Downtown Rochester’s Big Bright Light Show is lit every evening 5 p.m.-midnight through Jan. 3.

Downtown Rochester’s Big Bright Light Show is lit every evening 5 p.m.-midnight through Jan. 3.

Photo provided by the Rochester Downtown Development Authority

Holiday light shows make season bright amid COVID-19

By: Mary Beth Almond | C&G Newspapers | Published December 8, 2020

METRO DETROIT — Families across the country are being asked to stay home to help curb COVID-19. But as we’ve all experienced by now, too much together time can easily dampen the Christmas spirit.

When cabin fever sets in, families can enjoy a safe and festive night out admiring the holiday lights.

Whether you simply drive through your neighborhood to see the light displays; head to downtown Rochester to view the Big, Bright Light Show; or purchase tickets to a local light event, like the Detroit Zoo’s Wild Lights or DTE’s Magic of Lights, some glowing colors can lighten the mood.

Those with little ones and the young at heart can make homemade “tickets” for the excursion, load up a playlist with holiday songs, bundle up in cozy pajamas and blankets, and snack on popcorn, candy or other holiday treats while they enjoy the view.

Kristi Trevarrow, the director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority, said the Big, Bright Light Show in downtown Rochester is one of the few city events that has not been canceled due to COVID-19.

“The only thing we weren’t able to do was to have our kickoff event … but the lights are the same and they’re beautiful, and anyone who has always made memories with them can still enjoy them. Nothing can stop the lights,” she said.

The buildings in downtown Rochester are aglow with more than 1 million points of glimmering holiday light for the city’s free Big, Bright Light Show — which is lit every evening 5 p.m.-midnight through Jan. 3.

Whether you view the Big, Bright Light Show from your car or grab your masks and get a view from the sidewalk, Trevarrow said the show has become a holiday tradition for many in metro Detroit.

“We have people who make it an annual tradition to come to downtown Rochester during the holidays to get their annual holiday picture with the lights; we have a lot of people locally that come down as many times as possible when the lights are on; and then, we get a lot of people where it’s a special occasion — we have engagements, wedding pictures and lots of special things like that in front of the show,” she said. “The lights are a blank canvas for memories, and people can just use them for whatever they like.”

Meadow Brook Hall’s all-new outdoor holiday light show, Winter Wonder Lights, runs through Wednesday, Dec. 30.  

Organizers say Winter Wonder Lights was designed as a safe way for people to celebrate the holidays in the current environment — due to COVID-19 and local and state government measures — such as physical distancing outdoors and timed guest entry to maintain a safe event capacity. The show itself, organizers say, is “an interactive and imaginative light experience unlike any other in the state,” transporting visitors to “an enchanted world of lights and magic” on the grounds of the National Historic Landmark located in Rochester, on the campus of Oakland University.

“Winter Wonder Lights is an exciting and safe way for families, friends and people of all ages to celebrate the holidays,” Shannon O’Berski, the external relations director of Meadow Brook Hall, said in a statement. “Not only will Winter Wonder Lights spark your holiday spirit, but the attraction features bonfires, photo spots, live organ music, seasonally inspired beverages and plenty of holiday cheer. We are thrilled to showcase our grounds and build on our tradition of being a major holiday destination with the new outdoor light show.”

Winter Wonder Lights is open daily 5:30-10 p.m. Dec. 11-30 but closed on Thursday, Dec. 24, and Friday, Dec. 25. All tickets must be purchased online at for a specific date and time. Tickets cost $22 each for ages 13 and older, $12 for youth ages 3-12, and are free for children 2 and younger. Active military personnel and veterans receive tickets for $18. Every youth ticket comes with a pair of special interactive holiday glasses. For more information about the event’s health and safety measures, visit

In Clinton Township, “The Historic Village Holiday Lights” is replacing the city’s popular annual Christmas Aglow this year. Sponsored by Genisys Credit Union and English Gardens, the event kicked off Dec. 5, but the Historic Village at the Civic Center, 40700 Romeo Plank Road, will continue to be lit up 6-9 p.m. daily until Dec. 28, allowing families to come at their leisure and take photos. Masks are required. The township’s Department of Public Services will aid in the event.

“We’ve been pretty lucky,” said Clinton Township Parks and Recreation Coordinator Tami Letcavage. “Our partners and families know we want to keep things safe.”

In St. Clair Shores, the Cool City Committee released the 2020 Self Guided Holiday Light Tour — a list with the 25 best decorated houses — Dec. 11. Organizers said those in the area could use the list of houses to guide them through a self-guided holiday lights tour of the Shores, with lights on from at least 6-8 p.m. each evening through Christmas. Since the tour is self-guided and participation is completely voluntary, the committee said it cannot guarantee any house will be lit during a self-guided tour.

Shelby Township is asking the community to vote for the best local light displays to help crown the winner of the Parks, Recreation and Maintenance Department’s 2020 Christmas Lights Contest. Posted on, residents can find a mapped tour of the contest’s entries representing the township’s best and brightest holiday setups. The map features each entry’s location, as well as photos of the homes’ decorations.

“We have amazing Christmas decorations throughout our township, and this gives us a chance to let the community know about our residents’ creative work,” Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis said in a press release.

After viewing the homes, residents can vote for their favorite display Dec. 10-17 on, with winners announced Dec. 21. The top two houses will receive prizes. For more information, call (586) 731-0300.

The Detroit Zoo’s expansive holiday lights display will illuminate the front half of the zoo through Jan. 3, rain, snow or shine. The Detroit Zoological Society will impose capacity restrictions to maintain social distancing and public health guidelines, and masks are required for guests ages 5 and older. The nightly capacity will be limited to 1,600 per evening, with no more than 800 in the zoo at one time during the event. Wild Lights will be open select weeknights; 5-9 p.m. Sundays; and 5-10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Reservations for half-hour time slots can be made at Tickets sold in advance range from $15 to $20, and a limited number of tickets will be sold at the gate for all nights and time slots for $20 per person. Guests ages 2 and younger will be admitted for free. Parking for all vehicles costs $8.

“This has been a show that’s become a tradition for so many. We just couldn’t imagine not being able to still bring that tradition, though with limited capacities,” said Randi Hamilton, assistant director of guest relations for the Detroit Zoological Society. “There are people who really want to still experience the event, and we really love to be able to provide that joy for them.”

DTE Energy Music Theatre is hosting the Magic of Lights, an in-car experience featuring a 1.5-mile drive-through holiday lights display and digital animations. Magic of Lights runs 5-10 p.m. daily through Jan. 2, with an extension to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Advance passes, $20-$25, are on sale now; admission at the gate costs $30-$35. For more information and a complete schedule, visit  

“Following the outstanding response of over 125,000 guests to this summer’s Jurassic Quest at DTE Energy Music Theatre, 313 Presents is excited to announce the festive Magic of Lights holiday drive-through experience to spread joy and holiday cheer to our community in a safe and engaging way,” Howard Handler, president of 313 Presents, said in a statement.

Staff Writers Sarah Wojcik and Nick Mordowanec contributed to this report.