Guide to what to do in Milwaukee in January, including best Milwaukee winter festivals and activities
Planning to visit Wisconsin for a winter break? As the state’s largest city, there are so many things to do in Milwaukee in January; making it one of the best times to explore the city!
Whether you love outdoor activities or want to explore the city’s brewery and culinary scene, there are various Milwaukee attractions in winter you can choose based on your preference.
Whichever type of traveler you are, Milwaukee has something for everyone! So, look no further if you’re not sure what to do in Milwaukee in January!
In this post, I have a round-up of fun things to do in Milwaukee in winter that you shouldn’t miss when you travel Wisconsin.
Psssst…!!?? You can’t get enough of Wisconsin? Have a look at my other posts:
- Where to stay in Milwaukee, WI [Ultimate Guide]
- Best Winter Resorts in Wisconsin
- Cool Weekend Trips in Wisconsin
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Table of Contents
Top resources to travel Wisconsin
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➳ Book vacation rentals in Wisconsin with VRBO
✔ Book tours in Wisconsin with Viator
☘ Get the best discounted outdoor gear (outlet) at REI.com
$ Get Wisconsin hiking guides and maps at REI.com
Overview: Top 3 Things to do in Milwaukee in January
- Go to Waukesha Janboree
- Join the Polar Bear Plunge at Bradford Beach
- Enjoy Outdoor Activities in Red Arrow Park
1. Go to Waukesha Janboree
Don’t miss Waukesha Janboree if you’re looking for fun winter events in Wisconsin.
At less than a 30-minute drive from Milwaukee, it’s one of the best day trips from Milwaukee during winter.
Held annually in January, Waukesha Janboree offers a wide range of activities that make it one of my favorite Milwaukee winter festivals.
Waukesha Janboree is a 10-day event in Wisconsin, which offers a lot of fun January things to do in Milwaukee with kids.
January is the month when the event commences, hence the name Janboree instead of the regular Jamboree.
You can watch the ice sculpting demo or do some outdoor activities like toboggan sliding and ice skating, definitely some of the top things to do in Milwaukee in January!
To top it all, there’s also the Aurora Borealis Laser Light Show which can be a fun way to spend your winter in Wisconsin!
2. Enjoy Outdoor Activities in Red Arrow Park
Heading to Milwaukee in January isn’t complete without participating in a classic winter activity in the city: ice skating in Red Arrow Park.
The park is Wisconsin’s equivalent to Rockefeller Center in New York, which will be transformed into an ice rink during winter.
Situated in the heart of Milwaukee, the park is the venue for Slice of Ice, one of the most popular Milwaukee winter activities.
Typically started in December, Slice of Ice in Red Arrow Park offers various things to do in Milwaukee in winter.
You can bring your own skate or rent a pair for the cheap to make the most of your outdoor activities in Milwaukee.
This is also great if you’re looking for fun romantic things to do in Milwaukee during the winter.
For visitors with mobility issues, there are ice sleds that you can enjoy for free, which makes it one of the most fun winter things to do in Milwaukee!
Ice skating is one of the top things to do in Wisconsin in winter, so don’t miss out!
3. Have Fun at the Cool Fool Kite and Ice Festival in Veterans Park
Cool Fool Kite and Ice Festival is one of the annual Milwaukee events in January that has been commencing for over three decades.
The event takes place on Milwaukee’s lakefront, where you can join in watching Jake the Kite Guy flying his gigantic kite as the highlight of the show.
Alternatively, you can also purchase your own kite and embrace the winter wind while flying it to make the most of the event!
If you’re into ice sculptures, Milwaukee is also a great place to display some of the most incredible designs during the Cool Fool Kite and Ice Festival in Veteran’s Park.
4. Join the Polar Bear Plunge at Bradford Beach
Not too far from Veteran’s Park, you can also have and join one of the most fun things to do in Milwaukee in January: Polar Bear Plunge around Lake Michigan!
When it comes to Milwaukee events, January has a lot of activities in their calendar with so many unique and fun traditions. Situated at Bradford Beach, Polar Bear Plunge is one of them!
Known as Polar Bear’s Jump, it’s an unofficial tradition for things to do in Milwaukee in January.
Despite the colder temperature, people in Milwaukee welcome the New Year by jumping into Lake Michigan as a symbol of starting over.
If you’re looking for truly unique winter getaways in Wisconsin, you have to try the Polar Bear Plunge.
5. Go on a Winter Wood Walks at Boerner Botanical Gardens
During the winter, Boerner Botanical Gardens hosts Winterfest annually which makes it one of the most popular Milwaukee winter festivals.
If you visit it before New Year, you’ll also get a chance to enjoy their Winter Wonders event to embrace the holidays.
However, Boerner Botanical Gardens can also be a great place to go if you’re looking for Milwaukee things to do in January.
You can join a guided Winter Wood Walks, where you can do some winter hikes while learning about the changing seasons and how they affect living creatures through the transitions!
6. Join a Milwaukee Brewery Tour
With nearly two centuries of brewing tradition, it’s no wonder Milwaukee is known as the “Brew City” in Wisconsin.
Whichever time of the year you come to Milwaukee, joining brewery tours in Milwaukee is a must!
If you’re looking for things to do in Wisconsin in January, head over to Milwaukee and join some of the best Milwaukee brewery tours, like Miller Brewing Company which has been in the business since 1855.
7. Escape the winter cold at Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory (the Dome)
Sipping on a glass of Wisconsin beer is not the only way to warm yourself up in the winter; you can also visit the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory around January in Milwaukee to escape the winter cold.
The Mitchell Park Domes are fascinating to admire if you’re an architecture enthusiast.
But on top of that, the indoor botanical gardens will also give you a chance to learn more about tropical flora, which requires warmer temperatures to escape the cold in January.
8. Explore the history of motorcycles at Harley-Davidson Museum
Apart from the brewery companies, Milwaukee is also home to one of America’s greatest manufacturers: Harley-Davidson.
Visiting the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee is a must, and you can visit it all year round.
Harley-Davidson Museum also hosts some seasonal events from time to time, so you can always check their calendar to ensure you won’t miss Milwaukee January events at the museum!
9. Explore Milwaukee’s Culinary Scene
If you’re looking for things to do in Milwaukee in January to support local businesses, the best way to do it is by exploring Milwaukee’s culinary scene while trying some comfort foods for the winter.
You can visit the Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market to get some fresh produce or baked goods to support the local businesses in the city.
From high-quality veggies to organic fruits and dairy products, you can visit Fondy Market every Saturday.
Looking to dine out? Milwaukee also has some unique cafes and restaurants to dine in during winter with their signature domes and igloos for a more intimate dining experience!
10. Visit the Milwaukee Public Museum and Milwaukee Art Museum
As two of the most-visited museums in Wisconsin, Milwaukee Public Museum and Milwaukee Art Museum are two popular spots to visit when traveling to Milwaukee in January.
The Milwaukee Public Museum not only has fascinating exhibitions about local history, but it also has several sections dedicated to the world’s nature and ancient civilizations.
If you’re on the lookout for some unique things to do in Milwaukee at night, you can also consider joining the MAM After Dark event at Milwaukee Art Museum.
January in Milwaukee offers a wide range of both indoor and outdoor activities.
Whether you want to embrace winter at the Slice of Ice skating rink in Red Arrow Park or warm up with a visit to local breweries, there are many fun things to do in Milwaukee in January!
Visiting Milwaukee in January also gives you a chance to attend some of the best annual events in the city, including the Winterfest and the Cool Fool Kite and Ice Festival.
FAQs About the Best Things to do in Milwaukee in January
What is the best month to visit Milwaukee in winter?
It really depends on what you want to do. If you want Christmas activities, then December is best. But January is also full of fun events and activities. If you just want to enjoy the snow and winter activities, then December, January or February will be great.
What are the best things to do in Milwaukee in January?
January in Milwaukee is full of fun activities and events. But a few of my favorites are the Waukesha Janboree, the Polar Bear Plunge at Bradford Beach and ice skating at Red Arrow park.
What is the coldest month in Milwaukee?
January is the coldest month in Milwaukee. The average high temperature in January is 28°F, while the average low is 16°F.
What to pack for your Fall or Winter trip
- Warm Clothing: Bring a heavy winter coat, gloves, scarf, hat, thermal socks, and layered clothing.
- Footwear: Wear waterproof and insulated boots with good traction.
- Snow Gear: Pack snow pants or insulated trousers and snowshoes or crampons.
- Winter Driving Essentials: Include an ice scraper, snow brush, and emergency car kit.
- Travel Documents: Don’t forget your passport/ID, travel insurance, itinerary, and maps.
- Electronics: Bring a portable charger and camera for capturing memories. I love my GoPro!
- Health and Safety: Carry prescription meds and a basic first-aid kit.
- Sunscreen is key! I always take with me my eco-friendly sunscreen by Thinksport.
- I always carry a light rain jacket, just in case.
- Travel insurance: If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel is protected against all odds with HeyMondo.
Want more fun things to do in Milwaukee in January? Check out our webstory.
Hola! I am Paulina, a fervent travelette who crossed the Atlantic Ocean by Boat HitchHiking. On my blog, I help you to make the most of your holiday. Get ready to enjoy outdoor and sustainable travel like hiking, cycling or sailing. Let’s hit the road!