1) Betty Brinn Children’s Museum If you’ve got kids 10 and under, check out this hands-on museum where little ones conduct news broadcasts, manage a bank transaction at a drive-up window and crawl through a giant human heart. The facility honors the late Betty Brinn, a successful Milwaukee businesswoman who was raised in foster homes and later went on to do inspiring work with underprivileged women and children. (414) 390-5437; bbcmkids.org
Betty Brinn Children's Museum. Photo courtesy of Visit Milwaukee.
2) Discovery World Center for Public Innovation This 120,000-square-foot science center brims with high-tech exhibits, such as a flight simulator, 3D tour of planet Earth, Les Paul’s House of Sound, and a touch tank filled with sharks and stingrays. Water is a popular theme; not only is the center on the lakefront but it also has fresh- and salt-water aquariums as well as displays on aquatic life around the world. In the summer, a re-created 19th-century schooner serves as a floating classroom and cruises around Lake Michigan on short sails. (414) 765-9966; discoveryworld.org
Discovery World Center for Public Innovation. Photo courtesy of Visit Milwaukee.
3) Sprecher Brewery Sprecher hosts informative brewery tours through the cellar, bottling line and warehouse to demonstrate how beer is made using old-world German traditions. Fun for adults, sure, but did you know the company also produces flavored soda pop? Bring the kids, and let them indulge in unlimited free pop samples at the end of the tour; 10 fizzy flavors include root beer, orange, ginger ale and red cream. Reservations required. (414) 964-7837; sprecherbrewery.com
4) Milwaukee County Zoo More than 2,000 animals, birds, amphibians and fish live in habitats spread across 200 wooded acres. See wildlife from around the world, including kangaroos, reindeer, red pandas, gorillas, penguins and anacondas. Guests craving encounters hand-feed giraffes and pet stingrays and sharks. More adventure awaits on the zip-line and ropes courses. The ski lift-style Sky Safari ride or a cruise on the Safari Train pleases younger—or slightly less adventurous—visitors. (414) 771-3040; milwaukeezoo.org
Milwaukee County Zoo. Photo courtesy of Visit Milwaukee.
5) The Safe House Psst. What’s the password? If you don't know, be prepared to fulfill some sort of crazy request like Hula-Hooping or doing push-ups to gain entrance to this clandestine dining destination. Spy-themed decor includes details like secret passageways, doors opening to brick walls and an exit through a phone booth. The food’s just your basic pub fare—burgers, fish and chips, and a Junior Spies menu for the kids—but the Safe House is good fun in a gimmicky way. (414) 271-2007; safe-house.com
6) Harley-Davidson Museum Relax. It’s perfectly fine to let the kids don some biker duds, saddle up kid-size motorcycles and rev away. If you can tear them off the Evel Knievel video game, that is. And make sure they grab a free "Peashooters” activity guide on the way in. The full-size Harleys on display range from hulking World War II-era machines to sleek modern cruisers; check out the “exploded” bike in the Engine Room for a 3D look at how all the parts fit together. Guided tours are available. (414) 287-2789; harley-davidson.com
7) Gift of Wings Take to the air with high-flying fun for the whole family. This Veteran’s Park shop sells and rents kites of all sizes, shapes and colors; you can even check the weather forecast and local wind speeds ahead of time on the store’s website. The staff provides flying lessons if you need them, and Gift of Wings fills the lakefront sky with soaring kites during a number of festivals throughout the year. (414) 273-5483; giftofwings.com
Gift of Wings. Photo courtesy of Visit Milwaukee.
8) Milwaukee Public Museum Displays at this top-ranked natural history museum span the globe, including the Pacific Islands, Costa Rican rainforest, Africa, Asia and the Arctic. Must-sees include the world’s largest known dinosaur skull, a gallery where visitors stroll amid free-flying butterflies, and life-size dioramas that let guests experience Milwaukee as it was in the 1880s. (414) 278-2728; mpm.edu
Milwaukee Public Museum. Photo courtesy of Visit Milwaukee.
9) Palermo’s Pizza Gaspare “Papa” Palermo coined the slogan “Dat’s da best,” and loyal fans of his thin-crusted pizzas and flatbreads heartily agree. One-hour tours take visitors through the villa-style factory that produces frozen pizzas for distribution and end with a hot slice at Palermo’s Pizzeria 3301. Reservations required. You can also sign up for pizza-making lessons and tasting packages (some include wine and beer pairings). (414) 455-0347; palermospizza.com
10) Hampton Inn and Suites Milwaukee Downtown With a central downtown location near the River Walk, sports venues, museums and kid-friendly attractions, this hotel is a great choice for family. Enjoy free Wi-Fi, a heated indoor pool, complimentary hot breakfasts and On-the-Run Breakfast Bags. (414) 271-4656; hamptoninn3.hilton.com