Winter can be a magical time for kids in Milwaukee.
There’s the excitement of snow days, building snowmen, and cozying up by the fireplace.
But let’s be honest.
As parents, it can also be a stressful time.
You want to keep your kids active and engaged, but it’s tough to find activities that don’t involve staring at screens all day.
That’s why we’ve put together this ultimate guide of winter activities to do with your kids in Milwaukee.
From outdoor adventures to indoor fun, we’ve got 100+ ideas that are sure to keep your little ones entertained all season long.
Whether you’re looking for ways to get your family moving or creative activities to do at home, we’ve got you covered.
Let’s dive in and make this winter one to remember.
Sledding is a classic winter activity that is enjoyed by people of all ages, and Milwaukee has several great sledding hills to choose from.
Whitnall Park is one of the best spots in Milwaukee for sledding. Located near the Boerner Botanical Gardens, this 400 foot sledding hill is free to the public, lit up at night, and features a toboggan run. There is also a smaller hill for the little ones north of the main hill.
The Lowell Park Toboggan Run is another must-visit winter spot. Located near Lowell Elementary School, the park offers great sledding and a 350 foot lighted toboggan run (for a small fee).
When winter hits Milwaukee, it’s time to hit the ice.
Luckily, there are plenty of amazing ice skating rinks throughout the city to choose from.
The Pettit National Ice Center is a world-class facility that offers public skating sessions as well as figure skating and hockey programs.
Slice of Ice in Red Arrow Park, located in downtown Milwaukee, is a picturesque outdoor rink that provides a beautiful setting for skating under the city lights.
And the Dinky Rink at the Milwaukee Public Market is the area’s tiniest rink!
In the suburbs, Konkel Park in Greenfield has a great outdoor ice skating rink that is free to use.
Whether you’re a seasoned skater or just starting out, there’s an ice rink in Milwaukee that’s perfect for you. So grab your skates and get ready to glide across the ice this winter.
Ski / Snowboard / Tubing
The Rock Snow Park in Franklin offers glow tubing at night.
Tubing is a favorite winter activity for people of all ages, and there are several great tubing destinations within driving distance of Milwaukee.
Sunburst Winter Sports Park in Kewaskum offers tubing on multiple runs, with a conveyor lift to take you back up to the top.
The Rock Snow Park in Franklin also offers special “glow tubing” sessions in the evening, with colorful lights and music adding to the fun.
For a unique experience, book a sleigh ride for the whole family:
Apple Holler (Sturtevant)
Dan Patch Stables (Lake Geneva)
Roden Barnyard Adventures (West Bend)
Rocking L Acres (McFarland)
Candlelight hikes are a unique way to enjoy the winter wonderland.
There are several offered throughout the year, including the Urban Candlelight Hike at the Urban Ecology Center.
Hike or snowshoe on two miles of the candlelit Hank Aaron State Trail, and enjoy roaring campfires and marshmallows, e-bike and fat tire bike demos, hot chocolate, and pastries.
Winter & Ice Festivals
Milwaukee is a city that knows how to celebrate winter, and there are several festivals throughout the season that showcase the city’s festive spirit.
One of the most popular winter festivals is the Milwaukee County Parks’ “Cool Fool Kite Festival” held on New Year’s Day at Veterans Park. Families can fly kites, enjoy hot chocolate, and take part in other winter activities.
The Cedarburg Winter Festival features ice carving contests, chili, kids activities, and “bed racing” on the ice.
And for those who love snow and ice, the annual “Ice Castles“ event takes place in Lake Geneva, just an hour’s drive from Milwaukee.
Visitors can explore a magical ice castle, slide down an ice slide, and explore nooks and crannies of an winter wonderland that is build completely by hand.
Other annual winter festivals include the Waukesha Janboree, the Winter Carnival at Lynden Sculpture Garden, Winterfest at Boerner Botanical Gardens, and more.
If you can walk, you can snowshoe!
These local parks and nature centers typically provide snowshoes to rent or borrow.
Call first to find out the most up-to-date information about snowshoe rentals:
Havenwoods State Forest (Milwaukee)
Mequon Nature Preserve (Mequon)
Whitnall Park Golf Course (Franklin)
Urban Ecology Center (3 locations in Milwaukee)
Schlitz Audubon Nature Center (Bayside)
Hawthorn Glen (Milwaukee)
While winter may bring cold temperatures and snow, it also provides the perfect opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the Milwaukee area on foot.
There are several great hiking trails that offer stunning views and peaceful surroundings during the winter months.
The Seven Bridges Trail in Grant Park is a favorite among locals, with a scenic path that winds through the woods and over several bridges spanning a ravine.
The Ice Age Trail in the Kettle Moraine State Forest offers miles of trails that wind through rolling hills and forests, providing a chance to see stunning vistas and wildlife like deer and birds.
For a more urban hike, the Hank Aaron State Trail runs through Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley, offering views of the city skyline and nearby rivers.
No matter which trail you choose, be sure to dress warmly and wear appropriate footwear for snowy or icy conditions.
Here are some of our other favorite winter hikes:
Milwaukee may be a bustling city, but there are plenty of nearby state parks that offer a chance to escape into nature during the winter months.
From hiking to snowshoeing to cross-country skiing, state parks provide endless opportunities for outdoor adventure.
Explore trails that wind through snow-covered trees and breathe in the crisp winter air.
And if you’re lucky, you might even spot some of Wisconsin’s wildlife, like deer, foxes, and coyotes.
So, grab your warmest coat, pack a thermos of hot cocoa, and head out to one of these nearby state parks for an unforgettable winter adventure.
Here are several Wisconsin State Parks that are especially accessible with kids in tow.
Winter in Milwaukee can be beautiful, and there’s no better way to appreciate the season’s wonders than by visiting a nature center. Whether you’re a nature lover or just looking for a unique indoor activity, Milwaukee’s nature centers have something for everyone.
The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center is a stunning 185-acre sanctuary along Lake Michigan that offers trails, birdwatching, and educational exhibits.
The Wehr Nature Center, located in Whitnall Park, features over five miles of trails, a frozen waterfall, and a nature play area for kids.
Retzer Nature Center is home to a beautiful pine forest, the newly renovated Discovery Trail and an indoor nature center and planetarium.
And the Urban Ecology Center has three locations in Milwaukee, each with its own unique programs and activities.
From winter hikes to snowshoeing to birding, there are plenty of ways to experience the beauty of nature in Milwaukee during the winter.
Here are some more nature centers that are worth a visit.
Just because the temperatures have dropped doesn’t mean that outdoor playtime has to come to an end. In fact, there are plenty of great playgrounds in Milwaukee that are still open during the winter months.
These playgrounds and more offer a chance to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and exercise, even during the colder months. So bundle up, bring some hot cocoa, and let the outdoor play continue.
Here are some of our absolute favorite playgrounds that are accessible during the winter.
Indoor Water Parks & Pools
It’s always 80 degrees at these nearby water parks!
Indoor Playgrounds & Cafes
In Milwaukee, you just never know what the weather will do.
These fun and exciting spots offer the perfect solution for parents and guardians looking to help their kids burn off energy and beat Milwaukee weather woes.
Milwaukee County Sports Complex
6000 W Ryan Rd, Franklin, WI 53132
This year-round sports hub boasts a 55,000-square-foot fieldhouse, perfect for a variety of indoor sports. It’s an ideal place for families to stay active and engaged during the chilly season.
There’s a baseball batting cage, basketball and volleyball courts, soccer fields, pickle ball, and open gym opportunities!
Bring your own equipment. Adults must supervise children.
Uncover the hidden gems and little-known facts of Milwaukee’s best libraries!
From historical archives to modern marvels, Milwaukee’s libraries are not just about books; they’re treasure troves of knowledge, culture, and community.
We’ve explored the nooks and crannies of the city’s best libraries to bring you a guide that reveals their unique charms and secrets.
Whether you’re a bookworm, a history buff, or just looking for a quiet escape, you’ll be amazed at what these libraries have to offer.
Bucks Family Nights
Experience the thrill of championship basketball with Milwaukee Bucks Family Nights!
Perfect for sports-loving families, this package offers not just edge-of-your-seat excitement but also a taste of family-friendly fun. Each ticket includes more than just a seat to watch the Bucks in action; you’ll also receive a box of popcorn and a refreshing Sprite to complete your game night experience.
Whether you’re a die-hard Bucks fan or looking for a lively night out with the kids, Bucks Family Night promises a memorable time for everyone.
Grab your tickets now and join in on the excitement – it’s more than a game, it’s a family adventure!
S14W28167 Madison St., Waukesha, WI 53186
Set aside some time this December to visit the Horwitz-DeRemer Planetarium for their seasonal holiday shows.
Arts & Culture
When the weather outside is frightful, it’s time to head indoors for some warm and cozy fun with the kids.
Milwaukee has several great indoor activities that are perfect for keeping the whole family entertained during the winter months.
Every year, the Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee hosts a special train show that is sure to delight train enthusiasts of all ages. The show takes place in the Show Dome area of the Domes and features several model train layouts that wind through miniature settings.
The Betty Brinn Children’s Museum offers hands-on exhibits and activities for kids of all ages, including a pretend supermarket, a science lab, and a construction zone.
The Milwaukee Public Museum features exhibits on natural history, science, and cultures from around the world, as well as a butterfly garden and a planetarium.
The Milwaukee County Zoo is open!
Milwaukee may be cold and snowy in the winter, but that doesn’t mean you can’t see some amazing animals. From polar bears to penguins, there are plenty of places to get up close and personal with our furry and feathered friends.
Take a trip to the Milwaukee County Zoo, where you can see animals like the snow leopard, red panda, and harbor seal. They offer family free days once a month during the colder months.
Or head to the Shalom Wildlife Zoo in West Bend. With over 100 species of animals on 100 acres of land, this zoo is a must-visit destination for animal lovers. During the winter months, the zoo takes on a serene and tranquil atmosphere, providing a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Visitors can see animals like elk, bison, wolves, and bears up close and personal.
You can walk the trails or drive through in your car.
If you’re looking for a unique indoor experience, visit the Milwaukee Public Museum’s butterfly exhibit, where you can escape the winter chill and step into a tropical paradise.
No matter where you go, seeing animals is a great way to make the most of your winter in Milwaukee.
Here are some more great zoos to check out:
Henry Vilas Zoo (Madison)
Racine Zoo (Racine)
Lincoln Park Zoo (Manitowoc)
Irvine Park & Zoo (Chippewa Falls)
Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary (Green Bay)
FOOD & DRINK
Hot Cocoa Heaven
Get ready to warm up this winter with our guide to the 15 best places for hot cocoa around Milwaukee!
There’s nothing quite like a mug of rich, creamy hot chocolate to beat the chilly weather. We’ve scoured the city to find the coziest spots and the most delicious cocoa concoctions, from classic creamy delights to gourmet twists that will surprise your taste buds.
Whether you’re after a post-sledding warm-up or a sweet treat to brighten a gray day, our hot cocoa list has got you covered.
Dining out with the family?
Discover 30 kid-friendly restaurants around Milwaukee where delicious meals and a welcoming atmosphere come together.
Our guide is packed with local eateries that not only satisfy your taste buds but also cater to the little ones, making dining out a fun and stress-free experience for everyone.
From spots with creative kids’ menus to restaurants with play areas, we’ve got a variety of choices that will delight both kids and parents alike.
Check out our kid-friendly restaurants list and get ready to explore Milwaukee’s most family-friendly food spots!
Want more ideas for things to do with your kids around Milwaukee?
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.