Milwaukee’s annual big start to the holidays season returned to downtown on Thursday, November 16, 2023, with the “Holiday Lights Kick-off” extravaganza at Pere Marquette Park. The grand event marks the start of the “25th Annual Festival of Lights.” The event featured live performances from dancers, singers, and musicians from all around Milwaukee. The highlight was a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus who flipped the switch and turned on the downtown lights. There was also free cocoa and cookies for those in attendance. The lights can be seen on foot or as part of the Jingle Bus tour. As part of the Holiday Lights festival this year is the brand-new Ornament Trail, a collection of larger-than-life holiday ornaments that have taken over Wisconsin Avenue. This year’s Holiday Lights celebration is presented by Johnson Financial Group and WE Energies. The festival runs from November 16, 2023 – January 1, 2024 and the Jingle Bus runs from November 17 – December 30, 2023, Thursday and Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and can be boarded at Courtyard Milwaukee Downtown, 300 W. Michigan Street.