It’s time to get in the holiday spirit and we’ve got just the thing: a holiday day trip.
As the season of pumpkin picking, cider mills and soccer games ends and cooler temperatures set in, it might be the perfect time for making memories on a family outing to one of the many holiday-themed destinations within an easy drive of metro Detroit.
So if you’re looking for something a little more than one of the many holiday parades and events nearby but you’re not quite up for the six and a half hour drive to Christmas, Michigan, then consider checking out one of these great day trip ideas for families that are sure to get you dreaming of a white Christmas.
Michigan’s “Little Bavaria” is home to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store, so it’s easy to see why this town tops our list. Located about an hour and a half from Detroit, Frankenmuth was also named one of the most Christmassy towns in America by TIME Magazine in 2011.
After you’ve browsed every ornament imaginable at Bronner’s, take a stroll through downtown, sample some fudge and stop for a meal at The Old Christmas Station Restaurant or enjoy a world-famous chicken dinner at Zehnder’s or Bavarian Inn.
2. The North Pole Express / Village of Ashley’s Country Christmas
This excursion departs from the city of Owosso (about one and a half hours from Detroit) and takes you on a one-hour ride on the Pere Marquette 1225, known as the train that inspired the Polar Express. The train brings you to the Village of Ashley, which is decorated for the holidays in a 1940s-inspired theme.
Kids will love seeing the big Christmas tree, meeting reindeer, taking a horse-drawn wagon ride, listening to carolers and more. You’ll head back to Owosso after two hours of fun in the village. The experience is offered various dates Nov. 16-Dec. 21. Tickets sell out quickly so plan your visit soon. Find full details here.
3. Olde World Canterbury Village
Located in Lake Orion, Olde World Canterbury Village features 14 specialty shops and is open seven days a week. Here you’ll find Aldridge’s Always Christmas, which offers a large selection of holiday decorations and collectibles from around the world.
Once you’re in the holiday spirit, grab a bite to eat at King’s Court Castle or a delicious treat at Yates Cider Mill (open year-round). You might want to plan your day trip around one of the village’s holiday events such as Breakfast with Santa, which is offered on select Sundays. Find more information on the village here.
4. Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad
Fans of local favorite Greenfield Village will love this day trip destination located in Flint. Get your tickets in advance to take a festive ride on the Huckleberry Railroad, which began operating in 1857, or head straight to the authentic Crossroads Village with its more than 30 historic structures.
The village’s annual Christmas celebration starts Nov. 29 and features live entertainment, visits with Santa, costumed villagers, craft demonstrations, shopping and more. Find full details here.
5. Grand Rapids
Looking to really get out of town? Drive about two and a half hours on I-96 west and explore city life in Grand Rapids. Here you’ll get to choose from many Christmas-themed stage performances and other holiday fun.
While you’re in town, you might want to head over to the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum or the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum. You’ll also find lots of opportunities for your kids to visit with Santa. Find more information for your holiday visit here.
6. Toledo Zoo
Visiting an out-of-town zoo is always fun for kids, but this day trip option is even more enticing during the holidays when you can take part in the Toledo Zoo’s Lights Before Christmas tradition.
The holiday festivities start Nov. 22 and continue through Dec. 31 with attractions and special holiday fun. One look at the event’s famous Ice Slide will probably be enough to have your kids begging to make the trip.
Before you and your family hit the road for one of these winter day trips, make sure you check the weather and brush up on these travel tips for the cold, snowy weather and don’t forget to share your favorite holiday day trip destination with us in the comments.
This post was originally published in 2015 and is updated regularly.