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According to Visit Milwaukee - "Milwaukee is a city that rode into the American history books on two wheels and brewed its way into the hearts of the American traveler" - and we couldn't have said it better ourselves!
Yes the city is known for the iconic Harley-Davidson, countless breweries, and even cheese curds (when you know, you know), however there is so much more to this amazing city. Milwaukee is an unrivaled sports city with a thriving food scene as diverse as its locals, and a cultural arts scene as fresh as its coast.
This is why we can't wait for you to uncover our Milwaukee City Guide featuring our "Top 9 Family Attractions" , which are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fun things to do in Milwaukee with the family.
So make sure check out our entire Milwaukee City Guide that we've carefully put together to help you on your next family day out, to help you plan your exciting time in this exciting Wisconsin city!
Main Image Credit: JMKE Photography
Image Credit: Visit Milwaukee
In this Milwaukee City Guide, you'll discover our top 9 things to do with kids in the Wisconsin favorite, as well as uncover some super fun things to enjoy as a family!
We know budgets are a factor when planning a family day out, so also in this Milwaukee City Guide we share some FREE things to do with kids so you won't break your budget!
Getting around Milwaukee without a car? Keep reading as we let you in on how to get around the city on public transporation, AND we share some really cool facts about Milwaukee that will amaze your friends!
If you want to explore further afield, our Milwaukee City Guide lets you in on one of our favorite day trips, and if that's not enough, you can also find out which famous faces were born right in this amazing city!
So whether this is your first trip saying "Yes, I want to go to Milwaukee"! or maybe you've lived in the city your whole life but never really explored and wonder "What is there is to do near me in Milwaukee?", then keep reading as we have the top 9 things to do in Milwaukee with kids...and so much more!
Image Credit: Visit Milwaukee
Milwaukee happens to be the largest city in Wisconsin, but did you know that it's not the capital? That would be Madison! That doesn't stop the city from having an incredibly fascinating history, and one that YOU can delve into during your visit!
A lot of Milwaukee's influence comes from the German immigrants who arrived across the 19th century, but the history goes back far deeper than that.
Indigenous cultures actually inhabitied the land alongside the waterways for thousands of years, initially near what we now know as Green Bay, but around the time of European contact the tribes relocated more to the Milwaukee area. In fact, the name "Milwaukee" comes from the Algonquian word millioke, which means "good", "beautiful", and "pleasant land".
During the late 17th & 18th centuries, French missionaries and traders passed through the area, and it was in 1785 that (who is now considered) the first resident of European descent set up a trading post.
What's interesting is that it was during the 19th century that those living on the western side of Milwaukee used the spelling "Milwaukee", however those living on the eastern side still used the spelling "Milwaukie" until the 1880s, when "Milwaukee" became the norm.
The city is considered to have three founding fathers, with the first arriving in 1818. In the years that followed, a large influx of immigrants arrived in the area and by 1900, 34% of the city's population had German heritage.
Located in the Great Lakes Region, today Milwaukee is a culturally and ehtnically diverse city that is often referred to as the "City of Festivals", great for outdoor loving families, and the perfect destination for any family day out!
Image Credit: Visit Milwaukee
From museums, to wildlife and everything in between, Milwaukee has you covered with all the fun things you can enjoy together as a family!
Why don't we start with museums? This great city is jam packed with unique and special ways to learn - from the Milwaukee Fire Museum, to the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame & Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum and Milwaukee Public Museum - you'll be spoilt for choice!
Love history? Visit places such as Pabst Mansion and Old World Wisconsin where you can actually walk through history and live it for yourselves!
Love wildlife? Milwaukee County Zoo is ready and waiting for you!
Feeling energetic? Then head to attractions such as Sky Zone Trampoline Park, or kids might want to enjoy hands-on fun in which case Discovery World or Betty Brinn Children's Museum might be for them!
With so many fun things to do in Milwaukee with the family, you'll soon have that family itinerary filling up! So, kids, which attraction do you want to enjoy first?
Image Credit: Visit Milwaukee
Don't have a car when visiting the iconic city of Milwaukee? Never fear! There are some easy alternatives so you won't miss out on anything!
Downtown Milwaukee is quite compact, which makes throwing those walking shoes on and taking to the pavements a great option. Not only will you get to stretch those legs, but you'll be able to really explore the city in ways you wouldn't be able to in a car.
Don't miss a chance to stroll the 3-mile Milwaukee RiverWalk which winds through downtown, as well as connects the Beerline B neighborhood to Old World Third Street and across to the Historic Third Ward.
If it's public transportation you're after, the MCTS buses are great. These run throughout downtown and throughout the rest of the county, including the new East/West Bus Rapid Transit line, Connect 1.
Another great option for getting around Milwaukee is the bike! If you have your own, you'll be happy to know that all city buses are equipped with a bike rack so you can decide how far you ride.
For those who don't have bikes, Milwaukee’s bike share program, Bublr Bikes is a great option. You can find stations throughout downtown and a number of neighboring suburbs. Milwaukee is a BCycle city, so use the home pass to check out a bike and start riding!
For more information on getting around Milwaukee, check out the various links thanks to Visit Milwaukee!
Milwaukee is also known as the "City of Festivals" due to the sheer amount of amazing events, festivals & celebrations the city holds across the year. The stand out, however, has to be Summerfest.
Summerfest is not just your average festival. It's actually the World's LARGET Music Festival (a fact confirmed by Guiness World Records!) Drawing inspriation from Oktoberfest in Germany, Summerfest began in 1968 and today sees nearly 1 million people in attendance every year!
With 11 stages featuring a range of music from pop, to country, hop hop to rock, and a host of delicious food options to delight the entire family, Summerfest is a festival NOT to be missed!
Image Credit: Visit Milwaukee
Our Top 9 Fun Things To Do With The Kids In Milwaukee
1Milwaukee Public Museum
The Milwaukee Public Museum is a fascinating museum that began life back in 1882, and today is home to over 4 million incredible specimens that you can see in person, and learn from!
You can explore three and a half floors of permanent exhibit space, then you also have the temporary exhibit space on top of that! Throughout your day you can explore the wonders of Africa, the marvels of Europe, and even be amazed as you delve into South and Middle American history, and right out to discover the Pacific Islands! You can even explore a Costa Rican Rainforest! A fascianting and family friendly museum and worth a visit.
Image Credit: Visit Milwaukee
Enjoy a WILD day out at Milwaukee County Zoo, home to over 2,200 amazing creatures from all around the world, and ready for you to spend the day with! The animals within the zoo represent over 300 species, so it's amazing that kids can come face to face with these beautiful creatures, learn all about them and also learn why it's important to look after them!
Don't miss a visit to the Aquatic and Reptile Center which has a HUGE collection of amphibians, fish and reptiles, plus kids can get right up close to their very big Pacific Coast Marine Aquarium which might just feel like you're in the ocean yourselves!
Image Credit: Milwaukee County Zoo
Discovery World in Milwaukee is the perfect place for kids to explore, learn and discover all that is fun and exciting about science! This fun exploration museum is filled with interactive exhibits that will allow them to learn, create and explore.
From the super cool aquarium filled with creatures from all around the world (and a touch pool too!), to kids piloting their own plane, building their own architectural creations and learning and playing with new tech, Discovery World really is a great family day out option for kids! Science IS fun!
Image Credit: Discovery World
Pabst Mansion was built back in 1892, and was once home to the city's pioneer brewer Captain Frederick Pabst and his family. Today this historic home remains an impressive example of grand Flemish Renaissance Revival-styled house and YOU can tour around it!
In 1975 the mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, there are a number of tours which you can choose from to really make the most of your time there. From classic guided tours, to self-guided, and Family Friendly tours which are great for younger kids! There are even great beer or Mimosa tours for anyone over 21 too!
Image Credit: Pabst Mansion
We all know history is fun to learn about, but did you know that you can actually LIVE history at Old World Wisconsin? This fascinating living history attraction is fun and educational for kids, as the whole family can step back in time and experience what farm life would have been like at the turn of the century.
Old World Wisconsin offers nearly 600 acres for you to explore, including 65 buildings that you can experience first hand that have actually been relocated from across the state. Kids can help shoemasters create masterpieces, hunt for eggs in the chicken coop, or even help the farmer with his farm chores! So much to see and do!
Image Credit: Old World Wisconsin
It wouldn't be a visit to Milwaukee without a stop at the Harley-Davidson Museum! It's here you can truly immerse yourselves in the 100 plus year history of Harley-Davidson motorcycles! This museum features two floors of exhibit space jam packed with information and stories (including an exhibit where those little ones can rev their own motorcycle engine decked out in mini Harley-Davidson gear!) plus you'll find an enhanced Experience Gallery, a shop AND an incredible restaurant!
Don't miss a chance to see an unrivaled collection of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and memorabilia, along with a 20-acre, park-like campus as well as a full calendar of activities. One of the top museum's in Milwaukee, and when you visit, you'll see why!
Image Credit: Harley-Davidson Museum
Jump from wall to wall at Sky Zone Trampoline Park Milwaukee, where you can literally bounce the day away! Kids and parents alike can enjoy bouncing, flipping, jumping, and even flying on the host of activities for all ages!
Enjoy learning new skills on the various trampolines, flip into the foam pit, take on the Warrior Course, try to scale new heights on the climbing walls, joust with friends and try and get that slamdunk at the hoops! Grab a ticket for just 90 minutes or enjoy an all day pass, with birthday parties too, Sky Zone Trampoline Park Milwaukee is great for those active families who love a great time!
Image Credit: Sky Zone
For those curious minds up to 10 years old, head on over to Betty Brinn Children's Museum as here you can enjoy a day of fun, learning and play - and parents love it too!
The Betty Brinn Children's Museum is dedicated to giving kids access to the best interactive exhibits to really promote a healthy development. Those growing minds can develop their fundamental skills, plus they can learn to work as a team, as well as build their self-esteem! They are also a museum JUST for kids - what's not to love!?
Image Credit: Betty Brinn Children's Museum
Are you excited to visit the world's largest collection of bobbleheads? Yes, you read that right! This Milwaukee museum is so unique you just have to stop by - the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum!
This iconic Milwaukee museum is the only bobblehead-specific museum in the whole world, and here you can also explore the dozens of exhibits all sharing stories of the history of bobbleheads as you also learn all about the produciton process and so much more! A fun and unique museum that kids will love, plus there's a great shop you can stop by on your way out, and pick up some bobbleheads of your very own. Why not start your own collection!? You know you want to.
Image Credit: National Bobblehead HoF & Museum
Gene Wilder was an American actor, writer and comedian, best known for his iconic role as Willy Wonka in the classic film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
He is also known for his regular collaborations with Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor, he was also an two-time Academy Award nominee.
Image Credit: Public Domain
Spencer Tracy is considered one of the greatest actors of Hollywood's Golden Age, his final and most iconic role being Guess Who's Coming To Dinner.
He was the first actor to win two consecutive Academy Awards for Best Actor, winning for Captains Courageous and Boys Town.
Image Credit: Public Domain
5 Fun Milwaukee Facts
Impress your friends with your amazing Milwaukee knowledge!
- Milwaukee is home to the world's LARGEST dinosaur head! Yep! Visit the Milwaukee Public Museum and you'll come face to face with a real T-Rex head...larger than any other on the planet!
- A great photo opportunity awaits next to the citys very own statue of The Fonz! (Happy Days fans, this one is for you!). This fun bronz statue is giving a big thumbs up on the river, and is a fun addition to the city.
- Milwaukee is the birthplace of the typewriter! A man named Christopher Latham Sholes moved to the city to write for a local newspaper, and as a result invented the QWERTY typewriter and called it a "typewriting machine," now known as the typewriter!
- If you're a fan of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Milwaukee is too! The East Side theater has played the film every month since January 1978! It's just a jump to the left....!
- In addition to the typewriter, Milwaukee is also the birthplace of the answering machine! The first commercially successful answering machine was made in the city by two Wisconsin business men, named Joseph Zimmerman and George Danne
Free Things To do Milwaukee
Milwaukee Fire Museum
Housed in the former firehouse of Engine Company 23 and Truck Company 14, the Milwaukee Fire Museum (also known as the Milwaukee Fire Historical Society and Fire Museum) was founded back in 1981, and today is a great place for kids to visit and learn all about the Milwaukee Fire Department and its rich history!
Children will have a great time checking out the museum's collection of memorabilia they can see on display, as well as super cool vintage fire apparatus which kids can really get up close to! Open one Sunday a month, it's a really fun activity when in Milwaukee!
Image Credit: Milwaukee Fire Museum
Mitchell Gallery of Flight
Nestled at the Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, the great family friendly Mitchell Gallery of Flight is a great experience for kids where they can learn all about aviation, the history of aviation aircraft, and people who built the industry!
The mission of the museum is to inspire all who visit, the present and future generations, to learn through exhibits that share southeast Wisconsin’s fascinating flight heritage! Exhibits are split into aircraft, people, General Mitchell Field and even space! A fun, free admission day out for the family (and you don't need to be flying anywhere to visit!)
Image Credit: Mitchell Gallery of Flight
Milwaukee Public Market
Milwaukee Public market is the city's most unique downtown food destination and is a great way to spend some hours just strolling around the stalls! Markets are always the perfect opportunity to really get to know a city, and what makes a city special, and Milwaukee Public Market is no different.
Here you'll find unique products and artisan ethnic products from independent merchants, and plenty of freshly-made prepared foods, so just take your time and really explore what Milwaukee has to offer! They even run classes too!
Milwaukee Art Museum
Whilst there is an admission for adults, kids under 12 years are free so we just had to include the Milwaukee Art Museum in one of our fun things to do in Milwaukee that won't break the budget!
The Milwaukee Art Museum has been inspiring families since 1888, and today can make your way across four floors home to over forty galleries, filled with 30,000 works of art representing paintings, drawings, sculpture, and even decorative arts, and more! Kohl's Art Studio also offers an incredible hands-on environment for kids to create their very own works of art. Occasionally the museum offers "free days" too, so keep an eye out for them!
Image Credit: Milwaukee Art Museum
Lynden Sculpture Garden
Why not spend the day as a family surrounded by art and nature at Milwaukee's Lynden Sculpture Garden! At this beautiful attraction, the whole family can enjoy a unique experience exploring 40 beautiful acres of park, lake and woodland, filled with their impressive art collection of over 50 monumental sculptures.
Also at Lynden Sculpture Garden are programs for children, as well as Summer Camps, plus rotating exhibitions so you can always go back and see something new! Formerly known as the Bradley Sculpture Garden, this is a family day out jam packed with so much to see and do!
Image Credit: Lynden Sculpture Garden
Milwaukee Wisconsin Travel Guide 4K!
Why not take a break from exploring city life with a day trip into some of the most unique and beautiful nature in the country? Only two hours away by car is the beautiful town of Baraboo, and famously Devil's Lake State Park!
Located along the impressive Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Devil's Lake State Park offers simple stunning views from immpressive 500-foot quartzite bluffs overlooking a 360-acre lake! Sounds pretty cool to us!
Devil’s Lake State Park is Wisconsin's most popular state park and when you visit, you'll soon see why!
Spanning over 10,000 acres, Devil’s Lake is one element of 27,000 plus acres of public recreational land and is also known as “Tewakącąk”, meaning Holy or Sacred Lake. This is because the lake is located on ancestral Ho-Chunk land and actually contains ancient effigy mounds which are incredibly important parts of their cultural heritage.
Start your visit at the Devil’s Lake Nature Center, which makes for a great base camp for family activities, as well as learning programs, expert tips, and even critters!
Then, your adventure can begin with the state park offering a host of activities including boat rentals, hiking trails, rock climbing, bird watching and plenty of beaches to relax on.
Don't miss a chance to explore Baraboo too, as there are a number of fun things to do with the family! The area around Baraboo was originally the site of a Kickapoo village as early as 1665, and with its incorporation as a village in 1866 and then as a city in 1882, there's lots of history to explore too!
Here’s our top 5 Baraboo things to do:
- Hike the Ice Age trail at Devil's Lake
- Circus World Museum
- Ochsner Park Zoo
- International Crane Foundation
- Flyways Waterfowl Museum
We hope you found this content useful! Please share with your friends, and if you have any comments, or want to let us know what we can do to further help you find fun days out with the family, then just email our team at [email protected]!
Let's get the family adventure started!