Take Twelve: Holiday light shows


Electrifying: That’s one way to describe this time of year. With the arrival of December and dusk comes stupendous light shows to celebrate this season of wonder and generosity. Count these among the most elaborate in Wisconsin.

Celebration of Lights, Oshkosh: Menominee Park, on Lake Winnebago, turns into a wonderland of winter. The anchor is a 100-foot-tall tree and more than 120 other trees, all decorated along a 1.2-mile route. Take a carriage ride or drive your own vehicle with the radio tuned to holiday music. It’s $10 per carload. oshkoshcol.org

Christmas in the Country, Lake Geneva: Dozens of magical mechanical displays and two million lights illuminate much of the 1,300-acre Grand Geneva Resort and Spa. The theme: 12 days of Christmas. Peruse it in your own vehicle or ride a heated trolley (free for resort guests, $2 for others). Add a weekend breakfast with Santa or fancy afternoon tea. grandgeneva.com

Country Christmas Light Show, Pewaukee: Drive the one-mile route that brightens 40 woodsy acres at Ingleside Hotel (formerly Country Springs Hotel) A glistening array of at least one million lights form holiday scenes. Also allow time for a nativity scene that is almost life-sized and a Vatican replica. Admission is $40 to $15 per vehicle, depending on type of vehicle and day of week. thecountrychristmas.com

Garden of Lights, Green Bay: Green Bay Botanical Garden turns into a shimmering masterpiece with light displays that transport visitors to enchanting settings. That includes a 50-foot-tall tree, a caterpillar big enough to walk through, an arch of flowers, floating swans and forest of icicles. Pay $10 ($5, ages 3-12) to walk the route or $15 ($10, ages 3-12) for a horse-drawn wagon. gbbg.org

Holiday Fantasy in Lights, Madison: Dozens of local electricians donate their time and talent to fill Olin Park, on Lake Monona, with dozens of light displays, many animated. The event began 26 years ago at the 47-acre park. Drive your vehicle through the looped route. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. fantasyinlights.com

Holiday Lights Festival, Milwaukee: Animation and hundreds of thousands of lights fill Cathedral Square Park, Pere Marquette Park and Zeidler Union Square. Also look for chandeliers of lights along downtown streets (that includes a long stretch of Wisconsin Avenue). Board the Jingle Bus, fare $2, for a 40-minute, narrated tour that explains it all on Thursdays through Sundays. milwaukeeholidaylights.com

Making Spirits Bright, Sheboygan: Animated displays are choreographed to music in a holiday light show that brings motorists through 1.1 miles of woodsy Evergreen Park. Rotarians coordinate the project. Admission is free, but cash and food pantry donations are appreciated. Trolley rides through the show cost $2 and are available Fridays and Saturdays. makingspiritsbright.com

Holiday Light Show, Janesville: A rainbow of colors transforms Rotary Botanical Gardens, and reflections from the 20-acre property’s large pond magnify the magnificence of the decorating. This spectacle of lights covers bridges, buildings, trees and shrubs. Follow lined pathways – on a route that was extended this year – to see the ascent of reindeer, brightly lit icicles, archways and more. Admission is $5. rotarybotanicalgardens.org

Rotary Lights Display, La Crosse: Twenty-acre Riverside Park (on the Mississippi River) turns dazzling with four million lights, some of them on a 140-foot-tall tree. Look for a living nativity scene on weekends. Santa too. Admission is free, but cash and food pantry donations are appreciated. rotarylights.org

Rotary Winter Wonderland, Marshfield: A project to decorate a small part of Wildwood Zoo in 2005 now involves 1.5 million lights and 1,000 volunteers. Follow your choice of walking or driving routes. Horse-drawn rides on Saturdays are first come, first served and free. Admission is free too, but cash and food pantry donations are appreciated. rotarywinterwonderland.com

Santa Cruise, Williams Bay: Ride in a heated and enclosed Lake Geneva Cruise Line boat to see the animated displays and lakefront lights of homes along Geneva Lake’s shoreline. The colorful tour lasts 40 minutes and is offered several times daily; a 8:30 p.m. cruise on Fridays and Saturdays is for only adults. Cash bar available. Ticket cost depends on day of week: $28 to $18 for adults, $18 or $9 for children. santacruiselakegeneva.com

Wisconsin Christmas Carnival of Lights, Caledonia: Jellystone Park Camp-Resort uses 1.5 million lights to transform itself into a wonderland with elves and reindeer. Proceeds benefit the Ronald McDonald House in Milwaukee. Admission is $35 to $20 per vehicle, depending on the size. Or pay $14 to $9 to ride a big, open-air sleigh. Take time to visit with Santa and Evy (a talking Christmas tree). wichristmascarnival.com