Embrace a slower pace and travel back in time to see how southeastern Wisconsin‘s first pioneers lived and made their homesteads.
Whereas other Milwaukee museums are typically indoors, these living history museums and historical parks in the Milwaukee area make the past come alive for kids in a unique and hands-on way in the great outdoors.
Know of others we’ve missed? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Old World Wisconsin
W372 S9727 Hwy 67, Eagle, WI 53119
Old World Wisconsin brings 19th-century history to life like no other place in Wisconsin. In fact, it’s the largest outdoor museum of rural life in the entire country. Original structures from across the region were painstakingly dismantled and reconstructed to build this 600-acre open-air living history museum. There are over 60 buildings to explore, including a schoolhouse, church, and furnished houses.
In the Crossroad Village, visitors can learn iron-crafting techniques, watch shoemaking demonstrations, and experience what a typical church experience was like in the late 1800s. On the farmsteads, you’ll see horses, roosters, pigs, sheep, and other livestock, and learn about old-fashioned farm machinery, tools, and agricultural techniques.
Throughout the interactive exhibits, visitors can learn about food preparation and preservation techniques in a world of harsh winters. You’ll see authentic woodstoves, outdoor cooking demonstrations, and learn about holiday food traditions. You can also learn about gardening techniques and stroll through beautifully maintained heirloom gardens filled with lavender, herbs and seasonal produce.
The best part about a visit to Old World Wisconsin is participating in hands-on activities, including making ice cream, crafts, outdoor games, churning butter, domestic chores, and walking on wooden stilts. They also host vintage baseball games during the summer.
New for 2022: Celebrate Wisconsin’s brewing history and traditions in the brand new brewhouse. See how beer is made as part of the Brewing Experience presented by the Cleary-Kumm Family. It’s the first step in a multi-phase overall redevelopment that reimagines a Welcome Experience, with new structures and amenities that will help guests plan and enjoy an unforgettable journey into the past.
Old World Wisconsin is open Wednesday through Sunday in the summer (June 15-Aug. 28), from 10 a.m. to 4 p,m. During Spring (April 30-June 12) and Fall (Sept. 3-25), it is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets can be purchased onsite or in advance online.
2. New Berlin Historical Park (FREE!)
19885 W. National Ave., New Berlin, WI 53146
Part of the City of New Berlin park system, Historical Park is open year-round, and visitors enjoy free admission. Tour the grounds anytime on the Prospect Hill Settlement District, and explore historic structures and sites like the former Freewill Baptist Church building, a carriage house and barn, a little red schoolhouse, the Alice Weston Memorial Garden, the Weston Antique Orchard, a gazebo, a charming log cabin, an old-fashioned windmill, two former homes, and a small, accessible museum. Historical information is posted on all buildings.
Open House events are held at Historical Park four times a year. There’s an ice cream social in July, Historic Day in mid-September and Applefest in early October. Group tours are available by appointment.
3. Old Falls Village Historical Park & Museum (FREE!)
N96 W15791 County Line Rd., Menomonee Falls, WI 53051
Nestled on the grounds of a beautiful 17-acre park, Old Falls Village features a log home, school house, barn, railroad depot and dairy, plus antiques and artifacts from the 19th century. The highlight of the park is the 1858 Miller-Davidson House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Buildings are open to tour during Village Events, including a Saturday night beer garden (May-October); Revolutionary War, Civil War and World War II battle reenactments; a classic car show in September, and Halloween Family Fun Nights in October. Visit their event page for details.
Soon, the park will be the new home for Menomonee Falls’ original two fire engines – one that is completely restored and another that is awaiting restoration. Both are from the early 1920s. Stay tuned for updates.
4. Pioneer Village
4880 County Road I, Saukville, WI 53080
Pioneer Village celebrates Ozaukee County legacy through the experience of pioneer life. It features 17 buildings from the 19th century, including fully furnished homes, barns, and the original Cedarburg Railroad Depot.
Between May 21 and October 9, the Village is open on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Autumn is an especially great time to visit, as the Village is “haunted” on select Fridays and Saturdays in October. Special events include a Train Show in September and Autumn Farm Days in October. Get more info here >>
Admission costs $8 per adult and $6 per child. Children under 5 get in FREE. Group rates available upon request.
5. Richfield Historical Park
Entrance for Events: 1896 Hwy 164, Richfield, WI 53076
Entrance for Most Tours: 4399 Pleasant Hill Road, Richfield, WI 53076
The 33-acre Richfield Historical Park is part of the Village of Richfield park system and is adjacent to the 92-acre Richfield Nature Park. It’s home to many restored historic buildings maintained by the Richfield Historical Society. The beautiful Coney Creek meanders among various wooded areas. Hiking trails also wind throughout the park. Picnic tables and benches are available for visitors to enjoy.
One section of the park is the Messer/Mayer Mill and Homestead, which includes the 150-year-old mill, mill house, horseshoe, woodshed, smokehouse, outhouse, and barn. On the north end of the park, you’ll find the Lillicrapp Welcome Center, a restored home that is now accessible. At the south end of the park are the Motz Log Cabin and Messer Log Barn. The Timber Frame Area includes a granary, sugar shack, and blacksmith shop. You can also learn more about the park through Adventure Lab geocaching.
The Park Hours are 7 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. , but the historic buildings in the Park are only open during Scheduled Tours and Richfield Historical Society Events (don’t miss the Harvest Festival in September and Maple Syrup Family Day in March).
Tour rates are $5 per person, $3 for kids 6-12 years old, and children 5 and under get in free.
6. Trimborn Farm
8881 W. Grange Ave., Greendale, WI 53129
Trimborn Farm is the only Milwaukee County Park with a historic theme. The multifaceted property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it’s also a State Historic Site and Milwaukee County Landmark. The property includes a Cream City brick farmhouse, one of the last and largest stone barns in Wisconsin. There’s also a worker’s bunkhouse, a threshing barn, and a 75-foot kiln. It’s the perfect place to host a wedding, party or picnic.
The farm has gone through many changes over the years. In the late 1800s, it was a lime production site. During the 1900s, the land was home to a dairy farm, sod farm, airfield, riding stables and more before being acquired by the Milwaukee County Park System in 1980.
The park is open every day from dawn to dusk, but the buildings are open only by appointment. School and adult tours, drop-in programs, summer concerts, workshops, and special events show what life was like during the late 19th century and raise awareness of the site.
Don’t miss the Trimborn Farm Harvest of Art & Crafts, held every year on the weekend after Labor Day. Admission is $5 per person (children 10 and under get in free).