FLINT — Christmas at Crossroads Holiday Magic opening night is just around the corner! Crossroads Village, 6140 Bray Rd., present Holiday Magic starting on Friday, Nov. 25 from 4-9 p.m. Things always seem to change, and some upgrades have occurred to the event. Yet, because Christmas at Crossroads has been one of mid-Michigan’s favorite holiday traditions since 1984, many things about it have remained the same.
“Each year we add new displays and consistently work to upgrade our technology to improve energy efficiency and improve customer service, but we try to make changes as inconspicuous as possible because our customers place a high value on the tradition of Christmas at Crossroads Holiday Magic,” said Amy McMillan, Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission parks director.
Denise Bowles, Crossroads Village manager, said small changes are made to the village yearly to keep it interesting to returning visitors. For example, this year there will be a giant snowman and polar bear bench near the entrance.
“You’re right in front of the snowman, but you look like you’re sitting on the back of the polar bear,” Bowles said. “It’s a great photo opportunity.”
There will also be a new lighted display along the train tracks near the Genesee Road crossing that is over 50 feet tall.
In 2014, a new tradition was started when the village waived the admission fee for all Genesee County residents on opening night only of Christmas at Crossroads.
The village opens for business at 4 p.m. that night, but a tree lighting ceremony will take place at 7:30 in the Village Green. The mistress of ceremony, Dawn Jones of WJRT, will be in attendance. The tree lighting ceremony is followed by a fireworks show.
For many, the lights themselves could be the main attraction of the village during the holidays. Thousands of lights are hung in the trees, on the buildings, in the windows, on the train and in all the displays around the village on the train ride.
“There’s nothing like a train to carry you back to a simpler time,” said Danielle Fulcher, marketing specialist of Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission.
The train at Crossroads Village becomes one of the state’s largest moving light displays in late November through December.
The ride offers a 40-minute journey behind the authentic Baldwin steam locomotive. It takes riders along the shores of Mott Lake, down a stretch of the historic Pere Marquette roadbed and back to the heart of Crossroads Village.
The railroad’s collection of cars includes 11 original and replica wooden coaches, plus a classic red caboose.
The train is pulled by one of two restored coal-fired locomotives built by Baldwin Locomotive.
Fulcher highly recommends purchasing tickets in advance for the train, because they often sell out.
“People enjoy riding on a piece of history and imagining what life must have been like when that was the main form of transportation,” Fulcher said. “It is also loved by children, who are often fascinated by trains. It’s one thing to talk about the experience, but it’s something you just have to see, hear and experience for yourself to truly appreciate.”
Santa will also be inside the Mason Inn to greet everyone and learn what kids would like for Christmas.
Vintage amusement rides, such as the favorite authentic 1912 Charles W. Parker Carousel will be available.
In addition, children can make holiday crafts in the school house.
Mid-Michigan Railway Historical Society model train displays in the Flint Township Meeting Hall.
Also, various holiday shows will be offered at the opera house for no additional charge.
“…People enjoy it because they are sitting in a historic opera house from a time gone by and it is included in their admission and adds a little something extra to their visit,” Fulcher said.
Crossroad Village’s three gift stores: the General Store, the Attica Store and the Train Gift Shop will be stocked to the ceiling with holiday items and more. Toys, cookbooks, home items, candy, popular themed collectibles and stocking stuffers name some of the items shoppers may find. Some pieces at the stores are created in the village by the blacksmith, toy makers, broom makers or other tradespeople in the village.
“People like to shop in places that are unlike the big box stores and find items they might not see anywhere else,” Fulcher said.
Visitors can even eat dinner while in the village. The food is provided by Sullivan’s Black Forest of Frankenmuth. The menu includes everything from baked chicken and black forest ham to German chocolate and pineapple upside down cake.
For those who prefer to drive through the village and see the lights only, drive through nights are available Dec. 5, 12, 19, 24 and 26 from 5-9 p.m. The cost for drive through only is $5 per vehicle, but does not accommodate buses. Passes can be used for drive through only nights.
Regular admission is $10 for ages 13 to 59, $9 for seniors, $8 for children 25 months to 12 and free for children under 24 months. Prices are slightly more when the train ride and/or buffet are included.
So, Christmas at Crossroads, the train and the other attractions offered at Crossroads Village during the holidays make Holiday Magic an experience unlike any other. People can enjoy it whether they have been to Christmas at Crossroads in the past or not.
“It is really the overall atmosphere as a whole that makes Christmas at Crossroads a unique holiday experience, and, of course there is only one Huckleberry Railroad,” McMillan said.
Christmas at Crossroads is open Dec. 2-4, 9-11, 16-18, 20-23 and 27-30 from 4-9 p.m. For tickets or details, call 810- 736-7100 ext. 6, or 800-648-PARK. The website for the event geneseeparks.org/crossroads-village/programs/christmas holiday-magic/.