6 Detroit festivities to brighten your holiday season

Detroiters hoping to make magical new memories this holiday season will have a myriad of options to choose from. 

From annual local festivities to holiday markets, concerts, religious celebrations, and more, downtown Detroit has a little bit of something to offer everyone – whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, or just the city itself. To simplify your search for some of the best things to do downtown this season, we selected six upcoming events that are sure to please everyone on your list.

Art for the Holidays at the Detroit Artists Market

Photo courtesy of Detroit Artists Market. Nestled in the heart of Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood, the Detroit Artists Market has been a local haven for creatives and art lovers alike since it was founded by art patrons in 1932. These days, the nonprofit gallery is focused on connecting contemporary artists with collectors – selling $100,000 in original artwork and distributing $66,000 in commissions to local artists annually, according to its website.
To celebrate the holidays again this year, the gallery is hosting its annual Art for the Holidays art market, which the gallery claims is “Michigan’s oldest and longest-running holiday art market.” Boasting a selection of unique gifts ranging from original paintings to ceramics, jewelry, glass and other items handmade by over 200 local artists, shoppers are sure to find something that will delight everyone on their holiday list – while supporting and building up Detroit’s art community.
Friday, Nov. 11 through Friday, Dec. 30 at the Detroit Artists Market (4719 Woodward Avenue). Special hours on Saturday, December 3 (Noel Night) from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Attendance is free. No RSVP required. More information can be found at https://www.detroitartistsmarket.org/2022-art-for-the-holidays.
Toyland at Beacon Park
Looking for family-friendly outdoor event to get the littles into the holiday spirit this season while engaging with the city? Look no further than Beacon Park – now freshly transformed into a wintery wonderland called “Toyland.”

Last year's display at Beacon Park was a hit. Photo: Instagram / Beacon Park. Offering an insider’s glimpse of Santa’s Workshop, Toyland features a holiday children’s train (on select Saturdays only) alongside giant Nutcrackers and teddy bears, beautifully lit presents, sleighs and other light displays. Interactive holiday-themed photo displays and an LED canopy add to the charm, ensuring the holiday destination will delight even the most finnicky of visitors. Nearby, Lumen Detroit’s patio will also be decorated with holiday-themed décor and outdoor chalets for a dining experience you and your family will remember for years to come.

Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, to Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. Beacon Park in Detroit. Attendance is free. Rides free for children of all ages. For more information, visit https://empoweringmichigan.com/event/toyland-at-beacon-park

Photo courtesy of Downtown Detroit Partnership / Facebook.

Merry & Bright: The Detroit Holiday Lights Tour

Since its founding in 2011, the Detroit Bus Company has proven to be not only a meaningful community asset, providing much-needed free transportation for Detroit students and citizens through its Ride for Ride program, but also one of the most unique ways to explore the city. It’s no wonder, then, that the company’s annual holiday-themed bus tours have become such a hit over the years.

Fortunately for adventurous Detroiters, it’s that time of year again – so grab your snow boots and get your most hideous holiday sweater ready, because the Detroit Bus Co. is hitting the road to check out some lights again – and this year, they’re keeping the tour completely within the city limits.

This season, the company’s family-friendly annual holiday bus tour will stop at decked-out local destinations including Campus Martius, the Downtown Detroit Holiday Market, the Congregation, Light Up Beacon Park, the Berry Gordon Mansion and the Fisher Building. In addition to light-gazing, tourists will receive complimentary holiday snacks, a hot drink at the Congregation (whether it’s spiked or not is up to you), and the chance to participate in an ugly sweater contest – competing against your fellow ridiculously-dressed travelers for fun prizes.

Monday, Nov. 21 to Friday, Dec. 30. $56.99 per ticket. Ages 5+. Pickup locations include One Eyed Betty’s in Ferndale (6 p.m. Tues. through Sat.; 4:30 p.m. on Sundays) or Cadillac Square and Woodward in Detroit (6:30 p.m. Tues. through Sat.; 5 p.m. on Sundays). Ticket sales benefit the Ride for Ride program. For more information, and to reserve tickets, visit https://thedetroitbus.com/product/merry-and-bright-the-detroit-holiday-lights-tour
The Spirit of Christmas with the Detroit Concert Choir

To ring – or rather, sing – in this year’s Christmas season, the Detroit Concert Choir will be bringing its annual holiday concert to three locations around Metro Detroit this year. 

Boasting the title of “Choir of the World” (an honor the group received at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in Wales), in addition to numerous other national and international honors, the 75-person vocal ensemble is now in its 36th season. 

Photo: Detroit Concert Choir / Facebook. Featuring traditional Christmas songs alongside new and timeless holiday tunes sung in beautiful churches around Metro Detroit, the choir’s performance is certain to create lasting memories for anyone in attendance – and the annual concert series could even become your next seasonal tradition. 

Saturday, Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at St. John's Episcopal Church in Royal Oak; Sunday, Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church in Grosse Pointe Farms; Sunday, Dec. 18. at 3 p.m. at Sweetest Heart of Mary Church in Detroit. Tickets $10-$20. More information can be found at https://www.detroitconcertchoir.org/events/concert-season/94-the-spirit-of-christmas-dec-10-11-18.

Photo courtesy of Menorah in the D / Facebook.

Menorah in the D

For Detroiters celebrating Chanukah this year, the annual Menorah in the D will be held at Campus Martius at sundown on the first day of the eight-day Jewish holiday. 

To kick off the Festival of Lights, attendees will observe the lighting of the 26-foot-tall Detroit Menorah before listening to moving messages from local community leaders alongside eight especially honored “Lamplighters.” A fire show and refreshments will follow, adding to the celebration. Those unable to attend in person can sign up to pick up a limited edition “Lamplighter Kit” including a Chanukah guide, menorah candles, Gelt, MITD light-up yoyo, crafts, games, and more to follow along with the festivities virtually at home.

Sunday, Dec. 18 at 5 p.m. (lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m.) at Campus Martius. Attendance is free (donations appreciated). RSVP required for in-person and Zoom attendance. More information can be found at http://www.menorahinthed.com.

African drum and dance group Nanou Djiapo. Photo courtesy of Nanou Djiapo / Facebook.

Kwanzaa at The Wright

The Wright is bringing its annual Kwanzaa celebration back to Detroit this holiday season – and this year, the celebration will honor the principle of Ujamaa, or Cooperative Economics. 

Founded in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga in the wake of the Watts Rebellion in Los Angeles, Kwanzaa is a weeklong African-American holiday offering the Pan-African community an opportunity to reflect on the Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles). A set of ideals aimed at establishing and strengthening the concept of community, the Nguzo Saba are “umoja” (unity), “kujichagulia” (self-determination), “ujima” (collective work and responsibility), “ujamaa” (cooperative economics), “nia” (purpose), “kuumba” (creativity) and “imani” (faith).

To kick off this year’s festivities, attendees will have the chance to shop in a vendor marketplace before transitioning into the evening’s Kwanzaa program. Featuring performances by African drum and dance group Nanou Djiapo alongside programming from the Michigan Underground Railroad Exploratory Collective (MUREC), an organization dedicated to preserving, documenting, restoring, interpreting, and educating the public about sites and locations of historical Underground Railroad activities, the evening is sure to reinforce a strong sense of community while making a lasting impact on those in attendance.

Thursday, Dec. 29 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (315 E. Warren Ave. in Detroit). General admission tickets to the museum are $12 to $15. More information can be found at https://www.thewright.org/kwanzaa-wright-2022

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Read more articles by Erin Marie Miller.

Erin Marie Miller is a freelance writer and photographer based in Metro Detroit whose work focuses on people and small business. Inspired by the genre of New Journalism, she is passionate about connecting people to their communities through meaningful storytelling.