MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Holiday festivals 2018

November

  • (Nov. 18 – Jan 2)Holiday Fantasy in Lights

    Madison, WI

    The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn.


  • (Nov. 15)Holiday Lights Festival

    Milwaukee, WI

    The season-long lights festival begins with music, tree-lighting and hot chocolate in Red Arrow Park, then moves across the river to Pere Marquette Park for a family fashion show, variety show, fireworks and free tours on the Jingle Bus.


  • (Nov. 16 – 18)Christmas by the Bay

    Sturgeon Bay, WI

    Festivities start with a tree lighting Friday night. A parade is 10 a.m. Saturday, and there's free trolley and wagon rides plus visits with Santa and his reindeer.


  • (Nov. 16 – Dec 24)Christkindlmarket

    Chicago, IL

    This is the most authentic Old World Christmas market, with many German vendors who bring over toys, ornaments and sweets. There's a Children's Lantern Parade, appearances by the Christkind and entertainment most days. In Daley Plaza in the Loop.


  • (Nov. 16 – 18)Holiday Folk Fair International

    West Allis, WI

    More than 50 ethnic groups are represented with music, dance, food and crafts. At the Wisconsin State Fair Exposition Center.


  • (Nov. 16 – 17)Christkindlmarkt

    Kewaunee, WI

    This Lake Michigan town holds its Old World Christmas market in Lakehaven Hall, with a craft market, music and German food. On Friday, there's a holiday lights parade at 6:30 p.m.


  • (Nov. 17)Magnificent Mile Lights Festival & Parade

    Chicago, IL

    There will be music and family activities all day on Michigan Avenue, with a lighted parade from Oak Street to Wacker Drive, where fireworks over the Chicago River will follow.


  • (Nov. 17 – Dec 26)Bentleyville Tour of Lights

    Duluth, MN

    Tour the retro-cool lighted decorations in Bayfront Festival Park, including a tree that dances to music, Dinosaurland and Penguin Park. Visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus and enjoy popcorn, roasted marshmallows, cookies and hot chocolate. Everything is free, but bring one or more non-perishable food items (and/or cash) to donate.


  • (Nov. 17 – Dec 24)Christkindlmarket Milwaukee

    Milwaukee, WI

    The Chicago Christkindlmarket expands with this open-air, German-style market in the plaza outside Fiserve Forum arena.


  • (Nov. 20)Downtown Appleton Christmas Parade

    Appleton, WI

    Wisconsin's largest night-time Christmas parade starts at 6:30 p.m. at the corner of State Street and College Avenue.


  • (Nov. 22)Thanksgiving Parade

    Chicago, IL

    It's the 85th anniversary of the parade down State Street in the Loop. It starts at 8 a.m. at State and Congress and moves northward toward Randolph.


  • (Nov. 22 – Jan 1)Lakeside Park Holiday Lights

    Fond du Lac, WI

    This free light show on Lake Winnebago includes animated scenes and trees that dance to 20 minutes of music played on 87.9 FM (you can listen on your car radio).


  • (Nov. 23)World-Famous Fish House Parade

    Aitkin, MN

    The goofier the float, the better in this north-woods town, 12 miles from the north shore of Mille Lacs. There's music, food and a craft sale before and after the 1 p.m. parade.


  • (Nov. 23 – 25)Christkindlsmarkt

    Excelsior, MN

    In this Minneapolis suburb on Lake Minnetonka, choirs and bands play for shoppers at a traditional German open-air Christmas market.


  • (Nov. 23 – 24)Christkindlmarkt

    Monroe, WI

    The sale in Turner Hall is small, but this cheese-country capital still has one foot in the Old World. Homemade Swiss baked goods as well as folk arts will be offered.


  • (Nov. 23 – 24)Holly Days

    Egg Harbor, WI

    This Door County village offers horse-drawn wagon rides, a children's elf hunt and mistle dough contest and caroling.


  • (Nov. 23 – 25)German Christmas Market

    Oconomowoc, WI

    This downtown market features vendors in outdoor huts as well as tents for music, German food, gingerbread-decorating and a beer garden.


  • (Nov. 30 – Dec 1)Christmas in the Ward

    Milwaukee, WI

    Festivities in the rejuvenated Third Ward near downtown start with tree lighting and a performance by Trinity Irish Dancers, followed by  fireworks, carriage rides, carolers, reindeer, street entertainers and a cookie sale.


  • (Nov. 30 – Dec 2)Prelude to Christmas

    Amana, IA

    In this formerly communal village in eastern Iowa, visit the decorated Tannenbaum Forest, go on a cookie walk, buy at the craft bazaar, get free admission to the Amana Heritage Museum, visit reindeer and go on the Christmas Haus Tour.


  • (Nov. 30 – Dec 2)Cambridge Classic Christmas

    Cambridge, WI

    Celebrate the season with hay rides, gingerbread-house building, a fat-tire bike ride and madrigal singers.


December

  • (Dec. 1)Norwegian Christmas Weekend

    Decorah, IA

    In the northeast Iowa bluffs, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum will have Scandinavian food, theater, music, folk-art demonstrations, singing around the Jule tree and appearances by Julenisse and Julebukker.


  • (Dec. 1)Sinterklaas Parade

    Pella, IA

    In this Dutch town, the man in the red suit arrives in a wooden ship, wears a bishop's miter and has a Moorish servant as helper. A 10 a.m. parade is followed by a meet-and-greet at Scholte Church.


  • (Dec. 1)Christkindl Festival

    Black River Falls, WI

    A candlelight procession and tree lighting start this traditional German market fair. There's also live reindeer, a baby camel, horse-drawn wagon rides, music and a Christkindl Night of Lights Parade.


  • (Dec. 7 – 8)Christmas Walk, House Tour & Steeple Walk

    Geneva, IL

    In this northwest Illinois town, Santa Lucia arrives in a horse-drawn carriage on Friday and hands out Swedish cookies, then Santa lights the Great Tree and opens his Gingerbread House. There's shopping amid strolling carolers. A tour of five houses is Friday and Saturday, and a Steeple Walk of churches is on Sunday.


  • (Dec. 7 – 9)Dickens of a Christmas

    Ripon, WI

    This Victorian-themed festival includes Living Windows in downtown shops Friday evening, a Tour of Homes Saturday, wagon rides, an Enchanted Forest of decorated trees and a gingerbread-house contest.


  • (Dec. 13 – 24)Christkindlmarket

    Naperville, IL

    The Chicago Christkindlmarket has a satellite market at the historic Naperville Settlement, with visits from the Christkind, dance performances and a children's lantern parade on Kinder Tag.


  • (Dec. 14)Festive Friday Eves

    Cedarburg, WI

    Five Christmas celebrations, each with a different theme, at Cedar Creek Settlement, a restored 1864 woolen mill in this historic village just north of Milwaukee. Each features live holiday music, crafts, luminaries, wine-tasting and cookies and cider.


  • (Dec. 31)Cherry Ball Drop

    Traverse City, MI

    In this town on Grand Traverse Bay, there's music from 9 p.m., a visit from the Coast Guard and a large illuminated cherry dropping 115 feet at midnight.


  • (Dec. 31)New Year's Eve Ball Drop

    Ludington, MI

    The party in this Lake Michigan beach town includes music, dancing, a beer tent, a lighted ball drop and fireworks.