MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Holiday festivals 2021


  • (Nov. 13 – Jan 3)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 – 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. 19 – 24)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 in advance.

  • (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 Parade

    Green Bay, WI

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

  • (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)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. 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 – 28)German Christmas Market

    Oconomowoc, WI

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

  • (Nov. 26)Parade of Lights

    New Ulm, MN

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

  • (Nov. 26 – 28)Chris Kringle Market

    Ottawa, IL

    This town on the Illinois River kicks off its downtown festival with a parade at 6 p.m. Nov. 26, followed by fireworks.

    Along with the market booths, there will be carriage rides, holiday movies at the Roxy Theater, crafts, a children's train, Santa's House and Christmas Around the World displays where children can get their passports stamped. 


  • (Nov. 26 – Dec 31)Rotary Lights

    La Crosse, WI

    In Riverside Park, see a holiday display of 3 million lights with music. It opens with a parade, and Santa and reindeer are there every night through Dec. 23, with a live Nativity some nights. There's also an ice rink with free use of skates, and free s'mores at fire pits.

    Donations of cash and/or food are requested.

    Carriage and helicopters rides also will be available.

  • (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)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. 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

    The open-air market in this Minneapolis suburb on Lake Minnetonka also includes concerts, balloon art, storytelling, reindeer, visits with the Christkind, mugs of warm Glühwein and children's lantern parades at 5 p.m. both Saturdays.


  • (Dec. 3 – 5)Dickens of a Christmas

    Ripon, WI

    This Victorian-themed festival includes a Tour of Homes Saturday, wagon rides, an Enchanted Forest of decorated trees and a gingerbread-house contest.

    A Holiday Parade will be Friday and Living Windows in downtown shops Saturday.

  • (Dec. 3)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. 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. 3 – 4)Country Christmas

    Spring Green, WI

    This arty town on the Wisconsin River, home to Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesen as well as House on the Rock, offers a lighted parade on Friday and an artist showcase, craft bazaar, cookie walk and fireworks on Saturday.

  • (Dec. 4)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. 4)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. The parade is at 10 a.m. 

  • (Dec. 4)Christkindl Festival

    Black River Falls, WI

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

  • (Dec. 4)Twinkle Party

    Stillwater, MN

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

  • (Dec. 4)Electric Christmas Parade

    Lake Geneva, WI

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

  • (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)Door County Christkindlmarkt

    Sister Bay, WI

    This market on the grounds of the Corner of the Past Museum, a recreated pioneer homestead south of town, features local vendors and artisans, live music, and German dishes served inside a large barn.

  • (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. 11)Frothbite Beer & Bites Festival

    La Crosse, WI

    This festival inside the La Crosse Center features cheese, sausage and craft beer from more than 40 breweries.

  • (Dec. 17 – 19)Holidazzle

    Minneapolis, MN

    This free holiday market in Loring Park, on the edge of downtown, is just one weekend this year. In addition to vendors and food, it will feature appearances by Santa and the illuminated Holidazzle Yeti, outdoor yoga, a carousel, Ferris wheel and giant slide and fireworks at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

  • (Dec. 18 – 19)Home for the Holidays

    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 (and possibly Krampus), sip wassail, listen to brass carols and take a horse-drawn wagon ride.

  • (Dec. 31)Cherry Ball Drop

    Traverse City, MI

    In this town on Grand Traverse Bay, there's music from 10:30 p.m., and a large illuminated cherry drops 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.

  • (Dec. 31)Pierogi Drop

    Whiting, IN

    This suburb of Chicago with Polish roots celebrates the new year by dropping a 10-foot illuminated pierogi, or filled dumpling, into a boiling cauldron at midnight. There will also be music and fireworks.

  • (Dec. 31)Cheese Drop

    Plymouth, WI

    At this family-friendly event at the Plymouth Arts Center, there will be live music, cheese-tasting, hot cocoa and a bonfire before an 80-pound lighted wedge of cheese is dropped 100 feet at 10 p.m. It's followed by more music and a champagne toast at midnight.