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15 Fun Things to Do in Milwaukee in December

Guide to the best attractions and events in Milwaukee December has to offer for a fun festive season

Milwaukee is a popular tourist attraction throughout the warmer months, with visitors loving the opportunities to hike and camp in some of the US’ most stunning scenery.

Although December is usually too cold for such activities, there is still a range of fun things to do in Milwaukee in December!

Unfortunately, travelers often don’t actually realize that there is a range of events, attractions, and activities to enjoy during December in Milwaukee.

In many ways, the city comes alive in the winter with many stunning and romantic options, and I can’t think of many better ways to spend the festive period than a Christmas in Milwaukee.

In fact, winter is one of the most magical times to travel Wisconsin in general.

In this article, I’ve put together all the top things to do in Milwaukee in December so you can start planning your magical winter vacation.

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Overview: Top 3 Things to Do in Milwaukee in December

  • Santa’s Christmas Cavalcade
  • Watch A Christmas Carol
  • Skate at Red Arrow Park

1. Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival

events in Milwaukee December, View from the street of a large neon sign shaped like Santa Claus waving and smiling from his golden sleigh against a pitch black night sky

The best way to get into the spirit of a Milwaukee Christmas is to walk around the beautiful Milwaukee lights.

Running from mid-November to New Year’s Day, you will have plenty of opportunities to look at the animated sculptures, interactive displays, and twinkling lights that run throughout the downtown area.

Overall, more than half a million lights will be running from Cathedral Square to Zeidler Union Square to Pere Marquette Park.

Even if you have been to the lights festival when previously looking for things to do in Milwaukee in December, you have to go back this year because it is the 25th anniversary of the event.

You can expect to find an even more spectacular light show to kick off your Milwaukee Christmas than usual.

If you’re looking for unique outdoor activities in Milwaukee during winter, this a great option.

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2. Go on a Festive Christmas Brewery Tour

what to do in Milwaukee in winter, close up shot of two beers being clinked together by two hands with people in the background

The Wisconsin capital has a fantastic heritage for beer making. In fact, the baseball team has been named the Milwaukee Brewers in honor of this background.

Many of the city’s breweries host special Milwaukee Christmas events to help beer lovers celebrate the festive season.

One great example of a brewery that has learned into the Christmas spirit is the Miller Brewery, which decorates its premises with stunning Christmas lights.

Here, you can learn about the 165 years of brewing in the Miller Valley. Throughout the tour, you can warm your belly with some of the finest beers in the city.

It should be noted that a brewery tour probably isn’t the best of the things to do in Milwaukee in December if you have kids.

Although soft drinks are available on the Miller Brewery tour, the venue is not appropriate for strollers.

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3. Watch A Christmas Carol

Milwaukee events in December, Image showing artistic representation of fictional character Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol, seen here in a hat and scarf and holding a silver cane and a candle in a candle holder in the snow

A better option for Milwaukee December events if you have kids with you is the performance of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, performed annually by the Milwaukee Repertory.

This much-loved play has become a staple for Milwaukee in December, telling the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserable factory owner who hates Christmas.

He is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, who help him to fall in love with Christmas again.

While performed by a local outfit, this performance is far from amateur dramatics.

With cast members being named “extraordinary” by theatre reviewers like Broadway World, A Christmas Carol is one of the essential winter attractions in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The play is also a great option for things to do in Milwaukee in December because of how long the run is.

The Milwaukee Repertory perform the play countless times from the end of November until Christmas Eve.

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4. Have Breakfast with Santa

fun things to do in Milwaukee in December with kids, Smiling Santa Claus sitting in red chair next to a Christmas tree bedecked in red baubles and stars with electric lights behind him

Milwaukee events in December can also be a fun way to help important causes in the city.

As Christmas approaches, the Milwaukee Public Market raises money for the Penfield Children’s Center by hosting a breakfast with Santa.

This is a great opportunity for your kids to spend lots of time getting to know Santa, telling him about the presents they want and how good they have been that year.

Make sure to bring your camera with you so that you can capture every unforgettable moment as this is one of the most fun things to do in Milwaukee with kids during the holidays.

Furthermore, this event is very reasonably priced. Most kids can attend for just $15, while kids under three can go for free.

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5. Santa’s Christmas Cavalcade

Milwaukee Christmas activities for kids, Close up shot of a hessian bag stuffed full of presents wrapped in colorful paper and ribbons all resting on a wooden bench in front of a wooden wall

On December 11th, Santa and Mrs. Claus ride atop a vintage fire truck to bring Christmas cheer to the Milwaukee downtown area.

They are joined by Sarah Fierek, a local singer who will delight crowds with jazzed-up festive favorites.

Santa’s entourage leaves a great Milwaukee Christmas market, the Milwaukee Public Market and they tour the areas covered by the Christmas light festival.

You can catch them on a tour that passes all the best things to do in Milwaukee, WI, in December in the early evenings.

If you are struggling to find the entourage, simply look to the sky, which will indicate the start of one of the top winter events in Wisconsin.

The fire truck is closely followed by a pickup truck with powerful lights pointing to the stars.

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6. Skate at Red Arrow Park

fun things to do in Milwaukee in winter, feet of someone ice skating on clear, thick ice

As the most romantic time of year, there are lots of great date ideas in Milwaukee for your Christmas in the city.

The most fun of the things to do in Milwaukee in December for couples is certainly ice skating at Red Arrow Park.

Red Arrow Park is also perfect if you want to teach your partner how to ice skate. Several plastic penguins with handles are around the rink so they can learn to skate safely.

Red Arrow Park Skating is also one of the most affordable Milwaukee Christmas activities. It’s also one of my favorite things to do in Milwaukee in winter with kids.

It is free if you bring your own skates so you can go as much as you like.

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7. Holiday Pops with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

Milwaukee December events, conductor dramatically poised to begin conducting an orchestra with baton raised

There are some high-end things to do in Milwaukee at night during December, including the Holiday Pops concert with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

Running from December 14th to December 19th at the Bradley Symphony Center, you can hear Christmas classics and carols from conductor Byron Stripling.

Moreover, Holiday Pops is one of the truly interactive Milwaukee Christmas activities, with singing encouraged throughout.

On some nights, you can also use the Sound Bites chef’s table service, where music meets cuisine.

This service runs on selected Friday and Saturday evenings, and you must make sure that you book in advance.

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8. The Nutcracker with the Milwaukee Ballet

what to do in Milwaukee in December, Christmas nutcracker toy soldier and balerina dolls on the stage. Famous Russian Ballet installation.

Another top-quality show on my list of things to do in Milwaukee is the Milwaukee Ballet’s annual run of The Nutcracker.

This festive favorite tells the story of a young German girl and her dreams about a Nutcracker Prince who does battle against a Mouse King with seven heads.

The ballet emerged centuries ago from the German Christmas tradition of the nutcracker doll, which was said to be a protection against evil spirits.

The Milwaukee Ballet’s performance is the best interpretation of this classic in Milwaukee.

It has been reimagined by director Michael Pink with fresh choreography, awe-inspiring sets, and spell-binding costumes.

This performance is undeniably one of the most special and fun things to do in Milwaukee in December, especially if you have children.

It has been named “elegant, mesmerizing, and fun”, and “full of timeless childhood wonder” by reviewers.

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9. West Allis Farmers Market

best Milwaukee Christmas market, two people looking at Christmas ornaments at a market stall

For the last few years, the best Christmas market Milwaukee can offer has been the West Allis Farmers Market, which has held weekly markets since 1919.

They recently began their holiday shopping event named Chistkindlmarkt. Here, you can enjoy all the delights of a traditional German Christmas.

This includes German mulled wine, hot chocolate, and a range of locally made products.

Even if you can’t make it to Christkindlmarkt, West Allis Farmers Market is still amongst the best things to do in Milwaukee in December.

They are open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays and are a great opportunity to get stocked up on the best seasonal foods to fuel you for any of the Milwaukee December activities you choose.

Specialties include honey, maple syrup, and local eggs.

This is one of my favorite Christmas markets in Wisconsin and a must if you’re in Milwaukee in December!

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10. Christmas in the Ward

Milwaukee Christmas events, two people in winter clothes shopping at a market stall

The Historic Third Ward is the most artsy and trendy part of Milwaukee. It is the city’s finest place to enjoy art, shopping, and dining at the best restaurants.

This part of town still manages to hold on to its treasured history while also offering the best modern things to do.

The Historic Third Ward truly goes all out at Christmas to make the area unforgettably beautiful. The entire district is covered in stunning lights with a gigantic Christmas tree at the center.

The range of independent shops in the Historic Third Ward work hard to keep stocked so you can do all of your Christmas shopping without having to leave this part of town.

They also organize a range of outdoor, family-friendly holiday entertainment.

I can’t think of a better place than Christmas in the Ward for your children to meet Santa or have exciting encounters with Rudolf and the reindeer.

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11. Christmas at the Pabst Mansion

How to enjoy Christmas in Milwaukee, Close up shot of multicolored Christmas lights and cables in a large bundle

If you are looking for Milwaukee events in December that will make you feel like you are in a fairy tale, there is only one place to look: Pabst Mansion.

The mansion is a beautiful 19th-century estate that once housed some of the wealthiest people in Wisconsin.

Now, it is decorated for Christmas and the public is invited to explore from November 16th to January 16th.

I recommend you attend a Twighlight Tour. As the sun sets, you will be able to experience the Christmas lights and majesty of the mansion in all its glory.

Moreover, all tours are self-guided, so you can experience Pabst Mansion at your own pace.

Tickets are on sale now for Christmas at Pabst Mansion, which is one of the most popular things to do in Milwaukee in December. Make sure to pick them up today so you are not disappointed.

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12. Hip-Hop Nutcracker

Unique things to do in Milwaukee in December, Person in large cap and jeans jumping in the air and pausing dramatically in a dancing pose

If the classic Nutcracker isn’t for you, then you might love the revitalized Hip-Hop Nutcracker held at the Riverside Theater in early December.

The hip-hop legend Kurtis Blow has collaborated with 12 talented dancers to get a new take on Tchaikovsky’s classic.

Ballet fans might feel opposed to this kind of event, but it is clearly one of the most unique things to do in Milwaukee.

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13. Celebrate New Year’s Eve

attractions in Milwaukee Wisconsin, Large collection of brightly colored fireworks exploding in the dark night sky

When thinking about what to do in Milwaukee in December, a New Year’s Eve celebration has to be at the top of your list.

Luckily, Milwaukee has a great range of New Year’s Eve events held annually for whatever you enjoy. This includes ones aimed at families and heavier nights out for adults.

One of the most unique events is Run Into the New Year, which is held on New Year’s Eve morning. This is a running event in Estabrook Park, which is a great chance to detox before you start drinking.

Meanwhile, families can’t miss New Year’s at Noon Balloon Drop at Skyzone Trampoline Park.

The kids get to countdown to midday rather than midnight and can play with balloons on the trampolines.

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14. Afternoon Tea at Schuster Mansion

Enjoy Milwaukee in December, Close up shot of a tiered cake holder stacked with three plates ready for afternoon tea containing small sandwiches on the bottom level, scones with cream and jam on the middle level and cupcakes on the top level

You can combine a stay at one of the most romantic hotels in Milwaukee with afternoon tea at Schuster Mansion.

Schuster Mansion is a stunning Victorian B&B that allows you and your partner to go back in time inside lavishly decorated rooms.

I can’t think of a better setting to sit back and relax with afternoon tea, a traditional British afternoon meal including English breakfast tea, cake, sandwiches, scones, and more.

Schuster Mansion is the perfect spot to enjoy both winter getaways in Wisconsin and romantic getaways in Wisconsin year-round.

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15. Use Christmas to Promote Good Causes

December in Milwaukee events, Group of people conducting an organized protest in the street with one person holding a megaphone and others holding homemade cardboard signs with slogans written on them

Finally, Christmas is the time of year when you can make the world a better place. Some of the things to do in Milwaukee, December, give you this opportunity, including the Evening to Promote Racial Justice.

Held at the Marcus Center for Performing Arts, Michael Eric Dyson – Georgetown Professor and author of Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America – will give an address on the state of racial justice in America.

If you want to find more conscientious things to do in Wisconsin in winter, this is the perfect opportunity to use the festive period to think about how you can make your community a more equal place.

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The Wisconsin capital is certainly worth a visit at the end of the year, with there being plenty of events in Milwaukee in December to choose from. This includes options for families, adults, and couples.

When you are planning what to do in Milwaukee in winter, make sure to consult this list properly so you don’t miss out on any of the best options. I wish you a very merry Christmas in Milwaukee.

Short FAQ About Things to do in Milwaukee in December

Is Milwaukee worth visiting in winter?

Not only is Milwaukee worth visiting in the winter, but wintertime is one of the most magical times to experience the city. December is especially great if you are visiting with kids as there are many holiday events and activities they will love.

What is there to do in Milwaukee between Christmas and New Years?

Milwaukee has many great Christmas events, but many are early in December. The best things to do in Milwaukee between Christmas and New Years are ice skating at Arrow Park, enjoying afternoon tea at Schuster Mansion and wandering through the Historic Third Ward.

Does Milwaukee have a Christmas market?

You can enjoy the Christkindlmarket Milwaukee, and you can also check out the West Allis Farmers Market, which is right next door to Milwaukee and a quick drive away.

What to pack for your Fall or Winter trip