Visit Milwaukee with Kids Milwaukee County Zoo

Visit Milwaukee With Kids

How often do you visit Milwaukee with kids? Do you head into the city often or mostly stay in our quaint suburbs enjoying the #lakelife?  Previous to 2020, we had been venturing in to Milwaukee a bit more often and had been enjoying the short day trips, especially to the butterfly room at the Milwaukee Public Museum. If you are looking to explore the area around you, Milwaukee is not far away and is loaded with family fun. Here is Lake Country Family Fun‘s top picks for fun in and around Milwaukee!

The following are top spots for Milwaukee family fun:

  • Milwaukee County Zoo
  • Domes
  • Milwaukee Public Musuem
  • Discovery World
  • Milwaukee Art Museum 
  • Milwaukee Brewers 
  • Betty Brinn Children’s Museum
  • Boerner Botanical Gardens (Hales Corners)
Beyond King Tut in Milwaukee Senet
Visit National Geographic's Beyond King Tut: The Immersive Experience

Fun Fact: We love our local libraries. The public libraries throughout Waukesha and Jefferson County are part of the Bridges Library System. You can rent things from one library and return at another. Except for the Library of Things. What is the Library of Things? Well, it’s things…like snowshoes and giant UNO cards and a Frozen shaped baking pan or a kayak…that you can rent for FREE from the library! Each library has their own “library of things”. You can learn more and search HERE.

PLUS – they offer passes to our favorites in Milwaukee, like the Domes and the Zoo, pictured above. 


China Lights, the popular Chinese lantern festival, will be back at Milwaukee County’s Boerner Botanical Gardens from September 15-October 29, 2023 (closed on Mondays). The theme for the 2023 edition of China Lights is “Nature’s Glow.” Tickets go on sale August 8 at
The China Lights lantern festival, presented by Tri-City Bank, is a partnership between Milwaukee County Parks and Tianyu Arts & Culture. The ‘Nature’s Glow” theme will shine a light on biodiversity of the ocean and beyond to jungle animals and insects. The lantern displays made their debut at the Natural History Museum of France. Milwaukee is the first stop in the United States, to view this show.
“I’m thrilled to help announce that the China Lights Festival will once again illuminate fall nights at Boerner Botanical Gardens. The festival is one of Milwaukee County’s most successful events, attracting over 100,000 visitors not only from the Milwaukee region, but the entire globe,” said Milwaukee County Executive, David Crowley. “I hope everyone can find time to visit the new lantern displays this year and enjoy a vibrant cultural celebration.”
China Lights features more than 40 larger-than-life themed lanterns, including:
· A giant 20 foot high Octopus that visitors can walk through
· An animated crab that “bubbles”
· A 20 foot long T-rex walk through tunnel
· A series of animated and illuminated bugs that shine lights on the biodiversity of the insect’s world
Additionally, the iconic Chinese Dragon will be back, but in a completely different form.
The lanterns, which are 99.9% new this year, will be displayed around a three-quarter mile walking route through Boerner Botanical Gardens. Visitors will also enjoy the various interactive light displays and elements which are embedded throughout the lantern displays and found throughout the gardens.
China Lights continues to celebrate Asian folk-culture, with live performances from professional entertainers on the We-Energies stage each night, and a variety of food and beverage selections, including the popular beer garden in the shrub mall area.
“China Lights has become a yearly favorite for the community and tourists alike! We know people are excited to see what the new show will bring to the Boerner Botanical Gardens this year,” said Guy Smith, Executive Director at the Milwaukee County Parks. “We’re proud to showcase an illuminating experience with brand new lanterns along the unique backdrop of the gorgeous Gardens here in Hales Corners.”
“We are thrilled to bring China Lights back to Boerner Botanical Garden for the sixth year and showcase these newly designed displays” said Huiyuan Liu, Event Manager of Tianyu Arts & Culture, Inc. “You can’t miss the 18 foot tall rabbit, which will be staged at the entrance of the atrium at Boerner Botanical Gardens, celebrating the year of the Rabbit, along with other larger-than-life displays of ocean creatures and jungle insects, completing the theme of Nature’s Glow. We are proud to continue the tradition of China Lights in Milwaukee and celebrate Asian culture and art with the community.”
Tickets will be sold online at for a specific date and time. There are three time slots for tickets each night – 5:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.. A limited number of walk-up tickets will be available at the box office at the festival entrance from 5:00 – 9:00 p.m.. There will be a $5- $10 surcharge for walk-up tickets.
Online ticket prices are the following:
General Admission (12 years+): $22 weekday, $25 weekend
Child (3-11years): $14 weekday, $16 weekend
Infant (under 3): free
Early Entry* (any age): $25 weekday, $28 weekend
Family Pack (2 general, 2 children): $62 weekday, $70 weekend
Unlimited-visit individual Season Pass: $55
Walk-up ticket prices are following:
General Admission (12years+): $35
Child (3-11yrs): $20
*Family Pack, Season Pass and Early Entry are not available at the box office.
*Early Entry tickets include the following:
1) Entry at 5:00pm to beat the crowd.
2) Guided tour and China Lights 2023 souvenir
Paid Parking Lot
Paid parking is in the paved lot nearest the China Lights entrance. Tickets for this lot may be purchased at the door ONLY at a first come first serve basis. The same parking lot will also be available on a first-come, first-served basis to people with disabilities who have state-issued disabled parking or disabled Veteran parking license plates, or the state-issued disabled parking identification card.
Other Parking Lots
First-come, first-served, complimentary parking will be available at fully lighted parking lots within Whitnall Park. Complimentary shuttle service will serve the outer lots. Designated drop-off areas for authorized taxis/uber and motorcoaches will also be located near the China Lights entrance.

China Lights MIlwaukee

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Visiting Milwaukee with Kids

This is the summer of outdoors for us! We haven’t ventured into Milwaukee County since quarantine lifted, but for those that are looking for ideas and live close in the eastern part of Waukesha County – there’s still so much to do! 

They have beaches and plenty of area to walk along Lake Michigan in the outdoor air. 

Here are some ideas from our past adventures, with updates for 2020 and 2021:

  • Head to Discovery World, right on the lakefront in Milwaukee, and visit this hands on learning environment.
  •  View all the rules and policies for re-opening HERE.
    • We visited in a couple springs ago and had a fun-filled day. Touching the stingray was the highlight of my little one’s day.
    • Discovery World is best aimed for children at elementary school age.
    • Lake Country Family Fun reader Heather S. suggests, “Consider purchasing a membership which has reciprocal admission to hundreds of museums around the country, including the Madison Children’s Museum, Building for Kids in Appleton, and most of the major museums in Chicago. This is hands down the best membership value we have found!”
  • The Milwaukee Public Museum has their FREE admission days on the first Thursday of the month, this is a great way to visit the museum on a budget.
    • The butterfly room is the best!
    • My youngest loved the museum from ages 3 and up.
    • We like to head down on the first Thursday of the month for Kohl’s free day, meeting up with some other mom friends and then heading home around lunch time. There is a cafeteria to purchase lunch or you can pack your own.
    • We like to park in the Museum’s parking ramp to walk directly into the museum and not have to walk outside in the winter months/rainy days.
  • Did you know the Milwaukee County Zoo is open year round?
  • **View updated guidelines HERE
    • During the winter there are various FREE admission Saturdays at the zoo, and during the summer there is always a special exhibit. Hello Dinosaurs!
    •  Plus, the Milwaukee County Zoo pass pays for itself in two visits!
    • We love the big animals and don’t leave without a train ride!
    • The zoo is great for kids of all ages, baby and up!
  • Visit the Mitchell Park Domes and be transported to a tropical environment, or the desert in one location. They are definitely a tropical escape right here in Wisconsin!
  • Brewer’s Games are always a fun pasttime from spring through fall!
    • Plus, our kiddos love going to Brewers Games.
    • If you head to a game on Kid’s Day, don’t forget to snag a free lunch and go down the slide.
    • Miller Park is great for kids of all ages. There are lots of places to walk around for toddlers, plus slides and a playground outside of the stadium for bigger kids to play.
  • Have you taken your kids to a summer festival?
    • In summer 2017 and 2018, we took our kiddos to Irish Fest at the Henry W. Maier Festival Park (Summerfest grounds) and they had a blast!
    • Milwaukee summer festivals in 2020 were cancelled.
  • The Milwaukee Art Museum has undergone renovations and is an iconic Milwaukee building.
    • Snag FREE admission from July 16, 2020 through August 16, 2020 as the Milwaukee Art Museum re-opens. Details.  
    • Stop by the Kohl’s Art Generation Studio to create art inspired by the artwork in the Museum. Each month features a different theme, and the projects are always changing!
  • Visit Sprecher Brewery and go on a tour.  Yes, this is family friendly!
    • All adults 21 (proof of age required) and older get 4 samples of beer (chosen from up to 20 beers on tap) and a beer tasting glass to take home.
    • Tour participants of all ages get to sample all of their available sodas to their heart’s content.
  • Find the Bronze Fonz and take photo and feel like you are hanging out  with Arthur Fonzarelli on Happy Days which was set in 1950’s Milwaukee.
      • We have!
  • If you have little ones, the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum should be on your list to visit.
    • Kids can spend hours with the interactive exhibits.
    • The Museum will be closed September 4-8, 2023. They will reopen on Saturday, September 9. Plan your visit
    • PNC Mobile Learning Adventure 
      September 11, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
      Staff is excited to host the #PNCGrowUpGreat Mobile Learning Adventure! Children can enjoy hands-on activities and a photo station in the Museum’s Atrium. While the PNC Mobile Learning Adventure is free to the public, standard admission rates apply for the Museum.
    • Community Access Day
      September 21, 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
      Families can enjoy free admission on the third Thursday of every month. Just a reminder that they open a half hour later on Access Days.
    • Sensory-Friendly Sessions
      September 10, 5-7 p.m. and September 24, 3:30-5:30 p.m.
      Experience the Museum in a calmer, quieter space with these special playtimes. Learn more about our Sensory-Friendly Play Pass.
  • In the winter, you can find the Door County Sled Dogs at Whitnall Park when the weather is favorable.  Always check their website to find the status of rides.
  • Visit Slice of Ice at Red Arrow Park, try ice skating with the kids at this outdoor skating rink during the winter months.

What’s your favorite place to visit with kids in Milwaukee?

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