Sometimes you've just got to get outta Dodge (or Milwaukee). There are so many adventures to be had within just a couple of hours. Here are some of our best ideas, arranged by area.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Holy Hill
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.
4. Port Washington
Play at Possibility Playground, a huge all-access playground set in a beautiful park overlooking Lake Michigan. You can also check out the marina, historic art deco lighthouse, and charming downtown area.
5. Museum of Wisconsin
Just minutes from Milwaukee, West Bend is your easy-on-gasoline getaway. This charming community is nestled in the rolling hills of the Kettle Moraine. West Bend offers four museums, including the Museum of Wisconsin Art, which often has kid-friendly activities and classes.
6. Shalom Wildlife Zoo
Shalom Wildlife Zoo is another must-visit destination in West Bend. Experience nature at its best on foot or rent a golf cart. Explore over three miles of gravel road on foot or in a golf cart and spot bison, deer, elk, wild sheep, along with wolves, cougar, bear, zebra, camel and much more in large natural environments. There are learning centers and educational signage posted along the way.
You’ll also find outstanding trails, picturesque parks, a historic downtown and a variety of community events. West Bend is known as the Geocaching Capital of the Midwest™ and is a favorite destination for treasure hunters from around the region.
7. Spinning Top & Yo-Yo Museum
533 Milwaukee Ave., Burlington, WI 53105 (262) 763-3946
See the 2,000 item exhibition of antique & modern spinning tops, yo-yos, patches, and more. You can also view videos about spin tops and learn about the science behind spinners. Kids will have the chance to play and experiment with toy tops and spinning top games, plus enjoy a live presentation by Judith Schulz, toy top collector. You should allow three hours for your visit.
Between Milwaukee and Madison
8. Steffen's Cherry Orchard
N633 McIntyre Rd.
Fort Atkinson, WI 53538
Pick your own cherries every year in July at this picturesque orchard. Plus, you can use their mechanical pitter!
9. Little Amerricka Amusement Park
700 E Main St.
Marshall, WI 53559
Little Amerricka features twenty-six rides and attractions including our classic 1950's Wooden Roller Coaster The Meteor. The unique park features restored rides from classic amusement parks of a bygone era.
10. Highway 18 Outdoor Theater
Jefferson, WI 53549 (920) 674-6700
Enjoy an old-fashioned drive-in movie on a 90-ft. screen at this seasonal drive-in theater. Snacks are available for purchase.
11. Henry Vilas Zoo
702 S. Randall Ave.
Madison, WI 53715
This is a 28-acre free public zoo in Madison, Wisconsin. Owned by the city of Madison, the zoo charges no admission or parking fees. It receives over 750,000 visitors annually. The zoo houses an African lion, chimpanzees, a red panda and more!
12. Cave of the Mounds National Natural Landmark
Visit the premier cave in the upper Midwest and the jewel box of America's major show caves. Guided tours of this geologic wonder follow paved, lighted walkways departing regularly everyday of the year. Tours pass a stunning array of colorful crystal formations on paved lighted walkways. Visitors also enjoy our Gemstone Mine, Fossil Dig, Butterfly Gardens, Amazing Rock/Gift Shops, Hiking/Biking Trails, Snack Bar and Picnic Area. Cave of the Mounds National Natural Landmark is located in southwest Wisconsin just 20 minutes west of Madison, off U.S. Highways 18/151.
13. House on the Rock
5754 Wisconsin 23
Spring Green, WI 53588
Marvel at the House On the Rock, an engineering and artistic masterpiece, and check out the eclectic, exotic and whimsical collections and displays. On your self-guided tour you will explore The Infinity Room, extending an unsupported length of 218 feet and soaring 156 above the valley floor, The World’s Largest Carousel featuring 269 handcrafted animals, 20,000 lights and 182 chandeliers, an enormous sea creature longer than the Statue of Liberty is tall, and a Japanese Garden including 14 foot quadruple waterfalls cascading into a garden pond.
14. Madison Children's Museum
100 N Hamilton St.
Madison, WI 53703
15. Dane County Farmer's Market
An absolute must-visit Farmer's Market, held around the State Capital every Saturday morning. Cheesy bread. Doughtnuts. Fresh, local produce. And so much more!
16. Ella's Deli and Ice Cream Parlor (currently closed)
2902 East Washington Ave.
Madison, WI 53704
Stop by Ella's Deli and ride the 1920's restored carousel, choose from a large kid's menu, and be mesmerized by their animated displays, trains and games throughout the whole restaurant.
17. Sunflower Days at the Pope Farm Conservancy (July 26 - August 4, 2019)
10333 Blackhawk Road Middleton, WI 53562
See over 500,000 sunflowers in bloom in a 9 acre sunflower field at the Pope Farm Conservancy for an gorgeous and memorable day trip with your family.
18. Mars Cheese Castle
You know you've always wanted to check it out! Taste cheeses, bakery, sausage and more.
19. Dinosaur Discovery Museum
5608 10th Ave.
Kenosha, WI 53140
Learn all about dinosaurs, see dinosaur skeletons in the main gallery that are casts of actual dinosaur fossil bones, and listen to the environmental and animal sounds in the exhibit gallery. Read more about our visit to the Dinosaur Discovery Museum here.
20. America's Action Territory Family Fun Park
12345 75th St., Kenosha WI
This family-fun haven features go-karts, miniature golf, batting cages, paint ball and an arcade.
21. Kenosha Public Museum
5500 1st Ave., Kenosha, WI 53140
Check out this natural sciences and arts museum with exhibits featuring mammoths, world cultures, Native Americans, zoology, geology, fossils, and fine and decorative arts. The Field Station section offers hands-on activities especially for kids. Take a closer look at insects, fossils, and shells and identify the neighborhood birds.
22. Jelly Belly Visitor Center
10100 Jelly Belly Ln., Pleasant Prairie, WI 53158
Don't miss their free daily tours on a real mini choo-choo train. The tour includes an educational ride through the warehouse and free candy!
23. Kenosha Dream Playground
Petzke Park (2820 14th Avenue)
The Dream Playground Project Founders partnered with the Kenosha Achievement Center to raise funds for a fully accessible playground at Petzke Park. The 15,000- square-foot Dream Playground opened in October of 2015 as the City's first fully accessible playground. More than 3,000 volunteers worked to raise, support, and construct this amazing playground.
24. Brightonwoods Orchard
1072 288th Ave.
Burlington, WI 53105
This family run orchard features over 200 apple varieties, seeded and seedless grapes, quince and pears. There is no admission fee. They are not a pick your own orchard, but visitors are free to roam through the orchard and woods trail, and visit the two-story treehouse!
Sheboygan Area Day Trips
25. Bookworm Gardens
1415 Campus Dr.
Sheboygan, WI 53081
Bookworm Gardens is a whimsical children’s garden based completely on children's literature. The two acre garden offers the young and young at heart the opportunity for free, unstructured play in a beautiful and secure environment. Entrance to the garden is free. Special elements of the garden include outdoor classrooms, a small amphitheater, greenhouse and outdoor creation station. Nooks and crannies for reading are plentiful, as are benches for resting and chatting.
26. Above and Beyond Children's Museum
Enjoy almost 10,000 square feet of exhibit space on three floors and a mezzanine offer a vast interactive environment where families can discover and learn together.
27. Kohler Arts Center
608 New York Ave.
Sheboygan, WI 53081
28. Whispering Orchards & Cafe
Visit this small family operated Apple Orchard and cafe where they serve homemade apple cider, and offer a free petting zoo. Cats and peacocks roam the grounds, and you'll find baby goats, sheep and large rabbits in the caged area. In the fall, you'll find tunnels using hay bales for the kids to play on and wander through. It is located just north of Sheboygan.
29. 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.
Lake Geneva Area Day Trips
30. Downtown Lake Geneva
Stroll through the historic and charming shops and restaurants, walk along the shore path, and relax on the beautiful shores of Lake Geneva.
31. Dan Patch Stables
7036 Grand Geneva Way
Lake Geneva, WI 53147
Dan Patch Stables is located at the entrance of the Grand Geneva, and offers pony rides, a free petting farm and trail rides. Trail rides are available 7 days a week by reservation. Trail guides and gentle horses will allow you to see the beauty of nature in a whole new way.
32. Animal Gardens Petting Zoo
Visit this 40-acre venue which serves as home to The Dancing Horses Theater and Echo the talking and singing parrot, most noted for his recent appearances on America's Got Talent. You'll find 16 species of exotic animals and over 60 hay-eating animals. Visit the interactive Baby Animal Barn where you can pet, hold and feed exotic and farm animal babies. Then, roam or ride the manicured trails. Visit the deer park where you can hand-feed the deer. Venture to the Indian Village, the interactive petting zoo, and the pond, where you can enjoy a boat ride and paddle with the swans.
Open between May 1 and Oct. 31.
Green Bay Area Day Trips
33. Bay Beach Amusement Park
Bay Beach Amusement Park is a municipal amusement park in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Situated near the mouth of the Fox River on the east bank as it flows into Green Bay, the park contains a ferris wheel, bumper cars and boats, a giant slide, concessions, a roller coaster & more.
34. Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary
Visit this beautiful 700 acre urban wildlife refuge featuring live animal exhibits, educational displays, miles of hiking/skiing trails and various wildlife viewing opportunities. It is the largest park in the Green Bay Park system and home to the second largest wildlife rehabilitation program in Wisconsin, caring for more than 4,500 orphaned and injured animals annually.
35. Lambeau Field
Lambeau Field stadium tours allow fans to experience the Packers' history-rich facility first-hand and see several behind-the-scenes areas. Various types of stadium tours are offered on most days. Stadium tours are accessible.
36. Wisconsin Dells
Where to even begin exploring this Water Park and family fun haven? Try WisDells.com to start exploring and planning your trip.
Northern Illinois day trips
37. Legoland Discovery Center
Streets of Woodfield 601 N. Martingale Road Schaumburg, IL 60173
Visit LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago at Streets of Woodfield, Schaumburg. Inside the Center you can let your imagination run wild as you learn top tips from our Master Model Builder, join your favorite LEGO characters in our 4D cinema experiences, pedal fast on our Technicycle Ride and find plenty of places to build amazing LEGO creations.
38. Six Flags Great America
1 Great America Pkwy.
Gurnee, IL 60031
Visit this huge amusement park with over 100 rides and attractions.
14 State Parks (within one hour)