Cedarburg, WI

Cedarburg's Holiday Magic: Luminaries & Trolley Rides

Jim DeLillo
For illustration onlyPhoto byAlexei ScutarionUnsplash

AI was used for some of the article content and editing the author's original content.

A quaint town steeped in history and charm

Cedarburg, Wisconsin, a quaint town steeped in history and charm, truly comes to life during the holiday season. Among its many festive attractions, the Luminaries and Trolley Rides stand out as a must-experience event, drawing visitors from near and far.

Photo byJim DeLillo/photographer

A Journey Through a Winter Wonderland

As December nights wrap Cedarburg in a frosty embrace, the town transforms into a picturesque winter wonderland. The highlight of this transformation is the annual Luminaries event. Imagine walking through Cedarburg’s historic downtown, with its unique stone buildings and welcoming shop fronts, all aglow with the gentle light of thousands of luminaries. These small, glowing lanterns line the streets, casting a warm, inviting glow that feels like stepping into a scene from a classic holiday card.

The Magic of the Trolley Rides

Friday Dec 1, 2023
5:00 PM - 8:00 PM CST

Friday evenings, November 17-December 22, weather permitting.
Please note that the last trolley ride will likely board before 8 p.m.
Rides are given at the discretion of the Cedarburg Chamber of Commerce and the trolley driver. If any weather or safety issues arise, the rides may be suspended or canceled at any time. Ride at your own risk. Not responsible for lost or stolen items.

Adding to the enchantment are the Trolley Rides. These aren't just trolleys; they are beautifully decorated, echoing the season's festive spirit. As you board the trolley, you're greeted by the cheerful jingle of bells and the soft strains of holiday music. The ride takes you through Cedarburg’s historic streets, offering a unique perspective of the luminaries and the beautifully decorated homes and businesses. It's a cozy, communal experience where the spirit of the holiday season can be felt in every smile and greeting.

A Blend of History and Holiday Cheer

Cedarburg's charm is not just in its holiday festivities but also in its rich history. Established in the 1840s, the town has beautifully preserved much of its original architecture. This historical backdrop adds depth to the Luminaries and Trolley Rides, uniquely Cedarburg, creating a blend of past and present. The event is more than just a celebration; it's a journey through time, illuminated by the gentle light of tradition and community.

Engaging Activities for All Ages

Beyond the trolley rides, Cedarburg offers a variety of activities during this festive season. There are holiday markets where local artisans sell unique crafts and gifts. Choirs and bands perform traditional and modern holiday music, filling the air with joyous melodies. For the foodies, local cafes and bakeries offer seasonal treats and warm beverages, perfect for those chilly Wisconsin nights.

A Time for Community and Celebration

The sense of community makes the Luminaries and Trolley Rides special. It's an event that brings together families, friends, and strangers to celebrate the holiday season. A palpable sense of joy, warmth, and togetherness embodies the true spirit of the holidays.

The "Main Street USA of Cedarburg"

At the south end of Washington Avenue, Cedarburg's main street, I take me a step backward in time.

Cedarburg is an old woolen mill town. Late 1800s stone buildings now serve as restaurants, lodging, wine shops, antique shops, boutique clothing stores, and gift shops.

The spired St Francis Borgia Catholic Church

is my home point, a landmark beacon where I start my stroll; German immigrants built the stone church in 1870.

Frannie's Market

Walking in the front door, I immediately feel like I am in a general store. This shop features an eclectic assortment of foods, including charcuterie and bakery items. Kitchen items, pottery, and gifts smartly complement the food.

PJ Piper Pancake House

Stopping here for breakfast, this old-fashioned diner is a local favorite. It serves portions of eggs, pancakes, and griddle specialties that fill the air with a tempting aroma. I leave with my belly full of homemade biscuits and gravy. Be prepared to wait on popular weekend mornings.

Stagecoach Inn

An 1853 stagecoach stop serves as a cozy bed and breakfast in the middle of town. Small, but authentic, you can relax in any of the nine rooms among vintage décor and friendly conversation with the inn owners, Bill and Meghan.

Rivoli Theater

Five-dollar tickets complete the illusion that I am reliving the past. On Tuesdays, the tickets are discounted to $2. Seniors even get one dollar off. Volunteers man the movie house, and a bag of popcorn doesn’t set you back $15.


McCutcheon's Barber Shop

I have my hair cut as a walk-in to this old-time tonsorial parlor. Jerry shortened my hair with the obligatory gossip about town. I left feeling like a local and my head a bit lighter.

Amy's Candy Kitchen

Candied apples of all varieties fill the store's window. Made fresh daily, the sugary treats call to me every time I pass. Handmade chocolates complete the siren call as the scent wafts onto the street each time the door opens.

Photo byJim DeLillo/photographer

Boulangerie Du Monde

Pressing the door open, the warm, yeasty air hits me in the face, and I am instantaneously transported to France. I pick out an almond-filled croissant from the glass case filled with rolls, artisan breads, and sweet pastries. Just remember to get there early as the baked goods sell out quickly.


A gift shop with everything under the sun from wind-chimes to t-shirts; soaps, candles, lotions, décor items, and knick-knacks round out the offerings of this unique store.

Coffee Shops in Cedarburg

Photo byJim DeLillo/photographer

After exploring the stores, I am drawn to the unique coffee shops, each with flair and flavor profile.

Cedarburg Coffee Roastery.

As the name implies, it roasts its beans on-site. An assortment of baked goods accompanies the espressos and coffee.


I met up with the locals at this popular chain. Carrying my latte and croissant to the outdoor patio, I sit among the old farmers and lap-top generation. The gossip and political banter are thick and easy to overhear.

Photo byJim DeLillo/photographer

Java House.

A hipster vibe joint that serves specialties like B2D, an espresso blended with turmeric and ginger. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the shop closed its petite indoor café and serves its beverage from a walk-up window. Other brews include Moonmilk and Matcha Teas. It is run by Lisa [tk], a transplant from Boulder, Colorado. Who craves life back there with her daughter but wouldn't leave her 4-acre farm here in Wisconsin.

Photo byJim DeLillo/photographer

Like the main street of old, gray-haired men gather on the benches of City Hall to discuss the weather, crops, and occasionally politics.

Cedar Creek Settlement

A collection of shops, with its winery famous for its Strawberry Blush, and even a Pineapple House, a gift shop serving fresh pineapple.

The Anvil Pub & Gill

Housed in a restored 19th-century blacksmith shop, the Anvil features sandwiches baked in a stone-hearth oven, soups, salads, dinner entrees and a full bar (www.anvilpubandgrille.com).

Photo byJim DeLillo/photographer

The Olive Sprig

The Olive Sprig olive oils, aged balsamic vinegars, and kitchen gifts.

Cedarburg's Luminaries and Trolley Rides offer a unique holiday experience that goes beyond the typical festive fare. It's an opportunity to step back in time, enjoy the simple pleasures of light and music, and celebrate the season in a truly magical setting. Whether you're a local or a visitor, this event is sure to leave you with lasting memories and a warm heart.

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Jim DeLillo writes about tech, science, and travel. He is also an adventure photographer specializing in transporting imagery and descriptive narrative. He lives in Cedarburg, WI, with his wife, Judy.

Cedarburg, WI

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