Dare I say it? Has spring actually arrived? Here are fifty things to do with kids in spring:
1. Explore the sculptures in Lynden Sculpture Gardens
2145 W. Brown Deer Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53217
Lynden Sculpture Garden offers visitors a unique experience of art in nature through its collection of more than 50 monumental sculptures across 40 acres of park, lake and woodland. Family Kits are available at the front desk, and they include a sculpture scavenger hunt, nature activities to complete on the grounds, magnifying glasses, and more. You can also check out a Plein Air kit for outdoor watercolor painting. Check their website for special Free Family Days that happen just a few times each year. Don’t miss the whimsical and colorful cow sculpture (actually called Des Vaches: Mo, Ni, Que by Swiss artist Samuel Buri).
2. Smell the roses at Boerner Botanical Gardens
Whitnall Park (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 nature-inspired crafts, and “Enchanted Evenings in the Gardens.” Get in free: The Gardens typically 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.
3. Sign up for summer camp
We’ve got an organized guide for you to find the best summer camp for your child. Check it out!
4. Visit the wind leaves at Discovery World (Free!)
500 N Harbor Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Discovery World has an admission fee, but you can explore the wind leaves right outside of the main building for free. 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. Across the street is an interesting water fountain that captures the imagination.
5. Hike the Family Friendly Trail at Wehr Nature Center (Free! Parking fee applies)
9701 W. College Ave., Franklin, WI 53132
Wehr Nature Center is located in Whitnall Park and offers families many kid-friendly trails and hikes. The Lake Loop is a one and half mile easy hike that takes you along the shores of Mallard Lake, and leads you right to a waterfall into the Root River. For very young kids, try the Family Friendly Trail, a simple half mile hike on a wood chip path with lots of benches and photo opportunities. There’s also a nature lodge and a nature play space that overlooks the lake. See out whole list of nature centers.
6. Visit one of our must-visit playgrounds (Free!)
A playground at Malone, Fort Cushing Playground, Fox River Park, Kayla’s Playground, Imagination Station, Possibility Playground, and Swing Park made the list for our must visit playgrounds. Check them out!
7. Take in the view at Hawthorn Glen (Free!)
1130 N. 60th St., Milwaukee, WI 53208
Hawthorn Glen spans 23 acres and offers kid-friendly paths, a playground, a Little Nature Museum with animals, and more. The self-guided nature trail and nature center are open to the public in the evenings and on weekends.
8. Visit the kitten barn at Green Meadows Petting Farm
33603 High Dr. (Hwy 20), East Troy, WI 53120
Green Meadows offers a hands-on, interactive learning experience that can last the whole day. Kids can pet, feed, and in some cases even hold the farm animals, including baby chicks, bunnies, and goats. They can also milk a cow if they’re up for it! Don’t miss the kitten barn, filled with sweet, soft kittens for petting and cuddling. There are also pony, wagon, and hay rides. And don’t worry, hand sanitizer abounds all over the farm. Don’t miss the playground that includes a fire truck the kids can climb, wooden wagons, and a John Deere tractor with a slide. Helpful hint: Check Groupon before you go to save on admission.
9. Hike around Retzer Nature Center (Free!)
S14 W28167 Madison St., Waukesha, WI 53188
Explore a small nature center with fish, small animals, and educational materials, plus many beginner level nature trails perfect for hiking with kids.
10. Rock Climb at the Urban Ecology Center
Riverside Park 1500 E. Park Pl. Milwaukee, WI 53211
Stop by and enjoy climbing our three story rock wall. All equipment is provided and trained belayers are on hand to assist. We climb every Sunday starting May 13, unless otherwise noted.
11. Visit the Traveling Beer Garden
The Traveling Beer Gardens are two, simultaneously running, tours traveling through Milwaukee County Parks. They open this year at Juneau Park and Greenfield Park on May 16 at 5pm for official start of the 2018 Traveling Beer Garden season. The Roll Out the Barrel Tour stops at each location for three weeks. The Pass Me a Pint Tour stops for two weeks. The exclusive beer partner, Sprecher, offers an ever-changing selection of craft beer and hard sodas at each of the stops on the tour. Cider, wine, Shakparo (Sprecher’s gluten-free beer), and non-alcoholic beverages are also available. The glass pints and steins are yours to keep! Bring them back during the tour and get a refill at a discounted price. Use the glass at any Milwaukee County Parks Beer Gardens. Enjoy live local music at Wednesday night keg tappings and on Fridays & Saturday nights from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.
12. Climb trees at Riveredge Nature Center (ages 7 & up)
1236, 4458 County Rd Y, Saukville, WI 53080
This probably isn’t the tree climbing you’re thinking of. Using the same professional equipment that arborists and scientists use when they ascend into the treetops, trained facilitators will teach you everything you need to know to get harnessed up and into the trees like never before.. Once you’re at a height that’s comfortable for you, you’ll be free to swing, spin, bounce, walk the branches, or just hang out in a tree. For kids 7 and up, and adults.
13. Hike the trail to Mystery Lake at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
The trail to Mystery Lake has a new boardwalk and is wheelchair and stroller accessible. Frogs, turtles, and waterlilies abound on this route. When it’s not rainy or snowy, you can climb the 60-ft Observation Tower for a spectacular view of the surrounding area including the lake. For another view of the lake, take the paved Lake Hike trail and stop by the Milner Lake Michigan Viewing Deck.
14. Discover public art in Riverside Park (Free!)
1500 E. Park Pl., Milwaukee, WI 53211
Across from the Urban Ecology Center building, look for the colorful river mural, created by students and inspired by their experience wading and canoeing through the Milwaukee River. You can find more public art throughout the park, including an archway made out of found pieces of iron and steel near the northwest corner of the building, and three sculptures entitled “Walk Like a River.” Also check out the huge stone archway at the entrance of the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum. (You can see the archway from the entrance of the UEC building if you look southwest.)
15. Take a Walk of 3 Billion years (Free!)
A walking path in the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum is marked with rock sculptures as high as seven feel tall that tell the geological past of Wisconsin. Starting at the building, go west until you see the first cairn made of 340-million-year-old stone at the gravel drive that leads to the warehouse. Follow the winding path until you find the ninth and final stone structure that’s made from rock over 3 billion years old.
16. Go on an epic day trip.
We’ve got a great list of day trips within a couple hours of Milwaukee. Many of them are free!
17. Visit a local beer garden.
Check out our list of local beer gardens. They all offer family-friendly environments and a fun-loving spirit.
18. Join the Little Explorers at the Urban Ecology Center – Menomonee Valley (Free!)
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.
19. Lamm Gardens (Free admission!)
2708 Sherman Rd., Jackson, WI 53037
Lammscape’s beautifully landscaped grounds are open to the public for free events throughout the season. Check out their kid-friendly events on their website. In the past they’ve hosted train-themed events and more.
20. Check out the Buds n’ Sprouts Kids Garden (Free!)
Havenwoods State Forest
6141 N Hopkins St, Milwaukee, WI 53209
Havenwoods State Forest is home to a huge garden space where kids can discover nature. In the Buds n’ Sprouts Kids Garden, they can jump from plant to plant, collect bugs, watch worms, and sniff the colorful flowers. Nearby, the Heritage Gardens feature traditional food crops from five major cultural groups in America – African American, Asian American, European American, Hispanic American, and Native American. In the Naturalist’s Backyard, you’ll find a model landscape with native plants, nurtured by compost bins. There is also a rain garden that uses run off rainwater from the roof to feed blooming flowers all summer long.
21. Walk the labyrinth in Alice’s Garden Urban Farm (Free!)
2136 N. 21st St, Milwaukee, WI 53205
Alice’s Garden is a two-acre urban garden that is committed to wellness and community. You can check their website for upcoming events such as yoga classes and movie nights, or you can drop by with your children and take a walk in the labyrinth. This space is peaceful, relaxing, and really special. They also offer free movies for kids and families in the summer – check their Facebook page (or our Calendar) for dates and times!
22. Pet the animals at Bear Den Zoo & Petting Farm
6831 Big Bend Rd., Waterford, WI 53185
This family-owned zoo houses traditional farm animals like baby chicks, goats, and cows. They are also home to more exotic animals like lemurs, kangaroos, and llamas. Kids can pet and interact with almost all of the animals.
23. Fill up at Concord General Store and ZooN6485 County Rd. F, Oconomowoc, WI 53066
Concord General Store is a gas station, but it’s so much more than that. You’ll find organic snacks, local coffee, and a petting zoo. There is no admission fee, and you can pet and feed the ponies, goats, and pigs. It’s the perfect pit stop on the way to Madison, or as it’s own destination for a fun-filled morning or afternoon.
24. Stroll through the Mequon Nature Preserve (Free!)
8200 W. County Line Rd., Mequon, WI 53097
Take a walk through the Mequon Nature Preserve and enjoy a square mile of natural wetlands, prairie, and emerging forest. Check their schedule for special events for kids including an engaging weekly storytime.
25. Visit Naku & Zahra, mother and daughter gorillas, at the 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.
Naku and Zahra are mother and daughter gorillas who still spend a lot of time together. You’ll also 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. In the summer, Kohl’s Wild Theater offers live conservation-themed shows and Birds of Prey shows for young kids.
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.
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. The app will also give you access to schedules for rides and attractions.
Nurse in peace: If you prefer nursing in a quiet, private space, the Milwaukee County Zoo offers three Mamava lactation stations. Locations change seasonally, so check their website.
26. Visit the Racine Zoo
2131 N. Main St., Racine, WI 53402
This small, charming zoo is home to a hundred different species of animals, and it’s perfect for young children who are having a first-time zoo experience.
27. See deer and elk at the 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 spring, 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 specials such as scavenger hunts, pumpkin hunting, and Christmas at the Zoo.
28. Ride the East Troy Electric Railroad.
2002 Church St, East Troy, WI 53120
Take a 14-mile round trip from East Troy to Mukwonago, with a stop at the Elegant Farmer. Well-maintained and heated historic rail cars let you experience rail travel on the last segment of electric interurban line in Wisconsin. Trains depart on the hour from our historic depot at 2002 Church Street in East Troy – 35 minutes southwest of Milwaukee on I-43. Gift shop, rest rooms and museum are in the depot.
29. Explore Milwaukee County Parks
There is always something fun going on Milwaukee County Parks. You can find out more on their website.
30. Take a guided family nature hike at Havenwoods State Forest
6141 N Hopkins St, Milwaukee, WI 53209
Havenwoods offers over 200 acres of grasslands, woods, and wetland, plus a Nature Center with live animals and drop-in activities twice a month. There are four ponds, and one is just a short hike from the Nature Center. There is also a 120-foot bridge to check out and several geocaches to hunt for.
You can either hike on your own or join them on a Guided Family Nature Hike every month. Check their website for specific dates and times.
Fun fact: Havenwoods State Forest is the only state forest in the city of Milwaukee.
It is Wisconsin’s only urban state forest.
31. Visit the Native Wisconsin Animal room at the Urban Ecology Center in Washington Park (Free!)
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.
32. Find a new spring wardrobe at local children’s stores.
Check out these locally-owned children’s stores for a wardrobe refresh.
33. Explore the bluffs at Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve (Free!)
511 High Bluff Dr., Grafton, WI 53204
Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve is a 73-acre park that occupies one of the last areas of undeveloped bluff along the shores of Lake Michigan. You can explore over a half a mile of 100 foot bluffs that offer extraordinary views of the lake.Take bridges over the gorge or take the stairway down the gorge to walk along the shore.
34. Bike on the Oak Leaf Trail.
Get out the bike trailer and the helmets, and head to the Oak Leaf Trail. Find out more about the trail here.
35. Volunteer outdoors.
We created a round up of all kinds of volunteer opportunities for kids & families. It’s a great way to serve the community and bond as a family at the same time.
36. Go mini-golfing.
We have a list of six local places to go mini-golfing. Check them out!
37. Get free stuff on Mother’s Day.
Moms are typically given free admission on Mother’s Day to Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, the Milwaukee County Zoo, the Milwaukee Public Museum, and Old World Wisconsin. Discovery World and the Harley Davidson Museum have also participated in past years. Some local businesses like Stone Creek Coffee and Third Space Brewery offer free drinks for moms, too. Call ahead to confirm!
38. Go to your favorite farmer’s market.
Discover a new farmer’s market near you! See our guide.
39. Dance at the Cuban Day Street Festival.
Each year, local restaurant Cubanitas hosts the Cuban Day Street Festival. It includes live music, free dance instruction, kids activities, and delicious Cuban food for sale. Watch their Facebook Page for details.
40. Watch the dancers at Danceworks Mad Hot Ballroom. (Free!)
BMO Harris Bradley Center
1001 N. 4th St., Milwaukee, WI 53203
Danceworks runs their Mad Hot dance program with students at over 50 Milwaukee area public and private schools. It culminates in an exciting final competition event at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, and the event is free and open to the public.
41. Fly a kite at Family Kite Fest (Free!)
(Memorial Day Weekend)
Gift of Wings in Veterans Park
1300 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr. Milwaukee, WI 53202
Marvel at the Grand Launch of hundreds of kites, and enjoy live music and activities. Admission and parking is free, and food is available for sale.
42. Spring into the past at Old World Wisconsin
Weekly on Saturday and Sunday from May 5 – May 27, 2018
10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Old World Wisconsin W372S9727 Hwy 67 Eagle, WI 53119
Celebrate spring with us as we begin our springtime chores! Guests can check out the newest additions to our flocks and see how we transform wool from sheep to socks with hands on experiences for all ages. Then, help prepare the gardens for the growing season and see what’s cooking in the kitchen after the long winter. Check the Old World Wisconsin website for more exciting details on spring happenings. Cost: Adults (18-64) $19; children (5-17) $10; (children 4 and under are free); Senior citizens (65 and over) $16. Fees include an all-day tram transportation pass. Parking is free.
43. Visit Gertie the Duck and her ducklings. (Free!)
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.
44. Visit the Bronze Fonz. (Free!)
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 “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.
45. Explore state parks with the Wisconsin Explorer Program. (Free!)
Head to the nearest state park, forest, trail, or recreation area and ask for a free Wisconsin Explorer booklet. Inside the sturdy packet, you’ll find nature activities, scavenger hunts, games, hikes, and crafts to help you explore Wisconsin’s great outdoors together. Kids who complete the requirements can earn collectable state symbol patches.
46. Take a tour of the Green Roof at Central Library (Free!)
814 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53233
Get a tour of Central Library’s unique green roof. They run late April through October, typically Wednesdays at noon and Saturdays at 10:00 a.m.. Check their website for the most updated schedule.
47. Plan your spring or summer birthday party.
We’ve compiled a birthday party guide to help you with your planning!
48. Go skateboarding. (Free!)
Here are four skate parks around Milwaukee to explore with your kids.
49 Hike past the waterfall in Grant Park. (Free!)
“Enter this wild wood and view the haunts of nature.” This is what is written on a sign atop the covered bridge that leads 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, a waterfall, 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 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.
50. Take the Hispanic Heritage self-guided tour. (Free!)
United Community Center, 1028 S. 9th St., Milwaukee, WI(414) 384-3100
Learn all about the colorful outdoor murals that pay homage to Hispanic heritage. You can end your tour in the Gallery at the Latino Arts Center.
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