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 (Free!)
6141 N. Hopkins St., Milwaukee, WI 53209
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.
-Drop in on free nature activities every month on select Saturdays in the Environmental Center
-Take a guided family nature hike on select Saturdays
-Enjoy preschool nature story times during the week
-Say hello to the small animals that live in the Environmental Center.
-Stop by the front desk to borrow outdoor exploration tools for your hike.
Hawthorn Glen Outdoor Education Center (Free!)
1130 N. 60th St., Milwaukee, WI 53208
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.
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.
Mequon Nature Preserve (Free!)
8200 W. County Line Rd., Mequon, WI 53097
Stroll 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.
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.
Riveredge Nature Center
4458 County Hwy Y Saukville, WI 53080
Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
1111 E. Brown Deer Rd., Bayside, WI 53217
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!)
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
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, 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.
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.
Wehr Nature Center
($3.50 parking fee)
9701 W. College Ave., Franklin, WI 53132
You may also be interested in: Tinkergarten classes
Tinkergarten classes are outdoor nature classes where kids learn through play. They offer classes for babies ages 6 to 18 months or children ages 18 months to 8 years, supporting all learners where they are.