Top 10 Things to Do In Detroit Over the Holidays

Austin Black II

No one does the holidays like Detroit. The Motor City pulls out all the stops, from parades to live performances, and living history to glittering light displays. Ready to dig into the holiday magic? Here are the 10 best things to do in Detroit over the holiday season…

1. Campus Martius Tree Lighting

From 5 pm to midnight on November 18, Detroit officially kicks off the 2022 holiday season with the lighting of a massive, spectacularly decorated Christmas tree in Campus Martius Park amid the historic scenery of downtown. From 5 pm to midnight on November 18, Detroit officially kicks off the 2022 holiday season with the lighting of a massive, spectacularly decorated Christmas tree in Campus Martius Park amid the historic scenery of downtown.

A partnership between Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) and DTE Energy Foundation, the family-friendly festivities include horse-drawn carriage rides, food trucks, free hot chocolate, unique holiday shopping opportunities, and a visit from Santa Claus.


2. Thanksgiving Day Parade

Thanksgiving Day Parade

Image credit: The Parade Company
For over a century, Detroit has celebrated Thanksgiving Day with a dazzling parade down Woodward Avenue. The Parade Company really brings it — this parade routinely tops lists as the best of its kind in the nation.

The exhibitors design their floats like they have something to prove. Past floats have included a gigantic Optimus Prime, a gigantic Pillsbury Doughboy, and a gigantic Kermit the Frog.

3. Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo

Video credit: Detroit Zoological Society

If you love Christmas lights, the Detroit Zoo is the place to be from November 19 to January 8. The annual Wild Lights exhibit features millions of glittering multicolored lights, festooning trees and canopies fashioned into the shapes of animals, a 40-foot-long toy choo-choo train, and a Wishing Tree. It’s one of the most magical promenades you can imagine, culminating with drinks, s’mores, and entertainment at the Wild Lights Lounge.

4. Noel Night

Noel Night is produced by Midtown Detroit, Inc. This is their 47th annual citywide holiday open house, in which museums, universities, art institutes, churches, nonprofits, theaters, bars, and restaurants all throw open their doors for an evening of exciting free activities. You can shop, eat, participate in family-friendly crafts, and watch all types of holiday-themed performances.

5. A Ford House Christmas

The historic lakefront mansion in Grosse Pointe Shores, once the home of Henry Ford’s son and now a museum, celebrates Christmas with a special tour featuring holiday crafts and entertainment. A Ford House Christmas runs from November 18 to December 30.

6. Home Alone In Concert

Home Alone is a holiday classic known not just for its plucky kid lead and the comeuppance he delivers to two foolish thieves; the score, by the legendary John Williams, is a classic in its own right. On December 14, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra brings the score to life with a live rendition by the full company.

7. Holiday Movies at the Redford Theatre

The gloriously restored Redford Theatre, first opened in 1928, packs its holiday program with all-time bangers. The December 2022 roster includes opportunities to see Love Actually, White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, and The Bishop’s Wife in a cinema that dates back to the silent film era.

8. Mark Morris Dance Group: The Hard Nut

From December 2-4, 2022, the Mark Morris Dance Group presents The Hard Nut, a revisionist version of the timeless Christmas ballet The Nutcracker. Set to the original Tchaikovsky score (performed by the Detroit Opera Orchestra), the 19th-century trappings get a lively update with hilariously contemporary dances and dancing GI Joe shenanigans. Bring the family member who hates ballet — it’s sure to change their mind.

9. Ice Skating at Campus Martius Park

The perfect follow-up to the tree lighting is a leisurely nighttime lap on the adjacent ice skating rink, one of the most breathtaking outdoor rinks of its kind. It’s a chance to skate beneath the warm lights of the tree, as well as the glittering city lights of the downtown Detroit skyline.

10. Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village

Greenfield Village, 80 acres that preserve over 300 years of Michigan heritage, is a fascinating place to visit any time of year, but Holiday Nights, hosted every weekend in December, only make the seven meticulously-restored historic districts even more magical.

In addition to the historic homes and taverns, horse-drawn carriages, carousel, and the chance to ride in an authentic Ford Model T, Holiday Nights add a Main Street outdoor market, chocked to the gills with holiday treats, drinks, and goods. There’s also a fireworks display and can’t-miss, reservation-only events like Supper With Santa and Holiday Nights at Eagle Tavern.

If you’re reading this in 2022, get your tickets for the events requiring reservations. If you’re reading this later, most of these events will probably still be happening in the future. Reach out to us for updated schedules, or to discover more fantastic things to do over the holidays in Detroit!


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