We have lived in Milwaukee for over 12 years now and are currently raising 3 kids here. It’s not a city that we imagined we would stay in but it has changed so much over the years, all for the better. Besides Lake Michigan, which is beautiful in itself, we have the world-renowned Milwaukee Ballet, several professional sports teams and a wonderful farm to table movement. Milwaukee is smaller in size as far as cities go, therefore it’s easy to get around and it’s a great place to raise kids.
Lately, when we travel and people ask where we’re from we have been gushing about our “Beer City” (it’s known for that too). Therefore, I felt it was only fitting that we share our absolute favorite things in Milwaukee.
Due to the cold climate, Milwaukee is probably best explored June through November but don’t interpret that there is nothing to do in the Winter as there is a whole lot going on. Check out our list of Winter family favorites here.
Explore: Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
Located about 20 minutes north of downtown Milwaukee on the shores of Lake Michigan, it’s open year round. In the winter you can see the Icecanos first hand and by summer, keep your eyes out for the wild resident turkeys. It’s our happy place to escape into nature and explore. For little kids, there are many short trails and several play spaces where kids can let their imaginations go.
Learn: Take in a Museum
We recommend the Milwaukee Public Museum for any age. The highlight includes The Puelicher Butterfly Wing sensory experience where butterflies are in flight. The Betty Brinn Children’s Museum is great for younger kids (10 and younger) and Discovery World Science and Technology Center is perfect for kids 10 and older, especially any child that is interested in STEM activities. If your family loves art, the Milwaukee Art Museum has activities for the kids on Sundays, and it’s a great place to snap some family photos in front of the brise soleil, a movable, wing that opens up for a wingspan of 217 feet (66 m) during the day, designed by world-renowned Santiago Calatrava. Wait for it.… There’s more. If your family loves motorcycles, check out the Harley Davidson Museum, which even has a kids area.
Lake Michigan: Sailing
We have always had to explain to the kids that Lake Michigan is a lake and not an ocean as it’s hard to grasp this when there is no land in sight. Going for a sail gives you a unique perspective of the city and gets the whole family out in the fresh air. We recommend Sea Dog Sailing, who sails right out of the Milwaukee Yacht Club, which is just 2 minutes north of downtown.
If the thought of sailing makes you seasick check out Lake Park, located about 5 minutes north of downtown Milwaukee. This park offers great views of the lake from a hill, a lighthouse that is open to the public on the weekends and a great playground for the kids.
Eat: Fish Fry
When I first moved to Milwaukee, I had no idea what a fish fry was or that it is a Friday night tradition. And even though it’s not the healthiest of foods, it’s a fun experience for the whole family. Several places like the Bavarian Bierhaus have a polka band and serve beer, of course.
Dessert: Purple Door Ice-cream
As soon as you taste Purple Door ice-cream you will understand why in summer people don’t mind waiting in line. Even The Huffington Post has written about this family-owned scoop shop. The flavors change regularly, so I can’t recommend a favorite, but if you love it as much as we do they ship.
Stay: Kinn Guest House
This unique gem of Hotel-meets- Airbnb is located in Bayview, the first suburb south of downtown Milwaukee. The rooms are hotel style, but some can be joined together for families, and there is a shared kitchen for guests to use.
While staying here in the summer head over to the South Shore Farmers’ Market. The best one in the city. There is a playground there for kids to burn some energy off as well.
A three-day itinerary that incorporates our Milwaukee favorites in the summer
Friday: Head to a museum for the morning. Eat lunch at the museum or if it’s summer pack a picnic lunch and head up to the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. End the day with a fish fry at the Bavarian Inn.
Saturday: Head to the South Shore Farmers’ Market after breakfast. Check out the lake, the playground, the live music and all the great vendors. Stay and have lunch here. Head to Purple Door Ice Cream for a treat before heading out to Lake Michigan to go sailing.
Sunday: Round out the weekend with another museum before heading home. All of the museums have cafes in them. The two cafes not-to-miss are the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Harley Davidson Museum.
Have you been to Milwaukee?
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