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When free night availability was announced at the Kimpton Journeyman, of course, I wanted to go. One little problem, winter in Milwaukee. Plus my first solo trip with Scarlett, our daughter who was almost two. That’s enough to scare away even the most seasoned of travelers. But, you know what, we had an amazing time! Here are the best things to do in Milwaukee with a child.
Where to stay in Milwaukee – Kimpton Journeyman
Scarlett and I had a fantastic stay at the Kimpton Journeyman. The upgraded room was amazing and the staff treated us like family. The Journeyman is located in the Third Ward of Milwaukee and it was within walking distance of some of our activities. The Milwaukee Public Market is a block away to sample a variety of foods from local chefs. Holey Moley Coffee + Doughnuts is just around the corner too… do not miss out on these gourmet donuts! And Scarlett and I walked about 3/4 mile to Discovery World and Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. It was a little chilly (ok, the temp never increased above 32* while we were there), but we braved the cold to have fun and explore!
Visit Milwaukee hooked me up
I met representatives from Visit Milwaukee in May 2016 at TBEX North America in Minneapolis. It just shows you that it pays to network and make connections, even when you don’t know when you’ll visit someplace. I had never been to Milwaukee before, so I reached out to Visit Milwaukee to ask what the best activities to do while in town with a 2-year-old.
Not only did Visit Milwaukee provide some great suggestions, they sponsored part of my trip by providing free access to museums and activities. I totally appreciate it because their sponsorship helped Scarlett and me have a wonderful experience on our first visit to Milwaukee.
Scarlett was all smiles when we opened the goodie bag and saw what was inside. A VIP Attractions Pass good for 24 different attractions. Beer flavored kettle chips. Local sausage, beer, and gourmet chocolate. A $15 gift card for the Milwaukee Public Market. And so much more.
Milwaukee Public Market
We arrived in Milwaukee on Saturday evening. We didn’t rent a car, instead relying on Uber and Lyft to take us everywhere we couldn’t walk. Scarlett and I were hungry, so after enjoying Wine Hour at Kimpton, we walked one block from the hotel to the Milwaukee Public Market.
There are a wide variety of food, wine, and souvenir shops inside the Milwaukee Public Market. Click here to see the list of 18 different vendors.
Before deciding on anything, we did a lap inside the building to see and sample along the way. Normally, I can decide what I want to eat rather quickly, but there were so many tasty options, I had a hard time deciding.
Scarlett’s favorite choice was the fresh produce section.
Scarlett is a blueberry girl. She scarfed down some pasta and blueberries while I was waiting for my tacos to be prepared.
Daddy success. The end of my first day traveling solo with Scarlett. Delicious food and a happy girl.
There were so many delicious choices, that we decided to bring some snacks back to our hotel room for later.
Holey Moley Coffee + Doughnuts
Whenever I stay at a Kimpton hotel, I receive a personalized Welcome Amenity. Each hotel does it a little differently, and the Journeyman is no exception. They provided us with a dozen gourmet donuts from Holey Moley Coffee + Doughnuts… and they were absolutely delicious!
On our way to Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, we stopped at Holey Moley to see their selection and get a couple extra donuts. Turns out that my favorite donut is the Coffee Crumb. To see their selection, go to Holey Moley’s website.
Discovery World Milwaukee
Our first adventure was walking to Discovery World. Discovery World is a science and technology center that encourages children to interact with STEM exhibits in a fun and exciting way. Although Discovery World is not part of the VIP Attraction Pass that Visit Milwaukee sponsored, the good people at Discovery World provided complimentary admission for Scarlett and me. Normal admission is $19 for adults and $16 for children ages 3 to 17. Click here for the current rates and discounts available to Discovery World.
There are so many fun exhibits on the 3 floors of Discovery World to keep your child (and your inner child) entertained for hours. The first thing we did was make a shark out of foam and a die cutting machine. Since Scarlett is only two, she didn’t know what she was doing, but sure had fun pushing all of the buttons.
From there, we went upstairs and played with the exhibits that illustrated air power and wind aerodynamics.
And learned about electrical conductivity. We placed these metal pieces on pegs to connect the power source to the lights, bells, and whistles to see how electricity flows.
On the 2nd floor, there was a Build It! Lab sponsored by Kohl’s where Scarlett (with some help from Dad) cut out pieces and decorated a peanut doll using a glue gun.
Before we left for the Milwaukee Bucks game, we explored the four levels of the Aquatarium to learn about fish, oceans & lakes, and other animals.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Washington Wizards
One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to watch a professional game and root for the home team. After the Green Bay Packers made the playoffs, I knew the prices would drop for the Bucks game. Both games were on at the same time and playoff football is way more important than a game against the Wizards. I bought our tickets for the game at the BMO Harris Arena for Sunday afternoon. We had great seats that were along the baseline about 15-20 rows up from the court. Because we waited until the last minute, we were able to buy our ticket for only $64. Since Scarlett is so young, I didn’t need to buy her a seat.
I always buy a shirt or hat to support the home team. This strategy paid off because the Milwaukee Bucks have a promotion called “Wisconsin Sports Sunday“. If you’re wearing Bucks or Packers’ gear, you get “Buy One, Get One Free” hot dogs or brats. And for an hour before the game starts (12:30pm to 1:30 pm), you can also get $3 off large domestic beers and souvenir sodas.
During halftime there was an exciting dunk show put on by Bango, the Milwaukee Bucks mascot, and a slam dunk team. Some mascots from other teams were here too, but I didn’t understand why.
During the game, instead of the normal “Kiss Cam” they had the “Lion King Cam” where parents hold their kids up like Simba was in the Lion King movie. I held Scarlett up and we actually got on the big screen!!! That might have been the first time in my life I was got on the jumbotron. So cool!
When I bought my t-shirt, I bought Scarlett a Bango stuffed animal. It was so cute. Whenever she saw Bango walking around the arena, Scarlett would say “right dere! right dere!” in such an excited voice. Talk about a proud Daddy moment.
Partway through the game, Scarlett took a little snoozer while hugging her Bango stuffed animal.
After the game, we took an Uber to the Harley-Davidson Museum. A couple people I know that live in the area suggested that this museum was one not to miss. Normally, you’re concerned that kids won’t like an “adult” museum, but there were a good amount of exhibits designed specifically for kids. Our VIP Attraction Pass provided free entrance to the Harley-Davidson Museum. Adult entrance is $20 and kids 5-17 are $10. Click here a complete list of entrance fees and discounts available.
In the kid’s corner, Scarlett’s favorite was the motorcycle that she could ride and push the buttons to make classic Harley sounds. There was also a table with stencils where kids could color and draw pictures to take home.
One of the exhibits I liked the best was the Harley-Davidson archives. It was locked, so we couldn’t explore, but the idea is very unique. Since 1915, Harley has kept one model motorcycle from every model year. Harley actually went into the field and bought bikes from dealers and riders to complete the collection from the first 12 years of thier history. All bikes are in their original condition, aside from being painstakingly cleaned. There are currently more than 450 motorcycles in this impressive collection. As one of Harley’s preservationists says “A motorcycle can be restored a hundred times, and an original is original only once.”
After exploring the Harley-Davidson museum, we ate next door at the Motor Bar & Restaurant. Several people recommended it, but my burger was overdone and the service was slow, even though the restaurant was basically empty (only 3 tables of customers). Based on our experience, I wouldn’t recommend eating there.
I’m pretty sure Bounce Milwaukee was Scarlett’s favorite activity from our weekend. After dinner, we took an Uber to Bounce Milwaukee. Inside are huge bounce houses, laser tag, a rock climbing wall, arcade games, air hockey, and friendly staff…all included for one low price. The value is hard to beat, especially when you’re looking to tire out your kiddo. Bounce Milwaukee charges one price for adults and kids – $14 for unlimited use and $10 more for the climbing wall and laser tag. Click here for Bounce Milwaukee’s list of prices and discounts.
Scarlett liked the bounce houses and slides best.
And I’m pretty sure we climbed up this slide ladder 50 times.
After a few hours of play, Scarlett fell fast asleep on the Uber ride back to the Kimpton Journeyman. I was pretty tired myself. We both got a great night of sleep that night.
Betty Brinn Children’s Museum
On our last day, we walked 3/4 of a mile from the Kimpton Journeyman to Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. I’ll be honest, the last 1/4 of a mile got pretty chilly. But, we were totally fine. Our VIP Attractions Pass also provided free admission to Betty Brinn. Normal prices are $8 each for anyone 1 year or older. Click here for current prices and any available discounts. On the 3rd Thursday of each month, it is Neighborhood Night where there is free admission from 5pm to 8pm.
Betty Brinn is just like a place called Pretend City in Orange County, where I live. It is a museum filled with educational and interactive exhibits “where kids can tinker, experiment, and create.”
Scarlett was flexing her automotive repair skills on this car.
And there is a play area for the smallest infants. Scarlett really enjoyed sliding down this slide… over and over ad over again.
Transfer Pizzeria Cafe
Before we left for the airport, I definitely wanted to try some local pizza. I went on Twitter and asked for recommendations and Transfer Pizzeria Cafe came highly recommended. There were a couple of other suggestions, but Transfer Pizzeria was on the way to the airport, so we picked it. I’m glad we did. It was a little hole-in-the-wall place in a local neighborhood that most tourists won’t ever know existed.
I love it when the pepperoni is covered with an extra layer of cheese. The pizza was awesome! And it paired well with some local beers for Daddy and milk for Scarlett. I always know when the pizza is really good… because I eat that one extra slice that makes me feel like I’m gonna explode.
Other Milwaukee Attractions
There were several other attractions that came highly recommended, but we ran out of time or they were closed on the days we wanted to visit. And if I was in Milwaukee with my wife Anna instead of my daughter Scarlett, we surely would have done a few of the brewery tours.
The Bald Thoughts
Scarlett and I enjoyed our time in Milwaukee. Neither of us had ever been to Milwaukee… or even Wisconsin… but we left impressed with the activities and the people. I’m surely interested in bringing Anna and Timmy back to explore more of the city and the local attractions. Next time, though, we’ll come back during the late summer so we can see a Brewers’ game and a Packers’ game.