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.

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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, gets a makeover each year for the holiday season. Throughout November and December, storefronts along Main Street (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.

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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 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 is on display on select nights from late November through the end of December each year. Tickets and reservations for the village, train rides, and buffet are available online. Train tickets tend to sell out, so book yours early.

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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. 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, stick around for the spectacular fireworks display and sing-along each evening.

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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, a 4.5-mile drive-through holiday light display. See more than one million lights along the way, and after your drive through the festive exhibit, visit Santa's Workshop and purchase some refreshments or grab a picture with Santa Claus and your family.

Wayne County Lightfest is open nightly from mid-November through the end of the year and is located in Merriman Hollow Park in Westland, Michigan.

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Santa Breakfast or Dinner at the Detroit Zoo

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 the second weekend in December (daily Friday through Sunday) from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and features an opportunity to stay for Wild Lights at the Zoo, the zoo's annual holiday lighting display. Treat your family to 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.

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