Wisconsin family fun: Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee

I’m a fan of urban nature centers. I appreciate how they reclaim industrial wastelands, how they bring green space into cities, and in the case of Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center, how they offer Wisconsin family fun not only to people in the community but to out-of-towners like my family.

We didn't get in a canoe - but we did climb a wall. #milwaukee #wisconsin #familytravel

We wiled away a warm June afternoon in the lovely space at the Riverside Park branch, which has a lily pond out in front.

Loved this gorgeous urban garden with water lilies. #milwaukee #wisconsin #familytravel

Eight-year-oldTeddy spent a lot of time going down the indoor slide (no photo) and checking out the room full of Wisconsin native animals including my friend Paul the snapping turtle.

  My new friend Paul the snapping turtle. #milwaukee #wisconsin #nature

The boys also played board games and made paper.

Making paper - he looks so serious! #milwaukee #wisconsin #familytravel

But all of this fun was only a prelude to our real purpose for being there, which was to climb a 40-foot wall. I think this collage accurately illustrates how that went:

Mom on left. Dad in middle. Kid on right. He made it to the top - three times. Ah, youth. #milwaukee #wisconsin #familytravel

Yes, that’s me on the left, my husband Matt in the middle, and 11-year-old Tommy on the right. He made it to the top not once, not twice, but three times. Matt and me, not so much. (And Teddy, even less so.)

All of this fun and we didn’t even get out on the trails that surround the center or have a chance to explore the nearby children’s garden. I learned, in fact, that had we wanted to ride over to the Urban Ecology Center from Discovery World, there would have been bike paths pretty much the entire way. In fact the rock wall is located right next to the Oak Leaf Trail – 114 miles of multiple-use, urban-exploring heaven.

I am so grateful to Visit Milwaukee for directing me to this fun spot (which would be easy to miss if you were visiting as a tourist – it’s off the beaten track, but in the best of ways) and to the Urban Ecology Center for giving us a free hour of rock wall climbing.

If you’re a regular reader of my site, you may notice something a little different about my photos in this post – they were all taken with my phone and shared on my Instagram account (click on them and they link back there). Lately I feel like this social media photo sharing tool might be the absolute perfect fit for traveling mom – I love how easily I can share my pictures from the road and I also enjoy seeing all the other pictures shared from the locations I visit and all the places my traveling parent friends visit too.

And I’m not the only family traveler loving Instagram these days – a great group of bloggers has started a weekly Instagram travel-themed get together, and I’m all in (if a day late). If you’re a blogger who would like to participate, get all of the details here.


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  1. says

    I would love to visit Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center! I live in the Chicago area and this would be a quick day trip for us. I have a very curious toddler who, I’m sure, would learn a lot here. (And thanks for sharing the Instagram Linky…Going to check it out now!)

  2. says

    The snapping turtle looks awesome, not too sure I’d want to get too close to those teeth though – I’ve heard they can be quite snappy :)

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