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My Town: Where to find Santa and holiday cheer this season | Arts & Culture

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My Town: Where to find Santa and holiday cheer this season
My Town:  Where to find Santa and holiday cheer this season


(West Michigan Tourist Association)-- It’s getting to be that time of year when good ole’ St. Nick starts getting his list out, and checking it twice. Find out where in West Michigan you can catch Santa Claus this holiday season, along with some other special events that will let you get in the Christmas mood.



Live Reindeer at Silver Beach Carousel

Silver Beach Carousel has some jolly fun planned for the entire family! Come meet two live reindeer on Friday, Nov. 28, noon to 5 p.m., and Thursday, Dec. 18, 4 to 8:30 p.m. Come into Santa’s Christmas Corral in the Shadowland Ballroom where you can pet and have a professional keepsake photo taken with these friendly, gentle animals of North Pole fame.

While you’re there get a jump on your holiday shopping at their Brass Ring Gift Shop that’s brimming with treasures for everyone on your list. (Yes, there will be Black Friday specials on Nov. 28!) You’ll take magical holiday photos amidst the twinkling lights and holiday decorations as you ride Noel and the other Carousel figures. This is the merriest place to be in Southwestern Michigan.


Zoolights Light Up Binder Park Zoo

Binder Park Zoo is the place to be this holiday season for Zoolights. Visitors who attend this annual fundraiser and winter festival will stroll along lighted paths with nightly entertainment and view some of the zoo’s weather-hardy animals on exhibit enjoying the winter season. These special evenings will include unlimited FREE carousel rides , up-close animal meet and greets, seasonal holiday refreshments, special activities, and holiday stories. (Wild Africa will be closed.) Zoolights dates: December 5-7, 12-14, 18-23 & 26-30, 5pm to 9pm.


Giggle & Mingle with Santa at Round Barn Winery, Distillery, and Brewery

Meet and greet the Man in Red at Round Barn’s Holiday Open House. Pick up holiday gifts for the whole gang while the kids take glamour shots with good ol’ Santa. Activities for the kids include cookie decorating, making paper snowflakes, and ornament decorating. Holiday music will add to the festive atmosphere. Giggle & Mingle with Santa takes place Saturday, December 6th from 1pm until 4pm.


Holiday Arts, Crafts, & Gifts at the Kalamazoo Expo Center

Visit the Kalamazoo Expo Center this season to deck your house for the holidays, as well as pick up some unique Christmas gifts! Head to the Holiday Greens and Gifts Sale on December 5th and 6th for the area’s finest holiday sale for beautiful fresh green centerpieces, live wreaths, mixed roping, and a wide selection of unique hand-crafted gifts.


16th Annual Reindog Parade in St. Joseph

Come on down to St. Joseph on December 6th at 4pm for the best way to kick off the holiday season. The annual Reindog Holiday Parade features dressed up pets and their owners in a variety of holiday garb. Be prepared to see all kinds of costumes from "Santa Bernards" to "Reindeer Rotweilers" - this is definitely a must-see event. The parade will start at 4 p.m. and will also feature Santa’s arrival to downtown St. Joseph.



Story-Time with Sinterklaas at Nelis’ Dutch Village

Families love the annual "Story-Time with Sinterklaas" at Nelis’ Dutch Village. Their own Sinterklaas, dressed in his festive costume, entertains children at 10am and 1pm on Saturday November 29 and December 6. The Sinterklaas story comes to life as he tells of the story of his ride through the nighttime skies on his white horse Schimmel, searching for good girls and boys. This Netherlands legend is the basis of the Santa Claus tradition. Cookies and hot cider will be available. For more information please see their website at dutchvillage.com.


Of Christmas Past at Historic Charlton Park

Celebrate the Holiday season in a turn-of-the-century Victorian setting! Visit with St. Nicholas and enjoy live Christmas music. Tour more than 15 Historic buildings while partaking in activities of yesteryear. Roast chestnuts, drink Wassail, and take a wagon ride (in the snow?). Create your very own handmade candle, corn husk doll, ornament and sachet. Enjoy popcorn, fresh baked cookies, cinnamon & sugar apples & plum pudding. Of Christmas Past takes place December 13 & 14, from 12pm-5pm. The cost is $5 for ages 13+, $3 for ages 5-12, and free for ages four and under.


Christmas Experience Tour at Deer Tracks Junction

Get ready for another WHOVILLE-ATION Christmas Celebration this year, along with Santa and his reindeer at Deer Tracks Junction. New this year, they will be open during the week of Christmas Break so don’t miss out on the fun! You can even come on Christmas Eve to see Santa before he has to go to work! Tour Price is $15 per person, 2 and under are free. This includes your Wildlife Safari Tour, a Live Theater Show, a Visit with Santa and his reindeer, and a lot more fun! Check the Deer Tracks Junction website (http://www.deertracksjunction.com/events.php) for information on dates and times, and to book your tickets online. The Christmas Experience Tour begins on November 28, and seats for these tours fill up quickly!


Santa and His Reindeer Arrive at Robinette’s

Come visit and take photos with Santa & his reindeer at Robinette’s on December 6 from 12pm-4pm. It’s a great way to spend a December afternoon with the family. Order some lunch, do some holiday shopping, and grab some donuts and cider to take home! This is a free event for all ages.


The Santa Train in Coopersville

The jolly old elf holds court from a special seat in each of the decorated, vintage train cars aboard the Coopersville & Marne Railroad. Some cars are almost 100 years old. His Elves will escort the little ones to sit with Santa. All children, even the shy ones, will get a special gift, right from Santa’s big bag. To put a figurative bow on this Christmas entertainment package, the Story Telling Princess will read "The Polar Express", which was written by Grand Rapids native, Chris Van Allsburg. The 250 seat, heated train leaves the station in historic, downtown Coopersville every Saturday and Sunday from Thanksgiving until Christmas. All passenger cars have a restroom. Light snacks may be brought aboard. Cameras are encouraged.


Jingle Bell Parade in Grand Haven

The Jingle Bell Parade is held the first Saturday in December in downtown Grand Haven, and is gaining in popularity each year. Area non-profits and businesses ring in the holidays with lighted floats, music, costumes and good cheer. The parade is followed by the lighting of the community Christmas tree and caroling in Central Park. This year’s parade takes place Saturday, December 6th at 6pm, starting at Downtown Grand Haven & Central Park.


34th Annual Coopersville Christmas Parade

This year’s theme is, "Tis the Season of Giving, Sharing and Caring." The parade takes place from 7pm-9pm on December 5th. The Grand Marshal is "Pack it UP", this program exists as a community endeavor to ensure that all children in the Coopersville Area Public Schools have access to a nutritious meal to take home every school day. By the end of the 2013-2014 school year, Pack it Up had served 27,340 meals to the children of Coopersville.


2014 Annual Grant Christmas Party & Santa Express

The 2014 Santa Express & Annual Christmas Party will take place on Saturday, December 13, 2014. Santa and Mrs. Claus are scheduled to arrive at 11:25am at the Depot, and will meet with children for about fifteen minutes before being taken to the Community Center on a horse-drawn carriage. At the Community Center, children waiting patiently in line to meet Santa Claus will get a free picture taken with him. Other activities include decorating a cookie, making Christmas crafts, racing Matchbox cars, and listening to Christmas music throughout the event - all free of charge. Horse-drawn carriage rides are sponsored by Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial this year!

Christmas in Newaygo & Saint Nick Kick 5k/10k

The Christmas Festival held in the City of Newaygo has become a seasonal favorite; this event starts the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and runs through Sunday. This event is sure to be a tradition your family will want to keep. This week long event has something for everyone. You will be mesmerized by the twinkling lights, the aroma of roasting chestnuts, the clip-clop of horse drawn carriage rides, the glowing brightness of the Christmas warming fire and beautiful sound of Christmas Carols echoing throughout the stores and in your heart as you stroll the streets of Downtown Newaygo. Newaygo is one of Santa Claus’ favorite places to visit and Mrs. Clause is here too, make sure you bring the kids. Check out the stores, they are filled with bargains, the Street is closed to vehicle traffic and there is a wonderful atmosphere of celebration and fun. Bring your family and friends to Newaygo on the Friday of Christmas Festival Week to enjoy the sights, sounds and the many great tastes that create the memories that last a lifetime. Click here for a list of all events in the River Country Chamber area.

Ready, Set, GO… the ChoiceOne Bank Saint Nick Kick is off and running. The 10k/5k race will be held on the Saturday of Christmas Festival Week and starts at 10 am. With a NEW course starting point this years race is sure to be bigger than the last. This is a fun race and the proceeds benefit the Cross Country Team of Newaygo Public Schools. Dress-up, come join the fun and cheer on the racers.


2014 Gingerbread Art Competition at La Belle de la Riviere Bed & Breakfast

Build your own gingerbread house this holiday season and enter it in La Belle de la Riviere Bed and Breakfast’s contest! All entries will be displayed November 28 - December 31 from noon - 7PM each day at La Belle de la Riviere Bed and Breakfast. Age groups include Child (ages 0-9), Youth (ages 10-17), and Adult (ages 18+). Entry fee is $5 (free for Child entries), and all entries must be delivered by November 28. Get more information on the competition here.


Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World at Frederik Meijer Gardens

November 25, 2014 – January 4, 2015. Excitement surrounds this time of year as the annual Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World brings the glow of 300,000 lights, strolling carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides and more than 40 international trees and displays.

For guests of all ages to enjoy, the Railway Garden is a unique horticultural display that incorporates garden design, miniature buildings made from natural materials, and model trolleys and trains. The Railway Garden is celebrated through 30 iconic Grand Rapids landmarks including favorites like: Fifth Third Ballpark, The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Holland Harbor Light House "Big Red" and the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

Honoring holiday cultures around the globe, Meijer Gardens focuses on the authenticity of holiday traditions: Germany tree, adorned with handmade glass ornaments and homemade springerle cookies, the England tree with antique Christmas cards and mistletoe, and the beautiful Eid ul-Fitr display, which celebrates the end of Ramadan.

Meijer Gardens transforms into a botanic wonderland with poinsettias, orchids and amaryllis. Programming includes horse-drawn carriage rides through the candle-lit Sculpture Park, Santa visits, live reindeer, carolers and more.


Holidays in the City in Muskegon

There’ll be special shopping discounts, sales, giveaways, historic holiday tours and carriage rides at the Lakeshore Museum Center historic sites, Christmas tree sales in Hackley Park, an artisan market and craft show at the Century Club and the lighting of Hackley Park for the holidays with carolers, refreshments and Santa Claus! You will also have an opportunity to win a beautiful basket of goodies by getting your card punched at local merchants! The event takes place in downtown Muskegon on November 29 for unique shopping and holiday gifts your family and friends will love!



Boyne City’s Holiday Open House & Santa Parade

The Holiday Open House & Santa Parade, held the Friday after Thanksgiving, is a tradition in Boyne City which continues this year on November 28th. To make it a true community celebration of the season, everyone is invited to participate - from businesses and organizations with floats, to children dressed in their holiday finest, to businesses offering great shopping, refreshments and hospitality. The goal is to fill Boyne City’s downtown with all the sounds, sights, and smells of the Christmas season. The open houses begin at 5 p.m. and the parade starts at 6 p.m. Boyne Area Girl Scouts will light the Community Christmas Tree at the west end of One Water Street, near Sunset Park, at 5 p.m. Following the tree lighting the Girl Scouts will lead holiday revelers in caroling. The evening’s special guest is the Jolly Old Man from the North. Santa will arrive on his sleigh, joined by some of his elves, and some reindeer from the North Pole. The parade starts at 6 p.m. and lineup is at 5:30 on East Main Street between East and Lake Streets. The parade route will follow Lake Street to Water Street through the heart of downtown Boyne City. After the parade, there will be hay rides, and Santa will meet with children.


Stafford’s Holiday Parade in Petoskey

Holiday spirit will be coming your way during the 2014 Stafford’s Downtown Petoskey Holiday Parade, Saturday, November 29, 2014 at 10 am. The parade will wind through Downtown streets and end at the Perry Hotel, here children will have those all-important conversations with Santa. Petoskey will again join with the US Marines Toys for Tots to collect new, unwrapped toys for the many northern Michigan families who will be unable to afford gifts during the holiday season. In addition, there will be excellent performances by the Petoskey High School Marching Band, floats, and walking ensembles representing many businesses and nonprofits in the community, and much more.


Tannenbaum Blitzen and Ski Free With Santa at Shanty Creek

Join in the fun on December 13th as Shanty Creek celebrates the holiday season at Ivan’s Mountainside Grill with Tannenbaum Blitzen. Enjoy a community buffet, Christmas carols around the tree, a torchlight parade down the face of Schuss Mtn., and a visit from Santa from 6-10pm.

Come back on December 25th (Christmas Day) to Ski Free with Santa from 9am-4:30pm. Pay it forward with donations of non-perishable food items, gently-used winter clothing and/or household items to benefit the Father Fred Foundation.


Santa’s Arrival, Tree Lighting & Holiday Open House in Traverse City

The holiday season kicks off when Santa comes to downtown Traverse City for a night of holiday fun, music and activities on December 5th from 5pm-10pm! Antique fire engine rides, caroling and live entertainment at the corner of Cass and Front throughout the evening. Shop at participating stores until 9 pm, with sales, specials and prizes offered.


Santa Claus pays a Royal Visit to Castle Farms!

The Castle will be decorated in royal style for the holidays, with the jolly old elf himself on the throne Saturday, Dec. 6th, 11 am – 3 pm. Crafts, games, photobooth, plus snacks, prizes, and the Castle’s famous Polar Express train display. Bring your camera for pictures with Santa! $5 per person (2 and under, FREE). Horse-drawn wagon rides around the Castle: $1 per person. Professional photo with Santa: $2. VIP Santa Pass (10-11 am) includes story time, cookies and cocoa with Santa, plus special gift. Limited availability. Call Jenna, (231) 237-0884, ext. 238. VIP Santa Pass: $20 per child (includes one adult entry). Each additional adult: $5. Professional photo with Santa! Castle Farms, 5052 M-66, Charlevoix.


Holiday Parade of Lights & Tree Lighting in Cheboygan

Join the community as Santa Claus lights the tree in Festival Square prior to the Annual Holiday Parade of Lights on December 6th! Santa will light the tree at 5 pm and the parade will take off from the County Building at 6:00 pm, heading north on Main Street. For more information, please contact the Cheboygan Area Chamber of Commerce, 627-7183 or www.cheboygan.com

Home for the Holidays in Harbor Springs

The Harbor Springs Area Chamber of Commerce lights up downtown Harbor Springs and outlying areas this holiday season with the Annual Home for the Holidays Program! The Home for the Holidays and Downtown Open House will kick off with the Christmas Tree Lighting in downtown Harbor Springs on Saturday, November 29th, 2014 at 6:30pm. There will be community caroling and and festive music. Immediately following the tree lighting will be a Chili Supper at the Holy Childhood Church and a special visit from Santa. The local American Legion will offer free hot coco & cookies to warm everyone up after caroling.

Students and children from the area will have the opportunity to decorate ornaments for the annual tree lighting. Merchants will also be decorating the front of their retail stores, business or home! Throughout Saturday the 29th, there will dedicated shopping specials and holiday cheer throughout the community.

The Home for the Holidays program then concludes on Saturday, December 6 (6-9pm), with the most anticipated event of the season: The Annual Downtown Merchant Holiday Open House. Enjoy a fun-filled day of local shopping and an unforgettable evening of special music, hot and cold refreshments, and yummy holiday treats and hors d’oevres. The Petoskey Steel Drum Band will be performing! Main Street will be closed to allow the community to stroll in between stores and enjoy a relaxing evening of tradition.


Sleighbell Parade & Old Christmas Weekend in Manistee

Step back in time as you take part in one of Michigan’s most unique holiday celebrations. An entire weekend of excitement including the Victorian Sleighbell Parade with horse drawn entries, bagpipers, dog sled teams and carolers elegantly dressed in Victorian style attire. The highlights of the parade are the draft horses pulling a 30 foot Christmas tree down River Street followed by a beautiful display of fireworks. The entire Old Christmas Weekend is filled with lovely events including Festival of Trees, ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ at the Historic Ramsdell Theatre and guided tours of the historic Buckley Home and Babcock House Museum. Manistee is a wonderful place to pick up gifts for everyone on your list, catch a show at the recently renovated Vogue Theatre or simply enjoy the magical experience of the beautifully decorated historic Downtown. 


Santa Parade in Downtown Gaylord

Visit Gaylord on December 6th for their Santa Parade! The parade will begin at 6:00 pm at Northern Star Energy at South Indiana Street and will continue North to Main Street. The parade will end at the Pavilion. After the parade will be the Christmas Tree Lighting! Following this event there will be a meet and greet with Santa, with free hot cocoa!