cow sculptures at Lynden Sculpture Garden in River Hills Wisconsin

10 Free Things To Do This Summer With Kids (2023)

Summer in Milwaukee is a season bursting with possibilities, especially when the kids are in tow.

Who says you have to break the bank to have a memorable time?

From exploring breathtaking waterfalls and sun-kissed beaches to hopping on The Hop Streetcar for an urban adventure, the city unveils a treasure trove of family fun – all for free.

Dive into splash pads, discover vibrant local murals, and unlock the magic of the Betty Brinn Children’s Room at Central library.

Or, type in “FREE” on our Events Calendar, and see what events are coming up!

Ready to make this summer unforgettable without spending a dime? Here are 10 exhilarating ways to explore Milwaukee with your young adventurers:

1. Ride The Hop

Ready for an adventure in downtown Milwaukee?

The Hop streetcar is a fun and safe option for exploring the city, and it’s an experience both you and your kids can enjoy.

(And it’s free to ride!)

With its colorful and spacious cars, accessible platforms, and convenient stops, The Hop is designed to accommodate riders of all ages and abilities.

In fact, along the route, you’ll find a variety of engaging and family-friendly destinations that are sure to keep everyone entertained.

From interactive museums to outdoor play areas and delicious treats, The Hop offers easy access to it all. 

See all 10 stops >>

2. Hike Around Lynden Sculpture Garden

cow sculptures at Lynden Sculpture Garden in River Hills Wisconsin

This must-visit outdoor art museum offers a unique experience of art in nature through its collection of more than 50 monumental sculptures across 40 acres of park, lake, and woodland. 

Admission used to be substantial, but since the onset of the pandemic, their funders have continued to offer free admission for all.

Don’t miss the whimsical and colorful cow sculpture (actually called Des Vaches: Mo, Ni, Que by Swiss artist Samuel Buri. )

Leave the stroller at home and pack comfortable shoes and your baby carrier if you need one. There are not many paths on the property.

Here are more kid-friendly summer hikes to explore.

3. Visit a Splash Pad

Cool off (for free!) at one of these refreshing splash pads. There are options in the city of Milwaukee and in the greater Milwaukee area.

Pictured here: Hart Park in Wauwatosa

4. Playground Playdate

The new Village Park in Menomonee Falls is the perfect place for your next play date. It’s a giant, wheelchair accessible playground, complete with a splash pad and Fiddleheads coffee right across the street!

Check out our top 25 playgrounds around Milwaukee. These can’t-miss options will impress the whole family.

5. Giannis Mural

There are so many colorful, bright murals to visit around Milwaukee. Check out the new(ish) Giannis mural on Wisconsin Avenue, or walk through Black Cat Alley on the East Side.

Here are 10 stunning murals your kids will love.

6. Beach Day

From Doctor’s Park in Fox Point down to North Beach in Racine, Lake Michigan beaches are the perfect destination for a family fun day – and they’re free to visit!

Picture above is the playground at North Beach in Racine. Our readers rave about this family-friendly destination!

Here are the 10 best Lake Michigan beaches to visit this summer.

7. Central Library

Central Library is the crown jewel of Milwaukee’s public library system. Built in the 1890’s, it’s a stunning example of neo-renaissance architecture.

The Rotunda at the entrance is one of the most striking features of the building. The cavernous space is filled with natural light and is connected to a grand staircase that leads to the upper levels of the library. Don’t miss the impressive mosaic floor underfoot.

The Betty Brinn Children’s Room at Central Library gives kids their very own separate area to explore. There’s a lighthouse to climb, plenty of cozy reading alcoves, dozen of computers, and special children’s book collections grouped together. 

There’s affordable parking on both sides of the building and across the street.

Fun Fact: The stained glass window in the Central Library Children’s Room is called the “Hans Christian Andersen Window.” It was designed by Marie Herndl in 1896, one of the only women in her field at the time. It was restored for the grand opening of the children’s room in 1998.

Discover more of the best libraries around Milwaukee >>

8. Hop in a Pond

Southeastern Wisconsin is home to hundreds of ponds and lakes, but of course not all of them have public beaches for swimming. 

There are a select few in the Milwaukee area, and each of their sandy beaches is a popular summer destination for both onshore and water recreation. They’re the best places for building sandcastles, having a picnic, beating the heat and lazing the day away. 

There are a few swimming ponds in the area that do not charge admission. Pewaukee Lake & Fox Brooke Park are among them.

See all swimming ponds & lakes >>

9. Chase Waterfalls

waterfall at Wehr Nature Center in Franklin Wisconsin

Milwaukee and its surrounding areas are home to a variety of waterfalls that are perfect for families to visit. 

From Whitnall Park in Franklin to Lake Park in the city of Milwaukee, here are 5 waterfalls in Milwaukee County that are easily accessible to families.

10. Go Bowling

Did you know that 1,500 bowling centers provide two free Games of bowling each day to kids during the Spring and Summer? 

This program is designed by bowling centers to give back to the community and provide a safe, secure, and fun way for kids to spend time this summer.

It’s easy to get signed up:

Step 1: Find a Participating Bowling Center In Your Community

(Participating this year in the Milwaukee area: Brown Deer Lanes, Village Bowl in Menomonee Falls, Foxx View Lanes in Waukesha, Sussex Bowl, and Circle B Rec in Cedarburg)

Step 2: Register Your Kids 

Step 3: Go Bowling for FREE All Spring & Summer!

Milwaukee’s summer is a playground waiting to be explored, and these 10 free activities prove that priceless memories don’t have to come with a price tag.

Whether it’s the thrill of a waterfall hike or the creative inspiration found in a mural, each adventure adds a unique splash of joy to your family’s summer story. So grab those sun hats and head out; the city’s best treasures are awaiting your discovery.

Happy exploring!

About the author

In 2013, Calie Herbst, a former teacher with three little ones, saw a need for a “One Stop Shop” for family fun in Milwaukee. So she founded Milwaukee With Kids. Her goal was to find the best this city has to offer families and share it with other parents. In one place. In 2019, she published "Exploring Milwaukee With Kids", a comprehensive Milwaukee travel guide for families and kids. She appears regularly on WISN News, Fox 6's 'Real Milwaukee', B93.3, and Wisconsin Morning News. She has been featured in Medium, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, NPR, the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, and on CBS 58 News. Calie is available for hosting, moderating and media appearances.

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