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 6, 13 and 20 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.

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 11th 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 1. 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 2016 season is the 21st 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.

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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 16 and go through December 31.

Which light displays will you be visiting this holiday season?

5 Ways to Enjoy Cocktail Week Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids launched Cocktail Week GR last year – and the response was so great, the city is gearing up for a second go-round, November 9-20, 2016.

Sip local! Bebidas Estilo GR!

Logo for Grand Rapids Cocktail Week

Cocktail Week Grand Rapids was created to celebrate Michigan-made spirits and the art of the craft cocktail. New distilleries are popping up all over Grand Rapids and throughout the state, and Cocktail Week GR is a great opportunity to taste their handiwork in delicious drinks created by West Michigan’s best mixologists.

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of this spirited event.

1. Pair and Share. Participating bars and restaurants are offering a special food-drink pairing deal – get two Michigan cocktails and a shared-plate appetizer for $25 or less. Chefs and mixologists have collaborated to create pairings that perfectly complement each other, adding balance and depth to your gustatory experience. Last year, a crowd pleaser was, The Drapple – made with Beer Barrel Bourbon from New Holland Brewing – which was paired with Duck Confit Leg at Reserve Wine & Food.

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

2. Go the Extra Glass. Enjoy enticing extras to enhance Cocktail Week GR including local events. Check cocktailweekgr.com for this year’s schedule.

3. Get in the Mix. Learn how to create your own delicious drinks at a Downtown Market cooking class. “Thanksgiving Cocktails and Desserts: Beyond the Pie” takes over the Teaching Kitchen on Wednesday, November 16.

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

4. Take a Tour. Long Road Distillers, established in 2015 and already the winner of multiple international awards, offers tours of its facility on November 11, 12, 18 and 19. You’ll learn how Long Road uses local grains and fruits to craft vodka, whisky, rum and more.

5. Think Global. Attend the International Wine, Beer & Food Festival (November 17-19) to sample spirits – plus wines, beers and ciders – from around the world. More than 1,500 beverages will be featured, along with gourmet foods, workshops, seminars and more. It’s billed as “Michigan’s premier tasting event,” so bring your appetite!

“Flowers in the Window” is a cocktail made especially for Cocktail Week GR by Zac Williams from Six.One.Six.

What is your favorite place to enjoy a cocktail in Grand Rapids? Let us know in the comments below!

ArtPrize Made Easy: 5 Steps to Enhance Your Visit

Whether you’re an ArtPrize regular or this will be your first trip to the world’s most radical art competition, you can follow these simple steps to make your experience more efficient, pleasant and fun.

The Art Newspaper has officially recognized ArtPrize as the most-attended public art event on the planet – about 400,000 people stream into downtown Grand Rapids during the 19-day festivities. That number is likely to swell this year, as the New York Times highlighted ArtPrize in naming Grand Rapids #20 on its list of 52 Places to Go Worldwide in 2016.

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

A little advance planning will help you manage the crowds and get the most out of your ArtPrize visit. Here are a few tips:

1. Ride the ArtPrize Shuttle

With nearly 1,500 works of art spread across three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids, it’s flat-out impossible to see everything in a day. Extend your stay with a special ArtPrize Hotel Package that offers such perks as a free shuttle to downtown. Guests at 30 suburban hotels can make their way to the Park & Ride location within 10 minutes of their hotel and board the shuttle to avoid traffic and parking hassles. That gives you more time to focus on art!

2. Visit the Neighborhood HUBs

For the first time, you’ll find eight Neighborhood HUBs throughout the ArtPrize district. Located at major venues, each HUB serves as a great entry point to the event – providing you with the opportunity to register to vote, pick up an event guide and map, get information about neighborhood-specific events, browse ArtPrize merchandise and purchase a Metro Pass.

3. Pick up a Passport (or Two)

You can also pick up an ArtPrize Passport at any of the HUBs. Collect stamps from any five of the eight HUBs and you’ll be entered to win prizes from ArtPrize and Founders Brewing Co. Collect stamps from all eight HUBs plus the exclusive ArtPrize Medallion sticker available only at the Founders Brewing Co. tent at the October 7 ArtPrize Awards public viewing party at Rosa Parks Circle – and you’ll be entered to win a grand prize package. (While you’re here, you can also pick up a Beer City Passport and collect stamps at participating breweries to earn a collectible Brewsader t-shirt.)

4. Whet Your Appetite

You’re going to work up a hunger during your ArtPrize adventure – and you’ll save time by evaluating your dining options in advance. Visit ExperienceGR.com to search for restaurants by region and/or cuisine.

5. Explore All Your Options

Every day of ArtPrize is packed with fun, fascinating, art-focused events – but ArtPrize isn’t the only excitement on the Grand Rapids agenda during these 19 days. From a touring Broadway production of Cinderella, to concerts by Kanye West and Aretha Franklin, to a family-friendly Oktoberfest celebration, you’ll find plenty of ArtPrize “add-ons” to enhance your stay. Search the Events Calendar at ExperienceGR.com to find events that coincide with your stay dates.

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

What other tips do you have for attending this fun event? Let us know in the comments!