Best Things to Do in Door County with Kids in Summer
Door County Wisconsin is one of those picture-perfect destinations you have to experience once in your lifetime. Mom and pop shops, endless photo opportunities, and outdoor adventures for all ages make it the quintessential family getaway any time of year. We love visiting the northern peninsula of Wisconsin on a summer vacation because there are so many fun activities for families. These are our favorite things to do in Door County with kids during the summer.
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Where is Door County?
Door County is an easy drive from both Milwaukee and Chicago, so if you find yourself in these Midwest cities, be sure to make time for a side trip to Door County. It is located on a peninsula northeast of the city of Green Bay.
The land is bordered by Lake Michigan on the east and Green Bay on the west. With everything from state parks to water activities, it’s one of the best vacation spots in the Midwest for families. We promise it’s worth the drive!
Door Country Wisconsin Attractions for Families
1. Explore the small towns of Door County Peninsula
There are countless small, charming towns dotting the peninsula from Sturgeon Bay to Fish Creek to Gills Rock at the northern tip.
Each town is unique in its own way, with specialty restaurants, farmers’ markets, and attractions, but they all offer Midwestern hospitality at its finest. Explore one, explore them all, you won’t be disappointed by what you find.
2. Visit The Farm
Just outside Sturgeon Bay is a hands-on experience the kids will love, The Farm! Kids can feed milk to goats, watch chicks hatching, or give corn to the cows. It’s perfect for all ages.
There’s more than just animals and a farm tour. There are beautiful gardens on site and it is the perfect way to teach kids about agriculture in a fun and natural setting.
Plum Loco Animal Farm is another good option for families who love interacting with animals.
3. Take a day trip to Washington Island
Washington Island is an idyllic place, a quick 30-minute ferry ride from the northern tip of Door County. Hop on the ferry at Northport Pier (you can park your car and walk on, or just drive your car onto the ferry, we recommend the latter), and head to the island for a day of fun.
Be sure to pack swimsuits, water shoes, and beach towels, because there’s an awesome beach on the island. The ferry runs about every 45 minutes during the season, and the last one returns around 7 in the evening. You can check the Washington Island ferry schedule here.
Upon arriving, head to Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm, for a scene that’s straight out of France. During the summer, lavender blooms span as far as the eye can see, and kids and adults alike can take part in cutting their own lavender to bring home.
There’s also a bistro and store on-site, so if lavender is your thing, be sure to make a stop. Working in the lavender field is sure to work up an appetite, so head to one of the restaurants in town. Fiddlers Green and Jackson Harbor Soup & Sandwiches are both good choices.
After lunch, head to Schoolhouse Beach, one of the best beaches in Wisconsin. This beach has no sand, only limestone rocks, and some of the clearest water we have ever seen! Schoolhouse Beach is a one-of-a-kind place, as there are only four other beaches like it in the world.
Kids will love skipping and stacking stones, swimming out to the pontoon and jumping from it, or simply splashing in the water. It’s the perfect beach for families.
Before heading back to the ferry, stop for a cup of coffee at Red Cup Coffeehouse and peek into Fair Isle Books next door, grab a book for the ferry ride back, or at the very least say hello to the sweet dog who greets visitors.
4. Go zip lining in Baileys Harbor
There are plenty of outdoor adventures in Door County, but why not head up into the trees? We took a fun tour with Lakeshore Adventures that took us soaring over pine trees, ponds, and across a 150’ long suspension bridge.
The kids’ favorite part was the dual zip line where they raced one another for a photo finish. Such a fun way to see this area from a different view.
5. Take everyone hiking in The Ridges Sanctuary
Right down the road from zip-lining on the edge of Baileys Harbor, is The Ridges Sanctuary, one of the nature preserves created over 80 years ago to protect the ecosystem of this area. Start in the Cook-Albert Fuller Nature Center and learn about the scope of the sanctuary and local plant and animal life. You can also book a guided hike if you prefer.
After exploring the visitors center, head out to the Hidden Brook Boardwalk, a third of a mile completely accessible trail showcasing the flora and fauna of the area. Don’t miss the range lights built-in 1869 to help guide ships to safety.
The Ridges is open year-round, so if you go in winter, be sure to bring your snowshoes!
6. Ride the tractor or walk across the water to Cana Island lighthouse
Yes, you read this right, there are two ways to reach the lighthouse on Cana Island. One way is to walk across the causeway (highly recommend water shoes for this), and the other is to ride a tractor to the other side. We opted to ride on the way over, but my youngest insisted on walking on the way back (show-off).
The Cana Island Lighthouse is over 140 years old and stands 89 feet tall, overlooking the 8-acre Cana Island. Be sure to climb the tower’s 97 steps for beautiful views of the island and surrounding area. It’s stunning!
If you want to check out the rest of Door County’s lighthouses, click here.
7. Pick cherries at Door County’s orchards
Wherever you go on the peninsula, you are sure to see “pick your own” orchards. Agriculture is big business in Door County. The summer is prime cherry season and the cherry orchards will be plentiful. In the fall, it is apple picking time.
We stopped at Lautenbach Orchard and grabbed two small buckets to fill. The cherries were much sweeter and softer than our typical grocery store cherries, and the kids couldn’t get enough. We ended up heading inside to buy cherry jam and cherry pie filling to last us for months to come!
Vineyards are also popular in Door County and there are several stores that offer wine tasting. One fun option is to take a wine trolley tour on the Door County Trolley. If parents can get away for a bit, this is a great way to learn about the local vintages.
8. Treat the family to a movie at the drive-in
Every time we visit Door County with kids, we make sure to visit the drive-in theater. We load the car with pillows and blankets and head to the local drive-in, Skyway Drive-In Theatre. This seemed to be quite popular with other families as well who showed up for the double feature.
It is such a fun way to spend the evening. They even have a retro snack bar, with reasonable prices and the kids can play between the films. Don’t forget the bug spray though, those critters will come in the car and eat you up!
9. Door County Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay
One of the unexpected surprises on our most recent visit was the Door County Maritime Museum. Located in the heart of Sturgeon Bay, the museum takes a look at the history of this Midwestern ship canal.
There was an interesting exhibit about the area’s involvement during World War II, and the kids were fascinated by the Shipwrecks of Door County exhibit. This area was very interactive, and it was interesting to learn about the numerous wrecks and recoveries in this area.
10. Outdoor adventure in Door County
We ran out of time to try everything, but the kids are already asking to return. We want to take a bike ride through Peninsula State Park, try all the restaurants in Sister Bay, and see a performance at Northern Sky Theater.
Of course, the state parks offer plenty of opportunities for fishing, kayaking, swimming, and SUPing. These are only some of the adventures we can’t wait to have on our next trip.
Where to Eat in Door County with kids
Rowleys Bay Restaurant Fish Boil
It’s impossible to visit Door County and not partake in a fish boil. A fish boil is a tradition made popular by the Scandinavians who settled this area of Wisconsin. One of the chefs is responsible for cooking in a large cauldron of salt water filled with local whitefish, potatoes, and onions. These are brought to a boil over an outdoor flame.
At Rowleys Bay Resort, a story about the history of the fish boil and the local area accompany the food preparation. The event culminates in kerosene being thrown on the fire, causing the water to “boil over” the sides in an explosive display.
Afterward, all the guests head inside the restaurant for a fantastic buffet meal which includes soup, salad, multiple side dishes, and of course the whitefish and potatoes! Be sure to try the baked goods for dessert, they are beyond delicious!
Scaturo’s Baking Co & Cafe
This café in Sturgeon Bay is perfect for a quick, delicious meal or homemade baked goods to go. My boys loved the cherry hot cakes.
Wilson’s Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor
Wilson’s has been located in Ephraim since 1906 and draws a crowd all hours of the day. The ice cream is delicious and the burgers and sandwiches are quite filling.
Grab a bite on the patio and then take a stroll along the water to walk off some of those calories!
Harbor Fish Market & Grille
Harbor Fish Market has a beautiful setting in Baileys Harbor, right on the water. Don’t miss the lobster roll or Harbor chowder.
Door County Creamery
Located in Sister Bay, this shop has everything from charcuterie boards and sandwiches to gelato and cookies.
Al Johnsons Swedish Restaurant
It’s not often one has the opportunity to eat at a restaurant where goats graze on a grass-covered roof, but that is possible here. Don’t miss the Swedish pancakes and be sure to stay awhile and enjoy the ambiance of the outdoor patio.
Where to Stay in Door County with kids
This resort is perfect for families who want space to spread out. Located in Sturgeon Bay, Bridgeport Resort is a bit south of most of the Door County attractions, but it’s easy to reach everything on the peninsula within an hour.
The property has one, two, and three-bedroom suites with fully equipped kitchens, dining rooms, living areas, and wi-fi. There are spacious rooms and most suites have balconies.
There’s a huge indoor swimming pool/splash park, outdoor swimming pool, fitness center, and games/DVDs to borrow. It’s also within walking distance of several restaurants, stores, and attractions.
Check out Bridgeport Resort here!
Located in Egg Harbor, this beach side resort is perfect for families. Guests can use the kayaks or canoes to explore the water or enjoy a leisurely bike ride into town.
Check rates at the Shallows Resort here!
White Gull Inn
The White Gull Inn includes breakfast with all bookings, which is worth it just for their cherry stuffed French toast. Children age twelve and over are welcome in the Main Lodge and all ages are welcome in the cottages on the property.
Find the perfect room at White Gull Inn here!
Another option is to stay in a vacation rental in Door County. Everyone can spread out and enjoy the trip!
Is Door County good for families?
People always ask if Door County is good to visit with kids and without question, it is one of my favorite places to recommend for a laid-back family vacation on Lake Michigan that the whole family can enjoy.
Whether you’re traveling with toddlers or older kids, there’s an activity for them, and often something for everyone. And if it’s your first time visiting Door County or your twentieth, you’ll find there’s always a great time to be had!
Looking for other places to visit in Wisconsin? Don’t miss these other Midwest road trip ideas!
Book Your Flights – You can find discounted fares using sites like Momondo or Skyscanner. If you want to keep an eye on discount fares, we suggest signing up for Going, a daily newsletter with flight sales around the world.
If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. It’s nice to have a space where you can relax before your flight.
Book Your Accommodation
We regularly use Expedia.com and Hotels.com to find lodging when we travel. It’s a great way to compare vacation rentals, hotels, and resorts.
If your family knows they want to stay in a vacation rental, we recommend looking at VRBO and Plum Guide.
Book Your Transportation
For rental car agencies, try Rentalcars.com. We tend to use Hertz simply for the quality of service.
Book Your Tours and Travel Photos
We regularly used companies like Viator and GetYourGuide to book tours when we travel. Both have great communication and a large variety of activities that work for all ages.
If you’re visiting a city with multiple attractions, be sure to check out a discount pass, such as CityPASS or Go City. Both are worthwhile investments.
Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational-based activities. The former teacher in me loves their tours.
One of our favorite things to do annually is taking photos with Flytographer. They have photographers around the world and we’ve used them on four separate occasions. This is our favorite travel souvenir.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
With the state of travel these days, it’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threats, or cancellations. We always travel with insurance and would recommend SquareMouth, Travelex, or Medjet as good options. And if you want to compare different insurance options, use Travel Insurance Master to find the best policy for your group.