Gas Tank Getaway: Family Road Trip to Milwaukee

family vacation milwaukee wi

Photo Credit used in Graphic: Dan Walsh

I’m a born-and-bred Cheesehead; and no, I’m not sorry.  Thanks to I-94, we make frequent visits to Milwaukee, not only to see family, but because it’s a great place to visit.  It’s not just about the beer and brats (although – YUM!) Milwaukee is a city with its own unique flavor and culture without the traffic or expense of a certain major metropolis to the south of us.  For a quick weekend getaway,  you can’t beat the value, attractions, and convenience you get with a day trip into Milwaukee.   Plan a trip this weekend and you can even put the kids to sleep in their own beds.


Discovery Museum milwaukee

Discovery World, 500 N. Harbor Dr., Milwaukee, WI
(414) 765-9966 | Facebook
Melissa says,

The Discovery World Museum is a hands-on science museum that is a feast for the eyes as well as the brain. It’s a perfect blend of the creative side and analytic side of science teaching children basic concepts within beautiful and fun displays. On our visit the kids learned about sound waves through music, traveled back in time by stepping into a phone booth and learned about pressure by laying on a bed of nails. The highlight of our trip was the replica of the great lakes with it’s storm simulators where the kids could watch it rain and see how the water moves. There is also a small aquarium featuring a large touch tank. The museum is doable for a day experience, and you leave feeling like you saw everything or almost everything. It’s best for school age kids.

Photo Source: Betty Brinn Children's Museum on Facebook
Photo Source: Betty Brinn Children’s Museum on Facebook

Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, 929 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI
(414) 390-5437 (KIDS) | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube
There’s no such thing as “Don’t Touch!” at the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. Perfect for children ages 10 and under, the museum offers interactive, hands-on exhibits that engage young minds and bodies.

Photo Credit: Loralie T.
Photo Credit: L. Thomas

Milwaukee Public Museum, 800 W. Wells St., Milwaukee, WI
(414) 278-2751 |Facebook
My family enjoys this museum so much, we have an annual membership!  My son always looks forward to the giant replica of a T-Rex making a meal of a triceratops (Caution: May be scary for sensitive children.)  My daughter adores The Puelicher Butterfly Wing where you can get up close and personal to butterflies and other insects.

Photo Credit: L. Thomas
Photo Credit: L. Thomas

Harley-Davidson Museum, 400 W. Canal St., Milwaukee, WI
(877) 436-8738 | Facebook
History roars to life at the Harley-Davidson Museum which celebrates over 100 years of the famed motorcycle and its Milwaukee heritage.  Peruse over 45o motorcycles and artifacts on a 20-acre museum campus with views of the Milwaukee riverfront and skyline.  For more family fun see their 12 Can’t Miss Family Activities page.

Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 N. Art Museum Drive, Milwaukee, WI
(414) 224-3200 | Facebook | YouTube
The Milwaukee Art Museum is a work of art in and of itself!  It’s most striking aspect is the Quadracci Pavilion, created by the famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava in 2001.  The pavilion has “wings” that open and close.  If you have a Transformers fan, you may remember this structure featured in the movie!

Photo Source:
Photo Source:

The museum exhibits are currently closed until November 24, 2015 for renovation and reinstallation; however, there are some great FREE children’s programs happening Columbus Day Weekend (museum fees may apply, call ahead for details.)

Play Date with Art: Changing Seasons at Windhover Hall
Friday, October 9, 2015, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Storytime in the Galleries
Saturday, October 10, 2015, 10:30 a.m.

Other Attractions

Photo Credit: H. Williams
Photo Credit: H. Williams

Mitchell Park Conservatory, 524 S. Layton Blvd., Milwaukee, WI
(414) – 257 – 5611 | Facebook
Affectionately known as “The Domes” to the locals, the Mitchell Park Conservatory houses a variety of plant-life that you can’t find in  your typical Midwestern garden.  The Desert Dome and Tropical Dome replicate foreign habitats while the Floral Show Dome will wow you with explosions of color year round, despite what the weather is like outside.  Heather tells you about her family’s Spring Break trip to the Mitchell Park Conservatory.

Milwaukee County Zoo, 10001 W. Bluemound Rd., Milwaukee, WI
(414) 771-3040 | Facebook
Lake County residents will find the drive up to Milwaukee to be far more convenient and less taxing on the nerves than a drive to Brookfield.  The Milwaukee County Zoo is a wonderful facility with over 2,000 mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles in specialized habitats spanning 200 wooded acres. Note: There is a $12 parking fee in addition to admission.

Beer, Brats, and Cheese

Photo Credit: L. Thomas
Photo Credit: L. Thomas

Sprecher Brewery, 701 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, WI
(414) 964-2739 | Facebook
You simply can’t visit Milwaukee without having some local brew, but how to make it family-friendly?  Sprecher Brewery, located just north of  Milwaukee, offers family-friendly tours of their facility. You’ll get to see the brewhouse, bottling line and warehouse on a quick 30-minute guided tour followed by a tasting in their indoor beer garden. Grown-ups receive a commemorative glass and up to four samples of several varieties on tap.  Folks of all ages can have unlimited soda samples including their world-famous root beer.   My kids loved the Raspberry Soda and I discovered their Hard Apple Pie was dangerously delicious…

Photo Credit: H. Garvey
Photo Credit: H. Garvey

Mars Cheese Castle, 2800 West Frontage Road, Kenosha, WI
(800) 655-6147 | Facebook
Anyone who’s driven north on I-94 on their way to Milwaukee has seen the sign for Mars Cheese Castle.  In 2011, this roadside shop was completely rebuilt into an actual castle!  Now the building is truly befitting of its royal legacy as cheese mecca and tourist destination for real Wisconsin cheese and other local food products.  Stop here on your way back home to load up on squeaky cheese curds!

Photo Credit: L. Thomas
Photo Credit: L. Thomas

Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water Street, Milwaukee, WI
(414) 336-111 | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest
A foodie’s dream come true!  This indoor marketplace showcases independent food purveyors of high-quality, artisan food products.  Sure you’ll find freshly-prepared brats and other delectable encased meats, but you’ll also find lobster, wine, pastries, ethnic delicacies, gourmet vinegar, hipster t-shirts and more.  Everyone in the family will find something to tickle their tastebuds. Plan a meal here and let everyone pick their own favorites from a variety of vendors.

 Side Trips

Old World Wisconsin
Photo Credit: L. Thomas

Old World Wisconsin, W372 S9727 Hwy 67, Eagle, WI
(262) 594-6301 | Facebook
About 45 minutes southwest of Milwaukee, located in Waukesha County, is an outdoor living history museum that captures the pioneer spirit.  Authentic farm buildings from the 1800’s have been painstakingly reconstructed and costumed docents make history come alive as they recreate the day-to-day lives of 19th century homesteaders.  You can read my firsthand account in Old World Wisconsin {Worth the Trip}

Thompson’s Strawberry Farm , 400 – 75th Street
Bristol, WI
(262) 857-2353 | Facebook
Yes they have strawberries in June, but in the fall they also have raspberries and pumpkins! Read about my experience in Strawberry Fields Forever at Thompson Strawberry Farm  and in Melissa’s Beyond the Strawberry Patch.

Dinosaur Discovery Museum Kenosha

The Dinosaur Discovery Museum, 5608 Tenth Avenue, Kenosha, WI
(262) 653-4450 | Facebook
Less than 30 minutes from the IL/WI border is the nation’s largest display of theropod dinosaurs, and it’s FREE!  If you have a little one obsessed with dinosaurs (and can tell YOU what a theropod is) then the Dinosaur Discovery Museum is a must-visit on your way to Milwaukee.   Despite its large collection of theropods, the museum itself is tiny, with just one main gallery.  Pair your visit with one of their Dinosaur Digs programs and make it one of the stops one your day trip agenda or you may be disappointed in the brevity of your trip.  See my full review in Dino Digs at the Dinosaur Discovery Museum.

Photo Credit: L. Thomas

Jelly Belly Visitors’ Center, 10100 Jelly Belly Lane, Pleasant Prairie, WI
(866) 868-7522
Although it was reported earlier this year that Jelly Belly planned to close its Pleasant Prairie warehouse, tours are still being held along with special holiday events!  This FREE 30-minute tour takes you by tram through the warehouse to learn about the delicious history of the company. Makes a perfect pit stop on your way to Milwaukee.  Learn more about my family’s experience at the Jelly Belly Warehouse. 

Green Meadows Petting Farm, East Troy Wisconsin
Photo Credit: H. Williams

Green Meadows Petting Farm, 33603 High Dr. (Hwy.20), East Troy, WI
(262) 534-2891 | Facebook
This family-owned farm is the home to friendly barnyard animals waiting to say “hello.”  Heather and her family loved the time they spent at Green Meadows:

Green Meadows Petting Farm is one of those places that you gush about when people ask you about it. It is truly one of those rare places you visit with your kids, that you cannot say enough good things about. It is seriously a hidden gem, and I cannot recommend it enough. The activities are fun for all ages. My youngest (4) found tons to do, but my oldest (almost 10) had just as much fun.

Read Heather’s full review of Green Meadows Petting Farm.

East Troy Electric Railroad, 2002 Church Street East Troy, WI
(262) 642-3263
The East Troy Electric Railroad keeps trolley history alive with 32 pieces of equipment, 110 active volunteers and 14,000 visitors each year and fulfills its mission of  keeping the trolley history alive for generations to come!  Take a scenic, educational trolley ride to The Elegant Farmer for their Autumn Harvest Festival or ride one of their Pizza or Burger Trains.

Come back and visit another day…

Photo Credit: R. Bridges
Photo Credit: R. Bridges

Miller Park, One Brewers Way, Milwaukee
(414) 902-4000 | Facebook
Our Rosemary loves the family-friendly atmosphere and shiny new facilities at Miller Park:

My first official Major League Baseball game was at Miller Park to see the Brewers play. It made such a good impression on me that we decided to take our son while he was still an only child. The park is so clean, new and there is a dome that closes in case of bad weather.  We now only go back to see some friendly rivalry with our favorite home team.

Public tours are available during the regular season when there is no afternoon home game.  The 2015 season is now over but be sure to make a visit next year.


Pick and choose from the locations above to create your own perfect Milwaukee itinerary!

What are your favorite family-friendly destinations in the Metro Milwaukee area?

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About Loralie 252 Articles
When Loralie isn’t out exploring with her two pint-sized adventurers you’ll often find her in front of her computer plotting to take over the world (or at least Lake County.) She appreciates good friends, good food, expensive shoes and parents who make two lanes in the drop-off/pick-up line at school. Her spirit animal is The Hobbit. She invites you to join her on her quest for unique distractions, diversions and deliciousness in this county we call home. She is the Features Editor and Marketing Director at Little Lake County.

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