Grab your Santa necktie and reindeer socks, it’s holiday party season! The holidays are a great time to gather with people close to you to celebrate, relax, and have fun together. For many groups and organizations, the holiday party is the event of the year!
So how can you throw a holiday party that is classic but not cliché? You just need some creative ideas that put new spins on cherished holiday traditions. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorites that are sure to make the season bright.
Forget the eggnog, this is not your grandmother’s holiday party! Spice things up this year with these fun holiday party ideas!
Strut Your Stuff
Holiday parties are a great opportunity to get all gussied up, but you can get more creative with your dress code. All it takes is a good theme.
Try a “Santa’s on vacation” party, and invite your guests to dress for Christmas in hawaii. Take a hint from “A Christmas Story” and watch your guests stroll around in their 1940s or 1950s best. For something really off the wall, imagine what a party inspired by “The Nightmare Before Christmas” would look like...
If all else fails, ugly Christmas sweater parties are popular for a reason: everybody’s got one and they all look ridiculous.
Sorry to break it to you, but white elephant is over. At the very least, there are other ways to do fun holiday gift exchanges. Try a Secret Santa gift opening race, but don’t forget the big, ridiculous oven mitts!
Holiday trivia is another fun way to get guests interacting. Trivia could involve topics like holiday traditions around the world, classic Christmas movies, holiday song lyrics, and so much more. You could even create a custom trivia game just for your group!
And The Winner Is
Who doesn’t love a good contest? The holidays are made for healthy competition.. and giving and loving and all that too.
How proud would you be to win an ugly fruit cake bake-off? Or a Christmas cookie bake-off? Or an ugly Christmas sweater contest?
Are you a Seinfeld fan? Maybe you want to go full Festivus and wrestle the head of the household to the ground. To each their own!
Share That Holiday Spirit
The season of joy is the season of giving. Get your group together and give back to your local community. Everyone will be better for it!
Consider organizing a group volunteering trip to a soup kitchen or nursing home. You could also organize a gift or donation drive at your event. There are plenty of ways to help those in need during the holiday season, so get to giving!
A Trip Down Memory Lane
The end of the year is a time for reflection. Why not give your guests the opportunity to reflect and remember together?
Invite your attendees to contribute to a big graffiti mural. Write a question in the center that asks what they’re grateful for, what their favorite memory is, or what they’re looking forward to. Give your guests the tools and space they need to add their answers to the mural in creative and colorful ways. Watch what unfolds!
Don’t forget to give your guests a memory of the party! Set up a selfie station or photobooth to capture the moment. Bonus points for hilarious holiday props.
Carve The Roast Beast
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… for eating delicious food! Yes, sweater season conveniently lines up with holiday party season. It’s like the universe wants you to attack that carbolicious comfort food like it’s Christmas morning!
The best approach is to try new spins on traditional favorites. Our holiday menu features mouth-watering dishes like smoked pit ham, oven roasted turkey, yukon mashed potatoes, and dried cranberry and walnut salads.
Don’t forget dessert! Treat yourself to classic bread pudding, brown butter carrot cake, tarts, pie, custards galore! Afterall, you’ve been good this year.
Forget The Eggnogg
Unless of course you like eggnog, then by all means! But there are so many amazing holiday cocktails to try!
Check out our special holiday drink menu, and get ready to discover new seasonal favorites like the Dirty Snowball, the Poinsettia, or the Grinch.
We’ll drink to that!
Rain (Snow?) Check
December is full of holiday parties, get-togethers, gift exchanges, and oh so many obligations. Are you exhausted yet? Have you ever thought about hitting snooze until January?
Hear us out! Year-end parties don’t have to be in December. That’s just so… obvious. Why not hold your big event in January? Call it a new year’s party or a kick off party or a holiday party for procrastinators.
It’s your party, you can schedule it unconventionally if you want to.
Merry Little Elves
Want to have the best holiday party ever? You’ve come to the right place! The experts at The Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club are masters in the art and science of holiday parties.
Imagine all the holiday ambiance created for you to your exact preferences: holiday centerpieces, linens, beautifully appointed trees, decorated food displays, and so much more.
Let’s make some holiday magic together. We can help bring all your best holiday party ideas to life. Learn more about our holiday party options and get in touch with us today!
Need a break? Your conference attendees do too! At your next big event, give them something fun and creative to do.
How do you turn boring breaks into enhanced experiences? The experts at The Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor's Club have some ideas for you.
From snacks to games to something unexpected, check out these seven creative break ideas for your next conference.
To learn more about how The Madison Concourse Hotel can make your event spectacular -- down to every last detail -- view our meetings & events offerings.
Nothing brings people together like helping the community. At your next event, give your attendees an opportunity to give back.
Set up a station for folks to help make care packages for local children's hospitals. Be sure to include fun activities like coloring books, card games, and stickers.
Similarly, you can assemble care kits for local homeless shelters. Simple items like toothbrushes, hand wipes, and socks can go a long way in making someone’s life better.
Breathe In Breathe Out
You don’t need much time to sneak in a quick wellness session! Try offering a beginner’s yoga class. Attendees can stretch their bodies and their brains after long periods of being seated.
Meditation sessions are a great option too. All it takes is a brief overview of mindfulness techniques and you’re off to nirvana (or something like that).
If you’d like to really take care of your attendees, consider showing the introverts some love. Attending a big conference can be very draining, and introverts especially need time and space to “recharge.” Create an introvert zone where talking is prohibited and comfortable lounge space offers a quiet oasis.
Old Dog Meet New Trick
At conferences, attendees spend a lot of time learning new things. But during the breaks, the learning doesn’t have to stop!
Try offering mini learning opportunities as creative palette cleansers. These sessions can be fun and totally unrelated to the overall conference. Learn how to decorate cupcakes, how to assemble a cheese board, or how to knit a scarf. Anything goes as long as it’s fun and engaging.
Snack time! Your attendees will be hungry and ready to eat during conference breaks. Your job is to provide fast and filling options that will boost energy and prevent that mid-day slump.
Tame the hunger monster by offering fruits, vegetables, salads, and protein options. Add some local flavor, like an artisan meat and cheese board for Wisconsin, for example.
For extra creative points, give your attendees something they won’t soon forget, like sushi burritos, Korean BBQ tacos, or mac-and-cheese pizza (like Ian’s).
Don’t forget about food allergies and dietary restrictions! Make sure your snacks are clearly labeled and you have something for everyone to enjoy.
Get Crafty With It
Crafts are a great way for your attendees to embrace their creative side, interact with others, and take home unique goodies! Plus, there are so many different mini craft projects to choose from, you are sure to find something perfect for your group.
In Madison, we are inspired by Revel, a DIY craft studio. They offer all kinds of craft activities designed for small groups like candle-making, crocheting, painting, string art, and so much more. Pick a theme that jives with your conference and get crafty with it!
Photos are a great keepsake from big events. Plus, your attendees can share them on social media with your conference hashtag! But don’t just settle for a traditional photographer, have some fun with it!
You could set up a selfie station, a retro photobooth, or a red carpet walk. Whatever you choose, be sure to give your attendees plenty of fun props to play with! You can’t go wrong with giant sunglasses and fluffy feather boas.
Winner Winner Chicken Dinner
A little competition can really shake things up! Give your attendees the opportunity to team up and play games during the breaks.
Organize a scavenger hunt around the venue or (even better) around the local area. Incorporate taking photos or videos of crazy tasks for points. Prizes help, but bragging rights are valuable too.
Other ideas include a massive rock-paper-scissors tournament or a bigger and better exchange contest. The more people who can participate, the better!
Take A Break From Boring Breaks
Remember, details matter! Breaks between sessions don’t have to be empty space. Fill ‘em up and enhance the experience for your conference attendees.
The event experts at The Madison Concourse Hotel can help! Contact us today to start planning your next event.
Home Of The Most Haunted Places In Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin has a lively, colorful, and eclectic culture. As the capital city of Wisconsin, Madison is central to much of the state’s rich and complicated history. It’s no wonder the city abounds with rumors of ghosts and hauntings.
In the spirit of Halloween, The Madison Concourse would like to set the mood with a few spooky stories. Check out our list of some of the most reputedly haunted places in the Madison area, and stop by these iconic destinations if you dare!
Madison’s Majestic Theatre marquee gleams brightly on King Street, just off of Capitol Square. This glamorous theater first opened its doors in 1906 to host vaudeville acts, but since then has been everything from a silent movie house to its current incarnation as a music venue. Captivating performers such as Harry Houdini have graced its stage.
Multiple witnesses over the years have reported a strange, misshapen shadow man roaming the vintage venue. One such story comes from a pair of college coeds who were taking a study break up in the balcony. One of them stood up to stretch her legs, and saw behind her what she described as a “putty man” made of shadow. She brings the nightmare manifestation to her friend’s attention, and as she does, the thing appears to grow larger and larger, causing the young students to scream and beat a hasty retreat.
Another paranormal event occurred shortly before the Majestic closed for a period in the year 2000. Cast members preparing to participate in the Rocky Horror Picture Show reported hearing a ghostly voice cry out “Good luck with the show!” and having their hair pulled by spectral hands.
Madison’s old tuberculosis sanatorium stands sentinel over the Northport neighborhood, looming between it and the decaying remains of the area’s tortured past. The Lake View Sanatorium housed tuberculosis patients from 1930 to 1966, and although it is impossible to know how many lives were taken by tuberculosis in Wisconsin, by 1930 it was estimated to be the 7th leading cause of death in the state, with 1,514 residents succumbing to the disease that year. In the modern era, the city has converted the sanatorium itself into a home for the Dane County Human Services Department, but all of the remaining structures—and the remains of others that have fallen into disrepair—reside in what is now Lake View Hill Park and wilderness preserve.
While the main building is imposing in its vintage horror visage, it is the woods behind it and the small graveyard to the west of the old sanatorium that have the strongest reputation for paranormal activity. Reports of cold and hot spots, apparitions, strange lights, odd mists, and physical manifestations—such as being touched by phantom hands—are common on the trails woven throughout the tree-enshrouded Lake View Park, and in the nearby graveyard.
Paranormal belief aside, the grounds are a lovely example of Madison’s dedication to natural spaces, and perfect for a pleasant Autumn stroll. If you’re feeling nervous about traversing the reputedly haunted woods, then bring along your faithful canine companion--dogs are allowed in the park, but must remain on-leash.
Madison’s Orpheum Theater has proudly preserved its identity into the 21st century. Standing less than a block away from The Madison Concourse Hotel, the building’s limestone, art deco exterior and French renaissance interior harken back to its inception in 1926; the theater’s flashy grand staircase and gaudy chandeliers remain as a testament to the era of vaudeville that birthed it. The Orpheum takes its name from the Greek hero Orpheus, and his statue still overlooks the theater’s entryway. Orpheus, of course, was a champion of music and poetry, a trait he shares with his namesake theater. But few can forget the tragedy of Orpheus, and the tale of his lost love Eurydice, for whom he traveled all the way to the Underworld. The Orpheum was named very appropriately, then, because like the tragic hero from which it takes its name, it too has a connection to the underworld—the Orpheum theater is said to be haunted.
Otherwise rational visitors to the Orpheum have reported an uneasy feeling in the theater’s furnace room and downstairs restroom area, and strange noises heard throughout the building include muffled conversations, footsteps in the hall, and jingling keys. It should go without saying that the source of these spectral sounds is a mystery to those present, since they happen only when nobody else could reasonably be expected to be there. People also report apparitions in period clothing from the 1920s and 1930s who vanish soon after being seen.
When you visit, make sure to stop by and see the theater’s very own photograph of a ghost. In the hallway to your left as you enter, there is a photo of the theater from 1927, and in that photo there exists the ghostly image of a man who was said to have not been present when the picture was taken.
The Wonder Bar
Madison’s Wonder Bar Steak House exists within a squat, imposing brick fortress that once stood in defense of the Prohibition-era mobsters who commissioned its creation. Built in 1929, the building has two matching turrets standing watchfully above its entrance on either side, through which a gangster could angle the barrel of his Thompson submachine gun in case of an unexpected raid. The bar was run by Eddie Touhy, brother to Chicago’s infamous Roger “The Terrible” Touhy—famous for distributing alcohol illegally, and his rivalry with fellow Chicago mafioso Al Capone. A tunnel once led from the Wonder Bar to nearby Lake Monona to aid in the Touhy brothers’ bootlegging activities, although it’s since been filled in.
Now an upscale Steak House, the Wonder Bar had some seedy beginnings as a bar and hangout for Chicago mobsters. The bar was first built in 1929 and was run by Eddie Touhy, who was a brother to Chicago’s Roger “The Terrible” Touhy, a rival of legendary Al Capone.
Reported paranormal phenomena include a men’s room door that slams seemingly of its own accord, and a helpful ghost who once returned a small sum of money to a waitress after it went missing from her till. But it isn’t only the Wonder Bar’s staff who witness strange things--a firefighter performing a building inspection after hours reported hearing phantom footsteps and voices while examining the basement.
None of that should damper your visit to this historic hangout, and while you may come for the ghosts, you’ll stay for the spirits (served in their craft cocktails).
The Great Dane
One of Madison’s favorite brewpubs is located in a 140-year-old building that was once known as the Fess Hotel. The space has been occupied by The Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co. since 1994, but it seems they may not be the only occupants…
The Great Dane has long been considered haunted by its employees. Over the years, the stories have continued among them as they come and go, and it seems to be something of a living tradition. There is a room in the basement used for storage known as the “spooky room.” It’s rumored to be constantly cold, and evokes a feeling of dread so intense that few can stand to be in its presence. The bar receives phantom phone calls as well, and in true horror movie fashion they always appear to be coming from the in-house line. It’s even experienced poltergeist phenomenon, as one employee witnessed a set of pool cues being knocked from their rack, one by one.
Don’t let this scare you off, though, because the Great Dane is still a great place to grab a beer—just don’t do it in the spooky room.
Boar and Barrel
A relatively new addition to the Capitol Square bar and restaurant scene, the Boar and Barrel was established within the building which previously housed The Blue Marlin and Hamilton’s on the Square, and the space was historically a German butcher shop owned by one of Madison’s first mayors.
During a remodel of the building in the 1980s, the sign painter went into a trance and told one of the owners that someone would die before the restaurant would open. The ominous premonition came terribly true when a construction worker died of a heart attack before the restaurant opened its doors to the public. A cleaner working in the building has also reported seeing an unidentified apparition on the floor upstairs from the Boar and Barrel.
Don’t let this give you second thoughts about going, because the only future event you need be concerned about is which delicious drink you’ll try.
Tempest Oyster Bar
Tempest, Madison’s favorite oyster bar, wouldn’t look out of place in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
The building housing the seafood restaurant was once a funeral home owned by the Frautschi family--the same civic-minded clan who brought us the Overture Center and Concerts on the Square. The Frautschis owned the funeral home from when it was built in 1929 until the late ‘70’s when the business was closed.
Employees of Tempest have reported dishes and fire extinguishers moving on their own, and residents of the upstairs apartments have complained of paranormal activity; although no discernible origin for the phenomena exists.
Regardless of whether or not its previous incarnation as a funeral home has led to the building being haunted, the Tempest has a wonderful menu and happy hour that is definitely worth the risk.
Iconic Bascom Hill is the heart of UW Madison’s campus; surrounded by historic buildings and topped with a picturesque statue of Abraham Lincoln gazing serenely out over the city. But before it served the university’s students and faculty, it fulfilled a different purpose--that of the city’s first cemetery.
Bascom Hill was the site of a cemetery for white settlers from 1837 until 1846, when the dead were disinterred and moved to another location to make room for the University of Wisconsin...or were they? In 1922 the remains of Samuel Warren and William Nelson were found buried in the hill while excavators were working to install the statue of President Lincoln, and to this day their final resting places are marked with brass grave marker bearing the men’s initials.
Passersby have reported ghostly figures of an older and younger man walking near the statue, and there are also stories of an apparition--described as being “from a different time,” complete with a bowler hat-- walking up and down the stairs of Bascom Hall.
Madison, Wisconsin: A Very Spooky City
These were just a small sampling of Madison’s many historic and haunted landmarks that have survived into the present day. The city has many other stories to tell and adventures to share, and if you do choose to visit any of the sites listed we can assure you any ghosts present are perfectly harmless. Madison’s undead residents are as warm and welcoming as its living ones. So please share in our unique history the next time you’re in town and add a few more interesting stories to your Madison experience.
For more information on Madison and its haunted history, please check out Madison Ghost Walks for historic ghost tours from spring until Halloween. And for more information on these haunted places and others, you can check out The Singular Fortean Society.
Visiting all the haunted spots in Madison? Stay with us at The Madison Concourse Hotel. There are no ghosts here... that we know of...