Fun Things to Do in Milwaukee With Your Family
July 5, 2019
Milwaukee is a fabulous city to explore with a family. I’ve only lived in the area for a year, but it’s been a blast taking advantage of all the city has to offer. If you’re heading that way, be sure to check out some of these great spots!
If you have kids who like to learn, they are guaranteed to enjoy themselves at Discovery World. There’s so much to do, with science-related activities and simulations of every kind.
Just a few of the exhibits to explore include:
Automation Everywhere: This is the first stop for my kiddos, every single visit. Here, you see different automated machines at work, and they love to create a foam toy using the robots.
Physics and You: Participate in different experiments in how things work. Kids can launch a rocket, sail air cars, and see how forces work together to make stuff happen.
Virtual Explorer: Jump right in with Virtual Reality experiences.
Les Paul’s House of Sound
Power On: Learning and hands-on experiments with power and energy.
Kohl’s Design It! Lab: This is the place to make a variety of creative projects, which change regularly. Staff members are there to guide kids through the process.
Great Lakes Future: Check out cool exhibits about the water supply and the future of the Great Lakes
Reiman Aquarium: It’s not the first exhibit you see upon entry, but then it feels like getting a bonus museum on top of all of the regular science stuff. Learn about and see aquatic life from the Great Lakes, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic Ocean.
Discovery World is a bit pricey, but as long as you have a couple of hours to devote there, it’s well worth the money! Even better, if you’re local, be sure to spring for the yearlong pass.
Try the museum out with a day pass, and if you’re happy with your experience, apply your ticket cost to the yearly membership fee. With that, you get discounted parking as well as unlimited admission to the museum for 12 months.
Another bonus of the membership: you get reciprocal admission to over 300 STEM museums around the world! So even if you don’t live nearby, it might be worthwhile to spring for the pass. We’re hoping to use ours at the Cincinnati Museum Center this summer, for example.
We used our pass at least five or six times during our first year of membership, and it only takes two visits to recoup the cost of a membership pass. With every visit, you take your cost-per-visit even lower. Since they have a picnic area, carrying in your own picnic or snacks is a great way to save money for the day.
Milwaukee County Zoo
We love our giraffes, lions, tigers, otters, and more! For the animal lovers out there, visiting the Milwaukee County Zoo is sure to be a fun-filled day!
This zoo, like Discovery World, is at its best value when you purchase a family membership. There’s plenty to do and your parking is FREE with membership.
Despite its location in Wisconsin, which everyone knows means a long and cold winter, the zoo is still useful year-round. Since it boasts plenty of indoor exhibits, you can enjoy a visit on a rainy or icky day. We’ve spent more time in the reptile areas and the aviary on those days when being outdoors wasn’t a great option.
When the weather is pleasant, enjoy walking the wooded acreage. We’ve often commented that it would be a nice place to visit even if you didn’t care about seeing the animals. Watching the seasons change at the zoo this past year of living in the area has been a lot of fun.
The zoo often has special exhibits available only for a limited time, too. You do have to usually buy tickets in addition to regular admission, but you can pick if it’s interesting to your family. On our very first visit, we checked out the animatronic dinosaur exhibit, and my boys, aged 3 and 5 at the time, were in heaven. Currently, there’s a different dinosaur exhibit, but all of the “specimens” are constructed out of Legos!
This zoo is spacious and clean, and there is so much to see! Of course, you can purchase food from a variety of vendors, but we usually bring a backpack or small cooler with snacks.
Milwaukee Art Museum
We still haven’t made it there, but the Milwaukee Art Museum is home to close to 25,000 works of art. Art lovers can browse whatever categories they like, but here are just a few of the permanent collections you’ll find there:
- Ancient Mediterranean Art
- Early European Art
- 9th Century European Art
- American Art to 1900
- Folk and Self-Taught Art
- Haitian Art
- Paintings and Sculptures
- Decorative Art
The building that houses the Milwaukee Art Museum is a work of art in itself, as you can see in the photo!
This is the huge annual music festival in Milwaukee. Over 800 bands/artists of all genres will grace stages around the city.
I’ll confess something here: I’m not big on crowds. So navigating large festivals like this one is kind of a nightmare to me. However, for the right band, I’d put up with the claustrophobic feeling! Plus, it’s just fun to be outdoors with people all enjoying the same music. So be sure to check out the lineup of musicians if you’re going to be in the area this summer!
Last year, we could have gotten free passes from a friend of ours, and Imagine Dragons (one of my kiddos’ favorite bands) was playing. Sadly, we didn’t take the chance to go, so I guess we’ll never know how our little fellas would have handled it. Maybe next time!
Okay, so technically, this isn’t in Milwaukee, but it’s only about 25 miles north of the city. I feel it’s worth mentioning as it’s one of my favorite places in the area, and everyone in our family of four loves it. It only takes about 38-45 minutes to get there, depending on where you start from in the city.
For the avid hiker, nature enthusiast, or just someone who wants to get away from the bustle of the big city, Pike Lake is a fantastic option. A state park visitor sticker is required for each vehicle, but the cost is very reasonable. (It’s certainly cheaper than most theme parks and museums!) You might even luck out and get to visit on one of their occasional free weekends.
As WI residents last year, we felt it was more than worth the $28 yearly price tag since we frequented the park quite a bit. Hiking is our primary activity, so we loved it. We are a-okay with paying a bit to ensure the ongoing maintenance of such a great park and trail system.
Here, families can swim or kayak in the lake, build sand castles, have a picnic, play lawn games, fish, hike, and bike. Tons of great scenery and exercise await!
More Fun Places to Visit In Milwaukee
Obviously, I’m focusing on the places where I’ve spent the most time. But of course, there are plenty of other options. Here’s a list of just a few other places you might enjoy seeing with your family:
Milwaukee Public Museum
Historic Third Ward
Don’t think of Milwaukee as just the home of breweries. It’s a very family-friendly city. There’s a ton of stuff for family members of all ages to enjoy!
About the Author: Kate Underwood is a teacher-turned-freelance writer specializing in personal finance issues, including investing, career choices, budgeting, and retirement planning. She promotes healthy financial choices as well as taking risks to live your best life. You can follow her family’s crazy journey at Changing Our Default or find her portfolio at kateunderwoodwriter.com.
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Kevin Payne is the co-founder and budgeting and family travel enthusiast behind FamilyMoneyAdventure.com.
Kevin is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance and travel. He is a regular contributor to Forbes Advisor, MoneyGeek, CreditCards.com, Credit Karma, Money Under 30, and Student Loan Planner.