Your Guide to Milwaukee Downtown’s Holiday Lights Festival (2022)

Two girls sit in a giant Christmas ornament in Ziedler Square as part of Downtown Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival.

The Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival kicks off November 17th, 2022 and will run through January 1, 2023.

For 24 seasons, the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival has made spirits bright with its animated sculptures, interactive displays and twinkling street décor throughout downtown.

Coordinated by Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21, the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival is a Midwest tradition.

Visitors can take a stroll through magical scenes and over a half a million lights in Cathedral Square, Zeidler Union Square and Pere Marquette Park.

Or, hop on the jingle bus for a guided tour!

Here are some must-visit stops and events:


1. Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival Kickoff Extravaganza 

Thursday, November 17 | 6:30 PM WISN 12

Traditional Mexican dancers dance at the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival Kickoff Extravaganza

Downtown Milwaukee lights up with holiday spirit on November 17h as the 24th annual Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival begins.

The holiday show will feature performances by DJ Shawna, cast members of Black Nativity, the Dance Academy of Mexico, St. Michael’s Ukrainian Choir, and more.

Holiday of Lights 11/15/2018

There will also be a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, a fireworks display to close out the show, complimentary cocoa and cookies from DoubleTree by Hilton, and free Jingle Bus tours.

If you can’t make it downtown, you can watch it at home on WISN12 at 6:30 p.m.

2. The Bells of Milwaukee

Milwaukee is home to several bell tower, including the city’s oldest surviving bell, the Saint Ignatius at Convent Hill, and the 11th largest bell in the nation, the Solomon Juneau at Milwaukee’s City Hall.

The Bells of Milwaukee has led a midnight chorus of bells on New Years Eve each year. This year, they will ring in unison at the start of the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festivals on November 17th at 6:00 p.m. to recognize the beginning of the holiday season in our city.

3. Jingle Bus Tours

Advance Ticket Purchase Now Required
November 17 – December 30th | Thu-Sun | 6pm-9pm
The Avenue – 275 W. Wisconsin Avenue

Hop on the Jingle Bus to marvel at the winter wonderland scenes throughout downtown. It’s a 40 minute narrated tour that highlights the main attractions of the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival, including “Community Spirit Park” in Cathedral Square Park, “Santa’s Celebration Square powered by WE Energies” at Zeidler Union Square, and “Christmas Chalet” at Pere Marquette Park.

This year, Jingle Bus tickets are $5 per person and have to be purchased in advance at milwaukeeholidaylights.com. You can choose you tour dates and time, and there are options for Spanish tours.

The jingle bus will depart from the Warming House at The Avenue, located at 275 W. Wisconsin Avenue. Parking there is $3 for Jingle Bus riders (get your ticket validated at the Warming House.)

There will be free treats inside the Warming House, dozens of food vendors, and free activities likes shuffleboard, bags, Jenna, classic Nintendo video game, a Selfie Museum, and more.

4. “Santa’s Celebration Square powered by WE Energies” at Zeidler Union Square

Zeidler Union Square, Photo from Instagram, @olgaksenidi

This interactive park is a favorite among families. Take a selfie in the oversized chair or newly added sleigh, stand before the flickering fireplace, snap a photo in the Season’s Greetings frame, and say hello to Santa’s electric reindeer.

5. “Community Spirit Park” at Cathedral Square Park

Over 100 evergreens have sprung on the square! Wind your way through the forest of trees and pay close attention to each tree’s décor. More than 70 area schools and businesses are sharing their wish for the season with handmade ornaments and garlands.

Plus, check out the park’s Singing Tree, which blinks to singing, music and clapping in real time.

6. Santa’s Mailbox

Don’t miss Santa’s Mailbox in Cathedral Square Park from November 1 to December 12. Drop your child’s letter and wish list in the mailbox and you’ll receive a personalized reply from Sant himself. No postage required, but be sure to include your return address!

7. “Christmas Chalet” at Pere Marquette Park

Pere Marquette Park, Photo from Instagram, @yilicao

Pere Marquette Park has been transformed into Santa’s country getaway, with elves, reindeer, and flashing displays. Kiss under the mistletoe or wave to Santa as he cruises by on his tractor.

8. Slice of Ice Lights

Red Arrow Park will twinkle this year with new holiday decor, creating an enchanted holiday vibe at the Slice of Ice ice rink.

Bring your own ice skates and skate for free, or rent a pair at the warming house. Call ahead to confirm the season opening date.

9. Wisconsin Avenue – 6th Street to Prospect Avenue

Wisconsin Avenue, Photo from Instagram, @apurbabanerjee

Downtown Milwaukee’s main street is an elegant display of cascading chandeliers accented by ornamental sculptures on harp lamps. Stroll or cruise the Avenue and take in the decorated storefronts and iconic buildings basking in the glow of the season.

10. City of Milwaukee Christmas Tree Lighting

November 18th in the Cheer District at Fiserv Forum

Gaze upon the City’s beautifully lit tree in the new Cheer district and grab a family photo.

11. Annual BMO Holiday Display

November 28th – January 2
790 N. Water St.

Celebrate “50 Years of Holiday Magic” with BMO Harris Bank’s color window display stretching from Mason to Wells on Water Street.

12. Holidays with The Hop

Enjoy live holiday-themed music aboard the streetcar Saturday afternoons from 3-5 p.m. this holiday season, happening November 26th, December 3rd, December 10th, and December 17th.

There will be decorated stops, events taking place along the route, and the streetcar itself will be holiday-themed.


For more details about the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival, head to milwaukeedowotown.com.

Check out our full 2022 Holiday Guide for more festive fun.

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