Sing it with me: 🎶Make my wish come true // All I want for Christmas // is you 🎶
And by “you” I mean Christkindlmarket Milwaukee (obviously; what else would the song be about?). Christkindlmarket debuted their first out-of-state site this year, opening for the season on November 17 in Milwaukee. About 25 vendors set up shop directly outside the Fiserv Forum (which is another new site to visit in downtown Milwaukee), and will remain open every day through New Year’s Eve.
Christkindlmarket began in Chicago in 1996 by German American Events, LLC and found a new (and still current) home at Daley Plaza in 1997. Operating as Chicago’s largest open-air market, Christkindlmarket takes up the whole plaza with food, drink, music, and shopping for those one-of-a-kind holiday gifts. Talk about one-stop shopping; big box stores have nothing on ol’ Christkindlmarket!
The folks at German American Events, LLC granted the wish of many Wisconsin residents this year by opening Christkindlmarket Milwaukee. While there are two other markets in Illinois (Naperville and Wrigleyville), Wisconsinites can now experience the market without spending all their glühwein money on toll roads, parking, a possible hotel stay, and/or a ride on the Hiawatha.
Although doling out a good chunk of your Christmas cash just to get to the market may leave you feeling like Scrooge, you’ll soon be back to enjoying the holiday season without needing to spend a cent more if you don’t want to. The market is always free admission.
That being said, Milwaukee is one of the most German cities in the nation, so it only makes sense for the market to finally make its way here.
As with any winter event in Wisconsin, make sure to bundle up before heading to the market. There are a few warming stations and glühwein to warm you from the inside-out, but the real joy of the market is in walking around. Besides, you need to prove your “Wisconsin-ness” by embracing the cold and showing winter who’s boss.
The first stop has to be a beverage vendor to pick up aforementioned glühwein, or keep it simple with tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. Make sure to pick up a souvenir mug; I highly recommend the heart-shaped glühwein mug as it features the new Fiserv Forum painted on its side.
With your warm beverage in hand, set out to explore the market’s offerings. While Christkindlmarket Milwaukee doesn’t have nearly as many vendors as its Chicago origins, you’ll be pleased to find the German staples.
Stop in the candy store, fittingly named Sweet Castle for some German sweets, including Marzipan pigs, salted licorice, and brandy-filled chocolates. I recommend taking your time in the store, which you might have to anyway as the line can sometimes creep around the whole store and out the door. It’s worth your time though, and you’ll leave the shop feeling like royalty with your delectable delights (not sure I would say that for the salted licorice though).
Make sure to visit Käthe Wohlfahrt of America before you’ve had too many mugs of wine, as this ornament and decoration shop features many specialty and fragile items. With prices that made this Christmas enthusiast almost choke on her glühwein, it might be best to admire this shop through the windows.
Don’t forget about the food options including classics such as pretzels, and more extreme eats such as a brat covered in melted cheese at the Baked Cheese Haus. It might be a good idea to bring some antacids with you; your taste buds will enjoy the culinary trip around Germany, but your stomach may make you a Grinch as the day goes on.
It doesn’t take long to make your way through the rest of the market, but don’t let its size distract you from the holiday spirit it holds. Take this opportunity to slow down a little, enjoy company with family and friends, and gawk at how much cheese they’re putting on those brats (seriously, I can’t stress enough as to how much cheese they put on).
Christkindlmarket Milwaukee is much different than the original in Chicago, but in a good way. Here’s hoping it will return for many years to come.