Celebrate Thanksgiving in Wisconsin, which is home to a backdrop of colorful trees and shimmering Lake Michigan. Whether you’re shopping in downtown Madison or exploring the wilderness of Door County, the friendly Wisconsin locals will welcome you with a kind Midwestern spirit. Start your search for Wisconsin vacation rentals in these Thanksgiving-loving cities.

1. Madison

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Madison, one of Wisconsin’s top vacation destinations, takes Thanksgiving running to the next level; at the timed Madison Turkey Trot 5K, every finisher receives a medal and a piping hot cinnamon roll, and top finishers in each age group receive prizes. Afterward, enjoy a Thanksgiving brunch with a view of Lake Mendota at the Edgewater. The Essen Haus serves a traditional Thanksgiving dinner each year, complete with turkey you can carve at your table. On Saturday, take a free trolley ride past the Wisconsin State Capitol Building and check out local shops during the Downtown Holiday Open House.

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2. Milwaukee

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Milwaukee rings in the holiday season the Saturday before Thanksgiving with the annual Milwaukee Holiday Parade; head downtown to watch giant helium balloons, marching bands, and live animals parade through the city. On Thanksgiving morning, join local families at Miller Park for the annual Drumstick Dash, a 5K run/walk that benefits Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin. Mitchell Mall and The Shops of Grand Avenue offer great Black Friday deals, but for a true Milwaukee experience, wake up early at head to Lakefront Brewery. The line for the brewery’s limited-edition Black Friday Imperial Stout starts forming before sunrise, and local vendors are on hand to feed hungry beer lovers with hot cider, coffee, and breakfast burritos.

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3. Jacksonport

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It’s easy to feel like part of the community in tiny Jacksonport, where the whole town comes out for the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. Grab a cup of hot cocoa and watch the eclectic lineup of floats and marchers. If you want to get a workout in before the Thanksgiving feast, drive 10 minutes to Institute for the Door County Turkey Trot. Age-group winners in the 1-mile, 2-mile, and 4-mile events receive medals and frozen turkeys.

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4. Egg Harbor

Enjoy Thanksgiving dinner as you look over Lake Michigan from vacation rentals in beautiful Egg Harbor. Alternatively, let someone else do the cooking at local restaurants such as The Carrington Pub and Grill and The Log Den. Egg Harbor bursts into activity on Thanksgiving weekend with the annual Holly Days celebration. Take your little ones to have breakfast with Santa at the Landmark Resort, ride around town in a horse-drawn carriage, and participate in the community tree-lighting and carol singalong.

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5. Sister Bay

The small village of Sister Bay fills with people on Thanksgiving weekend for Capture the Spirit. On Friday, the entire downtown area glows with luminaries and lights, and residents gather to light the village Christmas tree; embrace the Thanksgiving spirit and bring gently used cold-weather clothing to donate to the Big Bundle Up charity drive. On Saturday, stop by the annual Friends of Gibraltar Arts and Crafts Show, meet Santa, participate in family holiday cookie decorating, and listen to carolers as they stroll through town.

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6. Eau Claire

Half Moon Lake near Eau Claire
Source: Flickr/Aaron Carlson

Start Thanksgiving Day with a 5-mile race with thousands of runners in Eau Claire, which hosts the Festival Foods Turkey Trot. The race, which also features a non-competitive 2-mile event, welcomes families, strollers, and even dogs, so you can bring the whole gang. If you’re not in the mood to cook after your run, head to the 29 Pines restaurant for a lavish Thanksgiving buffet. Get a head start on your holiday shopping at the Oakwood Mall, which starts its Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving evening.

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7. Green Bay

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The city of Green Bay rings in the holiday season for the entire week leading up to Thanksgiving. The weekend before Thanksgiving, bring the kids to watch the Green Bay Holiday Parade as it winds through downtown near the Brown County Courthouse. A few days later, head to nearby Appleton for the Downtown Appleton Christmas Parade, which features Wisconsin marching bands and floats, and ends with the arrival of Santa Claus. On Thanksgiving morning, burn off some extra calories the Festival Foods Turkey Trot, which offers both 5-mile and 2-mile events.

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8. Kenosha

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Pack your turkey hats and orange running gear for Kenosha’s 39th Annual Mayor’s Turkey Day Run, which draws nearly 1,000 participants each year — many in costume. The 2-mile and 10K courses offer beautiful views of Lake Michigan and local parks; stick around to win door prizes during the medal presentation. The day after Thanksgiving, head downtown for the City of Kenosha Tree Lighting, followed by free rides and live storytelling on the Lakefront Trolley. Later in the evening, the Lightin’ Up Downtown event brings roaming carolers, live musicians, and a visit from Santa.

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9. Oconomowoc

Put a German spin on your Thanksgiving weekend in Oconomowoc. The holiday starts off with The Great Gobble Wobble 5K, which features a flat, kid-friendly course. The next day, head to The German Christmas Market, which runs the whole holiday weekend. Under a canopy of lights in Village Green Park, sip a brew in the beer garden, dance the polka in the Holiday Party Tent, visit Santa, and shop for gifts in the market.

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