With its easygoing Midwestern vibe, Wisconsin is a cozy spot perfect for a Christmas getaway. This beautiful state has something for everyone, whether your perfect holiday includes Ripon’s rolling farm fields, Madison’s lakeside views, or Milwaukee’s excellent arts culture. Check out Wisconsin vacation rentals in these cities, which exude Christmas spirit and offer lots of holiday festivities every December.
Lively and beautiful, lakefront Madison brings a hometown feeling to the Christmas season. The holidays here revolve around the beautiful, walkable city center. If you’re staying at downtown vacation rentals, there’s almost no need to drive to experience the city’s favorite traditions. Head to the rotunda in the Wisconsin State Capitol Building to see the official Wisconsin Christmas tree, which is decorated with ornaments from schools around the state. On Saturdays in December, ride the holiday trolley, and keep an eye out for groups of carolers downtown. At the Fair Trade Holiday Festival at the Monona Terrace, shop for locally made goods and visit Santa. Christmas lights galore line the paths at Henry Vilas Zoo during Zoo Lights, and local families flock to A Madison Symphony Christmas for an evening of festive music.
Wisconsin’s largest city, Milwaukee, brims with fun Christmas activities. Start with the Holiday Lights Festival, which brings a holiday variety show, millions of lights, and Cocoa with the Clauses to downtown. Hop on the inexpensive Jingle Bus to tour the city’s most elaborate light displays. In the Historic Third Ward, the Christmas in the Ward weekend features a tree-lighting ceremony, fireworks, live reindeer, and visits with Santa. Other local holiday traditions include ice skating on the Slice of Ice outdoor rink at Red Arrow Park, the Milwaukee Ballet’s performance of “The Nutcracker,” and the Milwaukee Holiday Parade.
Wrap yourself in small-town Christmas spirit in Cedarburg, on the stunning shores of Lake Michigan. Each weekend before Christmas, the historic limestone buildings downtown come to life with dramatically decorated windows and the themed Five Festive Friday Eves. Stop into Santa’s Cedarburg Workshop for a photo, and browse the Holiday Art Fair to find one-of-kind-pieces from Wisconsin artists. For an old-fashioned Christmas treat, head to Paradise Ranch to take an evening horse-drawn sleigh ride through a snow-covered forest. As the sleigh bells jingle softly, sit back and look for the lights that adorn trees along the route.
4. Wisconsin Dells
Wisconsin Dells is one of Wisconsin’s most popular summer vacation destinations; in December, this small city turns into a family-friendly winter wonderland. Try snow tubing at the Christmas Mountain Village, or head to the indoor water parks at Mt. Olympus and the Wilderness Resort. For more winter fun, go ice skating at the Poppy Waterman Arena or skiing at Cascade Mountain. Fill up on treats at the Christmas Cookie Walk. If you don’t feel like cooking on December 25th, the Trappers Turn Christmas buffet is a veritable feast.
5. Chippewa Falls
The small town of Chippewa Falls pulls out all of the stops during the holidays. The Christmas season starts after Thanksgiving with the Bridge to Wonderland Parade, but the town’s true masterpiece is Christmas Village in Irvine Park. Explore life-size Victorian Christmas scenes in the glow of hundreds of thousands of lights; be sure to bundle up, and indulge in a cup of hot cocoa during the walk. Dress up in your red and green running gear for the Run for the Lights 5K. Bring the kids for a visit to Santa’s house, and take romantic horse-drawn carriage rides through downtown. The Christmas Carol Singalong at the Heyde Center is a favorite local family tradition, when local choirs lead the crowd in beloved carols.
Tiny Cambridge overflows with Christmas cheer every December. Visitors come from miles around to the Cambridge Classic Christmas, a multi-day event that takes over the town. Take a free ride on a horse-drawn wagon to meet Santa, and stay for the holiday-themed kids’ games. At Lake Ripley Park, drive through spectacular holiday light display; the park is particularly stunning when the snow falls. In town, the adorable Victorian buildings bloom with decorations, and strolling madrigal singers create a charming old-world atmosphere. Other favorite local events include the CAP Breakfast with Santa and the Singing Christmas Tree Concert.
Tucked into the rolling hills of southern Wisconsin, Ripon offers a down-home Christmas. The downtown buzzes with activity during the Dickens of a Christmas Weekend, when actors bring scenes from “A Christmas Carol” to life. Snack on roasted chestnuts while you enjoy living window displays and wander through a grove of decorated trees in the Enchanted Forest. Little ones love Breakfast With Santa, and adults can marvel at the spectacular decorations on the annual Tour of Homes. Vacation rentals in Ripon also allow easy access to the Christmas in the Village event, the Ripon College Orchestra’s Christmas concert, and outdoor ice skating at Village Green.
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