Milwaukee’s downtown will shine brightly November 19 to January 1, as more than 500,000 lights and dozens of animated displays are set aglow for the 22nd annual Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival – a “snowcially-distanced” celebration.

The annual display of lights, coordinated by Milwaukee Downtown BID #21, will transform three downtown parks into winter wonderland scenes – “Community Spirit Park” at Cathedral Square Park, “Tinsel Town Express” at Pere Marquette Park and “Polar Plaza powered by We Energies” at Zeidler Union Square – as well as illuminate three downtown thoroughfares, including an 18-block stretch of lights along Wisconsin Avenue.

The much-anticipated Kickoff Extravaganza variety show in Pere Marquette Park will be postponed this year due to restrictions on public gatherings during the pandemic. However, the festival will continue to start off with a bang. In lieu of an in-person event, WISN 12 will broadcast performances to get the community into the holiday spirit on Thursday, November 19 at 6:30 p.m., and feature an all-new finale.

In another break with tradition, the festival’s Jingle Bus service will also look slightly differently. Pivoting from a warming house and motor coach tour, guests can experience this year’s lighting displays through a virtual or self-guided audio tour of downtown’s most brilliant scenes. The interactive map and audio tour can be accessed at

Among the new attractions for motorists and pedestrians will be window displays designed by Retailworks. Featuring the likenesses of 25+ well-known Milwaukeeans, the four decorated storefronts can be found at 324 E. Wisconsin Avenue, 205 E. Wisconsin Avenue, 400 E. Wisconsin Avenue and 733-737 N. Milwaukee Street beginning in early November.

Another new highlight of the fest will be grab-and-go gift boxes curated by Milwaukee Food & City Tours, featuring goodies from local businesses. The Jingle Joy Boxes will be available for purchase in a socially-distanced drive-through at Zeidler Union Square from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays, from December 3 to 19.

© Photo

Lee Matz

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