The top five Christmas light displays in Milwaukee, WI.
Let’s face it, we all like to drive around and look at Christmas lights.
I’ve gone around looking for the best Christmas lights in the Milwaukee area and taken some photos to help guide you. This list also takes into account that “Christmas feeling” each has. To me, one of the leading spots didn’t actually have the most impressive lights. It did have a wonderful feeling and if I were taking my kids out on a Christmas celebration, I think it has a whole lot more going for it than some that had more impressive lights. I think that’s important. Looking at lights is fun but if some places can create a lasting memory that has more than just lights, I think that might be just as important.
So here is my list of the top 5 Christmas light displays to visit in Milwaukee.
In First Place
Red Arrow Park Milwaukee, WI
Red Arrow Park is one of the places that has that “Christmas feeling.” There are lots of lights in the trees all around the block the park is on although they might not be as densely packed as other locations. Also, the City of Milwaukee Christmas tree is here next to the skating rink.
It’s the combination of the lights and the skating rink that make this such a wonderfully Christmas place. I can’t think of a better place to spend an hour or so with the family before Christmas or during the Holidays. There is Christmas music to skate to and many people were singing along as they skated. You could have been filming a Christmas movie it was so perfect.
The skating is free and is even open Christmas Day. If you don’t have skates (or your skates don’t fit anymore) you can rent skates there. There is a warming house to warm up in and take a rest. Also, there is a Starbuck’s for hot coffee and bakery. Skate for a bit, warm up and take a walk around the area to look at the lights.
I wouldn’t mind just hanging around Red Arrow Park watching the skaters and soaking in some Christmas Spirit.
Red Arrow Park is between East State Avenue and East Kilbourn Avenue on North Water Street.
Candy Cane Lane Milwaukee, WI
Everyone in Milwaukee has heard of Candy Cane Lane. Every year, this neighborhood joins together and decorate their homes and give up their time to encourage people to come and donate to the MACC fund. I think giving is definitely in the Christmas spirit.
For something a bit special, I suggest parking a few blocks away and walking around the neighborhood. Walking may even be faster as there is a lot of traffic to see the lights. Also, it is a bit more fun out of the car. I saw a group of teenagers all trying to stay warm using blankets and laughing and having a good time.
Even with the traffic, I still recommend Candy Cane Lane. You see all sorts of displays. From tasteful to gawdy, from minimalist to sheer wattage, there is a range of lights to see. You’ll even see some decorations more than once, yet many are still unique. There may be homes in your neighborhood that will put most of them to shame but Candy Cane Lane is worth a trip in my book.
Candy Cane Lane can be found just north of Oklahoma Avenue between 9th Street and 92nd Street. You will know your there when you see the cars lined up.
Pere Marquette Park Milwaukee, WI
I had never heard of Pere Marquette Park till this year. I’m still not sure I know how to pronounce it. I’m glad I took the time to check it out and find it. It may be the most beautiful Christmas light display even though I don’t list it at the top. It location on the Riverwalk affords a fantastic view of the Christmas lights and the river (going across the bridge on East State Street). None of the other park and Christmas displays have as nice a view of the City’s light too.
The most impressive display to me is the Gazebo or Pagoda lit with blue and white lights. There are several other light sculptures too. There is Christmas music playing and it all adds up to something very beautiful. To add to the effect, there are some nice street decorations down Old World Third Street that might be worth a short walk. The Christmas light display at Pere Marquette might be a great place to just sit down with someone special and enjoy the view around you.
Pere Marquette Park is hidden behind the Milwaukee County Historical Society building on Old World Third Street between East State Street and Kilbourn Avenue.
Village Square of Greendale Wisconsin
This was a surprise. The Village of Greendale resembles one of those little model Christmas villages. Except with more Christmas lights.
Everyone who has been to the Southridge Mall during Christmas season has seen the colored lights on the trees on 76th Street. It’s not bad, but it is on a busy boulevard and you can’t just stop and enjoy it. On a whim, I decided to look at the Greendale village square. My wife instantly said I made a good choice once it came into view.
Where 76th Street is colored lights, the Village of Greendale has lots of trees lit with white lights. There are also lights on the Village Hall. With the shops, restaurants and other businesses decorated and right there together it is very traditional looking. There is also a gazebo with lights in the nearby park.
The Greendale Village Square is, well, in Greendale. The Greendale Village Hall is 6500 Northway Greendale, WI.
Fifth but not final
Cathedral Park Milwaukee, WI
The theme for the Cathedral Square Christmas light display seems to be Christmas trees. Lots and lots of Christmas trees. 65 (there are more) of the trees have been decorated by local schools. The park has a giant 50 tree of lights that flashes different colors and patterns.
With the Christmas music playing, Cathedral Square is a wonderful Christmas spot. There is lots of parking right by the park. It is easy to get the kids out of the car and take a short stroll around the park and look at all the trees.
Cathedral Square is between Kilbourn Avenue and Wells Street on North Jefferson Street.
What were the rules for this Top 5 Christmas Light Displays?
Well, except for Candy Cane Lane, these are all public or commercial displays. I know that there are many homes and even a few neighborhoods that can hold up more than a candle to these. However, it would be fair to the neighbors to send a huge crowd to a neighborhood not expecting it.j In the case of Candy Cane Lane, the entire neighborhood is taking part and expects the traffic. It was interesting to see a pizza deliverer have to park several blocks away and run to deliver it to a house.
Also, the display had to be accessible to photograph. If I can’t take a photo, I can’t show it to you here.
Finally, I had to know it exists and have time to see it myself. I don’t show anything on Eyes On Wisconsin unless I see it first hand. You get my thoughts (although mostly just the positive ones) on what I find in Wisconsin. I am sure there are some on the north half of Milwaukee I have missed. If you know of a public or commercial Christmas light display that is exceptional, please let me know in the comments below. If I can, I’d like to check them out and add them to the list.
This list may change. If I find better displays and can photograph them, I’ll need to reorder these. When I have time, I’ll be making individual posts for each display with more information and photos (I have several photos of each dispaly featured here but not enough room on one page for them all).
Here’s a few Christmas displays that didn’t make the Top 5 Christmas Light Displays.
Zeidler Park, Milwaukee Wisconsin
With all the traffic I’ve seen on Michigan Avenue in the morning, I was afraid of trying to get to Zeidler Park just after 5:00pm to check it out. I didn’t need to worry, there was lots of parking available off of Michigan Avenue.
The most memorable feature of Zeidler Park is the giant red teddy bear. There are some other Christmas light sculptures in the park. Nearly the entire time I was at the park, a little girl danced around the Christmas tree in the gazebo. She even had her parents join her part of the time. While I like the gazebo at Pere Marquette a bit more, they did a very nice job of decorating this one. With the Christmas lights on some of the buildings nearby, If there had been some Christmas music playing when I was there, I think I would have ranked this park a bit better. It just gets an honorable mention for now.
Zeidler Park (Actually Zeider Union Square) is on West Michigan Street at North 4th Street.
Merry Christmas from Eyes On Wisconsin!
Google Map to the Christmas Lights:
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