Do The Domes!
Do The Domes!

The Milwaukee County Winter Farmers' Market is the most family-friendly of them

Apparently I'm the last to know. Based on the crowd Saturday morning at the Milwaukee County Winter's Farmers' Market at the Mitchell Park Domes, I may be the only person left who hasn't already fallen in love with this free, weekly family-friendly event. But just in case you haven't experienced it yet, either, you can read on for all the highlights and check it out for yourself next week. 

First, plan to go hungry so that you can take advantage of all the delectable local products for sale. I enjoyed a cherry chocolate scone from Amaranth Bakery and a perfect cup of coffee from Valentine Coffee Roasters.

I found both in the Show Dome, but in order to reach them, you'll have to walk past dozens of other local vendors and family farms in the main atrium selling fresh produce, herbal soaps, jams and jellies, and all-natural, grass-fed meat.

Once you're in the Show Dome, your kids will love the Gas Lamp Express Garden Train Show, running daily through Sunday, March 30. It features Thomas the Train and other choo-choo trains weaving their way along 600 feet of tracks through beautifully landscaped Victorian Gardens. Kids of all ages were lined up around the perimeter watching the show in a trance. Younger kids will also love the story times offered at 9:30 and 11:00.

Since admission is free, this is a good time to take a stroll through the other two domes, which both offer a welcome reprieve from this frigid winter. The Tropical Dome in particular feels like a mini-vacation, where you can spend some time on the foot bridge overlooking the koi pond and waterfall. For a bit of a scavenger hunt, see if you can find the plant growing out of a boot in the Desert Dome.

The Market is held every Saturday until April 19 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Mitchell Park Domes. Parking and admission are completely free. Expect crowds and be prepared to bundle up and walk a little bit. Find out more here.

Check out "Smokey Bear & Woodsy Owl: Home Sweet Home."

Smokey Bear exhibit at Betty Brinn brings the outdoors inside

It's been a rough winter, even for hardened Wisconsinites like us. If the frigid temperatures have kept you and your kids inside, you may want to check out the latest green-built exhibit at the Betty Brinn's Children's Museum for a taste of the outdoors. 

The "Smokey Bear & Woodsy Owl: Home Sweet Home" exhibit aims to help children learn about and appreciate natural resources, but I learned a few things myself. I never knew, for example, that the Smokey Bear icon was named after an actual cub who was badly burned from a New Mexico forest fire in 1950. Thankfully, he was rescued, and his image sparked the well-known nationwide campaign for outdoor enthusiasts to be more responsible.

Kids as young as two and as old as eight or nine will love exploring realistic woodland settings like the Ranger Station, where they can dress up as park rangers, work the radio and learn about natural resources through an interactive video kiosk.

Young visitors will learn the importance of protecting the environment through a variety of hands-on activities. They can practice using a rain barrel, sorting recycling and conserving electricity with a light-up generator in the playhouse. They can even visit a campsite, where they can snooze in a tent, build a fire, fish in a rowboat and roast marshmallows.

For kids who just need to burn off some energy, the exhibit is lined with tree trunk tunnels, balance beams and a mini rock wall. There's also a nature-inspired pinball machine that kept some children occupied for quite some time. Others will enjoy working with quiet activities like the large 3D nature puzzle, tree trunk building blocks and wind machine.

The exhibit runs through Sunday, May 4, and is included in the price of admission to the museum. You can find out more here.