Milwaukee is a city near and dear to our hearts. Both Nick and I were born and raised here. Although we have since moved away to pursue educations and careers elsewhere, we return frequently to visit family and will probably always consider it home.
With Chicago so nearby, Milwaukee is often dismissed as a small city. It is indeed smaller, but its location on the lake is hard to beat, especially in the summer, and it has a wonderful character.
Summer is my favorite time of year in Wisconsin and Milwaukee is full of things to see and do. We recently spent a few weeks before our big move to Mississippi. As with all major cities, the possibilities are endless, but here are some of our favorite things to do in our home city.
A Weekend in Milwaukee WI: Summer Edition
Note: I call this the Summer Edition but many of these ideas would work well on a pleasant Fall or Spring day as well. I’ll share a chilly or rainy day itinerary separately.
We have an abundance of family in the area, so we haven’t stayed in a hotel in Milwaukee.
We would highly recommend staying near downtown though – close to most of the best parts of Milwaukee. Somewhere in Shorewood, Whitefish Bay, or Wauwatosa would allow for decent access to the city as well.
- KOPP’S. Their butter burgers, fries, and custard at Kopp’s are a must for anyone visiting Milwaukee. Try dipping their fries into the custard, so delicious!
- The City Market located just down Capitol Drive from Atwater beach. Yummy sandwiches that are perfect for lunch and high chairs are available.
- Pizza Man located on Downer Ave. on the East Side has amazing pizza, but also delicious pasta and other options – including Dairy Free food.
- Milwaukee Sail Loft is a delicious dinner spot by the Milwaukee River minutes from downtown.
- Milwaukee Public Market: so much in one little spot downtown. Full of options for any time of day and fun atmosphere.
- Blue’s Egg short drive from the Zoo and offers a menu full of delicious options. The children’s menu offers particularly thoughtful options.
- Try Botanas Mexican Restaurant on the south side of Milwaukee for some delicious Mexican food.
Lake Michigan is one of my favorite parts of Milwaukee and this is one of my favorite spots to enjoy it.
You have to walk down a remarkable amount of stairs, or stroll down a really long ramp, to get there, but it is worth it. Beautiful clean beach in a quiet little nook that makes you forget about the hubbub of the city.
Bring some sand toys and enjoy the morning. There is also a park at the top of the hill perfect for little ones.
Go Paddle Boating at Veteran’s Park.
This is a fun space just to run around and be near the lake. Smaller festivals and events are occasionally held here. You can also rent different kinds of boats, float in the lagoon and enjoy the skyline.
If you need a little snack break, we love Collectivo Coffee by the lake. Coffee for the adults, smoothies and bakery goods for the little ones. Sit outside and enjoy the people watching.
There are several splash pads and pools in the Milwaukee County Park system, but this is our favorite for little ones. It has a zero to 3 feet pool area for little ones. The mornings from 10-12am are reserved for younger children before the rest of the pool is opened up for older children. Our three year olds had a blast with their 5 and 7 year old buddies at this pool.
If you aren’t in a big pool mood, Lake Park is a beautiful place to walk and has a fun playground for little ones.
Take in a Festival.
Milwaukee is often called the “city of festivals.” The Summerfest grounds along the shore of Lake Michigan is famous for its festivals throughout the summer.
The largest of these being Summerfest, an enormous music festival, which runs around the Fourth of July. My personal favorite is Irish Fest which we wrote about in a previous post. View the page mentioned above to see what festival is happening while you are in town. You can get your hand stamped if you need to leave and return after a naptime. Typically the more exciting bands are later in the day, but for little ones there are many thing to do during the day.
If (when) you get hungry, round up a smorgasbord of treats. (We highly recommend the Saz’s combo platter)
The zoo opens at 9am which makes it a great morning activity for little ones. Complete with a variety of animals, train ride, and playground in the family farm area, this is easily a full day activity. Be sure to check out the polar bears, they are our favorite.
More Things to Do:
- Lake Park is close to where we both grew up and recently renovated their playground would be our pick for a quick playground, get the wiggles out stop near the East Side / Downtown. There is also a playground along the lakefront North of the coffee shop I mentioned above and South of Bradley Beach.
- Miller Park for a Brewer’s Game or a Tour
- Milwaukee Rotary Club Arboretum + Urban Ecology Center
- Audubon Nature Center
- Free Concerts in the Milwaukee County Parks. Search their website for a current schedule. Jazz in the Park is an annual summer favorite.
Milwaukee in the summer is all about the outdoors for us. We tend to save the indoor stuff for our winter visits, but if you hit an in-climate day here are a few indoor options:
*Betty Brinn Children’s Museum
*Milwaukee Art Museum