You'll find holiday celebrations, active adventures and outdoor (but toasty!) dining and drinking destinations around the state.

By Lauren Sieben
November 05, 2020
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The pandemic situation evolves daily. Please check here for the latest recommendations. On November 10, the governor advised Wisconsin residents to stay at home and use extra precautions if they have to leave home.

  1. Holiday car parade in Door County

Kick off the season Nov. 20 at the Sturgeon Bay car parade, led by Santa in a firetruck. Downtown businesses will cover their windows in gift wrap beforehand. As the procession cruises by, they’ll rip down the paper to reveal festive holiday displays.

2. Garden of Lights in Green Bay

Garden of Lights, Green Bay Botanical Garden
| Credit: Courtesy of Green Bay Botanical Gardens

The Green Bay Botanical Garden’s annual light festival features over 300,000 lights plus horse-drawn carriage rides through the gardens. Wander through the icicle forest and keep an eye out for illuminated butterflies, giant caterpillars and more. This ticketed event runs from November through January with limited capacity and extra COVID protocols in place. Check the website for full details.

3. Tree of Light in the Wisconsin Dells

A light display starting in mid-November will feature a 55-foot silver maple tree with 30,000 lights, lit every night after dusk through mid-January. This is the inaugural year of the festive Tree of Light in the Wisconsin Dells. Visitors can enjoy a free, self-guided tour; weekends also feature special events such as visits from Santa, chainsaw carvings and musical performances.

4. Igloo season

Patio season is over in the Midwest, but igloo season is just beginning. Book a private, heated igloo at Pier Five Hundred on the St. Croix River in Hudson, where you can warm up with comfort food like beer battered walleye, fried cheese curds or smoked gouda nachos.

Heat-seekers can also rent igloos at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa; sip a warm cocktail while admiring (but not shivering in) the wooded scenery. (Grand Geneva also has a full slate of holiday activities, including gingerbread house displays, breakfast with Santa, holiday meals and more. Some experiences are for resort guests only; others are open to the public.)

5. Snowshoeing or skiing through a vineyard

Snowshoeing at LedgeStone Vineyards
| Credit: Courtesy of LedgeStone Vineyards

LedgeStone Vineyards in Greenleaf will convert its 10-acre property and 75 acres of open farm into a cross-country skiing trail during the winter. Choose between an easy 15- to 45-minute route, or take a one- to two-hour hike through fields that lead to the Niagara Escarpment. Afterwards, sip mulled wine by outdoor fire pits and patio heaters on the property.

Check LedgeStone’s website or social media for details on when winter sports become available—generally any time the Green Bay area gets a good amount of snow. Some snowshoe rentals are available, but visitors are encouraged to bring their own gear.

6. Caribbean fare in a greenhouse

San Pedro Café in Hudson is serving its signature Caribbean fare and cocktails in an expanded outdoor—and yes, heated!—seating area. Guests can make reservations for one of the restaurant’s three greenhouses, which seat 12 to 16 people. Warm up with a dish of hearty spiced Cuban Meatloaf, served with banana mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy, or sip on a spicy jalapeno blood orange margarita.

7. Twelfth Night Holiday Tree Bonfire in Pleasant Prairie

Shake off a post-holiday slump at the Twelfth Night Holiday Tree Bonfire on Lake Andrea in Pleasant Prairie. This free event on January 6 makes the chore of taking down holiday decor a little merrier. There’s a fragrant pine tree bonfire, hot chocolate, and caroling (along with COVID protocols in place).

8. Slumberland American Birkebeiner

Looking for an active challenge this winter? Start training now for the Slumberland American Birkebeiner, the iconic ski race that takes place every year in Hayward. The event will be held February 24-28, 2021, welcoming competitors with extra safety measures in place.

If you can’t make it in-person or don’t feel comfortable traveling, the 2021 event also has a virtual option so skiers can complete the race on their own to earn the coveted Birkebeiner pin.