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 2021.

Before you go, check times and details.

Third weekend in November

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn. Nov. 13–Jan. 2.

Christmas by the Bay in 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. 19–21.

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, 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–Dec. 27.

Fourth weekend in November

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn. Nov. 13–Jan. 2.

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, 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–Dec. 27.

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. 25–Jan. 1.

Free Entrance Day to all Minnesota state parks in All state parks, MN Entrance to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas is free today. Nov. 26.

Holly Days in Egg Harbor, WI This Door County village offers horse-drawn wagon rides, a children's elf hunt and mistle dough contest and caroling. Nov. 26–27.

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. There will also be a magic show, reindeer, visits with the Christkind and Father Christmas and mugs of warm Glühwein.   Nov. 26–28.

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. 13–Jan. 2.

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, 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–Dec. 27.

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. 25–Jan. 1.

Christmas Walk and House Tour 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. Dec. 3–4.

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. There will also be a magic show, reindeer, visits with the Christkind and Father Christmas and mugs of warm Glühwein.   Dec. 3–5.

Second weekend of December

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn. Nov. 13–Jan. 2.

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, 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–Dec. 27.

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. 25–Jan. 1.

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. 13–Jan. 2.

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, 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–Dec. 27.

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. 25–Jan. 1.

Fourth weekend in December

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn. Nov. 13–Jan. 2.

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, 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–Dec. 27.

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. 25–Jan. 1.

Father Christmas at Old World Wisconsin.

© Beth Gauper

A Thomas Nast Santa awaits children at Old World Wisconsin.

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. 13–Jan. 2.

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. 25–Jan. 1.

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.


Last updated on April 16, 2021