MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Holiday festivals 2019


  • (Nov. 9 – Jan 1)Holiday Fantasy in Lights

    Madison, WI

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

  • (Nov. 15 – 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. 15 – Dec 24)Christkindlmarket Milwaukee

    Milwaukee, WI

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

  • (Nov. 21)Holiday Lights Festival

    Milwaukee, WI

    The season-long lights festival begins in Pere Marquette Park with performances by members of local orchestral, dance and theater companies, plus free cookies and hot chocolate. After fireworks, there will be free tours of downtown light displays on the Jingle Bus.

  • (Nov. 22 – 23)Fine Arts and Crafts Fair

    Menomonie, WI

    Thirty artisans sell their wares at the Mabel Tainter, an 1890 auditorium with an ornate interior decorated for the holidays. Downtown shops hold holiday open houses.

  • (Nov. 22 – 23)Magnificent Mile Lights Festival & Parade

    Chicago, IL

    There will be music and family activities on Michigan Avenue, with a 5:30 p.m. Saturday lighted parade from Oak Street to Wacker Drive, followed by fireworks over the Chicago River.

  • (Nov. 22 – 24)Holiday Folk Fair International

    West Allis, WI

    More than 50 ethnic groups present music, dance, food and crafts from around the world. At the Wisconsin State Fair Exposition Center.

  • (Nov. 22 – 23)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. 23)Christmas Light Parade

    Baraboo, WI

    The parade includes live reindeer, horses, marching bands and floats. See Santa at the Al Ringling Theatre afterward for photos and treats.

  • (Nov. 23 – Dec 28)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. 23)Holiday Parade

    Green Bay, WI

    The parade starts at 10 a.m. downtown, at Jefferson and Stuart streets.

  • (Nov. 26)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. 28)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. 28 – 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. 29)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. 29)Holiday Stroll

    Red Wing, MN

    This Mississippi River town offers horse-drawn wagon rides, music, crafts, fire dancing and street curling. There's a lighted parade at 7 p.m., followed by fireworks.

  • (Nov. 29 – Dec 1)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. 29 – 30)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. 29 – 30)Holiday Homecoming & Electric Parade

    St. Charles, IL

    There's Lighting of the Lights and music Friday and free horse-drawn sleigh rides, movies and Santa visits Saturday, with the Electric Christmas Parade at 5:30 p.m.

  • (Nov. 29)Festival of Lights Parade

    Crystal Lake, IL

    In this northwest suburb of Chicago, the holiday parade starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

  • (Nov. 29 – Dec 1)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. 29)Free Park Friday

    Every state park, MN

    Hike off Thanksgiving dinner with free admission to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas on Black Friday.

  • (Nov. 29)Free Day in Michigan State Parks

    All state parks, MI

    Enjoy the outdoors and avoid the shopping frenzy by visiting one of Michigan's 103 state parks and recreation areas, where entry will be free. Parking at trailheads also will be free.


  • (Dec. 6)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, and a cookie sale.

  • (Dec. 6 – 8)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.

  • (Dec. 6 – 8)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. 6 – 8)Cambridge Classic Christmas

    Cambridge, WI

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

  • (Dec. 6)Sinterklaas Eve

    Holland, MI

    In this Dutch town, St. Nicholas arrives on his white horse, surrounded by his Zwarte Piet helpers.

    Join a procession to the Kerstmarkt, then meet Sinterklaas, have treats and listen to carols.

  • (Dec. 6 – 8)Julebyen

    Knife River, MN

    This Norwegian Christmas market on Lake Superior, between Duluth and Two Harbors, features indoor and outdoor markets, music, children's activities, skating, Norwegian food and visits from Santa and elves.

    You can take the train from Duluth to Knife River and back for $15, $5 for children 3-12. It leaves the Depot at 9:30 a.m. both days. From Knife River, there's also a train to visit a grumpy troll in Troll Canyon, $10 for adults, free for one child 12 and under, $4 for each additional child.

  • (Dec. 6 – 7)Fire & Ice Festival

    Brodhead, WI

    This town between Monroe and Beloit celebrates with horse-drawn carriage rides, fire rings, ice sculptures, an arts-and-crafts show, luminaries and a lighted parade Friday.

  • (Dec. 6 – 8)Christkindlmarket

    Des Moines, IA

    This new Christmas market in Principal Park, on the river confluence downtown, features vendors and food plus many performances by bands, choirs, carolers, fiddlers and dance troupes.

  • (Dec. 7)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. 7)Grand Meander

    St. Paul, MN

    On Grand Avenue, lined by small shops and restaurants, there will be carolers, soup tasting, a petting zoo, a juried art fair at Ramsey Junior High and a trolley to get from place to place.

  • (Dec. 7)Spirit of Christmas Past

    Green Bay, WI

    At this large complex of frontier buildings, listen to choirs, make orange pomanders, learn 19th-century dances, visit with St. Nick and go on a horse-drawn wagon ride.

  • (Dec. 7)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. 7)Christkindl Festival

    Black River Falls, WI

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

  • (Dec. 7 – 8)An Old World Christmas

    Eagle, WI

    At this fun event at Old World Wisconsin, a complex of pioneer homesteads next to Kettle Moraine State Forest west of Milwaukee, you'll meet Father Christmas, stroll from historic houses to shops, sample ethnic foods and make old-fashioned crafts.

  • (Dec. 7)Twinkle Party

    Stillwater, MN

    Festivities include cookies, hot drinks and twinkle lights given to children. There will also be a tree-lighting ceremony, free trolley rides, caroling and fireworks.

  • (Dec. 7)Old Fashioned Christmas

    Delano, MN

    This small town west of Minneapolis offers an Old World Market with Krampus and St. Nikolaus, a children's train and holiday character hunt, Glühwein, live reindeer, music and a lighted parade.

  • (Dec. 7 – 8)Kenosha HarborHoliday

    Kenosha, WI

    Three events are on the harbor and free: HarborMarket, with 50 vendors in two heated tents; International Holiday Faire at the Public Museum, with gifts, crafts and food from around the world; and Victorian Christmas at the Civil War Museum, with living history, crafts and storytelling on Saturday and a live radio show of "A Christmas Carol'' on Sunday.

    An outdoor stage will feature live music, and there will be two hot-cocoa bars. Rides on the electric streetcars, with storytellers aboard, also will be free.

  • (Dec. 7)Electric Christmas Parade

    Lake Geneva, WI

    This lighted parade down Broad and Main streets starts at 5 p.m.

  • (Dec. 12 – 15)Holidazzle

    Minneapolis, MN

    The downtown holiday vendor village in Loring Park features free admission, with entertainment that includes fireworks, ice-skating, holiday movies and band and choir concerts.

    There also will be interactive lighted art installations, a heated Kids Zone with climbing wall, slides and maze, cooking and glass-blowing demos and the Fulton Beer Garden, with board games, music and drag-queen bingo.




  • (Dec. 13)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. 13 – 14)Holiday Kerstmarkt

    Holland, MI

    This open-air European Christmas Market at the Eighth Street Market Place includes 18 timber booths offering Dutch imports, folk art, hand-knit apparel and other gifts.

    Santa arrives Dec. 3 during the Parade of Lights. 

  • (Dec. 20 – 22)European Christmas Market

    St. Paul, MN

    This Christkindlmarkt in Union Depot features choirs, dancers, hot mulled wine, holiday beers, European-inspired food and artisan goods.


  • (Dec. 26 – 31)Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville

    Chicago, IL

    This North Side satellite of the Daley Plaza Christkindlmarket features ice-skating, wreath-making, music and Santa's Workshop as well as holiday vendors.



  • (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.

  • (Dec. 31)Madison Family Eve

    Madison, WI

    Kids have all the fun at this New Year's party: They can try circus arts as well as martial arts, and there's juggling, magic, LEGO robotics, a craft area and bounce houses. It's from 4-7:30 p.m. at Monona Terrace.