The Most Festive Things to Do in Milwaukee This Holiday Season

“Bring on the cold and snow” isn’t exactly a common sentiment, but let’s face it: Without those things, ice skating would just be uncomfortable swimming, and the lights of Candy Cane Lane would just feel out of place. With that in mind, let’s embrace the winter weather and get out there to celebrate the holidays at Milwaukee’s merriest holiday events, ranging from a ride on the Jingle Bus to a hip-hop reimagining of The Nutcracker.

Go light-gazing at the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival

A half million Christmas lights will be lit all around downtown, including the official city Christmas tree outside City Hall. No word yet if the Bronze Fonz will be wearing a wreath or not.
Cost: Free

Take a ride on the Jingle Bus

If it's too chilly out, or you're just plain lazy, hop on the Jingle Bus as a way of seeing downtown's holiday lights without freezing to death. It departs from Grand Avenue, so no need to worry about parking.
Cost: $2

Celebrate the holidays like a beer baron at the Pabst Mansion

Tour the historic Pabst Mansion when it goes all out with glittering decorations on all three floors for Christmas, then be sure to stop at a bar and throw back a few PBRs -- it’s what Colonel Pabst would have wanted.
Cost: $12.50

Visit the Domes for the Naughty or Nice Holiday Floral Show

Just in time for the season, the show dome at the Horticultural Conservatory will be transformed into Santa's elves' workshop, with plenty of poinsettias and a Christmas tree (naturally). You can also pop into the tropical and desert domes to warm your bones for a few minutes as well.
Cost: $7

Drink beer at the 6th annual Black Friday Beerfest

Who needs crowded shopping malls when you can be drinking beer with a bunch of HOGs instead? Tickets to the Harley Museum’s recurring beerfest include unlimited beer samples and one food item (which you'll absolutely need).
Cost: $45+

Take a drive through Candy Cane Lane

This neighborhood has been going overboard with Christmas lights for decades, all to benefit the MACC Fund. Stay warm in your car while you drive slowly through the streets and take in the sights.
Cost: Free, but you should definitely make a donation

Get a head start on your Christmas shopping at the Urban Garage Sale

Sixty local artists, craftspeople, and makers will be exhibiting their wares at this popular sale, with everything from screen-printed tees to ceramic incense holders on offer.
Cost: $5 donation at the door

Revisit the ghost of Christmas past at 'A Christmas Carol'

Take your favorite Scrooge with you and scare them into embracing the holiday spirit -- or, just take your niece and nephew to experience a classic for the first time and get them out of your sister's hair.
Cost: $40-$129

Chug some gluhwein at Christkindlmarkt

Bundle up to do some more Christmas shopping from dozens of local vendors at this public market, plus listen to carolers, sip on hot mulled gluhwein, and hopefully avoid the snowflakes.
Cost: Free

Take in some winter fireworks at Christmas in the Ward

This two-day holiday celebration includes a Christmas tree lighting, live music and performances, horse-drawn carriage rides, a cookie bake sale, shopping specials, reindeer, and a rare winter fireworks show.
Cost: Free

Learn about European holiday traditions at the Milwaukee Public Museum

The European Village exhibit will come alive with costumed interpreters that are way more educational/less creepy than the mannequins inside the houses. Plus, the Streets of Old Milwaukee will be decked out for the holidays, too.
Cost: $18

Wave at the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train

This train decked out in Christmas lights only makes a quick stop for a performance from 6:50-7:45pm, so don't be late. If you are late, you can also race to watch it in Wauwatosa and other cities as the train heads out of town, too.
Cost: Free

Air your grievances at Festivus

Complete a one-mile Feats of Strength beer run, then grab some free beers. Winners of the Feats of Strength competitions will be awarded the coveted Festivus pole.
Cost: $35

Run with hundreds of santas in the Santa Hustle 5K

Nothing says Christmas like a St. Nick-themed footrace, right? You’ll get a Santa shirt, beard and hat, and (new this year) a pair of candy cane socks, plus candy, cookies, and Christmas music all along the route.
Cost: $50

Trip out at the Hip Hop 'Nutcracker'

Forget ballet; this version of the classic Nutcracker includes an on-stage DJ, electronic violinist, and totally reimagined music in a contemporary style.
Cost: $35.50-$65.50

Say hi to Santa at Cocoa with the Clauses

Sure, it's a free event geared towards kids who want to sit on Santa's lap, but consider this: There's also going to be free cookies, hot cocoa, and DJ Shawna spinning holiday sets. Maybe you’re not too old for Santa after all?
Cost: Free

Bar hop at the 12 Bars of Christmas

Grab your three most inebriated friends and join this bar hop that benefits Toys for Tots. You'll get a drinking mug good to use at 12 bars on Water and Old World Third Streets downtown, a lanyard, and a bar passport to keep track of where you’ve been.
Cost: $15

Practice your ice skating at Slice of Ice

Milwaukee's downtown public skating rink kicks off mid-December (weather permitting), and is a perfect spot to re-enact your favorite holiday romcom skating scene -- provided, of course, you’ve got someone to skate with.
Cost: $8 to rent skates

Laugh your butt off with the Harlem Globetrotters

Why is there a Harlem Globetrotters show in MKE every New Year's Eve? Nobody knows, but it’s an annual institution, and you don't have to be a kid to enjoy their antics.
Cost: $21-120

Dance the night away at Brew Years Eve

Swanky is the watchword at this NYE party with two floors of live music and DJs. Attendees get a four-hour open bar, an appetizer buffet, and the privilege of paying Uber's surge pricing at the end of the night.
Cost: $99-$119

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