MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Great holiday festivals

In November and December, check out Santa, Scrooge and shopping markets.

Santa arrives at Excelsior's Christkindlsmarkt.

© Beth Gauper

Santa's arrival kicks off the Christkindlmarkt weekend in Excelsior, Minn.

As soon as the leaves have fallen and cold winds start to blow, the holidays get under way. This is the season for craft fairs, theme feasts and Christmas parades.

Here are some of the best holiday festivals in 2019.

For tours of decorated mansions, see Homes for the holidays.

Third weekend in November

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn. Nov. 9–Jan. 1.

Christkindlmarket in 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.

Festive Friday Eves in 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. Nov. 15.

Christkindlmarket Milwaukee in Milwaukee, WI The Chicago Christkindlmarket expands with this open-air, German-style market in the plaza outside Fiserv Forum arena. Nov. 15–Dec. 24.

Art & Gift Fair in Madison, WI This event at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Overture Center features fine art, music, treats and the Rediscovered Art & Treasures Sale. Nov. 16–17.

Veterans Day Parade in Milwaukee, WI It's at 11 a.m., starting in Pere Marquette Park and following Kilbourn Avenue toward the lakefront. This year, it marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Nov. 16.

Pangea in Moorhead, MN Celebrate global cultures at the Hjemkomst Center, with folk dancing, storytelling, music and foods from seven countries. Children can pick up a passport to get stamped at booths. Nov. 16.

Fourth weekend in November

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn. Nov. 9–Jan. 1.

Christkindlmarket in 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 in Milwaukee, WI The Chicago Christkindlmarket expands with this open-air, German-style market in the plaza outside Fiserv Forum arena. Nov. 15–Dec. 24.

Holiday Lights Festival in 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. 21.

Fine Arts and Crafts Fair in 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 in 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. 22–23.

Holiday Folk Fair International in 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. 22–24.

Festive Friday Eves in 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. Nov. 22.

Outdoor Adventure Expo in Minneapolis, MN The expo at the Midwest Mountaineering store on the West Bank includes dozens of speakers and seminars about skiing, sled-dog racing and ice-climbing as well as camping, backpacking and other year-round adventures. Nov. 22–24.

Christkindlmarkt in 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. 22–23.

Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville in 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. 22–Dec. 24.

Christmas Light Parade in 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.

Bentleyville Tour of Lights in 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–Dec. 28.

Holiday Parade in Green Bay, WI The parade starts at 10 a.m. downtown, at Jefferson and Stuart streets. Nov. 23.

Holiday Kerstmarkt in 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.  Nov. 23.

Father Christmas at Old World Wisconsin.

© Beth Gauper

A Thomas Nast Santa awaits children at Old World Wisconsin.

Fifth weekend in November

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn. Nov. 9–Jan. 1.

Christkindlmarket in 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 in Milwaukee, WI The Chicago Christkindlmarket expands with this open-air, German-style market in the plaza outside Fiserv Forum arena. Nov. 15–Dec. 24.

Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville in 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. 22–Dec. 24.

Bentleyville Tour of Lights in 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–Dec. 28.

Downtown Appleton Christmas Parade in 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. 26.

Thanksgiving Parade in 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.

Lakeside Park Holiday Lights in 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. 28–Jan. 1.

World-Famous Fish House Parade in 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 in 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.

Christkindlsmarkt in 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–Dec. 1.

Christkindlmarkt in 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.

Festive Friday Eves in 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. Nov. 29.

Holiday Homecoming & Electric Parade in 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. 29–30.

Festival of Lights Parade in Crystal Lake, IL In this northwest suburb of Chicago, the holiday parade starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Nov. 29.

Holidazzle in 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.       Nov. 29–Dec. 1.

German Christmas Market in 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–Dec. 1.

Free Park Friday in 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.

Holiday Kerstmarkt in 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.  Nov. 29–30.

Free Day in Michigan State Parks in 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. Nov. 29.

A kiosk at Christkindlmarket.

© Beth Gauper

Chicago's Christkindlmarket draws crowds to Daley Plaza.

First weekend of December

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn. Nov. 9–Jan. 1.

Christkindlmarket in 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 in Milwaukee, WI The Chicago Christkindlmarket expands with this open-air, German-style market in the plaza outside Fiserv Forum arena. Nov. 15–Dec. 24.

Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville in 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. 22–Dec. 24.

Bentleyville Tour of Lights in 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–Dec. 28.

Lakeside Park Holiday Lights in 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. 28–Jan. 1.

Holiday Kerstmarkt in 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. 3.

Holidazzle in 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. 5–8.

Christmas in the Ward in 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.

Prelude to Christmas in 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.

Christmas Walk, House Tour & Steeple Walk in 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. 6–7.

Festive Friday Eves in 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. 6.

Dickens of a Christmas in 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 in Cambridge, WI Celebrate the season with hay rides, gingerbread-house building, a fat-tire bike ride and madrigal singers. Dec. 6–8.

Sinterklaas Eve in 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.

Julebyen in 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. 6–8.

European Christmas Market in St. Paul, MN This Christkindlmarkt in Union Depot features choirs, dancers, hot mulled wine, holiday beers, European-inspired food and artisan goods.   Dec. 6–8.

Christkindlmarket in 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. 6–8.

Fire & Ice Festival in 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. 6–7.

Norwegian Christmas Weekend in 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 in 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.

Sinterklaas Parade in 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 in 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.

Spirit of Christmas Past in 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.

An Old World Christmas in 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. 7–8.

Twinkle Party in 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 in 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.

Kenosha HarborHoliday in 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. 7–8.

Electric Christmas Parade in Lake Geneva, WI This lighted parade down Broad and Main streets starts at 5 p.m. Dec. 7.

Second weekend of December

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn. Nov. 9–Jan. 1.

Christkindlmarket in 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 in Milwaukee, WI The Chicago Christkindlmarket expands with this open-air, German-style market in the plaza outside Fiserv Forum arena. Nov. 15–Dec. 24.

Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville in 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. 22–Dec. 24.

Bentleyville Tour of Lights in 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–Dec. 28.

Lakeside Park Holiday Lights in 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. 28–Jan. 1.

Holidazzle in 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. 12–15.

Festive Friday Eves in 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.

European Christmas Market in St. Paul, MN This Christkindlmarkt in Union Depot features choirs, dancers, hot mulled wine, holiday beers, European-inspired food and artisan goods.   Dec. 13–15.

Holiday Kerstmarkt in 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. 13–14.

An Old World Christmas in 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. 14–15.

Burlington Ice Festival in Burlington, WI Ice carvers compete in Wehmhoff Square Park in the Wisconsin Ice Carving Competition. There will also be horse-drawn wagon rides, live reindeer, visits with Santa and bonfires with s'mores. Dec. 14.

Mrs. Claus at Bentleyville.

© Beth Gauper

Mrs. Claus dispenses holiday wisdom at Bentleyville in Duluth.

Third weekend in December

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn. Nov. 9–Jan. 1.

Christkindlmarket in 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 in Milwaukee, WI The Chicago Christkindlmarket expands with this open-air, German-style market in the plaza outside Fiserv Forum arena. Nov. 15–Dec. 24.

Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville in 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. 22–Dec. 24.

Bentleyville Tour of Lights in 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–Dec. 28.

Lakeside Park Holiday Lights in 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. 28–Jan. 1.

Holidazzle in 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. 19–22.

European Christmas Market in St. Paul, MN This Christkindlmarkt in Union Depot features choirs, dancers, hot mulled wine, holiday beers, European-inspired food and artisan goods.   Dec. 20–22.

Festive Friday Eves in 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. 20.

Fourth weekend in December

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn. Nov. 9–Jan. 1.

Bentleyville Tour of Lights in 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–Dec. 28.

Lakeside Park Holiday Lights in 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. 28–Jan. 1.

Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville in 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. 26–31.

A nutcracker in a holiday parade in Madison.

© Beth Gauper

Dozens of cities hold holiday parades with floats, helium balloons and marching bands.

New Year's Eve and Day

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn. Nov. 9–Jan. 1.

Lakeside Park Holiday Lights in 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. 28–Jan. 1.

Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville in 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. 26–31.

Cheese Drop in Plymouth, WI For the big Cheese Drop in this eastern Wisconsin town, an 80-pound lighted wedge of cheese is dropped 100 feet at 10 p.m. There will also be free live music, cheese wedges and a s'mores bar. Dec. 31.

New Year's Eve Ball Drop in 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 in 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. Dec. 31.

New Year's Day Parade in Egg Harbor, WI Welcome the new year with a 1 p.m. parade. Everyone is welcome to march. Jan. 1.

Cool Fool Kite Festival in Milwaukee, WI In addition to kite-flying, there will be ice sculptures, ice-carving lessons and free hot chocolate, coffee and snacks in the lakefront Veterans Park. Jan. 1.

First Day Hikes in State parks, IA To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Iowa state parks, 49 parks will hold guided First Day Hikes. Many also will offer hot drinks and snacks. Jan. 1.


Last updated on November 22, 2019