If you need a break in your routine and a place for winter fun take a day trip to Grand Rapids. The World of Winter Festival takes over downtown Grand Rapids from January 12th to March 10th.

The World of Winter is a FREE, outdoor winter festival in downtown Grand Rapids. It’s also the LARGEST winter festival in the United States, it features over 100 FREE events, activities and outdoor art installations. Enjoy the displays during the day and stick around in the evening to see them illuminated. The outdoor art is on display along the Grand River and this year’s installations include John Ball Zoo Lantern, Grand Legacy Mural Immersive Experience, Sonic Runway, Nightwalkers and more. Most of the art is on display throughout the entire run of the festival – find a complete list here.

Take in the festival during a one hour walk along the Riverfront. Start at the Blue Bridge to see the illuminated elephants, walk to Ah-Nab-Awen Park for an illuminated selfie station and giant interactive frog balloons. Cross the Sonic Runway and walk to Canal Park before heading back towards downtown for an immersive kaleidoscope installation at Sixth Street Park onto game time (ice sculpture board games), selfies and light displays at 555 Monroe Lot. The entire family will be awed and entertained with fun memories to talk about on the drive home or while cuddled up in the hotel.

Grand Rapids is approximately 2 hours from metro Detroit, a reasonable day trip drive for families looking for a little extra fun. If you want more ideas for things to do, here are our top winter picks:

  • Grand Rapids Public Museum: From A (Automobiles) to Z (Zoology) the three-story museum is packed with engaging and interactive activities for kids. Admission is $12 for adults and $5 for kids ages 3 to 17. The museum is open daily, and tickets can be purchased same day. The temporary Bugs exhibit is very cool and runs thru Feb. 4th and there is a new Building Buddies exhibit that is great for toddlers. The GRPM is located right on the river and you can easily walk to the Blue Bridge and Ah-Nab-Awen Park festival displays.
  • Grand Rapids Children’s Museum: The hands-on museum for kids is especially fun for littles who love to play – from music and Legos to bubbles and balls -there’s plenty to keep kids busy. Capacity is limited and it’s advisable to reserve your tickets in advance. Admission is $10 per person. A new Daniel Tiger exhibit opens on January 27th. The Children’s Museum is a 5 to 10 minute walk from the river and festival activities.
  • Grand Rapids Art Museum: A world-class art museum, and it currently features Brick by Brick: The Creative Art of LEGO exhibit – hands-on fun for creators of all ages. BONUS: All galleries have a kid crafting table and there’s a children’s play area on the ground floor. Located right by the river and next to the Rosa Park Ice Rink it’s a convenient can’t miss.
  • CannonsburgLocated just outside Grand Rapids, Cannonsburg offers skiing, snowboarding and SNOWTUBING! Reservations for snow tubing are required and cost $20 per person on weekdays and $25 per person on weekends.

Looking for a place to stay? Here are a couple hotels located on the river and make for an easy walk to the museums and festivals. Rates are around $200, depending on when you visit and what rooms you select they can be more or less.

  • Embassy Suites – Downtown: Located along the river with beautiful views of the city and a short. It’s across the street from Canal Park, Sixth Street Park and 555 Monroe Lot and about a 20 minute walk to the Grand Rapids Public Museum (designed with kids in mind) and Grand Rapids Children Museum. The room are large, there’s an indoor pool, complimentary family-friendly happy hour and a quality complimentary breakfast in the morning.
  • Amway Grand Plaza: A beautiful, luxury hotel, the Grand Plaza is located on the river, has multiple gift shops and restaurants. There is a spa, fitness center and pool. It has a connecting bridge to the DeVos Place if you go for a show and is across the street from the Grand Rapids Art Museum and Rosa Parks Ice Rink. It’s a perfect starting point for downtown run. Room rates are more than $300.

2024 Festival Schedule

Open Daily from: 8:00 AM – 11:00 PM

Location: The festival happens all over Downtown Grand Rapids.  Please see specific events and installations to plan your visit. “Wow Hotspots” include: Ah-Nab-Awen Park, 555 Monroe, Canal Park and Sixth Street Park.

Plan your visit to check out one of these special events:

  • Fire & Ice (Saturday, Jan. 13): Watch fire performers glide and jump on the ice, showcasing a unique blend of elements. Plus, you’re invited to join the fun with an open skate session to end the evening.
  • Ice Park (Saturday, Jan. 20): Chill out and enjoy cool games, delicious food from our lineup of food trucks and jam with the musical maestros at Frosty Boyz Entertainment. Learn the ropes and test-drive groovy instruments—it’s a frozen party you won’t want to miss!
  • Valent-ICE (Friday, Feb. 9 – Sunday, Feb. 11): Embrace Winter Wonderland with Valent-ICE, a standout attraction in the World of Winter Festival. Explore dozens of beautiful ice sculptures throughout #DowntownGR.
  • ICE Breaker (Saturday, Feb. 10): Witness the magic as Ice Guru Randy Finch crafts a colossal ice sculpture. Help choose the design by casting your own vote!
  • Great Lakes Snow Snake Competition (Saturday, Feb. 24): Snow Snake is a traditional northern Native American game of sport dating back to over 500 years ago. The game’s object is to throw the snow snake the farthest distance along a smooth trough made in the snow.
  • Human Hungry Hungry Hippo Tournament (Sunday, Feb. 25): Join the fun on the ice, where both family and adult divisions can compete in this single-day extravaganza. Don’t miss your chance to snag awesome prizes as you roll and slide your way to victory!

Photo credit: Downtown Grand Rapids