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Best family museums in Wisconsin

Does the thought of a day at the museum get your family yawning? Wake them up by taking them to one of Wisconsin’s best museums that provides family entertainment along with education. Take your pick from top children’s museums, or visit one of the state’s specialty museums, like the one that celebrates the railroad — or even the circus!

Railroad museum

Green Bay Children’s Museum

Spend a day at the brand-new Green Bay Children’s Museum and you enter an incredible world of make-believe. From the huge hot air balloon to the Mighty Oak, the 15,000 square foot museum visually excites the imagination from the moment you walk through the door. Filled with hands-on exhibits, the museum is designed specifically to stimulate and educate kids ages 1-10. The Under Construction exhibit encourages kids to explore building, while the Imagination Station is all about teaching kids to express themselves through art. Other exhibits include the Digestive System, the Water Gallery, the ’50s Diner, Safety Street, the Garden Shop and the Shoe Store where kids can play dress-up. For more structured learning, sign your child up for one of the museum’s programs, like science Saturdays or water and safety.

Location: 301 N. Washington Street, Green Bay, WI 54301

Rates: Daily admission is $8 per person; free for low-income families. Annual memberships are $90-$120.


National Railroad Museum

All aboard! Since 1958, the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin, has been dedicated to preserving the history of the transportation that made America great. Kids and adults alike will love exploring actual locomotives and train cars, including the world’s largest steam locomotive, a restored 1920s Pullman sleeper car and a “futuristic” Aerotrain from the 1950s. The museum also has some hands-on models, cartoons on railroad safety and train rides around the grounds available May through September. For a special treat, pick up a hobo box lunch for your kids to dine like a real rail rider.

Location: 2285 S. Broadway, Green Bay, WI 54304

Rates: Museum only — $9 adult, $8 senior, $6.50 children ages 3-12. Museum and train ride — $11 adult, $10 senior, $8.50 children ages 3-12. Children under 3 are free.


Circus World Museum

Step right up folks and immerse yourself in the magic that is the history of the big top circus at the Circus World Museum. As the original home of the Ringling Bros. Circus, Baraboo, Wisconsin, has become a National Landmark Site where families can view the vast collection of circus memorabilia such as posters and circus wagons. Kids will love becoming their favorite circus animals or learning tricks as they participate in fun circus activities. Come during performance season and you’ll delight in circus acts of all kinds — acrobats, horses, jugglers, dogs, clowns, aerialists and even elephants!

Location: 550 Water Street, Baraboo, WI 53913

Rates: Fall/winter season — $7 adults, $6 seniors, $3.50 children ages 5-11. Performance season (May-September) — $15 adults, $13 seniors, $8 children ages 5-11. Children ages 5 and under are free.


Milwaukee Public Museum

Dinosaur skeletons and life-size dinosaur replicas, butterflies flying free in a tropical wonderland, the cobbled streets of a life-size replica of a historic Old Milwaukee street — the Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM) brings human and natural history to life for visitors young and old. As one of the largest public museum’s in the U.S., MPM has an extensive permanent collection, plenty of space for visiting exhibits and hands-on stations for its youngest visitors. Extend your MPM experience with a visit to the attached Planetarium or take in a show at the museum’s IMAX theater.

Location: 800 W. Wells Street, Milwaukee, WI 53233

Rates: $14 adults, $11 seniors, $11 teens (ages 13-17), $10 children (ages 3-12), children 3 and under are free. Entrance to the museum is free for all Milwaukee County residents on Mondays.


Betty Brinn Children’s Museum

Specifically designed as a place to learn and play for children ages 10 and under, the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum focuses on helping youngsters understand big concepts such as economics, physics, nutrition, engineering and environmentalism through hands-on exhibits. Supplement your child’s free-play learning experience by attending the museum’s story hours, puppet shows or special activities. To keep costs low, the museum has free lockers and a picnic pavilion so you can pack your family an inexpensive lunch to munch on in the middle of a full-day visit.

Location: 929 E. Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53202

Rates: $7.50 adults and children over age 1, $6.50 seniors, children younger than 1 are free.


Discovery World Museum

A unique museum dedicated to interactive science, technology and the world of water, Discovery World has an eclectic collection of exhibits sure to delight science-minded kids and families. Take a trip into the world of technology where you can take a 3-D journey into a virtual environment or experience the thrill of an airplane flying simulation. Dive into the world of water to interact with stingrays, sea urchins and sturgeons, or explore the 137-foot replica of a 19th century Great Lakes schooner. You can even book a lesson in water education aboard the museum’s floating classroom!

Location: 500 N. Harbor Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53202

Rates: $17 adults, $15 seniors, $13 children (ages 3-17), children under 3 are free.


Photo Credit: Studio 44: National Railroad Museum collection

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