Thursday, May 01, 2003
Genuine american city offers genuine family fun By Monica Ginsburg
We went to Milwaukee in search of indoor water park fun, and ended up doing, and enjoying, much more. We were pleasantly surprised to find the Genuine American City alive with top-notch museums, arts and attractions. But as the temperature dipped outside, our first stop was clear: Paradise Landing, the year-round tropical oasis at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center.
Teeming with kids of all ages, Paradise Landing boasts 20,000 square feet of super-splashing water attractions, truly something for everyone. There’s a three-story Jamaican Village with four twisting and turning slides; a connecting lagoon with two basketball nets, a lily pad walk and two smaller-kid-friendly slides; and a separate kiddy pool with water cannons, a turtle squirt and another small slide. Brightly colored leafy palm trees, fountains and water sprays line the park.
The village’s blue slide is the only “big” slide option for the four-foot-and-under set, but it was exciting enough for our 6-year-old and 3-year-old (who rode on her father’s lap). The wiggly lily pad walk in the lagoon also has a height restriction. And while we couldn’t get near the basketball hoops, there was plenty of open room to swim and play. “This is great!” was the constant refrain from both kids as we all scurried up the blue slide again.
At break time, the Chuck E. Cheese-like game center is always buzzing, and Cabana Cove upstairs is perfect for a quick snack or post-swim treat. A 31-person hot tub is a nice place to relax and still keep an eye on the pool, which stays filled throughout the day and evening.
The Hilton, where we stayed as guests of the hotel, is situated in the heart of Milwaukee’s business district and conveniently located near a handful of museums and other appealing destinations.
Our first post-swim stop was the nearby Discovery World: the James Lovell Museum of Science, Economics and Technology. Chock-full of gears, gadgets, pulleys and tools, this interactive museum features more than 100 hands-on exhibits, live theater productions and science labs.
Techno Jungle, a computer-aided trip through the world of emerging technology, was our older daughter’s favorite stop, and there were enough buttons, lights and sounds throughout to keep our little one busy. Another big hit: the R&D Café, which serves up a complete menu of easy-to-assemble science projects, including a shoebox of supplies and step-by-step directions. We made a mechanical butterfly and tried our hand at super ball science. Other tables were busy creating balloon-powered vehicles, paper slurry and shrinkables.
Discovery World is connected by a short indoor concourse to the Milwaukee Public Museum and the Humphrey IMAX Dome Theater. Without having to step out into the bitter cold, we had a quick snack then headed to the museum’s Puelicher Butterfly Wing, a color explosion of hundreds of live butterflies in a lush tropical garden. We then toured two completely different walk-through exhibits, the exotic sights and sounds of a Costa Rican rain forest, and the turn-of-the-century streets of old Milwaukee.
The following day, we made a pre-swim stop to the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, recently named one of the best children’s museums in the country by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. With its giant Brio train, pony and cow grooming barn, and bakery, market and café stations, this is a can’t-miss stop for young children. Add in a TV station news desk and camera, recycling center and heart-pumping body works exhibit, and you’ve got something bright and busy enough to keep older children happily occupied, too.
On our way home, we made a quick stop at the International Clown Hall of Fame, tucked in the lower rotunda of the Shops of Grand Avenue. The museum collects and exhibits vintage pictures, props, oversized shoes, memorabilia, authentic costumes and life-like reproductions of famous clowns. A 75-cent red clown nose bought from the gift shop kept the laughs going on the car ride home.
And for our return trip? We’re going to visit the Milwaukee Zoo, check out the Milwaukee Art Museum’s wing-like expansion designed by world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, and order up more brain food at Discovery World. After a stop in Paradise, of course.
Monica Ginsburg is the mother of two girls and a freelance writer based in Chicago.