8 Nature Centers Around Milwaukee

Looking to get out into nature with your kids, but not sure where to start? Or perhaps you want to explore different territory from what you’re used to? Check out our guide to nature centers around Milwaukee:

Havenwoods State Forest

6141 N. Hopkins St., Milwaukee, WI 53209
(414) 527-0232

Photo: Instagram, @existentialgoddexx

Did you know that Havenwoods State Forest is the only state forest in the city of Milwaukee? And that it is Wisconsin’s only urban state forest? It offers over 200 acres of grasslands, woods, and wetland. There are four ponds, and one is just a short hike from the Environmental Center. There is also a 120-foot bridge to enjoy, and several geocaches to hunt for.

Hawthorn Glen Outdoor Education Center

1130 N. 60th St., Milwaukee, WI 53208
(414) 647-6050

Photo: Instagram, @color_me_vern

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.


Mequon Nature Preserve 

8200 W. County Line Rd., Mequon, WI 53097
(262) 242-8055

Mequon Nature Preserve is home to an epic natural playground, as well as a square mile of natural wetlands, prairie, and emerging forest. 

To climb the observation tower, park in the parking lot on Swan Rd. and follow the trail around Pat’s Pond. 

For good wildlife watching, park near the Pieper Power Education Center, and find the Observation Platform along the Streich Family Wetlands.

Retzer Nature Center

S14 W28167 Madison St., Waukesha, WI 53188
(262) 896-8007

Explore a small nature center with fish, small animals, and educational materials, plus many beginner level nature trails perfect for hiking with kids.

Even for the littlest feet, Retzer Nature Center’s “Adventure Trail” is filled with majestic pines, picnic tables, and is very short. You can also explore “Vista Trail” where you’ll get a good view of Waukesha, and the “Nature Trail” where there are boardwalks and babbling brooks.⠀

Riveredge Nature Center

4458 County Hwy Y Saukville, WI 53080
(262) 375-2715

Photo: Instagram, @hga_milwaukee

Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

1111 E. Brown Deer Rd., Bayside, WI 53217
(414) 352-2880

Instagram: @ginashares

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 


Photo: Instagram, @rugaficionado

The Urban Ecology Center is an innovative environmental education organization with three branches, all adjacent to Milwaukee County Parks.

Riverside Park
1500 E. Park Pl., Milwaukee, WI 53211
(414) 964-8505

Check their website for the most up-to-date hours. 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.

Washington Park
1859 N. 40th St., Milwaukee, WI 53208
(414) 344-5460

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
(414) 431-2940

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. P

Wehr Nature Center

($4 parking fee)
9701 W. College Ave., Franklin, WI 53132
(414) 425-8550

Photo: Instagram, @at_localparkphotos

The 220-acre nature preserve features more than 4 miles of hiking trails that wind through five distinct plant communities, including a mature forest, 15-acre lake, wetland, prairie, and oak savanna. Enjoy a bird blind, observation deck and an ADA-accessible boardwalk. The visitor center has nature displays and exhibits. A dedicated staff offers programming for everyone from pre-K to adults, year-round.

Cost: $4 per car. Seasonal pass available for $35.

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