Got a day or two to spare on your Milwaukee trip? Take some time to check out the best day trips from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. With beautiful scenery, bustling cities, and even inland beaches within driving distance, you’ll find plenty to enjoy around Wisconsin’s largest city.
Within easy reach of Milwaukee, plenty of amazing side trips await, including the Windy City of Chicago, the gorgeous natural paradise of Elkhart Lake, and Madison, the historical capital of Wisconsin.
Ready to spice up your itinerary? Get out of the city and explore its surroundings with this ultimate guide to the best Milwaukee day trips!
Top-rated Milwaukee side trips
Lake Geneva, WI
Looking for a lakeside retreat that feels worlds away from the big city vibes of Milwaukee? Travel just under an hour away from central Milwaukee, and you’ll arrive at Lake Geneva, with its glistening waters and family-friendly atmosphere.
Start your day trip by exploring the Black Point Estate and Gardens. The 19th-century estate was once owned by Conrad Seipp, a beer magnate from Chicago. Wander the beautifully furnished hallways and roam the well-maintained gardens. You’ll find plenty of examples of 19th-century buildings and mansions around Lake Geneva, as the town was one of the go-to spots for wealthy Chicagoans in the Gilded Age.
Head down to the lakeside for a bite to eat at one of the many waterfront restaurants and bars before rolling out your towels at the gorgeous Big Foot Beach State Park. Lay back and relax, or hit the trails and have an adventure. With plenty of picnic spots, you can gather your friends and family and have a wholesome day out at Lake Geneva.
Wanting to hit up two cities in just one trip? Just drive an hour and a half south, and you’ll find yourself in Chicago. With so many things to see & do in Chicago, nicknamed the Windy City, a one-day side trip might not be enough. But you can certainly fill your day whether you’re traveling with family, friends or your other half.
Start your day in the Ferris Bueller-style wonderland by heading to Millennium Park, home of the Art Institute of Chicago. Wander around this popular public art space and park, taking in the beauty all around you. While you’re here, check out the iconic ‘Bean’ sculpture and snap a quick selfie for the ‘Gram.
All that art, nature, and culture made you hungry? Check out the plethora of eateries along the edge of Millennium Park, including the beloved Hot Woks Cool Sushi.
In need of a hot dog and some entertainment? Head to Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, and catch a ball game with friends and family.
Wisconsin Dells, WI
Visiting Milwaukee with family or friends and looking for a thrilling side trip? Drive just shy of two hours northeast to the city of Wisconsin Dells for a fun-filled time.
Most well-known for its numerous theme parks and water parks, Wisconsin Dells guarantees a fun day out for visitors of all ages. Start your day by checking out one of the largest waterparks in America, Noah’s Ark Water Park. Slip, slide and swim until your heart’s content.
If you prefer to stay dry or want the best of both worlds, visit the Mt. Olympus theme park. Featuring a full theme park and a water park all within one location, Mt. Olympus lets you soar on rollercoasters, float on lazy rivers, and snack on all the junk food you can find.
Looking for something a little more low-key around Wisconsin Dells? Head to The Dells of the Wisconsin River and experience the natural wonder of the deep canyons and carved rock faces as the river rushes by.
Jump on one of the many boat tours and learn more about the important environmental impact of the area and the history of the indigenous Ho-Chunk people.
Green Bay, WI
Are you a huge NFL fan? Jump in your car and drive one hour and 50 minutes north to Green Bay, home to the mighty Green Bay Packers and the third-biggest city in Wisconsin.
Aside from catching a football game at the hallowed ground of Lambeau Field, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in “The Little City by the Bay.” Spend the morning exploring the natural beauty of the Green Bay Botanical Garden, with its 47 acres of beautifully themed gardens.
After that, check out the National Railroad Museum, a haven for all things locomotive. Learn about the history and engineering that went into the expansive rail network of the US and get up close and personal with some of the oldest trains in the country.
After you’ve had your fill of sports, museums, and gardens, make a beeline for Titletown, a social and entertainment complex in the shadow of Lambeau Field. Catch a movie, chow down on some tasty food, or in the winter, grab your skates and hit the ice.
Elkhart Lake, WI
Looking to get out in nature and explore all that Wisconsin has to offer? Just an hour up the coast of Lake Michigan, you’ll reach the stunning village of Elkhart Lake, a vacation destination all year round and suitable for all ages.
As Elkhart Lake is part of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, you can start your day off at the visitor center, gathering hiking trail maps or, if you’ve brought your bike, hitting those mountain biking routes. Once you’ve explored the vast forests that surround Elkhart Lake, head down to the village’s namesake.
One of Wisconsin’s deepest and clearest lakes, Elkhart Lake is truly a sight to behold. Take a dip in the beautiful waters, sail out on a paddleboard, or cast a line out and see what bites. Enjoy the tranquility of your surroundings, a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Milwaukee!
Before you return to Milwaukee, make sure to stop at Elkhart Lake’s Farmer’s & Artisans Market for some of the freshest local produce. Swing by the village’s only brewery, SwitchGear Brewery, for some souvenir beers to enjoy back in the city.
Fond du Lac, WI
Looking for a historic, small-town vibe right on Lake Winnebago? Jump in your car and venture one hour 15 minutes north to Fond du Lac. The beautiful town offers a laid-back vacation vibe that’s great both in summer and winter.
With Lake Winnebago being one of the country’s largest inland lakes, you and your family will find plenty to enjoy. Wander around the 400-acre Lakeside Park, taking in the views and the fresh air on your way towards the iconic Fond du Lac Lighthouse.
Explore the Fond du Lac Lighthouse, climb to the top, and marvel at a panoramic view of the bay. While you’re in Lakeside Park, take some time to check out the marina and the marshes, full of beautiful boats and wildlife.
As you head back into town, stop off along the lakeside for a bite to eat and a drink at Salty’s Seafood & Spirits, with its tropical, beachy vibe and fresh seafood.
Continue towards Buttermilk Creek Park, a beautiful green space complete with an amphitheater. The public park frequently holds events; wander down and see what’s on while you’re visiting!
Want to inject some history into your Milwaukee day trip? Check out the city of Oshkosh on Lake Winnebago. The city made a name for itself during the 19th century for its integral role in the lumber industry. It’s just an hour and 40 minutes north of Milwaukee; you can even hit up Fond du Lac on your way back!
Start your day trip in Oshkosh by boarding one of On the Loos Cruises‘ famous paddlewheel river boats. Relax as you traverse the Fox River, Lake Winnebago, or Lake Butte des Morts, or create a custom cruise for you and your family or friends. Get your bearings, learn more about the area, and take in some spectacular views.
Hop off the riverboat and head to Friar Tuck’s for some much-needed sustenance. Going for over 30 years, Friar Tuck’s is a must-visit while you’re in Oshkosh. The popular local restaurant serves up classic American cuisine, guaranteed to please even the pickiest eater. You can choose from three of their establishments across the town.
Once you’ve had your fill of delicious food, grab your gang and wander over to The Asylum Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse is located on a small island on Lake Winnebago, reachable via a small wooden footbridge. Although you can’t go up the lighthouse, it’s a great spot to sit and chill, admiring the beautiful nature all around you.
Aztalan State Park, WI
Looking for a natural side trip with some ancient history thrown in that’s under an hour away from Milwaukee? Look no further than Aztalan State Park, a green space with a mysterious and ancient backstory.
This unusual state park is home to a huge number of Native American mounds, but they might look a little different from what you’ve previously seen. They’re so odd that early settlers thought they’d come across the mythical Aztec city of Aztalan—hence the name!
You can spend your day hiking or wandering around the well-maintained state park—and even bring your furry friend along for the ride. Start your visit by exploring the mounds and learning more about their history before heading to the Crawfish River.
Fish or boat along the river, taking in the scenery, reeling in your dinner, or just relaxing with the sound of the water lapping against the riverbank. Aztalan State Park is truly a relaxing and illuminating Milwaukee day trip for couples or families looking to escape the city.
Harrington Beach State Park, WI
Want a day at the beach despite being hundreds of miles inland? Drive 40 minutes up the coast of Lake Michigan to Harrington Beach State Park and bring all your beachwear with you!.
Start your day trip hiking around the various woodland trails between the car park and the beachfront. Bring your binoculars: Harrington Beach State Park is hugely popular with bird-watchers. You might even catch a glimpse of something rare and beautiful here!
Once you get down to the beach, spread out your towel and relax. Soak up the sun, catch up on that book you’ve been meaning to read, or take a dip in the clear waters of Lake Michigan. Regroup for a picnic at one of the state park’s many picnic areas before continuing to the astronomy tower.
Explore this extraordinary scientific hub, and learn more about the skies above us and the universe beyond. Having had your fill of new facts, fun, and exercise out in nature, hike back towards the car and drive the short distance back to Milwaukee.
If you’re a foodie, grab your friends or your other half, and drive an hour and 20 minutes west to Madison, the capital city of Wisconsin.
Known as a hub of all things craft or independent, Madison is home to numerous food and drink festivals, including the Isthmus Beer & Cheese Festival and Craft Beer Week.
Not traveling when those festivals are on? Don’t worry; head to downtown Madison and find The Old Fashioned. Here, you’ll find the best cheese curds in Wisconsin. (And, yes, there was indeed a vote!)
With Wisconsin’s moniker “America’s Dairyland,” if these cheese curds are the top-rated in the state, it’s safe to say they’re probably the best in the USA!
After you’ve eaten your weight in cheese curds, wander along the city’s Capital City State Trail, leading you to the waterfront. Take a moment to appreciate the beautiful lakefront convention center, designed by world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
If you’re looking to seriously treat yourself and you love all things gastronomy, make sure to make a reservation at L’Etoile Restaurant, a fine dining farm-to-table experience by Chef Tory Miller, a winner of the prestigious James Beard award. It’s truly a foodie paradise!