By Peter Daining
Experience Christmas in a new way or start a new family tradition with one of these exceptional West Michigan events.
Feed Santa’s reindeer, stare up at the wise men’s sky or drive through more than a million lights at Fifth Third Ballpark. Take a ride on a historic Christmas train or check out elaborate model train displays.
All of these events run multiple days, so you still have a chance to fit them into your busy holiday schedule. No matter where you live in West Michigan or what you’re hoping to pay, there is something on this list for you.
Here are 10 fun family-friendly events worth driving for in West Michigan:
Christmas at Fredrick Meijer Garden
What: Christmas trees from around the world, 400,000 lights, and a holiday train with miniature buildings.
Where: 1000 East Beltline Avenue NE, Grand Rapids
When: Every day except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day through Jan. 7
Cost: Adults: $14.50, seniors: $11, students: $11, ages 5–13: $7, ages 3-4: $4, ages 0-2: free.
More info: meijergardens.org
Ride on Coopersville Santa Train
What: A 90-minute train ride on comfortable, vintage train cars complete with visits from Santa, elves, and a story-telling princess.
Where: 311 Danforth Street, Coopersville
When: Saturdays December 2, 9, 16, 23 at 10 a.m., noon, 2:30 p.m., and 4:30 p.m.
Dec. 24 at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.
Who: Coopersville & Marne Railway volunteers
Cost: Adults $19.75, Senior (60+) $18.75, Children (2-12) $17.75, Under two years old free
More info: coopersvilleandmarne.org
What: Come see a live nativity, including sheep, cows, and angels. You may also listen to carols and the Christmas story read by children.
Where: 9275 Adams Street, Zeeland
When: Opens 11 a.m. Dec. 5-30 Tuesday-Saturday. Closing times vary.
About: The Critter Barn is a nonprofit educational farm in Zeeland Township.
Cost: Donations accepted
More info: critter.farm
Christmas Lites Show
What: More than a million lights of tunnels and displays along a 2-mile stretch by the West Michigan Whitecaps ballpark.
Where: Fifth Third Ballpark, 4500 West River Dr. NE, Comstock Park
When: 5:30-9:30 p.m., through Dec. 31
Who: Bill Schrader and his family, plus many other volunteers
Cost: $20 per car
More info: christmasliteshow.com
Deer Tracks Junction Christmas Experience
What: Visit with Santa and his reindeer, plus other Christmas characters and animals such as elk, deer, and yaks on a 45-minute tour.
Where: Deer Tracks Junction, 7850 14 Mile Road, Cedar Springs
When: Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday tours: 4 and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday tours: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 p.m.
About: Deer Tracks Junction is a working farm that raises many types of animals.
Cost: $17 per person, 2 and under are free
More info: deertracksjunction.com
Hackley and Hume Historic Home Christmas Tours
What: The Hackley and Hume Historic Site has been decorated for the holidays with period-appropriate artifacts, ornaments and more.
Where: 484 W. Webster Ave., Muskegon
When: 4-8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 26 and 1-4 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27
About: These two historic homes have been fully restored to their 1800s glory. The Victorian Hackley House was restored with help from Chicago and New York artisans.
Cost: $5-7 per person
More info: lakeshoremuseum.org
Planetarium Show: Mystery of the Christmas Star
What: The show investigates possible dates for the sighting of the Christmas star and looks at significant astronomical events visible in the sky in those time frames.
Where: Room 135, Muskegon Community College, 221 S. Quarterline Rd., Muskegon
When: Tuesdays and Thursdays through Dec. 14
About: The 44-seat Carr-Fles Planetarium is West Michigan’s only free planetarium.
Cost: Free and open to the public
More info: muskegoncc.edu
Kerstmarkt Holiday Market Place
What: Experience a delightful outdoor European-style market with holiday items, delicious food, and artisan demonstrations.
Where: 8th Street Marketplace, corner of 8th and Pine
When: 3-8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9
Who: Local artists from around West Michigan. There will also be a sled dog demonstration on both days.
Cost: Free and open to the public
More info: holland.org
What: Walk the lighted paths and check out cold-weather animals at Binder Park Zoo. The event includes free carousel and train rides, holiday activities, and a Santa visit.
Where: Binder Park Zoo, 7400 Division Dr. Battle Creek
When: 5-8:30 p.m. Dec. 15-23
Cost: $5 for members, $6 for non-members, under 2 are free
More info: binderparkzoo.org
Holiday Train Show
What: Model trains run through a model city.
Where: Howard Miller Public Library, 14 S Church Street, Zeeland
When: Monday-Thursday from 6-8 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. until Dec. 16
Who: Organized by the Holland Modular Railroad Club
Cost: Free, but the donation of a nonperishable food item is requested
More info: Facebook page