Twelve Nights of Michigan Bright

The holidays are coming up fast, and there’s no better way to celebrate than by jumping in your car and looking for Michigan’s brightest spots. Guest blogger Maureen Clemons from The Awesome Mitten has located some of the best holiday light displays around the Mitten – one for each of the 12 days of Christmas:

Campus Martius

  1. Campus Martius: Your to-do list at Campus Martius includes renting some skates and gliding around Detroit’s best rink while gazing at Detroit’s biggest and brightest Christmas tree. Afterwards stop by The Snowman Collection (an igloo full of decked out snow men) and grab a hot chocolate from Fountain Bistro. Make sure to park on Woodward because buildings are lit up all along that avenue as well!
  1. Wonderland of Lights: Potter Park Zoo in Lansing also offers lots of animals made out of lights and animals in real exhibits. They also have cookies, crafts and live entertainment. While you’re so close, make sure to check out Michigan’s official Christmas tree at the capital complete with over 9,000 lights!
  1. Wayne County Lightfest: Celebrating 21 years of being bright (and merry), Hines Park is lit up with over 50 animated light displays. This year they’ve got a new 40 foot snowman. Your car can enter on Merriman Road in Westland and see over four miles of Christmas fun.
  1. Adam’s Castle: Royalty lives among us – in Bloomfield Hills. Take Adams to Adam’s Castle Drive (in between Big Beaver and Wattles) and drive until you reach the dead end that is Adam’s Castle. It’s always decorated to impress. Make sure you grab some hot chocolate from Birmingham Chocolate before heading over.

Detroit Zoo Lights

  1. Wild Lights: The Detroit Zoo gets wild every December with their half mile light trail. You’ll see stars, butterflies, turtles, bears and tunnels made of bright bulbs. Stop in the Reptile House to warm up or visit the Wild Adventure Zone to see The Polar Express in 4D. They sell seasonal drinks and snacks too.
  1. Edsel & Eleanor Ford House: A historical site to see all year round, but especially special during the holiday season – the Ford House in Grosse Pointe beckons to you with canopies of lights and the promise of Santa. You’ll see over 80,000 bulbs and maybe even some carolers. For the adults in attendance, there will be some mulled wine.
  1. Huckleberry Crossroads: Hop on the Huckleberry Railroad to ride through lots of lights. If you’d rather take your own car, there is a drive through option as well!
  1. Christmas Lite Show: Over a mile of light displays make up one of Michigan’s largest displays in Grand Rapids. At the end you are promised a picture with Santa. And for convenience there is a Biggby Coffee right next door!
  1. Frederik Meijer Christmas Trees: For all the visual learners out there, Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids offers a unique opportunity to see Christmas trees and displays from over 40 countries. You’ll also be able to observe over 300,000 lights, carolers and horse drawn carriage rides. And check out their calendar for a chance to meet Santa’s real reindeer!Rochester Lights
  1.  Downtown Rochester: Every building gets a different color store front – complete with string lights hanging down over the whole thing. They call it the Big, Bright Light Show and it doesn’t disappoint! This year, you can visit all the way through the end of January. Don’t forget to stop at Dessert Oasis Cafe to get your hot chocolate on.
  1. Christmas in Lights: The citizens of Iron River enter their decked out homes in a best lights competition and the city creates a map – everyone votes for their favorite! Even though the official voting period is over, grab a map and visit all the contenders/winners.
  1. International Festival of Lights: Throughout December in Battle Creek you can witness tons of light structures on the Battle Creek River along State Street. Every weekend they’ve got special events like the Holiday Extravaganza full of live entertainment on December 20th.

Clemons_PicAre there any other light displays or even houses that you visit every year?

Maureen Clemmons is your resident Royal Oak local (Royalocal), beer drinker, concert goer, road tripper, ice cream advocate, cat lover, and MSU Spartan. Learn more on Twitter, @moreangrim.

A Singing Christmas Tree and 3 More Holiday Displays You Have to See to Believe

It’s time to the deck the halls in Pure Michigan! Many Michigan cities are already twinkling with holiday spirit. We’ve rounded up just a few of the most unbelievable holiday displays from around the state – one of them even sings! Check them out below. 

America’s Tallest Singing Christmas Tree – Muskegon
This Muskegon area event presented by Mona Shores High School has become a tradition for families near and far as a way of kicking off their holiday and getting into the spirit of the season. With its 25,000 colored lights, 15 tiers that reach 67 feet up into the majestic Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts, over 275 singers, the Singing Christmas Tree must be seen to be believed.

Photo via Singing Christmas Tree - Mona Shores Choir on Facebook

Photo via Singing Christmas Tree – Mona Shores Choir on Facebook

Michigan’s Official Christmas Tree – Downtown Lansing
The 2014 official state Christmas tree is a 63-foot blue spruce tree harvested in Kingsford in the Upper Peninsula. Nearly 9,000 lights wrap the tree outside the Capitol Building in Downtown Lansing. Each year, Michigan’s official Christmas Tree is lit during Silver Bells in the City which draws thousands of spectators (nearly 70,000 in 2014!).

Photo via Instagram user @brettking

Photo via Instagram user @brettking

Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland – Frankenmuth
The world’s largest Christmas store with over 90,000 square ft of decorations is a shopper’s dream! Bigger than 1 1/2 football fields in size featuring over 50,000 trims, gifts, and collectibles. There are more than 350 decorated Christmas trees displayed in Bronner’s salesroom, and approximately 100,000 outdoor Christmas lights that illuminate Bronner’s grounds every evening throughout the year. Get more Bronner’s fun facts here.

Photo courtesy of Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland

Photo courtesy of Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland

Menorah in the D - Campus Martius Park, Detroit
Celebrated this year on December 16th, Menorah in the D is a community-wide menorah lighting event at Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit.  The 26 ft tall menorah was designed and built by the artists Erik & Israel Nordin of the Detroit Design Center in Corktown.

Photo courtesy of @MenorahintheD on Instagram

Photo courtesy of @MenorahintheD on Instagram

Have you seen any unbelievable holiday displays near you? 

A Festive Frankenmuth Family Getaway, And 10 More Ways To Go Great Lakes Bay This Holiday

Today, guest blogger Kirsetin Morello shares her tips for a Frankenmuth family getaway, plus ten more ways you can “Go Great Lakes Bay” this holiday season. 

Photo courtesy of Bronner's Christmas Wonderland

Photo by Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland

The first time we visited Frankenmuth during the holidays, we knew what we’d seen on the billboards: that Bronner’s was a wonderland.

So while we expected—and got—lots of Christmas ornaments, we ended up experiencing so much more. Our trip started with a stop at what’s not only the largest, but arguably the best, Christmas store in the world. Not only is Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland enormous (its square footage is bigger than 1 ½ football fields), it’s also gorgeously appointed.

All the advertising in Michigan couldn’t have prepared us for the wonderland that is Bronner’s. When we stepped into the first, exquisitely decorated room, our boys’ demeanor changed immediately. As you might imagine, at 10, 8, and 5 years of age starting the day by spending a couple of hours in the car wasn’t their idea of fun! But as soon as we walked through Bronner’s doors, their begrudging looks gave way to an excitement that was both electric and contagious.

Photo courtesy of Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland

Photo by Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland

We all laughed as we looked and touched and looked some more, trying our best to take it all in. The twinkling lights hung from the ceiling created a merry mood throughout the store. As we checked our map (be sure to get one at the door) and explored the rooms of elaborately decorated trees, we felt more like we’d found the North Pole than like a retail outlet.

As we walked through the ornately decorated rooms, each one different, each one dripping with color and festivity, my heart warmed as I watched my boys together. This is why we do these types of things as a family—not because we really need more ornaments for our tree, but because the memories they’ll have and the bonds they build on these trips are the really important stuff in life.

Photo courtesy of Bavarian Inn Lodge

Photo by Bavarian Inn Lodge

Bronner’s is a wonderful stop in Frankenmuth, but it’s not the only place that makes Frankenmuth special. Families love to eat, stay and play at the quaint Bavarian Inn Lodge and waterpark, where you’ll often find the owners on site mingling with guests, says Jim Engel, Chief Operating Officer of the Bavarian Inn Lodge.

At the waterpark, you’ll find yourself relaxing as your kids laugh and play in what Engel calls “America’s only living-room-style waterpark.” Water play, video games, a lounge, miniature golf, and a children’s village all share one space. They even offer weekend karaoke for kids!

When you’ve worked up an appetite after all that waterpark fun, the Bavarian Inn Restaurant serves up chicken dinners in the finest German tradition, so your crew can fill their bellies right there.

Photo courtesy of Bavarian Inn Lodge

Photo by Bavarian Inn Lodge

To add a little more magic to your family time in Frankenmuth, be sure to stop by the beautiful Bavarian Inn Glockenspiel, whose components include a 35-bell carillon, figurine movement, and an illuminated clock, all imported from Germany.

If you can be there at 3 p.m., 6 p.m., or 9 p.m., your entire family will delight in watching the moving figurines appear to depict the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Photo courtesy of Bavarian Inn Lodge

Photo by Bavarian Inn Lodge

After you watch the Glockenspiel, head back inside to warm up inside the cozy Bavarian Inn Castle Shops, located in the lower level of the Bavarian Inn Restaurant.  My husband and I are always able to find something special to purchase and no visit is complete without a stop at the Castle Shop Bakery. Seriously! Go to the bakery. If you’re already feeling toasty and ready to walk off that chicken dinner, take a stroll through the Frankenmuth River Place Shops, where you’ll find over 40 unique shops and boutiques filled with specialty food and gift items.

If you or your kids are anything like our family, you’ll also want to head to the shops and bakery at Zehnder’s Marketplace, which are just across the street from the Bavarian Inn. Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth also offers world famous chicken dinners, so if you’re in Frankenmuth for more than a day or return more than once, it’s fun to try them both and experience the differences.

Photo courtesy of Zehnder's

Photo by Zehnder’s Splash Village

Zehnder’s also has a hotel and waterpark, Zehnder’s Splash Village, which is located just outside of downtown adjacent to Bronner’s. If you visit this winter, you’ll be among the first guests to take advantage of Splash Village’s recently completed expansion. The waterpark now includes over 50,000 square feet of aquatic fun and features a retractable roof! Zehnder’s also added onto the hotel and if you book in time you might score a room that overlooks the waterpark extravaganza.

Regardless of whether you go for a day or a week, a holiday visit to Frankenmuth is an experience you’ll savor. On our first trip, after we ate our fill of sugary goodness at the bakeries, we headed back outside to walk off some of it off. As our boys frolicked in the fresh snow, my husband and I window-shopped, smiling at the serene, simplicity of the day. Frankenmuth at the holidays is like that: a little snowy, a little magical, and filled with memories that last a lifetime.

Here are 10 other great ways to Go Great Lakes Bay this holiday season:

- Watch PRIDE’s Christmas Parade or the Midland Santa Parade (both Nov. 22)

- Shop the traditional Frankenmuth Christkindlmarkt (Nov. 28-30 and Dec. 5-7)

- Explore Downtown Bay City and catch a Christmas flick during Sundays in the City (Nov. 16 – Dec. 21)

- Celebrate Holidays in the Heart of the City in Saginaw (Nov. 21)

- Visit Santa at the Charles W. Howard Santa House in Midland

- Treat the kids to lunch with Santa at Bavarian Inn Restaurant (Dec. 14)

- Take part in the Zehnder’s Holiday Show (Dec. 1-3) or The Reflections Holiday Dinner Shows at Bavarian Inn Restaurant (Dec. 2 -3)

- Witness the magic of Cirque Dreams Holidaze at the Dow Event Center (Dec. 3)

- Shop Holly Jolly Days in Downtown Midland (Dec. 7-8, 14-15)

- Relax in a horse-drawn carriage ride through Frankenmuth.

How many of these Great Lakes Bay activities have you checked off your list? 

Kirsetin Morello - Guest BloggerKirsetin Morello is an author, freelance writer, and mother of 3 boys from Grand Rapids, MI whose family loves to travel and explore new places. In addition to writing about travel, she writes about parenting, business, and specializes in writing profiles of interesting people. Among other publications, you can find her work in Parents, West Michigan Woman, and Teach and Travel, as well as lots of places online, but you’ll most likely find her playing basketball, hiking in a park, or cheering her kids on at their sporting events.