Top 10: Places to Enjoy This Holiday Season
Music, pageantry, craft-making, a seniors brunch and a two-horse open carriage are among attractions.
Local opportunities for festive fun fill these next two weeks, and not all involve cash, checks or card-swiping. Here are 10 ways to celebrate community, family and faith in Birmingham.
1. 'City sidewalks, busy sidewalks': The magic of December lasts two more weeks, but a Magic of Birmingham promotion wraps up Saturday. Lucky pedestrians along downtown sidewalks will get surprise gifts between 11 a.m.-5 p.m. from Principal Shopping District representatives wearing Santa hats. One fortunate passerby will take home a shiny item from Astrein's Creative Jewelry.
2. Original horsepower: Experience a tradition shown on holiday cards and Currier and Ives winterscapes. Free horse-drawn carriage rides enhance the Magic of Birmingham this Saturday, boarding at Henrietta and Merrill (near the Santa House) from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. It could be lovely weather for a carriage ride together.
3. Nonprofit shop: At the edge of the city's retail core is a distinctive Global Gifts Shop run by First Baptist Church volunteers. Jewelry, pottery, fabric items, holiday trimmings, décor accents and nonperishable specialty foods are "fair trade" imports from craft workshops and training programs that help impoverished people become self-sufficient. It's open via the Bates Street entrance from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. today and Saturday.
4. Creativity for kids: Youngsters can embrace the spirit of the season by making snowflake crafts at Baldwin Public Library's Youth Room any time from Dec. 20-23. Free materials are provided and registration isn't needed. Another hands-on activity for those 10 and younger takes place at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, where the gym becomes a cookie-decorating workshop from 10-11:30 a.m. Participants of any faith can decorate pre-baked sugar cookies and take some home. After Christmas, the library Youth Room will have craft-making materials for New Year's decorations from Dec. 27-30—again without cost or signup.
5. Santa House: Speaking of elf-size celebrants, Shain Park has a must-go destination. Children can be photographed with a ho-ho-hoing jolly figure at his Santa House from 1-4 p.m. both days this weekend and from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Christmas Eve.
6. Seniors brunch: For those who've celebrated many decades of winter holidays, a free Christmas Day brunch will be served by parishioners of Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills at 11 a.m.—a yearly tradition after the 10 a.m. service. Nonmembers can register by Dec. 20 at 248-644-5210.
7. 'Epic adventure': All ages can appreciate the meaning of Christmas at a lavish stage presentation at 7 p.m. Dec. 23 of The Once and Future King at Kensington Community Church in Beverly Hills, which describes the free pageant as "an epic adventure of hope and inspiration for the whole family." Visitors are invited to the special service and asked to reserve seats by calling 248-786-0600.
8. Sounds of Christmas: Two other churches invite the public to holiday musical performances Dec. 19, starting with a 2 p.m. concert by University of Michigan students at St. James Episcopal Church to benefit the Crossroads of Michigan food pantry in Detroit. A cash donation of any amount gets you in. At 6 p.m., choir members and the organist at Grace Baptist Church present Christmas Cantata with free admission.
9. Meet and eat: Impressively-decorated dining sites with December specials are abundant, and one local highlight is at a trackside landmark on South Eton. Big Rock Chop House has a $25 holiday lunch menu with three courses through Dec. 31, along with discounted bottles of selected wines if clink-clink is a traditional sound of the season for you.
10. Classical finale: The Birmingham-Bloomfield Symphony Orchestra performs at Groves High School between the year-end holidays. Portions of Rodeo by Aaron Copland, The Firebird by Igor Stravinsky and works by Antonin Dvorak and Maurice Ravel are among selections to be presented at 7 p.m. Dec. 29. Tickets are $27, with no charge for those 18 years and younger. See details here.
However and wherever you celebrate, enjoy the radiance in our little town of Birmingham.