Free December Events & Activities in Milwaukee

What better time than the holidays to explore Milwaukee’s neighborhoods, museums and cultural attractions—with a seasonal twist? Bonus: there’s no fee to participate in the following activities, which only leaves room in your budget to experience more than one! Read on to learn about museum free days, holiday lights and author readings.

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    The Arts and Museums

    ••• Downtown Milwaukee skyline in winter. Visit Milwaukee

    Check out the new addition at the Milwaukee Art Museum which debuted in November of 2015, on the museum’s monthly free day, always the first Friday of the month. This month it's Friday, December 2. Normally admission is $17 for adults, $15 for students and free for kids 12 years of age and under. Current exhibits are "Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s" (through January 22, 2017) and "Nature and Opulence: The Art of Martin Johnson Heade" (through February 26, 2017).

    The Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, at 13th and Clybourn Streets, is always free. December exhibits include Gendron Jensen’s “Series on Resurrection in Nature” and “Religion and Neo-Medievalism in Roualt’s Miserere.” Both run through December 23. As part of “Kohl’s Thank You Thursday,” admission is waived at the Milwaukee Public Museum on the first Thursday of each month. In December that date is Thursday, December 1. Normally admission is $18 for adults and $12 for kids between...MORE the ages of five and 13.

    Literary fans will want to head to Boswell Books on the East Side for its active calendar of author visits and readings. Some are held at the store—such as Michael Lenehan (author of the memoir "Much Ado About Nothing: A Summer With A Repertory Theater Company") on Monday, December 5 at 7 p.m.—while others are at various places around town. This includes local historian Erika Janik (author of "Pistols and Petticoats: 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction") on Tuesday, December 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Milwaukee Public Library East Branch.

    Like foreign films? Alliance Francaise de Milwaukee in Shorewood is hosting the 2016-2017 French Film Seminar: Comédies Françaises. This means that every third Saturday of the month—in December that date is Saturday, December 17, and the film Le Père Noël est une ordure” (1982)—there is a free screening at 1 p.m., followed by a brief discussion. Light snacks are also served.

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    Holiday Lights & Celebrations

    ••• Holiday Lights Festival. Visit Milwaukee

    Hop into the car and cruise (slowly, of course) down Candy Cane Lane in West Allis—the area between 92nd and 96th streets, and Montana to Oklahoma Avenues. Official hours are 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, through Monday, December 26. Downtown Milwaukee's Holiday Lights Festival's lights are up until Sunday, January 1; experience them on foot after dark.

    Own an ugly Christmas sweater? Wear it—or donate any kind of sweater, to be sent to Kagel School—to downtown Milwaukee's Miller Time Pub & Grill and get a free pint of beer. Dates are Fridays in December: December 2, 9, 16 and 23, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

    Kids will like the opportunity to meet children’s author/illustrator Jan Brett when she signs her latest book, “Gingerbread Christmas,” on Sunday, December 4, at Centennial Hall in downtown Milwaukee. The event, sponsored by Boswell Book Company, is free and begins at 10 a.m.

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    Family-Friendly

    ••• Milwaukee County Zoo. Visit Milwaukee

    In December the “Family Free Day” at the Milwaukee County Zoo is Saturday, December 3, sponsored by North Shore Bank. Note that rates for parking still apply. Urban Ecology Center’s three locations offer free events and activities for kids, including Ojibwe Language Study Group (Monday, December 5 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Riverside Park) and Danza Prehispanica y Foclor, a form of Mexican drumming (Tuesday, December 6 from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Menomonee Valley, for children ages six and up). Animal feedings are on various dates, including Saturday, December 10 from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Menomonee Valley.