With a lot of digging, you could probably find hundreds of FREE group tour opportunities in Greater Milwaukee. Due to space constraints, we offer the short list below and suggestions for how to find and schedule your own group tours.
- Start by choosing an interesting group tour prospect, some thing or place you'd like to know more about. You can find ideas anywhere: in the Yellow Pages, a chamber of commerce directory, or on one of dozens of Milwaukee info web sites. (See the lists of web sites above for ideas.)
- Check the company’s web site (if they have one) or call the prospect and ask if they offer tours to groups of children who are under adult supervision. The Marketing or Public Relations Department usually handles tours. Many larger companies that offer tours have information on their web site, and most questions will be answered there. Some companies allow scheduling via their web sites, but most want you to call for reservations.
- If you call, and if tours are available, ask what days and times they're offered, what ages may attend, how large the group may be, how much walking is involved, how long the tour lasts, and what to wear. If the answers to these questions meet your group's criteria, ask to schedule a tour.
Below are a few group tour opportunities that are available in Greater Milwaukee.
Basilica of St. Josaphat
2333 South Sixth Street, Milwaukee
The Basilica of Saint Josaphat became a Minor Basilica when Pope Pius XI deemed it so in 1929; it was the third church in the United States to receive this honor. To become a Minor Basilica, St. Josaphat had to meet certain criteria: it had to be a place of pilgrimage and devotion, a center of historic significance for the faith, and be architecturally and artistically deserving of such an honor. In addition to the recognition bestowed upon it by the pope, St. Josaphat is also an official Milwaukee landmark.
Tours are suitable for children in grade three and higher.
The Basilica Visitors Center is open Monday through Friday between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Tours are held regularly after the 10:00 a.m. Mass each Sunday. Special guided tours can be scheduled for groups of 15 or more. Tours are FREE for children; please bring a non-perishable food item. Adults $3.00
Please call (414) 902-3523 to schedule tours.
2700 W. North Ave., Milwaukee
Capitol Stampings is a real factory that builds power transmissions and other components used in lawn and garden equipment. During the approximately one-hour tour, visitors have the chance to learn about a modern manufacturing facility.
FREE tours are available upon request, but there are several restrictions. Only children 10 years of age and older are allowed on the tours. Rubber soled shoes, such as tennis shoes, must be worn to minimize the chance of slipping. Sandals are not permitted. Adults must supervise children closely during a tour. Finally, the plant is very noisy; sounds are both loud and sudden. Those sensitive to noise should wear ear protection. It is available at the plant, but it can be uncomfortable.
For more information, call Karen Rivera, (414) 372-3500 or www.capitolstampings.com/
Touring a fire station should be part of every boy’s and girl's childhood. After all, what kid doesn't love seeing the uniforms, the hoses, the ladders, the axes, "Spot" the firehouse dog, and—do we even need to say it—the shiny red fire engines!
Most community fire departments are happy to host FREE small group tours. To arrange a tour, call the non-emergency phone number of the station you'd like to visit and speak to the on-duty officer, usually a captain or lieutenant. Be flexible when requesting a date and time.
The addresses and non-emergency phone numbers of all the fire stations in Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties are listed, by community, in the government pages (usually the blue pages) of the local phone book.
FREE tours are also available from several unique Milwaukee-area fire-fighting units. To make tour arrangements, call each unit directly and speak to the officer of the day.
Visit "Kids Corner" on the web site for a fire safety program and coloring book: www.city.milwaukee.gov/coloringbook.htm
The Hazardous Materials Unit
300 S. 84th, Milwaukee
The Heavy Urban Rescue Team
1400 S. 9th, Milwaukee
The Fire Boat, & Dive Rescue Team
100 W. Virginia, Milwaukee
Finally, there are two more FREE fire department-related tour opportunities available.
Fire Department Historical Society Museum
1615 W. Oklahoma Ave, Milwaukee
This 1927 bungelow style fire house features a working fire alarm gtelegraph system and five pieces of fire apparatus from as far back as the 1930s.
Admission is FREE. The museum is open on the first Sunday of every month from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. To schedule a group visit, please complete the online form at the web site.
For more information, call (414) 286-5272 or visit www.ci.mil.wi.us/MUSEUMHISTORICALSOCIETY.htm
Milwaukee Fire Department Training Facility
6680 N. Teutonia Ave, Milwaukee
This FREE tour takes approximately 40 minutes to complete and is available Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The tour is appropriate for children who 7 years of age and older.
Tour requests for the Museum and Training Facility must be in writing, at least three weeks in advance; it’s often easiest to use the forms on the web site in the Community Relations section. Be flexible when requesting a date and time. One of the officers will then contact you regarding the request.
Visit "Kids Corner" on the web site for a fire safety program and coloring book.
For more information, call (414) 286-8970Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and speak to the Officer on duty, or visit city.milwaukee.gov/communityrelations.htm
Holy Hill – National Shrine of Mary
1525 Carmel Road, Hubertus
Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary sits atop the highest land in this part of the state. In addition to it’s impressive location on 435 acres of rural land above the surrounding countryside, Holy Hill is also known among visitors for its peace, beauty and serenity.
In 2006, the Shrine was raised to the status of Minor Basilica, just as St. Josaphat was in 1929. However, Native Americans came to Holy Hill as early as the 1700s because they considered it a sacred place.
The grounds, outdoor stations and picnic area are accessible and FREE to everyone during their open hours. There is an arts and crafts fair in early fall. The church, Shrine and grounds are open daily between 5:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. for self-guided tours and prayer. Appropriate decorum is expected at all times. The scenic tower is open from Easter Sunday through October 31, Monday through Saturday 9:00 , a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and on Sunday between 1:30 and 4:45 p.m. It closes during the winter months and when there are high winds, rain or ice. The onsite gift shop and café are open limited, seasonal hours.
For more information, call (262) 628-1838 or visit http://www.holyhill.com/
Humane Animal Welfare Society
701 Northview Rd, Waukesha
The Education Department at HAWS offers a variety of programs and services to inspire awareness and compassion for the creatures that share our world. Shelter tours provide an overview of the humane society and a chance to look behind the scenes. Programs on dog bite prevention, pet care, animal welfare issues, and the workings of the humane society are available. Many programs are FREE; some do have fees.
Group tours for 5 to 30 people are offered weekdays during the school year between noon and 4:30 p.m. Please call ahead to arrange your tour. Tours last about an hour and include a discussion about what HAWS does for animals and the community, the importance of researching a pet before you bring it home, and what it means to be a responsible pet owner. After the tour, 15 minutes is reserved for meeting and learning about some of the adoptable pets at HAWS.
There is no charge for our tours, but donations are strongly encouraged. Cash or items from the Society’s wish list are greatly appreciated.
Two-day and weeklong summer camps are offered according to age group and interests for kids between the ages of 7 and 14. Please call for details.
For more information on educational programs, contact Chris at (262) 542-8851, x118, or visit www.hawspets.org
Jelly Belly Factory
10100 Jelly Belly Lane, Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin
FREE tours are available to families and groups of all ages. Tours start from Jelly Belly Junction, where guests hop aboard the Jelly Belly Express train for a tour inside the large warehouse and distribution center. The 30-minute ride makes stops at a variety of locations, which have large screen videos showing the company's century of candy making. Learn about how candy corn, jellybeans, taffy, gummies, and more sweet treats are made.
Fun sights make the center a destination for families or groups of kids. See a dancing chorus line of Jelly Belly characters and be amazed by Candy Alley, with its giant, six-foot jellybeans suspended from the ceiling. In the large retail store, jellybean fans can sample the candies or shop for sweet gifts.
Warehouse tours operate Monday through Sunday between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., except for certain holidays and special events. Please call to verify dates and hours of operation before planning your visit.
For more information, call (866) TOUR-JBC (868-7522) or visit http://www.jellybelly.com/visit_jelly_belly/wisconsin_factory.aspx
4101 W. Burnham St., Milwaukee
FREE tours are offered Monday through Friday. Call at least two weeks in advance to schedule a tour. Tours are limited to children 10 years of age and older; exceptions may be granted for school and scout groups. Visitors must wear closed toe and heel shoes. The tours are wheelchair accessible, but please advise Carol Daily if one or more participant is an individual with disabilities. This one-hour tour includes the pressroom, packaging and distribution.
For more information, call Carol Daily, (414) 223-5452
Estabrook Dr., just north of Capitol Dr., Estabrook Park, Shorewood
Built in 1844 by Benjamin Church, this house was originally located in the area of Milwaukee known as Kilbourntown, on the west bank of the Milwaukee River. It was moved to Estabrook Park in 1938, where it stands as a fine example of Greek Revival architecture.
Admission is $2.00. Children age 6 and under are FREE. The house is open from June 5 through August 31 on Saturdays between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. On Sundays it’s open between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m.
Pick up a FREE Milwaukee County Historical Society Passport and win a prize visiting area sites.
Call the Milwaukee County Historical Society at (414) 273-8288 for group tour information, or visit www.milwaukeehistory.net/historic_properties/kilbourntown_house.html
M&I Marshall & Ilsley Bank
770 N. Water St., Milwaukee
FREE tours are available by appointment only and only during normal banking hours: Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Two weeks advance notice is preferred.
The tour can be customized to a small degree, and includes the safe deposit area, training facility, the executive floor, and one of the vaults. The tour also includes explanations about how banks work.
For more information, call Patricia Habanek, (414) 298-2756 or www.mibank.com
4251 W. State St., Milwaukee
FREE tours are available Monday through Saturday. Walk-ins are accepted. Tours begin at 10:30 a.m. and the last tour group leaves at 3:30 p.m. Exact tour schedules change daily, so it’s best to call for times. Tours are not available on some holidays.
Tour reservations are recommended for groups of 15 or more. A refundable $25.00 deposit is required, but the charge will only be put through if the group does not arrive, or does not arrive on time. For groups of fewer than 15 attendees, there is the possibility of a charge, but some exceptions do apply. Contact the Tour Coordinator to discuss your situation and group size.
The tour lasts about one hour; visitors will walk about four blocks, both indoors and outdoors. The tour includes a video presentation, the brewhouse, the packaging area, the shipping area, and the historical caves. Kids receive soda at the end of the tour.
For more information, call Evelyn Cerna, Tour Coordinator, between 8:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. at (414) 931-3552 or visit http://www.millercoors.comand click on the Milwaukee location.
Milwaukee Community Sailing Center
1450 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive
Milwaukee County Sailing Center (MCSC) owns and maintains more than 80 boats of various types and sizes. Each summer, MCSC partners with local organizations to provide sailing opportunities to economically disadvantaged children, the physically challenged and others. These summer programs fill up quickly, so advance planning is very important. Please note that programs have several special requirements that must be met, including a swimming test.
Fee-based programs include Prams in the Park, a one-week sailing course for kids 8 to 12 years old; please note that this course has several special requirements that must be met, including a swimming test. There is also a similar program for kids 12 to 17 years of age.
For more information, call Holly Davenport at (414) 277-9094 or visit www.sailingcenter.org/index.php
North Point Lighthouse
2650 N. Wahl Ave., Milwaukee
For more than a century and a half, the North Point Lighthouse has stood high on a bluff above Lake Michigan, protecting and guiding ships and their crews. For many years, lighthouse keepers and their families actually lived at the North Point Light Station, ensuring that the bright light was visible night and day, year round, through good weather and bad. The North Point Lighthouse symbolizes a time in our history when waterways were the highways between cities.
Lighthouse volunteers provide information and limited guided tours during certain hours. The tours enable visitors to climb to the top of the 74-foot tower for an amazing view of the lakefront, park and city. Public tour hours are available year-round on Saturdays between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m, or by appointment when volunteers are available. School and group tours are available by appointment only.
Admission is FREE to children under age 5. Admission for children ages 5 to 12 is $3.00. Adults $5.00.
For more information, call (414) 332-6754 or visit www.northpointlighthouse.org/
O&H Danish Bakery
1841 Douglas Ave, Racine
With Old World skills passed from fathers to sons, the O&H Danish Bakery represents a decades-long family commitment to quality. Founded in 1949 by Christian Olesen, the family is committed to producing the finest Danish-style baked goods in the United States. All the pastries available from O&H are made by hand, using only the finest, all-natural ingredients, including their authentic Danish Kringle.
O&H Bakery welcomes tour groups. While the production area is off-limits due to safety and sanitation requirements, groups can learn how Kringle is made and try FREE samples. If groups, or anyone in a group, would like to order Kringle in advance of a visit, O&H will have the order ready when they arrive. This tour is most appropriate for ages 8 and up.
For more information, call Mary Olsen, (262) 637-8895 or toll free (866) 637-8895 or visit www.ohdanishbakery.com/au_bakery.htm
2000 West Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee
Built in the Flemish Renaissance Revival style, the Pabst Mansion was completed in 1892 for Captain Frederick Pabst. It was considered the jewel of Milwaukee's famous avenue of mansions are represented the epitome of Gilded Age splendor in Milwaukee.
The Pabst Mansion has stunning interiors, elegant and original furnishings, and elaborate wall coverings. With the finest wood craftsmanship, intricate and detailed ironwork, brilliant stained glass and rare art, the mansion helped make the 1890's the "Pabst Decade" in Milwaukee.
The mansion is open between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and between noon and 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. During the Christmas season, tours are self-guided only, and hours and admission fees vary so it’s best to call. The Pabst Mansion is wheel chair accessible.
Guided tours on the hour are FREE for children age six and under. Admission is $9.00 for adults, $8.00 for seniors and students, $6.00 for children ages 6 to 17. Group rates are available for groups of 15 or more. The Mansion requires two weeks notice and a $25 deposit for group tours.
For more information, call (414) 931-0808 or visit www.pabstmansion.com/
3301 W. Canal Street – Milwaukee
Tour "Villa Palermo," the company's offices and manufacturing facility, and learn a bit of the company's history, how they make pizzas, and lots of pizza fun facts. Tours take approximately one hour and include a 20-minute video, a walking tour of the plant, and a slice of fresh pan pizza in the Pizzeria & Café.
Public tours are offered on Fridays at 1:30 p.m. Tours are FREE to children under 5. There are two price options for those 5 and older: $5.00 or $7.50 per person, depending on whether or not a souvenir t-shirt is included. Call ahead to reserve your space.
Group tours can be scheduled for 10 to 30 people, Monday through Thursday at 10:00 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. Reservations are required.
For more information, call (414) 455-0383 or visit www.palermospizza.com/index.aspx
5400 South 60th Street, Greendale
Founded in 1965 by Roy Reiman, this company currently publishes 12 national consumer magazines and a mail-order catalog. The catalog features a wide variety of country-oriented products, calendars, and best-selling cookbooks, scenic photo books, nostalgia books, and more.
Tours at the Center are self-guided and are FREE for everyone, although visitors are asked to sign in at the desk. The test kitchen is a popular feature. Recipes in the company’s famous cookbooks are tested here and visitors can watch through the large windows. Samples are sometimes available. Be sure to check out the video presentation, and the bird house and bird feeder exhibit.
The company's Visitor Center is open Monday through Saturday between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., although hours are extended on Thursday until 8:00 p.m. Groups of 15 or more wanting a customized tour should call at least one week before they plan to visit. Group tours are FREE, but the company would like to know what to expect and where the group’s interests lie. This tour is most appropriate for children capable of independent reading, approximately age 7 or older.
For more information, call (414) 423-3080 or visit www.reimanpub.com/ and click on Visitor Center for details on their activities.
8881 West Grange Avenue, Greendale
Trimborn Farm is the only Milwaukee County Park with a historic theme. It offers visitors a chance to step back into pioneer times. The farm is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is also a State Historic Site and a Milwaukee County landmark.
Admission is to the grounds is FREE. A brochure is available on the side porch for self-guided tours of the buildings and facilities. The farm is open from May 15 through October 15.
New Trimborn Farm drop-in programs will occur on Thursdays periodically throughout the summer. Each will feature a unique history theme and activity for children and adults. Visitors are welcome to drop in any time between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. for the programs. Also new, the Trimborn Farm Ethnic Concert Series will be held in the evenings on the third Wednesdays of June, July and August.
Guided tours are offered daily at 3:00 p.m. Tours are FREE for children younger than age 6, otherwise admission is $5.00 per person. Please call ahead to arrange your tour. Pick up a FREE Milwaukee County Historical Society Passport and win a prize visiting area sites.
For more information, call (414) 529-7744 or visit www.milwaukeehistory.net/historic_properties/trimborn_farm.html
U.S. Coast Guard, Station Milwaukee, District 9, Great Lakes
2420 S. Lincoln Memorial Dr., Milwaukee
FREE tours are available by pre-arrangement when time and weather permit. Station Milwaukee is an active unit, which means they could be called to launch a rescue operation at any time, even during a tour. Due to this tour's popularity, please be flexible when requesting a date and time.
The 60- to 90-minute tour typically includes a visit to the radio room, a short video about the Coast Guard, a chance to see and hear about the different types of equipment and clothing used, and a close-up look at the rescue boat. Because of the sensitive and potentially dangerous nature of some of the equipment, close adult supervision of children is essential at all times. This tour is most appropriate for children 5 years of age and older.
For more information, call Petty Officer Michael Lefman, (414) 747-7170 or visit www.uscg.mil
UW-Milwaukee Community Programs
2310 E. Hartford Ave., Milwaukee
UW-Milwaukee makes many for-fee programs available to young people. They also offer some FREE programs and opportunities that are appropriate for kids. The challenge is figuring out where and when these programs are offered, and who to call for more information.
The UW-Milwaukee web site is the best route to find programs offered by the university, and the link below will takes you to an event calendar that is fairly detailed.
For more information visit http://www4.uwm.edu/news/calendar/
Water Street Brewery
1101 N. Water Street, Milwaukee
Brewmaster George Bluvas III is proud of his craft and his award-winning products, and he’s happy to arrange a brief tour to explain the brewing process. Tours are FREE and can accommodate groups of up to 15 people. There is no age limit, but this tour is probably most appropriate for children 6 years of age or older. Upon request, the tour can include a tasting of Water Street Brewery's root beer for children's groups.
Please contact the brewery one to two weeks in advance to request a tour date; tour dates are subject to the Brewmaster's schedule.
For more information, call (414) 272-1195 or visit www.waterstreetbrewery.com/index.php/the-beer/tours