If you haven’t visited Milwaukee with kids, you don’t know what you’re missing. This city on Lake Michigan has family friendly museums, restaurants, and festivals to appeal to children of all ages. The city is fairly easy to maneuver, has a stunning lakefront, and is perfect for a weekend getaway. We love visiting from Chicago and each time we are pleasantly surprised to discover new sights to explore as a family.
Things to Do in Milwaukee with Kids
This children’s museum will entertain kids for many hours. They can pretend to check out your groceries, perform maintenance on a kid sized car, and mail you a letter from the post office. Their imagination is the limit! Everything is hands on (bring your hand sanitizer) and infants up through age 8 will be entertained for a couple of hours by everything there is to do in this museum. Educational and exciting for little ones, visitors won’t be disappointed they made the trip.
My kids have a thing for science museums (this is the third one we’ve visited this year) and they love Discovery World. There’s a music factory where children can create their own music, a simple machine shipyard where they learn the basics of mechanics, and an aquarium where they can pet sting rays and sharks. The museum occupies a gorgeous space on the lakefront and has its own sailing vessel you can visit or take out for a tour on the lake. Definitely something you don’t find every day.
3. Miller Park
Miller Park is the home of the Milwaukee Brewers. Even if you’re not a baseball fan (or a Brewers fan), this is a fun place to spend a day with the kids. It is a beautiful, clean stadium with a retractable roof and a ton of fun kids activities. What kid wouldn’t love watching life size sausages racing around the park between innings? A hit for so many reasons. Take them out to the ball game, you won’t be disappointed.
I can’t lie, we will often travel to Milwaukee to visit their zoo because it’s more convenient to reach than the ones in Chicago. We also love taking a ride on the Sky Safari, the opportunity to feed the giraffes, and watching the crazy antics of the seals and sea lions. The zoo features over 2,000 animals and covers 200 wooded acres, the hardest part is knowing where to begin once you arrive. There’s also a zipline and ropes course for those feeling adventurous and a zoo train for those looking for a leisurely way to explore the zoo. If your kids love a zoo, this is the place for you.
Don’t be thrown off by the uninspiring name, this museum is anything but boring. This natural history museum houses dinosaur bones, a tropical butterfly garden, a re-created European village, and an IMAX theater. That’s just the beginning, and visitors will be amazed by the variety of artifacts they will find.
6. The Beach
If your hotel doesn’t have a swimming pool (many of the downtown hotels do not), head for Bradford Beach which is a popular destination near downtown. There are biking and jogging trails that run along the lakefront if you would rather go for a stroll. We headed 5 miles further north to Atwater Park in Shorewood (close to Sprecher Brewery below) and enjoyed the playgrounds and beach there. It’s a long hike down to the beach, but definitely worth a stop.
7. Explore the Safe House
We didn’t know what to expect from this “secret” restaurant where you need a password to enter and experience life as a “spy”. Our kids thought this place was a hoot and they loved their secret mission that took them all over the restaurant looking for clues while we waited for lunch to be served. I have to be honest, don’t go for the food, you’ll be disappointed. Go for the spy experience and be sure to bring a quarter for the secret getaway phone booth. The kids will remember this experience for a long time.
Many people look at me funny for suggesting a brewery tour with children, but this isn’t your ordinary brewery. The Sprecher brewing company manufactures not only beer, but gourmet soda as well. The kids may not find the tour through the brewery very exciting, but all bets are off once they discover they can drink all the free soda they want. Some of their favorites might include cherry cola, grape, orange cream, and the famous Sprecher root beer. We literally had to drag our kids out of there, they were having so much fun!
I didn’t think I would like the Harley Davidson museum, but I was pleasantly surprised. The museum does a great job appealing to kids, and parents will appreciate the museum’s hands on exhibits. Kids will love dressing up in their own Harley gear and creating their own Build-A-Bike. The place is gorgeous and the layout almost seems more like an art exhibit than a collection of motorcycles. Harley Davidson knocked it out of the park with this one.
10. Visit a festival
Milwaukee is known for its amazing summer festival, Summerfest, but there are festivals all year long. Many are kid friendly and tons of fun. The Wisconsin State Fair is also held in Milwaukee and if you want to know more about it, you can read about our visit. It’s worth the trip!
Where to Eat
There is no shortage of delicious food in Milwaukee and we would highly recommend Mader’s for an authentic German experience, Café Benelux for its cinnamon streusel french toast, or Milwaukee Public Market where you can find a variety of fresh food from local vendors. Head to the Purple Door for a sweet treat and enjoy their artisan ice cream, with rotating flavors to choose from and ice cream flights. Yum!
Where to Stay
Families will like the spacious suites and free breakfast at the Residence Inn downtown. The DoubleTree is close to the Milwaukee Public Museum and Mader’s, has decent sized rooms and warm chocolate chip cookies on arrival (kids love that). The Hilton Garden Inn is located in the heart of the city and is walking distance to all attractions. All rooms have refrigerators and microwaves which is perfect for families on the go.