Here are some of our top picks for the most unique and memorable activities for kids and families during the holiday season.
Deck the Streets of Old Milwaukee
Milwaukee Public Museum
November 17, 2018 - January 22, 2019
Experience the Streets of Old Milwaukee like never before as the turn-of-the-century exhibit transforms into a holiday wonderland. Peek into some of your favorite storefronts adorned in traditional seasonal flair, parade past exterior façades garnished with the Victorian-era touch (think wreaths, ribbons, garland, holly, bell pulls), and more!
CP Holiday Train
Thursday, December 6th & Friday, December 7th, 2018
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. 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:
Thursday, December 6th, 2018
9900 East Exploration Ct., Amtrak Depot
7:30 - 7:55 p.m.
433 West St. Paul Avenue, Amtrak Depot
8:45 - 9:15 p.m.
Friday, December 7th, 2018
Harwood Avenue crossing
4:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Level Crossing at Cottonwood Avenue
6:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
South Main Street railway crossing
6:55 p.m. - 7:25 p.m.
Brandt Quirt Park parking lot (ball diamond), adjacent to track
8:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Christmas in the Ward
Friday, November 30th from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Each Christmas, you’ll find a magical tree lighting in Catalano Square (which is actually a triangle shape - go figure), live reindeer with Mrs. Claus, actual chestnuts roasting on an open fire, horse drawn carriage rides, costumed characters, hot cocoa, and more. You can visit with Santa in Jolly’s Outdoor Gingerbread House, too. Plus, for the adults, don't miss their "cocoa cocktails"!
MATC Parade of Gingerbread Houses (Free!)
Milwaukee Public Market (400 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI 53202)
December 1st - 12th
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.
An Old World Christmas
Saturday, December 1, 2018 - Sunday, December 2, 2018 from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 8, 2018 - Sunday, December 9, 2018 from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
This year Old World Christmas is bigger than ever with more early immigrant homes welcoming guests, animals, shopping and more! Stroll through the bustling Yuletide Village and hear live holiday music, take your photo with Victorian Santa in his busy workshop, and climb onto a horse-drawn ride bedecked with jingle bells. Sample traditional sweets from our cozy kitchens, help prepare Vanocka (a traditional braided bread), and sip on hot cider and wassail. Don’t forget to be on the lookout for Krampus!
Don't forget to dress for the weather and avoid strollers if you can (they don't always work well on the snowy paths and inside small, old buildings).
Christmas Train in East Troy
East Troy Electric Railroad
Saturdays and Sundays, November 24 to December 16 and December 22
Price Adults $18.50; Kids 3-14 $16.00; Kids 0-2 $8.00
Take your family on a magical ride from the East Troy, Wis. depot to Santa's Workshop, where children visit Santa, enjoy cookies and hot chocolate, and take home a small gift. Trains depart at 9:00am, 10:30am, Noon, 1:30pm and 3:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays Nov. 25 to Dec. 17. Reservations are required.
Horse-drawn Sleigh Rides at Apple Holler ($$)
5006 S. Sylvania Ave., Sturtevant, WI 53177
The old-fashioned sleigh rides at Apple Holler take you and your family through the snow-covered orchards and 100-year-old hardwoods, while you enjoy the scenery and listen to the clopping of the Amish Haflinger horses pulling you. Aftwewards, you’ll enjoy s’mores around a campfire and a cup of hot cocoa or warm apple cider.
Horse-drawn Sleigh Rides at Paradise Ranch ($$$)
2408 Spring Hill Dr., Cedarburg, WI 53012
The sleigh rides at Paradise Ranch are pulled by majestic Percheron horses that take you through forty acres of woods that are decorated with twinkling Christmas lights. The sleigh holds up to 12 people. Afterwards, you can sit around the campfire with s’mores, or enjoy the heated, festive barn and a warm drink.
Cocoa with the Clauses (Free!)
Saturday, December 8th
11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Cathedral Square Park
The Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival is rolling out the red carpet. Straight from the North Pole, Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit Cathedral Square Park, 520 E. Wells St., on Saturday, Dec. 8 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. as part of the annual cocoa klatch, Cocoa with the Clauses.
The free outdoor event is a chance for kids to share their wish lists, and for moms and dads to snap a free keepsake photo provided they bring a camera. Free treats include hot cocoa, cookies and face painting.
Sundays with Santa at the North Point Lighthouse Museum
Sunday Dec. 9th and Sunday Dec 16th
Have your picture taken with Santa in his vintage maritime workshop.
Did you know that Santa uses lighthouses to find your house on Christmas Eve? In fact, he’ll be at The North Point Lighthouse Museum telling you about the legend of Christmas and all about the history of the North Point Lighthouse built in 1888.You can take your own photos with him in his vintage maritime workshop complete with classic toys and ships. The NPLH museum is located at 2650 N. Wahl Ave in Milwaukee’s historic Lake Park.
Admission is $8 for adults • $5 for adults age 65+ with ID • $5 for children age 5-11 • No charge for children age 4 and under. All active and retired Military are free with ID.
*Very Merry Milwaukee Picture with Santa (Free!)
Free to Attend, see exhibit, participate in activities. (Photos are $7 each or 2 or more are $5 each)
Saturday, December 2nd
10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Join us for a family favorite at the Milwaukee County Historical Society. All are welcome Sunday, December 2nd for a chance to see Santa and Mrs. Claus. Museum admission is complimentary. Get your picture taken with Santa, see the Historical Center decorated for the season and enjoy our “Milwaukee Holiday Treasures and Traditions” exhibit. Visitors can also listen to Mrs. Claus as she reads a holiday favorite, participate in a coloring activity or write a letter to Santa so he doesn’t forget any wishes! Cookies, Hot Chocolate, and Snowman Sundaes will be for sale at Mrs. Claus’ kitchen. Photos with Santa are $7 each (2 for $10) and proceeds support the museum.