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. 

End the Year with These Michigan Events in December

December is nearly here! Holiday season is in full swing with New Year’s and Christmas events all month long, including some fun shopping opportunities! Get into the spirit with the below events.

Visit our events page to see everything going on all month long.

December 1-4

America’s Tallest Singing Christmas Tree
December 1-3, Muskegon

The Mona Shores High School Choir’s Singing Christmas Tree got a new look last season with an entirely new tree structure, complete with more versatile LED lighting, gaining international attention compliments of the Associated Press, who took great interest in their holiday spectacle.

With its 25,000 colored lights that coordinate to the beautiful singing, 15 tiers that reach 67 feet up into the majestic Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts, over 260 singers and accompanied by the 50 piece Mona Shores High School Orchestra, the Singing Christmas Tree must be seen to be believed.

This year’s Singing Christmas Tree is being held at the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts, on Dec. 1, 2 and 3 at 7:00 p.m. each night with a 3:00 p.m. matinee Saturday as well.

Gateway to the StarsGate-Way-To-The-Stars
December 2, Bay City

Come and see the stars! This is a live and interactive show that demonstrates how to explore the sky using binoculars and telescopes. Planetarium Manager Mike Murray teaches you observing techniques that can maximize the stargazing experience. The show runs on the first Friday of every month.

Danú: A Christmas Gathering
December 2, Midland

Hailing from historic County Waterford, Danu is one of the leading traditional Irish ensembles of today. Their concerts throughout Ireland feature high-energy performances and a glorious mix of ancient Irish music and new repertoire. The acclaimed Irish ensemble will celebrate Christmas with Feile na Nollag’ (A Christmas Gathering). Christmas in Ireland is one of the most important holidays for families and friends, as many Irish people living abroad come home to gather in celebration. Music and dance gatherings, in communities both urban and rural, have often combined for generations to offer a great variety of songs, music, and stories for the holidays.

Santa’s Arrival, Tree Lighting & Holiday Open HouseSanta's-Arrival-Tree-Lighting-and-Holiday-Open-House
December 2, Traverse City

Join Traverse City downtown for the holiday season kick-off featuring a night of fun, music and activities!

34th Annual Lexington Christmas Tree Lighting
December 3, Lexington

Experience small town charm during the 34th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting in the Village of Lexington. Join in the Christmas Sing A Long with the Cros-Lex Pep Band, and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa from the fire station. Santa arrives at 7:30 p.m. with treats for all the boys and girls. Adults can enjoy the Merchants Walk and taste fresh roasted chestnuts, listen to the Salvation Army Band and enjoy wagon rides to view the decorated homes.

December 5-11

Santa Parade and Christmas Tree Lighting
December 7, Algonac

Saint Nick give his reindeer a night off and arrives on the back of a decorated in lights antique tractor for Algonac’s Santa Parade! Come for this very unique and fun event.

Wine & SteinWine-Stein-Lansing
December 7, Lansing

You love wining and steining in the summer! Now, celebrate the wintery season with a WINTER casual after hours bash at the zoo! Enjoy tastings of beer and wine and sample fabulous hors d’oeuvres from local restaurants as you listen to holiday tunes and meander through the zoo, featuring our holiday favorite Wonderland of Lights.

Treetops Crafts & Drafts
December 8, Gaylord

Crafts & Drafts is a unique paint & sip where a wine bottle is your canvas! Throwing out the traditional paint & sip ways for Crafts & Drafts with Mary B. You’re not limited to paint, use multiple mediums to create a unique craft that you can keep for yourself or give as a gift this holiday season.

Guests can enjoy beer and pizza while creating this fun craft.

Farm By Lantern LightFarm-By-Lantern-Light
December 9-10, Grayling

Wellington Farm, USA, a 60-acre living history farm is now accepting reservations for their annual “Farm By Lantern Light” event. Due to the limited seating per showing, reservations are an absolute must.

This most unique event is presented each year during the Holiday Season. It has been said to be, by many who have attended previous years’ productions, the most unique and memorable Christmas Season experience in the Midwest. The full evening’s experience consists of a tour through the historic farm by lantern light. The interior of all major buildings and the geographic landscape is breathtakingly illuminated by over 100 kerosene lanterns.

DIYpsi Holiday Market
December 10-11, Ypsilanti

Head to DIYpsi (dip-see) a handmade art fair that takes place in Ypsilanti’s business districts once each summer and winter. For two weekends each year, the city hosts the best indie artists our city and region have to offer for a one of a kind shopping experience that will take care of everyone on your list.

There will be incredible hand-crafted food and drink when you get here! (and occasionally an eclectic mix of live music)

On top of finding unique hand crafted gifts, doing your shopping at DIYpsi means you’re contributing to a larger cause- keeping thousands of dollars invested in our local economy and supporting the arts.

December 12-18

Wizards of Winter
December 15, Kalamazoo

Head to Kalamazoo State Theatre for a performance by The Wizards of Winter! Featuring former members of Trans-Siberian Orchestra and some of the mid-Atlantic’s finest rock and progressive musicians, The Wizards of Winter will be performing a holiday rock opera in Kalamazoo! This 12 member ensemble boasts soaring vocal harmonies, precision string instrumentation, powerful percussion and stunning keyboard work, layered around a rich storyboard that evokes December’s past!

Michigan History Museum – Panel: 21st-Century Michigan through Native Eyes
December 15, Lansing

Rock Your Mocs is a three-part series exploring 21st-century native perspectives in Michigan; it is presented in partnership with arts, academic and tribal organizations.

Join in the Learning Center for a moderated panel discussion touching on topics of native governance, traditions and environmental sustainability. Tribal members from across the state and from diverse backgrounds and affiliations dive deep into native perspectives and cultures. You can submit a question for possible inclusion in the panel discussion via Twitter or Facebook.

The Secret Society Of Twisted Storytellers
December 16, Detroit

The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers presents “WHIZ OF THE WIZ: Story Time with George Faison!” This will be a live, curated, multimedia storytelling event. Stories told and directed by Tony Award Winner, Dr. George Faison, internationally celebrated producer, director, choreographer, writer, composer and dancer. Show features excerpts from theatre, film and concerts Faison has choreographed. Including The Wiz, Josephine Baker Story, Cotton Club, Alvin Ailey and more with songs and dance performed live from The Wiz with orchestra.

Full Moon Night Skiing
December 16, Roscommon

Experience the magic of winter in a whole new light! Every full moon during the ski season, the Trapper’s Cabin trail is lit with torches, creating a truly unique and memorable nighttime experience. There will also be a bonfire and hot chocolate at Trapper’s Cabin. Skiers who need to rent skis must do so before 7 p.m. Join for an evening you’ll never forget!

Winter Solstice CelebrationWinter-Solstice-Celebration
December 17, Midland

The Winter Solstice is here! For centuries, people have gathered with family and friends to recognize the longest night of the year and to celebrate the return of longer days to come. Take part in earth-friendly traditions as you roll a beeswax candle and make an evergreen wreath and a small Yule log to take home. Also learn about evergreen trees and why the seasons change, and listen to solstice stories and music from across the globe. You can also shop for the holidays at the Nature Center Store.

December 19-25

Bronner Family Christmas Sing Along
December 22-23, Frankenmuth

Join the Bronner family as they lead everyone in singing a variety of Christmas carols. It take place on Dec. 22nd from 1:30-2:00 pm and Dec. 23rd from 1:30-2:00 pm.

Dablon Winery Features the Film ‘Mozart’s Sister’
December 21, Baroda

Mozart’s Sister is a re-imagined account of the early life of Maria Anna ‘Nannerl’ Mozart, five years older than Wolfgang and a musical prodigy in her own right. Once the featured performer, Nannerl has given way to Wolfgang as the main attraction, as their strict but loving father Leopold tours his talented offspring in front of the royal courts of pre-French Revolution Europe. Approaching marriageable age and now forbidden to play the violin or compose, Nannerl chafes at the limitations imposed on her gender. But a friendship with the son and daughter of Louis XV offers her ways to challenge the established sexual and social order.

Grand Rapids Symphony’s Cirque de Noël
December 22-23, Grand Rapids

Experience the magic of Christmas, the wonder of Cirque and the beauty of live orchestra all in one show! Running from December 22 to December 23, this ultimate family tradition feature performances by aerialists, acrobats, contortionists, and jugglers, choreographed to seasonal favorites as Cirque de la Symphonie artists share the stage with your Grand Rapids Pops.

Shen Yun 2017Shen-Yun-2017
December 22-27, Detroit

Consisting of about 20 pieces, a Shen Yun performance takes you to a magic journey through 5,000 years. Breathtaking animated backdrops, exquisite hand-made costumes, high flying leaps, thunderous drums, and mesmerizing live orchestra music will transport you to another world.

December 26-31

Dog SleddingDog-Sledding
December 29-31, Gaylord

Join Team Evergreen and Liza Dietzen and take an exhilarating ride through the trails on the Jones Masterpiece Golf Course behind a team of dogs that is training for the ultimate sled dog race, “The Iditarod.”

Torchlight Parade
December 31, Harbor Springs

There’s no ticket required to watch the New Year’s Eve fun at Nub’s Nob! This event at Nub’s Nob takes place at 6 p.m. so even the younger kids can get in on the fun as the Nub’s Nob Ski Patrol and the Winter Sports School Skiers make a couple of runs down Smokey creating a pretty light display.

New Year’s Eve Ball Drop
December 31, Marquette

Every New Year’s Eve the intersection of Washington St and Front St in Downtown Marquette becomes the location where locals and visitors to the area come together in a large crowd to welcome in the New Year. On the 12th strike an illuminated ball is lowered from the historic Savings Bank Building.

Traverse City New Year’s Eve Cherry Ball DropTraverse-City-New-Year's-Eve-Cherry-Ball-Drop
December 31, Traverse City

This New Year’s street party features the lowering of a massive, illuminated cherry, accompanied with live music and entertainment!

What are you doing this December? Let us know in the comments!

10 Michigan Destinations to Visit This Veterans Day

This Nov. 11, veterans, families and friends will come together in Michigan, and across the nation, to honor those who served and remember those who lost their lives in ceremonies as part of Veterans Day.

In anticipation of this annual day of remembrance, we put together a list of 10 veterans monuments and events in Michigan.

1. Grand Traverse Area Veterans Memorial – Traverse City

Located at Eleventh Street and Elmwood Avenue in Traverse City, the Grand Traverse Area Veterans Memorial was dedicated Sept. 18, 2011. It’s overseen by the Grand Traverse Area Veteran Coalition. Come visit the space to pay your respects to our veterans.

Photo Courtesy of the Grand Traverse Area Veterans Memorial

Photo Courtesy of the Grand Traverse Area Veterans Memorial

2. Fort Custer National Cemetery – Augusta

One of two national shrines in Michigan, the Fort Custer National Cemetery is located on Dickman Road in Augusta and open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Originally Camp Custer, it was named after Michigan native Gen. George Armstrong Custer in 1917 for soldiers in World War I. It was designated as a national cemetery in 1981. This year, there will be a ceremony starting at 11 a.m. For more information, call (269) 731-4164.

3. Veterans Memorial Park – Grand Rapids

Dedicated in 1926, the park includes several pillars that were erected in honor of those who served in multiple conflicts. The memorial is located at 101 E. Fulton in Grand Rapids. For more information, contact Grand Rapids City Hall at (616) 456-3000.

4. Plainwell Veterans Memorial

Located in Sherwood Park in Plainwell, the memorial was dedicated on Veterans Day in 2009. The murmur of the Kalamazoo River in the background provides the ideal backdrop for quiet reflection and respect. For more information, call Plainwell City Hall at (269) 685-6821.

5. Veteran’s Memorial Park – Muskegon

Located on the M. Causeway of M-120 in Muskegon, Veteran’s Memorial Park is located on the Muskegon River. The memorial includes a walkway for visitors to observe memorials and plaques in honor of area veterans. For more information, contact Muskegon City Hall at (231) 724-6724.

6. Brighton Veterans Memorial

Including a plaque honoring veterans that was installed in Brighton in the 1950s, the memorial has been redesigned in recent years. It is located on Main Street in Brighton. There will be a Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 12, starting at 10 a.m. For more information, go to www.brightonveteransmemorial.info.

Photo Courtesy of the Brighton Veterans Memorial

Photo Courtesy of the Brighton Veterans Memorial

7. Great Lakes National Cemetery – Holly

Veterans, families and the general public are invited to attend a Veterans Day ceremony at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly. The cemetery is home to one of two national shrines in Michigan. The Veterans Day ceremony starts at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11. The cemetery is located at 4200 Belford Road in Holly.

8. Escanaba Park – Grand Haven

Owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and leased to Grand Haven, the park is home to a memorial for the U.S. Coast Guard. The park was originally known as Kelly Park, but was renamed in 1949 to Escanaba Memorial Park in commemoration of the loss of the USCGC Escanaba and 101 men when the ship sank in 1943.

9. Korean Memorial and Vietnam Memorial at Island Park – Mt. Pleasant

Mt. Pleasant, like many other communities, is home to many veterans. Of particular note is the Vietnam Memorial at Island Park, which was the first in the state to honor those who fought in Vietnam. These two memorials are a great way to honor veterans when visiting Mid-Michigan.

10. Withington Park – Jackson

Featuring the sculpture Defense of the Flag, Withington Park in Jackson is named after Gen. William H. Withington. The sculpture honors the 3,282 men of the Michigan Volunteer Infantry regiments who he commanded. The sculpture is also known as Jackson County Soldiers or Sailors Monument.

Many other Michigan communities pay tribute to our nation’s veterans and fallen soldiers. Consider a visit to the veteran’s park in Charlevoix, veterans statue in Port Huron, unknown soldier sculpture in Alpena, Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Ypsilanti or one of the numerous monuments on the State Capitol lawn in Lansing.

Which of these destinations will you visit this Veterans Day?