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NYE a la MKE… ring in 2014 in Milwaukee!

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By Jennifer Posh
Marketing Assistant
VISIT Milwaukee

New Year’s Eve in Milwaukee is fun and easy, whether you’re bringing the whole family or just a few friends for a night on the town. With a great variety of restaurants, bars, and attractions, Milwaukee’s big city glitz with an affordable price tag will help you ring in the New Year in style.

If you find the cold air invigorating, try ice skating amongst the sparkling lights of downtown Milwaukee at the Slice of Ice in Red Arrow Park, which will be open until 1am. Rent your skates there, or skate for free when you bring your own! You also aren’t too late to see some holiday trimmings – the Fantastic Forest of Holiday Trees will still be open to visitors at the Milwaukee County Zoo. New Year’s Eve is a great night to treat yourself to a special meal – hopefully the first of many in the new year! Milwaukee is home to a diverse community of great restaurants. Be adventurous and try a new ethnic cuisine, or enjoy classic fine dining for an elegant evening.

Nightlife in Milwaukee is lively all year round; on the biggest night of the year, you can’t go wrong. Find the spot that fits your celebration style, from the exclusive nightclub feel of Suite to the retro-kitschy fun of the Safe House, and everything in between. If music is a must, you’ll find live bands and DJs playing at many Milwaukee venues. Join in a soul & funk dance party at Turner Hall Ballroom, enjoy DJs at the stylishly industrial Iron Horse Hotel or celebrate with live music atop the Pfister Hotel at Blu.

After the toasts have been made and kisses exchanged, catch your forty winks (give or take!) at one of Milwaukee’s hotels, with everything from chic boutiques to national brands. Then, welcome 2014 with a New Year’s Day brunch – a great opportunity to check another “must visit” restaurant off your list!

When the balloons drop and champagne flutes clink at midnight, you’ll be glad you rang in 2014 in Milwaukee.

For more ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Milwaukee, check out all the great events scheduled around town on our event site:

Milwaukee Named Top Family Destination of 2014!

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By Bill Prange
Web Marketing Specialist
VISIT Milwaukee

The nationwide love for Milwaukee keeps coming! The city has been named the top destination for family travel in 2014 by ABC Travel Guides for Kids!

Editor Matthew Rosenberger and his family visited Milwaukee in the summer of 2013 for research on the upcoming travel guide for the city. As a result of the trip, Rosenberger selected Milwaukee for the top spot on the annual list. Attractions such as the Harley-Davidson Museum, Milwaukee Public Museum, and Palermo’s Pizza tour were highlighted on the list as well as dining options of Milwaukee Food Tours, Melthouse Bistro and frozen custard.

“When we select our top picks for family travel we look at lodging choices, restaurants and family friendly attractions, and Milwaukee is well positioned in all of these areas. The city is home to some of the most successful family-run businesses in the country, and we found that most of the owners were on site when we visited,” said Rosenberger. “The energy and pride of this city are the real game changers when it comes to sending a strong message to families that, ‘We want your family to come visit our family in Milwaukee!’”

Other Milwaukee favorites are featured in the recently published ABC Travel Guide for Kids “15 Things We Love – Milwaukee” list including Discovery World, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Milwaukee Domes, Milwaukee County Zoo and more.

Other destinations that appear on the list include Washington D.C., Miami, Philadelphia, the region north of Boston, Times Square in New York City, and Baltimore. 


Getting in the Holiday Spirit in Milwaukee Step 1: See “A Christmas Carol”

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By Carrie Woods
Public Relations Specialist
VISIT Milwaukee

Holiday shopping, putting up the Christmas tree, baking cookies and singing yuletide carols are all great ways to get in to the holiday spirit. But all of these things often don’t remind you of the true spirit of the holidays – of giving and charity and spending time reflecting on blessings with loved ones.

A trip to see the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s A Christmas Carol does just that. It has done so for the past 38 years. I would wager to say that it will continue to for another 38, especially since this year, the show has a few new pleasant twists and giggles that weren’t there before.

As you settle into your red velvet seat at the grandiose Pabst Theater and hear the first few lines from the cast, you are transported to nineteenth century London. The sing-song story lines are told by small groups, scattered across the stage, keeping you on your toes to follow the narrative. The colorful costumes all include overcoats and the sound effects of wind whipping through the dark streets send shivers up your spine (quite literally, I shivered!).

Christopher Donahue reprises his role of Scrooge and nails it with his own twist on the cantankerous “bah, humbug-er” we all love. He brings several poignant comedic moments to the story, some displayed by his body language and movements alone.

Veteran Rep actor Jim Pickering has played Scrooge many times over the years and is still part of the show this year. He is part of much of the show, in fact, playing four different roles – one of which is the female role of Mrs. Fezziwig. And let me just say, he does an amazing job and the costume designers have done wonders, as I never thought it would be possible to give the legendary Pickering cleavage in some sort of a tasteful way. I stand corrected!

Other highlights of the show range from the set to actors and songs. The impressively seamless scene changes are done by the cast, transporting you from Christmas past to present to future without a curtain drawn or lights lowered. The Cratchit family is adorable as ever, and Tiny Tim’s famous line makes you want to jump out of your seat and run down to hug him. Scrooge’s nephew Fred, played by Luigi Sottile, is downright dreamy, and as he and Catherine sang a few lines of “The Holly and the Ivy,” I caught myself picturing him spinning ME around the tree after playing a few rounds of charades.

Besides the warm and fuzzy parts of the show, you’ll find yourself in moments of longing and awe as you watch Scrooge come to see the reality of his lonely life. From the emptiness of missing family and loved ones to hardening of the heart in pursuit of ideals which prove to be not so great, Scrooge shows the audience a life lived without warmth, charity or kindness. It’s a good thing that his old pal Jacob Marley sends him a message loudly and clearly (and sometimes loudly and funny or intensely spooky) to try to make him see his ways.

Without giving away any more of the show, I’ll just say that after enjoying A Christmas Carol this year, I left thinking more about what is truly important during the season. Spending time with loved ones, spreading holiday cheer to those who might need a little more this time of year and making lasting memories are now at the top of the holiday to-do list.

Happy holidays, everyone!

A Christmas Carol
Through Dec. 24
Presented by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater
Performed at the Pabst Theater

Photography credits:

Top Row

  • Left: Renata Friedman (standing) and Christopher Donahue in Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2013/14 production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
  • Middle: Craig Wallace and Christopher Donahue in Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2013/14 production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
  • Right: A scene from Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2013/14 production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Bottom Row:

  • Left: A scene from Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2013/14 production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
  • Middle: (L – R) Melody Betts, Jack Trettin (seated), Marti Gobel, Eliza Hake (front row), Freedom Gobel (second row), Claire Zempel, Riley Halpern and Elliott Brotherhood (back row). 
  • Right: The cast from Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2013/14 production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Brosilow. 

Best Christmas Pageant Ever

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By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

There are an abundance of messages hurled at us in this performance-enhanced era of the Information Age. During the holidays, the tweets, updates and texts seem to quadruple to overload status. It’s the perfect time to visit the Todd Wehr Theater at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, turn off your smart phone and be bombarded with nothing but The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

The “best” looks like the worst when mom Grace Bradley gets thrown into directing the annual Christmas pageant at her children’s school. Worst turns to nightmare when the Herdman kids – the town’s local bully family of five – decide they not only want to be in the play, they want all the main parts.

The entire town is in uproar – and not just because this First Stage Children’s Theater classic has gone 80s (“Thriller” dance number to “Walking Like An Egyptian” - hands down my favorite part of the show!). No one is feeling the spirit of the season – especially the Herdmans. But, as they learn more about the pageant’s story of how Jesus was born, the season begins to grow in them and affect all gathered at the town church to witness the “Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

Fun Alert: in the second half of the play, all in attendance are part of the “church” where the pageant is performed and will be forced to sing and have fun. And, having fun is what a First Stage production is all about. It’s also about a bevy of fine performances by First Stage regulars Niffer Clarke (Grace Bradley) and Todd Denning (Bob Bradley) and a host of incredible young actors (we saw the Cosby cast) who have the privilege of attending one of the finest children’s theaters in the world.

A couple times during the play, I sneaked peeks at the children attending in the audience, their mouths agape in wild wonder. No iPads. No HD TVs or angry fowl games. Just kids sharing a great story with other kids. Definitely share it with yours.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Through Dec. 29
Presented by First Stage
Performed at the Todd Wehr Theater at the Marcus Center for Performing Arts

For a look back stage with students from First Stage, Milwaukee Ballet School and Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, see the Dear MKE film, "HIGH ART."


Celebrate Christmas in the Ward this Weekend

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By Margaret Casey
Public Relations Coordinator
VISIT Milwaukee

“Shopping local” has never been more fun than at Christmas in the Ward this Friday and Saturday in the Historic Third Ward. Where else but in Milwaukee would Friday night’s official tree-lighting program on Catalano Square range from the Milwaukee Police Band, to the Trinity Irish Dancers, to fireworks over the river, up to…wait for it…the Milwaukee Ukelele Club! Mrs. Claus and her live reindeer will be on hand for the kids, and Santa himself will be welcoming all and giving out cookies at Jolly’s Outdoor Gingerbread House.

Twinkling Christmas lights, decorative shop windows and horse-drawn carriage rides will provide more holiday magic and the music of brass bands and choirs will fill the air. From hot chocolate and apple cider to cocoa cocktails, “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” and festive fare in the many Third Ward restaurants, you’re sure to get in the spirit along the streets of the Ward. Check out the numerous locally-owned shops for special deals and discounts on all those unique holiday gifts from Milwaukee you’ll be proud to give.

Of course, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) is at the southern end of Catalano Square, but have you ever been there? Take the opportunity to stop by this Friday evening and Saturday afternoon for the MIAD Student/Alumni Art & Design Sale. Find out more about this nationally-renowned arts school as you browse through paintings, photography, prints and sculpture for sale, with all proceeds going to the participating artists.

So if you’re visiting our city, looking for an extended holiday happy hour after work, or looking for a fun, outdoor activity for the kids, head to Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward – where the shops and businesses will be spreading their own brand of Christmas cheer.

And your holiday season just wouldn’t be complete without sipping your hot cocoa to the strains of the Milwaukee Ukele Club’s “Jingle Bell Rock,” right?

Only in Milwaukee!


Christmas in the Ward
Friday & Saturday, Dec. 6-7

MIAD Student/Alumni Art & Design Sale
Fourth Floor Gallery
Preview Party: December 5, 6-9 p.m., $20
December 6, 5-9 p.m., Free
December 7, 12-5 p.m., Free