There’s a reason more and more families are flocking to Sauk County, Wisconsin, for the holidays, and it’s not just because we’re home to “The Waterpark Capital of the World!” (although, the indoor water parks are a fantastic reason to visit any time of the year). Rather, it’s here that the community embrace the spirit of tradition and the enchanting landscapes are like something straight out of a snow globe.
Ahead, we’re letting you in on 10 wonderful ways to enjoy the holidays in the heart of Sauk County while creating the best family traditions. From magical window shopping and stellar light shows to old-world Christmas markets and the Santa Express, the following merrymaking adventures and jolly pursuits are sure to weave their way into your own time-honored traditions.
Window-shopping is an American pastime. But window-performing? That’s a Reedsburg specialty. An annual celebration, this year’s theme is Christmas in Color and will see downtown’s shops spring to life with performances behind every window and live actors telling holiday tales. Carolers and horse-drawn carriages will add to the festivities, while fire barrels and hot chocolate will keep hands warm and bellies happy. Take note of the date, though; this magical event is one day only. But even if you miss the windows, do take part in visiting the beautifully decorated downtown.
When: Friday, December 8; 6-8 p.m.
Where: Downtown Reedsburg
For more information, visit reedsburg.org.
Water parks … in the wintertime? Oh, yes. Pack your suits, because at The Lake Delton Kalahari, the indoor water parks are slipping and sliding all year long. In addition to wet-and-wild fun, the site spans a whopping 125,000 square feet, with every inch offering something fun — bowling, arcades, shopping, you name it. The best part? You can bring the whole family. Gramps, Grams, the cousins, the entire brood will love spending Christmas in the resort’s suites and villas that sleep up to 22. Plus, there’s a holiday buffet that stars an apple and sage turkey with all the fixings.
When: Resort, year-round; buffet, December 25, 1-5 p.m.
Where: Wisconsin Dells/Lake Delton
For more information, visit kalahariresorts.com.
Let someone else do the cooking and cleaning this year. Savor a four-course feast of turkey, ham, and all the holiday sides and desserts at the Dells’ brand-new multimillion dollar Christmas dinner show. The production features singing, dancing, a live orchestra, and a Nativity tale, all of which is capped off with appearances by Santa and his adorable reindeer..
When: Through December 31
Where: Wisconsin Dells
For more information, visit dellschristmasdinnershow.com.
Known around the Dells as “America’s Prettiest Playhouse,” the AL. Ringling Theatre is currently boasting a fantastic roster of events eager to become annual traditions for you and yours. From festive concerts (Madison Brass Band) and classic movie sing-alongs (White Christmas), to holiday screenings (The Muppet Christmas Carol) and live shows, this theater is a winter wonderland of family-friendly entertainment. Prefer something a little more private? You can rent out the place for your own movie night tradition or special occasion.
When: Through December 23
For more information, visit alringling.org.
Downtown Baraboo is celebrating several weekends of holiday fun from the weekend before Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve. Revelers can enjoy shopping at more than 40 stores filled to the brim with potential gifts for loved ones. There will also be a light parade elevated by twinkling floats and festive marching bands, as well as a family scavenger hunt hosted by the one and only Elf on the Shelf. Our favorite perk, though? The free horse-drawn sleigh rides around a gorgeous town square lifted straight out of one of those Hallmark Christmas movies.
When: November 18-December 31
Where: Downtown Baraboo
For more information, visit downtownbaraboo.com.
Sauk knows how to do Christmas traditions. We’ve even convinced Santa, Mrs. Claus, and his elves to temporarily depart the globe’s busiest toy shop over the holiday season to join us every year for our 7-mile yuletide ride. For four days, the holiday’s biggest stars will take over the Mid-Continent Railroad Museum, transforming it into the Santa Express. Decked out in cheerful trimmings, the steam locomotive invites families to sit back, relax, and take in the scenery from the comfort of its heated cars. Bonus: There might be some surprise gifts in it for the little ones.
When: November 25 & 26, December 2 & 3
Where: North Freedom
For more information, visit midcontinent.org.
Just off the Dells’ River Walk, you can make your way to the bottom of a 55-foot maple tree whose thousands of twinkling lights rival a certain Norway Spruce in the Big Apple. After you soak in the spirit of the season and, of course, get the perfect selfie for next year’s holiday card, stroll along the River Walk, all gussied up in sparkling lights and festive decor. Be sure to check the schedule to time your visit with those of Santa, the Elf on the Shelf, and the Wisconsin Dickenson Carolers, all of whom will also be refueling their Christmas spirit at the Tree of Light this year.
When: November 10-January 1, 2024
Where: Wisconsin Dells
For more information, visit wisdells.com.
European Christmas markets are heavenly, but you don’t have to stamp your passport to experience an authentic old-world holiday fair. Right here in the Wisconsin Dells, the Three Kings Christmas market offers patrons an immersive outing, where you can peruse artisan shops filled with crafts and gifts, and delight in a tree lighting concert and roving performers. Looking for age-appropriate fun? There will be cookie decorating for the kiddos and wine tasting for the parents. After you’ve celebrated and shopped ’til you’ve dropped, there’s free gift wrapping.
When: December 1 & 2
Where: Wisconsin Dells
For more information, go to facebook.com/ThreeKingsChristmasMarket.
Every year, Spring Green relishes in down-home comfort with a little celebration we like to call Country Christmas. The event features movie screenings, Christmas lights, and fireworks. This year, The Grinch and The Polar Express will be getting the free-screening treatment, while a Light Up the Valley Christmas lights competition will be setting the snow-kissed landscape aglow. There’s also a parade, breakfast with Santa, and a craft bazaar on the itinerary, so be sure to check the schedule when making your travel plans.
When: November 25-December 10
Where: Spring Green
For more information, visit facebook.com.
Bundle up for a dazzling half-mile walk through Mt. Olympus’ outdoor theme park. Transformed by more than two million bulbs, the radiant light show will make you feel as though you’ve stepped into Santa’s kaleidoscope. Pro tip: Keep your iPhone handy for ordering hot chocolate and snacks along the way. Cap off the perfect holiday getaway with a stay at the nearby Christmas Mountain Village. Besides hosting the spirit of the season right there in the name, the establishment offers snow skiing, tubing, and shoeing, as well as a whole host of themed activities for its guests.
When: November 24-January 1
Where: Wisconsin Dells
For more information, visit mtolympuspark.com.
To discover more fun holiday happenings in Sauk County, visit our events section.