With the dog days of summer arriving in the next few weeks—when the days are long and hot and you’ve likely run out of ways to entertain yourself and/or your kids—it’s a great time to stock up on ideas for short excursions and day trips in the Milwaukee area.
If you’ve exhausted your list of go-to daytime entertainment and are looking to inject a sense of quirkiness or uniqueness to your days, here’s a list of novel, oddball, out-of-the-box attractions to check out this summer.
1. Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear (Downtown Milwaukee)
It might be a little cliché to suggest that a museum can transport you back in time, but this place really does just that!
The Chudnow is an immersive space that takes visitors back to 20th century Milwaukee. The building is an old house with its rooms now fashioned as exhibits with wall-to-wall décor and artifacts, mostly from the 1920s and 1930s. Exhibits/rooms include a grocery store packed with authentic packaging and signs, a movie palace, toy store, pharmacy, hidden speakeasy, and more. The museum has a similar feel to the “Old Streets of Milwaukee” exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum but it has even more detail as well as the ability to enter most of the rooms and get up-close and personal with the decades-old relics.
The museum is great for kids and adults of all ages and only takes about an hour to walk through. The Chudnow Museum, located in Downtown Milwaukee, is a 2-minute drive off Interstate-94 with free on-site parking lot behind the building.
2. American Science & Surplus (Near West Allis & Greenfield)
Need laboratory supplies? An inflatable Thanksgiving turkey? Remote-controlled spider? Gas mask for a steampunk costume? We’re willing to bet the Science & Surplus store has it in stock.
There are so many oddities on the shelves of this store, it’s hard to really capture!
You could spend an entire afternoon wandering the aisles and discovering unusual and bizarre items on the shelves of this shop in southwest Milwaukee. The store has everything from science and arts & crafts supplies to build-your-own kits to novelty and gag gifts to garden and household tools.
It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon or check for items for your next Halloween costume, science experiment, DIY project, or potato-launching experiment.
3. National Bobblehead Hall of Fame & Museum (Fifth Ward neighborhood)
The world’s only shrine to the cultural institution that is the bobblehead, this museum in Milwaukee’s Fifth Ward is perfect for fans of the tiny toy figurines as well as anyone looking for a few hours’ of off-kilter entertainment.
The museum houses more than 6,500 bobbleheads from all eras and genres, including sports, pop culture, and more. There’s also a store with more than 500 bobbleheads to choose from so you can build out your own collection.
4. Build-Your-Own Cheesehead Tour (Walker's Point neighborhood)
Whether having seen them on TV during a Green Bay Packers game or in your very own closet, chances are you’re familiar with the iconic cheesehead.
The company that makes the cheeseheads, Foamation, is headquartered in the Walker's Point neighborhood of Milwaukee and offers daily tours of its production facilities—plus the opportunity to produce your very own foam cheese hat (or a custom foam product) on the factory floor.
5. Spectacular Sculpture (Colgate)
Spectacular Sculpture is a 6-acre outdoor art studio in the rustic Colgate area, about 35 minutes outside of the Milwaukee metro area.
From the moment you pull into the driveway, thousands of fascinating mixed-metal sculptures abound—some enormous and imposing, some small and easy to miss, others kinetic, some hiding behind trees, others zany, poignant, and sometimes even mind-bending.
The grounds are open every day from sunrise to sunset and offer a peaceful, often private stroll through a park-like setting. The artist whose work makes up the sculpture garden, Paul Bobrowitz, is well known in the area for his wonderful metalwork, and there’s a good chance you’ve seen his work at schools, offices, parks, and other public and private spots throughout the area, so it’s fun to see so many of his pieces in one place.
While you’re in the area, check out the Monches Art Farm or the Basilica of Holy Hill for a few bonus destinations that are also completely unique, one-of-a-kind attractions.
Honorable Mention: House on the Rock (Spring Green)
No list of quirky places in Wisconsin would be complete without House on the Rock, one of the most famous and, arguably, quirkiest places in the entire state and maybe even region.
Where to even begin with this house of quirk?
Check out the Infinity Room, a 218-foot walkway that leads to a spectacular view of a scenic valley, or maybe a tantalizingly ornate carousel, which is the world’s largest.
There’s also authentic Japanese Gardens, a room of organs (the musical kind), a room of vintage musical instruments, a room of model airplanes, and a room dedicated to the “Heritage of the Sea” complete with a 200-foot sea creature, and so much more it’s hard to wrap one’s head around it all.
House on the Rock is located about one hour west of the city, so it did not make the main list because it’s not technically in the metro area, but we guarantee a day trip to this unbelievable house and monument to design will be well worth it.
Each of Wimmer’s communities is within easy driving distance to these fun and quirky spots, but they’re all also located in unique, vibrant, and growing towns around the Milwaukee area. Residents have no shortage of ways to stay entertained no matter the season and no matter which suburb they live in.
Some communities, like Poplar Creek and RiverWalk on the Falls, are located in bustling, faster-paced areas near shopping and restaurants, while others like The Sanctuary or Whitnall Glen offer quieter, more peaceful settings—without sacrificing proximity to highways, business districts, and community amenities.
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