Your Guide to Attending Detroit’s Annual Tree Lighting

Story By: Max White


One of the biggest events to kick off the holiday season is Detroit’s annual tree lighting, which happens in Campus Martius Park. This year, the Downtown Detroit Partnership said the tree lighting will happen on Friday, Nov. 18 starting at 5 p.m. and lasting until midnight.

Townhouse restaurant outdoor seating in Detroit

Where to Eat

Checker Bar

Checker is just one block away from Campus Martius near Cadillac Square, both of which are in the heart of the tree lighting.

It’s a great spot to grab some food before the tree lighting, as most restaurants get busy afterward.

They serve up delicious burgers, pizza and appetizers, along with shoestring fries and meals for those who are vegetarian and vegan.

Grand Trunk Pub

Grand Trunk is also just down Woodward Ave. from Campus Martius, inside the former location of the Grand Trunk Railroad.

The menu features all Michigan beers on draft and food made with Michigan and local ingredients.

The Reuben comes with corned beef from Wigley’s Corned Beef in Eastern Market, and the kraut is made with New Holland Brewing Co.’s Poet Stout.

You can also try the grilled beer cheese, which has cheddar and beer cheese on grilled garlic butter Texas Toast, served with tomato bisque.

Central Kitchen + Bar

Central Kitchen + Bar is a great spot just steps from the tree lighting that will be a perfect place to make a reservation and enjoy a great sit-down meal before or after.

Their cocktail menu features a variety of great drinks, and their food menu includes burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, seafood and more.

Try the filet and frites for a great, filling meal, or the Bahn Mi Turkey Burger which comes with cilantro, carrots, onion, sriacha aioli and more.

American & Lafayette Coney Islands

Detroit is known for its coneys, just like it’s known for cars, music and much more. The two main spots right downtown are American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island, located right next to each other in the building on the split of Lafayette and Michigan Aves.

Tree lighting night will be incredibly busy, so be prepared to wait to get the dogs, but it will be worth it.

Walk into either and you’ll get a great dog with chili, mustard and onions, and the ambiance on the inside of both restaurants is something you’ve likely never seen before.

San Morello

Located inside the Shinola Hotel, San Morello will have a ton of different food options for a cold night at the tree lighting.

Try some pizza if you’re looking for something casual, or their freshly-made pasta to go along with a salad and some sheep’s milk ricotta with hot honey and garlic.

Close out the night with a cup of coffee or espresso and some pistachio cake.


Located just a few blocks down Woodward Ave. from Campus Martius, Townhouse Detroit is a perfect spot to grab a drink or a bite to eat before or after the tree lighting.

Their menu features different raw items like caviar, wagyu or bigeye tuna, and you can get shared plates like French onion dip with chips, black truffle, crab and more.

The mains include salmon, local chicken, a filet, ravioli and others.

Detroit Tree Lighting ceremony

Where to Have Fun

Santa will be on hand at Campus Martius to help flip the switch and turn the tree on! He’ll also be available to meet with the kids and families after the event.

The skating rink will also officially open in Campus Martius, with adults and children welcome.

You can also stick around during the show to watch performances from local and nationally-known and award-winning figure skaters, live music from artists around the area, horse-drawn carriages, and more.

Plus, there are great places to cozy up with hot cocoa, drinks, and food trucks.

Photos by Matt Schwedt

Where to Stay

If you want to avoid traffic and driving through the city with all of those people around, there are plenty of great partners you can stay with on Friday night.

Fort Pontchartrain Detroit

Fort Ponchartrain hotel is right in Detroit’s financial district and is just a few blocks from Campus Martius, making it an easy walk to get to the tree lighting.

The hotel has a variety of rooms with views of the city or the riverfront, and some rooms that have views of both.

It also has a unique restaurant at the top called “Top of the Pontch” as well as a market with grab-and-go items and a bar and dinner restaurant.

Detroit Foundation Hotel

Located near Fort Ponchartrain, the Detroit Foundation Hotel is one of the most unique hotels in the city as it’s in an old Detroit Fire Department fire station.

The hotel has six different room types – ranging from two queens to a king and three different suites.

There is a fitness center, in-room dining, complimentary WiFi and much more, plus a great restaurant inside called The Apparatus Room.

It’s also just a few blocks from Campus Martius.

The Westin Book Cadillac

The Book Cadillac is one of Detroit’s largest and most famous hotels. It’s just two blocks down Michigan Ave. to Campus Martius for the tree lighting, so you can get in and out quickly if you just want to avoid crowds.

The hotel was built in 1924 and has traditional rooms, deluxe rooms, suites and more.

Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center

The Renaissance Center is Detroit’s tallest building, and the Marriott is located in the center tower of the building, offering stunning views of the city and the Detroit River.

It’s a great spot to stay for the tree lighting, because you can either walk to Campus Martius, just a few blocks away, or hop on the People Mover and use it to get closer to the heart of Downtown Detroit.

DoubleTree Suites by Hilton – Downtown Detroit

The DoubleTree is just four blocks down Lafayette Ave. to Campus Martius Park, so it’s another location that’s close enough to the tree lighting to have fun and enjoy the tree lighting.

You can get normal rooms with queen or king beds, or a corner suite that includes two rooms, two beds and a pull-out couch.

Joe Vaughn Photography