What's on your family's bucket list this year?
What's on your family's bucket list this year? (Photo: shutterstock.com)

Family-friendly Milwaukee bucket list, 2014

I'm seven months pregnant.  I have a two and a half year old who goes to bed at 7:30. Let's face it - my New Year's Eve won't exactly be glamorous. (Although I may allow myself one whole Diet Coke, just to get really crazy.)
However, I am looking forward to a year of beautiful memories with my growing family. Here is my attempt at creating the quintessential Milwaukee Bucket List for Families for 2014. 
(I'm positive I missed some things! Please let me know what I should add in the TalkBack feature below.)
  1. Ice skate at Slice of Ice in Red Arrow Park, and warm up with hot cocoa afterwards!
  2.  Paint your own pottery at Art Trooper in Fox Point.
  3. Rev up a motorcycle (within the safe confines of the Experience Galley) in the Harley Davidson Museum.
  4. Find all 15 geocaches planted in different Milwaukee neighborhoods by VISIT Milwaukee.
  5. Feed the animals and reptiles at the Urban Ecology Center in Riverside Park or the Menomonee Valley on any Saturday or Sunday.
  6. Play with the worms at Growing Power (Public Tours are held Sundays and Mondays at 1 p.m.)
  7. See a bald eagle up close at Word with a Bird at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, every Saturday and Sunday at 1-2 p.m.
  8. See the 85-foot Kapok tree in the Tropical Dome at the Mitchell Park Domes. The Domes are free to county residents every Monday morning from 9-12.
  9. Tour the Milwaukee Art Museum with a free, self-guided Art Pack made for kids. Admission to the museum is free all day long every first Thursday of the month. 
  10. Check out a family drop-in at COA in Riverwest.
  11. Take a family yoga class at Haleybird Studio in 'Tosa.
  12. Find one new letterbox a month (Don't know what letter boxing is? You should! Check it out here.
  13. See a First Stage show.
  14. Go to storytime in the Gallery at the Art Museum, held every Saturday morning.
  15. Go "grocery shopping" in the child-size Sendik's store at the Betty Brinn Children's Museum (Get in for free during Neighborhood Night on the third Thursday night of every mo…
All aboard the Jingle Bus!
All aboard the Jingle Bus!

Downtown serves up free family fun for the holidays

Downtown may not be the first place you think of to find family-friendly holiday fun, but it should be! Milwaukee's Dwnowntown is looking festive with holiday decorations and bustling with free and inexpensive family-friendly events throughout the entire month of December.

Cathedral Square is drumming up community spirit this year with 60 new evergreen trees decorated by over 2,000 Milwaukee area schoolchildren. Each classroom chose a different theme and decorated their ornaments by hand. You'll be inspired by the uplifting messages and colorful designs.

While visiting Cathedral Square, your kids can drop off their Christmas wish list to Santa's Mailbox on Kilbourn Avenue. The bright red mailbox is clearly labeled and easy to find. It's easy to imagine how exciting it would be for a child to drop off a letter in this whimsical mailbox.

All kids who drop off a letter by Sunday, Dec. 15 will get a personalized letter in return. You don't need to include a stamp, but don't forget to include your return address.

Cathedral Square will also host the Clauses for its "Cocoa with the Clauses" event Saturday, Dec. 14 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Mr. and Mrs. Claus will be there, along with their elves and other holiday mascots, to listen to your kids' wishes and snap photos. There will be other family-friendly games and face-painting, too!

If you get there early enough, you may be able to enjoy some free cookies and hot cocoa. Area restaurants are even offering kids lunch specials that day. Check them out here.

In nearby Pere Marquette Park, "Electric Elves" from the North Pole finish up their holiday tasks to help Santa prepare for his big night. Some elves are shopping, others are decorating, and more are shipping out gifts by plane and train. The scene is playful and bright, and fun to walk through.

Zeidler Union Square chose Musical Bears as the theme for their holiday lights this year, much to my two-year-old's delight. You'll see bears playing all kinds of instruments…