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Grand Rapids Celebrates Winter with Two-Month Festival

World of Winter runs through March 5

By Kathy Gibbons

Grand Rapids is making the most of winter with a festival that capitalizes on the best of the season.

Carnevale is an interactive installation during Grand Rapids’ World of Winter Festival comprised of found objects gathered from residents who live throughout the city and represent a variety of cultural, racial, and economic backgrounds. CREDIT Experience Grand Rapids/Rashelle Whiteharris

The annual World of Winter Festival kicked off in early January and continues through March 5. Billed as the largest winter festival in the Midwest, it features more than 100 free events, activities, and outdoor art installations that include ice sculptures and themed window displays.

“In 2021, we held our first World of Winter festival with the goal of providing a COVID-safe experience in downtown Grand Rapids during what would otherwise be a slower time of year,” says Bill Kirk, communications director for World of Winter sponsor Downtown Grand Rapids. “Since then, the festival has grown in size and scope and now provides two months of outdoor art experiences, events, and activities for all audiences.”

One of the World of Winter Festival art installations features large-scale wooden cutouts of children of various ethnicities and personalities outside enjoying the snow by award-winning artist Chris Dudley. CREDIT Experience Grand Rapids/Rashelle Whiteharris

Events are free and open to the public, in keeping with Downtown Grand Rapids’ intent to make events as “welcoming and accessible as possible,” Kirk explains. While activity is focused along the central Grand River corridor, festival-related art and other events can be experienced all over the downtown area.

Downtown Grand Rapids is alive with color and activities during the World of Winter Festival. CREDIT Experience Grand Rapids/Rashelle Whiteharris

Visitors have access to a Human Hungry Hippos tournament, Snow Moon Snow Snake competition, Circus Wonderland, Ice Piano performances, scavenger hunt, street party, drag show, silent disco, concerts, and walking tours. Food and beverages are also highlights, with a food truck rally, noodle competition, and beerfest among the offerings. Walking tours feature such themes as black history, art, and architecture.

Grand Rapids’ World of Winter Festival is centered around the Grand River corridor, though activities and attractions can be found throughout the downtown area. CREDIT Experience Grand Rapids/Rashelle Whiteharris

“While we may not get the most sunshine in these winter months, downtown GR is beautifully lit, snowscaped, and vibrant throughout the season,” Kirk says. “World of Winter is a celebration of that.”

Tropical Tundra is an immersive projection installation taking guests through a tropical jungle experience inside of the tunnel at Ah-Nab-Awen Park underneath the Gillett Bridge. CREDIT Experience Grand Rapids/Rashelle Whiteharris

For more information, visit worldofwintergr.com.

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