The Magic of Christmas Movies in Michigan

As the air turns crisp and the streets come alive with festive decorations, one thing is certain – the holiday season is upon us. It’s a time of warmth, togetherness, and abundant joy. And what better way to immerse yourself in the holiday spirit than by indulging in the timeless tradition of watching Christmas movies? From heartwarming tales of redemption to whimsical stories of Santa Claus and his merry elves, Christmas movies have a unique power to transport us to a world filled with wonder and enchantment. In this blog post, we’re about to embark on a magical journey through Christmas movies in Michigan. We’ll explore the classics and the hidden gems! So, grab a cup of hot cocoa, cozy up by the fireplace, and let’s delve into the cinematic wonderland of Christmas.

Prancer — 1989

The main character, Jessica Riggs finds a wounded reindeer in the woods near her home. Convinced that the reindeer is Prancer, she decides to nurse it back to health secretly. Her belief in the magical connection between the reindeer and Santa Claus causes a stir in the community, leading to both skepticism and eventual support. As Jessica cares for Prancer, her efforts attract the attention of the townsfolk, including her father and the local veterinarian. The film explores themes of belief, compassion, and the magic of Christmas as the town comes together to support Jessica’s conviction that Prancer is indeed one of Santa’s reindeer.

Prancer takes place and was filmed in Three Oaks a Berrien Country town near the southwest corner of Michigan. Filming also took place in nearby Indiana and Illinois cities.  

The Polar Express — 2004

The story revolves around a young boy who, on Christmas Eve, begins to doubt the existence of Santa Claus. Suddenly, a magical train called the Polar Express arrives outside his house, bound for the North Pole. The boy boards the train, embarking on a magical adventure filled with whimsical characters and enchanting experiences.

The Polar Express, originally a book, was written by author Chris Van Allsburg, a Michigan native. While the film is animated and therefore does not take place in Michigan, the steam locomotive showcased in the movie is a representation of an American 2-8-4 Berkshire type, closely modeled after the Pere Marquette 1225. This particular locomotive had a long history, spending numerous years as a static display near Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan, situated on the campus of Michigan State University. Chris Van Allsburg fondly recalled playing on this engine during his childhood visits to football games at the university.

The Christmas Bunny — 2010

The Christmas Bunny unfolds the tale of a Michigan family grappling with financial hardships as they open their home to Julia, a reserved foster child burdened by the belief that she is unlovable. With aspirations of becoming ‘real,’ akin to the Velveteen Rabbit in her cherished storybook video, Julia’s life takes a transformative turn when a family mishap injures a real-life rabbit. Enter the Bunny Lady, a local recluse devoted to caring for discarded pets. Through this unexpected encounter, both Julia and the Bunny Lady find their lives forever changed.

In 2010, The Christmas Bunny was filmed throughout West Michigan. Alto, Lowell, Wyoming and Zeeland were all filming locations for the movie. The film was also directed by Tom Seidman, a Grand Rapids native.

Silver Bells — 2013

Bruce Dalt, a self-absorbed sportscaster driven by a relentless pursuit of success, finds his life taking an unexpected turn. Following a mishap during his son’s basketball game, Bruce ends up in court and is sentenced to community service. Reluctantly donning the role of a Salvation Army bell-ringer, his arrogant behavior is caught on video, quickly going viral and triggering a chain of events that shatter his career and family. Now facing the consequences of his actions, Bruce’s path intersects with Major Melvin Lowell of the Salvation Army. Major Lowell strives to help Bruce see the true meaning of Christmas, extending beyond mere coins collected in a pot. As Bruce grapples with the repercussions of his choices, Major Lowell becomes a beacon of hope, urging him to embrace the spirit of charity and rediscover the genuine warmth of the holiday season.

Silver Bells was shot in Grand Rapids, Ludington and Manistee. The film was produced in association with the Salvation Army.

Small Town Santa — 2013

As Christmas Eve unfolds, Sheriff Rick Langston finds himself devoid of holiday cheer. However, a twist of fate occurs when he apprehends a home intruder who insists he’s Santa Claus, throwing Rick’s world into disarray! With Lucy, the recently arrived girl in town, Santa embarks on a mission to demonstrate to Rick that, even in the bleakest moments, love surrounds us. Together, they weave a tale that reminds Rick that amidst the challenges, the enduring spirit of love is ever-present.

Small Town Santa used filming locations in Rockford including the Krause Memorial Library as the Sheriff’s office and the Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Christ for an outdoor church scene. The film also shot Santa’s House in Midland as well as some scenes in Grand Rapids.

A Dog for Christmas — 2015

It’s “Christmas Stay-cation” for the Holidays, and the air is filled with excitement and festive cheer! In the heartwarming tale of the Madison family, Kassandra is bubbling with anticipation as she dreams of the perfect Christmas gift – a fluffy, tail-wagging companion to call her own. However, in the Riggs household, Mom and Dad are hesitant about adding a new furry member to the family. Undeterred by her parents’ reservations, Kassandra sets her heart on a wish that only Santa could fulfill.

A Dog for Christmas was primarily filmed in Rockford, a Grand Rapids metropolitan area. The film features The Corner Bar, which is well-known in the area for its hot dog-eating food challenge. Additionally, scenes were also filmed in Grand Rapids. For the film, the majority of the cast and crew were selected from Michigan.  

A Christmas Movie Christmas — 2019

Eve, a fervent enthusiast of Christmas movies, envisions experiencing a picture-perfect holiday alongside a movie-worthy boyfriend. On Christmas Eve, as Eve and her more skeptical sister, Lacy, make wishes to Santa, an unexpected twist transports them to Christmas Town. In this enchanting realm, they discover that they are the central figures in a Christmas movie, living out the festive fantasy they’ve always adored. However, when the idyllic scenario begins to unravel, and Eve’s extensive knowledge of Christmas movies proves insufficient to rectify the situation, the sisters embark on a quest to navigate their way out of the flawless Christmas setting and back to reality.

A Christmas Movie Christmas was filmed in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Frankenmuth is the home to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store. The city is well known for its Christmas spirit, making it a perfect backdrop for this Hallmark movie.

A Christmas Winter Song — 2019

Clio forms a meaningful connection with Fred, a down-on-his-luck homeless man and former jazz singer. United by their shared love of music, the two develop a unique bond. In the midst of Clio grappling with the recent loss of her father, she becomes instrumental in helping Fred reunite with his own daughter, creating a heartwarming reunion just in time for Christmas.

A Christmas Winter Song was filmed in Brighton in May 2019 before debuting on Lifetime on December 14, 2019. If you watch closely, a Brighton parking sign can be spotted in the film.

Miracle on Christmas — 2020

The movie revolves around Mary, a woman grappling with grief and experiencing a crisis of faith, all while desperately clinging to her holiday spirit. As she traverses through these challenges, Mary eventually finds her way, uncovering a series of valuable and profound lessons along the journey.

Miracle on Christmas was primarily shot in Brighton while sometimes venturing to different areas in Livingston County.

Miracle in Motor City — 2021

In the Lifetime movie, Miracle in Motor City, Amber faces a challenging situation after committing to orchestrating a Christmas Pageant that will be unforgettable, featuring a special appearance by Motown Legend Smokey Robinson. Together, she and Eddie will go to great lengths to reestablish their connection and ensure the success of this extraordinary event.

Miracle in Motor City has many exterior shots from the Detroit area. You’ll see shots of the ice skating rink at Campus Martius, the Fist monument to Joe Louis, as well as featured businesses from the movie. While these Detroit scenes help make the movie based in the Motor City, the majority of filming was actually done in Toronto.   

Christmas at the Holly Hotel — 2022

Kathy, a New York City food critic, finds herself at a crossroads when her parents invite her to return to her Michigan family home for Christmas. During her visit, she encounters a charming police officer, introducing an unexpected and complicated element to her holiday season.

Filming took place in Holly, Michigan with a focus on The Historic Holly Hotel. Unfortunately, after filming, the hotel suffered damage after a nearby antique mall burned down. The hotel has been in the process of reconstruction since December 2022.

Cupid’s Christmas — 2022

In the quaint town of Holly, as Santa Claus embarks on a quest to find his misplaced reindeer, Cupid, the enchanting love story of Katie Valentine and Luke Murphy, an Army veteran and firefighter, is reignited. Their romance takes center stage amid their joint efforts to preserve the historic train depot, adding a touch of magic to the festive season.

Cupid’s Christmas was filmed in Holly, Michigan. The town previously rallied around the Holly Union Depot, its historic train station which was used as inspiration for the film.