Hotspots in Milwaukee, WI
Feel the brisk blast of winter wind on your face while braving a wild ride down the Whitnall Park Iced Toboggan Slide in the Milwaukee suburb of Franklin. Chose from two quarter-mile tracks at the bargain price of $7 per hour for a 6- or 8-foot toboggan rental. One of the few parks in the Milwaukee to offer lighted nighttime sledding, Whitnall also has the added benefit of a clubhouse to serve as a warming house and concession stand. As an added weekend treat, authentic dog sled rides are offered from 11 am to 2 pm most Saturdays and Sundays.
Just under 25 minutes north of Milwaukee, the historic town of Cedarburg and the craft stores and antique shops of the Cedar Creek Settlement transform each December into an Old World holiday village. Bring the family for a day visiting sweet-looking Santa’s Workshop, the Antique Toy Exhibit, the living Nativity and a horse-drawn sleigh ride through a picturesque forest illuminated with thousands of holiday lights. Check the town’s busy holiday calendar foe special events like their Festival Fridays aimed at kids and families with holiday craft projects, face painting, cookie decorating and visits with Santa Claus. Some events feature adults-only activities such as food and wine tastings or some live entertainment shows.
Skip the boring bouquet and treat your beau to a house filled with flowers at the Mitchell Park Conservatory – better known as “The Domes.” The volunteer organization, Friends of the Domes, is hosting a special family-friendly Valentine’s night event. Enjoy the sultry songs of Sinatra performed live, then commission a personalized poem or purchase a personalized poem as a remembrance of the night. Book an early dinner at a nearby romantic restaurant or save your appetite and treat yourself to one of the dishes catered in by Zilli’s restaurant, a local favorite.
Historic Cedarburg offers eccentric entertainment every February at their annual Winter Festival. Opting for “The Nifty 50s” as their celebration theme for the 37th Annual Winter Festival, visitors can enjoy the All Shook Up barrel jumping race, the Wake Up Little Susie Costumed Bed Racing Competition and view entries in the Sixteen Tons Ice Carving Competition. The full weekend includes a Goody Goody pancake breakfast followed by other family-friendly activities like the Sock Hop and the Little Bitty Pretty One Egg Hunt. Hotels book up fast on the festival weekend so be sure to book early if you intend to stay in the area for the full Winter Festival experience.
Since 1984, the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University has been dedicated to giving visitors access to great works of art free of charge. The museum’s permanent collection includes pieces by master artists such as Salvador Dalí’s 1949 Madonna at Port Lligat, Marc Chagall’s Bible Series and Keith Haring’s 1983 construction fence mural. Also in the collection are minor works by artists like Rembrandt and Andy Warhol. Aside from the big name artists, the Haggerty is also dedicated to showcasing the works of local Wisconsin artists in its rotation of temporary exhibitions. The Haggerty is open 7 days a week with varying hours and while the museum is always free to visit, parking is limited so call ahead before heading out the door.
For 10 days every December, the Frontier Airlines Center transforms into a Winter Wonderland with holiday activities for the whole family -- even on New Year’s Eve. Whatever the weather outdoors, you’ll find 150,000-square-feet of family fun that includes a synthetic ice rink, a trackless train, inflatable slides, an indoor movie theatre playing the classics and a snow globe-style inflatable jump around that’s perfect for snapping holiday photographs. Other activities include a carousel, a mini-golf course, and an entertainment stage where you can see all sorts of Christmas concerts, plus the city’s own talent competition -- Milwaukee’s Got Talent. And the best part is, all the activities are free with the price of admission so you can have as much holiday fun as you can fit into one day.
An American grill serving world-renown, wood-grilled steaks, the chefs at Mason Street have whipped up a prix fixe dinner for two with a selectable menu filled with of some of their sexiest dishes. At $79 per couple, diners can opt for a luscious lobster bisque or a signature salad, then move on to a second course of filet mignon or a Hawaiian moonfish dish. Top off the meal with a tasting plate for two of decadent desserts while listening to a little live music for those guests who book their reservations for Friday or Saturday night.
Downtown is ablaze with holiday light displays put up by local businesses and organizations participating in the annual Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival. Forget missing most of the displays by driving yourself around downtown '96 instead, hop aboard the Jingle Bus run by the Columbia St. Mary’s Healthcare organization. One buck per rider provides a 40-minute, narrated tour of all the best light displays, with cocoa, coffee, cookies and coloring books for the kids afterwards. The bus boards at the Festival’s Warming House at the Plankinton Arcade in The Shops of Grand Avenue during the month of December through the first weekend in January -- check their website for dates and times. Don’t forget to get your Jingle Bus voucher to get discounted parking in The Shops of Grand Avenue’s public structure.
Skip stargazing up at a small slice of sky for a view of the galaxy presented by the Milwaukee Public Museum at their Romancing the Stars planetarium event. Reserve your spot for just $20 a couple to take a tour of the universe that will leave you both starry-eyed. Discover the romantic “constellations of love,” then take home chocolates and a long-stemmed rose to keep love lingering until the sun comes up. This adult couples only event has just five shows total over the holiday weekend, so book early if you want to see stars this Valentine’s.
Whether you’re Catholic or not, the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill is a sight to behold. Located just 30 miles outside of Milwaukee, the church was built in 1926 and features beautiful neo-Romanesque architecture. Beyond the beauty of the basilica itself, Holy Hill also encompasses 435 acres of serene, forested hills, including a portion of Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail. For a panoramic view of the surrounding Kettle Moraine countryside and the nearby Milwaukee skyline, climb the 178 stairs of the scenic tower that is part of the basilica. Holy Hill is open to daytime visitors annually from May through October – although freewill offerings are accepted, admission to the church and grounds is free.