10 Things to Do With Kids in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

While Milwaukee may be best known for the number of breweries whipping up batches of decidedly not kid-friendly beverages, there’s actually much more to the city than meets the eye. There’s a strong culture of family-friendly activities, including plenty of outdoor, active play on Lake Michigan. These ten attractions are among the best in Milwaukee for kids, adding to it’s appeal as a family vacation destination.

  1. Harley-Davidson Museum (Milwaukee, WI 53201) – Kids with an affection for the classic American motorcycle company can go “hog” wild on a free scavenger hunt through the Harley-Davidson Museum, which chronicles the history of these famed machines. There are also two restaurants on site, so you won’t be forced to choose between continuing the experience or satisfying your hunger.
  2. Safe House (Milwaukee, WI 53202) – This spy-themed restaurant will thrill even the most reserved child, which bills itself as a “Safe House” for “secret agents” in need of cover. Operating since 1966, the restaurant is hidden behind International Exports, Ltd. on Front Street in Milwaukee. In keeping with the super-secret theme, there’s no sign advertising the actual name of the establishment.
  3. Betty Brinn Children’s Museum (Milwaukee, WI 53202) – Emphasizing the importance of team work while encouraging self-esteem building, fundamental skill development and hands-on learning, the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum is an impressive facility designed with the needs of little ones in mind. Their third Thursday program allows for free admission on the third Thursday of each month between five and eight o’clock in the evening, with a variety of workshops and special events available for parents and kids alike.
  4. Milwaukee Public Museum (Milwaukee, WI 53233) – One of the nation’s world-class museums, the Milwaukee Public Museum has a staggering number of exhibits and interactive installations placed over three feet of gallery space. Be sure to check out the live butterfly garden and “bug zoo,” a can’t-miss proposition when you have young fans of all things creepy and crawly in your entourage.
  5. Mitchell Park Conservatory (Milwaukee, WI 53215) – Experience the wonders of a tropical jungle, floral gardens and a desert oasis, all over the course of a single afternoon at the Mitchel Park Conservatory. Also known as The Domes, this exciting facility also offers an impressive light show after dark.
  6. Discovery World at Pier Milwaukee (Milwaukee, WI 53202) – With interactive saltwater, freshwater, technology and science exhibits placed over more than one-hundred and twenty thousand square feet of gallery space, Discovery World is a fun and educational way to spend the afternoon in Milwaukee. Don’t miss the television and audio studios, a sure-fire hit for little ones with an affinity for the performing arts.
  7. Boerner Botanical Gardens (Hales Corners, WI 53130) – Modeled after an English country manor garden, the Boerner Botanical Gardens are a great way to explore the wonders of nature. There’s also a Growing Gardeners program in place for kids, which includes story time, a snack and an activity related to gardening.
  8. Haggerty Museum of Art (Milwaukee, WI 53233) – Providing plenty of chances for youngsters to learn about and begin to appreciate great works of art through educational programs, gallery talks and workshops, the Haggerty Museum of Art is a great stop for families with an affection for the visual arts.
  9. Milwaukee County Zoo (Milwaukee, WI 53226)A collection of more than 1,800 animals, including mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds call the Milwaukee Zoo home. Be prepared for plenty of walking, and wear shoes that won’t pinch or leave blisters. Keep an eye on the events calendar as the date of your arrival in Milwaukee approaches, as the Zoo does host several workshops, festivals and special events throughout the year.
  10. Watts Tea Shop (Milwaukee, WI 53202) – Youngsters with an affection for make-believe tea parties are sure to be enthralled with a trip to Watts Tea Shop, the most historic tea room in the Milwaukee area. Located over a china and crystal shop, dressing up is strongly encouraged, especially during Afternoon Tea. They also offer etiquette classes for children, which may be both fun and informative for your brood.

Dubbed “The City of Festivals” by locals and travel writers, there are several major festivals hosted in and around Milwaukee throughout the warmer months, including cultural events, ethnic food festivals and museum-sponsored activities. Be sure that you take the time to peruse local event listings in the weeks leading up to your trip, so that you can stay on top of any upcoming festivals that you and your family may be interested in attending.

Creative Spring Break “Stay-cation” Ideas

With more and more families recognizing the value and fun that can be had by sticking close to home for spring break, we wanted to pass on some of our favorite “stay-cation” ideas! They’re ideal for sparing the pocketbook as well as allowing parents who still need to go to work to do so!

  • Plan an in-home or at-the-theater Movie Marathon.
  • Find local behind the scenes tours.
  • Throw a block party.
  • “Vacation” at a local resort.
  • Host a luau.
  • Have a field day, complete with outdoor activities, races, etc.
  • Go on a themed shopping tour. Research, shop and EAT all things chocolate, for example. Or all things related to bread making or ice cream! Or all things related to baseball caps! Whatever your passion is.
  • Become a tourist in your own town. Research and visit places you haven’t been or don’t know about.
  • Find a scenic train ride.
  • Go camping! KOAhas campgrounds nationwide and will usually offer facilities for the outdoorsy type as well as those that enjoy their indoor comforts.
  • Family fun centers.  Most offer several activities to keep you busy for at least half a day (e.g., go karts, bowling, mini. golf, etc.)
  • Mini lake cruises (often offered with dinner).
  • Go to the theater or a play.

Have a great spring break!