• 5 places to find Christmas in or near Milwaukee

    December 9, 2016

    Candy Cane Lane in West Allis is famous for Christmas displays that benefit the Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer Fund. Konzal’s Crazy Christmas Light Show, which benefits the Wisconsin Make-A-Wish Foundation, makes the trip to Jackson worthwhile.

    If you’re looking to shake off your inner Scrooge, check out these five businesses where season’s greetings are considered a company gift to the public. Each can spark the Christmas spirit. Best of all, they’re free for the looking.

    MillerCoors Holiday Lites 

    4251 W State St.

    The daily commute from the east side of Milwaukee to the west side gets a little glitzier this time of year thanks to the MillerCoors Holiday Lites display.

    MillerCoors brought back the synchronized lighting display in 2004 in celebration of the brewery’s 150th anniversary. But the idea dates back to the 1950s and Frederick C. Miller, who decked the brewery in the Christmas spirit as a welcome to the community.

     
     

    He did not, however, stream 600,000 LED lights from one end of the brewery campus to the other as the company does today. The display also features the Plank Road Brewery, which stands in for Fred Miller’s home, to tell the story of a holiday party going on. LED screens show residents decorating the tree and having a party.

    The brewery building, which is a facade, was a gift to Miller Brewing from the City of Milwaukee to celebrate the brewery’s 100th anniversary. Keep your eye out for a Christmas tree made of 150 beer kegs — a reminder that you’re venturing through a brewery campus.

    Visitors check in at the Visitor Center to receive a free brewery mini-tour, watch an 8-minute Girl in the Moon video and, for those 21 and older, sample beer at the end of the tour. The tour also includes a stop in the Miller Caves and the rare opportunity to check out the area that was once the brewery’s stables.

    “The stables usually aren’t open to the public, but we open them up for this,” said Tami Garrison, community affairs manager.

    Samples include Frederick Miller Classic Chocolate Lager, a beer made in MillerCoors’ pilot brewery and no longer released to the public.

    MillerCoors Holiday Lites is open for tours from 4:40 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday through Dec. 17. Tours run every 20 minutes and take up to 1½ hours to complete. The tour is free.

    The Pfister Hotel 

    424 E. Wisconsin Ave.

    It’s not just for tourists. It’s also for townies seeking a spirit to move them toward holiday enthusiasm.

    Decorating for special occasions such as Christmas only looks like the magic of elves turning the fall colors of Thanksgiving in the Pfister Hotel lobby’s plants and decor into holiday splendor literally overnight.

    “A small army comes in at 9 p.m.,” said general manager Tim Smith. It’s an army weaponized with elegance. They put up a 20-foot tree and wrap it in 8,450 LED lights. Then they drape it with 76 yards of garland. Another 410 yards of ribbon embroider the lobby edges and the grand staircase.

    Take a seat on a well-appointed chair in the renovated lobby and stare in wonder as the tree’s silvers and golds offer an island of calm from the bustle of travelers checking in.

     

    BMO Harris Bank

    770 N. Water St.

    A step away from the city’s holiday tree is the BMO Harris 44th annual Holiday Display, which dispels any notion you might have of bankers as stuffy.

    The display uses more than 150 antique Steiff stuffed animals to tell a story of “An Up North Holiday.” Walk just beyond the European village to find a bear working a custard stand and a bait shop selling Kringle, sausage, fudge and cheese to fully clothed penguins. Steps away, more clothed animals play hockey in front while a family of baby seals (possibly baby seals, but it’s hard to tell because they’re wearing shirts) roasts marshmallows under the watchful eye of a life-sized ostrich.

    An estimated 15,000 people make a stop in the lobby each year to see the display. Many sign the memory book and leave a note. Or they take a photo to mark the years. A group of women brings their second-grade teacher — the woman who introduced them to the display — back for a visit annually.

    The bank started the display in 1972 (back when it was M&I Bank) with a couple animals in a corner window. The bank added to the collection and put up a different themed display every holiday season. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It’s open a few special hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 24; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 2; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.

    Boston Store 

    The Shops of Grand Avenue,

    331 W. Wisconsin Ave. 

    After years of keeping its holiday spirit inside the Wisconsin Ave. store, Boston Store went all Hallmark Channel this year and decorated the windows facing the street. (The cable channel typically has at least one holiday movie each year in which a window dresser designs a spectacular display.)

    Boston Store’s downtown windows shimmer in red thanks to a holographic background reflecting lighted and flocked evergreen trees. Sleek polar bears are featured in a North Pole setting.

    The store hopes to spread shopping and seasonal enthusiasm with more than 300 shiny red gift boxes wrapped with red ribbon. The display continues through Dec. 31.

     

    Bayshore Town Center 

    5800 N. Bayshore Drive, Glendale 

    The tree went up last month and remains a glittery green-and-blue beacon in Bayshore’s town square. The live tree hails from Medford and is illuminated with 6,500 white LED lights and 88 snowflakes, which shine between the blue and green ornaments.

    The tree stays up until the week of Jan. 2  and will be joined in the shopping plaza’s rotunda by a 9-foot-tall menorah, which will be lighted Dec. 27 in a community Hanukkah celebration.

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