We stood on the top of downtown High Street looking downwards at one of the best Midwest holiday towns to explore. Decorated shops and galleries invite residents and guests to celebrate the season. From this point of view, downtown and the Driftless Region’s rounded farmland hills merge, rising above the rooftops, creating a majestic view of historic Mineral Point.
In the early 1800s, immigrant miners from the Cornwall region of England moved here to mine enormous zinc and lead deposits. Miners built tiny stone houses, much like their homes in Cornwall, on what is now called Shakerag Street. The street earned its name from the way women shook rags in the air, signaling mealtimes to their spouses mining on the hill.
Restoration began in 1935 with a few small stone and log houses on Sheakerag Street. The newly restored grounds were named Pendarvis. Artists and craftspeople began refurbishing more historic buildings in the 1960s and 1970s, creating a vibrant artistic community. As a result, mineral Point, Wisconsin, has become one of the best artistic small towns to visit in the Midwest.
Only an hour from Madison, and a little over 3 hours from Chicago, in no particular order, here are some of the best reasons why Mineral Point makes the perfect small-town holiday getaway.
1. Candlelight Shopping In Mineral Point
Stroll sidewalks through historic downtown Mineral Point with hundreds of luminaries guiding your way to shops and galleries. Shops create Christmas window displays, and fresh garland with a big red bow hangs on buildings and lampposts throughout town.
Many shops hold special events, such as The Mineral Point Gallery. Sixty-two artists display their pieces year-round, but you can meet local artists and wood carvers during Candlelight Shopping. Woodcarver Greg Trollop, known for his acclaimed Santa statues, will be one of the artists meeting shoppers.
During Candlelight Shopping, Christmas carolers roam downtown and shoppers can sample chestnuts roasting over an open fire at the corner of Chestnut and High Streets. Additionally, go to High Street for fireworks lighting the sky over downtown starting at 7 pm.
2. Santa Day At Shake Rag Alley Center For The Arts
Taking photos with Santa, building gingerbread houses, and doing holiday crafts at the Shake Rag Alley Center For The Arts is a perfect way to create multi-generational memories. First, Santa will make a special appearance on the Cabinet Shop porch for photos. Then, gingerbread cottage building and holiday craft workshops are featured inside the Lind Pavillion.
3. Christmas At Orchard Lawn
The Mineral Point Historical Society hosts Christmas at Orchard Lawn as a fabulous way to celebrate the holidays. Afternoon festivities take place on the beautiful 9-acre historic Italianate estate. Enjoy a Christmas open house in the warmth of blazing fires and the spirit of Christmas. Experience yesteryear with Victorian Christmas finger foods, beverages, and live music from local musicians.
4. Sirius Sunlight Glass Studio
On our day trips to Mineral Point, we always visit Sirius Sunlight Glass Studio. We enjoy browsing their handmade glass designs for unique and special gifts. Some of our favorites are glass-blown hummingbirds for window ornaments and handmade clear-glass icicles for Christmas tree ornaments. Owners Jill Engels and Chuck Pound handmake each piece. Jill creates charming stained glass art and Chuck is the hot glass sculptor.
Chuck makes clear-glass icicles one at a time. Each one is about 7 inches long, comes with a hoop for hanging, and looks amazingly real. Several years ago, Chuck made icicles, one by one, for Land’s End, headquartered in nearby Dodgeville. They were so popular he could barely keep up. That particular holiday season, he made 32,000 of them. Icicles can be bought individually or in a set of 12, which comes in a sturdy custom box with foam cutouts for storage. Our favorite style has a twist design.
5. Christmas Madrigal Dinner Theater
Step back into time with Mineral Point’s Christmas Madrigal Dinner Theater. Lighted luminaries line a path to an English-looking castle from the Renaissance Period. The Town Cryer introduces guests to the Royal Castle before a five-course meal is served during a theater production. Dressed in period costume, an eight-voice acapella group also sings 16th- to 18th-century Christmas songs.
6. Mineral Point Opera House
See classic Christmas movies at the Mineral Point Opera House to elevate your holiday spirit. The schedule includes It’s A Wonderful Life, The Polar Express, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
7. High Street Sweets
Seriously, the holidays and a whimsical candy shop should go hand in hand. The perfect solution for a holiday sweet tooth lies downtown on High Street. Inside and out, this spirited candy store explodes with all colors from the rainbow. Stocked with fun nostalgic confections to festive-colored snow in the winter, you won’t regret visiting.
8. Hook’s Cheese
Stop in at Hook’s Cheese Company on Commerce Street for a unique gift. Tony and Julie Hook own this international award-winning cheese company and consistently win awards in world cheese competitions. In 1982, Julie’s Colby won the “World Champion Cheese” title where she competed against all other cheese categories. Julie continues to be the only woman that has won this prestigious award. Purchase holiday gift boxes with delicious styles of cheese to pick from, or have them choose for you.