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Southeast Wisconsin's top five holiday light displays

The holidays are upon us and friends and family are coming together. Perhaps you’re looking for something festive to do or you’re feeling a little claustrophobic in a full house and want to get out there and do something. So we suggest instead of cramming into the dining room, cramming into a car or taking a walk and feeling the holiday magic through some of Milwaukee’s creative makers.

Below we break down our top five lights displays throughout southeast Wisconsin through the adventures of Maddy Riordan and Ayisha Jaffer of 88Nine.

#1 Christmas Carnival of Lights - Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Camp Resort in Caledonia

Deep in the forest there’s a place that is full of fantasy and magic and it exists only at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp Resort in Caledonia. You can drive through or take a stadium tractor through the park full of 2 million lights with hidden gems from a re-created ocean to Packers players making cameos through the 1.6 mile trail and everything in between. We don’t want to give it all away but it’s worth the venture. Grab a snack, high five with Santa, and check out the clever gift shop on the way out.

#2 Nightmare Before Christmas Lights - 2700 Block of Logan Avenue in Bay View

Few decorations can span multiple holidays, but this magical block in Bay View is the exception to that rule. The 2700 block of Logan Avenue evolves during the weeks between Halloween and Christmas along the same timeline as the film, The Nightmare Before Christmas, which I find fascinating. The displays are so well crafted and there is so much to look at! One of the best parts of this display is that you can take your time and find the next hidden gem. If you and/or your kids like Halloween AND Christmas, this is the perfect place for you. Plus you can bring your own hot chocolate and snacks!

#3 Winter Wonders at the Boerner Botanical Gardens

You can anticipate your entrance into a wonderland upon arriving at the Winter Wonders display at the Boerner Botanical Gardens. Upon entering you’re handed a pair of glasses that make everything rainbow which I found very amusing and an ornament to set the mood for a full holiday experience. This is also where you can quickly pick up some seasonal snacks before you start your journey. The sponsored displays are spread out,  mostly figure-based scenes, and diversely enjoyable. There’s a lot of space for you to venture at your own pace. Look out for the 12 days of Christmas display and try to remember the lyrics to the song as well as the dancing robotic Santa!

#4 Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival- Pere Marquette Park

This magical and colorful display of lights is a part of Downtown Milwaukee’s Holiday Lights Festival (Cathedral Square Park and Zeidler Union Square are the other two locations) and dazzles people of all ages. Being located along Milwaukee’s beautiful Riverwalk doesn’t hurt either. The sheer amount of lighted figures and sculptures and the charming gazebo make this a great location to walk through on your own time in a part of the city that is often underutilized. This is definitely worth a visit. 

#5 Holiday Lights at MillerCoors in Miller Valley

The Holiday Lights at MillerCoors have been a staple in Miller Valley for the past 16 years. While the quality of the light show has ebbed and flowed over the years (in my opinion), this year’s show is one of the best I have seen. They’ve switched up some of the music and, as always, you get free beer and a glimpse at some of Milwaukee’s most beloved mascots -- Roscoe from the Milwaukee Admirals and the Racing Sausages from the Milwaukee Brewers. The most magical part for me is when the fake snow (bubbles) start raining down on you. However, if you’re not standing in the right spot, they’ll miss you completely. They also have a beer keg tree made from over 200 kegs, which is pretty neat.