Guide to Christmas in Detroit: Festivals, Events, Things to Do

Despite its famously cold winters, which arrive as early as the first of November, the city of Detroit has no problem getting into the Christmas spirit every year.

Starting around the week of Thanksgiving, the whole city comes to life with holiday cheer, offering a wide variety of Christmas events that everyone can enjoy. From brilliant light shows in nearby Michigan communities to a holiday-themed breakfast Detroit Zoo, you're sure to find something to do for Christmas in Detroit.

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The Big, Bright Light Show

The Big Bright Light Show in Rochester

Mitch Ward

About 26 miles north of central Detroit, the community of Rochester, Michigan, undergoes its annual makeover for the holiday season. Starting November 25, 2019, storefronts along Rochester Road light up with over one million Christmas lights for their annual Big, Bright Light Show.

Shops in downtown Rochester remain open until 9 p.m. throughout the holiday season, and the lighting display is turned on from 5 p.m. to midnight each evening until January 5, 2020.

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Holiday Magic at Crossroads Village

Crossroads Village at Christmas

Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission

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 19th-century 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 is on display on select nights beginning on November 9 through December 29, 2019. Tickets tend to sell out quickly and reservations for the village, train rides, and buffet can be made online.

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Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village

People in costume for Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village

The Henry Ford

Stroll along lantern-lit streets and soak up the spirit of Christmas past at Greenfield Village's Holiday Nights, where there will be food and shopping, live performances, appearances by Santa and his reindeer, plus activities like ice skating, horse-drawn wagon rides, and Model T rides. In 2019, the museum will also be celebrating its 90th anniversary, which means there will be a special discount for museum members who attend opening night, December 5. The event occurs every weekend in December from 6:30 to 10 p.m. until December 28. Make sure you stick around for the spectacular fireworks display and sing-along at the end of each night.

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Wayne County Lightfest

Entrance to Wayne County Lightfest

 Wayne County, Michigan

Wayne County Parks celebrates the holidays with its annual Lightfest in Westland, Michigan, a 4.5-mile drive-through holiday light display. From November 21 to December 31, 2019, excluding Christmas Day when the park will be closed, you can see more than one million lights as you drive through the exhibit. Afterwards, visit Santa's Workshop to take photos with Santa or purchase some refreshments.

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Santa Breakfast or Dinner at the 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 both breakfast and dinner with Santa Claus in the zoo's butterfly gardens. Both meals take place at the Detroit Zoo's Wildlife Interpretive Gallery in Royal Oak, and advance tickets are required to attend.

You can purchase a ticket to Breakfast With Santa for December 14 and 15, 2019 or Dinner With Santa takes place on December 13 to 15 and also features an opportunity to stay for Wild Lights at the Zoo. The zoo's annual lighting display is also sensory-friendly. There will also be arts and crafts in addition to the complete dinner buffet that features kid-favorites like chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes.

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Detroit Tree Lighting Ceremony

Detroit's biggest Christmas tree takes center stage on November 22, 2019, at 5 p.m. during the official tree lighting ceremony. At the annual ceremony at Campus Martius Park, 19,000 lights will illuminate the 60-foot spruce and the show will include live music, ice skating, and holiday shopping.

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Holiday Walk Tours at Meadow Brook Hall

You can appreciate Detroit's classic architecture and get into the holiday spirit by visiting the grand estate of Meadow Brook. From November 29 to December 23, 2019, you'll see the great house totally decked out in holiday opulence. Tours are self-guided and from December 21 to 23, you might even run into Santa Claus. Make sure you stop for a photo in front of the 10-foot tall poinsettia tree!

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Noel Night

On December 7, 2019, local museums and attractions like Detroit Institute of Arts and the Michigan Science Center will open their doors to celebrate Noel Night. This free event open to the public features horse-drawn carriage rides, craft stations, and live performances. Headlining acts include rock band St. Paul & the Broken Bones, jazz quintet Ranky Tanky, blues singer Thornetta Davis, and more.