The skating rink in Campus Martius Park sits next to the giant Christmas tree and other holiday decorations, giving downtown Detroit a festive spirit throughout December.

The skating rink in Campus Martius Park sits next to the giant Christmas tree and other holiday decorations, giving downtown Detroit a festive spirit throughout December.

Photo provided by Teresa Siavrakas

Plenty to do in downtown Detroit this holiday season

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published December 8, 2017

DETROIT — There’s more going on in downtown Detroit this holiday season than ever, according to the Downtown Detroit Partnership.

A variety of programs, attractions and events will be present through the month of December in areas such as Campus Martius Park and Cadillac Square.

“If you’ve seen all the wonderful pictures of New York and Chicago and all the decorations they have, come to downtown Detroit, because it’s equal or better than what they have,” claimed Bob Gregory, the chief planning and public space officer for the DDP. “There are spectacular displays and so much to do. We match anywhere else in the country.”

The DDP is a civic and business organization that has been involved in fostering the development and growth of Detroit for the last 75 years. The organization works with businesses throughout the city to put more programming in parks and public spaces while taking steps to keep the area clean and safe and fostering businesses both large and small.

Despite that track record, Gregory said much of the new programming in the downtown area is partially thanks to the influx of support from sponsors.

“We have a lot of first-time things this winter,” said Gregory. “The views are spectacular and the lights are amazing. We really have gotten tremendous support from our sponsors. Our two major ones are the DTE Energy Foundation and Quicken Loans’ Bedrock Real Estate. Their support made a lot of this possible and brings a lot of new attractions for people in Detroit.”

Gregory described many of the winter- and holiday-themed attractions and events going on throughout the downtown area, many of which are centered around Campus Martius Park.

“We always start at Campus Martius with the Christmas tree lighting, and it will be up through mid-January. It’s a beautiful sight sitting next to the ice rink and the tree sitting on the fountain,” he said. “The ice rink will be open seven days a week from noon to 10 p.m. during the week, and until midnight on the weekend. It’s a great family venue for people and a great date-night location for couples. Next to the rink is a new venue called the winter fountain. We had a downtown urban beach, and we moved our storage container restaurant next to the rink and put a heated tent nearby, so people can grab a bite or drink while at the rink while keeping warm.”

A variety of other activities also are available. Food trucks, which were a hit downtown during the summer, are returning for the Christmas season; vendors selling a variety of goods will be offered; and sleigh rides and visits from Santa will be offered as well.

“The food trucks were a big success during the summer, and we now have food trucks operating at several locations around the downtown area,” Gregory continued. “Thursday through Sunday, there are horse and carriage rides around the parks and down Woodward Avenue. There is a nice tent restaurant, the Cadillac Lodge restaurant and bar, next to the vendor market, where there are lots of treats and goods for people to browse. At Beacon Park, there are some lighting displays, which is a great new attraction, and a big winter lodge tent over there as well that has attractions such as a wine and beer festival on Friday, Dec. 15. That’s also where Santa will be that weekend to ask kids what they want for Christmas.”

The food trucks include El Charro, a Mexican food vendor. Caitlin Thomas, the food truck manager, said Detroit has been a great place to do business, especially during the holiday festivities.

“They line us up right on the street on Woodward and on Michigan Avenue, just outside Campus Martius Park. We’ve been hugely successful. There’s so many people working downtown now, and so many families going downtown to go to the ice rink and things. It’s become such a happening area that it’s been great,” she remarked. “It’s great being a part of the Christmas activities. There’s so much building and expanding in Detroit; being able to go down there is so great for us. There’s such a great vibe. We hope people come see us. We’re down there every Friday night in December.”

The attractions at Cadillac Square include the vendor market, where businesses will be offering treats and other products in a comfortable atmosphere. 

Among them is Cynthia Davis, the founder and owner of the Sensational Popcorn Co. Davis creates tasty vegan popcorn coming in a variety of styles and flavors, fortified with vitamins, amino acids and trace minerals. Based out of Detroit’s Eastern Market, she has brought her unique snacks downtown for the holidays.

“There are 16 total glass huts in Cadillac Square, and you have a sort of beer garden that is open to the elements, but there is heat and light coming down from above,” explained Davis. “There is a beautifully decorated tent where people can play games like Jenga or chess or dominos. You can kick back and look at the Christmas tree, listen to the Christmas music and enjoy a treat. When you walk into my glass hut down at Cadillac Square, you have a popcorn wall all around you, to the left or right of you — and it’s all delicious.” 

Davis, a Detroit native and resident, said she is so happy to see so much positive activity happening downtown.

“I’m extremely excited to see it and even more to be a part of it,” said Davis. “I’ve seen the ups and downs of this city, and to know the blueprints of what had to go into (making) this change happen is amazing. When people walk into my booth, they are taken aback by the vivaciousness of the city and the extent of how beautiful and vibrant downtown has become.”