Milwaukee’s perfect day for families with young children includes some favorite sites and activities.With dozens of parks (great playgrounds), an easily navigable zoo and a wealth of child-friendly museums, Milwaukee’s one of the best cities to kid around in.
Breakfast’s the most important meal of the day, but don’t waste any time. Stop by Colectivo Coffee which boasts more than a dozen cafés in the greater Milwaukee area and has its own Troubadour Bakery, too. Enjoy locally roasted java, breakfast sandwiches and muffins, croissants and breads baked fresh daily. Try the Bayview location which offers a boat-filled pool that little ones can touch and porch-swing styled seating with built-in tables. The Lakefront operates out of the historic Milwaukee River Flushing Station and is across the busy street from Veteran’s Park
Eat in the café or head to a park like Greenfield Park in West Allis. The park features a great playground, but there’s also a nice little pond with a walking path, and kids delight in seeing great blue herons and turtles while a terrier-hound mix might enjoy a muskrat encounter; the muskrat would not be impressed with canine etiquette, but would jump immediately into the pond after being nosed.
Inspired by the local fauna, go wild at the Milwaukee County Zoo. The zoo opens at 9 am, seasonally from May through October) and tickets to the twice-daily giraffe feeding are sold on a first come, first served basis beginning at 9:30, so it’s worth arriving early, especially during the busy summer months. It costs $5 extra to feed these long-necked, purple-tongued beauties rye crisps and romaine lettuce, but ages three and under can experience it for free if an adult buys a ticket.
After feeding the giraffes, enjoy the Oceans of Fun seals and sea lions show, ride the Safari train or head straight back to the children’s zoo to climb on the renovated playground. Maybe feed some goats or learn how to milk cows. It is Wisconsin, after all. Pass by the carousel, and ake it for a spin, too.
Maybe have lunch at the zoo? Resist buying ice cream at the zoo in favor of the more decadent local treat: frozen custard. Gilles Frozen Custard is less than a ten-minute drive east on Bluemound Road.
After fortifying the family with burgers, fries and flavor-of-the-day cones, it’s time to take in some age-appropriate culture at the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum for an afternoon of pretend. They can drive a bus, fix a car, ride a motorcycle and imagine to their hearts’ content.
Just before closing walk next door to the Milwaukee Art Museum. Every day at 5 pm and noon, the “wings” open and close on the Calatrava addition. It’s pretty dramatic, but not in a scary way, and kids might be amazed to see a building that moves.
If you still have energy to burn, stroll around the adjacent Veteran’s Park, swing on the playground, or take in a sunset paddle boat ride in the pond.
For dining that’s both atmospheric and appetizing to parents and children alike, there’s no better local restaurant group than the Lowlands Group Grand Cafés: Benelux, Centraal, Hollander and Bavaria. The cafés are Belgian-themed, with a great selection of brews on tap, but don’t let the hipster vibe fool you. They’re welcoming to families, and they’re loud and busy enough that you will feel comfortable if one of your party has a meltdown.
Wind down with a family friendly flick at the historic Avalon Theater or enjoy live children’s theater at First Stage. Or, simply head back to the hotel with sleepy ones nodding off, with visions of Milwaukee dancing in their heads.
Milwaukee in 48 Hours … Explore the highlightsout