The holiday season is a time of great contrast - gifts, celebrations, and gorgeous decor are balanced with an emphasis on serving those less fortunate than you and your loved ones.
Here are our favorite seasonal stops - many of which combine holiday fun with community giving.
Classic Milwaukee Christmas Events
Many Christmas traditions are handed down through generations. Do you remember visiting the Domes as a child, or admiring the lights downtown? Share the magic you grew up with via these Milwaukee holiday institutions.
- Downtown Lights And More: The Downtown Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival encompasses numerous events and decorated locations in the heart of the city. It kicks off with a tree lighting in Pere Marquette Park on Thursday November 19th, and runs through December 27th. Get a guided tour on the Jingle Bus for only $1, or enjoy numerous other special downtown activities, such as Cocoa with the Clauses on December 12th in Cathedral Square Park - bring a nonperishable food item to donate.
- BMO Harris Bank: From December 2nd through January 6th, the BMO Harris Bank lobby on Water street is taken over by an elaborate holiday display featuring more than 150 life-sized Steiff animals in Holiday Busy Town. This display is popular with younger children, and it free to visit. For every visitor, BMO Harris Bank donates $5 to Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin.
- Cheers To Christmas, Part 1: The Pabst Mansion is an incredible piece of Milwaukee History that is even more impressive once the decorations go up. The Mansion features a nationally recognized holiday display known as “A Grand Avenue Christmas.” Visitors can see the display on normal daytime, or special twilight tours.
- Cheers To Christmas, Part 2: Only in Milwaukee is it possible to have a full day of holiday activities based on...beer. After visiting the Pabst Mansion, head down to Miller Valley for the MillerCoors “Holiday Lites” show, where you can see 300,000 LED lights, synchronized to holiday music lighting up the Milwaukee Brewery.
- The Domes: The three indoor botanical gardens known as The Milwaukee Domes have been the best place to escape winter (without a plane ticket) since they opened in the 1960s. The 2015 Gingerbread Land Holiday Floral Show runs from November 21st through January 3rd.
- Hooray For The Holiday Train: The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will be coming through Wisconsin on December 4th and 5th, with a free musical performance, and a collection of healthy food donations for your local food pantry.
Holiday Events Closer to Home - For Kids and Adults
Looking for some holiday spirit a little closer to home? Whether you live north, south, or west of the city, there is festive fun to be found in your backyard. Here are our 2015 holiday event picks - outside of downtown Milwaukee.
- Ozaukee County: Want to get your furry friends into the holiday spirit (or just a funny sweater)? On Saturday December 5th, the Ozaukee Humane Society is offering pet photos with Santa for a $10 donation that benefits the shelter animals.
- Mequon: On Sunday December 6th, the City of Mequon Festivals Committee will be hosting Winter Wonderland of Mequon. This free holiday event features food and drink, holiday music, a tree lighting, and a visit from Santa and his live reindeer. If you need to add to your list, you can enjoy an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast with Santa at the Mequon American Legion hall on December 9th - a fundraiser for the Thiensville Fire Department.
- Cedarburg: The quaint town of Cedarburg has so many Christmas activities that they have an entire calendar. From Antique Trees to a Live Nativity to the Santa’s Dash Away 5K, Cedarburg has holiday events for everyone, with a special emphasis on history and art.
- West Allis: On November 27 through December 27th, more than 300 homes in West Allis transform into Candy Cane Lane. Since 1984, this neighborhood has collaborated in decorating their homes and asking for donations from visitors to benefit the MACC Fund – Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, Inc. This charity was chosen in honor of a neighborhood child diagnosed with cancer. There are now multiple special events in these festive blocks, so plan your visit accordingly.
- Oak Creek: On Sunday, November 29th, Santa will arrive in a fire truck for the Oak Creek Community Center Christmas Tree Lighting. There will be live entertainment, pictures with Santa, and a coloring contest for kids. Please bring a nonperishable food donation for the Salvation Army food pantry. The Community Center also hosts a craft fair, and multiple sessions of breakfast with Santa.
- Franklin: On December 6th, the Martin of Tours Roman Catholic Parish offers a craft fair, cookie walk, and breakfast with Santa. On Sunday December 7th, the Franklin Public Library will host a tree lighting ceremony, with Holiday Storytime and crafts, caroling, and a special visit from Santa.
- Greendale: On December 4th, the historic downtown area of Greendale hosts the annual “Dickens of a Christmas” Festival. With gorgeous decorations, old-fashioned treats, and costumed merchants, vintage holiday cheer is everywhere. Feel free to dress up, enjoy free horse-drawn carriage rides, and see a live performance of “A Christmas Carol.”
- Treats Around Town: Milwaukee Food and City Tours is offering numerous special sessions for the season. Check out the Christmas Lights and Desserts Tour, or the Christmas Around Milwaukee Bakery Tour, allowing you to sample seasonal snacks from French, Italian, Mexican, and American bakeries. You may discover a new treasure in your old neighborhood!
Whether you want to visit an old favorite, or sample something new, the Metro-Milwaukee area has no shortage of holiday fun, from stylish to sentimental. As the festive fun gets into full swing, we hope this list helped you to fill calendars with special events, for both kids and adults.
Do you have a special tradition or favorite holiday sight that we missed? Let us know!
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