Door County will warm your heart with unpredictable beauty. It will sneak up on you in the sunsets, butterflies, scenic panoramas, herons, colorful leaves, and in the sun glistening off the water.
Wisconsin’s “thumb” is located just 2.5 hours north of Milwaukee or 4 hours from Chicago making it a road trip worthy destination for Midwesterners of all ages.
So pack up the kids and leave your to do list, stress, and diet behind for a weekend recharge in Door County, Wisconsin. With kids at your heels, you will surely stay busy during your stay, yet, waves of calmness and energy to tackle the weeks ahead will stick with you.
This Build-Your-Own 3 Day itinerary for Door County is meant for families with babies, toddlers, or young children.
If your kids are a bit older they will also enjoy the water sports and theater the area has to offer. We opted to wait until our kids are a bit older to make the trip to Washington Island via ferry since we had to fit our adventures to three days.
Mold this itinerary to suit your young family’s trip by choosing 1-2 villages to explore each day you have available.
Door County Bucket List by City
Guaranteed to Bring Smiles to Kids’ Faces
Let’s begin at the south end of the peninsula and work our way north.
Sturgeon Bay Area
Animal Cuddles at The Farm
I’m guessing you live a busy life. A visit to The Farm was an ideal way to slow down and connect with animals. The kids will get a kick out of the the baby goats (also “kids”) butting their little nubs of horns into each other.
Snuggle a kitten, hold a chick, milk a goat, pet the livestock, and soak in the ear to ear smiles.
Hours: They are open daily, 9am-5pm in the summer and 10am-4pm after Labor Day. Each child gets two bottles of milk to feed the baby goats or sheep. You can also purchase corn feed for the adult animals for 25 cents.
Rates: Adults (13 and over) $8.50, children (3-12) $5.00, and children 2 and under are free.
Connect with Nature at Potawatomi State Park
Less busy than Peninsula State Park (which we will talk about later) and also featuring a tower with arguably a more breathtaking panoramic view than Peninsula’s Eagle Tower.
Take the kids on a nature scavenger hunt through the Ice Age Trail.
Stock Up on Diapers
Sturgeon Bay has the only Target you’ll find in the county. Support local where you can, but some essentials are best to stock up here.
Hold their Hands Tight at Cave Point County Park
One of the most beautiful coastlines of Wisconsin is best seen from a Kayak, but you can get a taste from the trails at Cave Point. With kids, you’ll appreciate how close the parking lot is to the best view points allowing a quick exit if needed.
Entry to this County Park is free whereas if you access the bluffs via the Whitefish Dunes State Park you’ll need to purchase a day pass if you don’t already have a WI State Park sticker.
A note on State Park admission stickers: If you plan to visit all four state parks while in Door County, you'll save money buying the annual sticker.
Find a Kid-Friendly Restaurant at Shipwrecked
This restaurant is always lively, so you can rest easy that your kids aren’t bothering anyone. For the parents, they have an extensive list of local craft brews. Need ideas to keep the kids busy? Check out our Favorite Travel Activities Under $15.
Pizza, Beer, and Yard Games at One Barrel Brewing
One Barrel offers giant connect four, cornhole, and video games, the kids are sure to be entertained while you enjoy a drink . Make this a lunch or dinner stop and order from their pizza counter. They serve Wild Tomato pizzas which I will mention three times in this post as you can’t go home without tasting it! Order as soon as you arrive, because the wait can be 30+ minutes.
*Rainy Day Option: Egg Harbor Fun Park
With everything else to see in the peninsula, I’d reserve this as a rainy day plan B. The Fun Park does have both indoor and outdoor options though if amusement is what you’re looking for.
Lunch Delivered by Model Train
PC Junction is a must stop attraction and restaurant for train lovers young and old. Your meal is delivered by train!
For once you won’t have squirming kids while you wait for your food to arrive!
Your kids will be completely absorbed watching the model train make circles from the kitchen out to the bar, stopping in front of diners to drop off orders. You can expect to wait for a seat at the bar, but you’ll be happy to do so. The outside of the restaurant is packed with free activities for the kids to enjoy making this one of the best places to take your kids in Door County.
While you wait, play on the playground, walk the trails searching for the pet pig and abandoned bus, and ride 4-person cycles through the wooded trails.
Unwind at Door County Brewing Co.
There is a lot of space here so we didn’t have to worry about our kids’ play disturbing others. The brewery’s employees were warm and welcoming and the beer was outstanding. We especially liked the Hacienda IPAs.
Stroll the Boardwalk at The Ridges
This nature preserve is an oasis for one of Wisconsin’s most diverse ecosystems. The center offers interactive ways for kids to learn about wildlife and sells fun gifts as well.
Savor Wild Tomato’s Wood-Fired Pizza
Wild Tomato has multiple Door County locations. We opted for take-out so our kids could play while we enjoyed a picnic.
Not Licked Yet Frozen Custard
A sundae at Not Licked Yet will set you back about $7, but wow is it decadent and enough to feed two. Then, send your kids to burn off the sugar at their playground or take them out back to the pond to watch/feed the ducks. We even spotted a heron!
Explore Lautenbach’s Winery, Orchard, Market, and Playground
Lautenbach has a variety of activities to stretch your legs along Hwy 42. Pick apples, sample wines, or find out if you have a talent for pit spitting! They have a playground for the kids as well.
Spend a Half Day at Peninsula State Park
You can only get a small taste of Peninsula State Park with the short time you have, but here is how to make the most out of a half day in one of Wisconsin’s oldest state parks.
Splash in the Shallow Water at Nicolet Bay
This is the best beach inside the park. Kids will find soft sand and calm shallow water. There are plenty of amenities here too; rentals, bathrooms, and a snack bar.
Climb the New Eagle Tower
Hoof it up the stairs or make your way up the ramp. This tower is so new you can still smell the wood stain. Enjoy a panoramic view of the bay as a reward for the hard work.
Hike the Vita Course
If you only have time to do one trail with the kids, make it the Vita Course. It is an easy trail and has 11 “fitness station” stops to break up the walk.
Get Hands On at the Nature Center
Feel animal pelts, grab some park info, speak with a guide, and read a children’s book about nature.
Tour the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse
Door County’s name came from the treacherous water between the peninsula and mainland Wisconsin, nicknamed Devil’s Door. Lighthouses were crucial beacons for the brave sailors who passed through.
Rent Bikes and a Bike Trailer for the Kids
Enjoy a leisurely ride through the tree tunnels. All rentals come with helmets and range from $5-15 per hour.
Kid Friendly Shopping
If you choose one city to spend a bit of your day shopping, make it Fish Creek. Here are three shops that will engage the kids while you look around.
Touch of the World – Handcrafts made around the world, international instruments, toys, and décor.
Fun Stuff – Unique gifts, toys, and cards.
Rock and Gem Shop – For kids, this is like walking into a treasure chest. The best part though, is the gemstone coin machine on their front porch. Give the kids a quarter so they can add a handful of gems to the collection of stones they’ve surely been gathering throughout your trip.
Be aware that none of these shops’ interiors are stroller friendly.
*Rainy Day Option: Hands On Art Studio
No reservation required, just choose from a variety of DIY activities offered daily. Little kids can make a mosaic.
Find Nostalgia at Wilson’s Restaurant & Ice Cream
Wilson’s has sit down dining or a walk-up Ice Cream window. They also brew their own Root Beer that is worth a taste! If you’re carrying out, enjoy your treat while watching the sunset at Ephraim’s Public Beach.
Hit Par at Red Putter Mini Golf
Save your money and skip Pirates Cove opting for this local mini golf favorite instead.
Take the kids to “the goat place” everyone is talking about
Al Johnson’s tops all the “Things to do in Door County” lists for the shock value of finding half a dozen goats grazing on a restaurant’s sod roof! Now, they’ve opened a large beer garden so you can experience the attraction of Al Johnson’s without waiting for an inside table.
Fun fact: All their goats are female. Male goats are too rambuctious, increasing the risks of one getting knocked off the roof.
For your best chance of seeing the goats, visit between 8am-12pm.
Picnic with Noteworthy Wood-Fired Pizza
I’ll say it one more time. Do yourself a favor and try Wild Tomato pizza while in Door County. This was our preferred location to grab carry out as we could easily take it just behind the restaurant to the public beach and enjoy a picnic.
Hang out at Peach Barn Brewery
Looking for a brewery where your kids will be just as thrilled to hang out? There’s an adorable little jumping area available for the kiddos while you sip specialty brews!
Balance Stones at Pebble Beach
Washington Island is famous for its pebble beaches, but you don’t have to make the journey all the way there to expiernece the unique beach scene. Check out Pebble Beach right in Fish Creek.
Gape at the Milky Way from Newport State Park
Newport State Park is recognized as a Dark Sky Park. Cool, right? This one is admittedly tricky with kids, as for it to be dark enough, you’ll need to be there way after bedtime. It remains on my bucket list though as a unique Wisconsin experience.
Snag a Beach All to Yourself
Escape the crowds the further north you travel. We were the only ones at Ellison Bay’s Community Park and Beach.
Anywhere, Door County
Have your kids select a Door County treat to bring home for Grandma from a roadside market
You can’t miss ’em and you can’t go wrong. Each roadside market has a variety of options and brands to choose from.
Pick Fruit from the Source
Strawberry, Apple, Pumpkin, but especially Cherry picking are quintessential experiences while in Door County. You’ll find plenty of easy pull-offs to ‘pick’ from just off Hwy 42 as you make your way up the peninsula.
Forget Pumpkin Spice and Relish Everything Apple
Apples are where it is at in fall. Grab some apple baked goods; turnovers, galettes, or pie. Enjoy your bakery the Wisconsin way by adding a slice of cheddar cheese. You can thank me later.
Get outside as early as possible
Nothing jump starts a day quite like a crisp lake breeze and a cup of coffee.
Sport a Hoodie
The one thing you’ll either need to pack or purchase is a hooded sweatshirt. At some point each day, you’ll be grateful to have it!
Family Friendly Door County
Some imagine a Door County visit means wining and dining, lavender shops, theaters, and quiet reprieve. That’s what retirement is for! Take your kids along and I promise the whole family will have a blast.
Join the fun and energy of the peninsula’s seasonal events. Check the calendar.