There are plenty of free, fun activities in beautiful Milwaukee during the summer.
There are plenty of free, fun activities in beautiful Milwaukee during the summer. (Photo: Erik Ljung)

A quick guide to free family summer fun

The days are finally getting warmer, school will be out soon and we can almost smell the barbecues drifting through the air. Everyone in the family is excited to kick back, relax and enjoy the long summer days and balmy summer nights.

But after a few weeks, you’ve gone to the same two playgrounds over and over again, and playing in the yard is starting to feel claustrophobic. Carefree laughter has turned to whining, and the long summer days seem, well, long.

You’d like to take your children on an exciting excursion and give them a change of scenery, but you don’t want to spend a fortune.

Fear not! Milwaukee is full of free family-friendly events and activities to keep your kids on their toes this summer without spending a dime.

1. Be entertained at Kidzdays at the Marcus Center. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from June 18 through Aug. 15 from 10 to 11 a.m., the Marcus Center offers live, interactive, performing arts programming completely free on their outdoor shaded stage. Partners include First Stage Theater, Rick Allen Magic Show, Milwaukee Public Library, Betty Brinn Children's Museum, Trinity Irish Dancers, Milwaukee Ballet, Wehr Nature Center, and Lucky's African Drumming. Click here for details.

2. Take advantage of scheduled free days. Some of Milwaukee’s most popular attractions offer free days for county residents. You just have to know when they are:

  • Milwaukee Art Museum: Free admission first Thursday of each month.
  • The Domes: Free admission Mondays from 9 a.m. to noon (excluding major holidays).
  • Milwaukee Public Museum: Free general admission on Mondays.
  • Brinn Children’s Museum: Free admission third Thursday of every month 5-8 p.m.

3. Visit your local library – Milwaukee Public Libraries offer free summer entertainment at several locations including jugglers, local kids music, live animals, jujutsu and much more! They also offer weekly story times at many locations. Click here for the summer events schedule for families. …

Bradford Beach is just one of Milwaukee's great beaches.
Bradford Beach is just one of Milwaukee's great beaches. (Photo: Erika Kent)

A quick guide to Milwaukee's best beaches

In the depths of February, perhaps you are like me. I retreat. I frown. I ask myself, "Why don’t I live in a warmer place where I wouldn’t slip on the ice, drive into a ditch in the middle of a snowstorm, or acquire a Vitamin D deficiency? No really – Why?" And then that first warm day in April (or May) emerges, and I’m like a silly schoolgirl in love again. It’s like February never happened.

Perhaps because we know the alternative too well, we Milwaukeeans truly savor our hot summer days, and we flock to the beach in droves to celebrate our beloved city on a lake. Here is a quick guide to some of Milwaukee County’s best beaches, so you can soak them up enough to last the whole year round.

Listed north to south.

1. Doctors Park / Tietjen Beach (1870 E. Fox Ln., Fox Point): Located north of downtown Milwaukee in Fox Point, Doctors Park boasts nearly 50 acres of beauty on a bluff. Above, you’ll find a playground and practice fields. Take a paved trail, stairs, or a dirt trail down to the beach.

2. Klode Park (5900 N. Lake Dr., Whitefish Bay): Located north of downtown Milwaukee in Whitefish Bay, Klode Park offers breathtaking views, a winding path down to the beach, and a playground for the kiddos.

3. Big Bay Park (5000 N. Lake Dr., Whitefish Bay): Another pleasant beach tucked away in Whitefish Bay, Big Bay Park features a path to the beach and a scenic overlook of the lake.

4. Atwater Beach (East Capitol and North Lake Drive, Shorewood): You can't see the best parts of this beach from the street, so you'll have to head down the steep set of stairs to enjoy the open area to run and play. Don't miss the impressive sculpture by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa of a contemplative man overlooking the beach.

5. Bradford Beach (2400 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr.): Defining the classic beach day in Milwaukee, Bradford Beach offers volleyball, upbeat crowds and custard at North Point Snack Shack.

6. McKinley Beach (1750 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr.): Grab a Berry Boost…

Students of Dan Monfre's study hall were in for a surprise.
Students of Dan Monfre's study hall were in for a surprise.

PBS Idea Channel surprises Reagan High School students

It seemed like a regular school day for Dan Monfre’s study hall section at Ronald Reagan High School. Students sat in their pupil desks, some slouching, tapping their pencils, turning the pages of their textbooks and perhaps studying for a test they had next hour.

Little did they know, the camera crew from PBS’s Idea Channel was hiding in the school’s library waiting to surprise them. Mike Rugnetta, the web series host they had been watching all year long had traveled all the way from New York just for this visit.

Early in the year, Mr. Monfre decided to use part of his student’s study hall time to discuss video clips from the popular PBS Idea channel, a weekly web series that examines the evolving relationship between pop culture, modern technology and art.

His students were so interested in the videos that they began sending their comments and questions. They were excited when their class was actually mentioned in one of the videos, and continued to send their thoughts and insights. They soon became some of the most active viewers, and PBS decided they had to meet these inquisitive kids who had become such a regular part of the program.

When the camera crew entered the classroom, there was an audible gasp of excitement and the students couldn’t believe who they saw. The animated host was standing right there in their classroom and the cameras were on them. The students had a chance to ask him any questions they wanted, and he had some questions for them as well. They laughed, took pictures and discussed their favorite topics. Students couldn’t believe that the crew had flown across the country just meet them, and the visit inspired them to continue being curious learners and active participants in their world.

The visit is an example of the learning that can occur when classrooms are collaborative and dynamic, and when teachers go the extra mile.

PBS documented their visit to Milwaukee with a fast-paced, engaging video that highlights the best of…


Rediscover Milwaukee neighborhoods with GeoTour

Don’t be scared away by the high-tech sounding name. Geocaching is just one big scavenger hunt, and it’s easy enough for all ages to partake. Already attracting more than 5 million participants around the world, this treasure-hunt meets hide-and-go-seek pastime just got more interesting and more accessible for Milwaukeeans.

VISIT Milwaukee, Milwaukee’s premier tourist bureau, recently launched their Discover Milwaukee Neighborhoods GeoTour, leading treasure-hunters on a journey through 15 of Milwaukee’s best neighborhoods. Participants will be taken along the shores of Lake Michigan, through local parks, past impressive skyscrapers, and into the most historic, chic and distinct neighborhoods our city has to offer.

The game is simple. You use a GPS-enabled device (you can download an application on your phone) to locate specific locations that you can find on VISIT Milwaukee’s website. Once you’re there, you look around for the geocache, which is just a fancy name for the plastic container that holds your prize.

You don’t have to be a tourist to enjoy the ride. Locals will be impressed with the information they find in their treasure– tips for fun things to do and little-known facts about the area, for example. Families with kids will appreciate the suspenseful, real-world, outdoor hunt and the educational information they find within each container.

Ambitious participants who complete the entire GeoTour can earn a custom "Discover Milwaukee’s Neighborhoods" GeoCoin, which are popular in the geocaching world.

Who knows? Maybe this will become a new hobby for you and your family. At the very least, this program provides a fun-filled, active and educational day for all ages.

To find out more about "Discover Milwaukee’s’ Neighborhoods" GeoTour, including information about the neighborhoods in the program, go to VISIT Milwaukee’s Geocache webpage.