Free (or Nearly Free!) Activities for Kids

Even though Christmas songs have been serenading us from the radio since October, December means it is officially the holiday season! It’s time for sleigh rides, shopping and Santa and a whole lot more festive ideas (with a few every-day ideas sprinkled in).

From tree lightings to parades to ice skating, we will have you busy with memorable events to make this holiday season in West Michigan the very best.

And, if you’re desperate for a few moments of sanity but the freezing or blizzarding Michigan weather has kept you shuttered indoors, check out our Indoor Play Guide!

Thanks to our sponsor, Ada Christian School.

See the amazing things happening right in your backyard at Ada Christian School. Come to our Open House on Jan 15 to learn more about our 37-acre classroom which provides hands on opportunities to interact with God’s creation.

Free or Affordable December Fun in Grand Rapids – 2018

1 – Experience the magic of tree lightings and parades! Pick a Tree Lighting and Holiday Parade near you.

2 – It just wouldn’t be a proper ringing in of winter without ice skating at Rosa Parks Circle. Dust off your skates (or rent some for free with paid admission) and bring the whole family – admission is very affordable!

3 –  All aboard to check out a Polar Express story time! The Barnes & Nobles of West Michigan will each be holding special readings of The Polar Express on December 1 at 7:00 PM. Kids are encouraged to come in their pajamas to enjoy the story along with a free hot chocolate and cookie! You can find Barnes & Noble in Holland, Muskegon, Grand Rapids, and Grandville.

4 – Experience Winterfest at the Felt Mansion in Holland on December 1 from 12:00-2:00 PM. This free family fun day includes face painting, horse-drawn wagon rides, a visit with Santa, self-guided tours of the mansion, free cupcakes and a free lunch.

5 – Venture a little north to Sparta for the Christmas Candy Cane Hunt at Rogers Park on December 1 from 10:30 AM-12:00 PM. Search the park for candy canes, take a trolley ride and enter to win a free gift!


6 – Don’t miss the annual Live Nativity at the Critter Barn from December 6 – 29. With several presentations each day, be transported back 2,000 years to the very first Christmas, complete with sheep, cows, angels, carols and more.

7 – Follow the light to South Haven and experience Christmas at Keeper’s House on December 15 from 12:00-3:00 PM. This free event at the Lightkeeper’s House at the Michigan Maritime Museum will feature cookies and hot cocoa, story time, sledding, and even some shopping for mom!

8 – Make one of your holiday traditions Kevin Kammeraad’s Winter Wonderland Concert at GRPL’s Yankee Clipper branch. This free interactive holiday show on December 15 at 3:00 PM is for all ages and features the Cooperfly Puppet Troupe and many well-known holiday songs as well as some originals. And afterwards, build your own puppet!

9 – Choo-choo! Travel around town and see all of the trains in our Holiday Trains to Watch or Ride Around Grand Rapids.

10 – Santa is making his way around! Don’t miss a photo opportunity with him at breakfasts, parades, sleigh rides or an Arctic Forest! Check out our helpful guide to see where he will be!

11 – Ready for decorations? Warm up the car, brew some hot cocoa, turn on the Christmas music, because it’s time to take in the holiday light displays all over greater Grand Rapids. We update our guide as we get information about this year’s light displays so that you can head out ready with several destinations to visit.

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