Milwaukee 4th of JulyHappy Days in Milwaukee
This Fourth of July, travel to the heart and soul of America to celebrate. Where better to commemorate the country’s birthday than in the great Midwest? Every summer, music lovers converge on Milwaukee’s freshwater shores to get a taste of the world’s largest music festival. Home to Laverne, Shirley, and The Fonz, this city known for its brews has stunning views of Lake Michigan, and a warm hipster vibe.
For good ole American family fun, don your red, white, and blue and check in at the Hilton City Center, which is within walking distance to many favorite attractions. Hilton's big draw is Paradise Landing, the first urban indoor water park of its kind, complete with mega water slides and a lagoon. It’s open Friday through Sunday during the summer months, so your family may never want to leave the hotel’s grounds. If you prefer a more unique hotel experience, the chic Ironhorse Hotel will blow you away with its loft-like comforts, without breaking the bank. This highly acclaimed boutique property is in the city’s historic Third Ward, also home to Milwaukee’s art and fashion district, with no shortage of amazing restaurants nearby. The hotel’s aptly named “Manager of Desires” is sure to make your cultural visit one for the ages – and will gladly set you up with that crib, too. Families with toddlers seeking a boutique hotel experience might prefer Hotel Metro, a central eco hotel with rooms large enough to comfortably house your energized triplets.
Start your long weekend at the recently opened Discovery World on the lakefront, where kids can play scientist for the day. Wee ones can scope out cavernous interactive tanks with a variety of local freshwater critters from the Great Lakes. For the more advanced set, kick start creativity in the mobility design lab, or channel inner Guitar Heroes in the exhibit on legendary local Les Paul. Aaarghn't you wondering how to entertain the pirates in your family ? Reserve a private sail on the Denis Sullivan, a 137-foot replica of a 19th-century Great Lakes schooner.
Take a break at Alterra on the Lake, just a few blocks away, where you can feast on fresh sandwiches, perfect salads, and decadent baked treats. Parents can re-boot while sipping Milwaukee’s best coffee, and enjoy the people-watching at the Milwaukee Yacht Club. Spend the afternoon enjoying the beach at Milwaukee's lakefront. Fly a kite, play volleyball, or rent a bicycle built for four to cruise the beach scene. Cap off your first day with dinner at Elsa's on the Park. Chow down on the city’s best burgers at this spunky restaurant with low tables in the back – ideal for the pint-sized set.
Start your next day with a fresh breakfast at the funky Beans and Barley. This full-service market and café caters to picky palates, with traditional and healthy options for all. Make sure to swing by the attached deli and grocery store to pick up goodies for an afternoon picnic. With food out of the way, hop in the car and head to the Milwaukee County Zoo. Get there early to avoid the crowds and score your tickets to feed the giraffes at 10:30am. The lions, elephants, and mom and baby orangutans are family favorites. Snag a quiet picnic spot by the kangaroos for your Beans and Barley lunch, and complete your tour of the zoo with a train ride and a whirl on the carousel.
On the ride back downtown, pop into the Betty Brinn Children's Museum, which will satisfy just about every interest. Your peanuts can dance with the Milwaukee Ballet, put on a professional puppet show, conduct an orchestra, change the oil on a car or anchor the local news. There is a gated-off area just for preschoolers, but you’ll have to tear the kids away from the giant sand table first.
A visit to one of America’s classic cities is not complete without indulging in one of America’s favorite pastimes. Take the kids out to the ballpark and catch a Brewers game at Miller Park. The entire family can head to the designated play area behind home plate on the upper level to burn off some baseball fever. Sundays are especially great for a visit – children under the age of 16 can run the bases after the game.
Milwaukee is Brew City, after all, so carve out time, on Friday night between 4 and 9pm, for some of the city’s finest brews at Lake Front Brewery. Get there early for the best seats at the community-style tables. Your kids will dig the live polka band, while you can sample beers on tap from the on-site brewery. Lederhosen-wearing Polka kings plus large dance floor equals lots of family fun.
On Saturday morning, stroll the fashionable Third Ward, Milwaukee’s answer to New York’s Soho. Poke your heads into the Milwaukee Public Market for fresh produce and other treats for the soul. Enjoy a casual brunch at the Palms Bistro before roaming this historic neighborhood filled with big-box favorites like Design Within Reach, Lululemon, and Anthropologie, along with great local finds like Shoo, Embelezar and Cranston. If the weather is tricky, park your brood at the Milwaukee Public Museum, where families can dazzle the senses at the IMAX Theater, and have fun encounters with dinosaurs and butterflies.
Milwaukee shines brightest during its annual Summerfest, held this year from June 29 to July 10. Summerfest has a little something for everybody. With 11 live music stages, 700 bands, a state-fair helping of Midwestern food and treats, and entertaining interactive exhibits set against Lake Michigan, Summerfest just might be the best-kept music secret in the United States. This year's musical line-up includes the Goo Goo Dolls, Better Than Ezra, Britney Spears, The Gufs, 311 and Maroon 5. Note to parents: Once night falls, this isn’t a great kids’ spot.
If you can no longer stomach the idea of corn dogs, fried Oreos and bratwurst, secure an outdoor table at Water Buffalo, an easy walk from Summerfest. Kids will love watching the boats sailing on Lake Michigan while the entire family devours delicious crab cakes and lasagna.
Start off your Sunday with a proper brunch at Lake Park Bistro, which is set in Milwaukee's beautiful Lake Park. If something seems familiar, that’s because it is – Frederick Law Olmstead, who also designed Central Park, created this serene Milwaukee oasis. Get lost among the park's many bridges, ravines and stunning lake views before heading to the children’s playground on the park’s north end.
Make the Milwaukee Art Museum your last stop before heading to the airport. This stunning building is Milwaukee’s most exciting architectural feat and the greatest resource for families exploring the lakefront. Visit the open Art Studio on the museum’s upper level to score a free drop-in art class with experts. On the museum’s first floor, you’ll find another children’s area stocked with fun art supplies for the budding artist to explore. Your family can also enjoy storytelling and sketching in the galleries throughout the day. A quaint little cafe in the museum features inspiring views of the famed Calatrava-designed building. Grab a snack for the airport, bid farewell to the lake and sail home thinking about your last few "happy days" in one of America’s quintessential cities.