Night comes early in the winter, but it’s also the best time for Battle Creek’s brightest festival. Tour the Festival of Lights with these tips.

Places to eat

Begin with getting a bite to eat. We recommend Griffin Grill and Pub or Clara’s on the River because the parking is easy, right by State Street. Griffin serves Irish-inspired pub food along with surprisingly good fish tacos. Clara’s has something for everyone, from sizzling beef fajitas to zucchini noodles. Both places have spiked coffee at the bar, if adults in your group want to warm up after walking outdoors.

Send a note to Santa

Like everyone else, Santa has to social distance this year. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to forget you on Christmas. Stop by the Battle Creek Welcome Center and look for the red mailbox. Drop a letter in there and elves will take it to the North Pole. If you’ve been good this year, Santa will write you a letter back. Find out what Santa’s up to in his workshop during the Wonderful Winter Festival Variety Show.

Hot spots

If you want to walk around and admire the lights, keep in mind that they’re spread out through downtown. For highlights, start from the State Street parking lot:

  • Walk across the river. Any of the pedestrian bridges make a good picture spot because you can see the lights reflected in the water.
  • Go by Clara’s on the River, an old train station that has been converted into a restaurant. Santa flies over the roof, while a train chugs by the path along the river.
  • Keep following the path toward Capital Avenue Northeast. Cross the street, and you’ll find lights depicting the 12 Days of Christmas, starting with a partridge in a pear tree. It’s a pretty stretch along the river, and you’ll go by the house W.K. Kellogg used to live in. If you make it to the Underground Railroad statue, stop and go back to Capital Avenue.
  • Turn left at Capital Avenue. You should hear Christmas music. That’s because the decorations at Mill Race Park are synced up to the songs. Watch the Christmas trees change color and flash to the music.
  • If you want a cup of hot cocoa, go down Michigan Avenue to find Cafe Rica. Open until 6 p.m., the coffee shop is a fun spot to warm up and get something sweet.
  • Don’t forget to send a letter to Santa! You’ll find the red mailbox at the Battle Creek Welcome Center.
  • From Michigan Avenue, you can find your way back to State Street. Before you get in your car, check out the frolicking reindeer in Friendship Park, which is right next to the entrance of the lot.