Best Day Trips from Milwaukee, Wisconsin
A guide to the best getaways from Milwaukee, Wisconsin
You may not have Milwaukee, Wisconsin on your bucket list, but perhaps you should reconsider and add it. You may be surprised at the many interesting attractions around Milwaukee that will delight families and single travellers alike.
Whether you live in Wisconsin or are simply visiting the state, this article will give you some ideas about the best places to visit around Milwaukee and what to see around the state of Wisconsin.
Milwaukee means ‘fertile land’, ‘pleasant’ or ‘good’ land in Potawatomi language. Visitors to Milwaukee have a wonderful choice of things to do. From extreme sports to country walks and visiting historical sites that give insights into what daily life was like in the past.
You can start your road trip from Milwaukee or, alternatively, begin your Milwaukee day trip from Chicago.
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Reasons to Make a Road trip to Milwaukee
Road trips are, of course, part of the cultural heritage of Americans. Think of Jack Kerouac and his groundbreaking novel, ‘On the Road.’ Stop off in or near the city and spend time there so that you can take part in the varied outdoor activities near Milwaukee that are on offer.
For example, depending on the season, you can do cross-country skiing, go fishing or hunting, hire a horse for a day or longer, or go riding. You can also do more extreme sports such as tubing. The sporting world is your oyster as far as fun things to do in Milwaukee area and beyond are concerned.
If you don’t really want to drive all the way from your home to Milwaukee, it has an airport, General Mitchell International. So you can fly to it and start exploring the area around the city.
Even during the cold season, there are plenty of things to do in Milwaukee in winter.
While you are in the vicinity of Milwaukee, I highly recommend considering some weekend getaways near Milwaukee. One of the best things about any road trip is that you can have a flexible schedule and stay wherever you like. For example, weekend trips from Milwaukee could include weekend shopping in Chicago (Illinois), which is only just under 93 miles from Milwaukee.
Wherever you decide to use as a base while you are near Milwaukee, there will be plenty of places of interest to visit. However, the best way of getting to know an area is to drive around it.
There are so many places to see around Milwaukee and so many road trips from Milwaukee to take. This list offers some suggestions for the best day trips from Milwaukee.
1. Old World Wisconsin
Distance from Milwaukee: 44 minutes, 39 miles
A must-visit place is Old World Wisconsin which is just under 39 miles by road. A visit to Old World Wisconsin is just one of the many attractions around Milwaukee.
It is an ideal place to start going for weekend getaways from Milwaukee and is of interest to young and old alike. Visitors can have a first-hand experience of village life in the 1880s and what it was like to work on a farm.
Distance from Milwaukee: 1hour 32minutes, 92 miles
Chicago, known as the “Windy City”, lives up to its name. So if you are used to the climate of California or Florida, perhaps the best way to explore the city is with the subterranean Pedway. This is a network of tunnels running under the central downtown area of Chicago. If you want to travel hassle-free, I recommend this day trip by train from Milwaukee to Chicago.
Book a guided walking tour, then return to explore and shop at your own pace.
If it’s winter when you visit, go ice skating in Millennium Park or visit Willis Tower and get a bird’s eye view of the city from the observation deck.
In summer, water sports on the lake are a great thing to do on your getaway from Milwaukee. Chicago plays host to a multitude of events and festivals all year round. So there is sure to be something to interest you.
If you are en route to Chicago by car, then there are a whole host of things to do between Chicago and Milwaukee that are listed below.
Distance from Milwaukee: 45 minutes, 32 miles
Kenosha is located on the banks of Lake Michigan. So you have a choice of water sports to do on the lake. It’s another place that transports visitors back to the past, including visits to Kenosha, around 32 miles away.
A trip (or perhaps a weekend getaway) near Milwaukee would be ideal for water-sports enthusiasts. It also has a Dinosaur Discovery Museum which kids of all ages (and adults) find fascinating.
Visit the historic Southport Light Station Museum to have an understanding of what it was like to be a lighthouse keeper at the end of the 19th century.
The Kenosha Public Museum is also worth a visit. This has some skeletons of mammoths on display, and there is also a model native American village.
Not far from the Public Museum is the Civil War Museum, ideal for those who are interested in this period of American history. I recommend spending some time exploring Kenosha. You never know what you will find.
Distance from Milwaukee: 1 hour 19 minutes, 79miles
Madison is the state capital of Wisconsin and an interesting city to visit. It’s one of the ideas or day trips in Wisconsin from Milwaukee that you could go on. However, as there is so much to see and do there, you may want to stay longer.
There are a few places of interest that offer free admission, such as the Arboretum at Olbrich Botanical Gardens, and the arboretum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Of course, it’s free to visit all five lakes that are in the Madison area and you can follow the more than 200 miles of hiking and biking trails around the city.
In summer, you can enjoy a free concert on the Monona rooftop terrace, where you can dance and listen to some great live music. Tours of the state capitol building are free, on a daily basis too, and you can get some amazing views of the city from the observation deck.
The city’s museums and art gallery are free and certainly have interesting exhibits.
Madison is arguably one of the best places to visit near Milwaukee. Whether you visit in summer or winter, there is always something to do in the city so that it should definitely be on your list of places around Milwaukee to visit. Madison is thus a great place to visit in Wisconsin in winter.
5. Port Washington
Distance from Milwaukee: 33 minutes, 30 miles
Port Washington is under 30 miles away from Milwaukee, which makes it an ideal place for a brief day trip. You might what to add it to your list of day trips around Milwaukee that you’d like to go on.
If you are to be based in Milwaukee for a prolonged period, you could add this coastal city to your list of weekend getaways near Milwaukee (Wi) and visit when there is an event that you would like to see.
Port Washington is on the shores of Lake Michigan, which means that you can use it as a base and do water sports there.
One of the historic landmarks is the art deco lighthouse on the lakeshore. Stroll around the lakeside shopping area will be a revelation, as you never really know what you will find to delight yourself in this historic part of town.
From here it is only a stone’s throw to the Luxembourg American Cultural Center.
Distance from Milwaukee: 43 minutes driving, 37 miles
Belgium is another town in Wisconsin that has firm ties with Europe, this time with the small country of Luxemburg.
The Luxembourg American Cultural Society and Center is a mine of useful information regarding dual citizenship processes and Luxembourgish heritage. Trace your ancestors who came from Belgium and Luxembourg to the USA and understand more about their lives.
It’s home to the Harrington Beach State Park, the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve and also has, within its boundaries, about 6 miles of the Ozaukee Interurban Trail.
So if you enjoy the great outdoors, Belgium is ideal for a weekend getaway from Milwaukee, or just plan a day visit.
Distance from Milwaukee: 30 minutes, 23 miles
A Milwaukee day trip idea is a visit to Cedarburg, Wisconsin. If you enjoy quaffing a glass of wine, you should spend an hour or two at the Cedar Creek winery. But take care not to drink and drive. It might be a better idea to book a tour instead of driving yourself.
A trip to the winery in Cedarburg is one of the best things to do around Milwaukee.
While in Cedarburg, be sure to visit the visitor center, the museum and the old general store, which gives visitors an idea of what shopping was like in the town’s past. There were no supermarkets or malls, just shops where the owner and staff knew all their customers and endeavored to please them.
The Cedarburg cultural center is the local history museum and it offers visitors another opportunity to step back in time.
Distance from Milwaukee: 38 driving, 27 miles
Racine is another good town to visit. It’s named after the 17th-century French playwright, Jean-Baptiste Racine and is another example of Old World influence on Wisconsin.
The town is situated on the shore of Lake Michigan, so there’s ample opportunity to sail or do other water sports. The town’s lighthouse is yet another highlight of a long weekend trip from Milwaukee.
There’s something for everyone in Racine: from fishing and kayaking to visiting the world-famous buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Racine is not all about culture, although you may be forgiven for thinking that it is. It has appeal for all the senses. And that of taste can be satisfied by a visit to the local bakery, Kringle, home to the official Wisconsin state pastry, which is basically an oval Danish Pastry. There are several Danish bakeries in Racine.
Try the ones on offer at Kringles in the town. Tasting this delicacy is one of the things you can do near Milwaukee if you have a sweet tooth.
9. Lake Geneva
Distance from Milwaukee: 58 minutes driving, 54 miles
Lake Geneva, approximately 50 miles away from Milwaukee, is another of the towns near Milwaukee that you shouldn’t miss. Lake Geneva is on the banks of the lake with the same name, and a stroll around it will transport you back to a bygone age of luxury. Book here your lake cabin in Lake Geneva
It has 19th-century mansions contrasting with the Big Foot State park, (which kids love) and in winter, there is a ski resort to enjoy. So whatever the season, you should add this destination to your list of fun things to do near Milwaukee. It’s particularly beautiful with fall foliage and it’s thus considered one of the top things to do in fall in Wisconsin.
If you love extreme sports, you can go zip-lining in winter and be awe-struck by the snowy landscape. In summer, go kayaking on the lake or try cross-country skiing or walking in snowshoes during winter. I also highly recommend taking a walk on the Geneva Lake Shore Path.
Lake Geneva has something for everyone, so don’t miss it off your itinerary when it comes to things to do near Milwaukee.
Distance from Milwaukee: 55 minutes, 55 miles
Another of the places around Milwaukee to visit is Kohler, just 55 miles from Milwaukee. It is interesting as the village was built to house the workers of the factory of the same name.
Although there are many instances of such communities in the UK, there are few in the US.
Why visit Kohler? There’s a winery there which produces good wine, a golf course and a design center where you can see designs of the bathroom fixtures and fittings produced at the Kohler factory. This might not appeal to everyone, but it is one of the top sites to see.
11. Green Bay
Distance from Milwaukee: 2hours 7 minutes, 116 miles
Green Bay is another of the tourist attractions near Milwaukee Wi which is 116 miles from the city.
You could plan to stay for a couple of days as it offers a chance to do water sports on Lake Michigan and if you have kids, there’s also an amusement park that they will enjoy. When in Green Bay, don’t miss to visit the Titletown, Wisconsin!
Distance from Milwaukee: 1 hour, 55.7 miles
Horicon is home to a marsh and wildlife center, but the city, which is close by. has year-round events for visitors and locals alike.
It’s an ideal place to have your base for your nature expeditions.
13. Horicon Wildlife Refuge and Horicon Marsh
Distance from Milwaukee: 1 hour, 55.7 miles
Horicon Wildlife Center and Horicon Marsh are 55 miles away from Milwaukee. These natural attractions are popular with outdoor enthusiasts and kids. A longer visit to these places is one of the Milwaukee weekend getaway ideas I recommend.
Horicon (not horizon) is problematic to get right if you use a spell check. Its origins lie in the language of the Mohicans and it means either ‘clear’ or ‘pure water.’
The Mohicans who lived in Wisconsin were descendants of those who were driven out of Schodack, which is near Albany, and moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
They were later allotted a reservation in the 19th century and the Munsee tribe joined them. These people became known as the Stockbridge band and some members would have hunted and fished in what is now the Horicon Wildlife Center and its marsh.
If you have kids, they will love pretending to be Mohicans here. Especially after they have taken part in some activities at the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center.
The history of the marsh goes back to prehistoric times, and there is even a woolly mammoth for kids to climb on and touch. Your kids will be fascinated by the exhibits and the information supplied by the knowledgeable staff at the center.
14. Kettle Moraine State Forest
Distance from Milwaukee: 45 minutes, 44 miles
The Kettle Moraine State Forest is in southeastern Wisconsin. You can camp there from May to October, but you should make a reservation for a site.
There are several campgrounds, most of which close by the end of October. The only one open throughout the year is the Ottawa Lake campground which has 100 sites.
At this site, there are cabins for people with disabilities.
Some facts about the Kettle Moraine Forest:
- There are various hiking trails in the forest of different levels of difficulty.
- The forest area has a long history, going right back to the Ice Age.
- You can explore the forest alone or join a group and have a guide.
- The Kettle Moraine scenic drive takes visitors through both sections of the forest and is highly recommended if you have time to explore.
- Horses and their riders are welcome.
- See the glacial landforms.
- You can bike along some of the trails.
Kettle Moraine State Forest appeals to all age groups, so it is a great place for one of the driving vacations from Milwaukee that you can take.
Visiting the forest on a day trip or for a vacation is, without doubt, one of the best places to visit near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
15. Fort Atkinson
Distance from Milwaukee: 39 minutes, 58 miles
Another of the day trips to take around Milwaukee is one to Fort Atkinson, 58 miles from Milwaukee, which has a number of things to do like exploring the Riverside resort and visiting the Dorothy Carnes Country Park and Rose Lake State Natural Area.
Wisconsin Map of Best Day Trips from Milwaukee
Before You Go: Top Tips for your Trip
- You’ll snap tons of photos and I love to take my GoPro in order to shoot even in extreme situations.
- Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and hiking sandals when traveling to warm countries.
- Sunscreen is key! I always take with me my eco-friendly sunscreen by Thinksport. Buy here your eco-friendly sunscreen + free shipping.
- I always carry a light rain jacket, just in case.
- Travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected against all odds with World Nomads.
To make the most of your trip, I recommend Lonely Planet Eastern USA (get -10% off with code “PAULINA10”)
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