family fun - december
Mom gives tips from experience
Liz Russell, mother of a baby son and toddler daughter, writes and edits Family Fun, an online exclusive of KEY Milwaukee.
Liz’s insights on what’s happening each month in the Metro Milwaukee and what is truly “family friendly” come from actual experiences. Her writing experience includes positions as senior editor of Taste of Home and Healthy Cooking magazines and as associate editor of Simple & Delicious magazine. Her work has also been published in Fresh Home, Backyard Living and The Saturday Evening Post.
Liz welcomes reader feedback via email at email@example.com.
Pick of the Month
Surprise! The holidays have suddenly arrived on our doorsteps again, just as some guests can. And while they may annually sneak up on some of us (me, specifically), that doesn’t mean you can’t schedule in family-focused merriment as if you’ve been planning it for months. Use the following list as your go-to guide to getting holly jolly every weekend of the month, up until the very last day of the year. I hope each day of this month is filled with surprises – the magical kind – for you and your family. Happy holidays and bring on the merry!
Sunday, Dec 1- Dec 29, Thursday-Sunday, 6-9 pm
Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival
Jingle Bus Warming House
275 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53203
This six-week festival will spread holiday spirit with animated light displays in Cathedral Square Park, Pere Marquette Park and Zeidler Union Square, and hundreds of events. Marvel at the spectacular sights aboard the convenient Jingle Bus, a Coach USA bus that takes visitors on a 40-minute tour. For $1 per person, visitors can relish in the holiday spirit while admiring a festive panorama. The tour is narrated by Milwaukee Downtown’s Public Service Ambassadors who will acquaint riders with key attractions and landmarks. Tours operate Thursdays through Sundays from 6-9 p.m. from The Shops of Grand Avenue.
Tickets: $1 per person
Sunday, Dec 1, 10:30am-1pm
Community Wide Hanukkah Event
Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center
6255 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Whitefish Bay, WI 53217
Enjoy FREE Hanukkah themed activities and games run by local Jewish agencies and synagogues. Free. Food available for purchase
Monday, Dec 2, 5-6:30pm
Hanukkah at Bayshore Town Center
5800 N Bayshore Dr, Glendale, WI 53217
Enjoy music, dancing, menorah lighting (5 pm), storytime (5:15) and performances by the Jewish Community Center’s Baby Ballerinas (5:30 and 6).
Sunday, Dec 1 & 8, 10am-3pm
Soda with Santa
Sprecher Brewing Company
701 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, WI 53209
Santa's in the house at Sprecher! Brings friends and family to visit with Santa, have a photo taken, create a personal holiday Root Beer and tour Sprecher Brewery. Tours on the hour from 11:00am-3:00pm. Reservations required. Arrive 45 minutes before tour for pictures and your visit with Santa. Ticket price includes a photo, tour, glass, and beer/soda samples.
Tickets: $5 adults, $4 seniors, $3 minors
Thursday, Dec 5, 10am-1pm
The Night Before Christmas for Fish and Their Friends
Milwaukee Public Museum
800 W. Wells Street, Milwaukee, WI 53233
Join Museum educators as they bring exhibits alive through legends, myths and other tales of different cultures. Laugh, listen, participate, learn and experience the Milwaukee Public Museum through story! Hear a salty rendition of "The Night Before Christmas" told beneath the lighted whale suspended above the Museum's Grand Staircase. Stories are told on the hour and half-hour and last 15-20 minutes. Free with museum admission.
Admission: Adults - $14 Seniors (60 and over) - $11 College students with ID - $11 Teens (13-17) - $11 Children (3-12) - $10 Children under the age of 3 - Free
Friday, Dec 6-Saturday, Dec 21 (Friday and Saturdays only) 4:40pm-9pm
MillerCoors Holiday Lites
Miller Brewery Visitor Center & Girl in the Moon Brewery Shop
4251 W State Street - Milwaukee, WI 53208
December marks the 10th annual MillerCoors Holiday Lites Show, a display of more than 300,000 LED lights synchronized to a medley of holiday music in Miller Valley. Visitors to Holiday Lites receive a FREE brewery mini-tour, special giveaways and discounts at the Girl in the Moon Brewery Shop. Visitors age 21 and older can sample beer at the end of the tour. When attending the Holiday Lites in Miller Valley, remember to bring a new, unused toy for Toys-4-Tots or a non-perishable food item to benefit Hunger Task Force. Dress for the weather! Tour offered every 20 minutes minutes from 4:40-9 pm FREE
Saturday, Dec 7, 8:30am-1:30pm
YMCA Camp Minikani Holiday Cookie House
YMCA Camp Minikani
875 Amy Belle Road, Hubertus, WI 53033
Take a break from the Holiday rush and enjoy a fun, relaxing day at YMCA Camp Minikani decorating cookies and gingerbread houses with your family. We supply all the decorating materials and freshly baked cookies. You supply the creativity and leave the mess to us! Reservations recommended. Decorating supplies included in prices. Lunch available for purchase. All proceeds benefit the YMCA Annual Campaign, supporting our promise to let every child experience the life-changing power of camp.
Tickets: $20 Gingerbread House, $25 Premade (nonedible) gingerbread house, $26 Gingerbread house/one dozen cookie combo, $8 for dozen cookies.
Saturday, Dec 7, 9-11:30am
Santa’s Playhouse: A Morning with Santa
800 Elm Grove Road, Elm Grove, WI 53122
Come take a picture with Santa anytime between 9 am-10:45 am and make holiday crafts, sing Christmas carols, listen to holiday stories and have a snack. From 10:45am - 11:30am, enjoy special performance "Becoming Santa's Helper" performed by Kidsplay Productions, where they discover what it takes to become one of Santa's elves. Learn all the tricks of being an elf during this interactive and fun performance for the whole family. Contact our box office at 262.782.4430 or visit our website for more information and to purchase tickets.
Tickets: Ages 2 and up: $10, Under 2: $5 donation encouraged
Saturday, Dec 7, 10:30am-2:30pm
Christmas Ornaments Drop-In Workshop
Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts
N50 W5050 Portland Rd., Cedarburg, WI 53012
Create a handful of ornaments such as a bell, ice skate, and Santa (some include hand sewing) For ages 5 and up. Groups of 6 or more should pre-register.
Tickets: $2 activity fee plus general admission
Admission: Children & Seniors: $4, Adult: $6
Saturday, Dec 7, 10am-Noon
Children’s Holiday Festival
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee Union
2200 E. Kenwood Blvd - Milwaukee, WI 53211
Enjoy festive main stage acts and participate in various holiday activities. In creative and interactive ways, your child will be introduced to holiday traditions from around the world. Advance tickets available at the Union Information Center. Tickets are also available at the door.
Tickets: Children 3 & Up (Under 3 Free) $4.50
UWM Students, Staff, Faculty & Alumni $5.50
General Public $6.50
Saturday, Dec 7, 9 am-Noon
Breakfast with the Reindeer
Clock Tower Square
NW Corner of HWY C (Genesee St) and Milwaukee Street.
Delafield, WI 53018
Enjoy donuts, milk, hot chocolate, carolers, and holiday music with live reindeer. Have your family photo taken with your camera to enjoy for years to come. FREE
Sunday, Dec 8, 10 am-12:30pm & 2pm-4:30 pm
11th Annual Nutcracker Tea
The University Club of Milwaukee
924 East Wells Street - Milwaukee, WI 53202
Become a part of the production of "The Nutcracker" with a one-of-a-kind Tour of the Tannenbaum Home! Witness the transformation of each room in the festive and opulent University Club of Milwaukee. Create crafts in Drosselmeyer's Toyshop, participate in a ballet class with the Snowflakes, become a Guest of The Party Scene and take photos with a ballerina, view a live, up-close performance in the Land of the Sweets and dine on holiday tea sandwiches and sweets with the cast! All proceeds from this fundraising event benefit Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy, and its Community Outreach Programs.
Tickets: $75 per adult / $35 per child
Friday, Dec. 13-Sunday, Dec. 15
Journey to Bethlehem
Whitefish Bay United Methodist Church
819 E. Silver Spring Dr., Whitefish Bay
150 cast members in costume give a picture of life 2000 years ago in this family-friendly Christmas story that attracts residents and visitors. The journey takes approximately 1 hour and reservations are recommended. Wheelchair and walker-friendly performances at 4, 4:15, 8 and 8:15 p.m. are less hurried than other time blocks. There is no admission fee, but donations are received by “beggars” at the conclusion of each journey.
Saturday, Dec 14-Friday, Dec 27, Thursday-Sundays
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts
929 N Water Wt, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Milwaukee's magical holiday tradition is like a dream...dancing flowers and snowflakes...toys coming to life! "The Nutcracker" is also a journey of familiar feelings and the sense of childlike wonder set to Tchaikovsky's unmistakable score. Create memories of your own with this not-to-be-missed event!
Ticket Price: $32 and up.
Sunday, Dec 15, 4:30pm
Trumpets Sounds and Voices Raise!
Milwaukee Children’s Choir
Cooley Auditorium at Milwaukee Area Technical College
700 W. State St., Milwaukee, WI 53233
This family concert will feature our youngest to our most veteran choirs. For the first time this season, all members of Milwaukee Children’s Choir will come together to present this holiday spectacular. Tickets available in advance or at the door.
Tickets: Adult: $15, Senior: $12, Student: $9
Friday, Dec 20, 3:30pm-5:30pm
Cook Like A Chef: Family Holiday Workshop
Superior Culinary School
4550 S Brust Ave - Milwaukee, WI 53235
Delicious cookies, brownies and other tasty treats make great gifts to give for the holidays. Teachers especially love trays loaded with goodies to take home for the holidays or to share with the children in the classroom. Even Santa needs something special to help him on his way! Our Chefs are filled with the holiday spirit and are looking forward to sharing some of their magic for making these incredible goodies.
Saturday, Dec 28, 3:30 -5:30pm
Cook Like A Chef: Family New Year’s Eve Party
Superior Culinary School
4550 S Brust Ave - Milwaukee, WI 53235
Kick off the holiday preparing sumptuous fare with us! We’ll send you off in style to ring in 2014. Have fun this holiday season cooking and feasting with your family as children are invited to help their families prepare a fabulous feast for New Years!
Tickets: Adult: $55.00 Child: $20.00
Tuesday, Dec 31 9am-Noon
New Years Eve at Noon
Betty Brinn Children's Museum
929 E. Wisconsin Avenue - Milwaukee, WI 53202
Ring in 2014 with Father Time and Baby New Year at the Museum. Create your own party hat in the Artist’s Studio, count down to the big ball drop at noon, and celebrate with a juice toast! Free with admission.
Admission: Adults and Children 1 & up: $8, Seniors: $7, Under 1: Free
Tuesday, Dec. 31, 1pm & 6pm
Harlem Globetrotters 2014 Fans Rule World Tour
BMO Harris Bradley Center, 1001 N. Fourth St. in Milwaukee
Every year the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters bring their tour to Milwaukee for two laugh-filled performances on New Years Eve. The show combines basketball and comedy in a way that keeps fans of all ages smiling for weeks. Tickets: $20 and up.
Featured Family-Friendly Hot Spots
BETTY BRINN CHILDREN'S MUSEUM
929 E. Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Web Site: www.bbcmkids.org
Adults & children age 1 and older $7.50
Seniors (age 55 and older) $6.50
Children younger than 1 year FREE
This is Kid Paradise, which therefore also makes it Mommy and Daddy Paradise. I have never seen my daughter so close to exploding with excitement as she ran around this place, bounding from one interactive exhibit to another. There is so much to see and do here, we could easily go back a dozen times and still find new, cool things to explore. This place is so great that even though I forgot the diaper bag (!!!!) when we visited (that’s right - no diapers, no bottles, no sippy cup, no nursing cover), we still managed to have an awesome time (after we bought some diapers, of course). And I also learned to keep a back up supply of everything in my car.
Here are a few highlights of what you’ll find at Betty Brinn:
• An entire area devoted to the arts where kids can try out musical instruments (walk-on keyboard, giant PVC-pipe organ) and create their own tunes with mixing board in the KOSS Sound Studio. There’s also a fully stocked crafting area and a dancing space where kids can try out ballet or various dances from around the world.
• A huge interactive board game that kids can walk into and is geared toward teaching healthy habits.
• The Home Town exhibit lets kids role play as they learn about the various components of Milwaukee’s community. You’ll find miniature streets, fully stocked grocery stores, a packaging and shipping plant that kids can operate, a pretend city bus and so very much more.
• Pocket Park is a great space toddlers on up, offering an indoor sandbox, play house and tree house, just to name a few active areas.
• You can bring your own food and drinks with you, but there is an onsite café serving lunch from 11-1:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays.
• There are parking structures nearby and street parking.
• Small gift shop sells clothing, toys, games, books, snacks and drinks.
Two other favorites spots for family outings
THE MILWAUKEE PUBLIC MUSEUM
800 W. Wells St.
Milwaukee, WI 53223
Web Site: www.mpm.edu
Daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Seniors (60 and over): $11.00
Teens (13-17): $11.00
Children (3-12): $10.00
Children under the age of 3: Free
Includes the Milwaukee Public Museum, one of the world's best natural history museums (Ph. 278-2700); and the Humphrey IMAX Dome Theater. Open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
I’ll summarize our experience at the Milwaukee Public Museum by saying this: We went for one visit and left with a summer pass so we could go back a million more times. There is so much to see and do in this place that it will take that many trips to explore it all with my kids. As expected, natural history (we loved the dinosaur displays!) and various ancient civilizations are well represented, as is science in its many different genres. This is a place where the past comes alive before your eyes, educating visitors in a three dimensional and hand-on way.
Special exhibits and events:
• Native Games through Jan. 1, 2013 highlights native games found among tribes in the U.S. and Canada.
A few highlights:
• Bugs Alive! My daughter is going through a Bugs Are Yucky phase, and I wasn’t sure how she’d react to this exhibit. Not only did she enjoy it, it offered insect insight in a way she could understand, reducing her fears. It was awesome to see. This is a very interactive exhibit (kids can even dress up as butterflies and assemble a big butterfly puzzle) that makes bugs seem more amazing than creepy crawling.
• The Puelicher Butterfly Wing It’s like walking to a greenhouse blooming with butterflies of every shape, size and color. They flit right up to you, occasionally landing on a momentarily still shoulder or outstretched arm. One landed on my finger, an occurrence that finally earned me a spot on my daughter’s “cool” list.
DISCOVERY WORLD MUSEUM
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