Pop the champagne! (Or sparkling cider.) It’s a brand new decade!
To celebrate 2020, we are highlighting 20 of our favorite places to visit with kids around Milwaukee. These places are MKE With Kids approved, which means they are local, safe, fun, and enriching. We’ve visited with our own kids, and we love them.
Bookmark it, print it, and put it up on the fridge for inspiration. Happy new year!
Did you know that every Thursday at 4:30 p.m. 88.9 Radio Milwaukee hosts free tours of their custom-built studios in Walker’s Point AND live concerts that are free and open to the public?
You’ll get a behind the scenes tour of their home at 220 E. Pittsburgh Ave, including the performance space and the green roof, offering unique views of the Hoan Bridge, Summerfest grounds, Walker’s Point and downtown Milwaukee.
After the tour, you are invited to 414 Live, a free concert by a local band, open to the public. There’s a Stone Creek Coffee onsite! The doors open at 5:00 p.m., and the music starts at 5:30 p.m. The concerts last about 30 minutes. here.
2. AVALON THEATER
3. BETTY BRINN CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
929 E Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202
The Betty Brinn Children’s Museum 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. Don’t miss their free family nights on the third Thursday of every month!
4. 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.
The gardens offer kid-friendly programming throughout the year including family yoga, nature-inspired crafts and workshops, and “Enchanted Evenings in the Gardens.” They also host China Lights, an impressive Chinese lantern festival.
They also offer free admission to Milwaukee County residents with proof of residency on the first Tuesday of each month, May through September. Check their website for the most updated information.
5. BOUNCE MILWAUKEE
2801 S 5th Ct, 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!)
6. CENTRAL LIBRARY
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.
7. DISCOVERY WORLD
500 N Harbor Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53202
This 120,000-square foot science and technology museum includes interactive exhibits, the Reiman Aquarium, learning labs, and more! You’ll find fun and educational experiences for all ages during your visit to Discovery World. In the warm months, don’t miss the SV Denis Sullivan, an 1800’s schooner replica that docks at Discovery World.
8. THE DOMES
524 S. Layton Blvd., Milwaukee, WI 53215
Escape the cold during the winter and explore a sandy desert oasis, a vibrant tropical jungle, and elaborate floral gardens, all in one afternoon! Find story times during the week, check out the Farmer’s Market in the winter months, and enjoy live music in the Music Under Glass concert series.
Get in free!
The Domes are free to county residents every first Thursday.
Did you know?
-The domes are one acre under glass.
-Each dome is 140 feet across by 85 feet high, which is seven stories.
-It is the world’s only glass house of its shape, which allows a better angle for solar heating and more growing room for tall trees. -No pesticides are used on the plant material.
-The plants are watered by hand every day.
9. FISERV FORUM
1111 Vel R. Phillips Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53203
Milwaukee’s modern and upscale stadium is the official Home of the Milwaukee Bucks, and home to family-friendly shows like “Monster Jam” and “Disney On Ice”.
If you want to splurge on parking, you can park in the lot next to the stadium and enter through the indoor skywalk. (It’s like you don’t even live in an arctic climate!)
For the littlest Bucks fans, Bango Kids Club offers perks like birthday wishes from Bango, exclusive offers and more.
10. HARLEY DAVIDSON MUSEUM
400 W Canal St, Milwaukee, WI 53201
The Harley-Davidson Museum is not just for big, bad biker types. The whole family will love the colorful, interactive exhibits. You’ll see vintage police bikes, real motorcycle engines, the Rhinestone Harley, the Elvis bike, a multi-colored tank wall, and the oldest known motorcycle in existence.
Visit the Imagination Station, where kids can dress up in Harley gear and explore games, puzzles, and activities. Look for the discovery drawers and rummage through vintage toys and collectibles from a by-gone era. There’s even an interactive station to build your own bike and an Evil Knieval throwback arcade game.
But you can’t leave without saddling up in the Experience Gallery, where you’ll find dozens of models on which to climb and pretend to ride.
If you’re hungry after the museum, grab a bite to eat at Motor Bar & Restaurant, which offers lots of options for kids.
4606 N Wilson Dr, Shorewood, WI 53211
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.
12. LYNDEN SCULPTURE GARDEN
2145 W. Brown Deer Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53217
The must-visit Lynden Sculpture Garden offers a unique experience of art in nature through its collection of more than 50 monumental sculptures across 40 acres of park, lake and woodland. They offer a monthly Tuesday in the Garden program for small children and weekly art drop-in programs for older kids. (These programs fill up fast, so you must pre-register.)
Lynden’s art and nature camps for children aged 20 months to 15 years integrate their collection of monumental outdoor sculpture with the natural ecology of its hidden landscapes and unique habitats. The programs are led by artists, naturalists, and art educators. Past activities have included hatching and raising chickens, building rafts to float across the pond, exploring the mechanics of flight or the physics of flotation, digging in the garden, or pit-firing beads made from local clay.
During your visit, you can check out a Plein Air kit for outdoor watercolor painting
Family Kits are available at the front desk and are included with the price of admission. They include a sculpture scavenger hunt, nature activities to complete on the grounds, magnifying glasses, and more.
The grounds provide a perfect spot for a picnic during warm months.
Families can snow-shoe during the winter around the sculpture garden.
Don’t miss the whimsical and colorful cow sculpture (actually called Des Vaches: Mo, Ni, Que by Swiss artist Samuel Buri.)
13. MAJESTIC THEATER
770 N Springdale Rd, Brookfield, WI 53186
Whether it’s a rainy day, too hot to play outside, or you just want to kick-back and relax with your family, Marcus Theatres has you covered.
The Majestic Cinema of Brookfield is your go-to family-friendly entertainment destination, all year long. And a lot of the fun is FREE! They host family film series throughout the year, movie-themed family parties on select weekends, and more.
14. MILWAUKEE PUBLIC MUSEUM
800 W. Wells St., Milwaukee, WI 53233
Milwaukee Public Museum is perhaps best known locally for 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 a 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 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.
Did you know?
-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 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 museum has 234 solar panels on its south-facing tower wall. You can learn more about the green roof in the exhibit Meadows in the Sky: The Green Roof, also free and accessible to the public at any time.
-The Milwaukee Public Museum 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!
-You can explore the exhibits by flashlight at night during a museum overnight. There’s a different theme each month!
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.
15. NEIGHBOR ART STUDIO
2201 N. Farwell Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202
NEIGHBOR art studio provides families with children 8 months to 10 years unique opportunities to explore, play, create and build relationships with their neighbors. They’re passionate about open-ended play, getting messy, and helping children increase confidence and independence through art making. Expect to slow down, enjoy the process of creating, and spend time amongst friends and neighbors.
16. 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, and more.
Pro tip: Before you go, download the Milwaukee County Zoo app. It gives you an easily accessible map of the grounds, as well as educational information about the animals. You’ll also be able to see if there are any special events happening on the day you visit, such as Boo at the Zoo or Egg Day. The app will also give you access to schedules for rides and attractions.
You’ll definitely want to stop by the Family Farm area where you’ll find an animal feeding area, cow milking area, a huge playground, and the Kohl’s Wild Theater headquarters. Kohl’s Wild Theater offers live conservation-themed shows and Birds of Prey shows for young kids, and they happen all throughout the summer for free.
For an extra fee, you can hop on the Safari Train that runs through the grounds, feed the giraffes, ride the carousel, get a guided tour on the Zoomobile, see an Oceans of Fun Seal and Sea Lion Show, or get a bird’s eye view of the zoo on the Sky Safari.
Be on the lookout for unique events such as Snooze at the Zoo (a campout at the zoo with snacks and entertainment), and Ride on the Wild Side, a family-friendly bike ride through the Zoo, plus kid-friendly activities and entertainment.
Pro tip: Family free days are offered six times a year, so check their website for dates and times.
17. TODD WEHR THEATER & MILWAUKEE YOUTH ARTS CENTER
First Stage is one of the nation’s acclaimed theaters for young audiences and the second largest theater company in Milwaukee, providing professional theater productions for young people and families; Theater Academy training for young people, fostering life skills through stage skills; and Theater in Education programs, using drama in classrooms to enhance curriculum.
Their shows run year round at both the Todd Wehr Theater, located along the riverfront at the Marcus Center For The Performing Arts, and at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center on Walnut St.
3270 Mitchell Park Dr, Brookfield, WI 53045
Nestled in Brookfield’s beautiful Mitchell Park, it is the mission of the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts to serve as the catalyst for lifelong discovery and exploration of the arts. This mission is realized when we provide audiences of all ages with opportunities to play through engagement, connect with the artist and each other, explore new art forms, dream through artistic expression, and have experiences that inspire and transform.
Check out their website for family-friendly programming, arts classes, and more!
Leap into the foam pit, jump around on the trampolines, test your skills on the Ninja Warrior Course or challenge your friends to Ultimate Dodgeball. There is something for all ages can enjoy active play at Sky Zone Greenfield. They also provide birthday parties and group events.
20. URBAN ECOLOGY CENTER
The Urban Ecology Center is an innovative environmental education organization with three branches, all adjacent to Milwaukee County Parks.
1500 E. Park Pl., Milwaukee, WI 53211
Did you know that the Riverside Park branch is a “green” building? It’s home to a huge solar power station, and the hardwood maple floor is made from reused wood that’s over 100 years old. The wrap around porch is made from wood scraps from the construction of the Atlantic City Boardwalk. There’s also a green roof garden and rainwater flush toilets. (You can choose between a half tank flush or a full tank flush, depending on what you did in there!)
This branch is open seven days a week, and you can spend a whole afternoon discovering all that the sun-soaked, plant-filled lodge has to offer. Don’t miss the Native Wisconsin Animal Room, where you can greet turtles, snakes, fish, and frogs.
Pro Tip: You can help feed the animals every weekend at 1:00 p.m. Check their website for the most updated times and locations.
Inside the main area of the lodge, you’ll find games, instruments, and puzzles to explore, including a huge floor puzzle of southeastern Wisconsin. The two blue slides have a secret entrance, and the hidden classroom is home to a mural that camouflages 80 animals. Can you find them?
Outside, be sure to explore the Habitat Playgarden. Climb the spider web, slide down the otter slides, and play in the Woodland Dune sandbox.
Also be on the lookout for the public art throughout the park, including the archway made out of found pieces of iron and steel, another archway made out of huge rocks, and a colorful river mural, created by students and inspired by their experience wading and canoeing through the Milwaukee River.
Just west of the main building is their three story outdoor rock wall. In the warm months, they offer free open climbs when you can stop in after work or school, use their equipment, and receive assistance from trained belayers.
Throughout the year, this branch offers exciting events like candlelight hikes, maple sugaring workshops, eco-art programs, and more.
Pro Tip: Head to the rooftop and climb into their cozy tipi surrounded by plants. You can read books, sing songs, and enjoy the unique environment.
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.
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.
May we suggest The Hop? It’s easy and fun to ride, and gets you to fun destinations like the Milwaukee Public Market, the playground at Cathedral Square Park, and the MKE sculpture at Burns Commons.
UP FOR A DRIVE?
EAST TROY RAILROAD
2002 Church St, East Troy, WI 53120
The East Troy Railroad offers weekend train rides May through October on the last remaining segment of a once vast electric interurban system that stretched for 200 miles to cities across Southeastern Wisconsin. The depot is the original East Troy Electrical Substation for the Milwaukee Electric Railway, a state historic site. The museum has more than 30 trolleys, streetcars, interurban cars and other equipment, with 17 that currently operate on the line. They continue to work to restore their remaining cars to operating condition. More than 135 volunteers make it happen!
OLD WORLD WISCONSIN
W372 S9727 WI-67, Eagle, WI 53119
Travel back in time and experience firsthand the daily life of Wisconsin’s early immigrants at Old World Wisconsin. You and your family will explore history through sensory-rich spaces, stories, and hands-on activities. Each area at Old World Wisconsin highlights different stories from Wisconsin’s immigrant past. As you tour at your own pace, you will find buildings that let you self-explore, gardens to wander through, and costumed staff ready to help you get hands-on with history.