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Wisconsin Parent

10 Can't Miss Holiday Events In and Around Milwaukee!

Nov 19, 2014 08:42AM ● By Lissa Carlson

The air is crisp, the lights are lit, and new family traditions are just waiting for you to go out and make them.  For me, I love Christmas lights that fill the streets and watching children smile from ear to ear when they see them for the first time.

 With this holiday magic in mind, I put together this list of 10 Can't Miss Holiday Events In and Around Milwaukee.

For more information (including specific times) click the link in the title of each listing.


Milwaukee Holiday Light FestivalNovember 20

The Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival will have their ceremonial switch-flipping and it comes packed with live music, holiday entertainment, a visit from Santa, and a dynamic fireworks show. After the show, take in all the sights aboard the Jingle Bus, free on kick-off night. If you want to make the kickoff, be sure to arrive at Pere Marquette Park in downtown Milwaukee by 6:00 pm for the kick off.

whale lighting mpm

Lighting of the Whale at the Milwaukee Public MuseumNovember 28

Spend Black Friday at the Milwaukee Public Museum and witness a most unusual holiday tradition—the lighting of the massive humpback whale skeleton that hangs over the Grand Staircase. Free with paid admission to the museum (lighting happens at 11:30 am).

milwaukee holiday parade

Milwaukee Holiday ParadeNovember 22

From its start in 1927, the Milwaukee Holiday Parade remains a cherished holiday tradition featuring approximately 100 units including marching bands, floats, giant helium balloons, local personalities, costumed characters, live animals, specialty vehicles and, of course, Santa Claus!  Attendance for the parade is free and all are welcome.

 The parade route begins at 9:30 am on Kilbourn Avenue and Astor Street, continues west to Old World 3rd Street where it turns left and continues south to Wisconsin Avenue. The parade officially ends in front of The Shops of Grand Avenue on the corner of Old World 3rd Street and Wisconsin Avenue.

Johnson Controls volunteers will be collecting non-perishable food donations along the parade route to benefit Hunger Task Force’s Food for Families. Parade spectators are encouraged to donate generously, so look for the shopping carts.

Candy Cane Lane Logo

Candy Cane LaneNovember 28 through December 26 (6:00 pm - 9:00 pm on weekdays and from 5:00 -10:00 pm Saturday and Sunday)

Since its inception in 1984, Candy Cane Lane has grown to over 300 homes and the neighborhood program has raised more than $1.6 million to support childhood cancer research and research of related blood disorders. More than $85,000 was raised last year alone! Visitors come from far and away to drive or stroll through this winter wonderland of holiday sights and sounds. Please remember to bring a small cash donation.

 Candy Cane Lane is the neighborhood bordered by 96th Street on the west, 92nd Street on the east, Montana Avenue on the north, and Oklahoma Avenue on the south.

miller coors tours

MillerCoors “Holiday Lites”: First Three Fridays and Saturdays in December

Residents and visitors to the Milwaukee-area are invited to visit the Miller Valley and take the Miller Brewery Tour to experience this long-standing holiday tradition. While there, visitors will receive a free mini tour, including the Lite Show, one-of-a-kind Historic Miller Caves, and beer samples for those 21 and older. Holiday Lites will be the first three Fridays and Saturdays in December. Tours run every 20 minutes from 4:40 pm to 9:00 pm on those nights.

country christmas pewaukee 2014

Country Christmas Drive Through Light Display: November 27 - 30, then December 5 - 31

Country Christmas is celebrating its 19th year as Wisconsin’s largest and most spectacular drive-through holiday lights event! Country Christmas features over a million holiday lights festively displayed along a mile-long trail that winds through the woods. You’ll experience enchanting animated figures and holiday scenes—all from the comfort of your car. And when you’ve finished your trip through the trail, leave your vehicle behind and visit Christmas Village and The Streets of Bethlehem. Christmas Village is home to a spectacular, working model train display as well as a concession area to purchase refreshments.

The Streets of Bethlehem is where you will be amazed by the near life-size Fontanini nativity display, an exact replica of the one found at the Vatican. The event runs from November 27th-30th, then December 5th- 31st. Sunday through Thursday hours are from 5:00 -9:-00 pm and Saturday hours are from 5:00 pm- 10:00 pm.  Admission Prices are $15 per carload and $25 per limo, mini-coach, or large van.

german christmas market
The German Christmas Market of OconomowocThanksgiving Weekend The German Christmas Market of Oconomowoc is filling the Village Green in Downtown Oconomowoc with all things German. The park will be turned into a winter wonderland full of delights for all of your senses. There will be traditional German music filling the air and the smell of roasted candied nuts, and libations to delight your tongue. The vendor huts are a good place to cross off items on your Christmas shopping list.

sprecher soda santa

Soda with Santa at the  Sprecher BreweryNovember 30 and December 7 and 14

At this event you can go on a brewery tour, enjoy samples, and have your picture taken with Santa. Admission prices are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $3 for minors. US Military personnel with are free with a valid ID. Sprecher suggests arriving 45 minutes before your tour—tours offered on the hour from noon - 3:00 pm and reservations are required (make your reservations by calling 414.964.2739).

Red arrow

Red Arrow ParkOpening Mid December

Slice of Ice is a great outdoor ice skating rink located in downtown Milwaukee. Don’t forget that you can warm up at the Starbucks located within the park.  Did you know you can skate for FREE when you bring your own skates? Don't worry you always can rent skates too.

rudolph first stage

See Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer at First StageShow Opens November 28 and runs until December 28

This is a great opportunity for a family with children ages four and older to enjoy a theater performance.  From fleeing the Abominable Snow Monster to saving Christmas, join Rudolph and his friends, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius as their adventures teach us that what makes you different can be what makes you special. Don’t miss this wonderful holiday tradition that speaks to the little misfit in all of us.

Do you have a favorite holiday tradition? Leave a comment below.