A weekend trip to Milwaukee; with kids

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Milwaukee, a city that you often don’t think of when you think of kids. After all, Milwaukee is famous for its breweries and Harley Davidson, neither particularly attractive for young kids. I could make a case for the bikes if your children are older. Milwaukee is 2 hours from Chicago, an easy Amtrak ride away or a quick road trip on I-94.

We always start our day at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The building itself is the biggest attraction, an iconic, masterpiece by Santiago Calatrava, a famed Spanish architect who also recently designed the World Trade Center transportation hub in New York City. The building has wings, with a wingspan of a Boeing 747 and it flaps. At noon, everyday, the wings fold in and then reopen magically, drawing oohs and aahs from kids and adults alike.

Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin


Inside, kids can also create their own art project on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am – 4 pm. On bright, summer days, there are many fountains that add water play opportunities for toddlers on the museum grounds.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Right next to the art museum, is Discovery World, where science and water come together to enchant and activate all those curious minds. Pet stingrays, or just walk out to the pier and see the sea gulls. There is a restaurant attached, so hungry kids can fill up there too. Right across the street in the parking deck, there is the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum designed specifically for kids 10 and younger. Role playing opportunities are plenty and this is the perfect place to spend if the weather becomes chilly or if you are visiting Milwaukee in the winters.

Discovery World, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

For kids who love nature, the Domes is a great spot. Visit a desert, the tropics, see plants, insects, waterfalls, without ever leaving Milwaukee at the unique Mitchell Park Conservatory. The Domes are also home to the Winter Farmer’s Market and a popular holiday train display during the winter.

Lizard, Milwaukee Conservatory, Wisconsin

Milwaukee Conservatory, Wisconsin

Click to see all photos from the Domes

In the summer, a short walk up from the Art Museum campus is Veterans Park, Bradford Beach, Lake Park and North Point Lighthouse. Bring bikes along and the Oak Leaf Trail is great for exploring the downtown Milwaukee area.

Lake Michigan, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The Milwaukee County Zoo is one of the best zoos in the country, with thousands of animals and birds and an adventure zone within where kids can zip line. Lots of interactive shows keeps the learning going and the toy train is a must for weary legs. The zoo is open 365 days a year so that’s always a bonus.

As your kids get older, ball games at Miller Park, the many festivals that Milwaukee hosts all become interesting. Food options are plenty, our favorites are Bowls, Cafe Lula and Purple Door for the ice cream.

Icecream, Purple Door, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee, can either be a day trip, a weekend trip or a stop on the Circle Tour around Lake Michigan. If you want to cut across the lake and reach Michigan faster, Milwaukee is a port for the Lake Express Ferry Crossing, that uses a fast ferry to cross Lake Michigan in 2.5 hours, leaving you at Muskegon in Michigan. The Upper Peninsula, Mackinac Island are all less that 5 hours from there.