Come start your adventure at the World of Winter in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
One of the top winter festivals in the country, it’s west Michigan winter fun at its best.
A mix of outdoor art installations, ice sculpture walking tours, outdoor entertainment, and endless winter activities, you’ll want to move the World of Winter event to the top of your Michigan bucket list.
About the World of Winter Festival in Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids turns into a true winter wonderland during the World of Winter Festival.
It isn’t just the beauty of the city of Grand Rapids (located in a river valley), or the murals and sculptures all over Grand Rapids that make it beautiful.
It’s the presence of nature, with the Grand River rushing through the city, and the many parks that give the city a glow.
Visit the World of Winter Festival 2023
The World of Winter Festival in Grand Rapids is the most exciting and largest winter festival in the Midwest, and with over 100 events there is something for everyone. Whether it’s music, art, food or just some family fun, you’ll find it here in Grand Rapids this winter.
I’ve put together a guide to the best art exhibits and things to see at this don’t miss outdoor event.
Here’s what to look out for this year.
See the World of Winter Art Installations
Take a walk around downtown on the Art Installation Walking Tour to see art showcases from artists all around the world.
Watch for these art installations:
- Manidoo Bawating, located at Sixth Street Bridge Park, 647 Monroe NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, an 11-foot tall steel sculpture built to honor the traditions of the Native American community.
- Messie the Grand River Monster, DeVos Place Convention Center, 218 Lyon St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, a purple river monster with 14ft long tentacles. This Grand River monster is a must-see.
- Rainbow Trees, are two art installations located in two different areas, Canal Park, and Sixth Street Park, 647 Monroe Avenue NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. See a bright, colorful light display, featuring LED lights wrapping around the tree, representing a color in the rainbow.
- The Singing Tree, 272 Pearl St. NW Grand Rapids, MI 49503, is an interactive art installation that transforms sound into interactive experiences. Sing, clap, yell or talk to the tree and it will light up based on the sounds you make.
- Angels of Freedom, found at Blue Bridge, Grand Rapids, MI, are a giant pair of wings that change color and a perfect spot for a selfie or two.
- Disco Heart, a large heart filled with giant disco balls, can be found at Monroe Center.
- Roaming Gnomes, features eight giant inflatable gnomes, each different and all illuminated, tower above the Grand River at Ah-Nab-Awen Park, 220 Front Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504.
- House of Cards at Calder Plaza, 300 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, consists of massive 128 light boxes in the form of playing cards, each designed by an artist from around the world or a local artist from around town.
- Talking Heads, by Hungarian designer Victor Vicsek at the Gillett Bridge, features two enormous heads each containing more than 4,000 LED lights that create different facial expressions as they engage in “conversation.”
- Tropical Tundra, is an immersive experience that will make you feel like you’re walking through a tropical jungle, located inside the Ah-Nab-Awen Park tunnel underneath the Gillett Bridge.
- Starlight, a glowing circle of dancing stars, can be found at Lyon Square, 296 Lyon St NE Grand Rapids, MI 49503.
- Starry Night can be found at Ahnabawen Park, 220 Front Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504. Van Gogh’s famous painting comes alive with 1,400 glowing tubes duplicating the master’s brushstrokes on an enormous LED screen.
More Events at the Grand Rapids Word of Winter
Valent-ICE, an annual ice sculpture festival, will feature a number of professionally carved ice sculptures throughout downtown Grand Rapids. You’ll also see Ice Breaker, a massive ice carving that will be done live. You won’t want to miss it. The annual ice fest begins January 10 and lasts until the sculptures melt.
Can’t help looking at so much art without wanting to make some of your own? Swing by Paint the Park at Rosa Parks Circle and help paint the ice skating rink.
Music at the World of Winter Festival
You’ll find some amazing music in downtown Grand Rapids, too. Take a step back, close your eyes, and groove to the music.
Downtown Grand Rapids will be inundated this winter with musical experiences like Dante Cope’s Ghost Town, the Ice Piano Performances with Hannah Laine, David McDonald, and more. And if dancing is more your style, Beat Box DJ Pop Up, Silent Disco, and Hipster Disco will have you moving.
And be sure to get your jazz on with the Brass Band Pop-Up featuring Grobe Seen Bierband, a German bar band.
Celebrate Diverse Cultures at the World of Winter Festival
If you’ve never visited Grand Rapids before you’ll be quick to learn how important preserving culture and diversity is here. Don’t miss the Cultural Story Time Series featuring members from different communities telling stories and folklore about their culture.
The Mexican Heritage Association, Grand Rapids Asian Pacific Foundation, West Michigan Bengali Cultural Association, and more will all be present throughout the winter sharing with the public about their heritage.
Rosa Parks Birthday Walking Tour will explore black history and what it’s like being an African American in Grand Rapids; the people, legends, issues, events, and stories that helped to shape Grand Rapids. On January 30, take a Black History Walking Tour, which examines the African American population from 1826 until the present.
The Great Lakes Snow Snake Competition will be a great way to delve into traditional northern indigenous culture and learn how to make and use snow snakes which is a carved piece of wood that is designed to be thrown. The sport is over 500 years old, and the winner is the person that can throw their snow snake the farthest.
World of Winter Performances and Entertainment
There’s nothing like watching a good show, and the festival offers amazing shows all festival long.
Under the stars and glow of the city lights, Pursuit Of Ahhwesomeness will have a performance at Starry Night. It will be a mix of the famous art of Vincent van Gogh, lights, and dancing. Pursuit of Ahhwesomeness will also perform at Affinity, which is an immersive sound and light installation by the Grand River.
Spice up the night with Winter’s a DRAG, featuring Brooke Lynn Hytes. She is a ballerina, a showgirl, and a 90’s supermodel and Queen of the North.
Dance in The Annex Performance at the House of Cards will be another mix of art and dance. The House of Cards is an interactive art installation and will change throughout the show as the dancer moves through the structure. It will be amazing to see the shifting cards at the center of downtown Grand Rapids under the city lights.
The Greater Grand Rapids Figure Skating Club will perform its Fire & Ice show on the ice skating rink in Rosa Parks Circle. This is ice skating with fire. This invigorating experience will be sure to warm you up.
Family Fun at the World of Winter Festival
Take an adventure around the World of Winter Festival through its many Scavenger Hunts.
This is a great opportunity to explore downtown Grand Rapids and find new places you’ve never been to before. The Ice Park will be open this winter as well and will be a perfect place to bring your family for some fun activities and games like cornhole, checkers, foosball, shuffleboard, and many more.
Did you say, Human Hungry Hungry Hippo Tournament? Yes, you’ll never believe what you can do with ice, an innertube, a laundry basket, and tons of family fun.
You can get your cardio in while enjoying the sights of Grand Rapids with friends and family, too.
Along with the Art Installation walking Tour there will be the Chilly Challenge Walking Tour. Meet up with other enthusiasts and take a tour around downtown. Each tour will have different themes and routes so that you’ll get a chance to learn more about Grand Rapids and its architecture.
If you complete all seven walking tours, you will win a $25 gift certificate. Who said walking wasn’t worth it?.
Don’t miss Snowga your opportunity to warm up, do yoga, and take a run through the downtown area.
Of course, there will be plenty of time to visit Rosa Parks Circle ice skating rink and carve through the ice with your friends and family.
Food and Drink at the World of Winter
Grab a bit at the many food trucks that will be all around the city. You’ll find all kinds of dishes and treats to fill up and keep you warm. There will even be a Food Truck Rally at the Ice Park so you won’t go hungry while you play the Ice Games.
Noodle Fest will have your favorite noodle bowls to choose from and the donations raised will go to the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Foundation.
More Winter Fun in Grand Rapids
Looking for more winter fun in the Grand Rapids area?
If you’re still looking for some outdoor play opportunities, try snow tubing or snowshoeing at Millenium Park if weather conditions permit. For indoor play, head over to the Grand Rapids Public Museum or the Frederik Meijer Gardens and be sure to check their schedule of events.
More Winter Things to Do In Michigan
About the Author-
Colin Blassingame is Content Writer for My Michigan Beaches and is currently finishing his BA in Writing at Grand Valley State. He enjoys volunteer work writing newsletters for small local organizations in his hometown of Grand Rapids. Colin intends to continue his schooling and begin pursuing a degree in Physics abroad in Japan with plans to focus on Astronomy. He enjoys talking long walks in the snow and listening to podcasts in his free time.