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Try Something New for the New Year

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by Guest Bloggers Carrie Woods & Kerry Burke

Making New Year’s plans can be stressful. Where to dine on the last night of the year, which destination to ring in the New Year, who to kiss at midnight… these factors can make or break the holiday in one poorly-informed decision.

But have no fear! VISIT Milwaukee has you covered with tips on what to do in the city from family fun to welcoming 2013 with paint brushes or pajamas. We’re Carrie and Kerry, this year’s two-headed NYE blogger with plenty of ideas for you.

Grab your girlfriends (or bring along the guys – they have OLD SCHOOL NINTENDO at the bar!) and make like Van Gogh at Splash Studio, the new “paint bar” in the Historic Third Ward. Starting at 9 p.m., you’ll grab a brush and canvas and learn how to create and paint “Tidal Wave,” a 3-dimensional piece with plaster, paint, gloss and glitter from a local professional painter. Best of all, you can enjoy cocktails while you create your masterpiece, certainly intensifying the creative experience!

If you and your friends are more of the “party-animal” type, head to Turner Hall’s “The Get Down,” the longest running funk and soul dance party in Milwaukee, beginning at 9 p.m. Dance until you drop to real soul and funk music all night long and enjoy a complimentary dinner buffet hosted by Casablanca along with great drink features. We love the giant balloon drop at midnight!

Hold on, why wait until midnight to celebrate the New Year? Milwaukee’s super-secret spy bar starts the party at 3 p.m. with the stroke of midnight in Moscow, followed by a toast to the Greek Isles at 4 p.m., cheers to Paris and Rome at 5 p.m., and best wishes to London and Dublin at 6 p.m.! If you’re surreptitious enough to find the location of the Safe House, you’ll also need a password to enter – and NO, we will NOT be giving out any hints.

The Harlem Globetrotters are back in Milwaukee for another New Year’s Eve performance at the BMO Harris Bradley Center! This family-favorite Milwaukee tradition takes a new twist this year when YOU get to decide the rules of the game. That’s right! This could be anything from shrinking the basketball court to getting double the points for each basket made. Personally, we would like to see them play with their legs tied together.

If you’re not up for the Harlem Globetrotters, no worries! The whole family will love celebrating New Year’s Eve at the Mitchell Horticultural Conservatory- The Domes. The show dome will be decorated for the occasion with balloon sculptures and you’ll see a magician that we can’t even figure out…and we have four eyes! Listen to music by the Garlic Mustard Pickers, watch Juggler Gypsy Geoff, crate arts and crafts and stick around for the balloon drop at the end of the event! The Tropical and Desert Domes will be open as well so don’t be afraid to peak in. 

Little ones can slip on their pajamas, grab their favorite stuffed animal and party until the New Year, or at least until bedtime, at the “New Year’s Eve Pajama Party” at the Betty Brinn Museum. Munch on Palermo’s Pizza and other late night snacks, snuggle up for a special bedtime story and create a sparkly New Year’s Eve hat. Celebrate the final countdown with a ball drop and juice toast alongside Father Time and Baby New Year!

Who says only kids can party in their PJs? Enjoy a blast from the past at the Historic Pabst Brewery’s 2nd Annual Formal Pajama Party. Start the night dressed to impress with no cover charge, free food, a cash bar and old school jams by DJ Slam-Bam. When the clock strikes 12, pop the top of your complimentary PBR Tall Boy and join in a toast to the New Year. Immediately following, slip into your pajamas and keep the party going until 6 a.m., when those brave enough will head to the shores of the big pond for the Polar Bear Plunge.

Jump head first into 2013 with bravery, excitement and a little insanity on the icy shores of Lake Michigan at the Polar Bear Plunge. Thousands will descend on Bradford Beach at Noon on Jan. 1, 2013 to charge into the icy waters, welcoming the New Year with a bang, chattering teeth and mild hypothermia. If you’re up to the challenge, don’t forget warm clothes and blankets to change in to after the plunge. Or, do what we do and be a good friend, bundle up to go watch (and laugh at) your friends as they run screaming in and out of the water.

Afterwards, we’re going to continue celebrating New Year’s Day at the Cool Fool Kite Festival at Veteran’s Park. This free event lasts from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. and will provide snacks, coffee and hot chocolate, while it lasts, to warm your chilled bones. Kites and hot food will also be for sale if you don’t bring your own! You can also check out local ice carvers in action (our favorite) and even take a quick lesson to learn how to create your own ice masterpieces. Don’t miss the chance to cozy up on a horse drawn carriage ride either.

These are just a few ways you can celebrate the New Year in Milwaukee and there is a whole bunch more where these came from!  Check out VISIT Milwaukee’s event calendar to see all of the great things going on downtown.

Have a happy and safe New Year!

Until next time,

C & K


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Fest Bet For Fun

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By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

Timing may not be everything in life, but it’s pretty close. Consider: the greater Milwaukee area had gone a record 708 weeks (OK, so it was more like 288 days, but it felt a lot longer) without a measurable snowfall. Now consider: it snows and blows and snows some more and 40-mile-per-hour winds are whipping our city blurry white JUST as Winter Fest at Delta Center is set to open. Eerie recap: it’s awful outside and now we have a giant, festive and fun safe haven? Fate’s telling us it’s time to go to Winter Fest.

If fate could whisper even louder, she’d tell us to hit the new attractions at this year’s Winter Fest first thing in the door. We’re talking zip line and slide, roller rink (YES! Cue the ABBA music!), Tilt-A-Whirl (yep, a Tilt-A-Whirl inside in December), kiddie grand prix, radar snowball pitch (snow with heat = water), Velcro wall, wrecking ball (all I know is players get knocked off their pads, so I’m in) and a Polar Café, where adults can relax with beverages (some of the adult variety) and snacks amidst free Wi-Fi.

THEN, they can head to the OTHER NEW ATTRACTIONS, like: Majestic Mountain Theatre Stage, swing sets (and your hands won’t get frozen to the swings!), Disney’s “Cars”-inspired double slide, Berry Go Round and an indoor driving range. Have I mentioned this is all going on inside, where it’s nice and warm? while it’s howling-cold outside?

The kids will howl for Winter Fest’s zones – six separate areas of rides and activities, each with its own theme. From South Pole to North Pole, Igloo Island to Peppermint Lane, Holiday Village to Operation Move Zone, kids and adults can get moving and playing on carnival rides, have artificial snow fights (pelt mom and dad – and the kids– all day long and no one gets hurt) in a giant snow globe and even ride a train.

I choo-choo choose Winter Fest for a fun-filled after-Christmas activity for the entire family. And, I did say it’s all happening INSIDE while it’s freezing outside? And it’s all right here in downtown Milwaukee at Delta Center? Good. Now get outside so you can get inside and play – Dec. 26-31 at Winter Fest. It’s time.

Milwaukee Winter Fest
Dec. 26-31
Delta Center


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Shop ‘til You Drop….In MKE!

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By Jeannine Sherman
Director of Public Relations
VISIT Milwaukee

What’s better than getting the perfect gift? Giving one, of course!

I believe that if you’re going to give a gift, you’ve got to do it right. That means NO store gift certificates or hastily-selected Hallmark cards stuffed with $20 bucks. Come on, what does that REALLY say other than “I don’t have time and/or care enough to pick out a thoughtful present?”

I steer clear of the latest gadgets and trends at the big box stores, too, because I don’t want my Christmas to look like everyone else’s. Cookie cutters are for….well…..cookies. Not gifts.

My final rule of engagement is: Local First. Shopping at locally-owned stores typically guarantees that I’m going to get a unique gift and it has the added benefit of keeping dollars in our economy right here at home. And since there are hundreds of local merchants selling everything from gourmet coffee to handmade jewelry in neighborhoods throughout the city, I never worry about finding the exact right gift for everyone on my list.

Speaking of lists, I’ve put together a very short one with a few shop local suggestions. Check out our partner listing on for more!

Holiday cheer is in abundance in Milwaukee, with plenty of options for both beer aficionados and lovers of fine spirits:

Foodies are bound to love the gift of Cream City cuisine. From Usinger's Famous Sausage, located in Milwaukee since 1880, to Glorioso’s Italian Market, to an amazing restaurant scene, you’ll find a gift to please any taste:

Gift certificate to a local restaurant (this is an exception to the store gift card rule)

Have a person on your list that likes to be active? Here are some ideas:

Don’t forget about the gift shops at many of Milwaukee’s favorite attractions. Find artwork, books and souvenirs for the art and history buff, without breaking the bank:

Don’t know what to get for the person who has everything? A one-of-a-kind piece for the home is always a thoughtful gift:

And don’t forget your favorite fashionista! Milwaukee is filled with unique boutiques; here are just a few ideas:

So what are you waiting for? No need to panic. The clock is ticking – but the perfect present is out there– right in MKE!


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Ring in the Holidays in                   Milwaukee – Part II

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By Jeannine Sherman
Director of Public Relations
VISIT Milwaukee

Tradition…..With a Twist!

Looking for something different to do this season? I’ve got a few ideas – from a one-of-a-kind light show, to tongue-in-cheek performances, to a bicycle ride that puts the ho ho ho in the holidays!

In Tandem Theatre presents the long-awaited return of the Cudahy Carolers in “A Cudahy Caroler Christmas” running until January 5, 2013. Following a bitter breakup five years earlier, Stasch must reunite the Carolers to restore the spirit of the season in this hilarious holiday homage to bowling, beer, friendship and forgiveness! Join Stasch, Pee Wee, Edna, Trixie and the gang as they warble their way through such classics as "Ach Ya' Der Once", "We Three Guys from Cudahy Are" and "O, Bowling Night

The Milwaukee favorite, “Who Killed Santa?” is back again this year from December 14-30, at Carte Blanche Studios. In this hilarious puppet murder mystery, Santa has invited Frosty, Tiny Tim, The Little Drummer Boy and Rudolph to his annual holiday party when he is suddenly murdered! As the tension builds, a couple of incompetent detectives enter the scene, and all the dirty secrets of these iconic holiday characters are revealed. Eventually, with the help of the audience, the murderer is convicted and sentenced.  This adult performance features parodies of your favorite holiday songs, audience interaction and gratuitous puppet violence. 

MillerCoors’ annual Holiday Lites Show is back to “lite” up Milwaukee and promises to be bigger than ever! The must-see show features more than 300,000 LED lights synched to a mix of modern and traditional holiday music and takes place every Friday and Saturday in December through December 22. Guests can see the light show, take the tour of the Milwaukee brewery and sample delicious seasonal brews, if 21 and older. Everyone is also invited to bring an unwrapped toy to donate to Toys-For-Tots or a non-perishable food item for Hunger Task Force. Don’t miss out on this family-friendly Milwaukee tradition!

Have bike, will travel at the 12th annual “Santa Cycle Rampage” on Saturday, December 15. Bring your Santa suit and bicycle to join in this grown-up revelry that takes riders to some great local watering holes, such as Café Hollander, Lakefront Brewery and Great Lakes Distillery.

Laugh the stress of the season away at Second City’s “Dysfunctional Holiday Revue” at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts from December 6-16. This performance is a seasonal blend of hilarious scenes, songs and trademark improvisation for a night of spirited fun. Audience interaction will determine the direction of the sketch and a few members may even be able to join the cast on stage! From uneven gift exchanges with your clueless boyfriend to couples therapy with Joseph and Mary, Second City has your ticket to all that’s ridiculous about this magical season.

Join John McGivern as he plays the “Queen of Rural Media,” Earlene Hoople, as she tapes her last Christmas Special in “Kodachrome Christmas” at Next Act Theatre. This truly unique performance entertains with participatory bell-ringing, cookie baking, a family slide show, some outrageous advice for surviving the holidays with relatives and more! “Kodachrome Christmas” runs from December 12-31.

Looking for more ideas? No matter what makes you merry, head to VISIT Milwaukee’s events calendar for a comprehensive listing of things to see and do this holiday season.


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Ring in the Holidays in                   Milwaukee – Part I

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By Jeannine Sherman
Director of Public Relations
VISIT Milwaukee

It’s a Tradition!

It’s December and that means the holidays are bearing down like The Polar Express. There are cookies to bake, family to see, presents to buy and merry to be making. No matter how you like to add sparkle to the holiday season, Milwaukee offers plenty to do. This week I thought I would mix it up a bit – today I’m highlighting some of the time-honored traditions that make the season bright. In Part II, I’ll let you in on a few activities that put a fresh spin on a favorite annual celebration!

Milwaukee’s Holiday Lights Festival dazzles visitors through New Year’s Eve with plenty of fun for the entire family. Be sure to ride the Jingle Bus, a 40-minute tour that highlights the city’s brightly festive spots and landmarks, for only $1!

Brighten your holidays with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol” at the Pabst Theater. This local favorite returns for its 37th season with shows from Nov. 29- Dec. 24. Even the most jaded holiday Scrooges can’t help but leave with a warmed heart and a smiling face thanks to the show’s vivid set pieces and delightful carols.

Magicians, Rat Kings and Snow Queens are part of the holiday spectacle at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts when the Milwaukee Ballet’s annual performance of, “The Nutcracker” returns. Embark on the dazzling journey with unforgettable music and grandiose set designs that will leave you shining with holiday spirit.

Head to Grand Avenue Mall for the yearly performance of the “Leonard Bearstein Symphony Orchestra.” This musical group of animatronic bears is always a delight for both the young and young at heart.

Strap on your skates and enjoy Red Arrow Park’s Slice of Ice. Whether you’re an expert or a first-time ice skater, this downtown rink is a winter favorite. If you need to warm up, the park offers a Starbucks and a warming room that offers excellent views of what’s happening on the ice.

Feast like its 1892 in the splendidly-restored Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion at its annual Dickens Dinner. This traditional English dinner features Charles Dickens himself, reading his holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol,” and it’s also a great opportunity to check out the opulent Victorian holiday decorations of the Mansion’s “Grand Avenue Christmas.”

Check out the lobby of the downtown BMO Harris Bank on Water Street, where you’ll find this year's annual holiday display. Now celebrating its 40th year, the 2012 train-themed winter wonderland is “Holiday Junction” and features BMO's collection of more than 150 life-sized, costumed animals.

Cozy shops, twinkling lights, snow-lined streets… this is just the picture-perfect holiday scene you’ll find 20 minutes north of Milwaukee in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. This charming town offers plenty of holiday cheer, especially during Festive Friday Eves, a series of family-oriented evening events in Cedarburg’s Cedar Creek Settlement.

And that’s just the tip of the treetop! Looking for more ideas? Head to VISIT Milwaukee’s events calendar for a comprehensive listing of things to see and do this holiday season.


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