December is an enchanting time of the year, the temperatures drop, snowflakes are flying, and there is magic in the air. There truly is something magical about walking on the Mall Downtown Kalamazoo with the dripping icicle lights strung about the trees, shopping, cozy coffee shops, restaurants, breweries, and so much more!
Following the Holiday Parade, Kalamazoo officially kicks off the Holiday season with their annual tree lighting ceremony on November 29 in Bronson Park. Festivities begin at 5:00pm including live music, crafts, hot chocolate, visits with Santa, and much more Holiday fun!
While you’re in Bronson Park, don’t miss Candy Cane Lane. No matter your age, walking through life size Candy Canes and seeing all of the beautiful holiday themed lights and decorations will make you feel like you’re walking in a winter wonderland – even the biggest Scrooge out there just might smile with joy. Candy Cane Lane also makes for a fun photo op with friends or family, and would make a super cute Christmas Card picture!
The Holly Jolly Trolley travels around downtown Kalamazoo providing people with easy access to parking garages, restaurants, bars, shopping and festivities. The Trolley officially starts November 29 and runs through December 29 Thursdays-Sundays, making transportation around downtown a breeze. If you’re not familiar with the trolley, it’s an old-fashion trolley beautifully decorated for the Holiday season, and heated, to take your friends and family around town for FREE! You can check out a list of stops, hours and map on the Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership website: www.downtownkalamazoo.org.
If you find yourself taking a stroll on the Kalamazoo Mall during the Holiday Season don’t miss out on a photo op with the giant waving Santa statue. Also stop by The Kalamazoo Candle Company to check out their amazing Holiday scents- they also make perfect Christmas gifts! While you’re out and about shopping, you can stop by The Artisan Sandwich Company to warm up with soup and sandwiches.
There are lots of opportunities for fun with the kids downtown. You can visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus at their workshop located on the 2 floor of the Epic Center. While visiting with Santa, families can color, write letters to Santa (so he can remember his list), enjoy musical performances on Friday’s, Cookie Decorating on Saturday’s, and Crafts on Sundays!
Besides visiting with Santa, the Holiday Parade, and The Festival of Lights, The City of Kalamazoo’s Parks and Recreation Department will host its 14th Annual Candy Cane Hunt on Saturday December 7 from 12:00pm to 2:00pm at Mayors Riverfront Park. Nearly 5,000 candy canes will be hidden around Homer Stryker Field for children to find! The candy cane hunt will be divided up by age group so everyone gets a fair chance. Registration will occur at the entrance to the baseball field. Lots of prizes for the first 75 participants per age group, stockings and 3 grand prize winners will be announced per age group. The Kalamazoo Growlers also host The Ball Park Holiday Fest, Friday December 21 from 6-8:30pm.
The festival activities include a movie on the video board, FREE Hot Chocolate and Popcorn for pack holders, Games and inflatables, Snow themed events, Photos with Santa and Porter Santa (Team Mascot), and Ballpark in Holiday Lights! The event is FREE for 365 Game Plan holders, $5 for public Admission. You can visit more about this event at www.growlersbaseball.com
Another magical place to take the kids is Reindeer Ranch. You can visit with live reindeer, take guided tours, and learn all about where they are native to, how they survive the tundra with freezing temps, and so much more. What gets more magical than that at Christmastime!
Need some adult time with friends? The 12 Bars of Christmas Bar Crawl is coming to town Saturday December 7 from 12pm-8pm! Put on your best Holiday onesies, Santa suits, elf costumes, or break out your ugly sweaters and dress like cousin Eddie and Clark Griswold! You can find Tickets on Eventbrite along with a list of participating bars downtown. Your ticket includes a 16oz Santa Stadium Cup, Santa hat and wristband. Grand Traverse Distillery located downtown offers live music, Holiday cocktails, tastings, and you can make your own gift-baskets or pick up spirits for your Holiday Parties! Tempo Vino Winery is another stop you don’t want to miss. With the newest release of their Holiday Wines, stop by for a wine tasting and pick up some locally made vino for a gift or Holiday parties! Be sure to visit Bell’s Eccentric Café December 6 starting at 9:00am all day long for the 13th Annual Eccentric Day- Come as you Aren’t event. The one day a year your alter ego can not only come out to play, but be celebrated in all its glory! Featuring house music, DJ’s, a lengthy buffet menu and rotating taps all day long!
December Art Hop is also something you don’t want to miss out on! December 6 from 5:00-9:00 pm at the Park Trades Center you can support local businesses and shop for Christmas presents, Holiday hostess gifts, or something for yourself. Stop by the Colors & Cocktails Studio 309 for some Holiday Shopping! Colors & Cocktails has amazing gifts for everyone on your list all in ONE spot – Kalamazoo Candle Company candles, Kalamazoo Kettle Corn, original art including paintings, photographs, jewelry, ornaments, painting kits, socks, bags, and so much more from some local vendors! You can also purchase tickets to upcoming Colors & Cocktails Painting parties – the perfect gift for the ladies in your family. Stop by The Aroma Labs in the Park Trade Center during Art Hop and over the Holiday season to create your very own perfume for yourself or create a unique gift for the Holidays. BeeJoyful Shop in the Park Trades Center also offers environmentally friendly reusable food wraps with cute designs, reusable straws, and more that make for the perfect stocking stuffer or hostess gifts!
Finally wrapping up the Holiday season, New Year’s Eve Fest kicks off December 31 from 5:30 to Midnight. Showcasing a variety of activities for all ages including live music, magic, comedy, exhibitions, fireworks and great food. There will be a ball drop and fireworks at midnight in Bronson Park. Visit www.newyearsfest.com for more details!
No matter your age, there is something so magical about seeing the lights, parties, and festivities around Christmastime brings out the inner kid and excitement in all of us. Be sure to check out Discover Kalamazoo and the Downtown Kalamazoo websites for more information on all of the activities listed above!
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Rachel Kirtley is THE Kalamazoo Foodie. A former server turned food blogger and restaurant reviewer. You can find her at TheKalamazooFoodie on Facebook and Instagram!