We can’t wait to ring in the New Year, but paying high ticket prices and cover fees to go to a bar or club–or paying special New Year’s Eve dinner prices aren’t ideal. In fact, the expense of bringing in the New Year keeps some from going out at all.
If you’re excited about 2023 and you want to ring in the New Year, you don’t have to break the bank. You can send 2022 off in style by taking advantage of some free New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day events in Wisconsin.
NYE Fireworks at Grandad Bluff, La Crosse
Location: Anywhere with a good view of Grandad Bluff
Time: 6:00 p.m. early bird show, 11:00 p.m. show to bring in 2023
You might not have to leave your home to enjoy the fireworks at Grandad Bluff in La Crosse. However, if you live nearby, it’s worth the drive to check out the oldest community-sponsored New Year’s Eve fireworks display in the nation. The early show allows little ones and others who want to celebrate, but plan on being fast asleep at midnight. Local radio has broadcast the fireworks since 1957 and local television has televised the fireworks since 1985.
New Year’s Day Parade, Egg Harbor
Location: Through the Village of Egg Harbor on Hwy. 42
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Ring in the New Year in Wisconsin by attending Egg Harbor’s quirky New Year’s Day Parade. If you are extra festive, join the parade! No registration is required. You can dress up, bring your pets, decorate some type of motorized vehicle, or do anything you like to join the festivities. If you want to join the parade, head to the line-up area at Stella Maris Parish (7710 Hwy. 42) downtown. The parade runs north through town to County Hwy E. You’ll find parking on Church Street.
Sartori Big Cheese Drop, Plymouth
Location: 520 E. Mill St.
Time: 8:30 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Various things drop on New Year’s Eve as a way to display the countdown to the beginning of the new year. The world would not be right if somewhere in Wisconsin, cheese did not drop to ring in the new year. Plymouth—the official Cheese Capital of the World—has taken on this task each year. The Plymouth Arts Center initiated the Big Cheese Drop, sponsored by Sartori Cheese. The free event includes live music from the 50s and 60s cover band, II Cool! and attendees can enjoy free hot chocolate by the bonfire until 10 p.m. when the cheese drops. Dance until midnight and enjoy complimentary champagne for a New Year’s toast. Head to this event early because the first 250 families to arrive get a free gift bag of Sartori Cheese.
Fireworks and Cherry Drop, Sister Bay
Location: 2155 Autumn Ct., Sister Bay Ice Rink
Time: Fireworks 8 p.m., Cherry drop midnight
If you live in or near Door County, catch the area’s only New Year’s fireworks display at the Sister Bay Ice Rink. If you want to view the showcase from your vehicle, park on Autumn Court or Woodcrest Road. You can find snacks and hot chocolate for sale at The Warming House, where you can also enjoy the bonfire. Local radio station 106.9 The Lodge starts the party and the countdown to midnight at 10:30 p.m. Hang around until midnight to watch the Door County Sparkling Cherry drop, followed by cheers, songs, and New Year’s greetings and smooches.
Cool Fool Kite Festival, Milwaukee
Location: Veterans Park
Time: New Year’s Day 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.
For more than 30 years, kite enthusiasts have been gathering at Veterans Park, to fly their kites along the windy lakefront on New Year’s Day. This year, Jake, the Kite Guy, will put on a show with his massive kites, some of which are more than 100 feet long. You can find free hot chocolate, coffee, and snacks provided by Gift of Wings. You can come to watch the beautiful display, bring your own kite, or buy one on site. You can also check out The Quiet Ice Carvers, who will be carving some incredible pieces during the kite festival.
Polar Bear Plunge
If you are unsure about how else to ring in the New Year without breaking the bank, why not jump into icy Lake Michigan or another Wisconsin lake for one of many Polar Bear Plunges throughout the state? Here are some of the most popular plunge events on New Year’s Day:
- Lake Geneva, 12:00 p.m., Williams Bay Beach at Geneva St.
- Upper Nemahbin Lake, Oconomowoc, 12:00 p.m., Panga Bar & Grill
- Lake Michigan, Milwaukee, 12:00 p.m., Bradford Beach
- Lake Michigan, Sheboygan, 1:00 p.m., Deland Park