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10 local holiday traditions and celebrations

‘Tis the season here in Milwaukee, and there are plenty of kid-friendly ways to celebrate the holidays locally. Some are new, and some are old, but be sure to mark your calendars for our top ten local holiday traditions and celebrations:

1.) Milwaukee Christmas Tree lighting

See the 102nd city/county Christmas tree illuminate for the first time of the season in Red Arrow Park on Thursday, November 19 at 5:00 p.m.

2.) Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival

This year’s kick-off in Pere Marquette Park will feature a switch-flipping ceremony, holiday music, warm holiday treats, a visit from Santa, and fireworks to end the evening.

3.) Santa’s Mailbox

Milwaukee has a direction connection to Santa and the North Pole starting November 20 – December 13. Drop your holiday wish list in Santa’s Mailbox presented by The Milwaukee Theatre. Santa’s helpers will collect these letters and ensure a personalized letter from the jolly old elf himself. No postage required. Just remember to include a return address!

4.) Milwaukee Holiday Parade

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! Live TV coverage on Fox 6. Park at The Shops of Grand Avenue and enjoy $3 parking.

5.) Gingerbread Land Holiday Show

Discover the Domes’ gingerbread winter paradise, including a house smothered in snowy frosting and adorned with candy canes and gum drops. Enjoying the festive atmosphere and photo opportunities among the vivid poinsettias and decked holiday tree.

6.) The Nutcracker

December 12-27, the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts brings E.T.A. Hoffman’s class story to life, giving the gifts of wonder and enchantment to ballet lovers of all ages. Children sit in awe of toys coming to life, the drama of the battle scene, the beauty of dancing flowers, and snowflakes whizzing across the stage.

7.) A Charlie Brown Christmas

First Stage presents “A Charlie Brown Christmas” November 27th – January 3rd. Join Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang to discover the true meaning of Christmas.

8.) BMO Harris Bank’s Annual Steiff Animal Holiday Display

This year’s theme is “Northern Lights: The Magical World of the Snow Queen” and runs from November 28th – January 2.


Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Weekends, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

9.) $1.00 Jingle Bus Rides

This 40-minute tour acquaints riders with downtown landmarks and the most decorated scenes. Hop aboard at the Warming House location in The Shops of Grand Avenue. Passengers will board and purchase tickets from the mall’s Center Court – 275 W. Wisconsin Avenue. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis each night beginning at 5:30pm.

While you’re waiting, enjoy a Shops of Grand Avenue holiday favorite, an 18-piece animatronic symphony orchestra of bears, holiday shops, and free cookies and hot apple cider compliments of Wild Flour Bakery. Kids will also receive a holiday coloring book.

Tours operate Thursdays through Sundays, November 20 through December 27 from 6pm to 8:20pm. Arrive early to reserve your seat!

Discounted parking is available for $3 in The Shops of Grand Avenue west parking garage until 10pm.

*Please note the Jingle Bus presented by Meijer will not operate on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Tours will depart from Pere Marquette Park on Thursday, Nov. 19 for the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival Kick-Off Extravaganza.

10. Kooky Cooky House at Discovery World

Visit Milwaukee’s legendary Kooky Cooky House this holiday season at Discovery World. Originally located at Capitol Court, the Kooky Cooky House exemplified Christmas for thousands of Milwaukee kids in the ‘60s, ‘70’s, and ‘80s. Enjoy the memories or create new ones for you and your family this holiday season!

The exhibit is free with General Admission, and opens Friday, November 27th.


Buy the perfect holiday gift for a Milwaukee area mom! “A Mom’s Guide to Milwaukee” now available on Amazon, through Paypal, or in local stores.

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