If you’re wanting a traditional Christmas experience, look no further than Wisconsin. From bustling Milwaukee to sleepy Janesville, this Midwestern state gets into the holiday spirit with fantastic light displays. Enjoy the beauty of the season by strolling through parks and downtown areas adorned in Christmas decorations and lights. Book a stay at one of many Wisconsin vacation rentals for an unforgettable getaway. Take a look at these areas boasting stunning holiday displays.
1. Holiday Lights Festival, Milwaukee
From mid-November through New Year’s Day, the Holiday Lights Festival illuminates downtown Milwaukee. The best way to see the spectacular city displays is aboard the warm, inexpensive Jingle Bus; as you ride, a guide provides a fun, festive commentary about each display. Watch out for the fantastic animatronic lighted symphony at the Shops of Grand Avenue and the 17 huge, glistening chandeliers that line Wisconsin Avenue. After your ride, stick around to see the rest of the Festival. Bring your little ones for hot cocoa and face-painting with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and be sure take family selfies in the Yule Lounge. Stay in one of Milwaukee’s downtown vacation rentals for easy access to ice skating at the Slice of Ice rink in Red Arrow Park, the decorated European Village Alive! at the Milwaukee Public Museum, and horse-drawn carriage rides at Annual Christmas in the Ward. For adults, the Christmas Twilight Tours at Pabst Mansion offer a stunning window into turn-of-the-century holiday glamour.
2. WPS Garden of Lights, Green Bay
Hop into a horse-drawn wagon for a magical tour through the WPS Garden of Lights at the Green Bay Botanical Garden. Hundreds of thousands of lights form a breathtaking icicle forest, oversized flowers, and a 60-foot lighted caterpillar. The paths are also easy to walk if you prefer to see the displays up close. Afterward, warm your hands by the campfire or grab a hot cocoa from the Winterberry Cafe. Santa is onsite to visit with your little ones, and the G-Gagers Train Club’s model train exhibit is a must-see for kids of all ages. If you’re ready for more illuminated fun, make the drive to Manitowoc, where Lincoln Park Zoo comes to life with lighted animal-themed exhibits. Stay warm in your car for the drive-through experience, and stop at Santa’s cabin for photos and holiday cookies. While you’re in Green Bay, look for rental properties near the Fox River for the best views.
3. Wisconsin Christmas Carnival of Lights, Caledonia
Drive through more than 1.5 million Christmas lights at the Wisconsin Christmas Carnival of Lights in Caledonia. From the illuminated tunnel to the elf-themed scenes, this overwhelming display is nothing short of delightful for everyone in the family. After your drive, stop by Santa’s Workshop to get a photo with Santa and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa. The event, which spreads over the Jellystone Park Camp-Resort, also offers rides an enormous 43-person sleigh. Admission is charged by the carload, and a portion of each fee goes to charity. Afterward, check out the nearby cities for an extra dose of Christmas cheer: two standouts include the Christmas Train at the East Troy Railroad Museum, and the Lighting the Way at La Salette light display in Twin Lakes. For the full Wisconsin experience, look for beautiful waterfront properties in nearby Racine.
4. Rotary Holiday Lights, La Crosse
Watch more than four million lights reflect off of the Mississippi River at Rotary Holiday Lights in La Crosse. This annual display, a Wisconsin favorite, takes place in the enormous Riverside Park. Immerse yourself in the experience by walking through the park; you can also drive or hop into a horse-drawn carriage. Look out for the animated trains and dragons, and don’t miss the 140-foot tree created entirely of lights. On weekends, the event features a live Nativity, and kids can visit with Santa until Christmas Eve. Be sure to bundle up, as the winds off of the river are chilling even when it’s not snowing. The park also offers an outdoor ice skating rink, Breakfast with Santa, and regular evening entertainment by La Crosse musicians. While you’re in town, check out the stunning Christmas displays in the Downtown Dazzle extravaganza; downtown vacation rentals place you in the middle of the magic.
5. Holiday Light Show, Janesville
The Rotary Botanical Gardens shine with thousands of sparkling lights during the annual Holiday Light Show. With its illuminated arches and tunnels, forests of pine trees, and glowing snow-covered paths, the event is pure magic. On select weekends, you can participate in special events such as Holiday Sweater Night and Wacky Winter Hat Night. After you explore the garden paths, take a photo in an antique sleigh, say hi to Santa, and pop into the Cottage Garden Gallery for a bit of shopping. It’s a good idea to park in nearby Dawson Field and enjoy a free shuttle service to the gardens, and you can skip the lines by buying tickets online in advance. Other local favorite events include holiday tours of the Lincoln-Tallman House and the annual Christmas production at the Janesville Performing Arts Center. Enjoy a peaceful getaway in one of Janesville’s vacation rentals; if you prefer a more urban location, Madison and Milwaukee are both an easy drive.
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