Between shopping for gifts, wrapping them up, decorating the house, and cooking, the holiday season can be a stressful time—but it should be fun, too. While there are a lot of things to do to prepare for the holiday, there are plenty of memories to be made in the process. We’re here to help make that a little easier.
Family-owned Christmas tree farms have been serving Wisconsin’s communities for decades, and many of them offer fun activities like meetings with Santa or ice skating to make buying a tree all the more memorable. You can also take a road trip to a light display or two, and check out some of the truly impressive setups in unique locations like zoos, parks, or even a cave.
No matter how you choose to celebrate, there’s always fun to be had. Here are some of the best light displays and Christmas tree farms throughout the state to help get you and your family into the holiday spirit. They’re helpfully segmented by three regions: Madison, Milwaukee, and Eau Claire-La Crosse.
Summers Christmas Tree Farm
4610 Rocky Dell Road, Middleton
More than 70 years ago, the Summers family planted its first seedlings at the family’s Christmas tree farm in Middleton, just 16 miles outside of Madison. Today, the Summers Christmas Tree Farm is still owned by the same family and the seedlings have grown into massive trees that go for about $80.
In addition to selling trees, the farm operates a Christmas-themed gift shop so visitors can pick up a few presents and stocking stuffers while picking out the perfect tree. The shop sells home decor as well as ornaments to place on the tree of your choosing.
Holiday Fantasy in Lights
1156 Olin Court, Madison
From dusk until dawn, the entirety of Madison’s Olin Park is lit up with thousands of lights and multiple displays for Holiday Fantasy in Lights. The annual event opened Nov. 11 and runs through Dec. 31.
While the event does feature an extraordinary amount of lights, it prides itself on being a green event. Starting in 2009, organizers reduced the energy usage at the event by 82% by switching out the bulbs in the displays to LEDs.
Light in the Cave
2975 Cave of the Mounds Road, Blue Mounds
Caves are known for their intense darkness, but that changes during the holiday season at Cave of the Mounds in Blue Mounds, as the cave is illuminated with thousands of lights to help celebrate the holidays. The light display is in place throughout the month of December, and admission for adults is $21.99 (admission for children ages 4 to 12 is $12.99 and children 3 and under are free).
Attendees don’t even have to bundle up to head out to the cave. While caves are typically thought of as chillier places, Cave of the Mounds stays a consistent 50 degrees Fahrenheit all year long.
Mistletoe Christmas Tree Farm
300 County Highway N., Edgerton
While some Christmas tree farms have pre-cut trees that shoppers can choose from, visitors to Mistletoe Christmas Tree Farm in Edgerton choose from the farm’s growing trees still firmly rooted in the ground. The farm’s trees are priced based on species, height, and fullness, ranging in price from $55 to $145.
The farm also sells wreaths, which range in size from 20 inches to 42 inches and cost from $25 to $45. While most of the farm’s wreaths are formed into a circular shape, candy cane-shaped wreaths are also sold for $25.
Muskego Choose & Cut Christmas Trees
Corner of Moorland Road and Woods Road, Muskego
The pre-cut trees at Muskego Choose & Cut Christmas Trees were grown in the northern part of the state to be sold at the Muskego-based farm, a 20-mile drive from Milwaukee. While the farm normally has a cut-your-own lot, it’s closed through 2023 to give the farm’s smaller trees an opportunity to grow more. Instead, they’re selling pre-cut Fraser fir and balsam fir trees, which start at $50.
The farm, which opened on Nov. 24, sells trees, wreaths, and festive planters through the weekend before Christmas.
Wild Lights at Milwaukee County Zoo
100001 W. Bluemound Road, Milwaukee
The animals at the Milwaukee County Zoo might not know that it’s the holiday season, but everyone else who attends Wild Lights will. The zoo’s holiday light event runs from Dec. 1-31 and features thousands of sparkling lights on display from 5:30-9:30 p.m. each day that the zoo is open. Guests can walk or drive through the extensive display. Tickets for Wild Lights can be purchased on the zoo’s website.
Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival
520 E. Wells St., Milwaukee
Big cities are already bright places, but the state’s largest city, Milwaukee, is made even brighter each year by the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival. The event, which runs for more than six weeks, has been held annually for the past 25 years in the city’s Pere Marquette Park, Cathedral Square, and Zeidler Union Square.
The festival, which kicked off Nov. 16, runs through Jan. 1, 2024, and decorates the city’s downtown with more than 500,000 lights. The festival is spread across three parks, so there’s plenty to do beyond just marveling at the lights—attendees can go ice skating, drop a letter in Santa’s mailbox, or hop aboard the Jingle Bus tours, which cost $5 and take festivalgoers past all three of the city’s lit up parks.
Candy Cane Lane in West Allis
Oklahoma Ave., West Allis
In West Allis, a suburb of Milwaukee, Christmas spirit spreads throughout the entire community. Each year, a group of neighbors decorates their respective homes extravagantly with lights and other Christmas decor, calling the decorated neighborhood Candy Cane Lane in an effort to raise funds for the Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer (MACC) Fund. In the four decades since Candy Cane Lane’s launch, more than 300 homes have joined in the fun. While it’s free to view the houses, donations to the MACC Fund are welcome.
Visitors have the option of walking or driving through the neighborhood. No matter which way they choose, there are several rules on Candy Cane Lane’s website for drivers and walkers, including no trespassing on private property and obeying all traffic signs.
La Crosse-Eau Claire
Riverside Park, 100 State St., La Crosse
For 29 years, the Rotary Lights display has lit up La Crosse’s Riverside Park, with more than 3 million lights on display. While the main thrill of the Rotary Lights are the lights themselves, the display also has Santa in attendance every night through Dec. 23 from 5-8 p.m. The light display, which is free to attend, kicked off Nov. 24 with an opening parade and ceremony and will run through Dec. 31.
The Christmas Farm
N9182 County Highway M, Holmen
The Christmas Farm officially opened up for the season the day after Thanksgiving and only stays open for a few weeks after opening, so shoppers need to hurry to pick up a tree at the family-owned farm. Their final day of the 2023 season is Saturday, Dec. 9. Located in Mindoro, the farm sells pre-cut trees as well as live trees that customers can choose from, with pricing based on height.
With more than 40 acres of trees, there are plenty to choose from at the farm, but The Christmas Farm sells more than just Christmas trees. Decorated wreaths, which come in several sizes, are for sale at the farm as well as tree toppers and balsam garlands.
615 Northern Lights Trail, Hudson
Shoppers at Santa’s Evergreens, a Christmas tree farm in Hudson, can choose one of the farm’s pre-cut trees or, if they’re feeling adventurous, borrow one of the farm’s axes and chop one down themselves. The farm has 7 acres of trees for customers to choose from, pricing them by height. The farm sells more than just trees—Santa’s Evergreens also offers seasonal porch pots and 24-inch wreaths.
Not only is Santa’s Evergreens an ideal spot to pick up a Christmas tree, it’s a great location to take a Christmas card photo. The farm has two antique sleighs as well as a vintage 1950 Chevy truck with which families can pose for festive photos.
Vine’s Christmas Trees
W3579 Ridge Road, Granton
The Vine family has operated the farm where Vine’s Christmas Trees sits for more than 150 years. While it was historically operated as a beef and dairy farm, it now specializes in growing Christmas trees that sells four different types of trees: balsam fir, Fraser fir, white pine, and Canaan fir. The trees range in prices from $30 for trees that are under 5 feet tall up to $70 for trees that are more than 10 feet tall.
Located in Granton, the farm is an hour-long drive from Eau Claire and has more to offer than just Christmas trees. Visitors can take 30-minute wagon rides to and from the farm’s fields on the weekends and visit with Santa at the farm several times throughout the season.
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