Guide to Christmas in Detroit: Family Events and Attractions

Despite the typically cold winter, which arrives as early as the first of November, the people of Detroit get ready to celebrate the Christmas season early each year.

Starting around the week of Thanksgiving, the whole city comes alive with holiday cheer, offering a wide variety of Christmas events appropriate for the whole family. From brilliant light shows in nearby Michigan communities to events at the Detroit Zoo that let guests share meals with penguins, you're sure to find something to do with your kids this holiday season.

  • 01 of 05
    The Big, Bright Light Show in Rochester
    Photo © Mitch Ward

    About 26 miles north of central Detroit, the community of Rochester, Michigan, gets a makeover each year for the holiday season. From November 19, 2018, to January 6, 2018, each storefront along Main Street (Rochester Road) will be lit up with over one million Christmas lights for their annual Big, Bright Light Show.

    Shops in downtown Rochester will remain open until 9 p.m. throughout the holiday season, and the lighting display will be turned on from 5 p.m. to midnight each evening until January.

  • 02 of 05
    Google Images

    Flint, Michigan—located 66 miles northwest of Detroit—is home to a number of historic attractions, many of which are concentrated around Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad, a 1800s-era village consisting of 34 restored buildings, a working train, and plenty of family activities.

    Each year, the Crossroads Village lights up for the Christmas season and offers guests a chance to meet Santa Claus, listen to Christmas music, and even enjoy a holiday dinner buffet in addition to the historic displays, costumed villagers, food, shopping, and crafts usually found in the village.

    Christmas at the Crossroads will be on display on select nights from November 23 to December 30, 2018. Tickets and reservations for the village, train rides, and buffet are available online. Train tickets tend to sell out, so book yours early.

  • 03 of 05
    Google Images

    Stroll along lantern-lit streets and soak up the spirit of Christmas past at Greenfield Village's Holiday Nights. In addition to food and shopping, activities include ice skating, horse-drawn wagon and Model T rides, live performances, and appearances by Santa and his live reindeer.

    Your ticket also includes artisan demonstrations, a 1913 Herschell-Spillman carousel, holiday vignettes and activities, cooking demonstrations, carolers, live musical and dramatic performances, and decorated homes and shops. Additionally, you can stick around for the spectacular fireworks display and sing-along each evening.

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    Wayne County Parks Lightfest 2007
    Photo © Laura Sternberg, Licensed to

    Wayne County Parks celebrates the holidays with its annual Lightfest, a 4.5-mile drive-through holiday light display. You'll see more than one million lights along the way, and after your drive through the festive exhibit, you can visit Santa's Workshop and purchase some refreshments or grab a picture with Santa Claus and your family.

    Wayne County Lightfest will be open nightly from November 15 to December 31, 2018, and is located in Merriman Hollow Park in Westland, Michigan.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05
    Rockhopper Penguins
    Detroit Zoo

    Each year, zoos across the country go all out to decorate their holiday displays, but the Detroit Zoo is a little different than most because it offers a special breakfast and dinner with Santa and a bunch of penguins.

    Breakfast With Santa takes place on select Saturdays in December from 8:30 to 10 a.m. and features a buffet with waffles, quiche, and cheese blintzes as well as a special visit with Santa that includes a free gift for each child. 

    Dinner With Santa takes place on December 14, 15, and 16, 2018, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and will feature an opportunity to stay for Wild Lights at the Zoo, the zoo's annual holiday lighting display. You'll also enjoy arts and crafts, and gift for each child, and a complete dinner buffet featuring traditional kids' favorites like chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes.

    Both meals take place at the Detroit Zoo's Wildlife Interpretive Gallery in Royal Oak, and advance tickets are required to attend.