Milwaukee is no stranger to celebrating the best time of the year. From lights and light festivals to holiday performances and unique, quaint towns, Christmas in Milwaukee has it all!
Check out these fun activities perfect for the entire family and make lasting memories for years to come. You are bound to have happy holidays while attending these Milwaukee Christmas events. Updated for 2023!
Milwaukee Christmas Events 2023
Holiday Lights Festival
The Milwaukee area’s most popular holiday event, the Holiday Lights Festival, lights up the sky for six weeks November 16, 2023 through January 1, 2024.
The Kickoff event in one you won’t want to miss on the 16th. This is when they turn on a half million lights across downtown. There will be performances, live music, Santa and Mrs. Claus, free hot cocoa and cookies, and fireworks.
With holiday light displays, hundreds of wreaths, a variety of animated sculptures, and tons of activities, there is something enchanting for everyone throughout the season..
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 $5 a ride, it’s easy on the pockets too! This year, pre-booking is required for all Jingle Bus rides.
Don’t forget to stop by “Community Spirit Park” in Cathedral Square 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 Zeidler Union Square and Cathedral Square. They also have a Christmas Around Milwaukee Bakery Tour for all you sweet tooths.
If you can’t make it into town, Milwaukee Food Tours also sells popular Christmas boxes such as their Wisconsin advent calendar. These are very popular and will sell out.
To really celebrate the holidays like a local one must stop by annual Christmas lights at Candy Cane Lane. In this residential neighborhood 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 in Milwaukee During the Christmas Season
Ice skating anyone? Well, how about skating in a rink bigger than Rockefeller Center? Located in downtown Milwaukee, 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.
Milwaukee Zoo Wild Lights
Back for its third year is Wild Lights, where the Milwaukee County Zoo will be covered with millions of twinkling lights.
There will be a one-mile path with lined with animal-themed light displays and plenty of holiday decorations to get you in the spirit of the season. Some nights are drive thru while others are walk through so check the park website to make sure you reserve tickets for the best experience for your family.
There will be lots of treats and drinks to purchase and the North Shore Bank Safari Train and Penzeys Carousel will be operating when the weather cooperates.
Wild Lights is offered most nights December 1 – 31, 2023 from 5:30 to 9:30 pm. On December 7 and 14 there will be adult-only event with alcoholic beverages, entertainment, and food. Purchase your tickets online.
Enchant at Franklin Field
Enchant at Franklin Field runs from November 24 – December 31, 2023, features a large walk-thru light maze, professional photos with Santa, an ice-skating trail, a kids zone for little kids filled with activities, and a Christmas Village full of gift and food vendors.
Santa Claus Sightings in Milwaukee
Santa can also be spotted in his outdoor gingerbread house at the Historic Third Ward’s Christmas in the Ward. Afterward, experience an old-fashioned Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Catalano Square, see live reindeer, go on horse-drawn carriage rides, and enjoy live music and holiday shopping! This year’s event will take place December 1st.
For more of a traditional setting, share a jolly breakfast in a festively decorated ballroom at Breakfast with Santa at the Pfister Hotel. Children will receive a special gift, make crafts, and write letters to Santa. This experience is only available on select dates (December 9, 10, 16, 17) so book early!
Catch a Holiday Performance
Need to get into the festive spirit this holiday season? Milwaukee hosts a few shows that will no doubt warm your hearts.
One of Milwaukee’s most well-known holiday shows and simply a holiday classic is the Milwaukee Ballet’s annual Christmas season performance of The Nutcracker December 8 – 26, 2023. 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 The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at the Todd Wehr Theatre November 24-December 24, 2023.
Celebrate an Old-Fashioned Christmas
Milwaukee is a winter wonderland filled with 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 Twilight Tour Thursday through Saturday, November 24 through December 30th.
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, on weekends during December, 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! Don’t miss Vanocka, North America’s largest Yule Goat!
Is there a Milwaukee Christmas event we missed? Does your business have updated information to share? Email [email protected] and tell us about it!
Find more Christmas events near you! Trekaroo has guides for dozens of cities across the country.
Updated for 2019 -2023 by Sharlene Earnshaw. A special thanks to Tina Jalowiec for contributing to the original version of this article.