The Best Day Trips from Milwaukee

Chicago is one of the top day-trip destinations from Milwaukee
Chicago is one of the top day-trip destinations from Milwaukee | © Sawyer Bengtson / Unsplash
Photo of Alice Johnston
Food Editor7 August 2020

Getting out of the city is sometimes exactly what you need, and Wisconsin is a great state to explore. We’ve assembled some of the best day trips from Milwaukee out there, so you can be sure to find one you’ll love. It still counts as a vacation if you’re only away for one day.

Milwaukee Mile

Stadium, Sports Center
Map View

Known as America’s legendary oval, this speedway holds on to a past of glamour and history and is the world’s oldest motor speedway that’s still in use. Still independently owned, if you love racing and the history thereof, you’ll love the Milwaukee Mile. A 1mi (1.6km) flat oval track, it has been driven on since 1903 and has played host to several Nascar events and IndyCar Series races. While you’re in the area, you can also visit the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in West Allis.

Old World Wisconsin

Museum
Map View
At the Fossebrekke Farm, Norwegian Area, Old World Wisconsin, which is an historic pioneer village.
© Carl Hanninen / Alamy Stock Photo
Ever been curious about pioneer-era America? This 567-acre (229ha) open-air museum is home to 65 historic, pioneer-era buildings that the first settlers in this area lived in. Incredibly entertaining, the museum employs staff who wear costumes and reenact the lives of Wisconsin’s first settlers from Norway, Finland, Denmark and Germany. With frequent events around the holidays, it’s a quaint place to visit.

Chicago

Park, School
Map View
This day trip almost doesn’t need an introduction. This famous city is home to attractions including the Bean, Willis Tower and Millennium Park, and best of all, it’s only 100mi (161km) away from Milwaukee. Whether you want to shop until you drop, take in some culture at the Art Institute of Chicago or catch a Bears, White Sox or Cubs game, Chicago will deliver. Who knows, maybe you’ll even end up staying more than one day.

Horicon Marsh

Natural Feature
Map View

This is the biggest freshwater cattail marsh in the US, and it’s home to more kinds of birds than you can shake a feather at. If birdwatching is your thing, Horicon Marsh is your heaven. If you’re planning a trip here, try to time it for either October, when you’ll see thousands of ducks making their way south to escape the winter, or May, when the migration moves back to the north. May also has the Horicon Marsh Bird Festival.

Ten Chimneys

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Poolhouse at Ten Chimneys Foundation at Genesee Depot WI USA. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.
© Colby McLemore / Alamy Stock Photo
Just 25mi (40km) west of Milwaukee is the holiday house of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, in a small and old-fashioned community called Genesee Depot. Ten Chimneys was a hotspot for parties and a celebrity favorite. Visitors of the couple who stayed here include Katharine Hepburn, Carol Channing and Helen Hayes. As it’s now a historic landmark, you can take tours and learn about the history and culture of the people who used to stay here.

Lake Geneva

Natural Feature
Map View
WISCONSIN Fontana Beach in small town on Lake Geneva popular vacation destination
© Kim Karpeles / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’re in Wisconsin, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to lakes. While many are within the city of Milwaukee itself, sometimes a day trip to a truly beautiful spot is necessary. At Lake Geneva, there’s something for everyone. With a 26mi (42km) walking path and opportunities for boating and swimming, it’s a true getaway from the city. There are also plenty of cafés, restaurants and shops nearby, as well as the 272-acre (110ha) Big Foot Beach State Park, so the fun never has to end.
These recommendations were updated on August 7, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.