Great holiday festivals

In November and December, check out Santa, Scrooge and shopping markets.

Santa's arrival kicks off the Christkindlmarkt weekend in Excelsior, Minn.

View all images

As soon as the leaves have fallen and cold winds start to blow, the holidays get under way. This is the season for craft fairs, theme feasts and Christmas parades.

Here are some of the best holiday festivals in 2021.

Before you go, check times and details.

Third weekend in November

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn.

Nov 13. – Jan 2.

Winterer's Gathering in Grand Marais, MN There's a tent encampment, winter skills seminars, Arctic film festival and chili feed at the North House Folk School.

Nov 18. – Nov 21.

Holiday Lights Festival in Milwaukee, WI The season-long lights festival includes more than 500,000 lights throughout downtown's parks and streets.

 

Nov 18. – Jan 1.

Christmas by the Bay in Sturgeon Bay, WI There's a car parade Friday evening, followed by tree light, caroling and horse-drawn wagon rides. On Saturday, there's a parade at 10 a.m.

Nov 19. – Nov 21.

Christkindlmarket in Chicago, IL This is the most authentic Old World Christmas market, with many German vendors who bring over toys, ornaments and sweets. There's a Children's Lantern Parade, appearances by the Christkind and entertainment most days. In Daley Plaza in the Loop.

Nov 19. – Dec 24.

Virtual Holiday Folk Fair International in West Allis, WI More than 50 ethnic groups present music, dance, food and crafts from around the world. At the Wisconsin State Fair Exposition Center.

This year, it will be online again.

Nov 19. – Nov 21.

Festive Friday Eves in Cedarburg, WI Five Christmas celebrations, each with a different theme, at Cedar Creek Settlement, a restored 1864 woolen mill in this historic village just north of Milwaukee. Each features live holiday music, crafts, luminaries, wine-tasting and cookies and cider.

Nov 19.

Outdoor Adventure Expo in Minneapolis, MN The expo at the Midwest Mountaineering store on the West Bank includes dozens of speakers and seminars about skiing, sled-dog racing and ice-climbing as well as camping, backpacking and other year-round adventures.

 

Nov 19. – Nov 21.

Christkindlmarkt in Kewaunee, WI This Lake Michigan town holds its Old World Christmas market in Lakehaven Hall, with a craft market, music and German food. On Friday, there's a holiday lights parade at 6:30 p.m.

Nov 19. – Nov 20.

Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville in Chicago, IL This North Side satellite of the Daley Plaza Christkindlmarket features ice-skating, wreath-making, music and Santa's Workshop as well as holiday vendors.

 

 

Nov 19. – Dec 24.

ZooLights in Chicago, IL The annual display of 2.5 million lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo is operating at limited capacity again this year and charging $5 per person. Tickets are free on Mondays and Tuesdays. Reserve starting in mid-October.

Nov 19. – Nov 24.

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival & Parade in Chicago, IL There will be music and family activities on Michigan Avenue, with a  lighted parade from Oak Street to Wacker Drive, followed by fireworks over the Chicago River.

Nov 20.

Christmas Light Parade in Baraboo, WI The 6 p.m. parade includes live reindeer, horses, marching bands and floats. See Santa at the Al Ringling Theatre afterward for photos and treats.

Nov 20.

Bentleyville Tour of Lights in Duluth, MN Tour the retro-cool lighted decorations in Bayfront Festival Park, including a tree that dances to music, Dinosaurland and Penguin Park, and visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

There's free hot chocolate, cookies, popcorn and marshmallows to roast over fire pits. Bring cash or food to donate to food shelves.

Nov 20. – Dec 27.

Holiday Kerstmarkt in Holland, MI This open-air European Christmas Market at the Eighth Street Market Place includes 18 timber booths offering Dutch imports, folk art, hand-knit apparel and other gifts.

 

Nov 20.

Downtown Appleton Christmas Parade in Appleton, WI Wisconsin's largest night-time Christmas parade starts at 7 p.m. at the corner of State Street and College Avenue.

 

Nov 23.

Fourth weekend in November

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn.

Nov 13. – Jan 2.

Holiday Lights Festival in Milwaukee, WI The season-long lights festival includes more than 500,000 lights throughout downtown's parks and streets.

 

Nov 18. – Jan 1.

Christkindlmarket in Chicago, IL This is the most authentic Old World Christmas market, with many German vendors who bring over toys, ornaments and sweets. There's a Children's Lantern Parade, appearances by the Christkind and entertainment most days. In Daley Plaza in the Loop.

Nov 19. – Dec 24.

Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville in Chicago, IL This North Side satellite of the Daley Plaza Christkindlmarket features ice-skating, wreath-making, music and Santa's Workshop as well as holiday vendors.

 

 

Nov 19. – Dec 24.

ZooLights in Chicago, IL The annual display of 2.5 million lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo is operating at limited capacity again this year and charging $5 per person. Tickets are free on Mondays and Tuesdays. Reserve starting in mid-October.

Nov 19. – Nov 24.

Bentleyville Tour of Lights in Duluth, MN Tour the retro-cool lighted decorations in Bayfront Festival Park, including a tree that dances to music, Dinosaurland and Penguin Park, and visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

There's free hot chocolate, cookies, popcorn and marshmallows to roast over fire pits. Bring cash or food to donate to food shelves.

Nov 20. – Dec 27.

Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago, IL It's the 86th anniversary of the parade down State Street in the Loop. It starts at 8 a.m. at State Street and Ida B. Wells Drive and moves northward toward Randolph.

Nov 25.

Lakeside Park Holiday Lights in Fond du Lac, WI This free light show on Lake Winnebago includes animated scenes and trees that dance to 20 minutes of music played on 87.9 FM (you can listen on your car radio).

Nov 25. – Jan 1.

Holiday Stroll in Red Wing, MN This Mississippi River town offers a window-display scavenger hunt, parade, wagon rides and Santa.

Nov 26.

Christkindlsmarkt in Excelsior, MN In this Minneapolis suburb on Lake Minnetonka, choirs and bands play for shoppers at a traditional German open-air Christmas market. There will also be a magic show, reindeer, visits with the Christkind and Father Christmas and mugs of warm Glühwein.

 

Nov 26. – Nov 28.

Festive Friday Eves in Cedarburg, WI Five Christmas celebrations, each with a different theme, at Cedar Creek Settlement, a restored 1864 woolen mill in this historic village just north of Milwaukee. Each features live holiday music, crafts, luminaries, wine-tasting and cookies and cider.

Nov 26.

Holly Days in Egg Harbor, WI This Door County village offers horse-drawn wagon rides, a children's elf hunt and mistle dough contest and caroling.

Nov 26. – Nov 27.

Festival of Lights Parade in Crystal Lake, IL In this northwest suburb of Chicago, the holiday parade starts at 7 p.m. 

 

Nov 26.

European Christmas Market in St. Paul, MN This Christkindlmarkt in Union Depot features choirs, dancers, hot mulled wine, holiday beers, European-inspired food and artisan goods.

 

Nov 26. – Nov 28.

Holiday Kerstmarkt in Holland, MI This open-air European Christmas Market at the Eighth Street Market Place includes 18 timber booths offering Dutch imports, folk art, hand-knit apparel and other gifts.

 

Nov 26. – Nov 27.

Free Entrance Day to all Minnesota state parks in All state parks, MN Entrance to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas is free today.

Nov 26.

Parade of Lights in New Ulm, MN The holiday parade downtown will be from 6 to 7 p.m.

Nov 26.

Holiday Homecoming & Electric Parade in St. Charles, IL There will be a kickoff to the Holiday Tree Trail, a window-decorating contest and the Electric Christmas Parade.

Nov 27.

First weekend of December

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn.

Nov 13. – Jan 2.

Holiday Lights Festival in Milwaukee, WI The season-long lights festival includes more than 500,000 lights throughout downtown's parks and streets.

 

Nov 18. – Jan 1.

Christkindlmarket in Chicago, IL This is the most authentic Old World Christmas market, with many German vendors who bring over toys, ornaments and sweets. There's a Children's Lantern Parade, appearances by the Christkind and entertainment most days. In Daley Plaza in the Loop.

Nov 19. – Dec 24.

Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville in Chicago, IL This North Side satellite of the Daley Plaza Christkindlmarket features ice-skating, wreath-making, music and Santa's Workshop as well as holiday vendors.

 

 

Nov 19. – Dec 24.

Bentleyville Tour of Lights in Duluth, MN Tour the retro-cool lighted decorations in Bayfront Festival Park, including a tree that dances to music, Dinosaurland and Penguin Park, and visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

There's free hot chocolate, cookies, popcorn and marshmallows to roast over fire pits. Bring cash or food to donate to food shelves.

Nov 20. – Dec 27.

Lakeside Park Holiday Lights in Fond du Lac, WI This free light show on Lake Winnebago includes animated scenes and trees that dance to 20 minutes of music played on 87.9 FM (you can listen on your car radio).

Nov 25. – Jan 1.

ZooLights in Chicago, IL The annual display of 2.5 million lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo is operating at limited capacity again this year and charging $5 per person. Tickets are free on Mondays and Tuesdays. Reserve starting in mid-October.

Nov 26. – Dec 1.

Christkindlmarket in Des Moines, IA This Christmas market in Principal Park, on the river confluence downtown, features vendors and food plus many performances by bands, choirs, carolers, fiddlers and dance troupes.

Dec 2. – Dec 5.

Prelude to Christmas in Amana, IA In this formerly communal village in eastern Iowa, visit the decorated Tannenbaum Forest, buy at the craft bazaar, go on a pickle hunt and listen to Santa stories.

Dec 3. – Dec 5.

Christmas Walk and House Tour in Geneva, IL In this northwest Illinois town, Santa Lucia arrives in a horse-drawn carriage on Friday and hands out Swedish cookies, then Santa lights the Great Tree and opens his Gingerbread House. There's shopping amid strolling carolers. A tour of five houses is Friday and Saturday.

Dec 3. – Dec 4.

Christkindlsmarkt in Excelsior, MN In this Minneapolis suburb on Lake Minnetonka, choirs and bands play for shoppers at a traditional German open-air Christmas market. There will also be a magic show, reindeer, visits with the Christkind and Father Christmas and mugs of warm Glühwein.

 

Dec 3. – Dec 5.

Festive Friday Eves in Cedarburg, WI Five Christmas celebrations, each with a different theme, at Cedar Creek Settlement, a restored 1864 woolen mill in this historic village just north of Milwaukee. Each features live holiday music, crafts, luminaries, wine-tasting and cookies and cider.

Dec 3.

European Christmas Market in St. Paul, MN This Christkindlmarkt in Union Depot features choirs, dancers, hot mulled wine, holiday beers, European-inspired food and artisan goods.

 

Dec 3. – Dec 5.

Holiday Kerstmarkt in Holland, MI This open-air European Christmas Market at the Eighth Street Market Place includes 18 timber booths offering Dutch imports, folk art, hand-knit apparel and other gifts.

 

Dec 3. – Dec 4.

Fire & Ice Festival in Brodhead, WI This town between Monroe and Beloit celebrates with horse-drawn carriage rides, fire rings, ice sculptures, an arts-and-crafts show, luminaries, a lighted parade Friday and frozen T-shirt, gingerbread, decorated-pet and Cindy Lou Who contests. 

Dec 3. – Dec 4.

Christkindl Festival in Black River Falls, WI A candlelight procession and tree lighting start this traditional German market fair. There's also live reindeer, horse-drawn wagon rides, music and a Christkindl Night of Lights Parade.

Dec 4.

Grand Meander in St. Paul, MN On Grand Avenue, lined by small shops and restaurants, there will be carolers, soup tasting, a petting zoo, a juried art fair at Ramsey Junior High and a trolley to get from place to place.

Dec 5.

Second weekend of December

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn.

Nov 13. – Jan 2.

Holiday Lights Festival in Milwaukee, WI The season-long lights festival includes more than 500,000 lights throughout downtown's parks and streets.

 

Nov 18. – Jan 1.

Christkindlmarket in Chicago, IL This is the most authentic Old World Christmas market, with many German vendors who bring over toys, ornaments and sweets. There's a Children's Lantern Parade, appearances by the Christkind and entertainment most days. In Daley Plaza in the Loop.

Nov 19. – Dec 24.

Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville in Chicago, IL This North Side satellite of the Daley Plaza Christkindlmarket features ice-skating, wreath-making, music and Santa's Workshop as well as holiday vendors.

 

 

Nov 19. – Dec 24.

Bentleyville Tour of Lights in Duluth, MN Tour the retro-cool lighted decorations in Bayfront Festival Park, including a tree that dances to music, Dinosaurland and Penguin Park, and visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

There's free hot chocolate, cookies, popcorn and marshmallows to roast over fire pits. Bring cash or food to donate to food shelves.

Nov 20. – Dec 27.

Lakeside Park Holiday Lights in Fond du Lac, WI This free light show on Lake Winnebago includes animated scenes and trees that dance to 20 minutes of music played on 87.9 FM (you can listen on your car radio).

Nov 25. – Jan 1.

ZooLights in Chicago, IL The annual display of 2.5 million lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo is operating at limited capacity again this year and charging $5 per person. Tickets are free on Mondays and Tuesdays. Reserve starting in mid-October.

Dec 3. – Dec 15.

Festive Friday Eves in Cedarburg, WI Five Christmas celebrations, each with a different theme, at Cedar Creek Settlement, a restored 1864 woolen mill in this historic village just north of Milwaukee. Each features live holiday music, crafts, luminaries, wine-tasting and cookies and cider.

Dec 10.

European Christmas Market in St. Paul, MN This Christkindlmarkt in Union Depot features choirs, dancers, hot mulled wine, holiday beers, European-inspired food and artisan goods.

 

Dec 10. – Dec 12.

Holiday Kerstmarkt in Holland, MI This open-air European Christmas Market at the Eighth Street Market Place includes 18 timber booths offering Dutch imports, folk art, hand-knit apparel and other gifts.

 

Dec 10. – Dec 11.

Christkindli Market in New Glarus, WI This new outdoor market downtown features decorated mini-chalets, food and music. 

Dec 10. – Dec 12.

Night of the Luminaria in Galena, IL More than 5,000 candle-lit luminaria line the streets of this historic town and 30 windows become animated.

Dec 11.

Third weekend in December

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn.

Nov 13. – Jan 2.

Holiday Lights Festival in Milwaukee, WI The season-long lights festival includes more than 500,000 lights throughout downtown's parks and streets.

 

Nov 18. – Jan 1.

Christkindlmarket in Chicago, IL This is the most authentic Old World Christmas market, with many German vendors who bring over toys, ornaments and sweets. There's a Children's Lantern Parade, appearances by the Christkind and entertainment most days. In Daley Plaza in the Loop.

Nov 19. – Dec 24.

Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville in Chicago, IL This North Side satellite of the Daley Plaza Christkindlmarket features ice-skating, wreath-making, music and Santa's Workshop as well as holiday vendors.

 

 

Nov 19. – Dec 24.

Bentleyville Tour of Lights in Duluth, MN Tour the retro-cool lighted decorations in Bayfront Festival Park, including a tree that dances to music, Dinosaurland and Penguin Park, and visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

There's free hot chocolate, cookies, popcorn and marshmallows to roast over fire pits. Bring cash or food to donate to food shelves.

Nov 20. – Dec 27.

Lakeside Park Holiday Lights in Fond du Lac, WI This free light show on Lake Winnebago includes animated scenes and trees that dance to 20 minutes of music played on 87.9 FM (you can listen on your car radio).

Nov 25. – Jan 1.

ZooLights in Chicago, IL The annual display of 2.5 million lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo is operating at limited capacity again this year and charging $5 per person. Tickets are free on Mondays and Tuesdays. Reserve starting in mid-October.

Dec 3. – Dec 15.

Festive Friday Eves in Cedarburg, WI Five Christmas celebrations, each with a different theme, at Cedar Creek Settlement, a restored 1864 woolen mill in this historic village just north of Milwaukee. Each features live holiday music, crafts, luminaries, wine-tasting and cookies and cider.

Dec 17.

European Christmas Market in St. Paul, MN This Christkindlmarkt in Union Depot features choirs, dancers, hot mulled wine, holiday beers, European-inspired food and artisan goods.

 

Dec 17. – Dec 19.

Fourth weekend in December

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn.

Nov 13. – Jan 2.

Holiday Lights Festival in Milwaukee, WI The season-long lights festival includes more than 500,000 lights throughout downtown's parks and streets.

 

Nov 18. – Jan 1.

Christkindlmarket in Chicago, IL This is the most authentic Old World Christmas market, with many German vendors who bring over toys, ornaments and sweets. There's a Children's Lantern Parade, appearances by the Christkind and entertainment most days. In Daley Plaza in the Loop.

Nov 19. – Dec 24.

Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville in Chicago, IL This North Side satellite of the Daley Plaza Christkindlmarket features ice-skating, wreath-making, music and Santa's Workshop as well as holiday vendors.

 

 

Nov 19. – Dec 24.

Bentleyville Tour of Lights in Duluth, MN Tour the retro-cool lighted decorations in Bayfront Festival Park, including a tree that dances to music, Dinosaurland and Penguin Park, and visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

There's free hot chocolate, cookies, popcorn and marshmallows to roast over fire pits. Bring cash or food to donate to food shelves.

Nov 20. – Dec 27.

Lakeside Park Holiday Lights in Fond du Lac, WI This free light show on Lake Winnebago includes animated scenes and trees that dance to 20 minutes of music played on 87.9 FM (you can listen on your car radio).

Nov 25. – Jan 1.

ZooLights in Chicago, IL The annual display of 2.5 million lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo is operating at limited capacity again this year and charging $5 per person. Tickets are free on Mondays and Tuesdays. Reserve starting in mid-October.

Dec 17. – Dec 23.

New Year's Eve and Day

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn.

Nov 13. – Jan 2.

Holiday Lights Festival in Milwaukee, WI The season-long lights festival includes more than 500,000 lights throughout downtown's parks and streets.

 

Nov 18. – Jan 1.

Lakeside Park Holiday Lights in Fond du Lac, WI This free light show on Lake Winnebago includes animated scenes and trees that dance to 20 minutes of music played on 87.9 FM (you can listen on your car radio).

Nov 25. – Jan 1.

Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville in Chicago, IL This North Side satellite of the Daley Plaza Christkindlmarket features ice-skating, wreath-making, music and Santa's Workshop as well as holiday vendors.

 

 

Dec 26. – Dec 31.

ZooLights in Chicago, IL The annual display of 2.5 million lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo is operating at limited capacity again this year and charging $5 per person. Tickets are free on Mondays and Tuesdays. Reserve starting in mid-October.

Dec 26. – Dec 30.

Cheese Drop in Plymouth, WI For the big Cheese Drop in this eastern Wisconsin town, an 80-pound lighted wedge of cheese is dropped 100 feet at 10 p.m. There will also be free live music, cheese wedges and a s'mores bar.

Dec 31.

New Year's Day Parade in Egg Harbor, WI Welcome the new year with a 1 p.m. parade. Everyone is welcome to march.

Jan 1.


Similar Stories

  1. Great ways to celebrate Valentine's Day
    Feed romance in the forest, at an ice castle and, of course, in chocolate shops.
  2. 10 great ways to celebrate the Fourth of July
    You'll find parades, powwows, picnics, patriotic music and, always, fireworks.
  3. The gift of fun
    Here are 10 presents that travelers can enjoy all year long.
  4. Toasting St. Pat
    Parties will be low-key, but the day's festive spirit remains.
  5. 10 great ways to celebrate New Year's
    You can put on a party hat or be festive in the forest.
  6. Old World Christmas markets
    Local versions of the traditional German Christkindlmarkt are a hit during the holidays.
  7. In search of Christmas past
    At Old World Wisconsin, pioneers party like itís 1899.