Photo courtesy Big Bright Light Show
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From zoo lights to private homes and all the drive-through experiences in between, find your 2021 holiday excursion.

MICHIGAN—The Mitten State may be ready to let it snow, but these lights won’t be turned way down low anytime soon.

The custom of decorating Christmas trees started with candles. First, it was a pagan ritual for Yule to celebrate the return of the sun after the winter solstice. Then, it became symbolic in Christianity for Jesus Christ being the light of the world. Now, the light bulb has replaced the candle, and we decorate a whole lot more than trees.

Michiganders of all ages will be delighted to experience these holiday light celebrations. Here’s the best we’ve found for the 2021 season.

Free Residential Displays

Carters’ Christmas Lights

Carters’ Christmas Lights (Marquette County)

1313 N Vandenboom Ave, Marquette MI 49885

This wooded area home in the Upper Peninsula may not be your typical Christmas display, but it’s perfect for Michiganders. Plenty of families have made strolling through the Carters’ large lawn a Christmas tradition. The owners are often more than happy to guide visitors through the displays and explain the history. For more information, visit their Facebook page.

Boss Family Christmas Display
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Boss Family Christmas Display (Charlevoix County)

9336 Pearl St, Charlevoix, MI 49720

Most of us would do anything to make our mothers happy. For this northern Michigan family, that meant decorating the family home with lights to delight children for over 40 years. Matriarch Marilyn Boss was known to include the name of every neighborhood child in the family’s Christmas light display. Although Marilyn passed away in 2013, her children have continued the tradition to preserve her love of Christmas. With lights, inflatables, and custom character cutouts, there’s plenty to see in this yard. Visit their Facebook page for more information.

Nicol’s Christmas Light Extravaganza
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Nicol’s Christmas Light Extravaganza (Tuscola County)

6250 Germania Rd, Cass City, MI 48726

Gearing up for their 40th year, this Thumb Region home displays over 140,000 lights during the holiday season. Married couple Joel and Jaime Nicol sync their homes’ lights to Christmas songs, which can be heard via a radio tuned to FM 92.9. For more information, visit their Facebook page.

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Eiffel Avenue Tunnel of Lights (Macomb County)

12 Mile Rd and Schoenherr Rd, Warren, MI

This Metro Detroit street is lit up with archways of Christmas lights, and it all started because of a few neighbors. The Skurda family’s Christmas decorations started overflowing from their yard into the next yard in 2009. The rest was history. Now, Eiffel Avenue is a premier location in Macomb County for holiday tourism. 

Lights on the Lake
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Lights on the Lake (Oakland County)

439 Shady Oaks St, Lake Orion, MI 48362

This private home features 25,000 Christmas lights set to holiday music. The light show accepts donations to raise money for the Daisy Project, an organization that provides needed equipment for children with special needs, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which performs research on pediatric cancer. The show raised over $2000 in 2020. For more information, visit their Facebook page.

Drive-Through Displays

Christmas Lite Show
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Christmas Lite Show (Kent County)

LMCU Ballpark, 4500 W River Dr NE, Comstock Park, MI 49321

Hours: Sunday through Thursday 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Saturday 5:30 p.m. to 10 pm. Runs from Nov. 24, 2021, through Jan. 1, 2022.

Admission Price: Admission per vehicle at $28. Motorhomes and larger vans are $40. Additional rates for larger vehicles.

Billed as Michigan’s largest Christmas light show, this Grand Rapids family tradition features two miles with more than 40 animated displays. The Christmas Lite Show is operated and run primarily by Michigan veterans. The Memory Lane Train is $30 per bench (seats 2) and offers a closer look at the lights via an open-air train. Visit the Christmas Lite Show website for more information.

Merry Mile
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Merry Mile (Calhoun County)

Calhoun County Fairgrounds, 720 Fair Street, Marshall, MI 49068

Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Runs Nov. 26 to Dec. 31.

Admission Price: Admission per vehicle at $10.

This drive-through holiday light display in Marshall contributes all proceeds to the Calhoun County Fairgrounds, the home of Michigan’s longest continually running county fair. The Merry Mile incorporates a lit roadway with plenty of festive light displays. Visit the Calhoun County Fairgrounds website for more information.

Winter Wonderland
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Winter Wonderland (Calhoun County)

Gilmore Car Museum, 6865 W Hickory Rd, Hickory Corners, MI 49060

Hours: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Wednesday through Thursday) or 10 p.m. (Friday through Sunday). Runs Nov. 24, 2021, to Jan. 9, 2022.

Admission Price: General admission is $17.50 (in advance) or $20 (at the door). Children are $9.50 (in advance) or $12 (at the door). Children ages 4 and under are free.

The Gilmore Car Museum, North America’s largest auto museum, is test driving this brand new experience for the 2021 holiday season. The Winter Wonderland event features both a drive-through and walk-through holiday lights experience. Visitors begin with a driving tour through holiday lights, colors, and decorations. Afterward, they may visit Santa’s Garage inside the 1930s Shell Station, take a trip through an inflatable maze to feed virtual reindeer on an LED wall, or admire the museum’s classic cars inside Gilmore Snow Globes. Visit the Gilmore Car Museum website for more information.

Christmas at Crossroads
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Christmas at Crossroads Holiday Magic (Genesee County)

Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad, 6140 N Bray Rd, Flint, MI 48505

Hours: Selected days 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 6, 13, 20, 24, 27, 2021

Admission Price: Admission per vehicle at $10.

This historic village recreating turn-of-the-century life is a noteworthy historic feature in Flint. And befitting the town’s heritage as an automobile manufacturing hub, you can even drive your car through here on reserved days and admire over one million holiday lights. At only $10 a vehicle, it’s a budget-friendly option for families. For those that would prefer to walk around, guests may visit the Crossroads Village on the weekends, with tickets starting at $15 for adults. For more information, visit the Genesee County parks website.

Nite Lites
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Nite Lites (Jackson County)

Michigan International Speedway, 12626 US-12, Brooklyn, MI 49230

Hours: 5:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. (Sunday through Thursday) or 10 p.m. (Friday and Saturday). Runs from Nov. 25 through Dec. 31.

Admission Price: Admission per vehicle at $25 (Sunday through Thursday) or $30 (Friday and Saturday). Additional rates for larger vehicles.

This southeastern Michigan speedway may be owned by NASCAR, but for the holidays, St. Nick is in charge. The Nite Lites event packs the speedway full of holiday magic. Visiting cars will drive past more than 300 displays, including six lighted tunnels. Visit the Nite Lites website for more information.

Magic of Lights
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Magic of Lights (Oakland County)

DTE Energy Music Theatre, 33 Bob Seger Dr, Clarkston, MI 48348

Hours: Daily from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Sunday through Thursday) or 11 p.m. (Friday through Saturday). Runs from Nov. 19, 2021, to Jan. 1, 2022.

Admission Price: Admission per vehicle starts at $25.

The latest in LED technology and digital animation come together for this drive-through experience. Experience a mile and a half of holiday merriment and wonder, including the Blizzard Tunnel and Winter Wonderland. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Visit the Universe event page for more information.

Wayne County Lightfest
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Wayne County Lightfest (Wayne County)

Merriman Hollow Park, 7651 N Merriman Road, Westland, MI

Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 6 p.m. to 10 pm. Runs from Nov. 18 to Dec. 31.

Admission Price: Admission per vehicle at $5. Additional rates for larger vehicles.

In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wayne County Lightfest experienced record numbers of visitors. Now it’s back for 2021, bigger than ever. The holiday show stretches for over four miles and includes 50 light displays with over one million lights. Visitors can make a stop at Perrin Park, which is near the halfway point, for concessions, restrooms, and to drop off a letter to Santa. Visit the Wayne County website for more information.

Walk-Through Displays

Walk of Trees
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Walk of Trees (Wayne County)

Kellogg Park, W Ann Arbor Trail, Plymouth, MI 48170

Hours: 24-hour display. Runs from Nov. 26, 2021, through Jan. 3, 2022.

Admission Price: Free

Local families, businesses, organizations, and clubs decorate a total of 75 trees in Kellogg Park. The park is located in downtown Plymouth within walking distance of local restaurants and businesses. Visit Plymouth’s official website for more information.

Christmas Walk Dow
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Christmas Walk at Dow Gardens (Midland County)

1809 Eastman Ave, Midland, MI 48640

Hours: 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Dec. 9-11, 2021 and Dec. 16-18, 2021

Admission Price: Free

These botanical gardens once served as a home for the family behind chemical producing giant Dow Chemical Company. In the holiday season, the garden’s pathways are warmly lit and decorated with tasteful light displays. Visitors can enjoy a locally brewed coffee while visiting Santa’s reindeer. Visit the Dow Gardens website for more information.

Sparkle in the Park
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Sparkle in the Park (Manistee County)

Hopkins Park, Hopkins Dr, Bear Lake, MI 49614

Hours: Daily 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Runs from Nov. 27, 2021, through Dec. 31, 2021.

Admission Price: Free

For the past 17 years, thirty campsites on Bear Lake have featured holiday displays glistening with electric light. See the featured towering Christmas tree, standing at 50 feet tall! Visit Manistee County’s official website for more information.

Big Bright Light Show
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The Big, Bright Light Show (Oakland County)

Downtown Rochester, MI 48307

Hours: Daily 5 p.m. until midnight. Runs from Nov. 22, 2021, until Jan. 3, 2022. 

Admission Price: Free

Stroll through downtown Rochester and admire over 1 million holiday lights affixed to the downtown businesses. Most stores open Monday through Saturday until 9 p.m. Visit the official website for more information.

Wild Lights
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Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo (Oakland County)

Detroit Zoo, 8450 W 10 Mile Rd, Royal Oak, MI 48067

Hours: Monday through Thursday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to 10:30, Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Runs from Nov. 20, 2021, to Jan. 9, 2022.

Admission Price: General admission ranges from $17 to $24. Children under two are free. Parking is also $8 per vehicle.

More than five million LED lights illuminate the zoo’s buildings, trees, and over 280 animal sculptures. The one-mile loop takes about one hour to complete. Only the river otter and beaver habitats are accessible, all other animal habitats and buildings are closed. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Visit the Detroit Zoo’s website for more information.

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HollyDazzle (Oakland County)

12600 Dixie Hwy, Holly, MI 48442

Hours: Select days 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Runs Nov. 26, to Dec. 31.

Admission Price: General admission is $21.95. Children are $7.95. Children ages 4 and under are free.

If you love the annual Michigan Renaissance Festival, you’ll be certain to adore HollyDazzle, the holiday event that lights up the fair village of Hollygrove. This three-quarter mile walk features Christmas scenes in the permanent 16th century-themed buildings of the festival’s village. Canine members of the family are also welcome! Visit the Michigan Renaissance Festival website for more information.

Glenlore Trails
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Glenlore Trails Aurora (Oakland County)

3860 Newton Road, Commerce Township, MI 48382

Hours: One-hour slots, Thursday through Sunday. Starts Nov. 26, 2021.

Admission Price: General Admission (13+) is $25. Seniors (65+) are $20. Youth (4-12) are $15. Children 3 and under are free.

Glenlore Trails is the immersive sensory experience in the Multi Lakes Conservation Association. This illuminated forest is about a mile-long walk, but it plays with lights, sound, projections, LED screens, and more, all to create a mystic experience. Aurora is Glenlore Trails’ holiday offering that truly incorporates the colors and themes of the winter season. For more information, visit the Glenlore Trails website.

Canterbury Village
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Canterbury Village Holiday Stroll (Oakland County)

2359 Joslyn Ct, Orion Twp, MI 48360

Hours: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m (Thursday and Sunday) or 10 p.m. (Friday and Saturday). Select dates. Runs from Nov. 24 to Dec. 23.

Admission Price: General admission is $14.99. Children under two, active military personnel, and veterans are free. Parking is $5.

This historic village is most well-known as the home of Yates Cider Mill. For the holidays, the village is all aglow with over a million festive lights. It includes a 7-minute light show with holiday songs, as well as carolers, holiday performances, and live holiday characters on-site. Visitors may sing along to carols, then enjoy s’mores and hot chocolate. Adults may enjoy libations on the C-Pub patio. Tickets are timed entry and must be purchased in advance. Visit the Holiday Stroll website or the Etix site for more information.

Wonderland of Lights
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Wonderland of Lights at Potter Park Zoo (Ingham County)

Potter Park Zoo, 1301 S Pennsylvania Ave, Lansing, MI 48912

Hours: Thursday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 26.

Admission Price: General admission $9. There is a discount rate of $5 for children (3-12), seniors (60+) and military. Children 3 and under are free.

Michigan’s oldest public zoo is gearing up for its 27th annual Wonderland of Lights. Admire thousands of lights arranged in twinkling displays as Christmas music plays. Advance purchase is encouraged but not required. Visit the Potter Park Zoo website or Eventbrite site for more information.