Free January 2017 Events & Activities in Milwaukee

Visit Milwaukee
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Arts & Culture

Carrie Trousil

Four times a year, Historic Third Ward galleries, boutiques and other businesses participate in Gallery Night & Day. (The Third Ward is just south of downtown, east of Water Street.) In January, the event—which costs nothing, and sometimes includes free drinks, snacks and live music at various venues—will be on Friday, January 20, 2017, in the evening and during the day on Saturday, January 21, 2017. Another arts venue—the Milwaukee Art Museum, on the Lake Michigan shoreline just east of downtown—waives its $17 admission on the first Friday of the month.

The first Thursday of the month is always free at the Milwaukee Public Museum; in January that date is Thursday, January 5. Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Normal admission price is $18 for adults, and $12 for youth ages five to 13. Friday, January 9 is one of six free days at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Admission is normally $8.75-$14.25, depending on the season.

Another attraction that is free on select days is the Mitchell Park Domes on Milwaukee’s South Side, from 9 a.m. to noon every Monday. In January those dates are January 9, 16, 23 and 30 (major holidays, including New Year’s Day are excluded). A $7 admission is normally charged.

In Riverwest, Woodland Pattern Book Center hosts no-cost author readings in January, including on Sunday, January 8, 2017, readings by Steven Toussaint and John Tipton. Both are poets; the event starts at 2 p.m. The center hosts two other events in January: celebrating new releases by poets Sylvia Cavanaugh and Ed Block on January 18, 2017, at 7 p.m.; and a book-release party for Alan Bernheimer (he recently translated Philippe Soupault’s “Lost Profiles: Memoirs of Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism”) on Wednesday, January 25, 2017, at 7 p.m.

Kick off the New Year on a soulful, mind-body note by dropping by Yama Yoga—a Third Ward yoga studio—on Sunday, January 1, 2017. This is when a free New Year’s Day Yoga Celebration will take place, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. A 2.5-hour asana practice at 10 a.m. (accompanied by music) is followed a potluck feast at 1 p.m.

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Visit Milwaukee

Normally in Wisconsin you need a fishing license to fish, but on Saturday, January 21, and Sunday, January 22, 2017, there is no cost as part of Free Fishing Weekend. A free fishing event will be in Dousman, at Ottawa Lake Campground, on January 22 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Are you a survivor when it comes to the winter temps? Then head to Bradford Beach on Milwaukee's East Side for the annual Polar Bear Plunge, on January 1, 2017, at noon. You can choose to run into the water in your swimsuit (just be sure to have a towel and sweatshirt on land for when you emerge), or marvel at all the others who participate in this quirky New Years Day tradition.

Ice skating at Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee is free if you bring your own skates--just $3 if you need to rent a pair.

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Live Music

Potawatomi Hotel & Casino

Potawatomi Hotel & Casino often hosts concerts that don’t carry a cover charge. In January there are options spanning country, acoustic and rock, including The Acoustix on Saturday, January 7, 2017, at 9 p.m. in Bar 360; and Logan Brill on Thursday, January 19 at 8:30 p.m. in the Fire Pit’s side bar (with two more shows by Logan Brill on Friday, January 20, 2017, also at 9:30 p.m.; and Saturday, January 21, 2017, at 10:30 p.m.). And, Dave Wacker Duo plays on Thursday, January 26, 2017, at 8 p.m. in Bar 360.

Every Tuesday night, Transfer Pizzeria in Walker’s Point kicks off a free jazz show at 7:30 p.m. with a house band. For the price of a pint of beer or a cup of espresso, this is a chance to see (and hear) some of the best jazz in town. Or, give the pizzas a try. Tuesday night is also when bottles of wine are half-off.

On Wednesday, January 4, 2017, a free choral-vespers concert will be at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1046 N. 9th St., Milwaukee. The opportunity to listen to an organ built in 1879 is a real treat. In addition to singers from the church, members of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Glendale will join them.

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