Holiday Day Trip to Downtown Milwaukee

There’s something so magical about city sidewalks dressed in holiday style. But for some, the traffic, parking, and expense of downtown Chicago can spoil the magic.  If your family’s got a hankering for seeing strings of street lights; but Chicago sounds like too much effort for you, why not set your sights northwards?

downtown milwaukee holidays

Milwaukee, Wisconsin is an easy drive up I-94 from Lake County, and their annual Holiday Lights Festival is in full swing.  These sights and events are sure to bring smile after smile!

The following are just a few of the family-friendly  (and incredibly affordable!) highlights that are worth making the trip for.  For a full calendar of events, visit

Jingle Bus – Now through December 29          
Thursdays – Sundays 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.
Shops of Grand Avenue – Center Court, 275 W. Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
$1 per person

See the downtown lights while riding in warmth! This narrated 40-minute tour acquaints riders with downtown landmarks and the most decorated holiday scenes.  All can enjoy free cookies and hot cocoa and kids receive a holiday coloring book. Remember the season and bring a nonperishable food item to donate to the Hunger Task Force. Rides are just $1 per person, purchase tickets from the mall’s Center Court. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis each night beginning at 5:30 pm. For more info click here or call Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 at 414.220.4700.  If you’d rather brave the elements for a self-guided light tour, click here for a listing of the best downtown holiday spectacles.

downtown milwaukee holidays

Cocoa with the Clauses
Saturday, December 14 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Cathedral Square Park – between Kilbourn Ave. & N. Jefferson St.

Bundle up to meet Santa & Mrs. Claus at this free outdoor event.  Indulge in free cocoa and cookies, face painting, reindeer games, and holiday music.  Bring your cameras to get shots of the kids with Santa, the elves, and other holiday characters.  As an added bonus, neighboring restaurants will offer meal deals just for kids so you can warm up with a hot meal afterwards.  Share your blessings by making a nonperishable food donation to Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin. Click here for more info or call 414.220.4700 ext. 5.

Pabst Mansion, Grand Avenue Christmas – Now through January 5, 2014
Monday – Saturday 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., Sunday Noon – 4:00 p.m.
Closed Christmas Day, December 24th & December 31st 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
2000 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Adults $9; Seniors/Students $8, Children 6 and up $5, Under 6 Free

The 19th century home of Captain Frederick Pabst (yes, as in Pabst Blue Ribbon) is on the National Register of Historic places and is open year-round to the public. But this historic mansion takes on another layer of charm during the holidays decked out in it’s full Christmas regalia.  A great excursion for grandparents and older children, but leave the little ones at home. Touching, food and drink, and photos are prohibited.  For a full listing of holiday events, click here.

downtown milwaukee holidays

Nutcracker Suite Holiday Show – Now through January 5th
Monday – Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Thursdays till 9:00 p.m., Weekends 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Christmas and New Year’s 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory –  524 S. Layton Blvd.
Adults $6.50, Children 6 and up $5, Under 6 Free

Affectionately known to locals as “The Domes,” The Mitchell Park Conservatory is composed of three bee-hive shaped glass domes that house a vivid diversity of plant life.  You can enjoy these botanical gardens year round in comfort, even when the weather outside is frightful.  During the holidays, the Nutcracker ballet is reinterpreted as a holiday floral show.  If you haven’t snapped your Christmas card photo yet, here’s a wonderful (and warm) spot to do so!  On Thursdays, enjoy extended hours for “Music Under the Glass” with live music and light shows at the break and following the concert.  For more information visit

 Slice of Ice in Red Arrow Park – Now through February 3rd (or as weather allows)
Hours vary, Click here for full info
920 N. Water St., Milwaukee
FREE when you bring your own skates, Adult Rental $8, Kids $7

After enjoying the downtown decorations, take the family for outdoor ice skating.  For wobbly or novice skaters, the rink is bordered by a railing so everyone can enjoy the ice and skate rental sizes go as small as toddler size 8.




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About Loralie 256 Articles
When Loralie isn’t out exploring with her two pint-sized adventurers you’ll often find her in front of her computer plotting to take over the world (or at least Lake County.) She appreciates good friends, good food, expensive shoes and parents who make two lanes in the drop-off/pick-up line at school. Her spirit animal is The Hobbit. She invites you to join her on her quest for unique distractions, diversions and deliciousness in this county we call home. She is the Features Editor and Marketing Director at Little Lake County.

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