An Insider’s Guide to Milwaukee

If you know me well, you will know Milwaukee, Wisconsin is my favorite “big city” in America. It’s the city of neighborhoods, the city of festivals, and the city of beer. How can you go wrong? And while I love the Milwaukee County Zoo and Discovery World as much as the next person, I tend to grow weary of seeing the same travel suggestions. And I know you must too.

I’m here to give you some insider options with the Big City on the Lake.

First, you should know about Growing Power on W. Silver Springs Drive. This functional farm is in the heart of one of the most metropolitan areas of North Milwaukee. Growing Power gives me hope for mankind. You should make time to take a tour and bring your elementary and older kids.

Growing Power

A really “fun” guy!

Nothing against the Mitchell Park Domes, but Milwaukee has so many other options in the botanical spectrum. I think everyone should check out the Urban Ecology Center (multiple locations – all are awesome), Wehr Nature Center, Riveredge Nature Center, and Boerner Botanical Gardens. Or drive way up to the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, where you can snowshoe down to see the massive Lake Michigan ice chunks in the heart of winter.

Pond Exploration at Wehr Nature Center

Pond Exploration at Wehr Nature Center

OR, why not take a stroll through the Lynden Sculpture Gardens (actually, this would be better on a trip to or from Growing Power, but it’s a fun standalone too)?

Lynden Sculpture Garden

Lake Art at Lynden

Where to Stay in Milwaukee

Find family-friendly accommodations in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from traditional hotels to private Air B&B homes through

If man made nature is more your style, check out this neat waterfall at Lake Park (near the lighthouse, just follow the network of trails). If you are into photo bombs, this is a popular location for wedding and senior portraits. Ha!

Lake Park

Lake Park Waterfall

On the subject of awkward photos, check out this this shot of the winter toboggan run at Lowell Park in Waukesha. Milwaukee has lots of fun stuff going on in the winter, like Candy Cane Lane and ice skating at Red Arrow Park.

Lowell Park


If you are the type of person who loves a good garage sale, American Science and Surplus is waiting for you. (If you have ever visited Axman Surplus in Minneapolis, I swear this is the exact same merchandise).

Science Surplus

Blinded by Science

You should also go to Art Smart’s Dart Mart and Juggling Emporium on Brady Street and Winkie’s in Whitefish Bay. In the kite flying season, you will want to drive down to Veteran’s Park and check out Gift of Wings. You can also paddle boat around the Juneau Park Lagoon, like Central Park in Manhattan but way less romantic.

Evolution Gatro Pong

Also Look for Giant Jenga

Milwaukee also has some super fun restaurants for families. My favorites are Evolution Gastro Pong (go early to beat the bar crowd), The Safe House spy bar (trust me), and Organ Piper Pizza.

SUPER FUN BONUS CONTENT: Organ Piper Pizza is listed as one of 10 Amazing Places in Wisconsin. You should also read that story. Click HERE.

What else? Downtown Milwaukee used to have an indoor water park, but now you need to drive out to Country Springs in Pewaukee. I like Country Springs and it’s a heck of a lot closer than the Wisconsin Dells.

Country Springs

Birds Eye View of Country Springs Waterpark

Does that help? If you liked this list or have a suggestion of your own, leave a comment below. If you Pin, here’s an image you might want to bookmark for later.

Milwaukee Pin

Happy Trails and Go Packers!

About the Author

Julie Henning
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. Julie is the Oregon Coast destination specialist for Bindu Media, an itinerary-focused website launching in Spring 2016 and featuring the work of 200+ professional, indie travel writers. Julie has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources (DNR) Magazine, Sustainable Chicago Magazine, Group Tour Magazine, Student Group Tour Magazine, Silent Sports Magazine, Intercom Magazine,, and FTF Geocacher Magazine. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. She has blogged for, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee. Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at