While Milwaukee has enough entertainment to last a lifetime, sometimes a road trip is in order to break up the monotony. A change in scenery and places can cure the biggest case of “island fever.” Get ready to pack up the car and hit the road to explore our great state with these awesome day trips! Here is a list of more than 100 adventures to take from Milwaukee, all within a four-hour (or less) drive.
Featured Destination: Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center
FARM WISCONSIN DISCOVERY CENTER | 7001 Gass Lake Road – Manitowoc
Explore the wonders of Wisconsin agriculture at the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center. Located just south of Manitowoc, Farm Wisconsin is an interactive agricultural education facility perfect for the whole family. Kids and adults alike will make connections with the origins of their food and the modern technology that keeps production efficient and food-safe. Dig in to what makes farming fascinating with dozens of hands-on exhibits, a virtual tour of a local dairy farm, and a visit to the awe-inspiring birthing barn for the chance to witness the birth of a calf. Guests can complete their farm-to-table journey with a visit to the Wisconsin Café, serving breakfast and lunch with food sourced locally in Wisconsin.
Featured Destination: Old World Wisconsin
OLD WORLD WISCONSIN | W372 S9727 Hwy 67, Eagle
Unplug and experience firsthand the daily life of Wisconsin’s early immigrants. Old World Wisconsin includes 60 beautifully restored historic structures on over 600 acres of picturesque landscapes. The day will be fun, engaging, enriching, and authentic, as guests encounter history by exploring sensory-rich spaces and stories. Each area at Old World Wisconsin showcases different stories. As guests travel through time from the 1840s to the 1910s, they will find historic spaces to explore, gardens and trails to wander through, and costumed staff ready to share history.
The Bean in Chicago (90 minutes) – Take funny pictures of you and your kids in front of the bean. Also don’t miss the Lurie Garden and the Crown Fountain, where kids love to get wet. Walk around the lakefront and enjoy some great scenery. Be sure to grab a Chicago hot dog from a stand nearby, and don’t dare order ketchup on it.
Chicago Botanical Garden (One hour and ten minutes) – Chicago’s Botanical Garden’s are set in-between Milwaukee and Chicago. There are family friendly evenings, pepper Sunday’s, and plenty of events to keep the little ones entertained.
Field Museum of Chicago (90 minutes) – This museum has awesome exhibits, both included in general admission and there are extra ticketed ones. Located on the museum campus next to the Soldier Field, you can visit the Shedd Aquarium or save that for another day.
The Museum of Science and Industry (90 minutes) – A wonder for adults and children alike, this museum has so much to offer. Rooms upon rooms offer different interactive exhibits to experiment and play with.
Navy Pier (90 minutes) – This offers a day’s worth of entertainment. Enjoy a ride on the huge ferris wheel, or take a tour of Lake Michigan on a boat. The pier is also home to the Chicago Children’s Museum. Don’t forget to enjoy the shops and food as well.
The Adler Planetarium (90 minutes) offers 8 different shows for those who enjoy stargazing.
Just Over the Illinois Border
(approximately 60 minutes)
Richardson Adventure Farm – Kick off the spring with a visit to a 5 acre tulip farm! Full bloom is usually mid-April to mid-May and walkways allow you to literally twirl through the tulips! Later seasons feature Christmas Trees, Sunflowers, and a giant corn maze. Friendly dogs are allowed and must be leashed at all times.
Six Flags Great America– Who doesn’t want to go to Great America? If roller coasters aren’t your thing, spend the day at their water park. Got little, little ones? Within Great America is a kid’s area with several smaller roller coasters kids under 54 inches can ride. Still not impressed? The food and games should keep you entertained while your kid rides the Goliath for the 15th time.
Gurnee Mills – One of the bigger malls in the area, you can break up your day with lunch at the Rainforest Cafe. After that, walk around some more and buy something for yourself.
Lambs Farm – This is a unique place situated between Chicago and Milwaukee. They offer a farmyard for kids to play in while surrounded by horses, potbelly pigs, llamas, goats, and more. Afterward, have fun on their carousel ride and play a few games of miniature golf.
North Beach in Racine (55 minutes) – But, remember to buy the family a kringle first. Then go enjoy one of the top-rated beaches in the U.S. It’s designated as a “Blue Wave Beach” which means it’s on one of the most environmentally friendly beaches. There’s also a play area for kids, burgers at the restaurant, and plenty of space to run around and zap some of that energy.
Racine Zoo (50 minutes) – With over 100 different species, enjoy the zoo’s 28-acre zoo. They also have “Zoovie Nights” where you can eat some popcorn and catch a family-friendly flick.
Pleasant Prairie Outlet Mall (55 minutes) – Feel like shopping? This mall offers a plethora of shops to choose from. Spend time at Carters, Coach, Old Navy, Puma, or any other number of stores.
Apple Holler (40 minutes) – It’s not just for Halloween. Apple Holler offers a huge entertainment area for children. It’s a jungle gym on steroids. After the kids have exhausted themselves, have lunch at their awesome restaurant. We’ve also heard they make a pretty mean Apple Pie in a bag.
Bristol Renaissance Faire (50 minutes) – Near the border of WI and IL lies a whole other world. Explore Ren Faire and eat a turkey leg while the kids run around and enjoy pirates, shows, and they can even complete a quest. They’ll hone their skills and defeat all sorts of evil villains and enemies.
Mars Cheese Castle (40 minutes)- Yes. A castle that houses a cheese store. A famous cheese store. JFK, Johnny Cash, Joe Biden, and Weezer have all been here.
Kenosha Dinosaur Museum (55 minutes)- Rawr! Check out this museum dedicated to dinosaurs.
West Bend Area
(approximately 45 minutes)
West Bend Farmers’ Market – If it’s a Saturday, explore all that one of the state’s largest farmers’ markets has to offer.
Lake Country Area
Lapham Peak (45 minutes) – Burn some energy and explore nature on the Glacial Drumlin State Trail. Don’t forget to climb the lookout tower.
Mukwonago / Waterford / Lake Geneva Area
Yerkes Observatory (55 minutes)- Considered the birthplace of modern astrophysics and currently housing some of the world’s most fascinating instruments, this observatory offers kid-friendly tours for families to browse and learn about the exhibit for 45 to 50 minutes.
Want to head North? Stop by the Kohler-Andrae State Park (60 minutes) and enjoy some great beach time. You can also enjoy their sand dunes and go for a nice walk. You can stay overnight if you want at their campsite, as well. It’s a great camping ground for people who may not necessarily be enthusiastic campers. It has easy access to the freeway and is not far away from home.
Bookworm Gardens (70 minutes) – Walk through a park with fairytale characters and scenery for kids to play with. Big displays showcase different stories and entertain children.
Harrington Beach State Park (50 minutes) – The Belgium area has one of the best beaches in the state. Enjoy miles of beautiful white sand. Build sandcastles, have a picnic, take a walk, swim, or just enjoy the beautiful summer weather.
Above and Beyond (60 minutes)- Burn some energy and explore at Sheboygan’s children’s museum.
John Michael Kohler Arts Center (60 minutes)- Free! And it houses an amazing kids studio, called ARTery where the kids can make and take things.
Plymouth Arts Center (60 minutes) – Art gallery featuring both visual and performing arts. Often holds events with interactive activities for kids!
Port Exploreum (40 minutes)- A great little museum with a history of local fishing and interactive exhibits.
Possibility Playground (45 minutes) – Let the kids run for hours at this awesome playground.
Lake Mills Area
Aztalan State Park (60 minutes)– Want to enjoy some outdoors but still go somewhere educational? This park offers historical facts about an old Mississippi Indian culture that was around the 10-13th centuries. There’s a set of stairs leading up the largest mounds.
Little Amerricka (65 minutes) – Basically, a scaled down Great America for kids. Purchase a wristband depending on the height of the child and spend the day. Big enough to keep kids entertained, yet small enough for parents to not feel too overwhelmed. Depending on your kids’ age, you can even sit in the middle of the park and read a book as they run around wearing themselves out.
Madison Farmer’s Market (75 minutes) – One of the largest in the state. It offers a plethora of food and entertainment to keep everyone occupied and is situated around the capital. Get Stella’s Spicy Cheese Bread. Thank us later.
Olbrich Botanical Garden (75 minutes) – For a small $2 fee, enjoy 16 acres right off of Lake Monona in Madison. Enjoy over 16 acres of outdoor space to see wildlife in its natural state.
House on the Rock (120 minutes) – Housing the world’s largest carousel and other wonders unimaginable until you see it, you and your kids will marvel at everything a house can hold. The house itself sits on top of a rock and is an architectural marvel.
Madison Children’s Museum (75 minutes) – Hands down one of the best children’s museums in the state. With two levels of fun and interactive things to do for children of all ages, you’ll have as much as they will. Their shadow room alone offers hours of entertainment.
Madison Skate Park (75 minutes) – Milwaukee has some pretty cool state parks, but if your kid (or you?) wants a change of scenery, Madison also has a great skate park. It features two bowls with over 2,000 square feet of space.
Madison Zoo (75 minutes) – Enjoy Madison’s free zoo and get up close and personal with animals. Their polar bear exhibit is awesome and they have a great tiger exhibit, as well.
Cave of the Mounds (80 minutes) – Enjoy a nice 50 degrees all year round, view crystal formations and various pools of water. The walk will take your breath away and is certain to entertain people of all ages.
Babcock Hall Dairy Store (90 minutes) – Students offer free 20 minute tours to see the inner workings of an ice cream plant. Or just buy some yummy ice cream.
UW- Madison Arboretum (80 minutes)- A great place to wear the kids out! More than 20 miles of trails to explore. Events and workshops as well.
Hwy 18 Outdoor Theater (50 minutes) – This one-screen drive-in is well loved in the area, making it a clutch way to catch an outdoor movie. The state’s first digital drive-in theater offers double feature movie nights, starting at dusk.
Fond du Lac Area
Fondy Sports Park (60 minutes)- Go-karts, mini golf, climbing walls, bumper boats…the fun is endless for adults and kids.
Lakeside Park -(70 minutes) Located on the shore of Lake Winnebago, this amazing park has a walk-up lighthouse, picnic area, shelters, pavilion, playground, zip line, petting zoo, ball diamonds, fountain, and concessions. Ride the miniature train and enjoy the antique carousel.
Kelley Country Creamery (55 minutes)- Ice cream made fresh on the dairy farm. So so good.
Appleton / Oshkosh / Manitowoc / Two Rivers Area
Maritime Museum (80 minutes) – Located in Manitowoc. Learn about settlers and play on steamship Elba. There is so much to do at this museum, you’ll be there all day long.
Union Star Cheese (100 minutes)- Watch a cheese-making tour in a factory and learn about a family that buys milk from local dairy farms.
Paper Discovery Center (100 minutes) – Kids can participate in scavenger hunts, create paper from wet pulp, and enjoy hands-on displays and interactive programs.
Point Beach – (100 minutes) Feel like traveling further North? Point Beach offers six miles of sand and beautiful scenery to go along with it.
London Dairy Alpaca Farm (90 minutes)- See a fully operational alpaca ranch. Get close with exotic alpacas, and feel how amazingly soft they are while you feed them. Tour the ranch and shop the gift store.
Bay Beach Amusement Park (100 minutes)– Free admission with rides ranging from 25 cents to $1. Lines aren’t too long and there is something for any age to do. Try the iconic Zippin’ Pippin if you dare! You can also go go-carting next to Bay Beach.
Wildlife Sanctuary (100 minutes) –Down the street from Bay Beach you can enjoy looking at different birds and species native to Wisconsin.
Lambeau Field (120 minutes) – Grab a tour and learn about all the NFL Super Bowl Champions. Several different tours to choose from. And don’t miss the chance to check out the Hall of Fame inside the stadium to stand face-to-face with greatness, from players’ uniforms to Ron Wolf’s desk to the Lombardi Trophies themselves.
National Railroad Museum (110 minutes) – Take a train ride. Enjoy model trains of all sizes. Kids and adults will be amazed by the selection and detail in these trains.
Cherry Picking – In addition to great stores, you can go cherry picking during the season. Kids will love climbing the trees and eating cherries as they pick them. Bring a bottle of wine (or 4) home with you for the evening(s). Check the website for the Cherry Picking forecast!
The Farm (3 hours)- Located in Sturgeon Bay, this is a living museum of rural America where children can feed bottles of milk and corn to animals and feel what it is like to live on a farm and care for farm animals.
Lighthouse tours – Explore one of the 11 different lighthouses that are deeply rooted in history.
Peninsula State Park (3.25 hours)- No trip to Door County is complete without a stop at Wisconsin’s 3rd largest state park. Hike, bike, play in the sand, and climb the tower.
Attend a famous Door County Fish Boil – Whether you like fish or not, the storytelling on the history of a fish boil and the visual of the pot boil-over is worth the visit.
Drive-In (3.5 hours)- Finish off your night with a flick at one of the country’s last outdoor movie theaters.
Jurustic Park (3 hours)– A path of metal objects including dinosaurs and dragons. Follow a path with artwork created by Clyde Wynia and enjoy all sorts of creatures. Children will marvel at the shapes and you’ll marvel at how long it took to build these.
Lake Delton Area
Baraboo Circus World Museum (110 minutes) – Catch up on your clown history and learn all about the circus. Near the Dells, this museum will keep both young and old occupied for a long time.
Devil’s Lake State Park (120 minutes) — Swimming, hiking, camping, all kinds of great activities for families. The views are just stunning! Devil’s Lake State Park is visited by over 3 million visitors each year and is located in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The Park is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Visitor Center hours are from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily in the summer and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in other seasons.
Big Cat Rescue (120 minutes) – Enjoy a tour of the big cats about 40 miles from WI Dells. You can get a special tour with people sharing info about each cat, or walk around by yourself. Bring a picnic and enjoy lunch among some of the most beautiful creatures on this Earth.
Deer Park (110 minutes) – The Dells has so much to do, but the Deer Park, along one of the main drags, is a family favorite. Buy some food and enjoy as these beautiful creatures come up to you and eat it. Kids of all ages will enjoy this sweet interaction with the animals.
Take the Merrimac Ferry – (2 hours), A free ferry which carries cars across the Wisconsin River. It runs around the clock from April to November.
Dr. Evermore’s Forevertron (2 hours) – Let your kids get lost in their imagination by these sculptures and imagining what they could do if they were functioning machines.
Parfrey’s Glen (100 minutes)- Explore this trail that runs through a deep ravine. It’s often foggy here, so there’s an allure of mystery.
Natural Bridge State Park (2 hours)- A 500+ acre park that encompasses the state’s largest natural arch. Under the arch, you can find evidence that humans lived there all the way back to 9000 BC.
Platteville, WI / Dubuque, IA Area
(approximately 2.5 hours)
The Mining Museum – This cool museum includes an underground tour of a lead mine, a ride in a 1931 mine train, and loads of exhibits!
Crystal Lake Cave – Located 40 feet underground, tours through the cave last 30 to 45 minutes and wind through stalactites, stalagmites, columns and other formations.
The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium – A meandering boardwalk takes visitors through the habitats of the Mississippi and features a restored fur trader’s cabin. At the Carver Wet Lab, children can touch crawfish, mussels, and snails. The museum also includes an indoor waterfall, four aquariums, a recreated blacksmith shop, a 4-D movie theater, and a river cave.
Eagle Point Park – explore this historic park that has gorgeous views that overlook the mighty Mississippi
Galena, IL Area
(approximately 2.75 hours)
Walk through the Planetary Studies Foundation Earth & Space Museum where you’ll see items from NASA, meteorites, and fossils!
Tour the living history at Apple River Fort¬† State Historic Site in Elizabeth and learn the story of the Blackhawk War.
Watch the experienced blacksmiths forge custom tools at The Old Blacksmith Shop
Head out to the Shenandoah Riding Center for a trail ride through the beautiful Galena Territory.
Climb the rocks in the Gathering Circle, follow the clues along the trails, and take in the views at Horseshoe Mound Preserve.
Explore all of the cool shops around town.
(approximately 3 hours)
Grandad Bluff – Get your duff up the bluff! Hike on up and enjoy all the breathtaking views that Grandad Bluff has to offer.
LaCrosse Queen – Enjoy a pizza cruise on the Mississippi River. Yes, a PIZZA CRUISE. What child doesn’t want to take a pizza cruise? Enjoy the scenery while your kids gorge out on pizza. On a pizza cruise.
Rudy’s Drive-In – If pizza isn’t your thing, enjoy a burger and milkshake at this classic drive-in.
FAST Fiberglass Mold Graveyard – Just outside LaCrosse in Sparta is this graveyard with abandoned GIGANTIC molds of fiberglass statues that are always fun to explore!
Eau Claire Area
(approximately 3.5 hours)
Children’s Museum of Eau Claire – Let the kids crawl through the human body in the Body Smarts exhibit. The Water Works exhibit, with its pumps, wheels, and pipes, produces smiles and never waterworks.
Sculpture Tour Eau Claire – Everyone can vote for their favorite sculpture. This is the second-largest outdoor sculpture tour in the country, with lots of whimsical creations to capture kids’ attention.
Beaver Creek Reserve – A lovely lesson in the flora and fauna of the region awaits. This environmental and recreational complex includes miles of hiking trails and a seasonal butterfly house.
Carson Park – The Eau Claire Express, a Northwoods league summer collegiate baseball team, plays at historic Carson Park Stadium, where Hank Aaron got his start. The new playground at Carson Park is the play place of every kids’ dreams and it is handicap accessible. Take a photo in front of the huge Paul Bunyan statue with Babe the Blue Ox at his side, stationed in front of the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum in the park.
Sounds Like Summer Concert Series – The open-air setting of these Thursday evening concerts at Phoenix Park gives kids room to spread out and dance to their heart’s content. Lots of local food trucks on site, so make it a summer version of dinner and a show.
Ramone’s Ice Cream Parlor – This family-run business is modeled after the ice cream parlors of your childhood, with cones, malts, and sundaes on the menu board. Parents, try the Iced Latte-Da – it’s caffeinated!
U.S. National Kubb Championship – Eau Claire is the official “Kubb Capital of North America.” The city hosts the annual U.S. National Kubb Championships, drawing upwards of 125 teams from all over the country. Come watch the best of the best and learn to “kubb” yourself!
Metropolis Resort – Make a weekend of it and stay at Metropolis Resort with an indoor waterpark, trampoline park, and go-kart track.
In addition to the awesome Dinosaur Museum, Kenosha has a fabulous Public Museum (free/donation) and Civil War Museum, all of which are downtown.
The Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend has weekly art making for kids and families of all ages included in the annual membership (Starts at $12 per year). It’s fabulous!
Apple Holler is not home of The Apple Pie Baked in a Paper Bag.
The Elegant Farmer in Mukwonago is where you have to go. And it is delicious! 🙂
Try the Marquette County John Muir Nature and History Route mobile app. View it on you PC to print out family fun activities before you go. http://muirboyhoodhome.toursphere.com
Quick correction to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens info for Madison. The outdoor gardens are always free. There is a small fee to visit the Bolz Conservatory.