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Make the Most Out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Summer

Looking for outdoor activities that will thrill the kids? Milk every ounce out of our unbeatable Wisconsin summers with these affordable ideas for young families.

We are on a mission to expose our 1 and 3 year old to as many environments and experiences as possible while staying close to home this summer. A few of the items below are on the docket for 2021 adventures.

Below are 48 ways our family savors the warm weather months.

Free Outdoor Shows

1. Pewaukee Lake Water Ski Show

Free. Every Thursday at 6:30pm

Pewaukee Lake Water Ski Show

2. Friday Flicks – Elm Grove

2021 Movie Schedule

3. Moonlit Movies – Oconomowoc

Select dates (July 8 and Aug 22) in 2021 (Website)

Concerts in the Park

Here are 3 choice parks for outdoor concerts. They each offer play structures to keep your little ones entertained.

4. Wednesdays at 6pm: Tosa Tonight Hart Park – Wauwatosa

*There’s a splash pad here too!

5. Thursdays at 7pm: Nixon Park Concert Series – Hartland

*Also has a splash pad!

6. Fridays at 6:30pm Summer Sounds at Cedar Creek Park, Cedarburg

Food trucks are available onsite, pack a picnic, or grab takeout from a Cedarburg eatery.

Summer Sounds

Animal Encounters

7. Check out Milwaukee County Zoo’s Newest Exhibit and Meet the Hippos

8. Stroll through Shalom Wildlife Park

9. Get Up Close and Personal at Bear Den Zoo & Petting Farm

This petting zoo is a gem giving kids a wonderfully interactive experience! For a $10 per person (Free under 1 year old) you’ll find a solid variety of animals, including the curious and playful lemurs!

Sports Related – Get in the Game

10. Give Minor League Baseball a Shot

Catch a minor league game in Franklin and cheer on the Milwaukee Milkmen. Tickets right behind home plate are extremely affordable so it is more likely you’ll keep our kid’s attention while they’re immersed in the action vs. in the grandstands at the Brewers Stadium.

11. Grab your Peanuts and Experience a Brewers Game at American Family Field

Please note, as of June 25, 2021, the park has reopened to 100% capacity. Prepare for a crowd.

If it is your child’s first Brewer Game, make sure to pick up one of these certificates as a memento!

Remember, you’re allowed to carry in one factory sealed water, soda, or juice per person.

12. Morning Mini Golf

Moorland Golf Center is a local fan favorite for metro-Milwaukee mini golf. Plus, it is wheelchair/stroller friendly!

If you’re heading out on a weekend, you might find less of a crowd at Swing Time in Germantown. Swing Time is our go to with the boys who love the three waterfalls and the ducks.

13. Mulligan All Day at a Kid Friendly Golf Course

Let your little one swing their heart out at a family friendly course like Lake Park’s Par 3. No tee time required and it’s only $7 for kids, $9 for adults.

Our Future Pro

For Truck, Train, & Airplane Obsessed Children (& Adults)

14. Attend “Touch a Truck” – Sussex

Our 2 year old was in Heaven last year seeing the trucks up close. Sussex, WI is hosting the event again on September 11, 2021.

15. Hit Up “Kids Building Wisconsin”

Typically this construction themed event called Kids Building Wisconsin is held once in Milwaukee and once in Madison. In 2021, only Madison will host and coincidentally, this is also on September 11.

16. Ride the Electric Railroad and Visit the East Troy Railroad Museum

17. While you’re in East Troy, don’t miss J Lauber’s Historic Ice Cream Parlor for a malt or sundae.

I feel my mouth salivating just thinking about this place. We grabbed a sundae and sat on the sidewalk watching the trolley go by. J Lauber’s gave me my change with a 50 cent coin which made for another special thing to show my toddler.

18. Ride The Hop Downtown

The Hop is downtown Milwaukee’s free-to-ride Street Car. Masks are still required to ride (as of June 21, 2021). Stop off at Cathedral Square Park for a picnic and to burn off some energy. The playground here got a long overdue refresh in 2019.

19. Plates with a Side of Planes

Each Friday through the summer the Waukesha County Airport hosts Food Truck Friday.

Food Truck Friday at the Waukesha County Airport

Get Soaked at All the Splash Pads

I learned a pro-tip this year from a friend after she saw how tentative my 3 year old was about the splash pad on our arrival. Pack plastic cups! Yep, it was that easy. We handed him a plastic cup and now he had a mission; fill, pour, repeat. In no time at all he went from clinging to my leg to running through the water and having a blast.

Here are some excellent Splash Pads in the Milwaukee Area.

20. Hart Park Splash Pad – Wauwatosa

21. Elm Grove Park Splash Pad *New* ($)

This Splash Pad is inside of the Community Pool area so there is a fee to enter giving you access to both the pool and splash pad. It’s about $9.50 per person (non-resident) or $6.50 for Elm Grove residents.

Elm Grove Splash Pad

22. Hickory Park Splash Pad – Jackson

23. Sussex Village Park *New*

Beach Bumming

Our favorite Family Beach spots are the following because they are family oriented, have plenty of parking, and offer other things to do like playgrounds or trails.

As parents, a day at the beach is far from relaxing. Lather on the sunscreen and follow the kids’ lead and you’ll have one of the best beach days ever.

24. Grant Park Beach – Free Milwaukee County Park

It’s easy to spend a day at Grant Park which sprawls along Lake Michigan’s shoreline. (Park Map)

  • Build Sand Castles and Splash in the Shore
  • Explore the several trails, including the beautiful seven bridges trail.
  • Picnic on the Beach or in the Park
  • Try Frisbee Golf
  • Hit up the playgrounds

25. Pewaukee Lake

Pair beach time with Pewaukee’s free Thursday night Water Ski Show mentioned above! There are numerous restaurants from which to grab takeout for a picnic on the beach.

26. Fox Brook Park – Waukesha County Park

Daily / Annual Fee applies. What we like about Fox Brook’s manmade pond and beach is that there are designated swimming areas, clean facilities, plenty of parking, and a fun playground. They even have peddle boat rentals!

Beer Gardens

Reward yourself after a busy day out and about with the kids.

27. Lifesize Lincoln Logs, Live Music, and Brews at Depot Beer Garden

Our new Beer Garden of choice is the quiet Depot Beer Garden in Menomonee Falls. The best part of it was the life size Lincoln Log set that entertained my 3 year old for an hour. It was fascinating to watch a group of 3 through 7-year-olds mobilize a mini construction crew and build a little cabin with no adult intervention.

28. Catch a Pop-up Beer Garden

We are partial to the Raised Grain’s Traveling Beer Garden because they have some of our favorite local brews like the Naked Threesome and the Summer Ale.

Pick a stop that also offers a beach and playground (like Menomonee Park) and you have a trifecta!

29. Stop By One of These Permanent Beer Gardens

Both of these often feature live music as well. Fingers crossed it’s Polka!

The Landing at Hoyt Park – Wauwatosa

Estabrook Beer Garden – Milwaukee

Support a Local Farmer’s Market

Start your morning with a productive trip to a farmer’s market as a family.

30. West Bend Farmer’s Market

West Bend’s Market surprised us and remains one of our most loved. It is right up there with Madison and Waukesha’s and parking is much easier and so is pushing a stroller! Every Saturday 7:30am-11:00am.

Our son enjoys the free balloon animals.

Free Balloon Animals at West Bend’s Farmers Market

31. Waukesha Farmers Market

Waukesha’s local market runs Saturdays 8am-12pm

Fancy a Festival?

Many events have returned to the City of Festivals in 2021. Here are our top picks for young kids:

32. The Bristol Renaissance Faire – Kenosha

Saturdays 10am-7pm

33. Waukesha County Fair

(2021 event is over) July 21-25

34. Ozaukee County Fair

(2021 event is over) July 28-August 1 – Ozaukee County Fair is one of the last remaining FREE fairs.

35. Wisconsin State Fair

(2021 event is over) August 5-15

36. Irish Fest

(2021 event is over) August 20-22

37. Mexican Fest

August 27-29

German Fest Milwaukee will return in 2022

Pint Size Amusement Parks – Day Trips from Milwaukee

38. Bay Beach – Green Bay, WI

I have vivid memories of visiting Bay Beach as a child myself. I felt like a superhero the first time I dared to ride the giant slide and I can still smell my cousin’s vomit after the Ferris Wheel. =]

Back then, tickets were only 10 cents a piece! They are still very affordable though, at 25 cents. With the biggest ride requiring 4 tickets.

39. Little Amerricka – Marshall, WI

Feels like old Americana and is wonderfully tailored to younger kids. Check out their rides, here.

State Parks

40. Take a Hike at one of the 13 State Parks near Milwaukee

41. Entertain your 2-7 year old with a nature scavenger hunt.

Get Out On the Water

I personally love kayaking, but I’m 90% confident we’d end up in the drink with our 1 and 3 year old so we will hold off a couple more years. Anyone had success in a kayak with littles? Let me know how you pulled it off in the comments below.

42. Cruise the River, Harbor, and Learn Milwaukee’s History

Edelweiss offers a variety of cruise types.

43. Rent a Swan Boat at Veteran’s Park

From the Field

44. Pick Fresh Strawberries at Barthel’s Fruit Farm

45. Go Apple Picking

Looking for the best area orchards? Check out: You had me at Honeycrisp. 8 Apple Orchard Trips from Milwaukee

Primo Playgrounds

46. Conquer a New Play Structure

MKE With Kids has an excellent blog about the best Metro Milwaukee Playgrounds. I pinned all of them in Google Maps for when I’m in the area.

Northwestern Mutual Community Park at the Summerfest Grounds – Open to the Public

In addition, the Henry Maier Festival Park (Summerfest Grounds) just updated its playground! I was in awe and had just as much fun as my kids.

Finish Your Day with Something Sweet & Sticky

47. Eat All The Custard

My personal favorite custard is from Kopp’s. I particularly like their Brookfield location for it’s outdoor seating. Leon’s has a fun ‘drive-in’ style so they take second. Oscar’s and Gilles are tied for third place.

Kopp’s Burgers and Custard Brookfield

48. Wisconsin Worthy Ice Cream

If you prefer Ice Cream to Custard, see yourself out. You can exit through Purple Door where, lucky for you, you’ll find fifty fantastic flavors of Wisconsin’s favorite Ice Cream.

Looking for a micro-adventure? Sheboygan is a kid-friendly overnight getaway from Milwaukee.

One more time?

Milwaukeeans, what else are you doing this summer in and around Milwaukee? Let us know in the comments below.

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