It's finally warming up around here, and we're *so* ready for spring. We rounded up 25 of our favorite FREE FUN ideas that your whole family will love. Tag us in your pics using @mkewithkids!
1. Play Music at the Discovery World Wind Leaves
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. And, across the street is an interesting water fountain that captures the imagination.
2. Visit the Hebior Mammoth
Milwaukee Public Museum (800 W Wells St, Milwaukee, WI 53233)
Visitors can see the skeleton of the Hebior Mammoth without even paying admission to the museum. 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.
3. Tap the Trees at Maple Syrup Family Day
Richfield Nature/Historical Park (1896 State Road 164, Richfield, WI 53076)
Every year, the Richfield Historical Society hosts a free Maple Syrup Family Day. This year it will take place at Richfield Historical Park on March 27, 2021. You can see maple trees tapped, sap dripping into the bags fastened to the trees, and steam hovering above the boiler while the sap bubbles. They'll also have maple cotton candy to try!
4. Say "Hi!" to the Massimals in Cathedral Square Park
520 E Wells St, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Massimals MKE is downtown’s newest public art installation. These five life-size polar bears by artist Jason Scroggin are out of hibernation and have been installed for the winter in Cathedral Square Park. Students from the UWM School of Architecture helped the artist assemble the structures. It’s a fun photo opp by day, and they are lit up at night! There is also a playground in the park.
5. Dig For Fossils at the Dinsosaur Discovery Museum in Kenosha
5608 10th Ave, Kenosha, WI 53140
Just a few blocks from Lake Michigan in downtown Kenosha, and about a 45 minute drive from downtown Milwaukee, you’ll find the free Dinosaur Discovery Museum. The museum is small, but it’s worth a stop on a day trip to Kenosha or if you happen to be in the area.
The main gallery is filled with casts of actual dinosaur fossil bones, and each one is labeled with information. Kids can learn how we know dinosaurs existed, what they looked like, how they behaved, and what happened to them. You can also listen to environmental and animal sounds of the Mesozoic era.
Before you leave, head downstairs for dinosaur themed crafts, floor puzzles, and activities. You’ll even find a place where young children can dig for pretend fossils. Catch a peek into an on-site laboratory which runs in association with the Carthage Institute of Paleontology.
6. Pick Up Your Free Home Depot Workshop Kit
In place of their kids workshops, many Home Depot stores across the country are handing out Free Kids Workshop Kids at the beginning of each month. We recommend that you call your local Home Depot store before heading out to find out if they have the kits in-stock and to see how and when you can grab one.
7. Check Out the Natural Playground at Mequon Nature Preserve
8200 W. County Line Rd., Mequon, WI 53097
You’ll find this brand new natural playground right next to the Education Center at the County Line entrance.
There is a wooden seesaw, log balance beam, large observation deck, and more.
If you have some extra energy, you can make the short uphill hike to the 40 foot observation tower.
Climb up to see the surrounding landscape (referred to by geologists as the Eastern Uplands of Wisconsin) through free telescopes.
8. Do the Hispanic Heritage Self-Guided Tour
United Community Center, 1028 S. 9th St., Milwaukee, WI
Learn all about the colorful outdoor murals like "Wonders of Latin America" and "Aztec Myths" that pay homage to Hispanic heritage. Download the free PDF Self-Guided Tour using the link above. If you choose, you can end your tour in the Gallery at the Latino Arts Center. (Call before to see if they are open at the time you are visiting.)
9. Egg Hunts!
It's that time of year! Check our Events Calendar for free Easter Egg Hunts! Look for the bunny emoji (🐰) & the Free Button (🆓).
10. Kohl's Family Sunday at the Art Museum (Virtual)
Online at mam.org
Enjoy a special online version of the museum's popular family event: Kohl’s Family Sundays on Sunday, March 14th. (Check the museum's website for future dates!) Explore fiber art in the Museum’s collection, and make your own inspired creations. Make a mini quilt from scraps of fabric, a bracelet from yarn, and draw with thread. Meet Wisconsin artists nibiiwakamigkwe, Rhonda Gatlin-Hayes, and Heidi Parkes, and take a peek inside their studios. Plus, sing along with musician Lil’ Rev.
11. Picnic & Play at Possibility Playground
Upper Lake Park, Port Washington
Possibility Playground was built with children of all types of physical abilities in mind. It sits in Upper Lake Park in Port Washington with a beautiful view of Lake Michigan. After you play, you can head down to the marina to admire the boats, visit the historic art deco lighthouse, and peruse the charming downtown area.
12. Walk Through Black Cat Alley
The Black Cat Alley is an outdoor art gallery located in a private alley on the East Side. This unique street art destination was developed by a group of community members and artists back in 2015-2016 in partnership with Wallpapered City LLC, and sponsored by the East Side BID. It now contains 21 murals by 24 artists from Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Columbus and even Berlin.
Location: Black Cat Alley is located behind the historic Oriental Theater at the intersection of North Avenue and Ivanhoe on Milwaukee's East Side. You can enter the Alley from Prospect Avenue near the Axe Bar (AXE MKE) or from Ivanhoe near Milwaukee's only cat café (Sip 'n Purr). Please note: the Ivanhoe entry is the only accessible entry, as the Prospect entryway has a staircase.
PLUS, have you done our Milwaukee Mural Scavenger Hunt yet? Check out our list 10 Stunning Milwaukee Murals and make a day of it!
13. Take a Selfie with the Bronz Fonz.
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.
14. Play in the Habitat Playgarden
Riverside Park (1500 E. Riverside Pl., Milwaukee, WI 53211)
Visit Riverside Park and explore the Habitat Playgarden. You can climb the spider web, slide down the otter slides, and play in the Woodland Dune sandbox. Be on the lookout for public art throughout the park including colorful murals and iron sculptures near the Urban Ecology Center. There's an awesome rock archway, as well!
15. Go Airplane Spotting
Airplane Observation Area (1200 block of E. Layton Ave.)
If your kids love airplanes, the Airport Observation Area is sure-fire hit. Onlookers flock to this parking lot on the 1200 block of E. Layton Ave. to get an up-close look and hear the roar of the massive jet planes as they come and go. Tune into 88.5 to hear aircraft communication. You can pick up some Culver's custard down the road, sit out on the car hood, and make a night of it.
16. Hands-On History Craft Kits
Waukesha County Historical Society & Museum (101 W Main St, Waukesha, WI 53186)
Stop in the Waukesha State Bank Education Center on Saturday's to pick up a kid's craft to-go. A new craft will be available on Saturday of each week. Available for pick-up whenever they are open.
17. Hide Out at Fort Cushing Playground
600 N. Cushing Park Rd., Delafield, WI 53018
This inclusive playground in Cushing Memorial Park in Delafield is a completely enclosed fort with sandboxes, swings, slides, towers, ramps, and plenty of secret spaces to explore. Enjoy the surrounding park and nearby stream after you play.
18. Get Muddy in Wher's Nature Play Space
9701 W. College Ave., Franklin, WI 53132
Located in Whitnall Park, young kids will love to play in the Nature Play Space at Wehr Nature Center. They’ll find climbing rocks, a native plant garden, a giant log, sand, rocks and stones for digging, Carol’s Cabin log cabin, and a low-height plant maze.
19. Swing & Slide at Kayla’s Playground
3667-3723 W. Puetz Rd, Franklin, WI 53132
Kayla's Playground looks like a whimsical dream from the moment you catch sight of it, and it doesn't disappoint. You’ll pass through a colorful entrance sign to get into the fully enclosed, inclusive playground.
From the central path, you can turn right for a playground designed for ages 5-12, or left for a playground meant for younger children.
In the older children's 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. Everywhere you turn there is something interesting and colorful to look at, including tile mosaics made by local 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.
20. Social Distance Walking at Lynden Sculpture Garden
2145 W Brown Deer Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53217
The Lynden Sculpture Garden remains open for free social distance walking from 10:00-4:00 (every day except Thursday, when they're closed). The main building is closed, but you can walk around the grounds to your heart's content. Wear a mask, and remind your kids not to climb on the sculptures.
There are wide open spaces for running around, magical trees the kids can hide inside of, frogs and turtles all over the place, and colorful sculptures. Don't miss the bright polka dotted cows by the pond. (The official title is “Des Vaches: Mo, Ni, Que” by Swiss artist Samuel Buri.)
It’s free, but you can donate online. Scan your phone at the large signs near the parking lot to sign in.
21. Visit A Playground at Malone
16400 W. Al Stigler Pkwy., New Berlin, WI 53151
This inclusive playground is accessible to children of all abilities, and its design was a truly collaborative effort. Even the students at New Berlin schools got to submit their designs and ideas. It was built during a Community Build Day by hundreds of volunteers. The design is whimsical and colorful. You'll find an accessible merry-go-round, all-access swings, monkey bars at varying heights, interactive sound stations, plus tons of nooks and crannies to explore.
22. Imagine Away at Imagination Station
700 S. Main St., Oconomowoc, WI 53066
This universally accessible playground in Oconomowoc is huge, fully enclosed, and packed with interesting, sensory-stimulating features and structures. It has rubberized surfacing, recycled plastic composite ramps, therapeutic swings, musical stations, and more.
23. Hike the loop at Hawthorn Glen Outdoor Education Center
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. It is 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.
Check out our 14 Favorite Hikes For Kids Around Milwaukee >>
24. Story Time at the Library
The Milwaukee Public Library and surrounding suburban libraries offer virtual and in-person story times and events that are completely free to families. We keep track of them for your on our Events Calendar! Look for the Free Button. (🆓)
25. Take in the view at Lake Vista Park
4001 E Lakeside Ave., Oak Creek, WI 53154
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.