As the weather begins to change, our family is constantly looking for ways to enjoy the outdoors before Chicago’s frigid winter temperatures has us grabbing hot cocoa and warm blankets until we thaw again come springtime.
Milwaukee, our city’s neighbor to the north, is a nice mini-getaway with the kids and offers a host of outdoor adventures for all ages to enjoy. Among its attractive features are its scenic routes and bike trails, beautifully maintained lakefront and nature sanctuaries and, if you like to golf, there are more than 15 county courses, more than 55 public courses and 10 private clubs for you to enjoy.
Milwaukee’s back yard is filled with more than 22,000 square miles of open water.
The popular, six-mile Lakefront Trail runs along the shoreline and includes a paved, three-mile loop and a 20-station exercise course.
Although Chicago is known at the Windy City, the gentle breezes at Milwaukee’s lakefront make it a kite flyer’s delight. Gift of Wings at McKinley Marina in Veterans Park features kites of all shapes and sizes to suit your fancy. Free flying lessons help novice pilots get off the ground like pros.
Juneau Park Paddleboats offers paddleboat, hydro-bike and remote control sailboat rentals at the park’s picturesque, tree-lined lagoon along Lake Michigan.
Milwaukee’s RiverWalk extends for more than 12 city blocks, linking the city’s downtown district with the Historic Third Ward along the Milwaukee River. You’ll see a variety of public art displays along this scenic promenade of restaurants, cafes, pubs and shops. Stop for a thumbs-up photo with the “Bronze Fonz” – a life-sized statue of Henry Winkler’s iconic character “Fonzie” from the Milwaukee-based “Happy Days” TV show.
View the city and its architecture from the river level and rent a kayak, canoe or paddleboard from Laacke & Joy’s. Rentals are available for aunique, urban paddling experience for the afternoon, entire day or overnight.
Unwind and watch the world float by on one of the city’s many cruise boats along the Milwaukee River and out into the Lake Michigan harbor. The European-style Edelweiss boats offer a full line-up of cruise and dinner/event options. River Walk Boat Tours & Rentals operates the country’s only “pub crawl by boat,” a popular tour of the city’s riverside microbreweries, in addition to renting out small pontoon and paddleboats. Ninety-minute narrated city tours of Milwaukee’s history & architecture are offered on the Milwaukee River Boat.
For the more adventurous, the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail is a 35-mile kayak and canoe “liquid parkway” that runs through the urban portions of the city’s three rivers: Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic. The water trail provides access points, portages and resting sites.
Sports and hobby fisherman can angle for Coho, King Salmon, Lake Brown and Rainbow Trout with Blue Max Charters, located on the river, or Crabby Charters at McKinley Marina. More than 100 species of fish have been recorded in Lake Michigan, making it the largest sport fishery of all the Great Lakes.
Biking in Milwaukee
The Oak Leaf Trail is a 100+mile biker’s, runner’s and walker’s paradise encircling Milwaukee County. The scenery along this spectacular trail network is outstanding and ever-changing, including wooded sections of the Milwaukee River. Enjoy a mix of urban settings and nature scenes on the Hank Aaron State Trail stretching west along the Menomonee River Valley. Historical markers, artworks and wetlands preservation mark the trail.
Milwaukee’s award-winning nature centers
Located just 15 minutes from downtown Milwaukee on the shores of Lake Michigan, the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center boasts six miles of trails through 185 acres of pristine natural beauty and a spectacular view from its 60-foot observation tower. Meet the resident raptors (eagles, owls, and more) and commune with deer, wild turkeys and turtles.
Internationally known for its picturesque walking paths, ecology programs and educational outreach, the Urban Ecology Center sits on 15 acres of wooded land on the east bank of the Milwaukee River.
Home of 15 county courses, more than 55 public courses and 10 private clubs, Greater Milwaukee has a rich golf tradition. As the former host of the PGA’s U.S Bank Championship (formerly Greater Milwaukee Open) for more than 30 years, Brown Deer Golf Course is a beautiful and challenging course, attracting golfers of national and international ranking.
Arnold Palmer designed the championship layout of The Bog, just a half hour north of Milwaukee on 300 acres of wetlands, woods and rolling hills.
One of the most challenging courses in the Midwest, The Brute at the Grand Geneva Resort (approximately one hour from Milwaukee), features spectacular natural views, 68 bunkers, and greens that average 8,000 square feet. The Highlands is a Scottish-style course with strategically placed sand traps and mogulled fairways on smaller greens.
Host of the 2011 U.S. Amateur and the 2017 U.S. Open, Erin Hills is a natural, Irish-links-style championship public course. It’s known for its challenging, undulated fairways and greens on rolling terrain. The bunkering includes small, traditional pots and the more fashionable free-form bunkers. Test your skills at the course built to test the very best players in the world.
Whatever your level of adventure interest, there is no shortage of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors in Milwaukee with your family.