16-18, 20-23 and 26-30) offers the smell of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, the sound of sleigh bells and the melodies of Christmas carolers.
Santa is on hand for visits, of course, and he even brings his reindeer along. Holiday treats are for sale, ice skating is available and kids of all ages will enjoy a ride in a horse-drawn wagon or a Model T car.
3. Grand Rapids
A replica of Poland's Bielsko-Biala Town Hall at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park — Photo courtesy of Peter McDaniel, courtesy of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
December might not seem like the perfect time for running, but folks in Grand Rapids think differently. 2016 will be the fifth year for the Whoville 5K (Dec. 20), complete with a few grinches and the Cat in the Hat. Dressing up is encouraged and there’s a costume contest for kids and adults alike.
If you prefer a casual stroll to a winter run, Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park (Nov.22-Jan.8) offers 400,000 holiday lights, visits with Santa and – you guessed it – a look at Christmas traditions around the world.
Best Winter Wonderland (10Best Readers' Choice Awards 2016)
Best Winter Wonderland (10Best Readers' Choice Awards 2016)
Christmas, Mich. welcomes visitors with a unique sign — Photo courtesy of Porterhse
Visiting Christmas isn’t for the faint of heart – it’s in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, all but guaranteed to be snowy in December. Those who make the trek are rewarded with a “Welcome to Christmas” sign complete with Santa’s smiling face and The Christmas Mall, which has a post office for postmarking holiday cards.
The Cappon House offers a Christmas tea — Photo courtesy of Holland Area Visitors Bureau
As its name suggests, Holland has proud Dutch roots so there’s no Santa Claus here, but you can meet Sinterklaas. The Sinterklaas Eve Procession (Dec. 2) winds its way through town, stopping for a tree lighting ceremony and ending with plenty of photos at the Holland Museum.
There’s also Holiday Kerstmarkt (through Dec. 10), featuring holiday gifts and treats, modeled after Christmas markets in Europe. Those looking for a more traditional experience can tour the Cappon House (Dec. 10, 11, 17, 18), which served as the first mayor's house. Decorated for Christmas, the home welcomes visitors with Victorian-era Christmas traditions as well as opportunities for crafting holiday cards and ornaments.
Gordon Hall is set up to welcome holiday visitors in Dexter — Photo courtesy of Dexter Area Historical Society
It might be difficult to believe there are multiple Michigan cities with running events in December, but it’s true. Dexter hosts the Holiday Hustle 5k and 1 Mile (Dec. 10) for both runners and walkers. Participants receive free hats and all 5k or one mile finishers receive holiday-themed medals.
Elsewhere in town, the Dexter Area Historical Society opens up historic Gordon Hall for Christmas at the Mansion (Dec. 2-3) a Christmas Bazaar (Dec. 3) and a Christmas tea (Dec. 4).
7. Saint Joseph
A costumed dog participates in the Reindog Holiday parade — Photo courtesy of St. Joseph Today
Every child knows where to find Santa...his house, of course. And they’ll find him there in downtown Saint Joseph every weekend in December, ready for photos. Before he takes up residence, he must be escorted into town via the Reindog Holiday Parade (Dec. 3).
This event, in its 18th year, welcomes dogs and their owners in holiday costumes. The best costumes win a prize. If that’s not enough, there’s also Light Up the Bluff (Dec. 2), the city’s tree lighting ceremony with plenty of holiday lights.
Skiers enjoy the slopes at Cross Country Ski Headquarters — Photo courtesy of Cross Country Ski Headquarters
As a replica of a 1930’s farm, complete with era-appropriate practices and tools, Wellington Farm takes visitors back in time, especially during the holidays. Farm by Lantern Light (Dec. 9-10 and 16-17) includes a sleigh ride, farm visit and Christmas play.
In nearby Roscommon, Cross Country Ski Headquarters also gets into the holiday spirit, hosting Trapper Santa on the Trails (Dec. 17) around a bonfire complete with roasting chestnuts and complimentary hot cocoa. The only catch? You have to ski or snowshoe to find him.
A Singing Christmas Tree, made up of students from the Mona Shores High School Choir — Photo courtesy of Hume Photography
If nothing says “holiday season” to you quite like the music of the holidays, Muskegon wins with their Singing Christmas Tree (Dec. 1-3). Comprised of 240 students from the Mona Shores High School Choir, the tree stands 67 feet tall. At the top is a “tree angel,” a senior selected by the choir director. It takes 200 volunteers to put on the production every year, which they’ve now been doing for 32 years.
10. Mackinac Island
Downtown Mackinac Island shines during the holidays — Photo courtesy of Mackinac Island Tourism
Known as more of a summer destination, Mackinac Island nonetheless brings its many charms to the holidays. But, first you have to get there. Only one ferry line runs in the winter, and skiing and snowshoeing are popular ways to get around once you’re there.
The holidays kick off with a tree lighting ceremony and Christmas carols (Dec. 2), followed by the Mackinac Island Christmas Bazaar (Dec. 3-24). The Bazaar features a rummage sale, plenty of hot cocoa and an auction. It also acts as a fundraiser for many community services, like the Mackinac Island Medical Center.