7 Michigan Light Displays that Will Leave a Twinkle in Your Eyes

The holidays are an extremely busy time of year with all of the parties, shopping and preparations. If you need a break from the hectic nature of the holiday season to take in the scenery, be sure to visit one of these seven great Michigan light displays and possibly create a new family tradition! 

Wayne County Lightfest - Westland

The Wayne County Lightfest in Westland is the largest and longest drive-through holiday light show in the Midwest as it features more than 47 giant animated holiday-themed displays. Lightfest is open through December 31, but be sure to mark your calendars for December 15 for Toy night where you can bring a new, unwrapped toy in lieu of the entrance fee. Visitors enter Lightfest at Hines Drive and Merriman Road in Westland and exit onto Warren Avenue near Telegraph Road in Dearborn Heights. When you’ve reached the end, don’t forget to stop for a visit to Santa’s Workshop, at Warrendale Park. Santa will be there until Dec. 23 and children can bring their wish lists for Santa and drop them off in the giant mailbox.

Christmas at Crossroads Holiday Magic – Flint

Bundle up and come visit during this special time when thousands of lights sparkle like tiny stars throughout the Crossroads Village. You’ll find villagers making vintage crafts, shops full of great gifts and the beloved Huckleberry Railroad waiting to take you on a festive nighttime ride.  Hurry and buy your tickets now as some times are already sold out. Your whole family will love this holiday celebration that goes through December 30.

Rochester-Lights

The Big, Bright Light Show - Rochester

Brighten your holidays in downtown Rochester with The Big, Bright Light Show, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The buildings in downtown Rochester will be covered with more than 1 million points of glimmering holiday light. It will be lit every evening until January 3. As a bonus, the lights will be aglow every weekend in January through the Fire & Ice Festival. Be sure to check out the wonderful Rochester businesses while you gaze at the city’s lit-up beauty.

nite lites

Nite Lites - Jackson

The 2015 season is the 20th year for Nite Lites in Jackson! One of Michigan’s largest Christmas light displays, this animated drive-through display is over one mile long! Each year the Jackson County Fairgrounds are filled with dancing lights featuring scenes with reindeer, Santa Claus and the Nativity among the millions of lights. Winter Wonderland–inside the American 1 Events Center each weekend in December–features many kid-friendly activities. Get your photo taken with Santa Claus himself, watch a holiday puppet show, or take a ride on the kid’s holiday train. Real live reindeer will be stopping by for a special visit on three nights only so plan your visit now.

Christmas Lite Show - Grand Rapids

Through January 2, you can enjoy Michigan’s largest Christmas light show! The Christmas Lite show uses more than 40 animated displays that stretch almost two miles. Now in its 19th year, Christmas Lite Show is a family tradition for thousands of folks in the Grand Rapids area and beyond.

detroit zoo

Wild Lights – Royal Oak

This list wouldn’t be complete without the Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo! Experience the magic of the Detroit Zoo in winter as you take in the lights and the sights and enjoy holiday entertainment and activities for guests of all ages. More than five million LED lights will illuminate trees, buildings and more than 100 animal sculptures throughout the front of the Zoo until December 31. Advance ticket purchase is advised as many nights might sell out. New this year, a fun activity to check out is the Polar Plunge, a 22-foot-tall, 150-foot-long slide.

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Light up the Soo - Sault Sainte Marie

Visit the Tower of History this holiday season and experience the lights of Sault Sainte Marie from 210 feet in the air. Businesses, homes, and area attractions will be decked out in festive lights for your viewing pleasure. Celebrate this wonderful time of year by creating a new family tradition with a trip to the top of the Tower. This light display will start on December 18 and go through December 31.

Which light displays will you be visiting this holiday season?

Seven Michigan Holiday Movies Worth a Watch

Photo by Heather McFarland, Garland Resort

Photo by Heather McFarland, Garland Resort

With the holidays just around the corner, what could be better than an evening spent curled up on the couch with a steaming mug of hot cocoa and some classic holiday flicks?

If a cozy night in is on your agenda in the coming weeks, give this list of holiday movies with ties to Michigan a look. Dianna Stampfler of Promote Michigan shares seven Michigan holiday films worth a watch this season. 

The Polar Express
Written by Grand Rapids native Chris Van Allsburg and prominently featuring the city and noted businesses like Herpolsheimer’s downtown department store, this classic movie celebrated its 10th year in 2014.

Polar_expressThe star of the show is the Pere Marquette 1225, a steam locomotive which was recently restored and put back in operation in 2013 at the Steam Railroad Institute in Owosso. Seasonal excursions aboard the “North Pole Express” are extremely popular with families, selling out in advance of the holiday season.

One of the animated elves was played by actor Ed Gale, who graduated from Plainwell High School in the 1980s. (Ed also appeared in “Call Me Claus” and “Santa, Jr.”).

The world premiere of The Polar Express was held in 2004 at Celebration Cinema IMAX in Grand Rapids, with an elaborate post viewing party at DeVos Place downtown. Actor Peter Scolari (who played the “lonely boy” Billy) and Van Allsburg were both in attendance for the festivities, along with Santa Claus (of course).

Prancer
Filmed in the Berrien County town of Three Oaks, this 1989 film starred Sam Elliott, Cloris Leachman and young Rebecca Harrell—an eight year old farm girl who discovers one of Santa’s reindeer has fallen from a downtown decoration and come to life. She later nurses the wounded reindeer, hoping to bring it back to health in time for Christmas, while inspiring the community with her spirit. Prancer celebrates its 25th anniversary this year!

The Santa Clause (I, II and III)
SantaClause2All starring Tim Allen, who was raised in southeast Michigan, attended Western Michigan University, has owned several homes around the state and is the voice of the Pure Michigan TV and radio ads. The movie itself is actually set in Chicago.

The trilogy was first introduced 20 years ago in 1994 (followed by sequels in 2004 and 2006), the story follows the life of Scott Calvin—who inadvertently kills Santa on Christmas eve and magically finds himself taking over the role of the big guy himself.

Sequel #1 shows Scott Calvin settling well into his role as Santa, but a new twist may bring his reign to an end if he doesn’t find a Mrs. Claus before Christmas Eve. Sequel #2—The Escape Claus follows Santa and Mrs. (Carol) Claus and the pending arrival of their first child together, as well as a plot by Jack Frost to take over the helm at the North Pole.

The Christmas Bunny
Filmed entirely in Michigan, this is the story of a lonely foster child who finds a lost, injured rabbit in the woods on Christmas Eve. The animal is nursed back to health by the eccentric “Bunny Lady” (played by Florence Henderson), who runs a rabbit rescue in an old barn behind her Michigan farmhouse.

The movie was filmed during a snowy February and March, 2010 in several West Michigan rural towns—including Lowell, Alto, Wyoming and Zeeland. It was directed by Grand Rapids native Tom Seidman (Ordinary People, Dead Poets Society), and was his first movie filmed in West Michigan.

Silver Bells
SilverBellsProduced in association with the Salvation Army and filmed in Manistee, Grand Rapids and Ludington, this 2013 film stars Bruce Boxleitner (Scarecrow & Mrs. King, Babylon 5).

According to a production release, the holiday story revolves around a hyper-competitive feather and overly win-driven sportscaster who goes too far and must perform community service as a bell ringer. Through his work with the Salvation Army, he discovers the true meaning of Christmas. The charity played a pivotal role throughout the film as the family volunteers with the organization in various ways.

Michigan filmmaker Harold Cronk directed the project and 10 West Studios lead the prost production efforts to keep the entire project in Michigan, qualifying it for state film incentives.

Do you know any other holiday favorites that have ties to Michigan? 

Dianna Stampfler is the president of Promote Michigan and former board member of the West Michigan Film Video Alliance. 

Try These Pure Michigan Wine Pairings For Your Thanksgiving Meal

Did you know that Michigan grows more than 50 different grape varieties? As you’re planning your holiday menu, there’s sure to be one variety that suits your fancy. Guest blogger Karel Bush from the Michigan Wine and Grape Industry Council shares some Pure Michigan wine pairings for your Thanksgiving meal. 

Photo courtesy of Michigan Wines - Bowers Harbor Vineyards

Photo by Jeff Greenberg – Bowers Harbor Vineyards

There’s no better way to celebrate the season and Michigan’s agricultural bounty than to include Michigan wines on your holiday shopping list. Whether served at your own table or presented as a gift to friends and family, sharing local wines is a tradition all over the world.

There are many different savory flavors and levels of sweetness in a traditional Thanksgiving feast, so don’t limit yourself to just one wine – have some fun with your wine selection. Most holiday gatherings include a variety of people with a variety of tastes when it comes to wine – another reason to offer a few different selections.

Sparkling

Photo by Jeff Greenberg

Photo by Jeff Greenberg

Start out with bubbles! Aurora Cellars Brut received Best of Class Sparkling honors at the 2014 competition. It’s crisp with lovely aromatics of toasted brioche and roasted nuts. A bright, dry finish makes this the perfect way to start the celebration.

White

With traditional roast turkey and stuffing, the go-to choice is often a dry Riesling, but Pinot Grigio also makes a great pairing. Many Michigan wineries produce these varieties. Try Blustone Vineyards or Fenn Valley Vineyards for Riesling; Boathouse Vineyards or St. Julian Winery for Pinot Grigio.

There are always sweet elements on the holiday table, so consider adding a semi-dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer to the mix. Try semi-dry Rieslings from Gill’s Pier Vineyard and Winery or White Pine Winery, and Gewurztraminer from Peninsula Cellars or Tabor Hill Winery. For a fun alternative, try a Traminette – an offspring of Gewurz – from Sandhill Crane Vineyards or 12 Corners Vineyards.

Red

Photo by Steve Sadler

Photo by Steve Sadler

Pinot Noir or another soft, flavorful red is an excellent choice, especially if your traditional bird is duck or goose. Try first-rate examples from Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery or Round Barn Winery. Delight your guests with a variety they might not be familiar with, like Chateau Grand Traverse Gamay Noir; or try one of the many delicious red blends made in Michigan, like “Sole di Sera” from Northern Sun Winery, and Lawton Ridge Winery’s “Two Handed Red.”

Dessert

Last, but certainly not least, for Aunt Jenny’s pumpkin pie try a sweeter wine like Black Star Farms’ Arcturos Winter Harvest Riesling. Or for a real treat, try “Snow Moon” – a delicious, decadent Vidal Blanc ice wine from Lemon Creek Winery (makes an incredible gift, too).

You can contact any of the Michigan wineries to have your favorite wine delivered right to your door. Be sure to order an extra bottle or two (or six) for gifts. Visit www.michiganwines.com for a complete list of Michigan wineries.

Which Pure Michigan wines do you plan to enjoy with your holiday meal? 

Karel Bush is promotion specialist for the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, a program within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.