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Shop local for that one-of-a-kind gift

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By Kerry Burke
Communications Assistant
VISIT Milwaukee

You know that feeling when you’ve purchased the perfect gift? Just knowing that you nailed it this year and that NO ONE is going to top your present? It’s that time of year when giving can make you feel so much better than receiving and we have plenty of ideas on where to find that unique, jaw-dropping item that they’ll remember for years to come!

For lovers of fine spirits, Great Lakes Distillery offers award-winning, locally-made products like vodka, gin, absinthe, whiskey, rum and brandy, all crafted using old-world methods for optimum flavor. Make this an easy buy during the busy season and purchase them online!

Perhaps you know a Julia Child wannabe, always cooking up amazing dishes. Help add a little spice to her stocking this year and inspire her in the kitchen with a gift from the Spice House! Gift sets come in a variety of flavors and themes including traditional Mexican, Asian and Italian seasonings and even an Ethnic Chicago Neighborhoods Spice Blends box.

For your relatives and family that are homesick for good ole Milwaukee during the holidays, ship them the “3rd Street Cheese & Sausage Gift” to brighten their mood. With not one, not two, but four different kinds of Usinger’s sausage and three cheeses from the Wisconsin Cheese Mart, give them a taste of home! Don’t worry about sending it through the mail. The Wisconsin Cheese Mart’s website automatically configures your shipping method so that it arrives before it could spoil!

George Watts & Sons with the crème-de-la-crème of home accessories and decor since 1870 makes shopping for your loved one (or inadvertently-yourself) a piece of cake. With candles, ornaments, dinnerware, jewelry and more, it’s got it all. Best of all, its super easy to pick up any of these great items online with a click of a mouse.

Share your true Milwaukee pride with the grand-daddy of collector items, Milwaukee Downtown’s annual holiday ornament. This year, the iconic skyline giant, the U.S. Bank Building, is the featured landmark. It’s not too late to start collecting them for yourself since all of the ornaments, starting from 2001, are available on their website. With all of those ornaments, you could have the finest looking tree on the block if we say so ourselves. 

Happy holidays and good luck during the busy shopping season!

Groucho: A life in Revue

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By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

America has long been cemented as the entertainment capital of the world, producing many an entertainer who needs only one name to be recognized by millions. Elvis, Marilyn, Bogie, Madonna, Cher, Sammy, Bing and more possess unique star qualities known the world over. Then there’s the ultra unique: Groucho. Perhaps no other figure in American entertainment history told his story, and America’s, so uniquely as Groucho Marx.

With a raise of his brow and a puff of his cigar, Groucho made you laugh, think and so much more all at once. And, so much more of Groucho is what you’ll get from “Groucho: A Life in Revue” playing now through Dec. 8 at Milwaukee’s Next Act Theatre.

“Groucho: A Life in Revue” is just that, a review of a lifetime revue. From early-childhood bedtime stories (he and his brothers shared a bed as the family struggled to make ends meet) to vaudevillian scamping, then major Hollywood stardom and finally a fixture on television sets nationwide, Groucho Marx and his brothers were America. Rags to riches, family to famely, Norman Moses (Groucho) and David Cecsarini (Chico) lead a splendid cast (Chris Klopatek steals every scene as Harpo and Alexendra Bonesho sizzles as Groucho's stable of ladies) in song, dance and slapstick with style, grace and just the perfect amount of emotional touches.

Director Pam Kriger and her cast expertly touch on the tale of two brothers as told by Arthur Marx (Groucho’s son) and Robert Fisher. Groucho and Chico’s bond as brothers and partners, yins and yangs until the end had the audience all in from curtain to bows. Especially entertaining was the light-hearted Grouchesque banter with the audience when a gag needed a lift or a brother needed a reprimand. It reminded all how important it is to laugh, especially at one’s self.

The great songwriter Irving Berlin quipped, "The world would not be in such a snarl, had Marx been Groucho instead of Karl." Well, the world would also snarl a lot less after they spend a couple hours at Next Act Theatre watching “Groucho: A Life in Revue.”

“Groucho: A Life in Revue” at Next Act Theatre
November 14 - December 8

Around the World at the Holiday Folk Fair International

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By Margaret Casey
Public Relations Coordinator
VISIT Milwaukee

Milwaukee celebrates its ethnic heritage all summer long at Henry Maier Festival Park and Cathedral Square, but did you know that the forerunner of these festivals is 70 years old this year? The grand-daddy of them all – the Holiday Folk Fair International – will “Celebrate the Culture of Community” this weekend (Fri-Sun, Nov 22-24) at the Wisconsin Exposition Center.

Organized each year by the International Institute of Wisconsin, the fair features more than 30 dance groups, from Pomeranians to Polynesians, Bulgarians to Bavarians and many in between, performing in colorful costumes on various stages.

Along with the spectacle of the adult and youth ethnic dance groups, you’ll want to check out the 20 food vendors serving up everything from falafel to egg rolls, crepes, strudel, cannoli, Tikka Masala, gyros and more. The Callen Construction Chef Demonstration Stage will also feature a program of local chefs preparing traditional cuisine.

The music of mariachis, polka bands, Czech orchestras and Mid-East ensembles are among the many offerings at the Music Pavilion and World Café, and you can shop for unique jewelry, arts and cultural artifacts at the International Bazaar.

The Holiday Folk Fair has even teamed up with the Salvation Army of Milwaukee County for an “Around the World 5K Run/Walk” on Sunday, November 24th at 9:00 a.m.

So head out to State Fair’s Expo Center this weekend and celebrate the cultural mosaic that is Milwaukee. For 70 years the Holiday Folk Fair International has brought people of different backgrounds together through music, food, dance and art.  And a generation of Milwaukeeans has grown up knowing that that always guarantees a good time!

Holiday Folk Fair International
Wisconsin Exposition Center at Wisconsin State Fair Park
8200 West Greenfield Avenue, West Allis

Friday, November 22, 2 pm - 10 pm
Saturday, November 23, 10 am - 10 pm
Sunday, November 24, 10 am - 7 pm

$10.00: in advance
$12.00: at the gate
Discounts: Seniors, Military, Children, Families


Holiday Events in Milwaukee

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By Carrie Woods
Public Relations Specialist
VISIT Milwaukee

There is something about traditions during the holiday season that makes me feel warm inside. Warm like the kind of warm you feel while you sip hot cocoa (maybe spiked, maybe not…) huddled between your friends watching the fireworks at the Holiday Lights Extravaganza kickoff at Pere Marquette Park. If you’ve never seen a fireworks show synchronized to your favorite holiday hits, you simply haven’t lived.

Here’s just a few ways you can get that warm, tingly, Santa-is-coming-and-I’m-on-the-nice-list-this-year feeling with Milwaukee’s holiday events coming this week:

110th Annual City/County Christmas Tree Lighting
Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 4:30 p.m.
Red Arrow Park

Few holiday traditions stand the test of time as well as the City/County Christmas Tree Lighting – this year becoming a century-old tradition. Local choirs, musicians and theater groups commence the yuletide carols at 4:30 p.m., followed by a countdown to the illumination of the Christmas tree dressed in big, red bows that stands near Red Arrow Park’s picturesque skating rink. Mayor Tom Barrett, County Executive Chris Abele, John McGivern and Santa (I KNOW HIM!) will all be there to spread some holiday cheer and flip the switch.

Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival Kick-Off Extravaganza
Thursday, Nov. 21 at 6:00 p.m.
Pere Marquette Park

Ok, I’m biased on this one. It is my favorite holiday event, not only in Milwaukee, but EVER. My countdown started months ago in anticipation of the festivities including live music (think big band, bluesy sounds), dance performances (with little ones and teens donning costumes of red and green and OH THE GLITTER), holiday skits, ice sculptures and a visit from the Big Guy in the red suit. All of this culminates with the flip of the switch, illuminating Milwaukee’s downtown parks with holiday lights displays from Santa’s Elves to a merry band of giant bears, a steam locomotive and trees decorated by more than 2,000 students from the Milwaukee area. Simultaneously, the aforementioned fireworks synced to the sounds of “Jingle Bells” get bigger and higher as “Joy to the World” hits your ears, propelling your holiday cheer to uncharted territories. This experience results in a season filled with mountains of Christmas cookies, the purchase of reindeer antlers for your household pet and a tree covered in WAY too much tinsel.

To see all of the parks in their twinkling glory while staying toasty warm, hop on the Jingle Bus! Thursdays through Sundays from 6 – 9 p.m., the bus picks up at Center Court of the Shops of Grand Avenue. A friendly and knowledgeable Milwaukee Downtown Public Service Ambassador narrates a 40-minute tour of the parks and landmarks for just $1 per person. Free cookies and hot cocoa are served, and kids get a free holiday coloring book.

Milwaukee’s 87th Annual Holiday Parade
Saturday, Nov. 23 at 9:30 a.m.
Downtown Milwaukee – Click here to see the parade route map

I’m not quite sure how Santa is going to get all of the toys made and check his list twice with all of his obligations in Milwaukee this week. He’ll be making another appearance along with giant balloons of Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph, marching bands, bouncing dancers, that Elf-looking guy who rides the huge hamster wheel around, smiling dignitaries, TV and radio hosts and more at the Holiday Parade on Saturday morning.

Insider tip: If you park towards the end of the parade route (get there early for a street spot within a few blocks, or park in the structures nearby if you don’t mind paying a little bit), spend some time in the Shops of Grand Avenue sipping coffee or cocoa and nibbling on sweet treats while you watch the furry, animatronic bears of the Leonard Bearnstein Symphony Orchestra perform.

A highlight of the parade is watching the volunteers for Hunger Task Force cruise through the streets with shopping carts to collect non-perishable food items during the parade. Kids run from the sidewalks with bags they brought along, excited to get in on the parade action, reminding us all to be grateful for what we have during the holidays, and spread some of those blessings on to those in need. After seeing this happen, you’ll feel like donating your whole pantry, so pack a bag before you head out for the parade and help the Hunger Task Force make someone’s holiday a little brighter!


“Forever Plaid” is a Splendored Thing

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By Carrie Woods
Public Relations Specialist
VISIT Milwaukee

After reading a review of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Forever Plaid, I was feeling simultaneously excited and curious. The author described the show as, “very, very funny,” and mentioned several times how great the music was.

But, he also said this…“The only question about this play is whether people under, say 40 or 50, will respond to it.”

I pushed any reservations to the back of my head and headed out to see the show on a crisp fall evening with a girlfriend. The show is on stage at the Rep’s Stackner Cabaret Theater, which is my favorite place to see a show in Milwaukee. A glass or two of wine shared with a table of new friends at a place where you can get seats less than five feet from the action? Yes, please. We also ordered a hefty slice of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting about halfway through the show. My sweet tooth gave a standing ovation. 

From the first note sung, the show had me smiling. “Forever Plaid” is based on four eager young singers from the 1960s known as “The Plaids.” The story goes the group was killed tragically on their way to a gig. They greet the audience as they realize they’ve been brought back from the afterlife to finally put on their big show.

The Plaids weave their story as they croon bop-shoo-boppers and ballads like “Three Coins in the Fountain” and “Sixteen Tons” from the nifty fifties, times that many in the audience know and remember fondly. While I didn’t recognize all of them, the harmonies are so tight and impressive that each time they were building up toward the end of a song, I wished they would do one more verse!

The cast had the banter between the characters nailed, to a point where you believed the smooth heartthrob was most certainly a dreamboat in real life, and the worrisome, taller bass was glad he got to chug his Maalox on stage so he didn’t have to wait until he was behind the curtain to sooth his nerves.

So the verdict is in. Those who find themselves belonging to a generation with a title falling somewhere closer to the end of the alphabet instead of up towards “Baby Boomer” will enjoy this show. So much so they might catch themselves humming tunes from the show. I might even add a new “50s Rock ‘n Roll” station to my Pandora line-up.


Forever Plaid at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater
Through Dec. 29

Lake Park Bistro – C’est magnifique!

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By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

My neighbors have swapped out their pumpkin-face, street-lantern topper with a snowman-face model, so it’s official: it’s the holidays. Cook all night, wake up and cook some more, pack it all up and transport it to Aunt Gertrude’s (where it kind of smells like 1986), then it’s unpacked, reheated, quickly consumed and…you get the idea.

Well, here’s an idea. Call Aunt Gertie and tell her to buy some Febreze. Then, put on your Sunday best or your Sunday casual and go to Lake Park Bistro for an unforgettable, stress-free Sunday holiday brunch.

I have a friend who always says, around holiday-time conversations, “We went to Lake Park Bistro for brunch.” Never fails, every time.

I thought, “Does he even have family, this friend who’s going to brunch every holiday?” Turns out he does (I’ve know them for 20-some years) and they’re very smart.

My family and I thought we’d give it a try a few weeks ago and I’m extremely upset it was just our first time. The views, the ambiance, the service – it’s all so comfortable and inviting. It’s like walking into that really cool house of those friends you secretly hate because everything about them and their house is perfect. The minute you walk into Lake Park Bistro, it’s like you’re transported into a cozy (but very spacious) French café with whimsical posters adorning the walls and French music wafting over the aroma of fresh-baked bread, which we received shortly after sitting down.

Brunch officially began 10 minutes later (it’s all perfectly timed so you never feel rushed) with les appetizers (it’s a three-course breakfast): Crevettes Sautees (sauteed Gulf shrimp with Swiss chard, fresh herbs and an aromatic shellfish sauce) for my son, Soupe À L’Oignon for my wife (baked onion soup topped with toasted baguette and Gruyere cheese) and Tarte au Chevre (warm goat cheese and caramelized onion tart with greens and sherry vinegar) for me.

Our second slice of heaven was the main entrée. My wife and son both chose Pain Perdu - Brioche French Toast with bacon, fruit preserves, maple syrup and creme fraiche. If I knew how to say “incredible” in French, I would. There’s the French toast you make at home on a skillet, then there’s Pain Perdu.

My selection was painfully easy: Omelette Aux Champignons – French-style thin omelet with herbs, mushrooms, leeks and Gruyere cheese. I am an omelet guy and a very picky one at that. This was by far the best omelet I’ve ever eaten. Some people claim to dream in color, I swear I can still taste that omelet in my dreams.

This dream brunch was the theme of the entire meal. Incredible, delicious, effortless. And we hadn’t even gotten to our third course – dessert! Mousse au Chocolat (Valrhona chocolate mousse with strawberries and fried beignets) for my son, Crepes au Nutella (fresh crepes filled with Nutella and sliced bananas)  a la my wife and Tarte aux Fruits (tart filled with seasonal fruit and creme anglaise) for moi.

After one bite of my Tarte aux Fruits, I quipped “They should employ St. Peter to man the doors at the entrance.”

Smiling faces, immaculate venue, gorgeous views and impeccable food and service. I guess they can’t very well call it heaven, as that’s taken. So, Lake Park Bistro will do – just fine. You should do it, too. Aunt Gertie won’t mind.

Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro
3133 E. Newberry Blvd.

Quite Eventful – 365 Days a Year!

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by Jennifer Posh

Milwaukee's busy summer season of festivals, events and outdoor concerts may be over, but that doesn’t mean the city is ready to hibernate until spring. At, you’ll find more than enough events to keep your autumn days and nights filled.

Fall is the season of the arts – check out the Theatre, Dance, and Music sections to find upcoming performances from institutions of the local arts scene, plus a few you've probably never heard of! The Culinary section has everything from prix fixe dinners prepared by famous chefs to food tours to pancake breakfasts. Want to browse a variety of events suited to your group? The Kids & Family section has everything you need for a great weekend out with the family, and the Gen Y section features everything young Milwaukeeans will want to check out. With Art, Comedy, Festivals, Sports and more rounding out the list, there's sure to be something to tickle your fancy.

Browse by section, or search the site by date to find all your options for Milwaukee fun, whether you're looking for something to do tonight, this weekend, or during a special visit months from now. If you just can't decide, take your cues from the rest of the city and try one of the "Top 10" most viewed events of the day.

And once you've attended one (or more…) of the fantastic local events, do a favor for another reader looking for a good time and come back to the site to leave a review.

If your organization is planning a great public event in the Greater Milwaukee area, we want to help you share it! Posting an event is easy and free, so visit the site today to make an account and start sharing.

Make your "go-to" calendar – it’s going to be a busy fall!