2021’s Grand Rapids Christmas Events & Activities
Well, 2021 didn’t go as well as we’d hoped it would – yet another year for the memory books.
Some Grand Rapids Christmas events have returned, while others are still canceled (looking forward to 2022, GR Santa Parade!).
And while many of us are “over” virtual experiences, it was kinda nice to not have to bundle up and worry about road conditions in order to visit Santa last year. Are virtual Santa visits here to stay?
Christmas in Grand Rapids is magical, for kids and parents alike. The twinkling lights, fresh snow, and the excitement in the air all make this a memorable time of year. If you are like me, you want to soak in as many of these holiday moments as you can.
Let’s celebrate surviving another 12 months of this pandemic and hope we can finally put it behind us in 2022!
This mega Holiday Family Fun Guide is your #1 resource for all things HOLIDAY this season. We’ll give you loads of ideas on places to go and things to do to celebrate Christmas in Grand Rapids with the whole family.
- Featured Holiday Happenings
- Santa Events
- Christmas Lights
- Christmas Tree Farms
- Nutcrackers, Christmas Plays & Holiday Concerts
- Holiday Tree Lightings
- Christmas Trains
- Christmas Parades
- Sleigh Rides
- Christmas Events: Live Nativities
- Christmas Gift Ideas
- Celebrate Sinterklaas, a Regional Tradition
- Seasonal Fun
Featured Holiday Happenings
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Visiting Santa Claus
Santa is, without a doubt, one of the most recognizable figures around the world. And every year he visits West Michigan children at many area locations.
Check out the Santa Sightings list for all the places you’ll find Grand Rapids Christmas events with Santa.
Take in Spectacular Christmas Light Displays
This one is a favorite Christmas activity every season. All you need is a car and maybe some warm jammies and cocoa in a thermos as you go on a light-spotting adventure.
And we’ve made it easy with a handy map of all the best-lit houses and downtowns around!
Christmas Tree Farms
Cut Your Own Christmas Tree
Nutcrackers, Christmas Plays & Holiday Concerts
NUTCRACKERS, CHRISTMAS PLAYS AND HOLIDAY CONCERTS
Although the holidays can be amazing, they can also be exhausting. Sometimes just sitting and relaxing is one of the best ways to enjoy the season.
And if you can be entertained all the while, I call that a win-win.
Celebrate Christmas in Grand Rapids with the Grand Rapids Ballet’s Nutcracker, back on stage for 2021. Or head to the Civic Theatre to see Elf.
These are a just couple of the many performances this holiday season.
Holiday Tree Lightings
HOLIDAY TREE LIGHTINGS
There’s nothing quite like standing outside, bundled up in your warmest winter clothes, and eagerly anticipating the very first time the Christmas tree is lit for the season.
Luckily for us, there are several places around west Michigan with holiday tree lightings.
You can re-live the magic again and again – all in one season.
Chugga-chugga CHOO – CHOO!
Whether it’s watching a model one circle beneath the tree or going for a real ride, trains and Christmas just go together.
Visit our list to find all the places where you see or ride trains this Christmas season.
CHRISTMAS PARADES AND HOLIDAY PARADES
While some parades are still on hiatus this year (we miss you, GR Santa Parade!), others are back in semi-full force.
Use our list to find a Christmas parade or holiday parade near you.
Go on a Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride
Giddy up, giddy up, let’s go!
This is probably the ultimate old-fashioned holiday experience. Here’s where you can jingle all the way around Grand Rapids.
Christmas Events: Live Nativities
Many families include a Nativity Set as part of their Christmas decorations, and in my family, it is also kind of an “active” part in our Advent traditions. We station the animals around an empty manger on one end of the house, and place Mary, Joseph, and the donkey on the other end.
As the weeks of Advent go by, the Holy Family makes a (careful) trek across the house and ends up next to the manger by Christmas Eve. A designated child gets to put Baby Jesus in the manger Christmas morning before the presents are opened.
In a small way, this helps us to visualize the coming of Christmas and builds excitement as my kids see the figures get closer to their designation.
If you are looking for a fun way to really visualize the Nativity scene, check out a live Nativity. These scenes have real people reenacting the original Christmas scene including live animals. Some places include refreshments, live music, or a narrator retelling the Christmas story.
Is your church or group hosting a Live Nativity as well? Submit your event here to get featured in our events calendar and on this list.
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Christmas Gift Ideas
Giving kids an experience for Christmas instead of piles of toys is an idea that’s been taking off with parents. Honing your gift-buying down to just a couple of really meaningful gifts means that you have to be very intentional about which gifts you choose.
Our list of over 50 holiday gift experience ideas for Grand Rapids families lays it all out for you so you can see what’s available and choose the perfect gift for each person in your family – including over a dozen local makers eager to help with your gift-giving.
Celebrate Sinterklaas, a Regional Tradition
Sinterklaas makes his way to West Michigan every December via the area’s strong Dutch heritage, and this year, we think you can ditch Elf on the Shelf for this fun, easy tradition.
While Americans celebrate Christmas on December 24 & 25, our friends in the Netherlands celebrate on December 5 & 6. This gives West Michigan families the chance to have Christmas fun TWICE each year.
The aptly named lakeshore town Holland even has an annual Sinterklaas celebration.
If you are trying to make each day count this holiday season, this section is for you.
If you are looking for something free and right in your neighborhood, check out your local library! Many branches hold different (and usually free) events to help you fully enjoy the holiday season.
1) December Activities Around GR
With Santa sightings, festive productions, things to do out in the snow or warm and snug indoors, there is a whole host of happenings to keep you going this December.
2) Winter Break Ideas
Drive around town to look for festive light displays, learn about Christmas traditions around the world at Meijer Gardens, go snowshoeing, play laser tag, watch a show. We have dozens of ideas for ways to help fill your winter break!
3) Muskegon Winter Sports Complex
Muskegon Winter Sports Complex is the place to go for all kinds of fun in the snow. Families can ice skate through the woods, ride the luge, go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, and more.
No matter how you choose to celebrate the season, we hope it is full of joy and light.