Countdown to Your Best Holiday Season Ever!

For most kids, there’s nothing like the anticipation of Christmas Morning. It builds and builds as the days get shorter. But what kids don’t realize is that each day leading to Christmas has the potential for its own special wonder. What an exciting time of year!

Grand Rapids holiday countdown

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, we’ve found a special way to celebrate the holidays, each day of the season. May these ideas inspire you to start a new tradition or two and find ways to make the season meaningful for your family.

Jump to find…
Eat with Santa
Santa Parades
Trains + Sleigh Ride Events
Santa Photos + Visits
Holiday Countdown Calendar
Experiences Gift Guide
Cut Your Own Christmas Tree
Nutcracker + Holiday Show List

The 2018 Grand Rapids Holiday Countdown


Theater Night

Head to the Civic Theatre to sing along with Ariel and her underwater friends. The Little Mermaid runs through December 16.

A Pioneer Thanksgiving

Party like it’s the 1800’s at Blandford Nature Center. Prepare a traditional Pioneer Thanksgiving meal and enjoy it in Blandford’s historic log cabin.

Random Act of Kindness

Spread a little holiday cheer with a Random Act of Kindness. Check out some great ideas for kids.

Fa la la la!

Make a playlist of your favorite holiday songs.


Tell each person in your family one reason you’re thankful for them.

Tree of Thanks

Create a Thankful Tree and encourage everyone to write down things they are thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

We are thankful for YOU. Take today to cherish all the people around your table.

‘Tis the Season

Get into the holiday spirit at Horrock’s Garden Center in Ionia with wagon rides, a funhouse, warming barn and gift shop!

Deck the Halls

Deck the halls with a Christmas tree from Vormittag Tree Farm. Vormittag’s charming farm has helped customers find the perfect tree since 1954.

Donate to Others

Take a few minutes to sort and organize your kids’ toys and closets. Donate items your kids no longer play with or wear to a local organization.

Cyber Monday

Search those Cyber Monday steals for some cozy matching Christmas jammies!

Thank Your Mail Carrier

Put out a box of treats to thank your mail carriers. It’s a lot of work being Santa’s helpers, delivering all of our online purchases in the freezing temperatures.

Get Wrapping

Make your own wrapping paper. Use a roll of butcher paper or an inside-out grocery bag.

Holiday Parades and Tree Lightings

Mark your calendars for the holiday parades and tree lighting ceremonies that your family won’t want to miss!

Christmas Countdown

Make a paper chain to count down to Christmas. Use colorful construction paper or just have your kids color on the back of scrap  paper before cutting it into strips.

Grand Rapids Christmas bucket list


Whoville Parade

Watch Saugatuck’s annual Whoville Christmas parade. Stay after to visit Santa’s workshop and enjoy the tree lighting ceremony, too!

Catch a Show

Find a Christmas concert or performance to attend as a family.


Go sledding. Walk out to the backyard or find an epic hill at a nearby park.

Santa Letter

Send a letter to Santa.

Make an Ornament

Personalize a family ornament at the Mud Room. (Maybe make a couple of gifts for grandparents, too.)


Marvel at one of the holiday trains around Grand Rapids.

Ice Skate

Go ice skating. Bundle up and head to Rosa Parks Circle or somewhere indoors near you.

Laser Tag with Santa

Play Laser Tag with Santa at Battle GR. What a fun tradition! Check their website for times you can battle with Old St. Nick.

Make a Craft

Attend a holiday craft workshop. Michael’s usually has lots of festive options!

Check out Holiday Lights

Enjoy a holiday light display using our lights finder.

Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer

Visit Santa’s reindeer. You can find them hanging around KDL branches, Frederik Meijer Gardens and Deer Tracks Junction.

Hot, Hot, Hot

Invite the neighborhood kids for a hot cocoa bar after school. Include lots of fun, sugary toppings (like sprinkles and crushed candy canes) and, of course, plenty of whipped cream.

Say, “Cheese!”

Take a photo with Santa. Our list can help you find the perfect place.

The Nutcracker

Watch a Nutcracker ballet. This is truly one of my favorite childhood traditions with many performances around West Michigan.

Bake Cookies

Bake cookies. Bonus points if you double the recipe and bring a plate to your neighbors!

Brunch with Santa

Have brunch with Santa at Wheelhouse. Put on your fanciest Christmas outfit and enjoy a fun morning as a family with delicious food and a photo op with Santa.

Finish Your Shopping

Take advantage of a Parent’s Night Out hosted by several area businesses this time of year (check your local YMCA or gymnastics complex). Drop your kids off for some fun with new friends and go get that last minute Christmas shopping done.

Gift an Experience

Look into giving experiences rather than gifts to put under the tree. Think museum memberships, swimming passes or music lessons. These are gifts that will keep giving long after the holidays are over.

Holidays from Around the World

Be amazed by the holiday trees and traditions from around the world at Frederik Meijer Gardens.

Sing It Loud

Go Christmas caroling. Contact a local nursing home to see if they’d like some friendly, festive visitors to sing the day away!

You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

Watch a Christmas movie. The library or Netflix are good places to look. We can’t get through the Christmas season without watching Home Alone or The Santa Clause.

Away in a Manger

Find a live nativity near you to get in the holiday spirit with your family! We love the Critter Barn for a real farm feel.

Snuggle Up and Read

Sip hot cocoa and read Christmas books. My childhood favorite is The Sweet Smell of Christmas by Patricia M. Scarry.

Game Night

Have a family game night. (Maybe rock those matching jammies you ordered earlier!)

Merry Christmas!

Enjoy the day with your loved ones!

Puzzle Time

Do a puzzle. Sometimes the simple things can be so much fun!

Natural Beauty

Drive to the lakeshore to check out the beauty of a frozen Lake Michigan.

Frosty the Snowman

Build a snowman. Bonus points if you can do it without singing the song from Frozen!


Go through your digital photos from the past year. Back them up and maybe even make a 2018 “yearbook” with all your family’s highlights through an online photo book service.


Try the luge at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex. We feel the need for speed!


Reflect on the last year. What was your favorite part? Ask your kids, too!


Happy New Year!

A fresh start! Be intentional about what you want your year to look like — take a few minutes and write down some of your hopes for 2019.

Donut Time

Go out for donutsEnjoy a sweet treat with your kids before they have to go back to school.


Ignore all the snow and go swimming indoors.


Go skiing! It’s time to enjoy a Michigan winter!

Date Night

Go on a date. You survived the chaotic holiday season and it’s time to call the baby-sitter and have some time alone with your significant other.


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