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  cover story - december 2014

Holiday Lights Festival brightens downtown

DOWNTOWN MILWAUKEE will beam brightly through Dec. 28 as part of the 16th Annual Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival. The award-winning six-week festival features hundreds of events, 500,000 lights and a convenient Jingle Bus tour that connects visitors to all the brilliant displays.

“The Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival conveniently packages all of downtown’s activities and events to help make the season a joyful one for all of our guests,” said Beth Weirick, CEO of Milwaukee Downtown, Business Improvement District #21, the organization responsible for coordinating the annual event. “Downtown’s light displays and plethora of lively events are sure to get families into the holiday spirit.”

Each season, the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival decorates three Milwaukee County parks with larger-than-life animated sculptures. For additional information on the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival, call 414-220-4700 or visit

Cathedral Square Park
Cathedral Square Park, 520 E. Wells St., again hosts “Community Spirit Park” as more than 60 metro Milwaukee schools adorn evergreens with handmade ornaments reflecting a class theme. The school trees surround a 50-foot tree of ever-changing red, blue and green lights. The display is presented by Columbia St. Mary’s, Madison Medical Affiliates, Ideal Property Management and Milwaukee County Parks.

Cocoa with the Clauses
Cathedral Square Park also hosts the North Pole’s most recognizable residents for Cocoa with the Clauses, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13.

Kids can share their wish lists while parents snap a keepsake photo. Free hot cocoa and cookies are part of the holiday fun, as well as free face painting, games and roving holiday characters. Meal deals just for kids also will be offered by neighboring restaurants. While Cocoa with the Clauses is free, a nonperishable food donation for Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin is encouraged. The event is presented by Madison Medical Affiliates.

Pere Marquette Park
Pere Marquette Park, 900 N. Plankinton Ave., features “Candy Cottage Forest,” a display presented by Zilber Property Group and Milwaukee County Parks.

Sure to satisfy any sweet tooth, visitors travel to an almost-edible wonderland filled with gingerbread men and candy canes. All can feast their eyes on sugary sculptures and a special gingerbread house!

Zeidler Union Square
Zeidler Union Square, 301 W. Michigan St., features “Frosty Frolics,” presented by We Energies and Milwaukee County Parks.

Kids of all ages will enjoy a stroll through twinkling sculptures of Jack and Jill Frost while they celebrate in the company of friends. Snow people juggle, skate and ski their way to outdoor fun.

Wisconsin Avenue chandeliers
Wisconsin Avenue, downtown Milwaukee’s grandest stretch, is beautifully lit by oversized chandeliers centered above each intersection, complete with bright swags extending to each corner. The custom-made chandeliers are installed at every intersection from James Lovell Street to the foot of Wisconsin Avenue, following the bend to Prospect Avenue.

Ride the Jingle Bus for great views
Visitors can gaze at downtown’s light displays aboard the convenient Jingle Bus. For $1 per person, this Coach USA bus takes visitors on a 40-minute tour throughout downtown. A friendly Public Service Ambassador is on board to acquaint riders with downtown attractions.

The Jingle Bus operates 6-9 p.m., Thursdays through Sundays, through Dec. 28. Rides begin at The Shops of Grand Avenue’s Center Court, 275 W. Wisconsin Ave., where the Festival Warming House is located. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis each night beginning at 5:30 p.m. Passengers also receive a $3 parking voucher at The Shops of Grand Avenue’s attached structure with their Jingle Bus ticket purchase. The voucher is valid until 10 p.m. on the night the tour is taken. Please note that the Jingle Bus will not operate on Christmas Day.

Waiting riders enjoy hot cocoa and cookies as well as the festive sounds of Leonard Bearstein and his symphony orchestra of bears, while coloring books are distributed to little ones. The tour is narrated by Milwaukee Downtown’s Public Service Ambassadors, who will acquaint riders with key attractions and landmarks.

About Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21
Milwaukee Downtown, Business Improvement District #21, is an organization established in 1998 to support the interests of the downtown Milwaukee business community. Created through private sector leadership, Milwaukee Downtown is a management district organization that oversees 120 square blocks representing approximately 400 property owners in the center of downtown Milwaukee. The organization funds specific initiatives aimed at creating a clean, safe and friendly downtown, including the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival.




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