Lake Geneva is the perfect "up north" getaway ... even if it's "down south."
Lake Geneva is the perfect "up north" getaway ... even if it's "down south."

Taking back Lake Geneva

About 80 percent of the tourists who flock to Lake Geneva’s charming downtown are from Chicago. It’s kind of like their "Up North," while we Milwaukeeans prefer heading to the North Woods or the Wisconsin Dells.

But Lake Geneva deserves another look.

It finally felt like summer when I arrived at the quaint shopping district on the shores of sparkling Geneva Lake. Just 50 minutes from my front door in Bay View, it is filled to the brim with local, funky clothing stores, mom-and-pop restaurants and old-fashioned candy stores. Parking is plentiful, and as long as you pay at one of the convenient pay stations (it’s not too expensive), you can wander around all day carefree.

The largest and most popular resort, just a few minutes from downtown, is the Grand Geneva, once the glamorous Playboy Club of the 1960s. Though most of the facility has been renovated since its "Mad Men" days, the staff is dedicated to preserving the resort’s rich history through plaques, murals and displays of authentic relics from the era.

Staying at the Grand Geneva is definitely an indulgence, but the lush trees, manicured gardens and private lake will take care of any guilt you might feel for treating yourself.

In fact, treating yourself well is one of the primary focuses of the Grand Geneva’s new Wellness Retreat. The retreat offers small groups of participants the opportunity to bond with one another while learning about nutrition, exercise and wellness. Yoga classes, cooking demonstrations, fresh meals together and a special bonfire on the last night make this retreat unique. Participants often keep in touch well after they’ve returned home. You can find out more about the retreat here.

Busy moms like me will appreciate the peaceful environment of the WELL Salon and Spa. It boasts Himalayan salt lamps in every treatment room as well as a Himalayan salt whirlpool. The salt is thought to neutralize the harmful effects of modern-day devices that make us anxious and…

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Summer festivals in Milwaukee - like Festa Italiana - are full of fun activities for kids.
Summer festivals in Milwaukee - like Festa Italiana - are full of fun activities for kids. (Photo: Colleen Jurkiewicz)

A family guide to Milwaukee's festivals

Our city’s plethora of summer festivals is one of the best things about living in Milwaukee. They give us live music, mouth-watering ethnic food and a reason to celebrate the season.

Lucky for us, there is an exciting festival nearly every week of the summer. You can rest assured that you will enjoy the festival, but how will you know if it will offer something for your little ones? And how can you keep track of all the admission deals so you can save some money?

This family’s guide to Milwaukee’s festivals will tell you what each festival in June and July has for children and families – and when you can get in cheapest.

Bookmark this page for future reference! Be sure to check out our entire Festival Guide here.

Polish Fest (June 14-16 at the Henry W. Maier Festival Grounds)

Kick off your festival season with Polish Fest and enjoy the upbeat music and dance, colorful folk costumes, Polish sausage, and, of course, lots of polka!

This year, the Children's Stage will feature Polish dance and music geared especially towards kids, as well as ventriloquists to entrance your little ones.

Take advantage of .50 cent admission on Friday, June 14th from noon to 5 p.m. Dads enjoy free admission on Father’s Day (Sunday, June 16th) with a child of any age.

Find out more at polishfest.org.

Summer Soulstice Music Festival (Saturday, June 22 from noon to midnight on North and Murray Avenues)

This up and coming, eclectic local music festival on the East Side is not just for adults. For the little ones (and artists of all ages), Murray Ave. will become "Arts Ave." and will feature Creation Stations by Murray Hill Pottery, Discovery World Design It Lab, Fotomatic Photo Booth by Pablove Foundation and more. How cool is that?

And as an added bonus, this festival is completely free to attend.

Find out more here.

Summerfest (June 26-30 and July 2-7 at Henry W. Maier Festival Grounds)

Oh, Summerfest. Your memories of it may not be family-friendly, but the …

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Milwaukee Art Museum's "Art Goes to the Movies" runs through Aug. 31.
Milwaukee Art Museum's "Art Goes to the Movies" runs through Aug. 31.

MAM's "Art Goes to the Movies" is great for kids

Thanks to the Art Museum’s new animation exhibit, "Art Goes to the Movies," I can now say I have created my very own stop motion movie from three plastic pieces and 100 still frames. It took about 10 minutes to create a 12-second clip of a mermaid flying through the air over the Art Museum. And although my toddler climbed up and into a fragile exhibit featuring "The Incredibles" while I was focused on creating the movie, I think it was worth it. Take a look and decide for yourself.

Creating our own movie helped us tap into our inner animator, so we continued on, assembling a flip book and pitching our own movie. We proudly posted our projects on the wall of the exhibit alongside other visitors’ creations.

To find inspiration, we explored actual still life sketches from Sleeping Beauty and other animated favorites as well as character molds and models on loan from Disney. We learned what it takes to produce an animated film by watching interviews with Disney and Pixar producers. Towards the back of the exhibit, we tested our culture I.Q. on the "Wall of Inspiration" by matching the animated movie with the art that inspired it.

The exhibit is designed for children ages 3-12, and they will love seeing their favorite characters from animated movies and participating in the hands-on activities. But older visitors will appreciate learning about the intense research that goes into constructing animated worlds and the art and history that inspires the creative process. The exhibit runs through Aug. 31 and is definitely not to be missed.

Find out more about what the art museum offers kids and families here.

Family fun at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Family fun at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
There are lots of exhibits kids can enjoy.
There are lots of exhibits kids can enjoy.
MAM offers lots of kid-friendly activities.
MAM offers lots of kid-friendly activities.

Milwaukee Art Museum offers kid-friendly summer fun

It may seem counter-intuitive to bring a two-year-old to the Art Museum, but that’s exactly what I did last Saturday. I feared we may be shushed out of the place or accidentally break something important. But surprisingly, it turned out to be a mostly stress-free morning full of discovery and hands-on fun. There was so much to do for children that we could hardly fit it all in before naptime.

We entered through the Lincoln Memorial Drive entrance and my son was immediately enamored with the spotless glass windows looking out over the lake. The surprising curvatures and cavernous halls of Calatrava’s brilliant atrium are enough to keep a young child exploring the space, but we soon toddled down the long hallway toward the exhibits.

Along the short walk to the Kohl’s Education Center, the museum featured many pieces that appeal to a kid. An Egyptian mummy, a giant shovel (or "spoon" if you have a limited vocabulary), and the enormous portrait of a caveman are a few of the pieces that caught our attention.

Just beyond the life-like janitor, you’ll find a desk where you can pick up a free Artpack or sketchpad. The Artpacks are backpacks filled with different materials to recreate specific paintings and sculptures throughout the museum.

Depending on what piece you are recreating, you may find yarn, felt, canvas, blocks to build a sculpture, or even a king’s costume to mimic a royal painting.

The sketchpads contain paper of all shapes and colors and freshly sharpened colored pencils. You can carry them with you throughout the museum and draw as you become inspired.

Past the Artpack station, we wandered into Kohl’s Art Generation Studio, an open studio that anyone can drop into on the weekends. We were immediately greeted by two friendly artists who showed us around the large funky space. My son found a stool in front of a paint-covered easel and began to scribble with bright color sticks.

While he doodled, the art educators explained that th…

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