First the Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market, now the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival. WINTER IS COMING, PEOPLE.

Okay, so the 23rd annual Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival is set to take over Downtown Milwaukee from November 18, 2021 through January 1, 2022. More than 500,000 lights and “dozens of animated displays” will pop up in Cathedral Square Park, Pere Marquette Park, and Zeidler Union Square. There’ll be chandeliers along an 18-block stretch of Wisconsin Avenue, too.

“The holiday season is Downtown Milwaukee’s brightest time to shine,” says Beth Weirick, CEO of Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21, in a press release. “We are so very grateful to our board, downtown stakeholders and the sponsors who help make this festival of lights possible. We look forward to hosting families, both near and far, for this Midwestern tradition, which is more than two decades in the making.”

Oh and there’s more, so much more. WISN 12 and the Pabst Theater Group will kick things off November 18 at 6:30 p.m. with a variety show and a special television broadcast. Want a self-guided tour of the lights in podcast form? How about snacks on select nights? Santa’s Mailbox? You’ve got it.

Here’s the full press release with all the info, preceded by our 2020 kid-guided tour of Cathedral Square’s “Community Spirit Park”:

Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival to set Downtown aglow Nov. 18 – Jan. 1
Six-week festival bundles more than a half million lights and downtown’s most cherished happenings

MILWAUKEE (October 21, 2021) – Milwaukee’s downtown will be set aglow Nov. 18 – Jan. 1 as more than 500,000 lights and dozens of animated displays shine brightly during the 23rd annual Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival presented by Johnson Financial Group.

Coordinated by Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21, the organization will continue the tradition of making spirits bright by decorating three parks and major thoroughfares. Cathedral Square Park will transform into “Community Spirit Park,” Pere Marquette Park will become “HiBEARnation Station,” and Zeidler Union Square will be made into “Home Is Where The Hearth Is powered by We Energies.” The elegant chandeliers lining an 18-block stretch along Wisconsin Avenue will also return, creating a picturesque backdrop for family traditions.

“The holiday season is Downtown Milwaukee’s brightest time to shine,” said Beth Weirick, CEO of Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21. “We are so very grateful to our board, downtown stakeholders and the sponsors who help make this festival of lights possible. We look forward to hosting families, both near and far, for this Midwestern tradition, which is more than two decades in the making.”

WISN 12 to Kick Off Festival with Special Broadcast

This year, the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival will ring in the season by partnering with WISN 12 and The Pabst Theater Group to produce an all-new variety show. The show will air on Thursday, Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m. on WISN 12 with support from Stein’s Garden & Home. Packed with local talent and a spectacular finale, viewers won’t want to miss this sampling of Downtown’s holiday shows.

Self-Guided Jingle Bus Tours Available as a Podcast

Families can learn about Downtown’s lights and sights via a five-episode podcast on the iHeartRadio app by typing “MKE Jingle Bus Tour”. Listeners can follow along the free podcast while in the car or on foot. English and Spanish versions will be available.

Snacks While Enjoying the Sights

While exploring Downtown’s lights and sights, guests can enjoy treats curated by Milwaukee Food & City Tours on select nights in December. Jingle Joy Bags are $15 and can be pre-ordered at www.milwaukeefoodtours.com or purchased day of, while supplies last. The Jingle Joy drive-thru will operate from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 3 – 18, at Zeidler Union Square. Cash and credit will be accepted.

Santa’s Mailbox at Cathedral Square Returns

Cathedral Square Park will continue to host a direct connection to the North Pole. Santa’s Mailbox presented by Educators Credit Union, Serving Older Adults and National Association of Letter Carriers Pioneer Branch 2, returns Nov. 18 – Dec. 12. As part of the magic of the season, children who drop their letters into Santa’s Mailbox will receive a personalized reply in the mail, provided they include a return address. Best of all, no postage is required.

Ornament Collection Grows to 21 Editions

Also returning this year is the Festival’s annual ornament, hand-carved by local artist Andrew Schumann. The perfect gift for friends, family or business associates, this year’s edition features the Warner Marquee at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s new home, the Bradley Symphony Center. The 2021 ornament will soon be available for $19.95 plus shipping and handling at shop.milwaukeedowntown.com. A limited number of past editions are available for $24.95 plus shipping and handling.

Festival Guides Continue to Bundle Downtown-Area Events, Dining & Shopping

The Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival will continue to package the variety of activities taking place in Downtown Milwaukee over the holiday season into a comprehensive brochure. Covering events, dining, nightlife, hotel accommodations and retail destinations, the brochure will be available at www.milwaukeeholidaylights.com in mid-November. To receive a brochure by mail, call 414-220-4700.

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About The Author

Co-Founder and Editor

Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.

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