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Get out your holiday calendar for a season filled with entertainment
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Get out your holiday calendar for a season filled with entertainment

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You can’t blame those folks who put up their holiday lights as soon as the Halloween trick-or-treaters left their doorstep. After what was a socially distanced, pre-vax winter in 2020, we’re overdue for some festive holiday entertainment.

There will be plenty to keep you enchanted, jolly and glowing this holiday season in Madison-area theaters, music venues and museums. Here are some offerings to consider as you put the final touches on your 2021 calendar.

But — before you go — be sure to double-check the presenter’s website for the latest COVID-19 restrictions and precautions. Some venues might ask you to bring a mask, your vaccination card, proof of a recent COVID test, or your favorite Ugly Christmas Sweater.

“The Gift of the Magi”

American Players Theatre in Spring Green presents this classic O. Henry story in a musical by James DeVita and Josh Schmidt, featuring APT core company members Brian Mani, Kelsey Brennan and Marcus Truschinski.

Kelsey Brennan of APT


When: Nov. 26-Dec. 19. Performance times vary; see

Brian Mani of APT


Where: Touchstone Theatre, American Players Theatre, 5950 Golf Course Road, Spring Green

Tickets: $42-72 at

Marcus Truschinski of APT


Mannheim Steamroller

In its 35th anniversary tour, Grammy winner Chip Davis’ Mannheim Steamroller combines musical Christmas classics with multimedia effects.

Mannheim Steamroller

Mannheim Steamroller returns to the Overture Center Nov. 28.

When: Sunday, Nov. 28, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Overture Hall, Overture Center, 201 State St.

Tickets: $45-$100 at the Overture box office, online at and by phone at 608-258-4141.

Art & Gift Fair: Weekends at MMOCA

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art features the work of a diverse mix of 10 artists and makers each weekend for your holiday shopping.

When: Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 12; noon-6 p.m.

Where: MMOCA, 227 State St.; see for featured artists

Admission: Free

Zoo Lights

Holiday lights keep the Henry Vilas Zoo glowing after hours. Enjoy sparkling displays and activities in this timed-ticket event.

Where: Henry Vilas Zoo, 702 S. Randall Ave.

When: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Nov. 26-Dec. 30 (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Entrance times from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Tickets: Buy timed entry ticket online at $10; children 3 and under free, but ticket required. Discounts for group of four or more.

Holiday Fantasy in Lights

Drive through Olin Park to see dozens of light displays brought to the community by the Electric Group.

Where: Olin Park, 1156 Olin-Turville Court

When: Dusk till dawn through Jan. 3

Admission: Free; donations appreciated.

Festival Choir holiday concert

Celebrate the holidays together again with “Christmas is ... BACK!,” Festival Choir’s concert with old favorites and new classics.

Where: Asbury United Methodist Church, 6101 University Ave.

When: Wednesday, Dec. 1, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $20; information at

“Winter Fantasia”

Kanopy Dance’s holiday tradition, “Winter Fantasia,” presents two stories rooted in Scandinavian folklore: “Once Upon a Winter’s Eve” and “The Norse Tree of Life” (Yggdrasil), along with “Winter in the City,” danced to Leonard Bernstein’s score for “On the Town.”

Lena Komar as Fairy Snow Queen, Kanopy's 'Winter Fantasia'

Lena Komar dances the role of the Fairy Snow Queen in "Winter Fantasia" from Kanopy Dance.

When: Dec. 2-5. 7 p.m. Thursday; 7:30 p.m. Friday; 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 4 p.m. Sunday. A reception with the dancers will be held following the Friday night performance.

Where: Promenade Hall, Overture Center, 201 State St.

Tickets: $40, or $35 for groups of four adults; $20 for age 18 and under. Purchase at or 608-258-4141

“All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914”

Four Seasons Theatre "All is Calm"

The Four Seasons Theatre production of "All is Calm" looks at an unusual Christmas peace in wartime. 

Four Seasons Theatre presents the Drama Desk Award-winning musical about a historic night of camaraderie, music and peace, conceived and written by UW-Madison graduate Peter Rothstein.

When: Dec. 2-12. Shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; plus 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4 and Sunday, Dec. 12

Where: Playhouse theater, Overture Center, 201 State St.

Tickets: $20-35 at or 608-258-4141

Ever Gleaming: The Enduring Love Affair with the Aluminum Christmas Tree

Evergleam tree exhibit

Wisconsin-made, 1960's-era Evergleam Christmas trees, shown here in 2019, are back at the Wisconsin Historical Museum.

The Wisconsin Historical Museum again presents its collection of mid-century aluminum Christmas trees — with a Wisconsin connection. Stop by for a stroll down memory lane.

Where: Wisconsin Historical Museum, 30 N. Carroll St.

When: The museum is open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

Admission: Free, with suggested donation of $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 5-12.

Carolers in Overture lobby

Carolers sing in the Overture Center lobby prior to a performance of "A Madison Symphony Christmas" in Overture Hall.

A Madison Symphony Christmas

Join conductor John DeMain and the Madison Symphony Orchestra, along with the Madison Symphony Chorus, Madison Youth Choirs and Mount Zion Gospel Choir for a concert of holiday classics. More than 300 musicians will be featured, along with guest soloists soprano Elizabeth Caballero and tenor Jared Esguerra.

Mount Zion Gospel Choir in Madison Symphony Christmas

Members of the Mount Zion Gospel Choir will be among the vocalists featured in "A Madison Symphony Christmas" in Overture Hall. 

When: Dec. 3-5. Concerts are 7:30 p.m. Friday; 8 p.m. Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Arrive 50 minutes early and sing carols in the Overture lobby with members of the Madison Symphony Chorus.

Where: Overture Hall, Overture Center, 201 State St.

Madison Symphony Christmas with John DeMain

A full-size "Madison Symphony Christmas," with hundreds of performers led by Music Director John DeMain, will return to Overture Hall this year.

Tickets: $20-$98 at the Overture Center box office, or 608-258-4141

Christmas with John Berry

The Grammy-winning country star brings a night of family-friendly holiday music, stories and memories to Madison in “Christmas with John Berry: The Silver Anniversary Tour.”

When: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3

Where: Barrymore Theatre, 2090 Atwood Ave.

Tickets: $45 advance; gold circle tickets with early entry and preferred seating $75 in advance. Purchase online at or by phone at 608-241-8864

Christmas at the North Street Cabaret

The North Street Cabaret celebrates the season with music, including the “Ben Ferris Octet Annual Christmas Show,” Dec. 9-10; “Mars Williams: An Albert Ayler Christmas,” Dec. 11; and “A Creole Christmas with the New Orleans Tribute featuring Leroy Jones,” Dec. 18. See for tickets and show times.

“Flipside” with a twist

Magnum Opus Ballet revises a signature production, “Flipside,” with a surprise holiday twist.

When: Friday, Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 4, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Where: Bartell Theatre, 113 E. Mifflin St.

Tickets: $15-$20 at

Edgewood College Christmas concert

Celebrate the sounds of the season with the Edgewood College choirs and Concert Band, Guitar Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra.

When: Saturday, Dec. 4, 7 p.m.

Where: McKinley Performing Arts Center, 2219 Monroe St.

Tickets: $10; purchase in advance at

Madison Fair Trade Holiday Festival

This annual fair-trade event marks its 25th year with artisan food, clothing and arts and crafts from around the world.

When: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4

Where: Monona Terrace, 1 John Nolen Drive

Admission: Free

MOM’s Holiday Art Fair

Sixty local artists and vendors offer unique items for holiday gift-giving at this benefit for Middleton Outreach Ministry programs.

When: Saturday, Dec. 4, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 5, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Where: Food Concepts Inc., 2551 Parmenter St., Middleton

Admission: Free

The Crafty Fair

Some 100 makers will sell their goods at this Goodman Community Center holiday fair.

When: Dec. 4, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Where: Goodman Community Center-Ironworks, 149 Waubesa St.

Admission: Free

Capitol Christmas Concert

The Capitol Pageant, featuring Madison-area high school choir students and alumni, returns to the state Capitol for two performances.

When: Sunday, Dec. 5, 4:15 and 5:15 p.m.

Admission: Free

UW-Madison Winter Choral Concert

The university’s Concert Choir, Treble Choir and Madrigal Singers perform their annual winter concert.

When: Sunday, Dec. 5, 2 and 4 p.m.

Where: Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall, Hamel Music Center, 740 University Ave.

Admission: Free

Handel’s Messiah

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra presents a family holiday tradition with soloists Sarah Lawrence, Kirsten Larson, Gene Stenger and Christopher Burchett, plus the 22-member Messiah Chorus of select singers from the Madison and Milwaukee areas.

When: Wednesday, Dec. 8, 7 p.m.

Where: First Congregational Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave.

Tickets: $35 at and

10th and Final Mad Men Holiday Soiree

Don your ‘60s glamour for this music- and vintage-cocktail-infused evening at the Majestic featuring the Darren Sterud Orchestra and DJ Nic Nice.

When: Friday, Dec. 10; doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m.

Where: The Majestic, 115 King St.

Tickets: $25 at

“A Christmas Carol”

'A Christmas Carol'

Children's Theater of Madison's "A Christmas Carol," shown here in 2019, returns to Capitol Theater in Overture Center in December.

Step back in time to Victorian England as Children’s Theater of Madison brings its annual classic to the stage, featuring American Players Theatre’s La Shawn Banks as Scrooge.

When: Dec. 11-23. Performance times vary; see

Where: Capitol Theater, Overture Center, 201 State St.

Tickets: $35-$70 at, 608-258-4141


Hear your favorite traditional Christmas songs performed in the Capitol Rotunda by more than 200 tuba and euphonium players of all ages.

When: Saturday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m.

Where: State Capitol, Downtown Madison

'A Christmas Carol' from 2019

"A Christmas Carol," produced by Children's Theater of Madison (shown here in 2019), will be back in the Capitol Theater next month. 

Admission: Free

A Very Funkee Joey B. Christmas

The Funkee JBeez performs with the Phat Phunktion Horns, the JB3S and Ka-Boom!Box in this show for ages 18-plus.

When: Thursday, Dec. 16; doors at 6 p.m., show at 7 p.m.

Where: High Noon Saloon, 701 E. Washington Ave.

Tickets: $15; $12 in advance at

Madison Night Market

Bundle up and head Downtown to shop from local artists in vendors in this outdoor market.

When: Thursday, Dec. 16, 4-9 p.m.

Where: Downtown Madison

Admission: Free

Morgan James: A Very Magnetic Christmas Tour

Soul singer Morgan James takes listeners on a Christmas journey.

When: Dec. 16; 7 p.m. doors; 8 p.m. show.

Where: The Bur Oak, 2262 Winnebago St.

Tickets: $15-$45 at

Madison Ballet: “The Nutcracker”

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra performs Tchaikovsky’s famous score as the dancers of Madison Ballet perform all-new choreography to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary season.

Madison Ballet "The Nutcracker"

Madison Ballet returns to Overture Hall with "The Nutcracker."

When: Dec. 17-26. Dec. 17, 7 p.m.; Dec. 18, 19, 24 and 26, 1 p.m.; Dec. 18, 19, 23 and 26, 6 p.m.

Where: Overture Hall, Overture Center, 201 State St.

Tickets: $11-$65 at the Overture box office, or 608-258-4141

Darren Sterud Orchestra Holiday Concert

The Darren Sterud Orchestra performs Duke Ellington’s famous “Nutcracker” with vocalist Meg Moran and other special guests.

When: Friday, Dec. 17. Doors open 6:30 p.m.; show at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Garver Feed Mill, 3241 Garver Green

Tickets: $15-$25 at

Steely Dane “Holidane” Show

The “ultimate Steely Dan Tribute Band“ puts on a holiday show.

When: Dec. 17; 6:30 p.m. doors, 7:30 p.m. show

Where: Majestic, 115 King St.

Tickets: $14-$32 at

Hippie Christmas with PHUN

Head to the dark side of the moon in a holiday (or non-holiday) night of music from Pink Floyd.

When: Dec. 17; 7 p.m. doors; 8 p.m. show

Where: The Bur Oak, 2262 Winnebago St.

Tickets: $15; $10 advance at

Dance Wisconsin: “The Nutcracker — Marching Forward”

Scores of Dance Wisconsin dancers and other performers take the stage in this new production of the classic holiday ballet, featuring the Dance Wisconsin Orchestra, Monona Grove High School singers and guest artists Cara Gary, Lucas Segovia, Maggie Batterman and Will Brighton.

When: Dec. 18-19, 2 p.m.

Where: Shannon Hall, Memorial Union, 800 Langdon St.

Tickets: $15-$43 at or

UW Russian Folk Orchestra Holiday Concert

The UW Russian Folk Orchestra presents its free holiday concert as part of the Grace Presents series on the west side of Capitol Square in Downtown Madison.

When: Saturday, Dec. 18, noon

Where: Grace Episcopal Church, 116 W. Washington Ave.

Admission: Free

21st birthday of Waylan St. Paylan and the Elves

Put on your tackiest holiday wear and head out for an outrageous night of perennial holiday music in this show for ages 18-plus.

When: Saturday, Dec. 18; doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m.

Where: High Noon Saloon, 701 E. Washington Ave.

Tickets: $17; $14 advance at

Middleton Community Orchestra Holiday Concert

Join the Middleton Community Orchestra with conductor Chris Ramaekers for an evening of Sibelius, Strauss and the Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major featuring violinist Hillary Hempel.

When: Wednesday, Dec. 22, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Middleton Performing Arts Center, 2100 Bristol St., Middleton

Tickets: $15; students free

Ball Drop Blitz

Mercury Players Theatre and KnowBetter Productions present original short plays that were created in the span of just 24 hours.

When: Friday, Dec. 31, 8 p.m.

Where: Bartell Theatre, 113 E. Mifflin St.

Tickets: $30 at


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