December Winter Family Fun in Downtown Detroit

From ice skating and carriage rides to outdoor family events, downtown Detroit delivers wintertime fun for all ages in December 2019.

Two girls at The Frankenmuth Rink in Detroit
Photo courtesy of the Downtown Detroit Partnership

Are you looking for a unique holiday experience? Look no further than the streets of downtown Detroit.

With a plethora of urban parks that offer a variety of events, to the largest outdoor ice rink in Michigan, holiday markets and kids’ activities galore, there’s no shortage of family fun – and it’s varied enough to please even the Grinchiest of Grinches.

Want to bring the family down for a merry time? Take a look at the 2019 happenings recommended by Laura Dean, the Parks and Public Spaces Manager for the ​Downtown Detroit Partnership​, then dress for the weather and head downtown.

Experience Detroit in December

“First things first, if you want to experience the city around the holidays, wandering the streets is an absolute must,” Dean says.

“Downtown Detroit is really amazing during the holidays because everyone puts up decorations,” she explains.

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You can pay for a horse-drawn carriage ride to see the lighted displays all around the city or you can take a stroll with your family. Some can’t-miss displays include an archway of lights at the Woodward Esplanade, the star outside of Lumen Restaurant, the Detroit sign, now in the Gratiot-Randolph plaza near Greektown, and lighting décor on display at Grand Circus Park.

And to ​really ​get in the holiday spirit, you’ll want to check out the spectacular lighting at both Beacon Park and Campus Martius Park.

“Campus Martius is really great during the holidays. Not only can you see Detroit’s official Christmas tree but there’s a holiday present that families can take a photo in,” Dean says. “There’s also a snowball ornament and Children’s Christmas tree at Beacon Park – (plus) two MoGo pedal bikes that light up a Beacon Park sign and a holiday sleigh with reindeer.”

Once you take in the lights and trees, make sure you swing by the The Frankenmuth Rink at Campus Martius. This outdoor ice rink offers skaters the opportunity to take in unique views while partaking in a beloved holiday tradition.

“The Frankenmuth Rink is such a unique place to go ice skating,” Dean says. “It has picturesque views of the skyline and the Christmas tree and skating outside is a blast throughout the winter.”

There’s plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping, too. In addition to all of the great shops located a short walk from the parks, there is also a holiday market set up in Cadillac Square that features more than 15 Detroit-based vendors, open daily Wednesday-Sunday.

“There’s a kids’ clothing vendor, vintage clothing store vendors, there are candle vendors, so there’s something for everyone (and) they are in very European-looking glass structures that are heated and decorated,” Dean explains.

You can even pick up a Christmas tree from Capitol Park!

Downtown winter events

Not sure when’s the best time to visit? There are plenty of events happening that you can schedule during your time downtown.

Every Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. Santa is at The Frankenmuth Rink skating with kids and on Dec. 16, 2019, from 1 to 5 p.m. at Beacon Park, Old Saint Nick presents the Holiday Fun event, which features make-and-take activities and holiday dance performances.

Also at Beacon Park is the New Year’s Eve Kids Countdown. This NYE celebration runs 1-6 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2019, and offers a balloon drop and other fun activities that families can enjoy together.

Both of these events are free and open to all.

And that’s still not all. The beautifully decorated and cozy Cadillac Lodge offers even more fun for families throughout the season, including hot chocolate and cozy blankets, faux fireplaces and life-sized board games.

“Whether you’re ice skating at the Frankenmuth Rink, warming up at the Cadillac Lodge, or enjoying a family event, downtown Detroit is a unique and memorable experience,” Dean says.

For more information on family fun winter happenings in Detroit, or details about the Downtown Detroit Partnership, visit downtowndetroitparks.com​.

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