15 Must-Visit Michigan Christmas Towns
You don’t have to look far for the best Christmas towns in Michigan, especially during the holiday season.
The entire state is practically a Hallmark Christmas movie come to life, especially once the Christmas lights go up and that first snow sticks to the ground.
All around the state, communities large and small celebrate the season in their own unique and charming ways, from one-of-a-kind train rides, to year-round Christmas cheer, and everything in between. With twinkling Christmas light displays, tons of Christmas decor and holiday cheer all around, these Christmas towns in Michigan become a Christmas wonderland.
Celebrate the Holidays in a Michigan Christmas Town
The best place to celebrate Christmas is with loved ones, but being in any of these charming Michigan Christmas towns certainly will help elevate the spirit.
If you want to celebrate the season very festively, pick one of these towns to visit throughout the month, and make it a road trip. It will be a Michigan Christmas experience to remember!
Read on to discover these top 15 Michigan Christmas towns to visit and let the holiday season begin!
For many Michigan residents, it’s not Christmas season without a visit to one of the top Christmas towns in the country, Frankenmuth Michigan, also knows as Michigan’s own “Little Bavaria.”
With a festive spirit that persists year-round, it’s no surprise that Frankenmuth tops our list of charming Christmas towns. Inspired by Germany’s Bavaria, this is one of the most unique places in Michigan already, but for its contagious holiday cheer, it’s a must-visit Christmas town.
From the picturesque covered bridge to the reindeer farm at Grandpa Tiny’s; from visiting with Santa to cozy carriage rides; there is something for kids of all ages in Frankenmuth, MI.
A stroll through town will leave you feeling as though you’re in a cute Christmas film: every shop and restaurant is completely decked out with Christmas decor, wreaths and garlands. Take one the horse-drawn carriage rides through the town to see all the magical Christmas displays throughout the town and then follow Christmas Lane to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland.
Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland is billed as the world’s largest Christmas store. It feels more like you’ve been transported to the north pole, with plenty of glitter and twinkling lights to please even the biggest grinch.
Be sure and stop at the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus for some perfect made in Michigan gifts. The Cheese Haus sells both homemade and imported cheeses (their bacon cheese spread is a holiday favorite). Plan some time for a “world-famous chicken dinner” at the Bavarian Inn, and stop by the Visitor Center for a list of events. Don’t leave without seeing Grandpa Tiny’s Farm to see Santa’s reindeer.
PRO-TIP: Spending Christmas in Frankenmuth really IS a Hallmark Christmas Movie. The Hallmark movie, “A Christmas Movie Christmas” was filmed here in 2019!
With a name like Christmas, is it any wonder it’s a holiday destination? This sleepy little town in Michigan’s upper peninsula sits on the shores of Lake Superior, between Munising and Au Train, and is only home to about 400 people.
Despite its size, however, it’s impossible to miss, since you’ll be greeted by a larger-than-life statue (35 feet!) of Santa Claus himself, which makes for a unique photo opportunity. Each year during the holiday season, the post office becomes the town’s most popular destination, since everyone wants their card or gift stamped from “Christmas, Mich.”
There’s a lot more to do here than you might think, given it’s size. Christmas Michigan is a perfect base for exploring the Pictured Rocks, Au Train, and Grand Island during the summer.
PRO-TIP: Put this spot on your Michigan fall color tour list: In the autumn, the whole area comes alive with fall colors.
To celebrate Christmas in the European style, visit Michigan’s tulip town, Holland. While the springtime brings visitors from all over looking for tulip blooms and Dutch heritage at the Tulip Festival, the holiday season should not be ignored. In Holland, the charming small-town Christmas feel, complete with European holiday traditions are abundant.
Brick-lined 8th Street is decorated with cheery holiday wreaths and ribbons, and you’ll find fun spots like the iconic New Holland Brewery (one of Michigan’s top craft breweries), as well as gift shops and boutiques.
Be sure to visit the Holland Kerstmarkt, a popular Michigan holiday market, much like the open-air Christmas markets that are found throughout Europe, and don’t miss the Sinterklaas Eve event, where children are welcome to follow Sinterklaas (Dutch Santa Claus) around town, pose for photos, and lear about the Sinterklaas legend as it’s told in Dutch culture.
Cities across Michigan take great pride in their holiday light displays, but nothing captivates you as much as what’s in the Detroit suburb of Rochester. During Christmastime, downtown Rochester is transformed into a magical scene from a holiday movie with a lights display unlike any other. in fact, it’s one of the top holiday attractions in southeast Michigan.
Each business is completely covered by strings of lights, radiating colorful facades down the road, reflecting off the road and the snow. This tradition, known as the Big Bright Light Show, has become a staple of the wintertime in Rochester and draws people into town to shop, eat, and admire the displays.
Come early and grab a burger at Red Knapp’s on Main Street, a fifties-style hamburger joint that still serves up delicious burgers, and then do some Christmas shoping along Main Street.
More Top Christmas Towns in Michigan
In Lake Orion, participate in the Canterbury Village Stroll for an immersive winter wonderland experience. This all-ages event is the perfect opportunity to get outside for some unique holiday fun for the whole family to enjoy.
There are countless ways to enjoy Canterbury Village, with drinks available for adults on the C-Pub outdoor patio, light shows set to iconic Christmas tunes, and firepits to warm up beside. Take a walk through this quaint village illuminated with thousands of festive lights, listen as carolers sing, and meet all kinds of holiday characters from Christmas classics to Disney favorites.
If you find yourself in Grand Rapids during the holiday season, the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is a must-see. Hundreds of thousands of lights illuminate the park, highlighting different cultures and their traditions for the holiday season.
Including Christmas trees, menorahs, and more, there’s something for everyone of any culture here. This event offers both indoor and outdoor sections, so you can explore the decorations and lights from the warmth of a climate controlled building, or see the elaborate displays outside in the snow, just be sure to dress appropriately.
The Grand Rapids Downtown Market at 435 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, is a don’t miss: you’ll find a full of different cuisines, local bakers, butchers, fishmongers, and a great variety of specialty food products.
Whether you are looking for something to grab on the go, ingredients, products to use for your home cooked meal, or even a great drink or wine to pair with your food, the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids is the place to go, especially during Christmas.
Charming Holly, MI is the perfect holiday destination, and not just because of its festive name. Every December the streets of Holly are buzzing with holiday spirit and it’s impossible not to catch the cheer. This quaint and inviting town will have you feeling right at home, while simultaneously feeling like something out of a Christmas movie.
For an added special celebration, visit during the Dickens Festival, when the whole town celebrates the famous author Charles Dickens, who penned the classic holiday story, “A Christmas Carol.” It’s impossible to be a Scrooge with costumed carolers and a holiday parade fueling your Christmas spirit.
Petoskey has long stood as one of northern Michigan’s most charming towns. Tourism peaks in the summer, but don’t miss out on the qualities that make Petoskey special even through the winter months.
During the holiday season, this peaceful town is decorated with highly festive displays for a unique coastal Michigan Christmas feel. The Holiday Open House in downtown Petoskey is a great opportunity to get some unique gifts, all while engaging with the people who make Petoskey so wonderful.
The historic Gaslight District, with it’s brick-paved streets, are delightful at Christmas, and it’s easy to feel the holiday spirit as you duck in and out of the pastry shops, cafes and boutiques.
Don’t miss the chance to grab a bite to eat at City Park Grille, 432 E Lake St, Petoskey, MI 49770, a Victorian-era pub that was frequented by Ernest Hemingway, and still serves up delicious food.
Village of Ashley Michigan
For a unique Christmas celebration with activity unlike any other, look no further than the small town of Ashley. Here a historic train ride awaits, ready to take you on a journey of epic proportions, all themed around the holidays. This rain ride, known as the North Pole Express, mimics the iconic Christmas Train, the Polar Express, and is a fantastic way for people of all ages to kick off the holidays.
Ashley celebrates Christmas in a big way, from the North Pole Express, to horse-drawn wagon rides, a Santa’s workshop experience, and even a magical moment to see as Santa delivers the first gift of Christmas. Escape into a world of magic, movies, and Christmas trains that will make anyone’s heart grow three sizes.
Even in metro-Detroit, the small-town Christmas you’re looking for is still within reach. Northville’s downtown embraces the holidays with small-town flair, despite being a sizable Detroit suburb.
Explore festive art exhibits and craft shows, a holiday market, and a parade and tree-lighting celebration that will spark awe in any attendee. Keep an eye out for events in the town square, because throughout the holiday season, there are an abundance of opportunities to meet Santa Claus as he checks up on the town.
Head over to historic Mill Race Village to make some old-fashioned ornaments or attend Christmas in the Village, a holiday event that is fun for the whole family. The buildings of the Village will be beautifully decorated and there is a Christmas Market, holiday inflatables, Christmas music, and much more.
PRO-TIP: Neighboring Plymouth, one of the best places to live in Michigan, is also one of the best Michigan Christmas towns. Shop the decorated streets in the downtown area, and stroll through Kellogg Park, where hundreds of decorated Christmas trees are on display.
If you go in the evening, you might even be able to catch a holiday movie at the historic Penn Theatre. Be sure and visit the Plymouth Historical Museum for their amazing holiday exhibit, “A Red Ryder Christmas.”
If you want a winter wonderland with plenty of outdoor winter fun, there’s no better place than Traverse City. Enjoy the cute downtown with plenty of cheer, complete with shops and restaurants all adorned with festive decor.
Shop bustling, historic Front Street with unique toy shops and boutiques, and stop in at the many cafes along the way. Traverse City is home to great restaurants and eateries, and a favorite stop is Espresso Bay, for small-batch roasted coffee, sandwiches & gelato.
Doug Murdick’s Fudge Shop is also a must-stop, grab some homemade candies and fresh fudge for yourself and your friends- it makes a perfect holiday gift.
Outside of town there are plenty of winter activities to try, including skiing or snowboarding at one of the many nearby ski areas or resorts: both The Homestead in Glen Arbor and Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville are nearby.
PRO-TIP: Sleigh Rides are another way to take in the natural beauty of this perfect Michigan Christmas town. Cozy up under a warm blanket and go dashing over the snow in an open sleigh at Ranch Rudolph, 6841 Brown Bridge Rd, Traverse City, MI 49696, or one of the other farms in the area that offer sleigh rides.
With Victorian charm, stunning views of the water, and clean air thanks to the ban on automobiles, it’s no wonder that Mackinac Island is a top tourist destination in Michigan. These qualities and more make it impossible to not get swept up in its holiday charm, should you be there in the winter.
Although summer is undoubtedly the most popular time to visit Mackinac Island, a visit in the winter is well worth it, since the island becomes a bit quieter without the massive influx of tourist foot traffic.
With the bright shimmering tree on Main Street, the sound of horse hooves trotting through the snow, and plenty of Christmas bazaars, you’ll feel transported to a bygone era of holiday cheer.
While a small-town Christmas is undoubtedly charming, the big city offers a unique excitement around the holidays and Detroit is no exception. The hustle and bustle of Detroit with its art-deco buildings and big city lights will amaze and excite anyone looking for holiday fun in a big package.
Be sure to spend time at Campus Martius, which becomes the heart of the city and its holiday celebrations. Skate at the outdoor ice rink beneath the glow of the massive Christmas tree, or shop at one of the open-air markets or vendors as carolers sing out into the city streets.
PRO-TIP: Head over to beautiful Belle Isle and take in the spectacular natural beauty of this island in the middle the Detroit River. You’ll find hiking trails, frozen ponds for open air skating and stunning views of the Detroit skyline.
In Dearborn, you’re able to transport yourself into a different era to celebrate the holidays as depicted in the history books thanks to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village invite guests to stroll down main street as carolers sing their classic songs.
As always, horse and carriage rides or Model T rides are available, but during this event, exploring the village has a different feeling. Displays in the historic buildings are curated to fit the historic holiday atmosphere, fireworks displays celebrate the season, and interactions with Santa Claus are abundant.
Manistee, located on Lake Michigan in West Michigan, excels at bringing nostalgia to the forefront with its holiday celebrations. Right when December hits, Manistee spends the first weekend celebrating with the Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend, kicking off the holiday season by paying homage to the past and those old traditions.
Old Christmas Weekend celebrates Christmas as it was in the Victorian Era, including horse-drawn carriages, reindeer, Victorian-style carolers, and even festive music performed by bagpipers. The Festival of Trees rounds out this weekend event, which includes plenty of holiday activities for people of all ages.
You can find a true Hallmark Christmas town in Frankenmuth, Michigan. This charming town in mid-Michigan was the setting for the Hallmark Christmas movie, ” A Christmas Movie Christmas.” You’ll find horse-drawn carriage rides, a reindeer farm with Santa and beautifully decorated streets with restaurants, breweries, boutiques, gift shops and more.
More Michigan Christmas Fun
About the Author-
Bella DiMascio is a Content Editor for mymichiganbeach.com. She grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland and later attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in English: Writing. Creative writing has been a hobby and interest of Bella’s since she was in elementary school and she is thrilled to be using her talents to highlight the Great Lakes State. Outside of writing, Bella enjoys getting outside with her two Australian Shepherds, playing video games, and binging shows on Netflix.