Culture Calendar: Top Metro Detroit Holiday Events for December 2023

The host of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET offers a curated list of this month’s art and entertainment. Plus, score details on big holiday events happening this December.
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Hear the Detroit Symphony Orchestra perform the Elf score Dec. 22-23. // Photograph courtesy of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Metro Detroit is always so full of events and other fun things to do that it can be tough keeping track of it all. To help you plan your weekend itineraries, we’ve asked Ryan Patrick Hooper, the host of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET to share his top December happenings in the area. Plus, find save the dates for concerts, stage performances, art exhibitions, and much more.

A holiday tradition expands its offerings at the DSO

One of my favorite traditions this time of year is the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s performance of the score of Home Alone in sync with the movie, down to the opening drumroll of the 20th Century Fox logo and the main title theme, “Somewhere in My Memory” (yeah, I didn’t know the name of it, either, but I’m sure you can hear it in your head right now). The score for this holiday classic is a massive and memorable one by the incomparable John Williams, one of the greatest living composers anywhere.

The DSO has expanded on this pops concert offering this year, screening not just the Gen X classic Home Alone but Elf, too (which has become a holiday classic for millennials). In each case, you’ll want to grab tickets quickly — these showings sell out super fast. Home Alone gets a single screening this year on Dec. 13. Elf takes over a whole weekend with two showings (Dec. 22-23).

Tickets are available at dso.org.

Ain’t Too Proud returns to Detroit

When the Temptations musical Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations first landed in Detroit last year, it was a hot ticket. That’ll be the same story when it makes its return to the Fisher Theatre for a super-short run (Dec. 19-23).

The jukebox musical is based on a book by original member Otis Williams that was turned into a stage production by Detroit’s own Dominique Morisseau, who received the MacArthur “genius grant” in 2018 and currently acts as the executive artistic producer at the Detroit Public Theatre.

A jukebox musical is usually light on story and heavy on hits, but this one manages to bring a riveting story to the stage alongside all the classics you’ve gotten to love from The Temps.

Tickets are available at broadwayindetroit.com.

While live music sleeps, comedy takes over

It’s a simple cycle: In the spring and summer, live touring bands take to the road, hopefully including a Detroit date. But as autumn closes up shop, winter freezes them out.

To bring some warmth into our lives, there’s a bounty of comedians who’ll be taking to the stage throughout December.

We’ll start with Nikki Glaser (at The Fillmore on Dec. 2), who released her excellent HBO stand-up special Good Clean Filth last year. On Dec. 15, Margaret Cho lands at the Royal Oak Music Theatre. I can’t think of another comedian as instantly recognizable as Cho, who has appeared in numerous TV shows and movies over the years and continues to be a force on the stage.

The most politically charged comedy set arrives at the Fox Theatre on Dec. 29, when John Oliver comes to Detroit. Oliver is best known for his work as the Emmy-winning writer, executive producer, and host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. If you’re going to bother to get out of the house this December, this is the trio of comedy shows you’ll want to see.

On my playlist

There’s no record I’ve had on repeat more than Sufjan Stevens’ excellent Javelin, which released earlier this year on his Asthmatic Kitty label. Stevens hails from Michigan (at one point, he made an entire record about the state), and he’s released a wide range of music since his debut 23 years ago. But he’s at his absolute best when he’s perfecting the quiet folk-pop that fills up Javelin, his 10th proper album, including standout tracks “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?” and “So You Are Tired.”

The album is a multimedia experience, too, complemented by a 48-page book filled with essays and original artwork by Stevens, taking me back to the era of listening to an album and flipping through the liner notes (as it should be).

Sufjan Stevens’ music — including Javelin — is available to stream on all major platforms. You can purchase physicals and merch at store.asthmatickitty.com.

29 Can’t-Miss Holiday Events in Metro Detroit

Celebrate Home for the Holidays at the Ford House, Edsel and Eleanor Ford’s former residence. // Photograph courtesy of The Ford House

Fill your calendar with these festive and fun activities.

Holiday Stroll at Canterbury Village

Lake Orion’s historical landmark transforms into a winter wonderland for this family- friendly experience. Enjoy re-creations of classic holiday scenes and the charming hum of professional carolers as you wind through the village. Expect to be greeted by live characters along the way, including Frosty the Snowman, Elsa and Anna from Frozen, and even the Grinch. To end the night, cozy up next to a toasty firepit with a cocktail, hot chocolate, or hard cider at the outdoor C-Pub. Now-Dec. 23. $20+. Canterbury Village, 2359 Joslyn Court, Orion Township; canterburyvillage.com.

Holiday Walk at Meadow Brook Hall

Discover the beauty of the Meadow Brook Hall estate in all its Christmas glory during this indoor tour. The historic 110-room mansion will be decked out in more than 50 glittering Christmas trees, including a 10-foot-tall poinsettia tree made of 150 live plants. Special events take place throughout the season, including Starlight Stroll, Holiday Tea, and Santa Saturdays. Now-Dec. 23. $20+. Meadow Brook Hall, 235 Estate Drive, Rochester; meadowbrookhall.org.

A Christmas Carol

No holiday tale is more enduring than Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella about a greedy, uncaring miser and the ghosts that help him change his ways. Enjoy this live stage adaptation by Charles Nolte, featuring gorgeously festive sets and plenty of faux snow. The production has been a Meadow Brook Theatre Christmas tradition for more than 40 years. All ages are welcome. Now-Dec. 24. $37+. Meadow Brook Theatre, 378 Meadow Brook Road, Rochester; mbtheatre.com.

Home for the Holidays at Ford House

The historic former residence of Edsel and Eleanor Ford is adorned in glittering lights for this self-guided holiday tour. Learn about the estate’s fascinating history as you stroll through gorgeously decorated spaces, all while sipping on complimentary hot chocolate. Now-Dec. 30. $30+. Ford House, 1100 Lake Shore Road, Grosse Pointe Shores; fordhouse.org.

Monroe Street Midway

Bumper carts, minigolf, and a ride down an 80-foot-long slide are among the activities available as this event returns to downtown Detroit, turning Monroe Street across from Campus Martius Park into a winter wonderland. Detroiters can also enjoy an immersive art experience as locally painted murals are transformed into multidimensional wonders using 3D technology. Now-Jan. 7. No cost. 32 Monroe St., Detroit; deckedoutdetroit.com.

Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo

Millions of LED lights illuminate 500 festive displays, including trees, buildings, and animal-inspired sculptures at the Detroit Zoo’s annual holiday celebration. Exhibits for this year include Underwater Trail, an interactive ocean-themed display, and Enchanted
Trail, where a forest fairy will guide you along an enchanting illuminated path. Old favorites include the Polar Express 4D Theater Experience and the Wishing Tree, among others. Guests can dine at several eateries, including Buddy’s Pizza and other food and drink options along the trail. However, purchasing a Polar Package is required to dine at Table 28. For those who like to see the lights turn on, the Brilliant Bundle ticket package allows visitors to enter the zoo during the daytime and remain in the park until the 5 p.m. Wild Lights start time. Children under 2 are admitted at no cost. Now-Jan. 7. $17+. Detroit Zoo, 8450 W. 10 Mile Road, Royal Oak; wildlights.detroitzoo.org.

Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas One and All

The unofficial queen of Christmas music and five-time Grammy Award winner Mariah Carey will stop at Little Caesars Arena for a night of festive cheer this month. Hear classic holiday tunes and original hits like “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” which continues to top charts more than 25 years after its release. Dec. 1. $80+. Little Caesars Arena, 2645 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313presents.com.

Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village

Travel back in time to experience roaring fires, roasting chestnuts, and the sounds of carolers at Greenfield Village’s annual holiday celebration. Find perfect gifts at the holiday market or take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage amid twinkling lights and Christmas trees. Each night ends with a stunning fireworks display. Dec. 1-28. $38+. Greenfield Village, 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn; thehenryford.org.

Noel Night

Spanning more than 80 small businesses, historic churches, restaurants, galleries, and educational institutions in the Midtown neighborhood, this annual night of music and celebration has become a Detroit tradition. The walkable event combines indoor and outdoor programming to offer caroling, family-friendly activities, live music performances, and art installations. Visitors can also shop for holiday gifts or grab a tasty festive treat. Dec. 2. No cost. Midtown, Detroit; noelnight.org.

Holiday Art Show at Heritage Spinning and Weaving

For more than 20 years, this Lake Orion shop and studio has acted as metro Detroit’s stranded knitting headquarters by offering quality knitting and weaving supplies and a full calendar of workshops and classes. Find the perfect holiday gift at the shop’s annual holiday art show, which features hand-crafted scarves, ornaments, winter decor, and more. Dec. 2. No cost. Heritage Spinning and Weaving, 47 E. Flint St., Lake Orion; heritagespinning.com.

Million Dollar Quartet Christmas

Time-travel back to the glory days of Sun Records at this nostalgic rock ’n’ roll Christmas
show. Talented singers and instrumentalists portray Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley as they run through a stacked program of holiday hits. Featuring a full band, Christmas trees, and mistletoe galore, the production celebrates Christmas traditions old and new. Dec. 2-3. $35+. Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit; broadwayindetroit.com.

Celtic Woman Christmas Symphony Tour

As Celtic Woman, virtuoso musicians and Ireland natives Tara McNeill, Mairéad Carlin, Muirgen O’Mahony, and Emma Warren perform traditional Celtic music for audiences around the world. Join them for a special holiday program featuring selections from their album The Magic of Christmas. A live full orchestra will accompany the ensemble as they present new arrangements of classics like “Silent Night” and “Sleigh Ride,” as well as ancient Gaelic carols like “Dia do Bheatha.” Dec. 3. $59+. Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, Detroit; musichall.org.

Cranbrook House Holiday Tour

Cranbrook founders George and Ellen Booth called this gorgeous estate in Bloomfield Hills home from 1908 through 1949. Learn about the property’s rich history as you view original stained glass, unique artwork, lush tapestries, and handcrafted furniture, all under the glow of festive lights and holiday decor. After the tour, shop for unique holiday items at the on-site gift shop. Dec. 7. $20+. Cranbrook House and Gardens, 380 Lone Pine Road, Bloomfield Hills; housegardens.cranbrook.edu.

Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour

Although he was raised Jewish, California-based smooth-jazz saxophonist Dave Koz enjoys yuletide festivities so much that he released a Christmas album, The 25th of December, in 2014. Enjoy his contemporary interpretations of holiday carols like “The First Noel” and “Let It Snow” when he stops at Detroit’s Music Hall this month. Koz will be joined by special guests including guitarist Jonathan Butler, saxophonist Marcus Anderson, vocalist Rebecca Jade, and 16-year-old jazz phenom Justin-Lee Schultz. Dec. 7. $45. Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, 350 Madison St., Detroit; musichall.org.

Celtic Angels Christmas

Featuring world-class Irish dancing, a live band, and five dynamic vocalists, this Celtic Christmas celebration blends Old World charm with modern-day production elements to create a toe-tapping night of holiday entertainment. The show is written, directed, and choreographed by Dublin native Louise Barry. Dec. 8. $41+. Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, 44575 Garfield Road, Clinton Township; macombcenter.com.

A Magical Cirque Christmas

World-renowned entertainment troupe Cirque du Soleil is known for jaw-dropping acrobatic stunts that synchronize with immersive visual effects. That formula gets a festive spin in A Magical Cirque Christmas, a Yule-themed variety show set to holiday music favorites. The awe-inspiring program is suitable for all ages. Dec. 8. $45+. Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313presents.com.

Voctave: The Spirit of the Season

The 11-member a cappella group boasts a stunning five-octave vocal range and performs favorites from Disney movies and hit Broadway shows. It will make a stop at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall to perform captivating renditions of holiday classics from its chart-topping Christmas album The Spirit of the Season. Dec. 8. $29+. Orchestra Hall, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit; dso.org.

Gary Hoey: Ho Ho Hoey Rockin’ Holiday Tour

Guitarist and songwriter Gary Hoey has toured with Ted Nugent, Foreigner, The Doobie Brothers, and countless other big-name acts. He’ll put a rock ’n’ roll spin on classic holiday tunes when he stops at Ferndale’s The Magic Bag on his upcoming holiday tour. Dec. 9. $40. The Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; themagicbag.com.

Clarkston Holiday Lights Parade

Clarkston Community Schools’ robotics team, Team RUSH, organizes this annual holiday parade on downtown Clarkston’s Main Street. Students use their science, technology, engineering, and math skills to design festive floats that spread holiday cheer as well as a pro-STEM message. The floats will compete for the Best Use of STEM Award, which comes with a $100 prize. Dec. 9. No cost. Renaissance High School, 6558 Waldon Road, Clarkston; teamrush27.net.

Caroling in the City

Downtown Rochester transforms into Dr. Seuss’ Who-ville for this annual night of music and holiday activities. Enter an ugly-sweater contest, decorate your own Christmas cookie, and stroll down Main Street with the Rochester Community Carolers as they perform classic holiday selections. Dec. 10. No cost. Downtown Collaboration Studio, 431 S. Main St., Rochester; downtownrochestermi.com.

Brian McKnight Hits and Holidays

The Grammy Award-nominated R&B vocalist will perform some of his most popular songs, along with selections from his two Christmas albums, when he makes a December stop at MotorCity Casino Hotel. Dec. 10. $57+. Sound Board at MotorCity Casino Hotel, 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit; soundboarddetroit.com.

Candlelight Ballet

The Listeso String Quartet will perform classical holiday favorites — including selections from The Nutcracker — at this intimate concert at the Redford Theatre. Hundreds of real candles will set the stage aglow, creating a cozy setting perfect for a chilly winter’s night. Dec. 13. $25+. Redford Theatre, 17360 Lahser Road, Detroit; redfordtheatre.com.

Home for the Holidays at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Celebrate the festive season with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at this annual pops concert. Boasting a program of favorite holiday classics, the two-hour concert is perfect for all ages — and even features an appearance by Santa Claus himself. Six showtimes are available. Dec. 15-17. $29+. Orchestra Hall, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit; dso.org.

The Year Without a Panto Claus

This hilarious holiday play follows a Santa Claus with a uniquely 21st-century problem: Too much cable news has caused him to become depressed and flee the North Pole. As two of his elves attempt to track him down, they travel the globe and face off against some particularly un-cheery foes. Dec. 15-Jan. 7. $12+. Theatre Nova, 410 W. Huron St., Ann Arbor; theatrenova.org.

Christmas Tea at the Wayne Historical Museum

Featuring more than 100 exhibits in a beautifully renovated 19th-century building, the Wayne Historical Museum is an often-overlooked gem for metro Detroit history buffs. At this holiday-themed tea party, guests will explore the decked-out museum in all its Christmas splendor while sampling tea, sandwiches, and a variety of desserts. Dec. 16. $45. Wayne Historical Museum, 1 Towne Square St., Wayne; eventbrite.com.

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis

Celebrating more than 35 years of Christmas shows, Mannheim Steamroller founder Chip Davis again brings his sprawling neoclassical music ensemble to Detroit’s Fox Theatre for a night of holiday fun. Known for blending classical music with new age and rock ’n’ roll sounds, the troupe has sold more than 41 million albums worldwide, making it the best-selling Christmas music artist of all time. Expect to hear beloved renditions of holiday hits while dazzling multimedia effects enhance the festive experience. Dec. 17. $25+. Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313presents.com.

Christmas Show with Organist John Lauter

Join the 17-piece Swing City Big Band, vocalist Katy Calzone, and organist John Lauter for this program of holiday music classics at the Redford Theatre. The theater’s historic Barton theater pipe organ dates back to 1928 and is the only one in metro Detroit (besides the one at the Fox Theatre) that remains in its original setting. Dec. 17. $12. Redford Theatre, 17360 Lahser Road, Detroit; redfordtheatre.com.

The Illusionists: Magic of the Holidays

Witness jaw-dropping acts of magic with a festive holiday flair when the world’s most talented illusionists stop at the Fox Theatre for this family-friendly show. Four showtimes are available. Dec. 21-23. $25+. Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313presents.com.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Blending elements of hard rock, progressive rock, and heavy metal music, this symphonic rock band’s unique spin on classic Christmas tunes put it on the map. This year’s live show, based on the band’s multiplatinum album The Ghosts of Christmas Eve, tells the story of a teen visited by spirits of the past. Fans can look forward to hearing classic Christmas tunes, along with the group’s own original holiday selections, when it makes a stop in Detroit. Dec. 23. $49+. Little Caesars Arena, 2645 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313presents.com.


This story is from the December 2023 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.