Local tours and tastings are a great way to break the monotony of typical weekend activities. They’re the best places to learn something new, support local companies and products, and have fun doing it. The tours and tastings here are all kid-friendly, so have fun exploring!
1. Milwaukee Fire Historical Society and Fire Museum (Free!)
1615 W. Oklahoma Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53215
If you have kids who are wild about fire trucks, then this hidden gem is a great place to find in Milwaukee. Located in an old 1927 fire station on Oklahoma Avenue, the Milwaukee Fire Department (MFD) Museum and Historical Society is open for afternoon tours (1-3 p.m., or by appointment) on the first Sunday of the month (April – December).
The museum, which opened in 1995, is home to the first MFD ambulance (a 1947 Cadillac), and two trucks built in the MFD shop during the 1920s and 30s. All displays are located on the first floor and accessible. You can take a guided tour, or explore at your own pace using the museum guide sheet.
Admission and street parking are free, but donations are always graciously accepted. Learn more about this museum here.
2. Basilica of St. Josaphat (Free!)
2333 S. 6th St., Milwaukee, WI 53215
The Basilica of St. Josaphat was completed in 1901, and it serves as a testament to the early Polish immigrants of Milwaukee. The opulent and impressive Basilica is open Monday through Saturday for visits, and you can pick up a walking tour brochure at the Visitor Center. There is also a free exhibit on the lower level of the Pavilion that includes images and information detailing the story of the Basilica. The Visitor Center is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but final tours of the day must begin by 2:15 p.m.
3. Central Library (Free!)
814 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53233
(414) 286-TOUR (8687)
*** At this time, tours at Milwaukee Public Libraries are not allowed due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Central Library rotunda is also temporarily closed to the public. ***
Central Library opened its doors in October of 1898 in response to the Milwaukee Public Library’s need for more space. It is a combination of French and Italian Renaissance styles and it’s built of Bedford limestone. The building has been designated a landmark by the Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Friends of Milwaukee Public Library offer free tours that start at 11:00 a.m. every Saturday morning in the rotunda. You can also make an appointment for a tour by calling the number listed above.
4. St. Joan of Arc Chapel (Free!)
Marquette University Campus, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Could this be the oldest building in Milwaukee? Was it actually built in France? Take a tour and find out the answers to these questions and more. Tours of the chapel last about 30 minutes. There is no charge for the tour, but donations are accepted.
5. Pabst Mansion
2000 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53233
Every Saturday at 9:30 a.m., the Pabst Mansion hosts a 30-minute family-friendly tour. See which animal friends you can find in the art and architecture, peek inside a secret cabinet, and imagine yourself as young Elsbeth Pabst growing up in the Mansion on this tour, which leans less beer and more playful cheer. And thanks to BMO Harris Bank, children attend free of charge all year long!
6. North Point Lighthouse Museum
Lake Park, 2650 N. Wahl Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53211
There are many lighthouses that dot the shores of the great lakes, but the North Point Lighthouse is a true local treasure. Built in 1855, the lighthouse can be found in Lake Park and is one of the oldest standing structures in Milwaukee. Climb the 74-foot tower for 360-degree views of Lake Park, Lake Michigan and downtown Milwaukee, or tour the Queen Anne-style, wheelchair-accessible museum to view maritime industry artifacts and exhibits. Tours run throughout the museum’s open hours (Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4 p.m.).
FOOD & DRINK
7. Clock Shadow Creamery
138 W. Bruce St., Milwaukee, WI 53204
*** Tours are currently suspended due to COVID-19. ***
Why not learn about one of the most delicious products that Wisconsin has to offer? Visit this local cheese factory and learn about the history of cheese making, plus answer age-old mysteries like: “Why are cheese curds squeaky?” and “Why is cheddar cheese yellow?” You’ll also get to sample fresh cheese.
Cheese factory tours are $3 for adults and $2 for children under 12. Due to the small size of the factory and restrictions on visitors in production areas, the tour is limited to an observation room. From the observation room, our friendly and knowledgeable staff will verbally guide you through the cheese making process. Tours generally take half an hour and are offered every half hour between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.
Tip: They generally make fresh cheese curds Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, but if you’re coming for fresh curds, call ahead to confirm availability.
8. Sprecher Brewing Company
701 W. Glendale Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53209
Of all the brewery tours you can do in Milwaukee, this one may be the most family-friendly. Sprecher root beer and craft sodas may actually be more popular than the beer! Visit the brew house and discover how Sprecher’s brewing process revives Old World traditions that made Milwaukee famous. See the production line, then sip on four beer samples and unlimited craft soda in the tasting room. The tour is about 45 minutes long, and there are no stairs for little legs to climb. Tour spots are first come, first served, so we recommend reserving ahead of time.
9. Stone Creek Coffee Factory (Free!)
422 N. 5th St., Milwaukee, WI 53203
Learn about the history of Stone Creek Coffee, see the farm-to-cup coffee journey up close, and get a behind-the-scenes look at their 1880’s factory. Learn more about coffee while you tour the green storage area, roasting facility, cupping lab, learning lab, and outside the bakery. There will also be plenty of free coffee and some bakery treats to taste. Print your ticket to take advantage of a 20% discount in the café on the day of the tour, along with one free drink. In addition, you’ll get to go home with some fresh roasted coffee and a SCC original pint glass. Tours take place every Sunday (excluding major holidays) at noon and 2 p.m., and you can sign up for them online.
10. Fiserv Forum
1111 Vel R. Phillips Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53203
Here’s your opportunity to see behind the scenes where the Milwaukee Bucks games and live music performances take place. This 90-minute experience will leave you informed on the past and inspired about the future of entertainment in Milwaukee. Tours are limited to 25 guests and begin at the Bucks Pro Shop, located on the east side of Fiserv Forum.
11. American Family Field
1 Brewers Way, Milwaukee, WI 53214
Get a behind-the-scenes look at this impressive Milwaukee landmark (formerly known as Miller Park). The Classic Walk-Up Tour includes a visit to the Selig Experience, Playing Field, Visitors’ Clubhouse, Visitors’ dugout, Brewers bullpen, luxury suite level, Press Box, Bob Uecker’s broadcast booth, and many other special locations! Tours are capped at 20 guests, so be sure to book your tour in advance.
12. Original Cheesehead Factory
You’ve heard the term, you’ve seen the hats, but how much do you really know about the Cheesehead story? Whether you go for the cheese puns, foam facts or to make your own Cheesehead® creation, you’ll discover what it’s like to be a true cheesehead.
There are two different tours to choose from. In “The Cheddar” tour (30 minutes), you’ll observe the inner workings of the factory and take a behind-the-scenes tour of the manufacturing warehouse. With “The Holey Cow” tour (45-60 minutes), you’ll get a full tour of the facility, plus the chance to make your very own foam creation. Tours must be booked in advance.
13. Self-Guided Mural Walk (Free!)
United Community Center, 1028 S. 9th St., Milwaukee, WI 53204
Find the self-guided mural tour on the United Community Center’s website. Marvel upon and learn about the colorful murals that pay homage to Hispanic heritage.
Want to find more murals to admire in Milwaukee? Visit mkemuralmap.com for a comprehensive list and locations!
14. Self-guided Walking Tours (Free!)
Milwaukee is home to monuments, and architecture that entertains, inspires, and honors our heroes. There are also very unusual statues, such the Bronze Fonz (a likeness of the Fonz from Happy Days) and a monument to a duck and its ducklings. Choose one of the four self-guided walking tours of Milwaukee on gpsmycity.com. Or create your own custom tour, including only the sights you most want to see.
15. 88Nine Studio (Free!)
220 E. Pittsburgh Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53204
When you check out 88Nine’s custom-built studio in Walker’s Point, you’ll get a “behind the scenes” 30-minute tour of the sound-proof recording studios, the 100-seat performance space, and the 2,500-square-foot Green Roof that can hold up to 1,500 gallons of rainwater. The roof provides a unique view of downtown Milwaukee, including the Hoan Bridge, the Marcus Amphitheater, and Walker’s Point. Reserve a spot for your tour by filling out a form on their website.
16. Milwaukee Boat Line – Sightseeing Cruise
1124 N. Old World Third St. Milwaukee, WI 53203
Explore Milwaukee’s past and present from our rivers, harbors and the western shore of Lake Michigan during this 90-minute tour. Enjoy unforgettable views and a unique perspective of Milwaukee’s history and architecture. Live narration is provided by experienced and entertaining tour guides and the captain. Snacks, soft drinks, beer and cocktails available on board. The dock is located on the west side of the Milwaukee River, one block east of the Fiserv Forum.
17. Milwaukee River Cruise Line – Edelweiss Historic Narrated Boat Tour
205 W. Highland Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53203
Brought to you by the Milwaukee County Historical Society, this narrated tour travels on the Milwaukee River, through downtown MKE and underneath its bridges. You’ll see historical landmarks and get a front-row view of the Milwaukee skyline, including the Milwaukee Art Museum, Discovery World, Summerfest grounds, and yacht clubs. A cash (or credit) bar serves up beer, wine, soft drinks, and mixed drinks.
18. Doors Open Milwaukee (Free!)
Annual event held in September
On one weekend in September, Doors Open Milwaukee opens the doors to over 100 wonderful buildings free-of-charge to the public. The buildings include churches, theaters, museums, hotels, universities, and office buildings, and all of them hold hidden treasures and interesting stories. Doors Open Milwaukee designates several sites of special interest to families with children during the event. You can pick up a free passport and have them stamped as you visit each site.
19. Firehouse Tours (Free!)
Contact your local fire department and ask for a kid-friendly tour! You’ll get to climb on the fire trucks, try on a fire coat and learn all about fire safety. You might also get a fire hat, a coloring book, and other fun kid swag.
20. Wisconsin Humane Society (Free!)
4500 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53208
Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Wisconsin Humane Society to learn how shelter staff and volunteers help transform unwanted companion animals into much loved family members, and how injured and orphaned wild animals get a second chance. Your guide will take you through the Wildlife Gallery, Veterinary Hospital, Guest Lodging and Adoption Avenue. Weekend tours are free and open to the public.
21. Green Roof of Central Library (Free!)
814 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53233
*** At this time, tours at Milwaukee Public Libraries are not allowed due to restrictions pertaining to COVID-19. ***
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.
22. Amazon Warehouse (Virtual)
*** Note: Amazon has paused in-person public tours due to COVID-19, and there is not yet a date set to resume these tours. ***
Ever wonder how that product in your online shopping cart gets from Amazon to your front door? Now you can see for yourself by taking a peek inside Amazon’s massive fulfillment center. Many of these warehouses span the equivalent of 28 football fields and can hold tens of millions of items on any given day.
The FC Tours program is offering virtual tours around the world, allowing visitors to see what it’s like to work inside the facilities. Visitors will also get a glimpse of the great technology and people at the center of Amazon.
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Check out “101 Best Things to do in Milwaukee With Kids“.