Welcome to Milwaukee! Whether you're a proud resident, or just visiting for the weekend, our city by the lake is truly a hidden gem in the United States.
Milwaukee With Kids is committed to one thing only: to connect you with the best things to do in Milwaukee (with kids!).
And, this city is very family friendly. It wasn't hard to come up with 101 of the best places in the Milwaukee area to bring your kids to make the most of your time here. Our city is packed with fun things to do with your littles. We know for certain you'll have a good time here.
You'll soon find out - if you don't already know - we're so much more than custard and cheese curds.
(But also, we have great custard and cheese curds.)
There are so many great things to do here with your whole family. Here is comprehensive list of things to choose from for your adventures with kids in Milwaukee. Browse our favorite things in order, or jump to a section that interests you.
Indoor Playgrounds & Water Parks
Milwaukee Children's Museums
Betty Brinn Children's Museum (Currently Closed)
929 E Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202
The Betty Brinn Children’s Museum is a fun place that inspires children to wonder and explore their world through play and innovative, hands-on learning experiences. Families can have fun learning together in the Museum’s interactive exhibits, including Home Town, Science CITY, Word Headquarters and Pocket Park for children age 4 and younger. Special programs, workshops and family events are offered throughout the year to spark exploration among children.
Pro Tip: The museum offers free admission for all on Neighborhood Night on the third Thursday of every month.
Milwaukee Public Museum
800 W Wells St., Milwaukee, WI 53233
The Milwaukee Public Museum welcomes more than half a million visitors annually. Located in downtown Milwaukee, the Museum currently houses more than 4 million objects in its collections. MPM has three floors of exhibits that encompass life-size dioramas, walk-through villages, world cultures, dinosaurs, a rainforest, and a live butterfly garden, as well as the Daniel M. Soref Dome Theater and Planetarium.
One of the most beloved exhibits is the immersive Streets of Old Milwaukee, originally opened in 1965, and renovated for its 50th anniversary in 2015. After entering through an old-fashioned street car, visitors get an glimpse of what life was like in Milwaukee in the 1800’s by strolling along cobblestone streets and peering through dozens of store-front windows and residences. The grandmother resting in her rocking chair is a local celebrity. (She even has her own Twitter account!) You can make the most of your visit by downloading the Streets of Old Milwaukee app, which allows you to pick a Streets resident to be your tour guide.
Other must-visit exhibits include the European Village, which brings 33 immigrant cultures to life at the turn of of the 19th century and the Butterfly Vivarium, where butterflies flutter freely in a tranquil environment, and kids can try on costumes and participate in hands-on activities.
-Visitors can see the skeleton of the Hebior Mammoth without even paying admission. The exhibit is open to the public on the ground floor. The mammoth is is over 14,000 years old and was found in Kenosha County. It’s notable especially because it helps date human habitation in our region of North America.
The Milwaukee Public Museum planetarium MPM's Planetarium is the first in the world to debut a Digistar 6 computer projection system. The Dome Theater boasts a six-story-tall screen and digital surround sound, and delights families with stunning 3D animations and vistas of the night sky, Mt. Everest, dinosaur life, and more!
Fun fact: There are three secret buttons in the Milwaukee Public Museum. The most widely known one is found by the Bison Hunt exhibit. If you press it, you’ll activate a rattlesnake noise and movement. Another is found in the Rainforest exhibit near the howler monkey. And the final one is found in the Exploring Life on Earth exhibit.
Pro Tip: To get the butterflies to land on you, wear red or orange!
Get in free! Milwaukee County Residents receive free admission on Thursdays and Milwaukee County Residents receive a $2.00 discount on admission every day.
Discovery World (Re-opens end of March 2021)
500 N Harbor Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Discovery World is the perfect place for young curious minds to explore, and their exploration can start before you even get inside. Don’t miss the Wind Leaves right outside of the main building. These tall aluminum columns are made of thousands of stainless steels disks, and they rotate with the wind. The material reflects light beautifully. You can also play on the musical benches surrounding the columns.
Once inside, visit the Innovation Station and try your hand with the flight simulator, construction truck display, and more. Climb the winding staircase with neon lights to the second floor and check out the “bed of nails”, made of tiny spikes to teach kids about pressure. There’s also a road race simulator, a holiday exhibit around Christmas time, and the Kohl’s Design It! Lab, where families can create make and take projects together that vary in difficulty and complexity. They have staff on hand who can help you with creative tools such as hot glue guns, heat sealers, and vacuum-formers.
Towards the back of the building, you’ll find the a huge replica of the Great Lakes, where kids can cause a rainstorm or fog with the touch of a button. Upstairs is a replica of 19th century Great Lakes schooner that you can climb on board and explore.
On one side of the life-size ship, you’ll find the Simple Machine Shipyard, where kids learn about the building blocks of complex machines. Kids are empowered to lift large boulders, use a pulley system to lift themselves into the air, and more. On the opposite side of the ship, visitors can explore how Milwaukee Water Works purifies its water.
Downstairs, the Reiman Aquarium makes the underworld of Lake Michigan come alive to visitors with hands-on and immersive exhibits. Fish swim above, below, and all around you, and kids can pet sting-rays, crabs and more.
Harley Davidson Museum
400 W. Canal St., Milwaukee, WI 53201
Pose for a photo with the company founders, see the oldest known Harley Davidson motorcycle (knowns as "Serial Number One", rev up your engines in the engine room, rummage through discvoery drawers filled with vintage toys and trinkets, make your own custom creation at the build-a-bike station, and much more!
Milwaukee Art Museum
700 Art Museum Dr., Milwaukee, WI 53202
The Milwaukee Art Museum is the crown jewel of the lakefront, and it's home to many special works of art, an on-site studio for kids, and architectural wings that open and close. Make the most of your next trip to the Art Museum with some tips from our post: "8 Special Things To Do With Kids At The Art Museum".
Fun Fact: The museum is *always* free for kids 12 and under.
Pro Tip: Check out an art pack to up-level your next visit!
Milwaukee County Historical Society
910 N Old World 3rd St, Milwaukee, WI 53203
The Milwaukee County Historical Society was founded in 1935 and has become the place for people to learn about and to celebrate Milwaukee. Through education programs, exhibitions, the research library, and special events, MCHS offers Milwaukeeans and visitors to Milwaukee a chance to connect with the heritage of Milwaukee. The MCHS headquarters is located in a historic bank building along the Milwaukee River.
Fun Fact: More than one million documents and photographs and more than 60,000 artifacts are preserved by MCHS.
Milwaukee Fire Museum (Free!)
1615 W. Oklahoma Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53215
1st Sunday of each month (April - December, excluding holidays) 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM or by appointment
The Fire Museum features a vintage bunk room, alarm area and fire officers office. It is one of five fire stations of this style built in 1927. The museum houses the first department ambulance, a 1947 Cadillac, plus two trucks built in the Milwaukee Fire Department Shop during the 1920's and 30's. The building also has a dormitory style bunk-room, a vintage kitchen, locker room, and hose tower.
Mitchell Gallery of Flight (Free!)
5300 S. Howell Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53207
If you find yourself at the airport with some time to spend, the Mitchell Gallery of Flight is a great place to while away some time. You'll find aviation models and memorabilia, a giant portrait of General Mitchell, a historic flight log, as well as educational information about planes and pilots.
Model Railroad Club of Milwaukee Inc.
15 E. National Ave. (built into a Canadian Pacific Railway bridge that spans the street)
Hidden gem alert! Built in 1916 by the Milwaukee Road as a bridge station, the location was abandoned and converted into the club’s venue in 1936. It is the longest running model railroad club in the same location in the US. Many of the original features are still intact, including subway tile, tin ceiling panels, and some steam heat fixtures. The models inside are built to ¼-inch scale, some dating back to pre-WWII.
The club is open to visitors the last Sunday afternoon of each month, between about 1 pm and 3 pm. If that day falls on a holiday, or within a four day weekend, the club is not open, and it is not open during severe weather events in winter.
Email George Edward for more info on visiting the Model Railroad Club: email@example.com or (414) 425-8635
National Bobblehead Hall Of Fame & Museum (Temporarily Closed)
170 S. 1st St., 2nd Floor, Milwaukee, WI 53204
This one-of-a-kind museum houses the world's largest collection of bobbleheads from all genres and periods, plus dozens of exhibits related to the history of bobbleheads, the making of bobbleheads, and more.
North Point Lighthouse (Re-opens May 2021)
2650 N Wahl Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53211
The North Point Lighthouse is home to a charming renovated museum, where you can learn about maritime history, see artifacts from ships that sailed Lake Michigan, and learn about the keepers who maintained the lighthouse (there are some real characters there!). Older kids can climb the 74-foot tall tower for a spectacular 360° view of Lake Park, Lake Michigan and downtown Milwaukee. Kids must be at least 38 inches tall to climb the tower. The museum is located between two ravines in Lake Park on a two-acre semi-wooded parcel, and is one of the oldest structures that stands in the now-urban area. (Don't miss the gift shop! There are some really cute Milwaukee-themed books and gifts for kids.)
Pabst Mansion (Temporarily closed)
2000 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53233
Visit the home of Captain Frederick and Maria Pabst, built in the 1890's for $254,000 as a testament to America's Gilded Age. The Pabsts became consummate art collectors, filling their mansion with priceless treasures, and they hosted many fine parties and receptions. Between 1908 and 1975, the mansion was the archbishop's resident and the center of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee. When it was sold in 1975, the mansion was nearly torn down to make way for a parking lot for a neighboring hotel. After a three-year crusade for its preservation, it was spared demolition and went on to become an award-winning house museum. The Mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 21, 1975. They offer guided tours every day of the week during their regular season.
Want more? Discover more museums in metro Milwaukee here.
Milwaukee is home to a thriving arts scene that the whole family can enjoy. The historic Pabst Theater often hosts traveling kid-friendly shows like "Daniel Tiger" and "Wild Kratts Live", or you can catch a visiting Broadway production at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Plus, First Stage Children's Theater puts on kid-friendly production year-round.
Milwaukee is also home to a number of historic movie theaters your kids will be wowed by, including the Avalon Atmospheric Theater in the funky Bay View neighborhood, complete with a starry night sky in the main theater.
But perhaps the best known movie theater in Milwaukee is the Oriental Theatre on the east side of the city. Built in 1927, the theater's design borrows from Indian, Moorish, Islamic, and Byzantine architectural styles.
Catch a professional basketball game when our Milwaukee Bucks take on visiting teams in the brand new Fiserv Forum. (Kids who love the Bucks can join Bango's Kids Club!) Walk around and have lunch in the popular Deer District.
Cheer on the Milwaukee Brewers in the newly-named American Family Field (formerly Miller Park, and County Stadium before that). No worries about the weather, because it has a retractable roof. For the best family tips for visiting the stadium, click here.
Milwaukee County Zoo
10001 W. Blue Mound Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53226
The Milwaukee County Zoo is home to over 200 wooded acres and more than 2,000 animals. You’ll come face to face with giant elephants, looming giraffes, roaring lions, bears resting in hammocks, swinging monkeys, a sweet red panda, Happy the Hippo in the Hippo Haven, and more.
The Family Farm is a must-visit, and you can also ride the carousel or ride a choo-choo train through the grounds.
For a Complete Guide to the Milwaukee County Zoo & Pro Tips for visiting, click here.
Boerner Botanical Gardens
9400 Boerner Dr., Hales Corners, WI 53130
Explore with your kids to find colorful rose, peony, annual, and perennial gardens, a fragrant herb garden, a daylily path, a serene rock garden with trickling streams and waterfalls, a regal shrub mall, an expansive arboretum, and a bog walk. For a quick guide of what you’ll find there, click here.
Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory (The Domes)
524 S Layton Blvd.
The Domes is a great spot to escape the cold of winter. You won't believe you're in Milwaukee as you roam through desert oasis, a tropical jungle, and elaborate floral gardens, all in one afternoon!
The Domes consist of three domes: The Tropical Dome, The Desert Dome, and the Show Dome, where seasonal exhibits take place. The Mitchell Park Domes also offers story times during the week, a Farmer’s Market in the winter months, live music in the Music Under Glass concert series, and special events throughout the year.
Admission is free to county residents every Monday morning from 9:00-12:00.
Here are some playgrounds you'll find in the city of Milwaukee, and a few extra-special spots that are a short drive from the city.
Cathedral Square Park
20 E Wells St, Milwaukee, WI 53202
The playground in Cathedral Square Park is one of the only playgrounds in Milwaukee's downtown area. The equipment is new and the setting is lovely, with lots of nearby restaurants to stop by for lunch. For even more fun, ride The Hop (Milwaukee's very own streetcar) to get there!
Harbor View Plaza
Great Lakes Research Facility, 600 E Greenfield Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53204
Harbor View Plaza is the first waterfront public park in the Harbor District, located at the east end of Greenfield Avenue in front of the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences. The Plaza opened in July 2019.
The plaza includes a play structure for children, a water play area and water feature, and a canoe/kayak launch and dock. The play structure is designed to look like the shipping containers synonymous with ports around the world. The water play area allows children to explore water flow and cool off on hot days. The canoe/kayak launch and dock allows visitors to get to the water’s edge and provides the only public canoe/kayak launch and docking south of the Milwaukee River in Milwaukee’s inner harbor. It is the first major investment in what will eventually be a continuous network of Riverwalk and waterfront parks spanning much of the western shore of the Harbor District.
Franklin Woods Nature Park, 3723 W. Puetz Rd., Franklin, WI
At this dream of a playground, you'll find wide, fully-accessible ramps, a ground-level merry-go-round that wheelchairs can fit on, a special needs swings, two huge stainless steels slides (facing north to keep them cool), a rope climb, a wiggly balance beam, two-height monkey bars, a climbing wall and much more.
In the younger children's area, you'll find double swings, fiber glass mini-slides, a kid's city hall, police station, and firehouse, a caterpillar tunnel, a registered Little Free Library and more.
There's just one entrance/exit to make it easier to keep track of your kids. The play surface is cushioned, and the building materials are splinter-free.You'll also find plenty of shaded seating areas for supervising your kids or nursing.
Outside of the play area there are several picnic tables and three large, clean bathrooms equipped with changing tables.
Lake Vista Park
4001 E Lakeside Ave., Oak Creek, WI 53154
Lake Vista Park, near the shores of Lake Michigan, offers beautiful walking trails, brand new playground equipment for all ages (including a zip line!), and a new picnic pavilion with restrooms.
Gas Light Park
Don't run off and play just yet. But a new playground is being planned for one of Milwaukee's coolest neighborhoods, the Third Ward. The playground would be located in a triangular lot at 111 N. Jefferson St. Fingers crossed!
For even more playgrounds that a bit longer of a drive (but well worth it!), click here.
We may be known as Brew City, but if you'd rather save the brewery tour for a date night without the kids, we are home to plenty of kid-friendly restaurants that will please the whole family. Here are the best restaurants for kids and families:
Milwaukee Public Market
400 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI 53202
You won't have to worry about keeping your kids still and quiet at the bustling Milwaukee Public Market, though you will have to deal with some crowds. The best part? You’ll find lots of different food options to please everyone’s pallet, and you can eat in the casual dining area upstairs. You’ll find a local coffee shop, artisan cheese and sausage, fresh fish, soups and salads, a variety of ethnic food options, and an amazing bakery. Don’t miss the vegan restaurant with a real vintage bus.
Safe House (Currently Closed)
Location: Top Secret
(Okay, okay, it’s 779 N. Front St., Milwaukee, WI 53202)
The Safe House, if you can find it and figure out how to pass the agent authorization process, is a unique experience for the whole family. Your kids will love this spy-themed restaurant hidden downtown, where every turns presents interactive elements, spy technology, gadgets, and riddles. You’ll learn about 50 years of spy history and see the world’s largest puzzle wall. (Yes, cheese curds are on the menu.)
1247 N Water St., Milwaukee, WI 53202
This burger joint actually allows you to write on the wall with markers, which is great news for any family with young kids. There are all kinds of kitschy decorations to keep you entertained. Don’t miss the peanut delivery system that sends you peanuts through a rocket tube near the ceiling. Get a free burger on your actual birthday! (And yes, they have cheese curds, too.)
Kopp's Frozen Custard
5373 N. Port Washington Rd., Glendale, WI 53217
7631 W. Layton Ave., Greenfield, WI 53220
18880 W. Bluemound Rd., Brookfield, WI 53045
Check their flavor of the day on their website or social media accounts. And don’t pass up Hog Heaven, the yearly flavor during local Harley-Davidson motorcycle events.
Leon’s Frozen Custard Drive-in
3131 S. 27th St. , Milwaukee, WI 53215 Website
Leon’s opened for business in 1942, and is still owned by the original family. Their custard is so iconic it has been featured on the Travel Channel.
Purple Door Ice Cream
205 S. 2nd St., Milwaukee, WI 53204
Purple Door Ice Cream is located in Milwaukee’s up-and-coming Walker’s Point neighborhood, and offers hand-crafted, artisan ice cream that is 14% butterfat. They use milk and cream from Wisconsin dairies whenever possible, as well as high-quality cocoas, liquers, coffee beans, and other flavorful ingredients. In their shop, you’ll find 20 flavors of ice cream. (The salted caramel can’t be beat!)
You’ll also find environmentally friendly features such as compostable spoons and cups, flooring made of 72% recycled content, and service counters made from hundreds of spoons collected from friends and family members throughout the world.
For a full list of family-friendly restaurants, click here.
There are nine public beaches along the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan, the greatest lake in our humble opinion. Here they are listed from north to south, along with what you’ll find at each one.
1870 E. Fox Ln., Fox Point, WI 53217
Located north of downtown Milwaukee in Fox Point, Doctors Park boasts nearly 50 acres of natural beauty on a bluff overlooking the lake. Near the parking lot, you’ll find a playground and practice fields. From there, you can take a paved trail, stairs, or a dirt trail down to the beach. It’s the perfect length nature hike for any child 4 and up, or a baby in a carrier.
Fun Fact: Doctors Park is located on the “point” from which Fox Point gets its name.
5900 N. Lake Dr., Whitefish Bay, WI 53217
Located north of downtown Milwaukee in Whitefish Bay, Klode Park offers breathtaking views of Lake Michigan, a winding path down to the beach, open fields for running and sports, and a nice-sized playground for the kids.
Helpful hint: There’s a clean, well-kept indoor bathroom in the shelter next to the playground.
Big Bay Park
5000 N. Palisades Rd., Whitefish Bay, WI 53217
Big Bay Park is a small and quiet oasis, tucked away in Whitefish Bay. You can enjoy a scenic overlook of the water, or walk down to the beach.
East Capitol and North Lake Drive, Shorewood, WI 53211
When you first arrive, you’ll see a playground in the park overlooking the lake. When you’re ready to head down to the beach, you can get there via an impressively steep set of stairs, or a more gentle winding path. Once there, you’ll find 800 feet of flat open beach. You’ll be steps away from the city and shops on Capitol Drive, but the wild foliage of the tall bluff behind you will make you feel far from the city streets.
Don’t miss it! Look for an impressive sculpture by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa of a contemplative man overlooking the beach.
2400 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr., Milwaukee, WI 53211
A favorite of college students, Bradford Beach is bustling and boisterous. You can watch sand volleyball on any of the 35 courts, grab some shade in a tiki hut, or rent a cabana. There’s also a boat house building with convenient restrooms and a concession stand.
1750 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr., Milwaukee, WI 53202
Grab a fruit smoothie and iced coffee from local cafe Colectivo on the Lake and head north to the bay-shaped McKinley Beach. It's less crowded than neighboring Bradford Beach and has a playground to wear out your little ones. You can also catch beautiful views of the boats in McKinley Marina. If you’re up for a walk, check out Veterans Park, just south of McKinley Beach. There’s lots of space to run, fly a kite, or enjoy the lagoon.
South Shore Beach
2900 S. Superior St., Milwaukee, WI 53207
On the shores of Milwaukee’s funky Bay View neighborhood, this beach offers picturesque views of South Shore Yacht Club and the downtown skyline. There’s a large playground and a park with picnic tables and a sand volleyball court. In the summer, you can walk to South Shore Terrace, one of Milwaukee’s newest beer gardens. However, this beach frequently closes due to bacteria levels. The Milwaukee County Parks system has implemented a green infrastructure project to improve the conditions.
Grant Park Beach
100 S. Hawthorne Ave., South Milwaukee, WI 53172
“Enter this wild wood and view the haunts of nature.”
This message, written on a sign atop a covered bridge, welcomes you to the Seven Bridges Trail in Grant Park. So it’s no wonder that there are rumors the trail is haunted. But if you head there during the day, there’s nothing spooky about it. The trail runs along a babbling creek, and leads all the way down to Lake Michigan, where you’ll find a beautiful beach, a clean playground, and a beachside grill serving food and alcohol. The Sprecher Root Beer & Milwaukee County Parks traveling beer garden typically stops by this park. You can also get a fish fry during the summer in the clubhouse.
To get there, enter Grant Park at South Lake Drive and Park Avenue, and travel about 1/8 mile. On your left you will find parking spaces with a path leading to the trail's main entrance.
Bender Park Beach
4503 E. Ryan Rd., Oak Creek, WI 53154
Bender Park is one of the county’s newest parks, and it feels that way. It is well-maintained, not too crowded, and spacious. It has a harbor and large boat launches, but the dramatic bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan are what steal the show.
Parks & Nature Centers
Three Bridges Park
It’s one of the city’s newest parks, open since 2013 and located along the Menomonee River between 27th and 37th St. Prior to 2013, this area was neglected, nearly destroyed by industry, and would not sustain wildlife and plants.
Today, it’s a 24 acre urban oasis with paved trails, rolling hills, and small oak trees planted for future generations.
The park is not visible from the street, but we recommend parking near the Urban Ecology Center (3700 W. Pierce St.)
Be sure to walk under the Valley Passage, a bright and colorful archway. From there it’s just a short walk to the Menomonee River, Silver City Bridge, walking paths, and great views of the city!
Havenwoods State Forest
6141 N. Hopkins St., Milwaukee WI 53209
Wisconsin’s only urban state forest, Havenwoods sits on 237 acres of grasslands, woods and wetlands in the city of Milwaukee. There are six miles of hiking, four ponds, a 120-foot bridge, and plenty of places to sit and relax with a picnic.
*Restrooms, Buildings, & Structures are currently closed.
Lakeshore State Park
500 N. Harbor Dr., Milwaukee, WI 53202
Lakeshore State Park is an urban oasis located in the heart of downtown Milwaukee, adjacent to the Summerfest Grounds and Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin, right along the shores of Lake Michigan. In addition to the paved paths, there is a small beach and a link to the Hank Aaron State Trail. The park is 22 acres, with 1.7 miles of hiking and biking, water access for canoes and kayaks, fishing area, boat slips, and a bridge that connect the park to the Summerfest grounds.
The Friends of Lakeshore State Park offer guided hikes and educational activities for kids all throughout the year. Great views of the city and Lake Michigan have been preserved by not planting many trees and instead fostering short grass prairies throughout the park.
Families with young kids will love the accessible paved paths and you'll all enjoy the unobstructed views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline.
You'll walk among short-grass prairie, flowering plants like Butterfly Weed, Purple Coneflower and native grasses. If you linger near the rocky shores, you may see some Snapping & Painted Turtles and Bullfrogs laying out in the sun.
After your hike, check out the Wind Leaves outside Discovery World, or picnic among the sculptures in O’Donnell Park.
For a list of more State Parks within one hour of Milwaukee, click here.
Hawthorn Glen Outdoor Education Center (Free!)
1130 N. 60th St., Milwaukee, WI 53208
Hawthorn Glen spans 23 acres and offers a Little Nature Museum with animals, kid-friendly paths, a playground, and more. It is a popular spot for school field trips, but the self-guided nature trail and nature center are open to the public in the evenings or on weekends.
Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
1111 E. Brown Deer Rd., Bayside, WI 53217
The Center offers six miles of trails through 185 acres of habitats such as forests, wetlands, prairies, and Lake Michigan shoreline. Hike on the stroller and wheelchair friendly boardwalk through Mystery Lake. Climb a 60-foot Observation Tower. Take the paved trail down to Lake Michigan. Stop in the visitor center and see Emerson, a resident snapping turtle, and other animal ambassadors. Enjoy family programming for people of all ages, starting at 6 months. Visit on weekend afternoons to see a raptor up close, or go on a guided hike. Schlitz Audubon also offers a preschool, summer camps, birthday parties, and scouting programs.
Urban Ecology Center (Free!)
The Urban Ecology Center is an innovative environmental education organization with three branches, all adjacent to Milwaukee County Parks. The building are currently closed, but check their website for updates.
Riverside Park (1500 E. Park Pl., Milwaukee, WI 53211)
This branch is normally open seven days a week, and you can spend a whole afternoon discovering all that the sun-soaked, plant-filled lodge has to offer, including games, instruments, puzzles, and blue slides with a secret door! Don’t miss the Native Wisconsin Animal Room, where you can greet turtles, snakes, fish, and frogs.
Insider tip: You can help feed the animals every weekend at 1:00 p.m. Check their website for the most updated times and locations.
Washington Park (1859 N. 40th St., Milwaukee, WI 53208)
The Washington Park branch has thriving gardens throughout the park and a Young Scientists club for kids who want to participate in hands-on nature activities. They also have a Native Wisconsin Animal room with a 560 gallon fish tank. You’ll get to see turtles, snakes, frogs, and fish. In the summer, you can canoe on the fresh water lagoon, and in the winter, it turns into an ice skating rink.
Menomonee Valley (3700 W. Pierce St., Milwaukee, WI 53215)
This branch is part of an exciting partnership that aims to revitalize the Menomonee Valley. They offer a young scientists club, nature playgroups, family hikes, nature crafts programs, and more throughout the year. Plus, you can help feed the animals every weekend for free.
2975 N Lake Park Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53211
Truly beautiful in any season, the paved winding paths of historic Lake Park will bring you gorgeous lake vistas, rocky ravines, impressive statues, and the charming North Point Lighthouse. It's home to an awesome playground, too! This park was designed by Frederick Olmsted, the same landscape architect who designed Central Park in New York City and the U.S. Capitol Grounds.
Lion's Den Gorge Nature Preserve
511 High Bluff Dr, Grafton, WI 53024
This nature preserve in Grafton is home to one of the last remaining stretches of undeveloped bluff land along the Lake Michigan shoreline. The views are stunning!
The park is 73 acres with plenty of hiking trails, boardwalks through wetlands, picnic areas, and restrooms.
The trails are relatively stroller-friendly, but you’ll have to ditch the stroller to take the stairway down to walk along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Caution! Be very careful on the trails because the cliffs and bluffs are very steep. It's best to put babies and toddlers in a carrier.
2145 W Brown Deer Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53217
The Lynden Sculpture Garden is a sprawling property that provides a whimsical yet peaceful experience of art in nature.
Free social distance walking is now open at the Lynden Sculpture Garden.
Be sure to visit the bright polka dotted cows grazing along the pond (“Des Vaches: Mo, Ni, Que” by Swiss artist Samuel Buri), run around in the wide open spaces, explore magical trees the kids can hide inside of, and find frogs and turtles galore.
Remember to enjoy the sculptures with your eyes only. Don’t climb on them!
The 40 acre space makes it easy to keep a safe distance from others. The hours are 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m, and they are closed on Thursday.⠀
For a list of more State Parks within one hour of Milwaukee, click here.
There are 13 Milwaukee Public Library branches offering amazing programs for kids and families. Six stand out above the rest, in our humble opinion. Read on for little-known facts, library art, and secret hiding spots!
The Milwaukee Public Library has changed their hours and policies throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. For the latest information, visit mpl.org.
Bay View Library
2566 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53207
Artist Peter Flanary created three mosaic maps that depict Bay View throughout history. You’ll find them on the linoleum floor of the lobby. One mosaic represents Bay View at the time of settlement in 1832. Another depicts the area around 1900, when a steel mill on the lakefront contributed to rapid growth in the community. The third mural represents life in Bay View today. Don’t miss the children’s area in the library with toys, stuffed animals, computers, books, and more.
814 W. Wisconsin Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53233
Drop in at Central Library every single Saturday at 10:30 a.m. for a fun kids program in the Children’s Herzfield Activity Center. The activities are always changing and are themed for the time of year. The programs include stories, songs, crafts, and more.
The Betty Brinn Children’s Room at Central Library gives kids their very own separate area to explore. There’s a lighthouse to climb, plenty of cozy reading alcoves, 30 computers, and special children’s book collections grouped together.
Fun Fact: The stained glass window in the Central Library Children’s Room is called the “Hans Christian Andersen Window”. It was designed by Marie Herndl in 1896, one of the only women in her field at the time. It was restored for the grand opening of the children’s room in 1998.
2320 N. Cramer St., Milwaukee, WI 53211
Visit the East Library and check out unique and functional public art with your kids. Artist Ray Chi designed a leaping, circular sculpture that is at once art and a functional bike rack. He also built a living, growing sculpture of a serpent that winds along the ground and grows into a planted wall. Even the entrance of the library is unique, with outdoor seating that is inspired by the pebbles found on Lake Michigan. The East Library offers family-friendly programming all year round, such as pajama story time and family yoga.
Martin Luther King
310 W. Locust St., Milwaukee, WI 53212
Each year, the Martin Luther King Library hosts a celebration on Martin Luther King Day that includes hands-on activities for kids, visits from dignitaries, and live entertainment throughout the day. The library also houses a collection of permanent art, some of it having to do with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Look for Amos Paul Kennedy Jr.’s accordion book, which showcases Dr. King’s most famous quotations.
Mitchell Street Library
906 W. Historic Mitchell St., Milwaukee, WI 53204
The recently renovated Mitchell Street Branch used to be home to a department store, and it’s the largest of Milwaukee Public Library’s branches. You’ll find a bright and expansive space with a high-tech maker-space, laptops for checkout, a children’s collection, puppets, audio books on c.d.'s, and a cozy reading area with a fireplace.
3912 S. Howell Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53207
The newly renovated Tippecanoe branch is home to a “secret garden” inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 book of the same name. It’s a lovely outdoor space for children accessed from the children’s area. It is currently only open during special events which you can find on their calendar. Kids can read, play, and think in this special space designed just for them.
Indoor Playgrounds & Water Parks
Bounce Milwaukee (Currently Closed)
2801 S. 5th Court, Milwaukee, WI 53207
Bounce Milwaukee is Milwaukee's premier place for parties and play. With inflatables, laser tag, a rock wall, climbing structure, ball pit, air hockey, vintage games, pinball, and much more, Bounce specializes in bringing families together through play. Plus, they offer a full-service restaurant.
(Parents, don't miss the bar upstairs and massage chairs!)
Little Sprouts Play Cafe
4606 N. Wilson Dr., Shorewood, WI 53211
1406 W Mequon Rd, Mequon, WI 53092
Ideal for ages up to 6 years old, Milwaukee’s favorite play cafe offers indoor play and so much more. Young kids will enjoy safe, creative play, while parents can relax with a drink from their espresso bar, enjoy free wifi, and snack on some delicious food options. It's a well-loved spot for birthday parties, children’s classes, and family events. This shoe-free (socks required) environment is a perfect spot for your family to enjoy year round! Locations in Shorewood and Mequon.
4940 S. 76th Street Greenfield, WI 53220
Sky Zone is the world’s first indoor trampoline park, the inventors of “fun fitness”, and the makers of trampolines as far as the eye can see. Test your skills on the Ninja Warrior Course or challenge your friends to Ultimate Dodgeball. All ages can enjoy active play at Sky Zone Greenfield! They also provide birthday parties and group events - give them a call to book!
2220 N Commerce St, Milwaukee, WI 53212
At Adventure Rock, you’ll find indoor and outdoor rock-climbing opportunities for all ages and abilities in Milwaukee's up and coming Riverwest neighborhood. First timers ages five and up can be a part of the Clip’N Go program that uses an auto-belay system. You won’t have to tie knots or learn commands, and a staff member will help orient you.
Milwaukee Turners Gymnastics
1034 North 4th St., Milwaukee, WI 53203
Rock climb at the oldest rock gym in the state of Wisconsin. You must be over age 8 to climb, and people under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.
The Springs Water Park
Ingleside Hotel, 2810 Golf Rd., Pewaukee, WI 53072
Over 45,000 square feet of water park adventures await you just outside of Milwaukee at The Springs Water Park. Your family will love exploring the high-speed raft and body slides, the relaxing lazy river, activity pool with water basketball & lily pad rope walk, indoor and outdoor whirlpool, and interactive arcade. Don’t miss the the Triple Dog Dare, a 362 ft. long boat slide for up to three people. For little kids, head to Waukesha Waterworks, a zero depth entry interactive area with a 600 gallon dump bucket, squirting water cannons, small water slides, water geysers, and more.
For more epic water parks, Wisconsin Dells is your ultimate destination, dubbed the Water Park Capitol of the World. It's just two hours northwest of Milwaukee.
For more indoor playgrounds in metro Milwaukee, click here.
The Milwaukee Riverwalk is a great way to explore the downtown area on foot. It's actually an outdoor art gallery called RiverSculpture, and it includes a mixture of permanent pieces and temporary installations. You can find a map of the sculptures here.
The Downtown Riverwalk leads you past our city's main Theater District, including the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts (home of First Stage Children's Theater, Milwaukee Ballet, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra), Milwaukee Repertory Theater, and the Pabst & Riverside Theatres. If you're lucky, you might get to see one of the bridges go up for a large boat!
Pro Tip: Explore the Riverwalk on a Wednesday evening in the Summer, and end with a picnic and a free live music concert at River Rhythms in Pere Marquette Park.
Here are some highlights to look for with kids:
1. Look for a whimsical and colorful statue called “Cow and Ballerina" in Pere Marquette Park.
2. Located just off of Wells St. on the Milwaukee RiverWalk, the Bronze Fonz is Milwaukee’s ultimate selfie destination. The statue is a tribute to Arthur Fonzareli from the hit show Happy Days, a sitcom based in Milwaukee circa 1950. The statue is five foot six, just like the actor who played the Fonz, Henry Winkler.
3. Don’t miss Gertie the Duck! In April of 1945, a mallard duck nested under the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge. A story in the Milwaukee Journal dubbed her “Gertie,” and it went viral in a 1940’s kind of way. Crowds gathered and motorists stopped by the nest to check on the ducklings’ status. It captivated Milwaukee and eventually the entire nation.
Five ducklings eventually hatched, and the ducks were put on display in Gimbel’s department store. The ducks were later relocated to the Juneau Park lagoon.
Today Gertie the Duck stands guard over her ducklings in all their bronze glory on the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge over the Milwaukee River. The sculpture by Gwendolyn Gillen was installed in 1997.
Downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin Ave.
Sculpture Milwaukee brings world class art to Milwaukee every year along Wisconsin Avenue.
There are social distancing markers around the sculptures, and masks are required per the City of Milwaukee's mask requirement. The exhibition is open 24/7.
Here are a few stunning murals that grace the streets of Milwaukee.
See our entire mural tour here.
"Mural of Peace"
Location: Esperanza Unida International Building. 611 W. National Ave.
The Mural of Peace was originally painted in 1993 on wood panels by artist Renaldo Hernandez, but in 1999 a storm knocked it down. Joe Kovacich, then vice president of Miller Compressing, lead a campaign to replace it. Numerous local groups, businesses, schools, and churches contributed, and together the neighborhood was able to fund its restoration.
What do you see in the mural? Where do you think the artist got his idea for the striped colorful lines? Do you see any flags? Why do you think it was so important to restore the mural after the storm knocked it down?
Black Cat Alley
Location: Black Cat Alley is located behind the historic Oriental Theater at the intersection of North Avenue and Ivanhoe on Milwaukee's East Side. You can enter the Alley from Prospect Avenue near the Axe Bar (AXE MKE) or from Ivanhoe near Milwaukee's only cat café (Sip 'n Purr). Please note: the Ivanhoe entry is the only accessible entry, as the Prospect entryway has a staircase.
The Black Cat Alley is an outdoor art gallery located in a private alley on the East Side. This unique street art destination was developed by a group of community members and artists back in 2015-2016 in partnership with Wallpapered City LLC, and sponsored by the East Side BID. It now contains 21 murals by 24 artists from Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Columbus and even Berlin. Their website is blackcatmke.com
Heart & Sol
Artist: Mauricio Ramirez
Location: 728 N. James Lovell St.
"Heart & Sol potrays optimism for our city's future through its illustration of two young female figures, symbolizing unity and strength." It's the largest mural in downtown Milwaukee!
See our entire mural tour here.
Summer Hot Spots
Let's be honest, the summer months are the real reason we live here. There is nothing like Milwaukee when it comes alive June through August.
The Henry Maier Festival Park is home to Summerfest, the world's largest music festival. (It's been postponed to September for 2021). While it's mostly an event for adults, some families do head down during the day to enjoy the music and splash around in the splash pad. Some must-visit stops with the kids include:
The Elizabeth “Bo” Black family fountain: Hopping around in this iconic splash pad is the perfect way to keep cool on a hot summer day.
Children's Theater & Playzone: Visit the daily lineup pages for information on daily, family-focused performers and show times.
Kohl's Captivation Station: This area lives up to its name, captivating children of all ages with hands on art projects, live theater and family friendly performers. Families can meet new characters and puppets and enjoy wildlife adventures and songs in conservation-themed performances by Kohl’s Wild Theater, part of the Zoological Society of Milwaukee. You can also create a one-of-a-kind art project with Kohl’s Color Wheels, an extension of the Milwaukee Art Museum. For innovative design projects, stop by the Kohl’s Design it! Mobile Lab. You’ll learn techniques and methods from design professionals from Discovery World.
Ferris Wheel: The Summerfest "Wheel in the Sky" on the north end of the grounds offers spectacular views of Summerfest, Milwaukee’s downtown, and Lake Michigan. It operates from noon - 11:30 p.m. daily.
Paddleboat rides: Worried your kids' little legs will get tired from walking around? Relax and take in views of the festival and downtown Milwaukee on a 30 minute paddleboat ride. Check it out from noon – 7:00 p.m. each day at the boat dock on the north end of the grounds. Boats can hold up to four people.
Skyglider: There's nothing like your first ride on the sky glider. The gentle ride offers a scenic view of Henry Maier Festival Park, Lake Michigan, and the entertainment below.
-To save on admission and take advantage of food and beverage deals, check the schedule for Kohl's Family Day and Children's Fest Day.
-Be aware of the Lost Children's Area near the Mid Gate for children who become separated from their parents. Children are brought to this secure area and checked in by a member of the Summerfest staff.
-Create an identification wristband for your child at any main gate.
-Nursing? No problem. Look for a Nursing Mothers Station in the Children’s Area and at the South Gate Information Booth. These pods provide a comfortable, private and convenient space for nursing moms.
The other ethnic festivals that take place throughout the summer are all very kid and family-friendly, as well. (Many have been cancelled for 2021.) Check out the dates for Festa Italiana, Polish Fest, Irish Fest, German Fest, and more.
Wisconsin State Fair
Wisconsin State Fair is a celebration of agriculture and livestock, local delicacies, and fried food. The smell of corn on the cob (and manure) is in the air, and so is a sense of pride for all things Wisconsin. Every family seems to have small traditions in place around this event. If your family doesn’t, or you’d like some fresh ideas for your annual trip, read on.
Of the many barns and animals to visit, a must-visit stop is the Discovery Barnyard, where you’ll get to see cuddly baby animals of all kinds. There are also hands-on sensory tables for young kids and other child-friendly activities.
Outside of the wonderfully smelly animal barns, activities for kids are at every turn. The Kohl’s Activity Zone is a free area with a number of white tented booths offering children’s crafts, design projects, conservation-themed theater performances, and educational activities for kids.
Be on the lookout for strolling street entertainers who claim some serious talents from guessing your weight accurately to juggling fire. You might also catch a parade which take place daily and feature mascots, tractors, marching bands, and more.
It will be difficult to resist the big yellow slide, which has been around for over fifty years. Hop onto a burlap sack and take a ride down the 200 foot slide for a few bucks per person. (Is it worth it? That's all in the eye of the beholder.)
When you’ve worked up an appetite, the Wisconsin Expo Center offers higher-quality local faire like Door County cherry products and artisan jerky, as well as kid favorites like grilled cheese and pizza. But the more traditional fair food, and the more adventurous options, lie outside.
The Machine Shed will usually satisfy the latter, serving up the likes of donut cheeseburgers and deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. For old favorites, search for pork chops and corn on the cob, capped off with a cream puff.
Other areas to visit that are sure to offer plenty of fun for the kids is the WE Energies Energy Park, the K-9 Sports Arena, and the Farm and Family Building.
Check the State Fair’s website for Koh’s Family Value day, when all fairgoers receive discounted admission.
Children five and under are free.
Get a free identification wristband for your children near a main entrance or at We Energies Energy Park.
Save money on food on Crazy Grazin’ Day. Check their website for details about vendors and special.
Summer is also a great time to head to a Farmers Market, and Southeastern Wisconsin offers plenty of them. We especially recommend the East Town Market and Fondy Farmer's Market. We've got a huge list of additional markets here.
Cedarburg Historic District
Located just 22 miles north of Milwaukee, historic Cedarburg offers fun for the whole family. Browse through the shops in the Cedar Creek Settlement, check out the General Store Museum and enjoy a walk over the last covered bridge in Wisconsin in Covered Bridge Park. Cedar Creek Park has a nice playground along the river next to Cedar Creek Brewery.
Dinosaur Discovery Museum (Free!)
5608 Tenth Ave., Kenosha, WI
Tour the main gallery filled with impressive dinosaur skeletons that are casts of actual fossil bones. Head downstairs to dig for fossils, do dinosaur crafts, and peek into the on site laboratory. Admission is free! Check out our full review here.
East Troy Electric Railroad
2002 Church St., East Troy, WI 53120 (262) 642-3263
These historic rail cars travel a 10-mile trip through Southeast Wisconsin. Board at either the depot in East Troy or at The Elegant Farmer in Mukwonago. Meander through the depot museum where kids can be a trolley motorman, discover the joy of model layouts and learn about electricity. The gift shop features a unique selection of railroad souvenirs for all ages. For more fun, try the ice cream at the Lauber's Old Fasioned Ice Cream Parlor next to the depot or enjoy a meal at Ivan's on the Square in East Troy.
1525 Carmel Rd., Hubertus, Wisconsin 53033
More than 500,000 people from all over the world visit the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill each year. You can admire the beautiful architecture of the neo-Romanesque church built in 1926, enjoy the expansive views, and even climb the scenic tower. The scenic tower stretches 192 feet at its base, and has 178 stairs. The views of the Kettle Morraine area are breathtaking. The scenic tower is currently closed.
Museum of Wisconsin Art
205 Veterans Ave., West Bend, WI 53095
MOWA is the only museum in the world that is dedicated to collecting and maintaining works from Wisconsin. They offer themed Studio Saturdays every single week for kids and families to enjoy. Plus, entrance fees are actually low cost memberships that allow unlimited access to the museum for a full year.
Don’t miss their annual Art and Chalk Fest with live street chalking, face painting, art projects and more. The inaugural festival was held at the end of July, 2017.
Shalom Wildlife Zoo
1901 Shalom Dr., West Bend, WI 53090
Shalom Wildlife Zoo features three miles of looping trail through which you can walk or drive a golf cart. You’ll observe deer, elk, bison, wolves, and more in an expansive natural environment. (In the Springtime, be on the lookout for new baby animals!) There are educational exhibits and markers along the way. Be sure to pick up a bag of feed at the main building so you can offer some snack to the animals. The whole experience takes about two hours, so be sure to pack snacks and drinks to enjoy at the picnic areas. You can also explore the children’s play area, and a Native American artifact museum. Check their website for seasonal events and special such as scavenger hunts, pumpkin hunting, and Christmas at the Zoo.
1415 Campus Dr., Sheboygan, WI 53081
What a treasure this place is. Bookworm Gardens, a sprawling green space based entirely on children's literature, offers free admission and hours of whimsical fun to area families. Located just off the highway in Sheboygan, it is well worth the 50 minute drive from Milwaukee.
Walking from the free parking area just ahead of the gardens, you can explore the Magic School Bus picnic area. Children will be delighted by a real school bus with colorful wings that they can climb around in. They can even sit in the driver's seat, opening and closing its door to their heart's content.
Further ahead as you pass through the main entrance gate, you'll be struck by how well maintained the gardens are. Each small area of the garden is based on a different beloved children's book. You'll find fanciful statues and laminated books to snuggle up and read together at each station.
The "Hansel and Gretel" Learning Cottage is the main building that houses a welcoming sitting area with wooden rocking chairs, a cute gift shop that helps support the gardens, and convenient bathrooms. Adjacent to the cottage is a lovely brick patio with wrought iron tables where you can enjoy a snack. It's aptly named "The Secret Garden."
Off to the left of the entrance, your kids can dance around on the steps of the "A Friend to All" amphitheater, and further ahead they can dig for fossils in the dinosaur garden.
As you head to the right of the main building and venture further into the forest, you'll find musical instruments to play and a pioneer village based on "Little House in the Big Woods". In this area, kids can go inside the log cabin where they'll find pioneer era dishes, a broom, and toys to play with.
Nearby, you'll also find three giant Goldilocks chairs and three life-size bears in the trees, a place to build fairy houses, and a Japanese teahouse with a special wind chime.
At the base of the path leading up to the Japanese Tea House, there's an adorable little tree house based on Winnie the Pooh that little children can go inside of. Next door is a huge Magic Tree House, an impressive structure with beautiful views of the surrounding trees and landscape.
Towards the back of the gardens is Charlotte's Web Barn and Garden, plus an area based on The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
Before you leave, check out the walking bridge and koi pond, where your kids might spend several minutes observing the bright fish swimming around.
There is no admission fee, your kids will be entertained for hours, and picnicking is encouraged.
EAA Aviation Museum
3000 Poberezny Road Oshkosh, WI 54902
With a collection of more than 200 historic airplanes along with world-class galleries and displays, the EAA Aviation Museum is a year-round destination. Check out the annual AirVenture event every summer. The Kids Gallery is currently closed.
Bay Beach Amusement Park
1313 Bay Beach Rd., Green Bay, WI 5430
This municipal amusement park offers a ferris wheel, bumper cars and boats, a giant slide, a roller coaster, and more. It is located on the Fox River. Admission and parking are free. Rides cost anywhere from 25 cents to two dollars.
Old World Wisconsin
W372 S9727 Wisconsin 67, Eagle, WI 53119
Old World Wisconsin brings 19th century history to life like no other place in Wisconsin. In fact, it’s the largest outdoor museum of rural life in the entire country. Original structures from across the region were painstakingly dismantled and reconstructed to build this 600-acre open-air museum. There are over 60 buildings to explore including a schoolhouse, church, and furnished houses.
In the Crossroad Village, visitors can learn iron-crafting techniques, watch shoemaking demonstrations, and experience what a typical church experience was like. On the farmsteads, you’ll see horses, roosters, pigs, sheep, and other livestock, and learn about old-fashioned farm machinery, tools, and agricultural techniques.
Throughout the experience, visitors will learn about food preparation and preservation techniques in a world of harsh winters. You’ll see authentic wood stoves, outdoor cooking demonstrations, and learn about holiday food traditions. You can also learn about gardening techniques and stroll through beautifully maintained heirloom gardens, filled with lavender, herbs and seasonal produce.
The best part about a visit to Old World Wisconsin is participating in hands-on activities including ice cream making, crafts, outdoor games, churning butter, domestic chores, and walking on wooden stilts. They also host vintage baseball games during the summer.
For more easy day trips from Milwaukee, click here.