101 Best Things To Do In Milwaukee With Kids (2021)



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.


Happy exploring!

Jump To:


Museums

Theater

Sports

Zoo

Botanical Gardens

Parks & Nature Centers

Playgrounds

Restaurants

Beaches

Libraries

Indoor Playgrounds & Water Parks

Street Art

Summer Hot Spots

Day Trips



Milwaukee Children's Museums


Betty Brinn Children's Museum (Currently Closed)

929 E Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202

bbcmkids.org


Betty Brinn Children's Museum is currently closed, but plans to reopen in the summer.

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

mpm.edu


The Streets of Old Milwaukee is the most beloved exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

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

discoveryworld.org



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

Website


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

mam.org



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

milwaukeehistory.net


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

Website


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

mitchellgallery.org


The Mitchell Gallery of Flight is the perfect place to while away some time.

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)

Website


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: 3georgediane@gmail.com or (414) 425-8635

National Bobblehead Hall Of Fame & Museum (Temporarily Closed)

170 S. 1st St., 2nd Floor, Milwaukee, WI 53204

bobbleheadhall.com

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

northpointlighthouse.org


Climb the North Point Lighthouse for a unique view of Milwaukee. It reopens May 1, 2021.

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

pabstmansion.com


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.



Theater

The historic Avalon Atmospheric Theater is located in Milwaukee's funky Bay View neighborhood.

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.



Sports


The Deer District outside of the Fiserv Forum is a great place to walk around downtown.

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.

While our best known teams are the Bucks & the Brewers, the Milwaukee Admirals Hockey Team and Milwaukee Wave Soccer Team also host family-friendly games during their seasons.





Milwaukee County Zoo

10001 W. Blue Mound Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53226

milwaukeezoo.org


The Milwaukee County Zoo has recently invested in renovating its Hippo & Elephant exhibits.

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.


Botanical Gardens


Boerner Botanical Gardens

9400 Boerner Dr., Hales Corners, WI 53130

boernerbotanicalgardens.org


This peaceful rock garden is located at the back of Boerner Botanical Gardens.

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.

milwaukeedomes.org


The Mitchell Park Domes are gorgeous all year round.

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.





Playgrounds


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

Website


Harbor View Plaza has a tall play structure with a great view of the Milwaukee River.

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.





Kayla's Playground

Franklin Woods Nature Park, 3723 W. Puetz Rd., Franklin, WI

Website


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

Website


The zipline at Lake Vista Park has a great view of Lake Michigan.

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

111 N. Jefferson St.


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.

Restaurants


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

milwaukeepublicmarket.org

Grab a hot cocoa or lunch at the airy Milwaukee Public Market.

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)

safe-house.com

Even the location of the spy-themed Safe House restaurant is top secret.

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.)




AJ Bombers

1247 N Water St., Milwaukee, WI 53202

ajbombers.com

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

kopps.com

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 Custard does not have a large online presence, but it's a legend nonetheless.

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

purpledooricecream.com

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.

Beaches


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.

Doctors Park

1870 E. Fox Ln., Fox Point, WI 53217

doctorsparkfriends.org

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.



Klode Park

5900 N. Lake Dr., Whitefish Bay, WI 53217

wfbvillage.org


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

wfbvillage.org

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.

Atwater Beach

East Capitol and North Lake Drive, Shorewood, WI 53211

villageofshorewood.org

Yes, that's a surfer on Atwater Beach in early Spring.

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.

Bradford Beach

2400 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr., Milwaukee, WI 53211

bradfordbeachmke.com


Bradford Beach is known for its festive atmosphere and volleyball tournaments.

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.

McKinley Beach

1750 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr., Milwaukee, WI 53202

county.milwaukee.gov


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

county.milwaukee.gov


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

county.milwaukee.gov

Seven Bridges Trail & Grant Park Beach are truly enchanted.

“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

county.milwaukee.gov


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.


Thanks to the Urban Ecology Center, The Menomonee River Valley, and many community partners and volunteers, this land has been reclaimed for nature and outdoor recreation.


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

friendslsp.org


Lakeshore State Park is located right along Lake Michigan in downtown Milwaukee.

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

(414) 647-6050

milwaukeerecreation.net/hawthorn-glen


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

schlitzaudubon.org


Mystery Lake is frog & turtle heaven at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

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!)

urbanecologycenter.org


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.

Lake Park

2975 N Lake Park Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53211

lakeparkfriends.org


Lake Park is one of the most beautiful and historic parks in Milwaukee.

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.

Lynden Sculpture Garden

2145 W Brown Deer Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53217


Lynden Sculpture Garden is a unique experience of art in nature.

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.

Libraries

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.



Central Library

814 W. Wisconsin Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53233