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11 free events for kids and families in December

Here are eleven free events for kids and families around Milwaukee this month!

1. Free Holiday Lights around Milwaukee

Check out Candy Cane Lane, Milwaukee Downtown Holiday Lights, the BMO Harris Holiday Display, Lights on Glen Cove, and Miller Coors Holiday Lites. Find out more here.

2. Christmas in the Ward

Friday, December 1st

Catalano Square

6:05 tree lighting ceremony

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Each Christmas, you’ll find a magical tree lighting in Catalano Square (which is actually a triangle shape – go figure), live reindeer, chestnuts roasting on an open fire (really!), horse drawn carriage rides, costumed characters, hot cocoa, and more. You can visit with Santa in Jolly’s Outdoor Gingerbread House, too.

3. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree at the Annual West Allis Christmas Parade

Tree Lighting at 4:00 p.m. in West Allis Centennial Park Plaza

76th and Greenfield Ave.Saturday, December 2, 2017 | 4:45 p.m.

Visit WebsiteThe West Allis Christmas Parade is an annual holiday tradition, and the only night-time Christmas parade in Southeast Wisconsin. Enjoy marching bands and live performers, creative floats and vintage vehicles, meet elves, cartoon characters, and of course, wave to Santa Claus himself at the end of the parade! This year’s theme is “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” a rollicking, rocking, rolling celebration of the season! The Parade will be marshaled at the 81st Street (Gate 2) State Fair Park entrance. The Parade will proceed east on Greenfield Avenue to 70th Street, then south to Orchard Avenue.

Christmas on the Avenue begins at 1:30 p.m. and features children and family activities, crafts, games and more. Festivities will conclude at 3:30 p.m. Christmas caroling and the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony will begin at 4:00 p.m. at the West Allis Centennial Park Plaza on 76th and Greenfield Avenue.

4. CP Holiday Train

December 2nd and 3rd

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​Don’t miss the festive lights and live excitement of the CP Holiday Train from Montreal, Quebec. Since 1999, the trains have raised more than $13 million and four million pounds of food for communities along its routes. The Holiday Train is about 1,000 feet in length with 14 brightly decorated rail cars.

Each car is decorated with hundreds of thousands of technology-leading LED lights and holiday designs. At each stop, after the illuminated train arrives and pulls to a safe stop in front of the crowd, the stage door lowers and the live music begins.

This year, fans will enjoy performances of holiday themed songs by Terri Clark, Dallas Smith and Kelly Prescott. There will also be a brief presentation with local food bank officials and dignitaries. Once the band plays its farewell song, the stage door closes, and the train heads off to the next stop. Each stop lasts about 30 minutes. Each event is completely free, and attendees are encouraged to bring monetary or healthy food bank donations to help alleviate hunger in their own local community.

Stops in Southeastern Wisconsin this year are:

Saturday, December 2nd

Sturtevant (9900 East Exploration Ct., Amtrak Depot) 5:25 p.m. – 6:05 p.m.

Milwaukee (433 West St. Paul Avenue, Amtrak Depot) 6:50 p.m.0 7:45 p.m.

Sunday, December 3rd

Wauwatosa (Harwood Avenue crossing) 4:15 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. ​

Hartland (Level Crossing at Cottonwood Avenue) 5:45 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Oconomowoc (South Main Street railway crossing) 6:55 p.m. – 7:25 p.m.

Watertown (Brandt Quirt Park parking lot (ball diamond), adjacent to track) 7:45 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

5. Gingerbread House Display (Free!)

Milwaukee Public Market

400 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI 53202

(414) 336-1111

December 1st – 13th

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Stop by the second floor of the Milwaukee Public Market from December 1st to December 13th and marvel at over 40 festive and intricate ginger bread houses created by MATC students. The public is encouraged to view and bid on the lovely houses. You can vote for your favorite, too! Proceeds from silent auctions for each house will be used to offer scholarships to students in baking and pastry arts programs through the MATC Foundation, Inc.

6. Holiday Fair at Boerner Botanical Gardens

Sunday, December 3rd

10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

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This December the Friends of Boerner offer you a chance to skip the holiday shopping mall madness and enjoy a relaxed morning with Santa, filled with gift ideas for your loved ones ranging from the quirky to the sublime. The event will feature Storytime with Santa Claus, Music with Gnorman the Gnome (folk musician David HB Drake), Unique, high quality gifts for sale from area artists and businesses, and Children’s crafts from the Friends of Boerner Botanical Gardens. The event takes place in the Education & Visitor Center and is open to the public. Zilli’s special holiday brunch will be available at regular price in the adjoining Garden Room. Brunch reservations can be made by calling 414-409-3959 or online at

7. Free admission to the Milwaukee Public Museum: Free on Thursday, December 7th for all visitors. Open 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. (Residents of Milwaukee County receive a $2.00 discount on general admission everyday with proof of residency.)

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8. Free admission to the Milwaukee Art Museum:

Free to all visitors on Thursday, December 7th from 10:00-8:00 for all visitors. Check out an art pack and explore the galleries, or visit the Kohl’s Art Generation Open Studio. The museum is always free for kids 12 and under!

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9. Free admission to Betty Brinn Children’s Museum:

Free to all visitors on Thursday, December 21st from 5:00-8:00 p.m. for Neighborhood Night. Join in for free admission, enjoy access to all of the Museum’s hands-on exhibits, and stop by the Be A Maker space to find tools, materials and techniques for endless ways to experiment and create. The Museum will celebrate the Muskego Way, Amani and Metcalfe Park neighborhoods in October, November and December with special entertainment and resource booths hosted by community agencies and organizations.

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10. Free admission to The Domes:

Escape the cold! Enjoy free admission to the Domes on Monday, December 4th, 11th, and 18th for Milwaukee County Residents with proof of residency. (Free admission does not apply on Monday, December 25th.)

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11. Family Free Day at the Milwaukee County Zoo:

All visitors receive free admission on Saturday, December 2nd but the parking fees stay in effect. Don’t let the cold scare you away. There are plenty of indoor exhibits!

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There’s more! All *starred events* on our calendar are free.

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