'Nutcracker,' 'Messiah,' light fests and more: Holiday events coming up in Metro Detroit

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

There are some events that come around this time of year that let you know the holiday season has arrived.

Some are the sit-down-and-be-entertained type of shows like the annual run of "A Christmas Carol" at Meadow Brook Theatre or the drive-thru light attractions in Westland and Clarkston. Other events on this list urge you to get up and walk around, including Midtown Detroit's annual Noel Night on Dec. 3 and the tree lighting ceremony at Campus Martius.

Whether you're trying to make the most of winter break from school or entertain guests visiting for the holidays, here's your guide to what's on the calendar for late fall and early winter in Metro Detroit.

Royal Oak Market: Art Fair Edition at Royal Oak Farmers Market

Get your holiday shopping started DIY style at this juried show that features around 60 artists selling premium, handmade gifts. Pick something small and sweet, or look for that big statement piece. The fair also has food vendors, a bar and live entertainment.

11 a.m.-9 p.m. Thurs.-Fri. Free admission. 316 E. 11 Mile, Royal Oak. Royaloakartfair.com.

Wayne County Lightfest at Hines Park

This drive-thru light display has been a tradition for many years. See nearly 50 animated displays over a 4-mile stretch that includes more than 100,000 lights. Stop halfway through in Perrin Park to check out some food trucks, drop a letter off in Santa’s mail box or use the restroom. The season begins Thursday. For updates on traffic and wait times, pull up and tune into AM-1640.

6-10 p.m. Wed.-Sun. through Dec. 24. $5 cash per car, higher fees for commercial vans or busses. 7651 N. Merriman, Westland. (734) 261-1990. waynecounty.com/departments/publicservices/parks/wayne-county-lightfest.aspx.

Blues singer Thornetta Davis signs for the crowd during the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, at Campus Martius, in Detroit, November 19, 2021.  (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)

Detroit Tree Lighting at Campus Martius

One of the first big holiday gatherings of the season for the Detroit community, the Michigan-grown Norway spruce will be turned on for the first time, showing off its shiny ornaments and thousands of colorful LED lights. Santa will lead the countdown, and the evening includes carriage rides, food trucks and live music, including a set from the award-winning Brazeal Dennard Choral, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

5 p.m. Fri. Free. 800 Woodward, Detroit. downtowndetroit.org/event/19th-annual-detroit-tree-lighting.

Magic of Lights at Pine Knob Music Theatre

One of the newer events on this list, the Magic of Lights is a drive-thru display featuring holiday themed scenes using 2 million lights, digital animations, a 32-foot tall Christmas Barbie, a prehistoric Christmas setting, a blizzard tunnel, “Nightmare Before Christmas” characters and more. All the high-tech, LED wonder can be enjoyed from the comfort of your vehicle.

Starting Friday, hours are 5:30-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. and 5:30-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs. (5:30-9 p.m. Nov. 24, Dec. 24-25 and Dec. 31). $20 and up. 33 Bob Seger Dr., Clarkston. Magicoflights.com/events/Clarkston.

Light the Village at Village of Rochester Hills Shopping Center

This 375,000-square-foot outdoor shopping center will be decked out with colorful lights as it hosts a holiday bash Friday featuring live music, food trucks, face painting, arts and crafts, fireworks and a visit from Santa Claus. The big man in red will also make appearances weekly at the shopping center through Christmas Eve. Visits are free, just bring your own camera.

6-9 p.m. Fri. Free. 104 N. Adams, Rochester Hills. Thevorh.com.

"A Christmas Carol" at Meadow Brook Theatre

Celebrating 40 years of Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and three persuasive ghosts, this production based on the story by Charles Dickens is kicking off this weekend and running until Christmas Eve. This adaptation by Charles Nolte is deemed suitable for all ages.

Various show times Fri.-Dec. 24. $36 and up. 378 Meadow Brook, Wilson Hall Room 207, Rocheseter. (248) 377-3300. Mbtheatre.com.

"Nutcracker" events in Metro Detroit

First, immerse yourself in a "Nutcracker" experience at the Lighthouse ArtSpace Detroit. From the producers of Immersive Van Gogh, the family friendly attraction kicks off Saturday and runs on selects days through 2022. The Mark Morris Danced Group brings a reimagined version of “The Nutcracker” called "The Hard Nut" to the Detroit Opera House Dec. 3-4 featuring Tchaikovsky’s music through a swinging ‘70s lens. The New York Post called the show “naughtier and more enchanting than ever.” A more traditional version of this classic featuring Ukraine ballet, “Nutcracker! Magical Christmas Ballet” comes to the Fox Theatre on Dec. 11. Also, Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts hosts "Motown Nutcracker" on Dec. 17. Eisenhower Dance Detroit also brings "The Nutcracker" to the Seligman Performing Arts Center in Beverly Hills Dec. 3-4.

Contact venues directly for show time and ticketing details.

A scene from Christmastown in “Elf: The Musical.”

"Elf the Musical" at Fox Theatre

Buddy is an orphaned child who ends up at the North Pole and is raised as an elf in spite of his human proportions. “Elf the Musical,” in town Thanksgiving week, follows Buddy on his journey to New York City to find himself. The musical, based on the 2003 movie staring Will Ferrell, opened on Broadway in 2010. This is the first tour following a three-year hiatus.

7:30 p.m. Nov. 22-23, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 25, 10 a.m., 3 and 8 p.m. Nov. 26 and 1:30 p.m. Nov. 27. $40 and up. 2211 Woodward, Detroit. (313) 471-7000. 313presents.com.

Noel Night in Midtown Detroit

More than 90 parks, stores, museums and other venues are participating in this walkabout holiday extravaganza. Pop in to the College for Creative Studies or the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, or enjoy the outdoor programming from the Detroit Institute of Arts and Detroit Public Library.

5 p.m. Dec. 3. Free. Midtown Detroit and the Cultural Center. Noelnight.org.

Handel’s “Messiah” at Hill Auditorium

Hear this masterpiece composed nearly 300 years ago as performed by the UMS Choral Union and the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. Directed by Scott Hanoian and featuring soprano Sherezade Panthaki, countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, tenor Miles Mykkanen and bass-baritone Enrico Lagasca, this performance of “Messiah” is an annual tradition for classical music lovers. (In Detroit, the Fort Street Chorale will perform "Messiah" at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 and 3 p.m. Dec. 4 at Fort Street Presbyterian Church, 631 E. Fort.)

7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 and 2 p.m. Dec. 4. $14 and up. 825 N. University, Ann Arbor. (734) 764-2538. Ums.org.

“Home for the Holidays” at Orchestra Hall

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s yearly tradition is a family friendly romp through carols and holiday classic. This year Michelle Merril leads the ensemble for these performances, which are expected to sell out, so plan ahead.

10:45 a.m. and 8 p.m. Dec. 16, 3 and 8 p.m. Dec. 17 and 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 18. $19 and up. 3711 Woodward, Detroit. (313) 576-5111. Dso.org.

The giant Menorah in the D sculpture in Campus Martius Park in Detroit now has the central candle lit and the first candle, far left, representing the first night of Chanukah following the 11th annual lighting event.

Menorah in the D at Campus Martius

Watch the larger-than-life menorah lighting ceremony in person or virtually. The Campus Martius party will have a fire show, greetings from community leaders and hot soup and apple cider. Folks can sign up for a Zoom party kit with Chanukah treats and games for the virtual viewing.

5 p.m. Dec. 18. Free. 800 Woodward, Detroit. menorahinthed.com.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Little Caesars Arena

Just as sure as you’re going to get socks for Christmas, is the faithful yearly visit from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The multi-platinum progressive rock group brings their “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve – the Best of TSO & More” tour to Little Caesars Arena for two concerts. TSO will donate at least $1 from every ticket sold to charity, and has raised $18 million to date.

3 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 29. $43.50 and up. 2645 Woodward, Detroit. (313) 471-7000. 313presents.com.