MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Holiday festivals 2021


  • (Nov. 13 – Jan 2)Holiday Fantasy in Lights

    Madison, WI

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

  • (Nov. 18 – Jan 1)Holiday Lights Festival

    Milwaukee, WI

    The season-long lights festival includes more than 500,000 lights throughout downtown's parks and streets.


  • (Nov. 19 – 21)Christmas by the Bay

    Sturgeon Bay, WI

    There's a car parade Friday evening, followed by tree light, caroling and horse-drawn wagon rides. On Saturday, there's a parade at 10 a.m.

  • (Nov. 19 – 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. 19 – 21)Virtual 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.

    This year, it will be online again.

  • (Nov. 19 – 20)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. 19 – Dec 24)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.



  • (Nov. 20)Magnificent Mile Lights Festival & Parade

    Chicago, IL

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

  • (Nov. 20)Christmas Light Parade

    Baraboo, WI

    The 6 p.m. parade includes live reindeer, horses, marching bands and floats. See Santa at the Al Ringling Theatre afterward for photos and treats.

  • (Nov. 20 – Dec 27)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, and visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

    There's free hot chocolate, cookies, popcorn and marshmallows to roast over fire pits. Bring cash or food to donate to food shelves.

  • (Nov. 20)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.


  • (Nov. 23)Downtown Appleton Christmas Parade

    Appleton, WI

    Wisconsin's largest night-time Christmas parade starts at 7 p.m. at the corner of State Street and College Avenue.


  • (Nov. 25)Thanksgiving Parade

    Chicago, IL

    It's the 86th anniversary of the parade down State Street in the Loop. It starts at 8 a.m. at State Street and Ida B. Wells Drive and moves northward toward Randolph.

  • (Nov. 25 – 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. 26)Holiday Stroll

    Red Wing, MN

    This Mississippi River town offers a window-display scavenger hunt, parade, wagon rides and Santa.

  • (Nov. 26 – 27)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. 26)Festival of Lights Parade

    Crystal Lake, IL

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


  • (Nov. 26)Parade of Lights

    New Ulm, MN

    The holiday parade downtown will be from 6 to 7 p.m.

  • (Nov. 27)Holiday Homecoming & Electric Parade

    St. Charles, IL

    There will be a kickoff to the Holiday Tree Trail, a window-decorating contest and the Electric Christmas Parade.


  • (Dec. 2 – 5)Christkindlmarket

    Des Moines, IA

    This 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. 3 – 5)Prelude to Christmas

    Amana, IA

    In this formerly communal village in eastern Iowa, visit the decorated Tannenbaum Forest, buy at the craft bazaar, go on a pickle hunt and listen to Santa stories.

  • (Dec. 3 – 4)Christmas Walk and House Tour

    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.

  • (Dec. 3 – 5)Christkindlsmarkt

    Excelsior, MN

    In this Minneapolis suburb on Lake Minnetonka, choirs and bands play for shoppers at a traditional German open-air Christmas market. There will also be a magic show, reindeer, visits with the Christkind and Father Christmas and mugs of warm Glühwein.


  • (Dec. 3 – 5)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. 3 – 4)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, a lighted parade Friday and frozen T-shirt, gingerbread, decorated-pet and Cindy Lou Who contests. 

  • (Dec. 4)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. 5)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. 10)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. 10 – 12)Christkindli Market

    New Glarus, WI

    This new outdoor market downtown features decorated mini-chalets, food and music. 

  • (Dec. 11)Night of the Luminaria

    Galena, IL

    More than 5,000 candle-lit luminaria line the streets of this historic town and 30 windows become animated.

  • (Dec. 26 – 30)ZooLights

    Chicago, IL

    The annual display of 2.5 million lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo is operating at limited capacity again this year and charging $5 per person. Tickets are free on Mondays and Tuesdays. Reserve starting in mid-October.