Free Activities in Milwaukee, Lakeside, Downtown and More
Milwaukee is a great place to live and a great place to visit with lots to do. If you’re on a budget, some of these things might seem expensive. So here are some free things to do around Milwaukee.
Library programs, author talks, story hours, and summer reading programs
Branches of the Milwaukee Public Library supply tons of free programming for children and adults. There are book clubs, story hours, LEGO clubs, Dungeons and Dragons marathons, film screenings, and author visits, to name a few. Check out his website to see what programs interest you and your family.
During the summer holidays and other school holidays, libraries usually offer additional programs and events. For example, the summer reading program offers children, teenagers and adults the chance to win prizes for the number of books read. And many of those prizes will get you more free stuff.
As part of the Summer Reading Program, the Milwaukee Public Library is challenging families to a public art scavenger hunt throughout Milwaukee. With the mapyou can search for this artwork even when summer is over.
In addition to programming at branches of the Milwaukee Public Library, there are only a few cool places to hang out. There is a secret garden Tippecanoe branch. The Branch of Martin Luther King has King-related art and artifacts. And downtown central library has a huge children’s area with a replica lighthouse to climb, a stage to relax in and a puppet theatre.
Every September during Doors Open Milwaukeenotable buildings offer behind-the-scenes tours, many of which are free.
Many of the buildings in downtown Milwaukee are connected by footbridgesbut it is not necessary to wait until the weather is gloomy to walk there.
Milwaukee Lakeside Things to Do
Take advantage of Milwaukee’s location on a beautiful Great Lake by hanging out by the lake. You can picnic, swim and look for shells and rocks for free. To Bradford Beach and Grant Park Beach, you can also watch volleyball gamesor play yourself when the courts are not in use by the teams.
Experience one of the lakeside events – from kite festivals at charity walks Milwaukee Air and Water Show at the July 3 fireworks at various events taking place outside the Milwaukee Museum of Art and Discover the world.
There are also lakeside trails that are great for walking and rollerblading. Or you can fly a kite at Veterans Park, where lake breezes make for a great kite flying experience.
Free days at Milwaukee County Zoo and Milwaukee Museums
The Milwaukee County Zoo has periodically Free family days throughout the year. For the rest of 2022, these are October 1, November 5, and December 3.
Admission to the Milwaukee Public Museum is free on Kohl’s Thank You Thursdaysthe first Thursday of each month.
During Community Access Days — the third Thursday of each month — admission to the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum is free from noon to 8 p.m. Advance tickets are recommended as there are capacity restrictions.
The Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design has two art galleries that are free and open to the public.
Visit black cat alleyan open-air art gallery, to admire the murals.
Exit at Mitchell International Airport. The Mitchell Gallery of Flight is a nonprofit museum with exhibits dedicated to Wisconsin aviators, aircraft, and even the state’s ties to spaceflight. You can also watch the planes take off at the observation post on Layton Avenue.
Milwaukee County Parks, Playgrounds and Nature Centers
The Milwaukee County Park System has more than 150 parks, with walking and hiking trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, beaches, historic sites and artifacts, volleyball courts, disc golf courses and just big open spaces for the kids to run around.
Visit to a nature center. There are great hiking trails, natural playgrounds and visitor centers. Wehr nature center (which charges a parking fee, but walking from adjacent Whitnall Park is free) and Retzer nature center are great options.
Milwaukee Festivals, Farmers Markets and Beer Gardens
Stroll through a community festival like Bastille DaysThe directory June 19 party or the Milwaukee Night Market. Or go to a church feast. These events don’t charge an admission fee, and even if you don’t want to spend money on food or rides, they’re great places to people watch and hang out. An added benefit is that many of these events offer free activities for children through mobile trucks and vans, such as those at Betty Brinn Children’s Museum and the art museum.
Stroll through small towns in the Milwaukee area and Milwaukee college campuses
Speaking of Cedarburg, check out its covered bridge while you’re there. And then go around other covered bridges in Wisconsin.
Local college campuses are also great places to walk around and people watch. If you are on the Marquette campus, you may wish to attend mass or visit the historic Joan of Arc chapel while you are there.
Hiking Around Milwaukee
There are several hiking trails in the Milwaukee area that are home to remnants of abandoned buildings, railroad tracks, and even luxury resorts.
The Ice Age Trail is truly a Wisconsin treasure – a 1,000 mile trail entirely within the state of Wisconsin that highlights several geological features that were carved out by the melting of a glacier 12,000 years ago. There are lots of ways to hike the Ice Age Trail, to challenge yourself to conquer it all or focus on certain specific segments each time the season is the most to your liking.
Free outdoor movies and concerts around Milwaukee
During the summer months, many parks and communities host free outdoor movies.
It is the same for outdoor concerts.