Milwaukee – A Weekend Trip

We recently had a week long trip in Wisconsin. Some of that trip was in the Wisconsin Dells area (that will be a separate blog post) but the majority of the trip was in the Milwaukee area. My in-laws live there, Ryan grew up there, and there are some things that we always try to do/see/eat when we are there.

Milwaukee is so close to Chicago. If you have a free weekend, a quick Milwaukee trip is a great getaway!  It’s great for families! There are so many family friendly activities to do and places to go.

Places to go:

Head to Betty Brinn Children’s Museum – There are so many fun exhibits in this museum. One of our girls’ favorite sections is the Home Town section. This area is like a mini-Milwaukee and encourages lots of imaginative play. This whole museum is great for young kiddos!

Find a park – There are so many different outdoor areas that you can explore. Get outside and find an adventure!

Go to a beach – Milwaukee is right on Lake Michigan so there are lots of beaches. Atwater Beach is my favorite. As you can see in the pic above, it’s just beautiful. The beaches are generally clean, and actually fairly quiet. There are so many great family beaches. Definitely a great way to spend a summer afternoon.

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Visit Milwaukee Art Museum – This museum has a wonderful collection to explore and it’s not huge so spending some time here is not overwhelming for young travelers. They have, in my opinion, one of the best family programs. There is a studio space that is a lot of fun. When we went, there were two different art projects that you could participate in. One of the best parts of their family programing is that you can check out several different items to use in the museum for further exploration. We borrowed drawing materials to sketch art pieces that caught the girls’ eyes. We also borrowed fabric tubes that were so much fun! The instructions gave us the locations for a few pieces of art that matched and we got to just have fun! Seriously. So fun! And so different from any other museum experience that we have explored.

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Go to Discovery World – This is one of our favorite places to explore in Milwaukee. There are lots of cool science exhibits to engage with. Most of the exhibits are STEM related. There are a lot of activities that allow your child the change to learn about physics by doing hands-on experiences. There is also an aquarium! The aquarium is not as big as going to a stand-alone aquarium (like Shedd or someplace similar) but you can still see some interesting animals. You really can do a little bit of everything at this museum. One of the coolest things that you can do is to go for a trip on the tall ship S/V Denis Sullivan. What an amazing experience and a great way to get a different view of Milwaukee.

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Places to eat:

Cafe Corazon – This is one of our favorites. During one trip to Milwaukee, Ryan and I ate at Cafe Corazon three times in one week. That food is all good. The drinks are delicious!

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Cubanita’s – If you are in the mood for some classic Cuban food, this is your place in Milwaukee. My favorite? go on Monday for the daily special: arroz con pollo. Delicious comfort food.

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Kopp’s – If you are in the Milwaukee area during the summer and don’t go to Kopp’s, well, you’re not doing summer correctly! Go for the custard, of course. (And you can check in advance to check what the flavor of the day will be by looking at the website, or just driving by – it’s posted on the signage outside.) The custard and custard treats are all yummy, but their burgers are some of my favorite – anywhere.

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Sprecher’s – You can find Sprecher’s sodas at some stores outside of the Milwaukee area, but, there is just something about getting it from the source. There are several locations in Wisconsin (check the website). The drinks are good, there are sodas and beers! And the food is yummy and definitely family friendly. And, as you can see in the pic, for dessert you can get a flight…a float flight!

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Movida – One of my favorite types of meals is to get tapas. Yum yum yum. I was so happy to find a great place for tapas in Milwaukee. Not only does Movida have a great selection of tapas (seriously, look at that menu!), but they also have delicious churros for dessert!

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Have you been to Milwaukee? What are your favorite places to go? Where are your favorite places to eat?

 


Going to Granny and Pa’s house and having some Milwaukee adventures (going to the beach) were on our summer bucket list.

Our list thus far:

 

 

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Hunting Trolls – A How To Guide

We recently went to Morton Arboretum to check out the new Trolls experience. This is a super fun experience for all families. The girls were so excited when we saw our first troll, the one overlooking the highway.

(We did eventually hike up to this one to see it up close.)

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It was a very hot day when we went, and honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. You are given a map to help find the trolls and that’s definitely useful. The map also details which parking areas to use to get closer to each one. The map itself is not as super exact as the trail maps that are located on each trail. However, it is very useful. And, there are signs throughout the trails (and on the roads) letting you know which way to go to hunt trolls.

When you find a troll, you will also find a clue written on a sign. Write down this clue on your map! (There is a section on your map for gathering clues.) It will help you to find the troll hideout.

The first four trolls are found starting at the parking lot and moving in a big circle. This circle is over 3 miles (I’m not sure the exact mileage but I asked a couple Arboretum employees and they each said at least 3 miles  – and then congratulated us for hiking those miles!). The trails are absolutely beautiful. And hiking the paths allows you to see some truly beautiful areas.

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But be warned, some of the trails are in some deep wooded areas and were very, very, very mosquitoe-y when we went. Very mosquitoe-y.

The trail leading up to this guy was especially buggy.

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The sculptures are all amazing. (And made from reclaimed wood or leftover wood from other projects.)

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Seriously cool. However, I would not really recommend doing what we did – walking the trails to find the first four trolls. It was hot. It’s a lot of walking for small legs. And the mosquitoes made it a bit of a miserable experience. If you are planning to hike it, please be a bit more prepared than we were. Please, please, please, please bring insect repellent. We were definitely covered in mosquito bites after this hike. Yuck.

Realistically, the hike wasn’t all bad. My girls are accustomed to doing long walks and/or hikes so the distance wasn’t terrible. And we had snacks and water bottles in my backpack. Much of the hike was very beautiful. I am glad that we were able to see things that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. The views were gorgeous. And, many of the trails were areas of the Arboretum that we hadn’t explored before.

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But, after we made it back to the visitors center after finding the first four trolls, we ate lunch, cooled down at the Children’s Garden (one of our favorite spots in the entire Arboretum), and we stopped at the gift shop to make a very important purchase.

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Definitely necessary! (I beg you, do not attempt hiking the paths to find the trolls if you don’t have bug spray! Drive and park!)

Since we had already done plenty of hiking for the day, we drove to find the last two trolls. Honestly, if you are attempting this with younger kids (and you should, you really should. It’s such a fun, magical experience for kids) I recommend using the troll hunting map to find the closest parking spots and then walk just a bit to find the trolls. It’s a much more pleasant experience if it is super hot and/or super buggy.

After you have found the last two trolls, you can put the clues together to find the troll hideout! This was hands-down our favorite part of the experience. It’s such a fun spot to explore. The entire area is a very clever design that really sums up the entire troll hunting experience. So fun!

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The troll hunting will be at the Morton Arboretum through summer of 2019. I am looking forward to finding them again in the fall. I think it’s going to be even more beautiful to explore when the leaves are changing colors!

Have you checked out this experience yet? What did you think?

 

Going to the Morton Arboretum and going on a hike were both items on our summer bucket list!

The list thus far:

 

Splash Pads and Fountains

Our girls love splash pads. Sometimes great splash pads are even better than a pool (sometimes). We love the splash pads at Maggie Daley Park in Millennium Park. Not only are the splash pads fun and in the middle of a playground that you can play on, but they in the middle of Millennium Park so you can take a quick walk over to Crown Fountain to extend the fun!

This trip was the first time that big girl did not want to go on the big playground at Maggie Daley. If you’ve been there, I’m talking about the big bridge section. While we were at the playground, you could overhear other parents having similar discussions…..although this playground is a lot of fun…..there are just too many entrances and exits in each area and it is just too easy to lose track of children. Big girl did not want to go to the bridge section (also my least favorite part) because she “couldn’t see us” last time we went. And it’s true. The playground is huge and there are just too many directions that kids can run off to. If you’ve been there, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

But, although one of the splash pads sections was closed, we had a lot of fun playing in the sections that were open and playing on the not-bridge sections of the playground. And then, a walk over to Crown Fountain for more fun!

 

Our list thus far:

The Art Institute and Young Children

I will be honest. When I was a kid, the Art Institute was definitely not my favorite museum. Oh, it was soooooooo boooooooring. It was just walking around and staring at a wall and waiting for my parents to finish reading signs.

Now, however, the Art Institute is one of my favorite places in all of Chicago. I’m old enough now (lol) to understand the importance of so many of the pieces in their collection. I could seriously sit and just look at a painting for a long time. At least until my girls started getting fidgety. But, in the years since I was a kiddo, the Art Institute has  done an amazing job at helping people (of all ages) to love art!

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One of the best areas in the museum is the Ryan Learning Center. Amazing. Perfect for kids. And there are things that for even the youngest art lover. On their shelves, you will find puzzles, blocks, and lots and lots of books.

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When the girls were really little, we would spend hours building with blocks and reading book after book after book.

There is always an art project for kids to do that relates directly to an artist’s work that you can find somewhere in the museum. The last time we went, our girls made “light screens” in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright.

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But one of the best activities that you will find in the Learning Center is the JourneyMaker! It is amazing! The kids pick a theme, answer a few questions, and then print out their own art scavenger hunt based on their answers to use as a guide in the museum.

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The booklet that is printed, tells you exactly what gallery to find the art in, as well. This helps to keep you from feeling overwhelmed. I try to combine both girls’ Journeys on a museum map so we can save time. This past time, most of their pieces to find were close to each other in the galleries.

Once you find a piece, there is an activity to do. Kids are asked to think of what questions they would ask the art, or try to pose like a statue, or imagine if their parent was wearing the same thing as the art. Lots of fun scenarios and it  helps them to engage with the art in a meaningful and age-appropriate way.

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Now, you certainly do not have to limit your museum visit by simply finding things in the JourneyMaker. I try to pick out a couple pieces that I want to see. Or a gallery or two that I would like to wander through.

Chances are really good, you’ll find me in the Impressionist galleries.

And a stop to see one of my faves:

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Plus, there are two galleries that I promise your kids will love! The miniatures and the armor!

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(If you are visiting during the holidays, the miniatures are fun to see decked out in holiday decor! Very fun.)

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The armor exhibit recently went through a huge update and is amazing!!!


It is tempting to try to see everything when visiting a museum. I’m going to be honest and say that if you tried to see everything at the Art Institute and you are traveling with young kids, you and your kids will most likely be miserable. Oh, I’ve been there. It’s not much fun. However, if you use the JourneyMaker as your guide and then pick a few other pieces that are must-sees for you, you and your kids will have a blast visiting one of Chicago’s best offerings!

Now, tell me…..have you been to the Art Institute? What are your must-sees?


This was one of one summer bucket list items!

Our list thus far:

Space Day

One of our girls’ favorite museums is the Adler Planetarium. (Especially since, big girl is going to be an astronaut when she grows up!)

We went this week during the free general admission for Illinois residents day. It was busy, of course, but we got there soon after opening so we were able to walk right in. (This is always a good idea if you are going during the free admission days. Show up soon after opening! As close to opening as you can!)

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The Planetarium isn’t huge and we’ve been there several times. However, I always notice something new each time I go.

For example:

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And:

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Our girls have been to all of the museums several times already but even they were able to find something new to see or do. Lily wrote a letter to Astronaut Jim Lovell.

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“I want to be an astronaut like you. Lily. 6 years. Love it!” I hope that that actually gets to him. 🙂

We’ve been working our way through the summer bucket list pretty quickly this week. Be on the lookout for more posts soon!

Our list thus far:

Only at the hotel….

There are some things that I only do while staying at a hotel….

1. I watch tv in bed.

We don’t have a tv in our bedroom at home and haven’t had one in our bedroom for years. So watching tv in bed is really kind of a treat! Watching Food Network while wearing my jammies, well, that’s not anything new. But watching Food Network while wearing my jammies AND in bed?! Now, that’s something special.

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Also, aren’t those pajama pants the cutest?! Stitch! I got them from Wal-Mart but can’t seem to find them online (or else I would link to them…..).

2. I eat food in bed.

The very thought of eating in bed at home makes me cringe. Crumbs! Crumbs in the bed! Crumbs! And that leads to fears of…..Ants! Ugh! Ants in bed! Ahhh!

But when I’m staying at a hotel, my distaste for crumbs in a bed goes right out the window because one of my favorite things to do is eat cookies in a hotel bed. The easiest way to make a super cozy hotel bed even more cozy is by the addition of cookies.  And, in my opinion, the best kind of cookies to eat in a hotel bed are Chips Ahoy chewy chocolate chip cookies. (You have to get the chewy kind. They are superior.) I basically only buy them if we are staying in a hotel. Sure there might be crumbs in the bed….but I don’t have to wash the sheets!

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3. If there’s a gym on site, I will use it. And I will use it frequently.

It’s fun to be able to use equipment that I don’t regularly have access to. Since my regular routine consists of running outside or using the treadmill inside, it’s nice to be able to change that up. The last hotel that we stayed in had an elliptical, treadmill, and a bike. There was also a nice assortment of free weights. It’s nice to change it up but it’s also important to give your muscles a chance to work in a different way.

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Plus, there’s a pool! So, chances are really good, if I didn’t work out in the gym facility, I’m probably going to be taking the girls to the pool at some point. And if I did go to the gym AND hit the pool, well, that’s two workouts in one day! Yes!

 

What do you do while staying in a hotel that you only do while staying in a hotel?

 

 

Traveling With Kids – Tips and Tricks

We’ve done a lot of traveling with our girls in 2018 – for holidays, for Disney World, and sadly, for funerals. I have some tips that we’ve learned through our travels this year and every time that we’ve traveled.

Please note, I am not an expert. Not at all. And sometimes these tips work really well. And sometimes, life happens and nothing goes the way you think that it will…….

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1) Each kid gets a backpack. Not only does this ensure that they are able to bring things to entertain them in the car, on the airplane, however you are traveling, but it also ensures that they have the things that they want. Each girl is now old enough (6 and almost 4) that they are in charge of packing things that they want. But, they can only bring what fits in the backpack. This helps to keep the backseat from becoming a toy pile.

2) Make a checklist of things that you need to bring. I love Google Notes. I start working on a checklist before we leave and then mark them off as I pack. This way, I don’t end of staring at the suitcase wondering what else I need to bring. (Although, I still do that….just not as much as I used to….) Google Notes is great because you can also share it with someone else.

3) Snacks! Snacks are great because, in our family, being hangry is a very real problem.  We still bring our diaper bag on trips but our diaper bag (a backpack) is now filled with snacks, juice boxes, water bottles that can be refilled, and a change of clothes for each girl (because you never know what might happen). If you are staying at a hotel with a complimentary breakfast, grab a couple extra things to have in the hotel room for later. Granola bars, fruit, and dry cereal all make great snacks that you can grab from the hotel breakfast bar and enjoy later in the day.

4) Plan for a rainy day. There are always days when the weather will not cooperate with your plans and you might be stuck in your room for awhile. The Target Dollar Spot is my favorite spot to hit up before a trip so that I can stock up on fun stationary sets, stamps, stickers, etc. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. They don’t take up a lot of room in your luggage. And if you don’t use them, you simply take them home to use later.

5) Buy Ziploc baggies! I use them to pack things that might leak like shampoo or lotion bottles. I throw extras in the diaper bag in case we need to pack up wet clothes. (Also good if you are still in the diaper phase and can’t dispose of a dirty diaper right away.) The bags aren’t going to leak and they really don’t take up much space.

6) Be sure that everyone knows the plan but be ready for the plan to change. Yes, it’s fun to plan and plan and plan and plan. I love planning! But, it’s important to be flexible too.  Things happen. Plans have to change. And teaching kids how to deal with disappointment or change is an important part of traveling. Be ready for the unexpected but still plan for what you want to do. And let your kids be a part of the planning! When kids know what’s going to happen, they tend to feel less stress because they know what to expect. Or at least, they know what they can plan to expect.

7) Organize ahead of time and continue organizing while you are at your destination. I like to plan outfits in advance and then roll the outfits together when packing. That way, all that you have to do is pull out an outfit and go. Plus, if you’ve rolled the outfits together fairly tightly, they are most likely fairly wrinkle free! And that’s a huge plus. Because I don’t iron. Seriously. Ask my husband. I would rather hang a pair of pants in the bathroom to steam during showers for days on end instead of simply ironing them.

8) On the night that you arrive, take an hour and unpack what needs to be unpacked. I hang up things that I know should be hung up. We set up a spot for the backpacks to be stored. We designate a place for shoes. We designate a place for dirty laundry to get piled up. If everyone knows where the new homes for things are while traveling, it makes getting ready in the morning much easier. No searching and searching for shoes if everyone knows where the shoes go.

9) Take time to slow down. This is something that I am still working on. It’s so easy to just go, go, go, go all the time when traveling with kids. However, some of our favorite times are when we are just lounging by the pool, or watching shows while all piled in the hotel bed. Also, eating cookies in bed? Definitely something I only do while traveling but it’s also one of my favorite parts of a trip.

10) Try to find ways to keep the daily schedule similar to your at-home schedule. Eat at similar times. Try to go to bed at similar times (although this one is much harder to accomplish, in my opinion).

11) Do something that you haven’t done before! Yes, routine is great but travel is fun when you get to explore and try something that you haven’t done before. Eat new food! Visit new spots! Even when traveling to places that you’ve been to many times before, there are still opportunities to expand your horizons and try something new. And I recommend doing that!

12) If you are still traveling with big essentials (strollers, pack-n-play, car seats) make life as easy as you can. In some large travel destinations and some hotels, you can rent many of these items so you don’t have to travel with them. Babies are so small but all of their things take up so much space! And if you are traveling with a car seat and are using it on a plane (each time we’ve flown, we have had at least one car seat on the flight with us), invest in one of those straps that attach to your luggage. They aren’t very expensive and they make it so much easier to run through an airport. (Just google “car seat luggage strap” and you’ll get many options).

13) If possible, do a load of laundry during your trip. This means that you don’t have to pack as much in the beginning! And then you have room in your luggage to bring home more souvenirs! Sometimes, it’s just inevitable that you’ll need to do at least one load. If there’s a diaper blow-out or a car-sick incident, and you won’t be heading home a few days, you’re probably not going to want that yuck to just sit on the clothes until you get home. But look on the bright side, a load of laundry done while on your trip means one less that you’ll have to do as soon as you get home.

14) Have fun! This is, of course, the most important tip! Your kids will feed off of your energy, especially little ones. If you’re having fun, they will have fun. If you’re stressed, well, they are going to be stressed. And that’s going to lead to arguing, tantrums and all of that kind of fun behavior……

 

Now I want to know……what are your tips and tricks for traveling with kids? What works for you? What doesn’t work?