Most people can agree that there is something different or special, or maybe even magical about the Christmas season. Sure there is hustle and bustle, but there is also time to slow down and spend time with family, to look at the lights, to take in the joy of the season. So what are the best Christmas activities in Ann Arbor?

Ann Arbor has so much to offer anytime of year, and Christmas is no exception. We have compiled our top 10 list of Christmas activities for those moments when you want to experience the magic of the season as a family (or couple, or individual).

What’s special about an Ann Arbor Christmas?

An Ann Arbor Christmas is special because of the community. Truly. It’s the community that makes the season so unique. From the local businesses to the individuals lighting their homes, there is something for everyone to enjoy!

Traditional Christmas activities

Get in the Christmas spirit with traditional activities that remind you of the good old days:

  • Gather a group of friends to sing Christmas carols.
  • If it’s snowing, go sledding.
  • Visit Santa at a community location.
  • Set up a cookie exchange with your neighbors.
  • Drive to see neighborhood Christmas lights.
  • Host a white elephant gift exchange.
  • Go ice skating.

Christmas activities indoor

Let’s face it, December is cold, the kids are eating a bunch of sugar, and some days we don’t want to get out of our pajamas. In this work-from-home age, it’s even easier to find more reasons to stay inside. Why not embrace the beauty of the season indoors?

Christmas pajamas and cookies

Stay in those pajamas–maybe have some Christmas pajamas delivered to your front door. While you’re at it, order some ingredients for cookies (no shame if you just order pre-made cookie dough).

Christmas songs and dancing

Find a playlist of Christmas songs and have a dance party in your living room, maybe you get so into it that it turns into a whole house dance party!

Christmas crafts

While the cookies are in the oven, grab some scissors and paper and cut your own snowflakes then hang them around the windows or from the ceiling. When the cookies are done baking, put them on a plate and snuggle up on the couch and watch a Christmas movie.

Dad and daughter Christmas crafts

Christmas movies

It’s clear that there is a whole long list of movies out there – take a look at this list to spark some memories of old movies you may want to introduce to your family, or make your own “25 Days of Christmas” checklist to try to complete.

  1. Eloise at Christmastime
  2. Christmas with the Kranks
  3. Home Alone
  4. Home Alone 2
  5. Home Sweet Home Alone
  6. Noelle
  7. Godmothered
  8. Miracle on 34th Street
  9. White Christmas
  10. The Santa Clause
  11. The Santa Clause 2
  12. The Santa Clause 3: the Escape Clause
  13. Elf
  14. Klaus
  15. Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
  16. The Nutcracker
  17. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  18. The Polar Express
  19. A Christmas Story
  20. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  21. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  22. A Christmas Carol
  23. Fred Claus
  24. The Year Without a Santa Claus
  25. The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  26. It’s a Wonderful Life
  27. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas
  28. Santa Claus is Comin to Town
  29. The Star
  30. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Guided indoor activities

You’ve probably heard of “Elf on a Shelf”, but did you know there is a similar Advent experience with “The Shepherd on the Search”? With The Shepherd, you can engage with the true story of Christmas and Christ’s birth while searching for him in a new place each morning. Looking for more Christmas Indoor Family activities? 2|42 Kids is handing out this Advent calendar full of ideas!

The shepherd on the search

The Shepherd on the Search

Directions for advent search

This scavenger hunt also allows you to stay in those pj’s and drive around town looking for different Christmas elements in decorations.

Holiday scavenger hunt
Holiday scavenger hunt

Ann Arbor Area Christmas Activities

Where to meet Santa

One of the best parts of the season is meeting Santa, and turns out, you can find him in quite a few places around Ann Arbor this holiday season!

  1. Briarwood Mall, Santa should be coming around November 23, 2022. (Your pets even have the opportunity to meet Santa here on December 11)
  2. On Sunday, December 3rd, you can find Santa at Gordon Hall in Dexter from 9-3, you can also make and take a gingerbread house. Donations are recommended at this event.
  3. Enjoy donuts and selfies with Santa as part of Chelsea Hometown Holidays at Smokehouse 52 in downtown Chelsea on December 10th from 10-12.
  4. Photo with Santa at the Waterloo Farm Museum in Grass Lake on November 5th and 19th 10-4. This event does come with a $50 cost per immediate family and requires a reservation.
  5. Meet Santa after the Milan parade at Marble Memorial UMC and enjoy some hot cocoa and chili on the lawn.
  6. Three Cedars Farm Country Christmas invites you to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus along with getting a Christmas tree or shopping in the store at various times starting November 25.

Where to cut Christmas trees

If you are a fake tree person like me (less mess and care required), this section may not pertain to you, but those of you who enjoy the tradition of going out all bundled up and cutting down your own tree, check out these local tree farms!

  1. Westman’s Tree Farm located in Dexter opens November 26 at 9am. They offer Norway Spruce, Blue Spruce, and Canaan Fir.
  2. Urquhart’s Tree Farm located in Chelsea opens the Friday after Thanksgiving (November 25th) and they sell Fraser Fir, Concolor Fir, Blue Spruce, White Spruce, and Korean Fir.
  3. Hillside Christmas Tree Farm in Manchester opens on Saturday, November 19th offering Korean Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce, Black Hills Spruce, and Pine. This farm also has wagon rides, a kids play area, and a barn with refreshments and sing-a-long!
  4. Braun’s Trees opens the Friday after Thanksgiving and is offering Douglas Fir, Concolor Fir, Fraser/Balsam/Canaan Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce, White Spruce, and Serbian Spruce.

Where to find parades

There is something so special about Christmas parades. The community comes together, there’s this feeling in the air of excitement for all ages, lights, characters, sometimes even hot cocoa and Santa. The small towns around Ann Arbor offer great options, find the one closest to you!

  1. Dexter Daze Holiday Light Parade on December 10th at 6pm.
  2. Saline Holiday Parade on December 3rd at 5:30pm.
  3. Hometown Holiday Light Parade in Chelsea on December 3rd at 6pm.
  4. Milan’s annual Christmas parade is a Storybook Christmas on December 3rd at 6pm. Right after the parade, you can visit with Santa.

Where to find Christmas Lights that WOW

There are some great individuals who decorate their homes and allow you to tune your radio to enjoy the show, and while I can’t share exact locations for those homes, you can find other cool places to enjoy Christmas lights either driving by or walking through the downtown atmosphere.

Christmas lights
  1. Saline First United Methodist Church Lights Before Christmas.
  2. Light Up Dexter: starting December 16th, you will find holiday trees decorated by local businesses around Monument Park.
  3. Chelsea Hometown Holiday is having their Main Street Light Pole Decorating again. Decorating starts on November 5th with voting open on December 2nd. Make sure to check out this link to vote for your favorites!

Where to go sledding

Maybe not an adults favorite thing, but let’s face it, the kids enjoy it and can spend HOURS going up and down and up and down.

  1. By a golf course
  2. If you have older kids or enjoy skiing more than sledding, check out Mt. Brighton in Brighton, Michigan for a not-too-far away spot.

Where to find Gingerbread Houses

A great activity to do in your home as a family, but the community also offers a few ways to interact with gingerbread through building or seeing others creations.

Gingerbread house
  1. When you meet Santa at Gordon Hall in Dexter on December 3rd, make sure you enjoy creating a gingerbread house as well!
  2. Check out the Chelsea Hometown Holiday Gingerbread House display December 1-30 in the windows of downtown merchants.
  3. BONUS: at home you can make gingerbread cookies and then create a scavenger hunt as the gingerbread cookie “disappeared” on an adventure similar to the story of the Gingerbread Man. You can also show your family why the gingerbread didn’t want to get wet by putting your own in water and watch it dissolve.

Where to find Christmas tree lighting

Christmas tree lightings are a perhaps more simple celebration of the season, but it does kick off the festivities in a fun way with other members of the community.

  1. Saline Tree Lighting Ceremony on November 29th at 6pm in front of Key Bank
  2. Winter Wonderland Weekend in Downtown Saline December 2-3.
  3. Chelsea Hometown Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony on December 2nd from 5-6:30. Enjoy pizza and hot cocoa before the tree lighting and stay for the ceremony at 6 to see Santa and enjoy Christmas sing-alongs.

Where to shop

  1. Midnight Madness in Downtown Ann Arbor- this night is filled with live entertainment, shopping, and holiday decorations. A highlight of Christmas in Ann Arbor.
  2. Craft and Vendor Show at the Chelsea Fairgrounds on Saturday, December 10, 10-4.
  3. Ypsilanti Artisans Holiday Market at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse on various dates starting November 26.
  4. Dexter After Dark on December 9th enjoy shopping and dining specials in downtown Dexter.
  5. Christmas on the Farm at Waterloo Farm Museum in Grass Lake on December 3rd and 4th from 10-4. Here you can explore the farmhouse and homestead, enjoy music, and shop at the market for handcrafted items, decor, wreaths, and specialty food.

Where to enjoy live entertainment

  1. Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra Winter Concert on December 11th at the Lincoln High School Performing Arts Center. This event does have a cost.
  2. Enjoy Ballet Chelsea’s performance of the Nutcracker December 9-11. You can purchase tickets here.
Christmas candles

Where to attend service

Looking for a place to attend a Christmas service? Come join us at 2|42 Community Church as we celebrate together the reason for the season: our Savior, Jesus Christ was born.

Check out our website for more information. We always welcome new friends to worship with us. Find a location that’s close to you! You can learn more about our beliefs and visit our video library to explore more topics like this one. You can also check out our events page to find out what fun new things we’re doing this season.

About the Author: Lizzie Nagy

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