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Experience Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival: 500,000 holiday lights over a six-week period (from Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, to Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017) in downtown Milwaukee.
Hop on board the Jingle Bus every Thursday through Sunday in downtown Milwaukee between Nov. 18-Dec. 30, 2016, from 6 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. A $1 fare gives you a 40-minute tour narrated by one of Milwaukee Downtown’s Public Service Ambassadors. Board at the Shops of Grand Avenue's Center Court.
Drive up and down Candy Cane Lane in West Allis with other cars (pro tip: keep the windows down a tad so you can hear the holiday music) and view the over-the-top light displays. This year’s dates are Friday, Nov. 25-Monday, Dec. 26, 2016, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 5 p.m to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Sign up for the hour-long “Holiday Lights Walking Tour” with Gothic Milwaukee, which is every Tuesday through Friday between Dec. 1-23, 2016, at 6 p.m.
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Head to “Christmas in the Ward,” in the Historic Third Ward, on Friday, Dec. 2-Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. A tree-lighting ceremony, fireworks, horse-drawn carriages, reindeer and Santa are part of the fun.
Is Festivus more your thing? Head to “Brady Street Festivus” on Saturday, Dec. 3 from 7 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Drink specials, shopping experiences and more will be offered by Brady Street merchants in this East Side neighborhood.
Shop for holiday gifts at a local craft market (here are some leads).
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Enjoy “Black Nativity” at Marcus Center-Wilson Theater at Vogel Hall (http://www.marcuscenter.org), the story of Christ’s birth via African-American poetry, dance and song, based on the play by poet and playwright Langston Hughes. Show dates are Thursday, Dec. 1-Sunday, Dec. 4; and Thursday, Dec. 8-Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016.
Laugh at “Holiday Hell: The Curse of Perry Williams,” a musical comedy performed by In Tandem Theatre Company at Tenth Street Theatre. Performance dates are Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, through Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017.
On Saturday, Dec. 3, the Moscow Ballet takes the stage at The Milwaukee Theatre for a 3 p.m. performance of “Great Russian Nutcracker.”
See “The Nutcracker” at the Marcus Center for Performing Arts’ Uihlein Hall. Show dates in 2017 are Saturday, Dec. 10; Sunday, Dec. 11; Friday, Dec. 16; Saturday, Dec. 17; Sunday, Dec. 18; and Thursday, Dec. 22.
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For three shows only (Friday, Dec. 2; Saturday, Dec. 3; and Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016), the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra performs “Holiday Pops Spectacular” at Uihlein Hall inside the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.
“Joy! Christmas in the Basilica” is an annual tradition each December performed by Bel Canto Chorus at Basilica of St. Josaphat. Show times and dates are Friday, Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 11 at 3:30 p.m.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
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Food and Drink
Satisfy your sweet tooth on the “Christmas Around Milwaukee Bakery Bus Tour” with Milwaukee Food Tours from Dec. 2-24, 2016, with a special focus on bakeries that offer seasonal treats.
On Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, local author Jeanette Hurt partners with Great Lakes Distillery for a pop-up, holiday-themed dinner of organic and mostly local ingredients ($75, including cocktails with each of the eight courses and a signed copy of Hurt's book, Drink Like A Woman). Sign up here. Cocktail commentary will be provided by Hurt throughout the dinner.
Learn to bake an authentic Swedish-Christmas meal with the help of Dave Swanson, chef-owner of Braise, in Walker’s Point at the restaurant’s culinary school. The “A Swedish Christmas” class coaches in preparing glogg, Janssons frestelse, knackebrod with gravad lax and kottbullar. The class is on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016.
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Bicycle in the Santa Cycle Rampage, where locals dress up in Santa suits and ride a six-mile route that departs from Cranky Al’s in Wauwatosa at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, and ends at Lakefront Brewery in Brewers Hill. Check in or register at the nearby BelAir Cantina between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. the day of the ride.
On Sunday, Dec. 4, 11 and 18--from noon to 4 p.m.--kids can visit with Santa at North Point Lighthouse on Milwaukee's East Side. The fee for adults is $8, and $5 for children ages 5-11 (children age four and under are free). Secure your spot with Santa by booking ahead of time, via this link.
Book “Breakfast with Santa”—Saturdays in December (Dec. 3, 10 and 17, 2016)—at The Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. (“Breakfast with Santa” is also offered at Hilton Milwaukee City Center (http://www.hiltonmilwaukee.com) on these dates.) Don’t forget to check out the 18-foot LED-lit holiday tree in the hotel’s lobby as well as the hotel’s Holiday Marketplace (open through Dec. 24)
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Slip into ice skates at Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee, starting on Dec. 15, 2016, and extending through March of 2017. There’s no fee to skate if you bring your own skates; or, rent a pair at the warming house.