Fun Family Activities

So you’re trying to plan another quick getaway for the whole family, but just aren't sure where to start? Naturally, we have some ideas.

From arts and culture to zoo excursions, Wisconsin offers a little something for everyone. Here’s a rundown, in no particular order, of great family activities that are sure to be a hit with your rowdy pack of youngsters.

Camping

With more than 4,600 campsites in Wisconsin state parks and forests, the state offers an abundant supply of opportunities to get outside and experience nature.

Birdwatching, kayaking, fishing, swimming, hiking ... those are just a few of the outdoor activities to be enjoyed in one of the state’s natural settings. Sites typically include road access, a fire ring and a picnic table and can be used by either vehicles or tent campers. There are also backpack, walk-in, and canoe-in sites, sites with electrical hookups, and sites designed specifically for tents or vehicle campers.

Getting your spot is a snap. ReserveAmerica (1-888-947-2757) has campground maps and details along with online registration or a call-in number. Zoom in on a specific map to get a better handle on where you’ll be enjoying your overnight adventure. You can also order a free copy of the Wisconsin State Parks guide online or by phone (800/432-TRIP) from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism and have it in your hands in just days.

Farmer’s Markets

Mouth-watering strawberries, delectably crunchy fresh green beans and, most importantly to kids, sweet, sweet baked goods! All that and much more are available at Wisconsin’s Farmer’s Markets.

The Dane County Farmer’s Market (608/455-1999), considered one of the finest farmer’s markets in the country, features local growers and vendors selling produce, plants, bakery, flowers, honey and cheese. It's also a family magnet. The wide concourse is a great place to pull a wagon, and the immaculate lawn of the state capitol building makes for an ideal place to sit and eat your purchases. The market is located on Capitol Square in Madison on Saturdays and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on Wednesdays.

Milwaukee's oldest & largest farmer's market, the Westown Farmers Market (414/276-6696) is open every Wednesday during Wisconsin’s summer months. Located at Third and Michigan Streets in Zeidler Park, the market is host to over 60 vendors and draws customers from the thousands of people working nearby to shop for handmade art & Wisconsin-grown produce.

Take 'em Out to the Ballgame

Whether you’re looking for big league action or a glimpse at some of the stars of tomorrow, Wisconsin has plenty of options for watching our nation’s pastime.

The Northwoods League featuring college players who play for free and oftentimes live with families in their team's community, has gained widespread popularity from Madison to Wausau. The Madison Mallards (608/246-4277) routinely draw 5,000 fans for home games for reasons that include, but are not limited to, baseball. "Beer Batters" and foul balls-for-hotdogs deals and a zany line-up of promotions give fans something to cheer for with every pitch.

Catch exciting action on the diamond and many entertaining activities away from the field while cheering on the Milwaukee Brewers (414/902-4000) at Miller Park. Tickets can be had on game day for as little as $1 (called "Uecker Seats" after legendary player and announcer Bob Uecker). If exciting on-field promotions, great giveaways and a look at the stars of tomorrow are more your thing, check out the Beloit Snappers (608/362-2272), or Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (920/733-4152).

Museum Tours

From authentic natural history to downright unusual collectibles, Wisconsin offers a diverse selection of museums sure to fit any level of curiosity -- and activity. In other words, these places cater to kids.

The Mustard Museum in Middleton, with more than 4,100 varieties of its namesake condiment, and the Spinning Top Museum in Burlington, home to over 2000 tops, yo-yos, & gyroscopes and 35 hands-on top games, top the state’s list of quirky museums.

Offering great environments to play and learn, the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, Madison Children’s Museum and Children’s Museum of La Crosse provide everything from an exploration of the state’s dairy industry to insight into how the human body works.

More museums:

Logic Puzzle Museum in Burlington
Milwaukee Public Museum
 

Summer Festivals

Festivals are a sure sign of summer in Wisconsin.

For some colorful costuming and cultural displays, its hard to beat a pair of events on Wisconsin's Great Lakes. Celebrate the ancient Asian sport of dragon boat racing at the Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival, in Superior, and witness the sights and sounds from south of the border at Milwaukee’s Mexican Fiesta.

More event ideas are located in the Event Calendar section of this e-zine and our weekend events page.

Waterparks

If you’re looking to beat the heat, a trip to one of Wisconsin’s outdoor waterparks will definitely do the trick.

The state is home to oodles of waterparks, but chances are your kids are going to have one place in mind -- The Dells, namely popular favorite Noah’s Ark, the largest waterpark in the country. Another great option is Mt. Olympus, Wisconsin’s first megapark to offer dry rides and water slides for one low price.

Zoos

One of the top zoos in the nation, the Milwaukee County Zoo  is home to approximately 2,500 specimens representing more than 350 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and invertebrates, along with exciting tram rides and a great petting zoo. For an extra admission fee of just $2, check out "Oceans of Fun", a daily aquatic show featuring some especially talented California sea lions and harbor seals.

And how about the chance to go to a zoo ... for free? The ever-expanding Henry Vilas Zoo  in Madison is one of the state’s finest -- offering a great children’s petting zoo during the summer months along with complimentary camel rides on most Sundays -- all for the admission fee of $0. A must-see for any family vacationing in or near Madison.

A variety of animals and birds from North America and other countries are on display at Wildwood Park & Zoo   in Marshfield. Grizzly bears, mountain lions and timberwolves are among the animals calling this zoo home. Cougars, bear, monkeys and many other wildlife, along with a petting zoo, make Irvine Park  in Chippewa Falls a favorite.

Outdoor Theatre

Experience a bit of culture in the great outdoors at one of the state’s outdoor theaters.

Among the state’s outdoor theater options include America's oldest professional resident summer theater, the Peninsula Players Theater  in Door County; the American Folklore Theater , also in Door County; and the American Players Theater , an internationally known Shakespearean company in Spring Green that also happens to be a field-trip favorite for kids throughout southcentral Wisconsin.

This entry was posted in Things to Do, Entertainment and Attractions, Outdoor Fun and tagged Tours and Itineraries