Milwaukee is no stranger to celebrating the best time of the year. From lights and light festivals to holiday performances and unique, quaint towns; Milwaukee has it all! Check out these fun, family activities perfect for the entire family and make lasting memories for years to come. You are bound to have happy holidays in Milwaukee!
Holiday Lights Festival
Milwaukee’s most popular holiday event, the Holiday Lights Festival, lights up the sky for six weeks. With thousands of holiday lights, hundreds of wreaths, a variety of animated sculptures, and tons of activities, there is something enchanting for everyone. A family favorite is the Jingle Bus, a 40-minute tour that highlights the city’s brightly festive spots and provides cookies and hot cocoa. And, at only $1 a ride it’s easy on the pockets too! Don’t forget to stop by “Community Spirit Park” and drop off your wish lists at Santa’s Mailbox. The best thing? Santa actually writes back to you! How about experiencing the Holiday Lights aboard a mini coach while sipping on hot chocolate and munching on desserts? On the Milwaukee Food Tours Christmas Lights and Desserts Tour, riders will be able to do just that along with two walking stops at Pere Marquette Park and Cathedral Square.
To really celebrate the holidays like a local one must stop by Candy Cane Lane, a residential neighborhood where almost everyone decorates their home for the holidays! The best thing is that they do so to support the Midwest Athletes against Childhood Cancer. There is no entrance fee, but they do have a central corner where donations for the cause are collected.
Ice skating anyone? Well, how about skating in a rink bigger than Rockefeller Center? Located in downtown, Red Arrow Park’s Slice of Ice can accommodate 100 skaters at once. Skating is free if you have your own skates. No skates? No worries! They rent them out as well. When the Midwest chill starts to set in, get toasty inside the warming house where you’ll be sure to have a great view of all the action from the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Santa Claus is coming to town! Come visit Santa at the Milwaukee County Zoo where you and the family can have either breakfast or lunch with the jolly old man himself, Mrs. Claus, and his elves. Santa can also be spotted in his outdoor gingerbread house at the Historic Third Ward’s Christmas in the Ward. Afterwards, experience an old-fashioned Christmas tree lighting in Catalano Square, see live reindeer, go on horse-drawn carriage rides, and enjoy live music and holiday shopping! For more of a traditional setting, share a jolly breakfast with Santa and his elves in a festively decorated ballroom at the Pfister Hotel.
Catch a Holiday Performance
Need to get into the holiday spirit? Milwaukee hosts a few shows that will no doubt warm your hearts. From December 2 to December 24, the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol” at the Pabst Theatre will surely warm your heart.
One of Milwaukee’s most well-known holiday shows and simply a holiday classic is the Milwaukee Ballet’s performance of “The Nutcracker” from December 13 – December 27. With unforgettable music, impressive set designs, and toys coming to life, what more could you want? For a fun family favorite, the First Stage Theater presents “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” at The Marcus Center for Performing Arts.
Celebrate an Old-Fashioned Christmas
Milwaukee is a winter wonderland of old-fashioned elegance during the Christmas season. Step back in time and imagine Christmas as it was during the 19th century by touring the home of the famous beer baron Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion for Grand Avenue Christmas. With its ornate holiday decorations and historic setting, it’s no wonder why more than 100,000 people visit this restored Victorian mansion.
For a unique Christmas experience, families need to visit the quaint, cozy, and historic town of Cedarburg. Visit Santa’s Workshop, a candy-covered house where Santa stays on weekends to visit families and where elves work hard on building toys for good boys and girls. A Polar Express ride takes children on a journey to the North Pole where there’s a toy store, arts and crafts, caroling, snacks, music, and gifts from Santa. How about celebrating the holidays as it was in the 19th-century? At Old World Wisconsin, families will find Christmas tales, free horse-drawn bobsled rides (or wagon rides, if there’s no snow on the ground), caroling and hymn singing, food sampling from cherished recipes, wood-fired stoves and bonfires. Plus, take photos with a 19th-century Santa!
A special thanks to Superoo Tina Jalowiec for contributing to this article!