Holiday Lights Festival

December, 2017

Downtown Milwaukee beams brightly through Jan. 1 as part of the 19th Annual Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival. In addition to the themed displays in three downtown parks, stunning chandelier-sculptures that glisten both day and night are suspended above 17 downtown intersections.

 “The Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival packages all of downtown’s activities and events to help make the season a joyful one for all,” 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.”

Cocoa with the Clauses

Straight from the North Pole, Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit Cathedral Square Park, 520 E. Wells St., on Saturday, Dec. 9 from 11am to 2pm as part of Cocoa with the Clauses. The free outdoor event is a chance for kids to share their wish lists with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and for moms and dads to snap a free keepsake photo (provided they bring a camera).

     The fun includes elves and other holiday characters plus DJ Shawna spinning holiday hits. Free treats include hot cocoa, cookies, face painting and popcorn provided by Ideal Property Management, Inc.

     A nonperishable food donation for Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin is encouraged. Also that Saturday, several restaurants near Cathedral Square Park offer kid-friendly menus.

Santa’s Mailbox

Letters for Santa are being collected through Dec. 10 at Santa’s Mailbox at Cathedral Square Park. With an included return address, Santa and his extra special helpers will send a personalized reply in the mail. Holiday spirit delivers the letters to Santa and the replies – no postage required. The letters program is presented by Interfaith Older Adult Programs, Inc.

The Jingle Bus

Presented by Meijer, the Jingle Bus operates 6pm-8:20pm, Thursday through Sunday, through Dec. 30.

     The 40-minute tour is narrated by Milwaukee Downtown’s Public Service Ambassadors. Rides are $2 per person and depart from The Shops of Grand Avenue’s Center Court, 3rd Street and Wisconsin Avenue, 275 W. Wisconsin Ave., where the Festival Warming House is located.

     Enjoy complimentary Happy Dough Lucky mini donuts and punch. On request, there are $3 parking vouchers for the attached structure.  The Jingle Bus will not operate on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Wishlist MKE

Through Jan. 1, five online retailers add a new twist to window shopping by activating vacant storefronts with a virtual shopping experience.

     Retailers and locations are The Mini Classy and Linda Marcus Design, 205 E. Wisconsin Ave.; Fyxation Bicycle Company, 135 W. Wells St.; Wander & Co., 759 N. Milwaukee St. and Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival Ornament Collection, 759 N. Water St. All five storefronts are located in spaces available for lease.


Each season, the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival decorates these parks with larger-than-life animated sculptures.

Community Spirit Park

Cathedral Square Park,

520 E. Wells St.

Area schools and nonprofits have embellished more than 85 trees with different themes. Handmade ornaments represent each group’s wish for the season. (This year's participants and tree themes are at Presented by Ideal Property Management, Inc. and Milwaukee County Parks.

Santa’s Polar Palace

Pere Marquette Park,

900 N. Plankinton Ave.

Santa’s elves have left out some presents and gifts for a beautiful holiday display. Amid it all stands Santa’s spectacular towering castle. New this year is Ideal Property Management’s magical tree lot, where Christmas trees are available for purchase through Dec. 24.

Presented by Zilber Property Group and Milwaukee County Parks.

Downtown’s Yule Lounge

Zeidler Union Square,

301 W. Michigan St.

At this outdoor living room, visitors can take a selfie in the giant picture frame or have a seat in the oversized chair by the fireplace. (For a chance to win a prize, photos can be posted at using #MKEholidaylights.)

Presented by We Energies Foundation and Milwaukee County Parks.

For additional information on the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival, call 414-220-4700 or visit

Milwaukee Downtown, Business Improvement District #21 is the organization responsible for the procurement, installment and maintenance of these decorations. The organization was 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.