Best free family holiday events in Detroit for Christmas 2016
Tracy Heck

It's that time of year again where the night is lit up with Christmas decorations and Christmas Carols are filling up the airwaves.  Those looking to get out and join in the festive fun need to look no further than the Detroit metro area, where a number of free family events will be taking place over the next month.  Detroit has a little something for everyone to enjoy so get the family together and come check out some or all of these events.

Campus Martius Tree Lighting
Nov. 18 @ 5 p.m.
Campus Martius Park, 800 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

Downtown Detroit will once again be celebrating their annual tree lighting at Campus Martius Park with a party that will also herald the opening of the park's ice skating rink.  The event will not only feature the lighting of a 60-foot Michigan-grown Norway Spruce, but also live entertainment from four-time Grammy Award winner Aaron Neville and Olympic gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White.  The festivities will also include The Salvation Army Family Fun Tent, photos with Santa, and horse-drawn carriage rides, as well as the lighting of the Salvation Army giant Red Kettle.  There will be complimentary hot chocolate at the DTE Energy Foundation tent and cinnamon rolls in the IKEA warming tent.

Noel Night
Dec. 3 @ 5 p.m.
Midtown Detroit's Cultural Center Area (between Cass and John R and Kirby and Willis)

The 43rd Annual Noel Night will be taking place in Midtown Detroit with over 70 institutions, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Michigan Science Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Historical Museum, and the Detroit Public Library, opening their doors to the public for free for a holiday open house.  Attendees can check out the horse-drawn carriage rides, holiday shopping, family craft activities and performances by over 200 area music, theatre, and dance groups, with other special performances.  The evening culminates with a community sing-a-long on Woodward Avenue led by the Salvation Army Band.  Parking is available at area lots and there will be free shuttle service available between the venues. 

Rochester Big Bright Light Show
Nov. 21-Jan. 1 @ 5 p.m.
Downtown Rochester

It's that time of year again where the city of Rochester lights up its downtown area with over 1.5 million bright lights.  The event developed as a way for downtown merchants to celebrate the holiday season by giving back to their customers in the form of discounts, giveaways and other special offers and has involved into a ever-popular tradition with visitors from all over Michigan and the world.  Everyone is invited to come out and drive through the lights or take a walk through downtown and check out all that the city has to offer.

Detroit Thanksgiving Parade
Nov. 24 @ 9 a.m.
Kirby and Woodward to Grand River and Woodward

America's Thanksgiving Parade is back for its 90th year in Downtown Detroit.  The parade is one of the country's largest featuring larger than life floats, colorful helium-filled balloons, thunderous marching bands and a wide variety of live entertainment.  The free event attracts hundreds of thousands of parade-goers, including a number of children who all wait anxiously for Santa Claus to arrive and close out the parade. 

Great Lakes Crossing Santa Claus
Nov. 11-Dec. 24 during Mall Hours
Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, 4000 Baldwin Rd, Auburn Hills, MI 48326

Great Lakes Crossing Mall will be opening the holiday season with a first-of-its-kind 'Santa’s Flight Academy', a interactive Santa experience where kids can visit the North Pole with state-of-the-art technology that enables children to partner with Santa’s Elves to prepare his sleigh for its journey around the world.  Children create a personalized cadet badge, which they can insert into various displays throughout the exhibit.  At the end of the exhibit each child will step inside of a 22-foot-tall sleigh for a snowfall dance party before visiting Santa and receiving a special gift.  It is free to visit Santa but there will be photo packages available for purchase and attendees are encouraged to pre-register at the mall's website or through their phone app or at one of the kiosks spread throughout the mall due to heavily anticipated high demand.

Wayne County Lightfest
Nov. 17-Dec. 31 @ 7 p.m. Mon thru Thur and 6 p.m. Fri thru Sun
Hines Driver at 7651 Merriman Rd, Romulus, MI 48174

The Midwest’s largest and longest drive-through light show, Wayne County Lightfest, will once again be lighting up four miles of Hines Drive for families to enjoy.  The bright holiday-themed displays is a spectacle that shouldn't be missed and is a great idea to help get you in the holiday mood.  It is $5 per car to drive through the displays, but December 6, 13 and 20 are 'Toy Nights', when the community is invited to bring a new, unwrapped toy in lieu of the $5 vehicle fee.