’Tis the season: 10 magical winter experiences

Don’t miss these Grand Rapids must-dos while it’s the most wonderful time of the year
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The jolliest, coldest season of the year is here. To commemorate the start of the holidays and our dazzling winter wonderland, we compiled 10 Grand Rapids experiences for everyone ready to take advantage of a classic “snowcation.” From delicious dining and trendy shopping to exciting events and must-see attractions, Grand Rapids has you covered, indoors and out. 

1. Dine in an igloo
A trend that caught on during the height of 2020 social distancing, igloo dining is here to stay — and celebrate. Most restaurants with igloo dining require a reservation, and some require a food and beverage minimum or non-refundable deposit that covers heating of the igloos and upkeep. 

While most of Grand Rapids’ restaurant igloos are heated, it’s still recommended to bring a hat, gloves and warm coat. Favorite igloo dining experiences include Bobcat Bonnie’s, JW Marriott’s jdek and Donkey Taqueria. Check the restaurants’ websites for updates and hours.

2. Experience the magic of lights
Celebrating its 25th year, the Christmas Lite Show at LMCU Ballpark brings a smile to all ages with nearly two miles of Christmas magic. During this anniversary year, the team is making the experience extra special with a show that’s bigger and brighter than ever.

Families can experience the magic via Drive Thru, Memory Lane Train or by foot on the Winter Wonder Walk. Visitors behold more than a million lights, animated displays and lighted tunnels. Tickets are available online or at the ticket window for one-time use through Dec. 31.

3. Catch a hockey game
Cheering for the Grand Rapids Griffins at Van Andel Arena is a favorite pastime in the city. Prior to the start of the game, explore activities on the concourse and watch the teams warm up. Many Griffins players make their way to the NHL rosters, including the Red Wings.

In between plays, there’s high-energy music, entertainment and t-shirt cannons. Plus, you can’t beat $2 beers and $2 hot dogs from 6–8 p.m. on Friday nights. The popular promotion has returned for all 15 Friday home games this season. Free Ride Friday allows fans to enjoy complimentary fare on the Rapid by showing their ticket to that night’s game.

4. Warm up at the spa
The holidays can be stressful for many, making the season an ideal time for some cozy self-care. Pink Lounge in Kentwood offers an authentic Himalayan salt experience with halotherapy treatments. The salt lounge provides the benefits of the benefits of speleotherapy, a therapeutic experience based on the naturally occurring salt caverns of ancient Greece.

The new spa inside JW Marriott, Seraphina, also offers natural treatments, like seaweed wraps, exfoliating salt scrubs, warm bamboo massages, cupping, reflexology and customized facial treatments. Consider gifting a relaxing experience to someone special. 

Photo courtesy of Frederik Meijer Gardens

5. Admire holiday beauty at Meijer Gardens
See the season in a new light. Now through Jan. 8, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is hosting its annual Christmas & Holiday Traditions exhibit. Guests from around the world visit Meijer Gardens to take in 46 trees and displays representing countries and cultures from around the world. 

 

Volunteers spend hundreds of hours decorating the trees and setting up displays, including 350,000 lights inside and outside the park. The enchanting Railway Garden loops through three lush indoor garden spaces. The gardens illuminate the ways diverse cultures use light to uplift hope, warmth, faith, remembrance, gratitude and prosperity during the darkest days of the year. 

6. Give back to the community
Financially strapped families may find it difficult to give their loved ones a festive and happy holiday, but every year, the Grand Rapids community comes together to give their time and money to those who need a helping hand. United Way put together a Giving and Volunteering Holiday Guide of more than 40 volunteer opportunities in the West Michigan area.

Opportunities include volunteering at American Red Cross of West Michigan, delivering holiday meals to seniors through Meals on Wheels Western Michigan, and sorting and counting toy donations for The Salvation Army. Choose a cause that speaks to you and get involved to support fellow Grand Rapidians. 

7. Ice skate in the heart of the city
One of the city’s most treasured winter destinations, the Rosa Parks Circle ice rink is now open. All skate hours are weather dependent, and the ice rink is closed to skating multiple times throughout the day for the ice to be resurfaced. Keep an eye on the main Facebook page and website for updates. 

Visitors can walk up to skate or make reservations two weeks in advance. Skates are free with admission, and sizes range from toddler 8 through men’s 15. While you’re there, snap a photo with the official City of Grand Rapids Christmas tree in front of the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Trust us, it’s Instagram worthy!

8. Shop at a local holiday market
Shopping locally is convenient, supports local business and helps the Grand Rapids economy thrive. Visitors are likely to find quality gifts that are thoughtful, on-trend and sustainably sourced. This time of year, the Fulton Street Farmers Market offers a Second Season Market every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Merchants and Makers Very Merry Market will have 55 vendors on Dec. 11 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Trillium Events. Made Market is also hosting a Holiday Market on Dec. 17 from 10 to 5 p.m. on Leona Road featuring local vendors who produce unique, handmade items.

9. Sip a winter craft brew or cocktail
Grand Rapids just wouldn’t be the same without its craft beer scene — and the winter season means no different. The abundance of breweries and bars makes it difficult to decide where to begin, but Founders Brewing Co. is always a great start, especially when KBS Maple Mackinac Fudge imperial stout is on tap. 

Visit Bell’s Comstock Brewery to pick up its Christmas Ale, a traditional Scotch ale that’s rich and malty with notes of caramel and a warm finish. Jolly Pumpkin’s Noel De Calabaza pairs well with hearty holiday meals with its layered malty, dark fruit and chocolate notes. Jolly Pumpkin’s Jolly Caipirinha cocktail, found at the Grand Rapids taproom, is crafted with spiced rum, muddled mint, demerara simple and fresh lime. 

Long Road Distillers recently launched its second annual Happy Holidays cocktail pop-up menu; learn more in our recent story.

10. Celebrate New Year’s Eve in style
It’s almost time to say “hello” to a fresh start in a new year. Several museums and attractions — like the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum — host early NYE events geared toward children, while hotels and nightclubs host lavish parties for adults. 

Amway Grand and JW Marriott are hosting The Ballroom Bashes. Entry includes access to both Starlight City at Amway Grand and Club J-DUB at JW Marriott. Golden Age at Creston Brewery is hosting a roaring ’20s-themed party, and Mojo’s NYE celebration includes dueling pianos, a DJ and dance floor. The Grand Celebration Center in Comstock Park is hosting The Grand New Year’s Eve Ball with dinner, dancing and a live performance by Azz Izz.

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